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The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd (FREE 3 Month Membership!)

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd

 

*This post is sponsored by Scribd

I feel so lucky to be partnering with Scribd again to share a few of my favorite summer reads and an incredible giveaway they are offering for our readers so you can start tackling your own summer reading with their fantastic service.

I have really been enjoying my own Scribd membership over this year and, in fact, loved it so much that I gave it to my Dad for a birthday gift this year. It’s one of those services that I genuinely enjoyed that I just had to share it with my fellow book lovers.

Have you heard of Scribd? If you missed my last post about Scribd, it is an eBook service that works a lot like Netflix, but for books. You pay a low membership fee of $8.99 per month and can read as many books as you want on all of your major ebook reading devices like iPhone, iPad, iOS, Android & the Kindle Fire tablet. It also offers page syncing so you can move from device to device and simply pick up where you left off.

With Scribd you have unlimited access to over 400,000 books (and counting!) from nearly 1,000 publishers including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Kensington, Open Road Media, & New World Library. The catalog includes fiction books, nonfiction books (like cookbooks), young adult books, and children’s books. Basically, your entire family can benefit from this service, all with the cost of just one membership. I can think of no better gift to give yourself this summer!

For today’s post, I scoured the Scribd site to pull together for you a few of my favorite summer reads that I have enjoyed so much and I am also sharing what I would love to read this summer while I am sitting in my shady spot (I am awfully pale!) by the community pool!

Books I Recommend for Your Summer Reading List on Scribd:

Arranged

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I have to say that this book is one of my favorite reads this summer, simply because it is deliciously fast-paced chick-lit at its finest.

Anne Blythe seems to have everything. She has sold her first book, has a fabulous life, and fabulous friends. When it comes to being lucky in love though, she can’t seem to ever find the right guy. novel. After her best friend announces her engagement and her latest relationship ends, she decides to take a risk and contact a dating service in hopes of finding the perfect match. Upon her first appointment with the dating service though, she realizes that it is not a dating service at all, but a matchmaking service for an arranged marriage.

Once she starts the process, there is no turning back and Anne finds herself traveling to a Mexican resort where she will meet and marry (all in the same weekend) her “perfect,” guy.

This book has great twists and turns that you will really enjoy and after devouring this book in a mere day, I can’t recommend it enough for a fun reading escape!

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

If you are looking for a psychological thriller that will have you guessing until the very last page what is happening, then I have the book for you.  This is the best thriller that I have read this year and can hardly believe that it is the author’s first book.

Every single day Christine wakes up not knowing who she is, where she is, and who her husband is.  It is the same scenario every day as she makes her way to the bathroom, where pictures are layered upon the mirror that explain who she is and who her husband is. Each day she must go through the heartbreaking discovery that she has had a terrible accident that has caused her to have permanent amnesia. People she thinks are alive have died.  She can’t remember if she is a mother. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t have any friends. Some days she wakes up and she believes she is in her twenties and cannot even recognize the woman who looks at her in the mirror.

When Christine begins meeting with a doctor, he encourages her to begin journaling each day to help jog her memory of what has been happening in her daily life. As each day opens, Christine opens her journal and begins to read and as she reads, she begins to discover that the life that she is leading might not be all that it seems to be.  As Christine becomes more and more aware of her story and begins to challenge the information that her husband is feeding to her about what has happened, the reader is left wondering if Christine is obsessing about details because she can’t really recall them or if the stories she is hearing are even real?

If you read one thriller this year, let it be this one. I promise you, it is truly amazing and will leave you stunned when you read the final pages.  I can’t wait to read more from this author.

mudbound

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound is storytelling at its very best and offers a beautifully rendered portrayal of race and politics in the South during the forties. This book is told from alternating points of view and shares the story of a Memphis-bred Laura McAllan who is struggling to adjust to being a farmer’s wife and living the idyllic dream that her husband Henry has for them to live off their own land. When Henry makes an error by trusting a handshake rather than a contract on the home they are renting, they find themselves living in less than ideal conditions in a shack that Henry had hoped to turn into his dream house. Laura not only must deal with the difficulties of living in this shack, but she has to do it with her racist father-in-law constantly judging and spewing hate at her.

As Laura struggles with this, the real story unfolds when Henry’s brother Jamie returns home from the war. Always the favored one, Jamie comes home as a raging alcoholic, struggling with nightmares and post-traumatic stress from the war he left. Ronsel, a son of the sharecroppers who have been hired to work on Henry & Laura’s land, also struggles with leaving the war after being a hero in fighting for his country; he is now seen as just a black boy and treated with only racism and hatred.

When a horrible crime is committed, the four lives of these main characters are woven into one and the reader is taken along on the journey every harrowing step of the way. Twist after twist creates a plot that illustrates racism in a very unique way.

This book is a fast-paced read, that will shock and grip you until the final pages. Not for the faint of heart- a great debut novel from Hillary Jordan worthy of the 2006 Bellwether Prize that she won for this.

