Thursday, November 20, 2014

Don't Forget the Duracell ~ Make Your Holiday a Success! #PowerTheHolildays

*This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks and Duracell.

Every year, while I shop for and then wrap all of our holiday gifts not only for Grace but for our many nieces and nephews, it's Joe's job to keep track of the batteries we need for any of the many toys we are gifting for Christmas.



Nothing can ruin a Christmas morning more than having a new toy to play with, but no batteries to power it up!  So we are always prepared with a large stock of batteries in assorted sizes to go with each gift.  I even pack some extras in my purse when we visit, just in case another gift giver forgets to include batteries with their gifts!

During the winter months, we use a lot of AA batteries.  Between marathon bowling tournaments on the Wii and lots of family movie nights, we always need to be prepared with new batteries!  In fact, while normally our battery stash is kept in the garage, along with a smaller stash in a kitchen drawer, I always have a smaller pack of Duracell AA batteries handy in the same basket we use to hold our remote controls!  That way we don't have to go searching for the right size in the middle of our bowling match or when snuggled on the sofa watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel!

Right about now, I'm done with hitting the stores for my shopping.  It's too cold outside and the parking lots are crazy!  I'd rather sit by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa, with a Christmas movie on the TV and my laptop on my lap and shop online!  Now, that's my kind of shopping!  I'll be adding some batteries to my next online Walmart purchase!

Here are some shopping links to make it easy for you:






Our thermostat also takes a AA battery, so at the start of the winter season, Joe always replaces last year's battery with a new one.  Always with Duracell batteries!  We also use Duracell Batteries in our smoke detectors, flash lights and in one of my cameras.

Here are some handy links:





So, don't forget to check your gifts and get the batteries you need to go along with them!  While you're at it, grab an extra pack or two just in case!  Power the Holidays with Duracell!

#PowerTheHolidays


VTech Learning Cartridges Review and Giveaway

Disclosure:  The VTech product, gift card, information, and additional gift pack have been provided by VTech.  All opinions are honest and my own.


After completing the review that I shared here for the VTech InnoTab 3S Plus Learning Tablet, I was contacted by the nice people at VTech to try out the compatible Learning Cartridges with the opportunity to share a set with a lucky giveaway winner here on the blog!

Knowing how much we love VTech products in our home, I had a hunch that our readers would love the chance to win a set of cartridges as well!

Until reviewing the InnoTab, Grace was very limited in her use of electronics.  Occasionally, she'd use our phones to play a game, but aside from that and some Wii Bowling the concept of video games and tablets is pretty new to her.  So, I love that VTech has games appropriately geared to her age and learning level.

Since Grace has started school in August, I have seen how much she is enjoying learning new things. How excited she is to come home and tell me about what she learned that day.  I've also noticed that she lacks the desire to learn at home.  I've been told more than once that "homework is boring!"  Yep, already, homework is a nightmare in our house!

With the VTech InnoTab and the Learning Cartridges, she is able to learn when she thinks she's just having fun playing a game!



Before I get to the giveaway portion of this blog post, let me share some information with you about the VTech Learning Cartridges:


  • With the VTech Learning Cartridges, parents can extend the play value of their VTech toys.  Purchasing the Learning Cartridges will allow the tablet to grow more with your child's abilities. 
  • A range of education cartridges are available, offering age-appropriate games, e-Books and more.  These allow kids to learn key subjects such as math, reading and science in steady stages.  
  • Interactive e-Books teach reading and vocabulary, while creative activities and camera fun help to get your kids using their imaginations. 
  • Children can learn as they play with their favorite characters from Winnie the Pooh, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters University and more! 
  •  The cartridges are compatible with all current InnoTab models and will also work with new models that will be released later this year, including the InnoTab MAX, which is VTech's fastest Wi-Fi tablet yet and it's first to feature Android learning content.   
We had the chance to try out three VTech Learning Cartridges as shown in the photo above.  

InnoTab My First Nursery Rhymes Learning Cartridge 
(Ages 12-36 months, MSRP: $24.99) 

  • Join Cody and Cora on a musical adventure in My First Nursery Rhymes for VTech's InnoTab Learning Tablets!  Listen to nursery rhyme songs, play mini learning games, watch playful animations and learn baby sign language. 
  • This InnoTab Learning Cartridge includes 25 popular nursery rhymes, mini games, introduces five baby sign language signs and allows you to customize parent settings.  
  • In lullaby mode, you can set the timer for 15 minutes and play a loop of 5 sleepytime songs to soothe your child to sleep.  You can also customize characters and create and avatar that interacts within the songs.  


