Its not too early to start thinking about Christmas!

My family recently drew names for this year’s Christmas gifts, and I got the name of my little teenage brother.  I know I still have plenty of time, but since then, I’ve been thinking constantly about finding the perfect gift!  I think teenage boys are so tough to shop for!  I came across this shower speaker that connects through your Bluetooth device, and I thought “Perfect!”.  If you are also on the hunt for the perfect gift and you’d like to cross something off your Christmas shopping list early, read on.


This is the Bluetooth Water Resistant Shower Speaker.  This is not just a radio that sits in your bathroom, but a speaker that hooks up to your Bluetooth function so that you can listen to YOUR music favorites, and all right in the shower.  (Just don’t drop the speaker into the water).


This speaker also allows you to make hands-free calls!  You have a microphone and volume control that is portable, so you can pluck it off the shower wall and take it with you wherever you go.  In the car, you can utilize the option of hands-free phone calls and amplified music in the car.  This really would have come in handy when our toddler fried our car stereo system!


Something this fancy is bound to a little pricey, yes?  $9.99.  Honest!  After a 3-hr charge, you’ve got 6 hours of play time, and it comes with a wall charger.

This is compatible with MP4, PSP, MP5, Laptop, Mobile Phone, Tablet PC, PC, MP3, TF/Micro SD Card, iPod, and iPhone.  It comes in blue, red, green, and yellow!


What a great little gadget for little brothers, teenagers, music lovers, and everyone in between!

You can find this speaker on Gearbest for $9.99!  Merry early Christmas!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored giveaway on behalf of Gearbest.

Comfort Foods with Hood Sour Cream

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Hood. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

This winter has been BRUTAL!  Between the piercing temperatures and the ever-piling snow dumps, we’ve really taken to huddling indoors for the past few months.  I’ve been avoiding leaving the house at all costs and not blinking an eye at our slightly-larger-than-normal grocery bills.  The cost of comfort in the form of delicious foods that make the cold not so horrible is totally worth it to me!  We’ve been making the gooiest desserts, the sweetest drinks, and the creamiest entrees lately!


One of my favorite meals yet incorporates a healthy amount of delicious Hood Sour Cream.  I created this new recipe for my family last week, and it was quickly put in our box of favorite recipes.  Hood presents itself as a company that is honest, reliable, friendly, and truly the best you can offer your family.  Families have been sharing meals with Hood products for over 160 years, which shows that their products are consistently good and can be trusted as one of the highest quality companies around.


I’ll call it “Spinach Artichoke Dip Pasta”.  This recipe uses:

1 small onion
2 large chix breast
2 T. minced garlic
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
First step: I was going to sauté the chicken, garlic, and onions, but then I realized I was going to be late for church, so I threw all three in the crock pot for a few hours.  I’m sure either would work fine.


In a separate bowl, combine:
1 can (6.5 oz) quartered, marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 c. mayo
1 pint (16 oz.) Hood Sour Cream
(By the way, Hood Sour Cream can be found in the full fat variety, Light, and Fat Free.  The full fat version, which I used, is so rich and thick!  Delicious.)
I like using the entire ‘whatever’.  The full box of spinach, one entire can, the whole onion, etc. so in this recipe, I used an entire tub of Hood sour cream.  This eliminates partially used containers, and the more sour cream, the better.  Besides sour cream, you can find the Hood label on all sorts of dairy like milk, cottage cheese, eggnog, ice cream, etc.  Not to mention their collection of Red Sox ice cream novelties, like Red Sox Vanilla and Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches and Red Sox Chocolate Dipped Sundae Cones!  Can I you tell I’m from Boston?  Go Sox!


Back to the recipe.  Combine everything with 2 cups shredded mozzarella and stir together with a large spoon.  No mixers.  You don’t want the artichokes or chicken chopped too fine.


Cook up a whole box of medium shells, and divide between two round glass dishes.  Pour the creamy good stuff over both dishes and spread to cover the pasta.


Cook at 375 for 15 minutes, then sprinkle on 2 cups of parmesan cheese and toss them back in the oven until everything looks bubbly.


Holy heaven, this was GOOD!!  And so very filling.  All that delicious sour cream really makes a difference.  Even days later, the leftovers were still creamy and just as flavorful.  We’ve really been going through the sour cream lately.  Basically half of our meals consist of crock-pot wonders like chili, soups, curry, and casseroles, all of which need a healthy dollop of sour cream.


If I’ve motivated you to get cookin’ with some Hood goodness, you can find all sorts of delicious recipes on their website.  Go to and look under “Recipes”.  You can even download coupons, so there’s no excuse to whip up something comforting with Hood for you family tonight!