Water For Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is an oldie, but a goodie! I actually waited a long time to read this one, but I think I savored it even more! The book opens with Jacob Janowski who is ninety (or ninety-three, a fact he can’t remember) and now living in a nursing home.  His days are now spent being shuffled from his room to the dining area, suffering from the everyday minutiae of life in a nursing home. Of course, his life wasn’t always like this, in fact, Jacob’s life was spent with a traveling circus after the untimely death of his parents. Circus life was a hard life for Jacob and one that he jumped to unknowingly when he boarded a train to escape after his parent’s death.

Gruen’s writing is as vivid as a movie screen as the reader is swept away into the hard and difficult life of being a part of the traveling circus during the Great Depression. When Jacob is appointed to veterinarian, he has a difficult role under August, a paranoid schizophrenic, who acts as the animal trainer of the circus. The reader is swept into the sad life of the animals and the repeated abuse that August inflicts on the animals.

The only sparkle of light in Jacob’s life is Marlena, a beautiful performer in the circus, who Jacob cannot stop thinking about. Sadly, it is August’s wife that he has fallen in love with, and the reader will sit on the edge of their seat as Jacob risks it all to free Marlena from the abusive life that she has been leading with August.

More than a love story, it is an unbelievably well-researched look into the life of the circus at this time, and a love story of how Jacob & Marlena fall in love with an elephant named Rosie who makes a reader’s heart melt in her beauty. Equally impressive is how Gruen is able to capture the life of the elderly as Jacob reminisces and longs for his youth. The ending is perhaps a little too neatly woven, but is a satisfying conclusion to it all as a reader!

Vivid, descriptive, cinematic, raw, chilling… I felt as though I was on a roller coaster just reading this one! Definitely give this one a read before hitting the movie theater! Let’s hope the movie is half as good as this book!

Forgotten

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

I can’t believe that I didn’t review this book sooner for you all! I am a HUGE Catherine McKenzie fan and this one is another excellent beach read that you won’t be able to put down.

Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead–and that her life has moved on without her.

As she struggles to re-create her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who assumed her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice her job, her relationships, and everything else she worked so hard to build?

In “Forgotten,” Catherine McKenzie tweaks a classic tale of discovering who we really are when everything that brings meaning to our lives is lost.

When She Woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Imagine if your sins were on display for the entire world to see?  Hillary Jordan creates a futuristic spin on how society would look if our skin was colored based on the crime we committed.  The story follows Hannah Payne who has recently been, “chromed,” and is red because she has committed murder.  Hannah knows that this is the cross that she must bear for her crimes, but she has no idea how horrible her life will be now that society knows the sins she has committed.

Hannah was always a good girl and was raised in a very conservative family where it was even frowned up on to wear anything with color or that would draw attention to her natural beauty. The climate of the government also leans towards conservative views and the laws go along with the government views of what is right and wrong in this dystopian society.  She has always been a girl that has done the right thing, but she falls in love with a married man who sweeps her off her feet and causes her to make a decision that she will now spend the remainder of her sentence paying for.  To protect the future of the prominent man that she has fallen in love with, she must bear the burden alone and is now melachromed for her actions for all the world to see.

When an extremist underground group tries to help Hannah and reverse the chroming that has been done to her, the reader is taken on a thrilling journey as Hannah risks her safety and life for the crime she has committed.

Hillary Jordan could not have picked a book concept further from her fantastic debut, “Mudbound.”  This book would lend itself well to book club discussions as it flips every political debate on its head.  From abortion to women’s rights to Christianity to punishment for one’s crimes, no political rock is left unturned.  While one might not agree with Hannah’s viewpoint or those of the extremist views of the underground group, the concept of chroming is rich with discussion and a true modern day take on, “The Scarlet Letter.”

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

I love debut novelists and the first book that I read on Scribd was The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  This book deals with big topics like race identity and where we fit in the world when we are biracial. Rachel is the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Faith

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Faith is a masterpiece of literature that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. The novel does have a slow build as it shares a bit about the history and the scandal of 2002 when many Boston priests were accused of molestation in the Catholic Church, but the story is worth the plot set up and is a book that you will want to share and discuss with your friends.

Art is the apple of his mother’s eye and is wholly committed to dedicating his life to God from the time he is a child and on. He lovingly serves his church and feels great satisfaction in his work as a priest. When suddenly he is thrust into the spotlight and is accused of molesting a child that he has grown close to through his work in the church, he is devastated as his life is under scrutiny by the media, by other church members, by other priests, and by his family.

While some in his family side with him, others do not. When shocking discoveries are made into his past and the relationship that he has had with the little boy, the reader must examine which side they might be on and see both sides of the coin as his family comes to terms with these accusations. How would you feel if your son, your brother, or the person you trusted in your church was accused of such an act? Could you stand beside them or would you shun them even if they told you they would never do such a thing?

