Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider

Disclosure: Special thanks to Blogging for Books for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own. 

Slow cookers are the busy mom's lifesaver. Nothing beats throwing a bunch of fresh ingredients into a slow cooker, pressing a button and then returning home to a warm, delicious and healthy dinner.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Give a Gift that Gives Back with @WorldVisionUSA

Christmas is coming up fast, Here's a way to give a gift that makes a difference. The 2015 World Vision Gift Catalog is filled with gifts that give back. Why gift another throwaway item when you can give a gift that can transform the life of someone in need?

World Vision provides donors the opportunity to give a gift in a loved one’s name, making these the perfect presents to show family and friends love and to spread the joy of the holiday season across the world. And, as an added bonus, there’s nothing to wrap! Since 1996, the World Vision Gift Catalog has grown in popularity as a gift-giving alternative. Last year alone, more than 822,000 people were helped through funds generated by the Catalog.
Goats – World Vision offers donors a variety of livestock to choose from, and goats are their most popular option. One goat is a valuable source of milk and fertilizer for a family. The milk provides children with easy-to-digest protein and calcium, and the fertilizer helps crops flourish. A gift of two goats sets a family on a path towards success as shepherds who can start their own flock. $75 for one, $150 for two
Fruit Trees – Even with all the sweets and treats the holiday season brings, it’s important to remember nature’s candy—and not just for the figgy pudding! Donating five, ten, or fifteen fruit trees can help a family feed itself and start a business. The seed of this gift can blossom for years as a few trees turns into groves and orchards full of good, healthy fruit. Partridges not included. $30 for five trees, $60 for ten, $90 for fifteen
Soccer Balls – Every parent knows one of the best feelings in the world is seeing a child’s face light up like the Christmas tree as they discover what’s been left for them by Santa. Donors can pass that same joy along to kids across the world with their gift of soccer balls, which replace makeshift balls made of banana leaves or rolled-up trash. The global popularity of soccer makes this gift a great way to reach out with a helping hand. $16 for two balls, $32 for four, $48 for six
Career Training for Girls and Women – Empower a woman with this investment in skills training, business education, and, most importantly, hope. With opportunities in weaving, jewelry-making, baking, dairy farming, and more, this gift helps create the chance for mothers and daughters to take their future into their own hands. It’s like they always say: Give a woman a fish, and you feed her for a day. Teach a woman to fish, and you can change the world. $25-$125
In addition to the gifts above, World Vision operates the Where Most Needed fund, which provides for improvements in the quality of life for struggling children and families in the U.S. and around the world. Donors to this fund are eligible to receive beautiful artisanal goods from Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, which make wonderful presents and stocking stuffers. Pledge your support and you can receive a handcrafted gifts to give to a loved one (or yourself!)  
To learn more about World Vision, check them out on social media:
 Facebook: WorldVision
Twitter @WorldVisionNews 

To order from World Vision’s Gift Catalog, call 855-WV-GIFTS or follow this link: 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Unique Holiday Gifts from NOVICA #Giveaway #sp

Disclosure: Special thanks to for sponsoring this post and giveaway!

One of my favorite websites for unique, thoughtful and affordable gifts throughout the year is Novica, in association with National Geographic, connects shoppers with artisans from around the world. The artisans featured on Novica set their own prices and receive fair compensation for their work. Take a look at this video to see exactly how Novica works. 
The beautiful nativity sets around the world on make wonderful holiday keepsakes!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Time Garden

Disclosure: I was provided a review copy of this book. All opinions are as always my own.

In case you haven't heard, adult coloring books are all the rage right now. I know, I know - the thought of sitting down and coloring.... um.... haven't done that since I was about six years old. If I have a moment of free time, coloring just doesn't spring to mind.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Top 5 Reasons for Renting vs. Buying New Toys

Disclosure: Special thanks to pley for sponsoring this post. All opinions, as always, are my own.

I'm a huge fan of minimalism. I like to keep things simple. I try my best not to accumulate junk. I'm a huge fan of the #KonMari method. I cleared out my closets this year, and I'm down to a few pieces I love - I even use Le Tote, so my wardrobe is constantly rotating, fresh and new, but I only have a few pieces at home at a time. The two areas that challenge me the most, to this day, however, are books and toys. I'm a huge reader, but toys - they are all over the place. Here's a solution! Finally!

Gudrun Sjödén Winter Collection

Disclosure: I am an ambassador for Gudrun Sjödén, and I occasionally receive items for review. All opinions are my own. 

In my longstanding question for comfortable fashions that will carry me from work to play and fit my very active lifestyle, I've found an answer: Gudrun Sjödén creates clothes in unique, colorful designs and natural materials – for women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Vibrant and sustainable, this is a brand that honors women who appreciate individual style and comfortable, organic materials. Here's a look into the lovely winter collection, which my top three picks.

This winter's collection was inspired by green, white and midnight blue. I've chosen my favorite item from each winter color category.

Healthy Stocking Stuffer Idea: Philips Sonicare PowerUp

Disclosure: I received a sample of the Philips Sonicare PowerUp for review purposes. All opinions are my own. 

Every Christmas, I throw in some healthy gifts here and there. A big box of specialty, fresh oranges from Florida, a jar filled with macadamia nuts from Hawaii, an indulgent bath oil. Here's a great idea for a nice stocking stuffer for anyone in  your family: The Philips Sonicare PowerUp.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Fall Family Getaway: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin #familytravel

This post originally appeared at, where I am a contributing writer.