Follow Hood:
Website / Sour Cream Micro-site / Facebook Page / Twitter page / YouTube Cooking Channel

How to Organize Your Garage

If spring cleaning is on your agenda for the next month or two (because we all know we’re ready for warm weather), put organizing your garage on your list, and check out this video from Monkey Bars Garage Storage Systems!

Monkey Bars Garage Storage Systems is a service providing garage shelving, garage cabinets, overhead storage, and even garage flooring.  Wouldn’t you love to overhaul your garage into something organized and professional, especially so you can fit in more fun things, like bikes and boats!?

Are you Back in School?

Here’s a shout out to my five college siblings back in school!  Isn’t that nuts?  All it takes is a little family togetherness over the holidays to be reminded of how great it is to be DONE with school!  I kept hearing about exams, grades, and research papers over the break, and then started getting those final exam nightmares again!  One of my favorite things to never have to do again is worry about buying textbooks.  What a mess that usually was.  A big expensive mess.


If you’re a student, and spending your entire summer job savings on textbooks is also one of your favorite pastimes, have you considered renting your books?  Here are some fantastic reasons to rent your books from

#1) Free shipping both ways.  Seriously, don’t let shipping costs deter you, because there are none.

#2) You can highlight in your books.  If the way you study best is with a neon glow, carry on.

#3) Don’t worry about your school’s enrollment dates.  The renting periods are flexible.

#4) You’ll be saving a boat load of cash.  You can save between 40-90% off of bookstore prices.

#5) At the same time, you’ll be helping children in need!  CampusBookRentals donates to Operation Smile with each textbook rented.

Operation Smile is a medical charity that consists of medical professionals and other people who want to help, by providing reconstructive surgery and care for children born with facial deformities.  You can learn more about their mission HERE.

Now here’s an interesting new way to keep reaping the rewards of your textbook purchases.  CampusBookRentals has a new program called RentBack (, where you become the bookstore.  Instead of selling your books back to the bookstore for enough cash to buy a pizza, you instead rent your books to other students and get part of the proceeds every time your book is rented.  Sounds like a sweet deal.  Look into it, kids.

And so, my studious little friends, every time you sit down to calculate this upcoming semester’s cost of textbooks, remember that there are MUCH BETTER options!  Remember to look into, as well as RentBack, and save yourself some much needed cash!

Gemmilou’s Wooden Dolls {Review}

Dandies, I’m going to let you in on one of my favorite hobbies lately: painting up peg people!  I stumbled across this darling Etsy shop, called gemmielou, and kind of went crazy ordering and painting peg dolls!

iusb_760x100.5996777First, I ordered a small family set to paint up my family:

IMG_9182 copy

Then I bought a bundle of little girls to make for my nieces:


Then I painted up a little family for my brother-in-law’s family.  PS–you can order a wood family about this size for only $2.25!!


And THEN I just couldn’t stop :).  I neeeeeded a Nativity set!  Gemmilou has all sorts of wooden doll shapes and sizes, and she is more than happy to make custom listings so that you can only order the people you need.

woodShe made up a custom order of just the pieces I needed to make up a Nativity scene.  Everything always arrives in the most darling brown paper, tied up in strings, and the wood is solid, smooth, and ready to paint.  This is what I started with:


The wood is perfect for painting, and most things only need one coat of basic acrylic paint found in any craft store.  These dolls are SO affordable!  We’re talking $2.25 for a family, $1.75 for a set of four little girls, or even 30 dolls for $9.00!  Think about how fun these would be for REUNIONS!


This took a couple nights with some holiday TV in the background, and I think it turned out just how I envisioned!


Did you know there are other Etsy sellers who sell a painted nativity for $225?!?!  Isn’t that ridiculous?!  You could make this yourself for less than $10!


I hope these pictures inspire you to order your own peg people and make up a family, a nativity, or even a bunch of characters for your kids to play with!  The sky is the limit with these dolls, and they’re just so dang fun to paint up!


Checkout all the darling dolls from gemmilou and get started!

Online Store

Merry Christmas!

*The product(s) in this review was provided to me free of cost for the purpose of conducting this review.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own are not influenced by monetary compensation. 

Countdown til Christmas!


Now that Thanksgiving is past and gone, its Christmas time for real, and I can hardly stand it!  I’m a sucker for Christmas countdowns, and here is a super simple countdown you could make for your home!


Start by making 24 pockets.  I outlined them in double-sided white bias tape because it curls so nicely around curved edges.


Make a strip of fabric for the binding, and paint up twenty four buttons.  I found these blank wood buttons on eBay for cheap cheap cheap.


Sew button holes in the pockets, then lay everything out on a big quilted rectangle and sew the pockets down around the outer curve.


   We used a dowel rod: painted it white and drilled holes in the ends to run a string through.IMG_8807

Then chock it full of candy and treats!IMG_8811This turned out really big–about a door’s width, so hanging on the back of a door might be a great idea for saving wall space.