Haigh’s writing is exquisitely rich and the story is told through a fresh set of eyes from the scandal that we witnessed in the media.  Haigh brings in an angle that led me to believe that there truly are two sides to every story.

Spin

Spin by  Catherine McKenzie

I would be remiss if I didn’t include one more book by Catherine. Her books are the perfect addition to your beach bag and this past month, she came up with a sequel to this book that I am dying to pick up. Although I don’t see the sequel listed on Scribd yet, you must read this first book and get ready for it because it is such a fun escape!

When Kate Sandford lands an interview at her favorite music magazine, The Line, it’s the chance of a lifetime. So Kate goes out to celebrate—and shows up still drunk to the interview the next morning. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t get the job, but her performance has convinced the editors that she’d be perfect for an undercover assignment for their gossip rag. All Kate has to do is follow “It Girl” Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop—and complete the thirty-day program—they’ll reconsider her for the position at The Line. Kate takes the assignment, but when real friendships start to develop, she has to decide if what she has to gain is worth the price she’ll have to pay.

Fun, fast-paced, and one I couldn’t put down- you will love it!

2014 Summer Reading List

Now that you have some tried-and-true ideas for your summer reading, here are nine books I am dying to read on Scribd this summer. Maybe you can read along with me?

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Unless by Carol Shields

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

In celebration of summer reading, Scribd is offering EVERY MomAdvice a free three month trial membership by using our exclusive access code. To access your free membership head HERE and then input the following code: momadvice0614.   I’m so excited for you to try this service and I just know that you will love it as much as I do! Leave us a comment and let us know what you are excited to read on Scribd! 

This post is sponsored by Scribd. I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster

Friday, May 30th, 2014

DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster Father’s Day is just around the corner and when Kenmore asked me what I could create for a fun Father’s Day gift, I immediately knew that making some delicious grill seasoning mixes would be the perfect gift for this Father’s Day.  Today I wanted to share with you two easy DIY grilling seasoning mixes you can make and package up for your favorite dads!  DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster We have created these beautiful printable grill seasoning jar labels for your Dad and you can snag all the recipes and details on how to create this fast gift on the Kenmore Blog today! I hope you love this fun food craft as much as I love sharing it with you!

Grab your FREE printable BBQ labels on our blog (just click that link to open). Head to the Kenmore Blog to grab our recipes for these delicious seasoning mixes!

 

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Grilled Tomato Bread with Prosciutto

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Grilled Tomato Bread with Prosciutto

Tomatoes are one of my favorite summer foods and I try to incorporate them into almost every dish we eat. The fresh burst of flavor compliments just about any dish whether it is a garnish to our favorite pasta dishes, a fresh sauce, or a flavorful addition to our summer salads.  When I was pregnant, it was the food that I most craved with a drizzle of olive oil, a generous shake of salt, with a red wine vinegar finish. Although I am far from those years in my life, it is still my favorite summer craving.

Each month Walmart challenges me to create something in my kitchen with an item from their produce department. Today’s piece is dedicated to the fun varieties of tomatoes you can find in their produce department.

Cherry Tomatoes

We can all get in a rut when it comes to selecting our produce, myself included. Although I am a fan of my cherry red tomatoes, I incorporated some of these delicious yellow tomatoes into my dish today to add even more color to this easy summer appetizer.  I love to challenge myself to try the new varieties of fruits and vegetables out there and, especially this time of year, there is always so much to love!

Grilled Tomato Bread with Prosciutto Grilled Tomato Bread with Prosciutto Grilled Tomato Bread with Prosciutto

Today’s recipe is for a very simple Grilled Tomato Bread with Prosciutto that requires just a few ingredients and can all be done out on your grill.

Have you ever grilled tomatoes before? It adds a layer of smokiness to the tomatoes, warming them and bursting the skins to create a sauciness to the bread.  I found this recipe that Bobby Flay created and he recommends grilling the tomatoes on high heat, until they are charred. I prefer a gentler heat with less charring, but I think that is a matter of one’s own personal taste. I recommend getting one of these grilling baskets for your veggies (and fish!) or purchasing a package of disposable grill pans for preparing these tomatoes all summer long. Not only are they delicious on top of bread, but grilled tomatoes can be flavored with any variety of herb in your garden or spiced up with your favorite dried spices and stand alone as a side dish with your favorite grilled meats!

Grilled Tomato Bread with Prosciutto Even though the recipe calls for a loaf of crusty French Bread, I also toasted up some gluten-free bread for myself so I could enjoy this appetizer with the family. If you want to keep it fancy, purchase a gluten-free baguette, but I found that with so many flavors in this appetizer, that my regular loaf helps hold this appetizer together and offered a sturdy base for my overflowing of tomato topping.

Although the ingredient list couldn’t be simpler- cherry tomatoes, ricotta cheese, a fresh loaf of bread, prosciutto, and a little lemon juice, this appetizer is both impressive and satisfying. The saltiness from the meat balances the acidity from the tomatoes & lemons, while also incorporating the sweetness of the tomato with the creaminess of  the cheese. We paired this with our favorite red wine, but it would also pair beautifully with a glass of sangria or a mojito for a lighter combination.