***Our thoughts:  Although this is for younger kids, Grace still wanted to give this cartridge a try.  She enjoyed hearing the the nursery rhymes and applauded after each one and sang a long during a few.  The games didn't hold her attention for very long, but I can see this being a hit with Grace's one-year old cousin when she comes to visit!  I love that parents can set the timer and play a loop of songs!  Why just use that timer for bedtime???  Those 15 minutes of music can be a lifesaver when a busy mom needs to distract her little one in the supermarket, car ride, or even so mom can start dinner or run to the bathroom!  

InnoTab Disney Winnie the Pooh Learning Cartridge
(Ages 12-36 months, MSRP: $24.99) 

  • Winnie the Pooh is always hungry for honey in Winnie the Pooh for VTech's InnoTab Learning Tablets.  Help him find his honeypot and learn shapes, colors, opposites and more along the way.  Includes fun songs and baby sign language with Roo and Piglet!  
  • This InnoTab Learning Cartridge features and e-Book about Pooh and his great day bouncing with Tigger and friends, four sing-along songs with familiar melodies about Winnie the Pooh and friends, and a Music Box plays four sing-along songs in a loop for up to 30 minutes.  

***Our thoughts:  Again, Grace is older than the recommended group for this cartridge, but who can resist Winnie the Pooh?  I know he's always been a favorite in our house!  Grace enjoyed watching Pooh and his friends get ready for a party picnic and listening to the sing-along songs.  Again, this will be a great hit with my niece when she comes to visit!  


InnoTab Classic Stories Learning Cartridge 
(Ages 3-6, MSRP $24.99) 

  • In Classic Stories for VTech's InnoTab Learning Tablets, children can read three classic stories:  The Frog Prince, Pinocchio and The Three Little Pigs, each with three different reading levels.  
  • This InnoTab Learning Cartridge includes three learning games which introduce writing, rhyming, phonics, reading comprehension and more.  



***Our thoughts:  This was the favorite of the three cartridges as the recommended age group is more appropriate for Grace.  So far, her favorite game on this cartridge is "Help the Princess"  She is still on level 1 and it seems to be really easy for her, but showing that she knows the answers is really helping build her confidence.  Grace's penmanship skills can use some work, so my favorite game is "Writing with Pinocchio" where kids can use a "pencil" to practice writing their letters.


Now that you've learned a bit about the VTech Learning Cartridges, are you ready to enter for your chance to win a gift pack of your own VTech Learning Cartridges?  Of course you are!!!

Entering is easy using the rafflecopter form below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway rules:  US residents only, please.  Giveaway winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond with mailing information so that our sponsor may ship your prize.

Disclosure:  The VTech product, gift card, information, and additional gift pack have been provided by VTech.  All opinions are honest and my own.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ginger Snap Pumpkin Smoothie

At our house, we LOVE Autumn!  Bulky sweaters, brisk days, and the sound of leaves crunching under our feet as we walk.  Of course, me being a foodie and all, I love all of the yummy fall flavors!

I'm sure most of you have been hitting your neighborhood coffee shops for your fall drink fix, but I'm not a coffee drinker.  When Joe brought home some pumpkin pie flavored yogurt the other day, I knew I just had to turn that into a smoothie!  The result?  This creamy smoothie is  perfect for breakfast or lunch or even as an alternative  to pumpkin pie for dessert!




Ginger Snap Pumpkin Smoothie 

Ingredients:  

  • 4 oz. container of pumpkin pie yogurt (discard the "pie crust" crumbles)
  • 1/4 cup Plain, fat free Greek Yogurt 
  • 1/4 cup skim milk 
  • 1 frozen banana, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup crushed ginger snap cookies + additional for garnish
  • 5 ice cubes
To prepare:  
  • Combine ingredients in blender pitcher and blend until smooth and creamy.  
  • Pour into glass.  
  • Garnish with crushed ginger snap cookies. 
  • Add a straw and enjoy!  
Notes: 
  • I crushed about five smaller sized ginger snaps before making my smoothie.  I still had some crushed cookies left after preparing my smoothie.  
  • I crushed the cookies using the same method that I used when I crushed the Whoppers Candy for my Whopper of a Smoothie!  Alternately, you could probably just toss the whole cookies into the blender with the other ingredients.  
I made this smoothie for myself for breakfast over the weekend and LOVED it!  I was having a difficult time concentrating on taking photos of the finished product because I really just wanted to devour it right away!  While I sipped this for breakfast, I realized that if I had this instead of pie for dessert, I'd be totally satisfied and not feel as if I was depriving myself of dessert!  In fact, I'd even splurge and allow myself a dollop of whipped cream on a special occasion!  