Amy and her son take on the double helix stairway at Lake Geneva Canopy Tours.
Most people think of Lake Geneva as a summer family travel destination, but fall is one of the most magical times of year to visit this beautiful and historic resort. Less than an hour and a half by car, Lake Geneva is a perfect day trip from Chicago. This southwestern Wisconsin resort community became popular just after the Civil War, when wealthy Chicago families discovered the beautiful, spring-fed lake and began building summer homes there. You can still see these many historic, lakeside estates by boat or via the 21-mile walking path that circles the entire lake.

Here are five ways to celebrate autumn in Lake Geneva:


Set off on the ultimate leaf-peeping experience.

With eight different zip lines high up in the trees, five sky bridges, three spiral stairways and a one-of-a-kind "floating" double helix stairway, Lake Geneva Canopy Tours offer a truly exhilarating experience. I must admit that heights aren’t my thing, but once I gathered up the courage to just let go, I felt safe and secure as I zoomed through the treetops. My daredevilish 13-year-old son joined me on the ziplines and he was thrilled to fly through the forest. Our two guides were funny and full of jokes but also reflected experience and knowledge, putting everyone in our group at ease. If you’re looking for the ultimate family bonding experience and your kids are all seven years and older, book your adventure at Lake Geneva Canopy Tours STAT. And if ziplining isn't your thing, consider challenging yourselves on the High Ropes Excursion through 16 different obstacles or explore the more than eight miles of Arbor Trails designed to accommodate beginner to advanced hiking and/or mountain biking.

Take a unique cruise on the U.S. Mailboat.

Our entire family, most especially my four-year-old, enjoyed hopping aboard the U.S. Mailboat for a guided tour of Lake Geneva. This special cruiser carries on a tradition that began all the way back in 1870, offering the only marine mail delivery of its type in the country. Loaded with 150 passengers, mail, a very brave and agile mail person and a steady-handed Captain, the crew delivers mail to about 60 homes around the lake. We loved watching as the "Mail Jumper" hopped on and off the boat, delivering mail with a smile. The tour operates every day at 10 a.m. - including Sundays when they deliver newspapers - from June 15 to September 15.

Feed baby deer and watch a parrot ride a bicycle.

At Animal Gardens you can pet, hold and feed exotic and farm animal babies. At the deer park, we were even able to hand-feed the deer. The Exotic Bird Show featured eight large parrots that talk, sing and perform tricks. Also on site is The Dancing Horses Show, a live equestrian extravaganza, which can best be compared to a Las Vegas show performed on horses.

Ride a real My Little Pony.

Dan Patch Stables at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa offers pony rides for little cowboys and cowgirls or horseback riding (ages seven and up) through acres of the fall-kissed Grand Geneva property. My daughter is obsessed with My Little Pony, and a ride on a real little pony was a dream come true.

Catch some fish.

Enjoy a family fishing trip with Lake Geneva Fishing Guide Service. You'll set off on a pontoon boat equipped with everything you'll need for a successful day on the water. Another fishing alternative is Rushing Waters Trout Farm, a beautiful 80-acre farm with crystal clear ponds and raceways full of rainbow trout, guaranteeing that you'll score a catch of the day.


Our family stayed at Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, a family resort situated on 250 wooded acres alongside two miles of Delavan Lake shoreline in Delavan, Wisconsin, a small resort town that neighbors Lake Geneva. Our large, well-appointed room featured a patio mere steps from Lake Delavan. My two kids (ages four and 13) couldn’t get enough of the outdoor and indoor swimming pools; the 18–hole golf course is another draw. Another top pick for a family-focused resort is The Abbey Resort, on Geneva Lake, in the lovely lakeside town of Fontana.


Popeyes, a family-owned restaurant known for its fab Friday night fish fry, is a popular pick for lunch or dinner, and is steps away from the main pier which is the boarding site for the U.S. Mailboat cruise. The pretzels and fried cheese curds make a stop at Sprecher's a must-do. Don't miss the handmade fudge and candies at Kilwins in downtown Lake Geneva.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Holiday Book Pick for Your Brainy Teen: Your Daily Brain

Special thanks to Blogging for Books for sponsoring this post. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Every Christmas, I gift my kids several books each. Because the long winter months are perfect for curling up with a good book. My parents did the same for me, and I remember joyously gathering up my new, Christmas morning books, anticipating all the places they would take me, from the comfort of home.

Here's a book I picked for my 14-year-old son, who loves books that focus on science:

Your Daily Brain shows you all the ways your brain works hard throughout the day (even when you think it’s not working at all). It's an invitation to take a closer look at your truly amazing brain.

This book was written by the team behind Marbles: The Brain Store, a chain devoted to building better brains. We love our local Marbles! (If you're looking for fun, education games for Christmas - pay a visit to your local store stat!)

Packed with cool information, tips and tricks to make the most of your brain, this book is a great pick for your teen. Understanding your brain can help you make better decisions (and perhaps hold off on stupid decisions).

Here's what the book promises: "Consider this book a wake-up call, a chance to take a closer look at and jump start your brain. From the minute your alarm clock buzzes in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night, your daily activities—everything from doing a crossword puzzle to parallel parking—are part of a process for how you evaluate the world, make choices and decisions, and reach short-term goals while keeping your eyes on the bigger ones. In each, you have the opportunity to use your brain for better or worse, whether it’s what to listen to you on your morning commute or avoiding mental traps at the grocery store."

You Daily Brain is available now at your local independent bookstore or online. Check it out!