No need to heat up the kitchen for this summer appetizer and it is a beautiful one to create for your next barbecue and shared with friends & family!

Grilled Tomato Bread with Prosciutto

Grilled Tomato Bread with Prosciutto
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
An easy and impressive appetizer that you can create entirely on the grill!
Ingredients
  • Cherry Tomatoes (in red & yellow), total of one pint
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 slices French bread, sliced ½-inch thick slices (can substitute with gluten-free bread)
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 12 slices prosciutto
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • Basil for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat grill to medium heat.
  2. Toss tomatoes in oil and season with salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Place on the grill in a grilling basket and grill until softened, turning a few times, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove to a bowl.
  5. Crush the garlic with a little salt to form a paste and add to the bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil.
  6. Brush bread with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and place on the grill. Grill the bread until lightly golden brown on both sides, about 20 seconds per side.
  7. Combine the ricotta with a little olive oil in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mound some of the tomato mixture on the bread. Lay prosciutto on top. Dollop with some ricotta mixture and garnish with lemon juice squeezed over the top.

 Adapted from Food Network walmart_mom_disclaimer
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DIY Bike Makeover Ideas

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

DIY Bike Makeover Ideas

With warmer temperatures on the horizon, I am looking forward to spending lots of time biking with my kids this summer. Is there anything that makes you feel like a kid again like riding on a bike? I think not! Today’s post offers 7 ideas for a DIY Bike Makeover that you can do on a bike you already own or on a bike that you might like to purchase from your local Goodwill Store.

Did you know that Goodwill has bikes? I often see them lined up outside of our store and I had been dreaming of buying one and updating it with a few embellishments and spray paint of my own. As I had been dreaming and bookmarking my plans, my husband secretly surprised me with a bike to celebrate selling my first book.

Read more about my love for bikes and get 7 Ideas for a DIY Bike Makeover on the Goodwill Tips Blog today!

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5 Ways to Use Kids ‘N’ Pets Stain & Odor Remover #mommusthave

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

5 Ways to Use Kids ‘N’ Pets Stain & Odor Remover

*This post is sponsored by Kids ‘N’ Pets Stain & Odor Remover

This was a big year for our family because we adopted a beautiful little kitty named Lulu from the shelter.  Our kids fell madly in love with her and we were so excited to bring her home and make her a part of our family. The kids even threw her a birthday party this year! When we got her home though, we soon realized that Lulu had some difficulty adjusting to our family.  She had some accidents and seemed nervous and stressed around us. She didn’t like being alone and she let us know how unhappy she was when we had been gone all day.

We had testing done at the vet clinic and even had a meeting for behavioral therapy. Having a pet that is struggling to adjust in your home and is wreaking havoc on your house is extremely stressful. After some behavioral therapy, we were able to modify her behavior, which has relieved a lot of stress for all of us.  She is doing so much better and we are so thankful, but removing pet odors and feeling at peace in my home again was tough.

When Kids ‘ N’ Pet contacted me, I knew that we would be the perfect family to test their Kids ‘N’ Pets Stain & Odor Remover.  Not only did we have a history of pet stains, but I have two messy kids who could help me test their cleaner. They sent me the cleaner to try and I have been using it for the last month on my house with wonderful results.  I am genuinely excited to share about this product with you and can’t recommend it enough.

Kids N’ Pets cleaner is non-toxic and biodegradable,  made from high speed natural enzymes, isopropyl alcohol, surfactant Ordenone, water and a natural citrus scent.  Thanks to this formula it is safe to use around your kids and furry friends without worries.  The cleaner is also one of those great all-in-one cleaners that doesn’t take up a lot of space on your shelves, but packs a punch by performing a multitude of tasks including removing stains, odors, boosting your laundry, and cleaning carpets.

Today I want to show you 5 ways we used Kids ‘ N’ Pets Stain & Odor Remover in our home this month!

5-ways-to-use-kids-n-pets-cleaner

  • Spot Clean Your Couches- Do you get MYSTERY stains on your couches that you wonder if someone may have used your couch as a napkin or as a tissue for their nose? I don’t either. That’s disgusting. If you did though, I would tell you that this cleaner works fantastic on those types of stains on your couches and leaves your couch looking and smelling fresh. You will want to test for colorfastness by applying the cleaner on a hidden area and allowing it to dry first, especially if you are the kind of family that buys fancy couches. We are the kind of family that knows that our couch is going to be used as a napkin and a tissue on occasion, so that is why we used this with no problems at all.  The product also gets out red wine and coffee stains…if you are that kind of mom sitting on your couch after the kids goes to bed trying to soothe yourself. Again, this is completely hypothetical.

