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Disclosure: This site contains sponsored posts, affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale) and is part of the Amazon affiliate program, but all opinions are strictly my own.

SodaStream {Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

My husband decided that he wanted to lose some weight, so he set some ground rules around here.  No pizza, no dessert except on Sundays, and especially no eating after hours.  He stopped bringing home delicious pastas and calzones on his way home from work around 9 or 10pm (he’s an investment consultant and the hours suck), and so I stopped eating them with him and we both lost quite a bit!  Charlie lost 20 pounds!  While I was going through greasy food withdrawals in late hours of solitude, I drank a lot of liquid to keep from snacking on high-calorie foods all night.  It sure helped!  I was buying a lot of diet soda and orange juice, and lugging it home weekly was getting old.  I never considered myself a big pop-drinker, so I probably didn’t really see the appeal of a Soda Stream machine until recently when I was taking an account of all the bottles in the recycle bin.  Sign me up, SodaStream!

SodaStream_logo_2010Our SodaStream Genesis arrived late one night and we were completely amazed with how many bottles of mixes were included.  This is the starter kit?  We were starting to catch caught the vision of how cool this thing really is.

IMG_9507Included in the basic starter box is the home soda maker, a reusable CO2 carbonator, two reusable carbonating bottles, and 12 mixes.  The set-up is easy to figure out, and honestly, anyone could get the hang of it after watching once.  The CO2 carbonator is super intimidating!  We were afraid something would explode while we were setting up, but everything turned out ok 🙂

ss1Simply fill the bottle with cold water, screw it onto the soda maker attachment, and press the top button in short bursts until you hear some LOUD squirt/noise, meaning its full of bubbles and ready to be tasted.

ss2Unscrew the bottle, dump in a cap of mix, then gently rock it and drink up!

ss3I think these 1-liter bottles are perfectly sized.  You can easily drink one of these throughout the day, or share a bottle between two of you in the evening.  The bottles store and seal well in the fridge, and the carbonation holds fine overnight.  We’ve had a blast trying a new flavor every night.  The root beer is perfect, the diet grapefruit is delicious, and the lemonade is my new favorite.  I chugged a whole liter and one sitting and I don’t think that’s the last time it will happen.

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SodaStream makes over 50 well-known and well-loved flavors.  I think I payed $5.99 for an additional lemonade mix at K-Mart, which makes 12 liters, or 50 servings, so you aren’t making pop for pennies, but you are saving a little on cost.  The HUGE benefits come in the effort you’re saving by not having to load and unload cases of cans and 2-liters from the store to home.  You also don’t have to get creative in how and where you’re storing all your nectar because one can of mix will last you days/weeks/months, according to how much of a drinker you actually are.  You are also avoiding the mass of plastic that needs recycling because you can reuse the 1-liter bottles over and over again.

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We also tried a few of these sampler packs.  They’re equivalent to a cap full of mix, so one of these samples makes 1 liter.  The diet raspberry-cranberry is delicious!  This is great for trying out a variety of flavors you didn’t even know you liked.  I’m currently on the hunt for more of that diet cranberry raspberry stuff!

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Now that you know what these are all about, look for them in all your retail stores!  I bet you’ll be surprised how many places carry these mixes and machines.  Hurry and get your own, and start drinking pop more efficiently!

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*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. 

Holiday Entertaining with Brylane Home {Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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Raise your hands if you’re hosting a party, expecting company, or entertaining family or friends this month!  Isn’t hosting fun!?  I’ve always loved throwing parties and trying to impress my guests with the attention to detail and decor.  Holidays are no exception and I can’t wait to invite people over to use our new 66-Pc. Gold-Plated Flatware Set from Brylane Home!brylanehomeOh how these gleam!  They actually arrived on our anniversary, which was absolutely perfect, because according to the anniversary gift guide, “silverware” is the gift to exchange on your 5th Anniversary!  It couldn’t have been more perfect!  We ooh-ed and ahh-ed over every piece together as we took them out of the packaging and placed them in the box.  It was a good morning 🙂

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This set is adequate for as many as 12 guests, as there are twelve dinner knives, twelve dinner forks,  twelve salad/dessert forks, twelve teaspoons, and a 5-pc. hostess set.  We’ve already had the chance to use the whole set for our Thanksgiving meal last weekend!

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Having a full 12-guest set was just perfect for our Thanksgiving crowd.  I love how uniform everything looked and how the gold looked next to the Fall colors and flowers.  My family loved the fine silverware!  We agreed that this is a stunning set for $99.  Clearly, they are not pure gold, but who can tell the difference?