A Whopper of a Smoothie

Did you know it's smoothie week?  Well, it is over at Williams-Sonoma and they've asked me to whip up a smoothie using a unique ingredient.

I'm not sure why, but Whoppers Candy was the first thing that popped into my head.  Maybe because I had a huge bowl of Halloween Candy sitting next to me and they were calling my name!

Regardless of what inspired this delicious dessert smoothie, I was super pleased with the result!  This smoothie is a perfect way to add some dairy and fruit to your day while satisfying your sweet tooth at the same time!

So, go ahead and raid your kids' Halloween candy and get your blenders ready to whip up this yummy, almost-guilt-free treat!


While Whoppers Candy isn't something totally off-the-wall unusual, it is a bit of a jump from my normally healthy smoothie ingredients.

 

You'll want to crush those candies and that's really easy to do!  Just pour the candy into a zipper bag.  Seal the bag after squeezing out the air.  Place the bag of candy into a folded dish towel and crush the candy by whacking it with a meat mallet or rolling pin.  Grace had fun helping me with this part of the preparation!


Grace and I crushed up a movie theater sized package of Whoppers because I wasn't sure how much I'd need for this smoothie.  I love that we have enough to make at least 2 more smoothies!  This is great because normally, I'd sit there and just devour the entire box, but by adding some of the crushed candy to healthy smoothie ingredients, I was able to enjoy a sweet treat without feeling too guilty!

Now that we've gotten past the candy crushing, scroll down for the recipe!

Enjoy!





A Whopper of a Smoothie

Ingredients:  
  • 1 frozen banana, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup plain, fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk 
  • 1/4 cup crushed Whoppers Candy 
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 1/2 Tbs. crushed Whoppers Candy for garnish, optional 
To Prepare: 
  • Add all ingredients (except the 1/2 Tbs of candy used to garnish) to blender pitcher
  • Blend until creamy. 
  • Pour into a glass. 
  • Garnish with additional Whoppers Candy.  


Creating this smoothie recipe started me thinking about a dessert I used to get as a kid and how I'd like to transform the concept of that dessert into another dessert smoothie...so be sure to check back soon for more healthy dessert options!

In the meantime, check out my latest recipe for a Ginger Snap Pumpkin Smoothie.  The delicious flavors of fall in a tasty breakfast smoothie!  Psst!  It's great for dessert, too!

If you like, you can also check out the rest of my smoothie recipes by clicking the smoothie tab at the top of the page or by following this link Smoothie Recipes



Disclaimer:  I was not compensated for this post in any way.  All ideas and opinions shared in this post are original and my own.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup

If you're a regular here, then you know I love soup!  When summer begins, I count the days until it's cool enough to make soup again.  This year, I'm slacking!  I've only made two pots of soup so far and October is almost over!

This soup was inspired by the overflowing vegetable bins in my fridge.  I had to use 'em or lose 'em! So, after dinner one night, I began chopping and throwing everything into my crock pot.  Before I went to bed, I turned the slow cooker on low and let it cook overnight.  Cooking overnight seems to be the only way I manage to get dinner on the table these days.



Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup 
     
Ingredients: 

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • canned black beans, rinsed and drained 
  • 12 oz. bag fresh baby spinach, torn
  • 1 onion, diced 
  • 1 large carrot, diced 
  • 2 celery ribs, diced 
  • 1 tsp dry minced garlic 
  • 1 Tbs. Italian seasoning 
  • crushed red pepper flakes (to taste) 
To Prepare: 
  • Combine ingredients in slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  

This recipe was a hit! We both enjoyed it for dinner the first night, then I ate the rest throughout the week for lunch.  

Here are more of my favorite meatless, slow cooker soups:  





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