Bissell_DeepClean_Premier_Carpet_Cleaner_Review_2

  • Freshen Up Your Carpets- As I illustrated in my story above, our carpets really needed freshening up and if you are dealing with pet stains, you want to make sure that your pets are not coming back to their spots of habit and wreaking more havoc on your home. We have used other products, but often the overly powerful scents meant to mask the urine odors were just as painful. While this has a citrus scent, it dissipates quickly, leaving everything smelling fresh. You can treat stains on your carpet directly with Kids ‘N’ Pets or you can put sixteen ounces of the cleaner per gallon of water in your Carpet Cleaner and freshen your carpets up in one fell swoop. After cleaning up Vomitfest 2014 from my cat this weekend, I can attest that this cleaner performs beautifully, but I really wish that I could not attest to that scenario at all. The cleaner also works like a dream on hardwood or on tile.
  • Get Your Laundry Really Clean- As you know, I love to make my own laundry detergent and I try to use cleaners and products that are safe for our family in our home.  When doing a load of whites, my homemade detergent needs a little boost and Kids ‘N’ Pets works great in our laundry loads. You just add a cup of it to your regular wash load and it helps get your whites whiter and your colors brighter.  If your child also likes to carry around pencils in his pockets and didn’t empty them and everything got marked with pencil, this cleaner also works wonderfully to remove stains, even after they have gone through the load. Ideally, you want to pre-treat them and spray them on the stains and let it work for a few minutes, but you can also spray after, like my scenario, and leave it on for an hour or more to really cut through tough stains. It might not help with your angry yelling when you see the pencil on top of your load and your new workout gear covered in pencil. suitcases
  • Freshen Up Your Suitcases- Did you loan your best friend your suitcase to take to Mexico? That might have been a mistake. Instead of crying about how bad baggage claims messed up your luggage, consider spraying it down with Kids ‘N’ Pets to make your luggage look like new again.  Spray generously, wait ten minutes, and blot up the stains with a cloth. Within twenty minutes, my luggage looked almost like new and ready for another trip to Mexico…or not.
  • Care for Your Fur Baby- Sharing our struggle with you about pet stains is embarrassing, but I am sure our situation is a common one for pet owners. Not only does Kids ‘N’ Pets get out urine stains, but it also can be used to clean pet cages (hello, guinea pig owners!), can be used to clean out your litter boxes, and can clean the areas in your home your pets frequent. Have a pet bed that needs a little freshening? Give it a spray with Kids ‘N’ Pets and allow it to air dry. It will smell fresh in no time flat!

I also love companies that support great causes and Kids ‘N’ Pets works with participating pet adoption organizations nationwide, providing products and services that help pet foster families and pet adopters! As someone who just adopted a shelter animal, that really makes my heart happy!

I love this cleaner and I hope you can give it a try in your home- I consider it a #mommusthave. You can find this product at Amazon or Walmart!

*This post is sponsored by Kids ‘N’ Pets Stain & Odor Remover

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How to Make DIY Mojito Bath Salts

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014
How to Make Mojito Bath Salts

How to Make Mojito Bath Salts

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and I am so excited to share with you an easy DIY gift that any mother would love to receive. Today we are going to mix up an easy batch of Mojito Bath Salts that you can create with just a few items from your local grocer and craft store.

These Mojito bath salts incorporate everything we love in a delicious mojito drink, with lots of fresh lime and mint. To really increase the mint component in these, we are adding a little mint essential oil to the mix.

Head on over to the Kenmore Blog to grab your shopping list and instructions to make our DIY Mojito Bath Salts! And if you really want to WOW Mom (or at least if she is a mom like me), you can pair it with our recipe for The Perfect Mojito and a watercolor painting made with the Waterlogue app! That is a Happy Mother’s Day, indeed!

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How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

You may think, “Who am I reading? I thought she couldn’t take care of anything (even herself?)!  Well, surprise, SURPRISE, I am showing you an easy DIY succulent centerpiece today and wanted to share with you a few tips on caring for succulents. I think I got my confidence back this year after creating that terrarium for you all and now I think I am some kind of green-thumb-ish-person and I want to take you along on my journey. In all honesty, I worked many a summer in a greenhouse, but I had lost my love of plants when I started changing diapers, cleaning a house, and feeding a family. Maybe you felt the same way?   Today’s project was sponsored by Walmart and they asked me to showcase a fun creation you can make for your own backyard from their gardening department and I thought I would highlight a plant I am kind of crazy about right now…the succulent.

Painted Succulent Pictures

Have you seen a painted succulent before?  True green thumbs may cringe at the painted plants, but (as I illustrated above) I am a newbie to the houseplant world and I love anything that is painted. These succulents have been painted which I think can add a pop of color to your home or as an outdoor centerpiece for your outdoor table, as I am showing off today.

How to Care For Your Succulents

Succulents don’t need a lot to survive, but they do have some small requirements- a lot of light, thoughtful watering, and a little plant food every couple of weeks.