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I once taught a lesson to my junior high students about hospitality and offered cake slices on different kinds of plates and with different silverware, and then asked which one they would prefer.  With similar pieces of cake, of course, you’d like to eat it on fine china with a gleaming silver fork instead of with a plastic spork on a paper towel!  People notice and care about what they eat with!

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Imagine eating with a piece of gold in your fingers.  These look like works of art, and the color is just brilliant.  Someone could have told me that these were solid gold, and I’d believe them.

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These arrive in a wooden storage box that is just as high class as the flatware.  It feels like solid wood and it is lined in plush material with slots that keep the flatware separated and stationary during storage.

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This flatware set is only one of many beautiful dinnerware and entertaining products and decor that are perfect for the holidays.  Look at these gorgeous placemats, Christmas trees, and even a Christmas comforter set!

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Our family has been able to review several items from Brylane Home, and we are more and more impressed with each one.  Everything has arrived quickly, well-packaged, and built-to-last.  Brylane Home will be the first site I recommend to anyone furnishing a new home.

Visit Brylane Home and stock up on holiday decor in time for Christmas!

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*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. 

Epica Classical Ice Spheres {Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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Have you enjoyed the incredibly cool weather this summer, and taken advantage of the temperatures by throwing lots of parties?!  I’ve been honored to review several of Epica’s products, and they all seem to be fabulous for entertaining and quickly become a topic for conversation when we have guests over!  The Extra-Large Ice Ball Silicone Double Mold has proved to be exactly that, while also being a fun toy for my kids!

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These are an alternative to the traditional ice cube tray.  These work the same way, as in they are effective in cooling down your drink, but because these spheres have less surface area than the cube, they are slower to melt.  Slower melting ice means less watering-down, which means tastier beverages longer.

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Plus they look so fancy!  The instructions are simple and completely intuitive.  Just put the two pieces together, pour water through the hole at the top, freeze for 5-7 hours, and open the ball.  Make sure the seal is tight.  One of mine leaked a little as I was finding a space for it in the freezer, but I don’t think I had ensured a tight seal.

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When we first pulled these out, I thought how fun these would be when we have guests over, but also, how fun it would be to hide toys and objects inside to make little activity balls for my boys!  I dropped a few surprises into the water before putting them in the freezer, and they created fun little activity toys.

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I let my boys play with them in the bathtub and they were a hit!  They melted fairly quickly, but it was pretty warm bath water.  I’m sure in a lukewarm glass, they would not melt so fast.

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The frozen balls were easy to release, especially because these are not made of plastic.  The flexible silicone makes it easy to pop out the balls, and still makes them dishwasher safe.  The directions don’t indicate being able to use these in the oven, but I wonder how they could handle baking, since silicone really is the wonder material that can do practically anything.

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So fun!

You can purchase your own set of extra-large ice ball silicone double molds on AMAZON.

*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. 

Epica Stainless Steel Drinking Straws {Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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Do you love hosting get-togethers like I do?!  I think I’ve always loved throwing parties.  Olympic parties, Valentine’s parties, Murder Mystery dinners, chocolate nights, etc.  The first party I remember planning and hosting myself was maybe in 5th grade.  I sent out invitations and invited some neighborhood girls over–we ate stuffed Bugles at a decorated card table in my garage.  Hosting overnight guests is a different story, but I thrive on entertaining for a few hours, especially if the event is centered around some theme or occasion!
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You guys, I just found some super cute entertaining things for your summer parties!  Epica Stainless Steel Drinking Straws!  Get out!  These are quite strong and sturdy, and they look as if they’ll look just as shiny and scratch-free ten years from now.  They are made from 18/10 stainless steel, which is exceptionally resistant to corrosion.
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You’ve seen those cute striped straws at parties lately.  They add a special touch to everyone’s drink, but sometimes I think they are overpriced and its easy to go through dozens in a few minutes before they get thrown away.  These are fantastic way to make your summer drinks classy without adding waste or reoccurring expenses because you can reuse these again and again.  Plus, they are a great alternative to putting your mouth on plastics that might contain toxic chemicals.
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I like how these are angled and even have the little grooves around the bend, to look just like the traditional plastic straw.  I think the look is very casual and great for low-key events, and that this same product in a straight, slick design would be more formal and classy for more dressy parties.
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They are dishwasher-safe, and included in the set is a little straw brush with nylon bristles.  Cute, huh :)  And very useful for cleaning all sorts of sippy cup straws around here.  These straws came out of the dishwasher just as smooth and shiny as straight out of the package, and without any food clogged inside.  These will be so fun to have around!
Pick up some of these fancy straws for your upcoming summer barbeques!
These are available on AMAZON for $7.49!