 Merry Christmas!!IMG_8797

Our Children and their Phones

Zact InfographicI participated in a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Zact. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.


My husband and I have already had several discussions about what kind of cell phone limits we’re going to set for our kids.  I think the time children spend and the content they can access on their phones is getting out of control and its only going to get worse.  Turns out, we’re not alone, and 73% of U.S. parents have concerns about the lack of parental control of a child’s activities on mobile devices.


I certainly feel more at ease after learning about Zact, which is a service that allows parents to have control over their children’s phones.  I’m sold on the idea of this new mobile service provider that will allow us to set our wireless budget along with setting limits and boundaries to keep our children safe.  For more information, and a chance to win 3 smartphones in 3 days, click here!

Five Tips on Buying Sunglasses Online

Five Tips on Buying Sunglasses Online

 by Brian Trota

It’s more convenient to buy things online nowadays, but it has its risks. You won’t be able to try on or look at the item up close until after the purchase. So when buying sunglasses online you have to be doubly careful to get the right pair. Yes, returning is always an option, but who wants the hassle?


  • Know what sunglasses are ideal for you. Not all sunglasses are for everyone. The shape of the user’s face should be a big factor in deciding what sunglasses to get. For instance, people with round faces should get narrow or slanted sunglasses while people with heart-shaped faces should get cat’s eye or teardrop-shaped sunglasses.


  • Research the look. Check the technical details of the sunglasses you want. Also, search the Internet for photos of people wearing those sunglasses. You might think twice about them when you see them being worn. Just because they look good on celebrities and models does not mean they will look good on you.


  • Make sure it can protect your eyes. A good pair of sunglasses should protect you from 99 percent to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. If nothing is mentioned about how a pair of sunglasses can protect your eyes then it’s best to move on to the next pair.


  • Buy only from trusted sites. There are a lot of sunglasses for sale on Amazon and eBay. For sites and portals that are not so well known, try looking around the Internet for people who have ordered from that site and ask them of their experience. Check out GlassesOnWeb for the best selection of sunglasses at unbeatable price points.


  • Don’t buy used sunglasses. Used sunglasses may already have some damage which isn’t too noticeable at first glance, or have been warped to the shape of the previous user’s particular features. Ignore this rule only if you want to buy glasses formerly used by a famous personality though!


Brian Trota is a contributor for

Chocolate Lasagna!

Remember the review I did a few months ago for Fante’s Great Aunt Gina’s Pasta Machine?  Ever since our first try with fettuccine, I’ve been wanting to try lasagna noodles, but not just any noodles.  CHOCOLATE noodles!  Turns out you make it just like regular pasta, but with cocoa in the mix.  Add some sinfully rich layers in-between, and you’ve got one fabulous dessert!




Yet another reason to get yourself a pasta maker 🙂

And I tried a variation of this recipe.

Mrs. Anderson’s Baking Pie Crust Cutters by HIC Brands that Cook® {Review}

I spent most of Thanksgiving morning working on a 14-layer jello and a couple pies, only to get some flu bug just as we were sitting down to eat.  I had a few bites, then spent the rest of the meal on the basement couch.  Super lame.

Especially because I spent FOREVER cutting out individual leaves for a pie crust border.  It turned out fabulous, but it took me the majority of the morning, and then I didn’t even get to eat it.  Good thing HIC asked me to review some adorable decorative pie crust cutters, so I had the opportunity to bake up another pie!  And this one took me MINUTES instead of hours.

 These cute little Mrs. Anderson’s Baking Pie Crust Cutters are perfect on pie crusts and cooler than basic cookie cutters because they have a spring action embossing part that creates details on the dough.   They were so easy to use!  Just press down on the large shape like you would a cookie cutter, then stamp it with the spring handle top.

“Rocket” got a kick out of these and spent all morning helping me!  He was happy as a bear stamping away on the scraps.  Methinks I’ll pull them out again soon to use on play-dough or cookie dough.  Clearly, these cutters are child-proof, durable, and sturdy enough to withstand “Rocket’s” vigorous pounding all morning.

Here’s a look you could try: pressing the cutouts all around the edge to create a border before you cook it.  I bet it would be lovely, especially if you covered the delicate edges with tin foil so they wouldn’t burn while the filling cooked.

To add a little color to our cut-outs, I mixed a drop of food coloring with an egg yolk and painted them up green.  I cooked them in the oven with the pie for maybe 20 minutes on 350°.  We’ll see if I can disguise leaves for holly 🙂

You can buy your own set of pie crust cutters on Amazon HERE for $8.00!

 Thank you HIC for these lovely pie crust cutters!  They will be a family favorite on many many pies to come!

*This posting was sponsored by HIC Brands that Cook, but all opinions are strictly my own