A  succulent is any plant with thick, fleshy (succulent) water storage organs. Succulents store water in their leaves, their stems or their roots. These plants have adapted to survive arid conditions throughout the world, from Africa to the deserts of North America.These plants can take many different leaf forms and plant shapes, including paddle leaves, tight rosettes, and bushy or trailing columns of teardrop leaves.

Light- 

The one requirement I worry about in my home is the lighting conditions because my house doesn’t get a ton of light in it. If you have a home with bright sunny windows, succulents are a perfect houseplant option.

Succulents prefer bright light, such as found on a south-facing window. Succulents will let you know if you are not putting them in an ideal location. Some species will scorch if suddenly exposed to direct sunlight. Their leaves will turn brown or white as the plant bleaches out and the soft tissues are destroyed. If the plant is not getting enough light, succulents will begin to stretch, with an elongated stem and widely spaced leaves. Many varieties of succulents will thrive outdoors in the summer and, depending upon your weather, this might be a better option.

Water-

Most people think that they don’t need to water their succulents very often, but in the Spring & Summer months, succulents actually need more water than they do in the Winter & Fall. Make sure to water your succulents often in the summer.  Allow the potting mix to dry between waterings, but do not underwater. During the winter, when the plants go dormant, cut watering back to once every other month. Really, the watering is probably the most tricky part about succulents!

Fertilize-

Make sure that you purchase some houseplant fertilizer while you are at the store. In the Spring & Summer months, fertilize your plant every two weeks.  Just make sure you stop fertilizing in the winter months.

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

Now that we know all about succulents, let’s make a cute centerpiece for our outdoor table!

Supplies Needed

3-4 Succulents (painted or not)- these are priced at $6.88 each

Gold Spray Paint

White Spray Paint

Inexpensive Pizza Pan (this was just $.92)

Painters Tape

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

Directions

1. Remove plant in plastic pot from the clay pot. Remove stickers. Hold your can 8 inches away from your surface and spray in a sweeping motion side to side with a slight overlap. It has always been my experience to go thin with the paint, allow it to dry, and then to add another layer for the best results and minimal drip. Allow the paint to dry for one hour.

2. Using your painters tape, tape off anywhere you would like to have some gold peeking through. You can do a paint dipped pot and do the bottoms, trim the top in gold, or create your own unique paint effect with geometric taping. Spray paint those parts gold and allow your pots to dry.

3. Finally, spray paint your pizza pan gold.

4. Once it is dry, pull everything together and display it on your outdoor table for a unique centerpiece.

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Succulent Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com

Have any tips for succulent care or selection? Feel free to leave them here- I’d love to hear about your experience with these plants!

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How To Print Waterlogue Pictures

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

I am so excited to share with you today’s tutorial on how to print Waterlogue images for easy and beautiful gifts for someone special in your life. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, the Waterlogue app is a great way to make beautiful watercolor prints for a favorite mama in your life.

Walmart challenged me to showcase a budget-friendly gift to give for Mother’s Day and I just knew that I had to show you how to do this so you can make beautiful images for a special lady in your life or as a gift to yourself. To get started, you will need to download the Waterlogue App ($1.99). The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, or iTouch. Once you have downloaded it, we can begin creating our art.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

I took my kids in the backyard and had them pose for me. I wanted to get one of the back of them or a side angle. Although sometimes the app looks amazing with faces directly to the camera, I find that it can be a little tricky picking the right filter and I wanted to insure we had good success. I suggest trying a couple of different angles so you can play with the filters until you find the perfect one.

This is the picture that I took with my DSLR, but I did not make any edits to the image. I just wanted to make sure that it was nice and crisp for the app, but you can definitely just shoot with your iPhone too!

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

To begin, tap on the camera to take a picture or import from your library. Since I took my photo with my DSLR, I emailed the photo to myself and then saved it to my phone to use for this. Next, you will want to select a filter. Each of the filters offers a different feel to your photos so have fun playing around with all the different options- there are twelve in all!

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

As you scroll through the film strip at the bottom, you will have a couple of other options for making your picture. One is how dark or how light the brushstrokes are in your photo. Try out the different options before finalizing your picture.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

As you continue to scroll through the film strip, you will also see the option to select the size of the brushstrokes.  This is not the file size, this is just the size of the brushstrokes which can be a little confusing.

The final selection you can make on the film strip is if you would like a border or not on your image. I decided to leave the border off.

Click the HEART (above the filmstrip) to head to SETTINGS (you will need to scroll all the way to the other end of the options on the bottom row.  Click SETTINGS and then change your file size to LARGE.  From this menu you can SAVE TO PHOTOS or just click MAIL to email the file to yourself. 

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

Once you have emailed the file to yourself you can open and print it just like a regular picture since it is in JPEG format.  Click the size of picture you want to print and simply print it on heavy-duty cardstock. You can find this over by the printer paper in the office supplies section of the store.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

Now that you have your picture,  you can place it in an inexpensive frame. I found these Better Homes & Gardens frames for a little less than $10 in the housewares. You will need to trim your image a bit, and you can use your removable mat to help figure out how to center and trim it. Place the picture inside and tie it with a little grosgrain ribbon for mom with an inexpensive bouquet of flowers.