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

SodaStream {Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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 We try not to buy soda all that often — we always have water, milk, and lemonade, but rarely do we have soda in the house.  I might try to sell you on the idea that we’re really health-conscious and don’t want sugary drinks, but the honest truth is that my husband and I will completely DOWN soda in a heartbeat!  We can easily go through a 2-liter soda in a day, and it takes no time at all to drink everything in the 12-can form.  Whenever we have friends over for dinner and they ask what they can bring, I always tell them dessert and drinks (non-alcoholic!) because I figure that those go with anything I’ll be making and because I really don’t generally have special drinks (read: soda) on hand.

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I was SO excited to have the opportunity to review the SodaStream!!  A friend of mine showed me hers a couple of months ago, and I loved how quickly we could make lots of different flavors of soda for a large group of people.  While we’ve definitely been drinking lots of this homemade soda over the past couple of weeks so we can try out the different flavors, I’ve also been pleased by how much more water we’re drinking because we make it “sparkling”
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There are lots of reasons to purchase and use a SodaStream home soda maker this summer!  Read on to find my take on these reasons listed on the SodaStream main website.

VALUE 

You might think that the initial cost to purchase the machine, the carbonator, and the flavors (and then to continue purchasing the carbonator and flavors) is a little steep, but it works out to just 25 cents per can of soda and just 25 cents per liter of sparkling water!  I like my soda pretty fizzy, so there have been a number of times that I’ve thrown out half a 2-liter bottle of soda because it’s flat — that’s not the case with SodaStream since you make only one liter at a time!  And, for those who pay bottle deposits (like we used to in California), you no longer have that added cost for the container itself.

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TASTE / NUTRITION 

Everyone in the family will enjoy their favorite flavor with SodaStream’s great tasting sodamix — over 60 to choose from! Enjoy traditional favorites such as Cola, Lemon-Lime, Orange and Root Beer, or mixers, including Ginger Ale and Tonic in both regular and diet. Also, be sure to try one of our delicious fruit creations, including Orange Mango, Diet Pink Grapefruit or Cranberry-Raspberry.  There are also Crystal Light and Kool-Aid flavors that add some pop (literally!) to these fruity favorites.  You can also mix flavors to create new soda flavors Regular flavors contain no high-fructose corn syrup, and diet flavors are sweetened with Splenda® brand sweetener, not aspartame.

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ENVIRONMENT 

SodaStream is an “Active Green” product, meaning that consumers  are actively reducing their CO2 footprint every time they make soda  or sparkling water at home instead of buying it from the store. Because SodaStream uses water straight from the tap, the system makes traditional store-bought beverage bottles obsolete. That means less plastic manufactured, less plastic waste is created, and fewer bottled beverages must be transported from manufacturers to distributors to stores to homes.

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 And, our favorite reason to purchase the SodaStream:

CONVENIENCE

Save space with concentrated Sodamix and reusable carbonating bottles, no more lugging and storing heavy, bulky bottles and cans, and no more hassles with empties in the trash or recycling bin.  The SodaStream doesn’t require batteries, electricity, or plumbing, so it also makes an excellent food storage item!  😉

We have loved using our SodaStream, both for our family and for entertaining.  I could imagine using it for barbecues and large group gatherings, or I can see myself pulling it out for baby showers and birthdays.  It’s a fun item to have, but I also love that it’s practical.  I would recommend trying out the SodaStream, especially just in time for the summer!

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**This post and review were sponsored by SodaStream, but all opinions are strictly my own.