How To Print Waterlogue Pictures from MomAdvice.com.

I hope you guys have the best time creating your own artwork and I hope this idea inspires you for an easy gift for someone special in your life!

For more great Mother’s Day gift ideas, check out these easy DIY Mother’s Day Gift Ideas!

Have you used the Waterlogue App before? What are you doing with this fun app?

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3 Rainbow Science Experiments for the Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns Movie

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

*This post is sponsored by Clarius Entertainment. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

In honor of the upcoming animated film release, Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns, I am sharing three fun rainbow experiments you can try with your kids. These rainbow experiments are not only fun, but also educational. Before we begin these rainbow crafts though, I have to share with you that I have two major obsessions that you might not know about.

The first is anything to do with Oz and the characters. If you don’t believe me, here is the only year I asked my kids to do my dream costumes… and the only year I ever got away with it.

Wizard of Oz Halloween Costumes

This was my dream Halloween year as a mom and my mother-in-law even helped make the costume for me. Basically, all perfect Halloween dreams come true.

I miss those days.

The other thing you should know is that I am an enormous fan of Lea Michele and anything and all things related to Glee. I run to a Glee playlist, I pretty much cry about every emotional thing on that show, I sleep in a Glee shirt (yes, I do!), and Lea is my favorite actress in it. When I heard that not only was a Legends of Oz movie coming out, but that Lea Michele was doing the voice of Dorothy for it, I was beside myself with excitement.

I will be first in line to buy my tickets. And I will probably pre-order my tickets at my theater. That’s how excited I truly am!

Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns

In the animated film, Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns, Dorothy is called back for another adventure in Oz.  After waking to post-tornado Kansas, Dorothy (Lea Michele) and Toto are whisked to Oz on a magical rainbow mover sent by their old friends the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the Lion (Jim Belushi) and the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer). Time in Oz has passed much faster than back in Kansas, and Dorothy discovers that the Jester (Martin Short) – the devious brother of the Wicked Witch of the West – is taking Oz over one region at a time, holding their leaders captive and casting a pall of darkness over the beloved land. Even Glinda (Bernadette Peters) is unable to combat the Jester’s evil powers, making Dorothy their only hope.

When she arrives in Oz, Dorothy’s plan is to travel to the Emerald City to reunite with her old friends and join forces with them to stop the Jester. However, the yellow brick road isn’t quite as easy to follow this time around, especially with the Jester planting tricky detours to lead her astray, so she enlists the help of Wiser the owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty) and Tugg the tugboat (Patrick Stewart) to help find her way.

Since Dorothy is sent to Oz on a magical rainbow mover, we decided to try three rainbow experiments that you can do together in honor of the film!

 

Make a Liquid Rainbow

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Supplies Needed

Olive Oil

Rubbing Alcohol

Dawn Blue Dish Detergent

Corn Syrup

Food Coloring (red & green)

Large Jar

 

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Experiment

Let’s make a liquid rainbow in a jar.

1. To make our blue slowly pour 1 cup of blue dish soap down the side of your jar.  You want to make sure to do this slowly too so you don’t create any bubbles.

2. Next mix  1 cup of water with four drops of green food coloring. Mix well.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the water down the side of the jar.

3. Next pour one cup of oil carefully down the side of the jar to create your yellow.

4. Finally mix 1 cup of rubbing alcohol with four drops of red food coloring.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the alcohol down the side of the jar.

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Results from our Liquid Rainbow

Out of all of our experiments that we performed, this was our favorite. Our yellow got a little bubbly, but everything else stayed true with separate colors. This is a great lesson for teaching your kids about density. The different liquids all have different densities. Density means how much “stuff” there is in something. Not the thing’s weight nor its size, but how many atoms it has in it.  In our liquid rainbow, the dish soap is the densest layer and sits at the bottom of the glass, then the water is next, then the oil (which happens to be thick and can’t mix with water), and then the alcohol is the lightest in density. We are impressed with this one!

Make a Milk Rainbow

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Supplies Needed

1 cup of half & half or whole milk

Food coloring (in any rainbow of colors)

Dish soap

Experiment

Let’s make a milk rainbow!

1. Pour 1 cup of milk into the bowl

2. Add 3 drops of one color to the edge of the bowl. Repeat with two other colors, placed in the other edges of the bowl. Be careful not to mix or jiggle.

3. Squeeze a drop of dish soap in the center of the bowl.

4. Watch what happens to the colors when the soap is added.

Results from our Soap Rainbow

Does anyone sell real liquid food coloring anymore? We just had the gels so we found that the liquid fell to the bottom in our first experiment The second time around, the dish soap was already added so I made a little mixture of gel food coloring with the water and then we poured it into our bowl. It was amazing to see how the colors stayed separate with this dot of soap in the middle. We learned that the dish soap does not mix with the milk. The dish soap floats on top and spreads over the surface. As it spreads, it grabs the food color we dropped into it. Where the colors meet, they combine to form new colors. We also learned, don’t do this with just gel food coloring. It produces a muddy river when mixed.

Make Rainbow Roses

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Supplies Needed

Roses

Knife & cutting board (this part is for the grown-ups!)

Food coloring (any color of the rainbow)

Water

Cups

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Experiment

1. Trim  the ends of your roses under cool running water.

2. Have a grown-up cut the rose in half.

3. Fill glasses with water and lots of food coloring.

4. Stand roses up and take the two sections of the rose and place them in two different colors of water. Allow them to stand in this water for 24 hours.

Results From Our Rainbow Roses

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Did you think it would look like this? These Rainbow Roses have been promised on Pinterest dozens of times when I am on there. No, our roses did not look like this at all. They, were just slightly tinted with color on the edges, and two of them died during the rainbow color attempt. It might be better to try this one with carnations or to not split the stems at all.

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Nailed it!

Well, maybe not.

We still saw how the color traveled through the flower although it wasn’t as rainbow awesome as we had hoped.

Legends of Oz

We know we are guaranteed spectacular rainbows though when Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns hits theaters, so we plan to catch a rainbow there with the whole gang! I am so excited to see it and can’t wait to hear what you think of the movie when it releases on May 9!

*This post is sponsored by Clarius Entertainment. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Mama Francesca Cheese & Cheese Dusted Olives

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Mama Francesca Cheese Review

 

*This post is sponsored by Mama Francesca

Last month I mentioned my partnership with Mama Francesca Grated Cheese. I am excited to share another fun recipe idea that you can create in your kitchen and this one happens to require very little cooking, but is an impressive appetizer to add to your next get together or antipasto platter.

Mama Francesca  is a delicious grated cheese that comes in six different flavor varieties including Aromatico (Parmesan, Basil & Oregano), Fiero (Parmesan & Red Pepper), & Pungente (Parmesan & Garlic), Audace (Parmesan & Romano), and Perfetto (Classic Parmesan).

Mama Francesca Terzetto Cheese

You can also find the Terzetto (Parmesan, Asiago & Romano).  The best part is that these can all be found on the shelves of your local Walmart stores, including the new Terzetto which will be available at Walmart on April 21st!

Did you catch last month’s delicious Gluten-Free Pasta & Meatball recipe? I hope you didn’t miss it because I have already made it a few times since I shared it!

For inspiration for this month’s recipe, I looked on the Mama Francesca website to create a dish to share with you. The site offers a variety of recipes and when I happened upon a recipe for Cheese Dusted Olives…well, be still my beating heart, because I am already in love just from the title alone.

 Cheese Dusted Olive Recipe

Have you ever infused oils before? It truly makes any dish a showstopper and it is just a simple technique of adding herbs and any desire of flavoring to heated oil and allowing it to infuse into it. I do this with my husband’s favorite roasted shrimp, but had never thought to do this with olives. It changes the taste of the olives completely and adds that special wow factor to your antipasto platters.

The oil is infused with lemon and thyme and then poured over your olives on a platter (or a martini glass like me!)  and finished with your favorite cheese blend. I wanted these to have a little garlic bite to them so I used the Pungente (Parmesan & Garlic) to add that cheesy garlic flavor that I love.

I rounded out my antipasto platter with salami, prosciutto, and fresh grapes- all delicious and all, happily, gluten-free snack options.

 Cheese Dusted Olive Recipe

Since getting a babysitter is expensive, I am always looking for date night experiences at home. In the summer months, we enjoy an antipasto platter outside and chat after the kids head to bed. In the winter months, this is best served with a great Netflix documentary or board game for a fun evening in.  To round out the evening, this gluten-free meatball recipe I shared last month would also be a beautiful accompaniment as your evening appetizer!

I have stopped thinking of these things as special occasion foods, but an investment into our relationship and time together.

I hope these posts about Mama Francesca have inspired you to pick up a few varieties of cheeses to try and I hope you can give these delicious Cheese-Dusted Olives a spin for a fun date night in!

 Cheese Dusted Olive Recipe

Cheese Dusted Olives
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
An effortless & easy appetizer for lemon & thyme infused olives dusted with cheese.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup Mama Francesca Parmesan Audace (or your favorite Mama Francesca cheese variety)
  • 2 cups Favorite Olives, rinsed
  • ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 sprigs Thyme
  • 1 Lemon, strips of peel only
Instructions
  1. In a small sauce pan, heat oil over medium for 3 minutes, until warm, remove from heat.
  2. Place thyme and lemon peel in oil, let stand 1 hour.
  3. Once cooled, pour infused oil over olives on a platter.
  4. Sprinkle with Mama Francesca cheese.

 

 *This post is sponsored by Mama Francesca


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