Marshall Publishing Trucks DVDs {Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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He fought it.  It wasn’t Blue’s Clues, so he was skeptical of it being anything good, but within 5 seconds, he was hooked.  Line and sinker.  “Rocket” was completely entranced by a DVD of all sorts of trucks doing fantastic things.  This DVD, appropriately called “Lots and Lots of Trucks” has since become the favorite movie of choice around here, thank you Marshall Publishing!
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The moment you turn on one of these DVD’s, you are greeted with catchy music that instantly captures the attention of any toddler.  They are quick paced, spending only a few seconds on each frame.  Each DVD is just as friendly and happy as the last!
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The first DVD we watched was Lots and Lots of Trucks, and just like the title says, it was filled with lots and lots and LOTS of trucks!  What an extensive amount of never-repeating footage of trucks doing all sorts of things, in a huge variety of different locations.  It is such a buffet of visuals, and very entrancing!
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And just as I thought no video would replace the awesomeness of the Trucks DVD, “Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks” was just as fantastic.  These movies have just the right amount of dialogue–not too much talking to bore little kids.  We really liked the friendly fireman on the fire trucks DVD.  There is sure an extensive collection of footage!  These clips were not filmed in a single day.  They span thousands of miles and easily over a hundred different vehicles doing all sorts of things.  There are great sound affects and fun slide transitions from video clip to video clip. I tell you, these are so entertaining!
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Last, we enjoyed some Lots and Lots of Monster trucks.  Pretty exciting stuff!  Very impressive monsters.  The Monster Truck Classics DVD is probably suited for ages 3 or 4+, as there is more dialogue throughout, and not the same catchy tunes in the background as the other DVDs.  The feature includes history about how monster trucks came to be and interviews with the truck drivers/builders.  It is evident that it was filmed within the last 25 years, but the title is “classics”, after all, which make them timeless!  My boy was still enthralled, even with the host commentators narrating the show instead of catchy songs in the background.  Most of the action takes place in superdomes and stadiums across North America and Australia.  The mud run races were pretty great, and I must say I’ve never seen something quite like it!  Near the end is a visit to see the world’s biggest truck at the time, and the car show at the end was fun.  It concludes with some impressive drag racing, for a total of appox. 3 hours among the three programs.
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The real cherry on top was the two CDs included in this set of videos.  My boy squealed in delight when it turned it on in the car after he had watched the videos inside.  He clapped to the music of “Lots and lots of fire trucks”, and I am just SO relieved to be listening to something other than animal songs!  Great sound, the words are clear, and the voices are fun to sing along with.
So what do I think?  I think you have a little boy who is at all into trucks, fire trucks, monster cars, jets, planes, trains, or moving things in general, these are terrific DVDs for your child’s collection.  They are eye-candy for a busy little mind who love to watch things that go!  And a two-DVD set for $19.95 is pretty dandy.  Especially because these are not available in stores.  These would make great birthday gifts!
And I just got a sweet tip to keep checking their website for new arrivals this summer – Lots of Roaring Rockets and Alphabet and Counting Songs!  How fun!
Connect with Marshall Publishing!
*This posting was sponsored by Marshall Publishing, but all opinions are strictly my own

Tabletops Unlimited Fine Bone China Dinnerware {Giveaway} – CLOSED

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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Since I am the oldest grandchild, my grandmother has promised me her fine china!  It is a beautiful set, and I can’t wait to inherit it!  My sweet grandma is still so young and healthy, however, so I might be quite an old maid before I ever get to use it!  In the meantime, I still think a set of fine china dinnerware is a treasure for your kitchen and for your guests!  Even with small children in the home, the holidays alone make enough occasions to want to own a lovely set!

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I had the honor and privilege to review an exquisite set of fine bone china from Tabletops Unlimited!  I pulled them out of the box for a romantic dinner I made my husband on Valentine’s Day last weekend!  I was instantly impressed with the quality of the china.  This Emilia 16-piece Fine Bone China Dinnerware Set contains four 10-1/2-inch bone china dinner plates, four 8-inch bone china salad plates, four 6-inch bone china cereal bowls, and four 12-ounce bone china mugs.

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These dishes are ultra strong, ultra white, and ultra thin.  They are not all all clunky and they still have a decent weight and a beautiful feel to them.  U.S. market standards for bone china require a 25% bone ash content, but this set from Tabletops Unlimited meets the higher European standard of 45% bone ash.  The difference makes these dishes extra white in brightness and show off a maximum translucency.

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I love that this set has intricate details in the lines around the rims of the plates and up the sides of the bowls and cups, but the pattern isn’t overwhelming or interfering with the function of the dishes.  The delicate grooves are clearly visible and smooth to the touch, yet the design can accompany almost any decor.  The classic white goes with everything, and I think this set works well for both casual and formal settings.

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So what’s the big deal about fine bone china?  Bone china is a type of soft-paste porcelain known for its high levels of whiteness and translucency, very high mechanical strength and chip resistance.  The surface becomes repellant to moisture, odors, and colors and practically chip-resistant.  Fine bone china is typically quite expensive, but this set sells for $79.99 and is fired for 18 hours at 2,300° F to maximize moisture removal and creates a stronger, thinner bone china with a surface like glass.

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Isn’t it beautiful!?  I think this set would be a great addition to your dinnerware collection, and would also make a great wedding gift!  Check out the other beautiful bone china dinnerware sold by Tabletops Unlimited!

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And one lucky winner will receive their own Emilia 16-piece Fine Bone China Dinnerware Set from Tabletops Unlimited!  Valued at $79.99!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway is open to US entries only
*The winner of this giveaway will be drawn no later than the evening of Friday, March 1st and will be emailed.  If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, a new winner will be drawn.
*This posting and giveaway were sponsored by Tabletops Unlimited, but all opinions are strictly my own

Entertaining Edibles by Tops Malibu {Review}

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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“Charlie” and I are celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary today!  FOUR YEARS!!  I could honestly tell my newly betrothed self that I made an excellent choice in a companion.  We decided no gifts this year because we’re saving up to do something cool for our 5th anniversary, but I reeeeally wanted to at least make us a dessert to share on our day.  What to do, what to do…Tops Malibu came to my rescue with these adorable Entertaining Edibles!

Besides brownie letters pressed into a cheesecake, is your mind not spinning with dozens of ideas of things you could do with these?!   Think about jello molds, or colored ice letters in glass pitchers!  You could celebrate almost any fun occasion with some of these letters!  The best thing about these molds is that they are oven, microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe.   They can pretty much handle anything you want to do with them.  “Little Brother” even had a ball chewing on them while me and the big kid made CRAYONS!  Check this out:

And because the molds are made out of silicone, I could melt them in the microwave, then send them straight to the freezer, and we had new crayons is less than 5 minutes!  Are you sold yet?

You can find these Entertaining Edibles at Tops Malibu for $12.00!!!

*This posting was sponsored by Tops Malibu, but all opinions are strictly my own.

Dinner and a Murder {Giveaway} – CLOSED

Disclosure: This could be a sponsored post or contain affiliate links (which means I earn a percentage of the sale), but all opinions are strictly my own.

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Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery dinner?!  The perfect activity for a cold winter weekend with friends!  My family grew up on games of lying and role playing, like “Mafia”, and my brother actually directs the annual murder mystery event at BYU every year!  So ya, we’re murder-game enthusiasts :).

My husband and I were giddy with excitement about our murder mystery kit from Dinner and a Murder!  I pretty much squealed when I saw the box in our mail.  We got right to work inviting friends to the event.  A neat feature with Dinner and a Murder games is the ability to manage your game online.  I was able to email my guests their invitation, collect their RSVPs, and also email them their character backgrounds.  This was so helpful to keep organized, and it allowed everyone to prepare ahead of time.

This party kit was quite all-inclusive!  It contained character booklets, which gave everyone background information, instructions on how to participate in a murder mystery (which was helpful for a few of us who have never done a murder mystery before), and a guest list so that we could keep everyone else straight.

There was also a confidential booklet for each of us, full of more secrets to spill.  Weapon cards, a host guide, guest list worksheet, evidence presentation, full size evidence, whodunit cards, game money, name tags, solution, tribute, and even certificates for “Best Performer”, “Best Costume”, “Super Sleuth”, and “Wealthiest Player”.

At first I was a little overwhelmed with all the papers and things to read, assemble, and organize, but I’m glad there was so much material to make it a good story—enough to keep guests entertained with things to do and discover for a full 2-3 hours.  Nothing is worse than pinning the murderer 15 minutes into the game!

The night went so well!  We had some excellent actors in attendance, so there was plenty of entertaining moments, including a surprise murder!  What a night!

 Dinner and a Murder carries 8 different murder mystery kits.  We tried “A Killer Reunion“, and I so appreciated that it was a clean version, without affairs or the possibility of really offending a guest.  I’d say it would be appropriate for church groups, teenagers, and even family reunions.  Can’t you just imagine hosting your own murder mystery game?

One winner will receive a $39 eGift Certificate for one Dinner and a Murder game!  Happy Halloween!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway is open to US entries only
*The winner of this giveaway will be posted no later than the evening of Friday, November 2nd and emailed within 24 hours.  If the winner does not respond within a week, a new winner will be drawn.
*This posting and giveaway were sponsored by Dinner and a Murder, but all opinions are strictly my own

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