Thursday, November 29, 2012

Torani Syrups...Add a Little Flavor to Your Drink!


I've never been a coffee person. Ever. When I was in high school and I worked at the local mall there was a coffee beanery right next door to me. The coffee flavors always smelled so heavenly. There was only one drink they had that I did enjoy on occasion and it was called a Cafe Carmel. Being a caramel lover maybe I would have loved it no matter what I suppose. Or maybe it was the huge dollop of Reddi Whip (also a huge fan of) that they loaded on top. Whatever it was, it was yummy and I've never found another coffee that I've been able to stand since then.

Recently SheSpeaks sent me 2 bottles of Torani's sugar free syrups to try out and review. I was sent Gingerbread and Caramel. Hold the phone people! Is it possible I could recreate that yummy cafe carmel from back in the day?! Excitement pours in and I give it a whirl. And failed. Oh well. There's always hot chocolate (which I am totally addicted to by the way).


So off I went to make up two cups of hot chocolate and pour gingerbread into one and caramel into the other. Can we say delicious? It was amazing. I'm usually not one to add much to my hot chocolate. I heat up my milk (shame on you if you use water!) and add the cocoa powder and stir. That's it. But when I added gingerbread to my hot chocolate, it was like Christmas was already here. It smelled so yummy and tasted a bit like the gingerbread spice. But in a good way. Have you ever smelled a candle that smelled so good you felt like you could drink it? No, just me? Alrighty then. It was amazing. Try this one for yourself and you'll see.


 Next I tried the one with the caramel. Oh. My. Gawd. It was fantastic! It was by far my favorite of the two. I've tried starbucks caramel hot chocolate and was never impressed with it. Maybe they need to take a tip from Torani on this one. Oddly it smelled like coffee a little bit to me but it really didn't taste like coffee. It had this creamy melted caramely (made up word) flavor to it with chocolate added in. Imagine a chocolate covered caramel candy. Yup. It was yummy.

Here's what I did-
-I warmed up 1 cup of milk for each mug.
-Added one hot chocolate packet to each mug
-add 3/4 shot of gingerbread to one mug and 3/4 shot of caramel to the other mug
-stir to mix then top with a little Reddi Whip if you like

I love that Torani has made sugar free syrups now. I'm not diabetic but I know others who are and this would be great for them to use to add a little flavor to their drinks. While I only tried Gingerbread and Caramel Torani has dozens of flavors to choose from and more flavors coming out all the time. As a matter of fact they just came out with chicken n waffles for those a little more daring. Sounds strange right? Torani isn't just for drinks. Its also for adding flavor to foods! Talk about versatile! Try adding the caramel as an ice cream topping or the gingerbread in an actual gingerbread recipe. And if the chicken n waffles has you curious, then give it try on some buttered biscuits! Enjoy!

Torani Syrups are available in my local military commissary. Try your local grocery or Walmart. And if you can find them in your town you can always buy them straight from the website.



*Disclosure--
This blog post was sponsored by SheSpeaks and Torani. As part of the Torani blogger program through SheSpeaks I was given 2 full size bottles of Torani's sugar free syrup along coupons and a recipe booklet. The sugar free flavors I was given are Caramel and Gingerbread. While the product above was given to me to review, the words and opinions are mine and mine alone. If I like a product, I let you know. If I hate it, I let you know that as well.

You Know You Need a Break When...

I'm a stay a home mom. I get out when I can but mostly I'm home with the kids. My oldest is 9 so he's in school all day. But my younger ones are 4 and 2 years old. The four year old is in preschool in the mornings the the two year old goes to a toddler preschool two mornings a week. So needless to say my days are filled with kids and chores. I'm not complaining. I chose this and I love staying at home and raising my kids.

But there are days when you realize holy crap..I.need.to.get.out.more.

For example. Today I was sitting on the sofa playing a game on the iPad with my 4 year old. Peppa Pig comes on the t.v. and we both stopped to watch the show. My 4 year old says "oh! I want to watch this one real quick and then we can finish our game". And I was all "cool this is my favorite one and I wanna watch it too". And I was being dead serious. Huh.

That was an instant revelation. Holy crap! I need to get out more and interact with other adults. You know, instead of sitting around watching Peppa Pig and Gaspard & Lisa. So I've decided that at least one time each week I'm going to get out of the house and be a woman. Not a mom. Not a wife. Just a woman. I hope that I can convince any of my readers (I know you're out there somewhere, right?) that they deserve this much needed alone (self discovery) time as well. We all need to get out more and recharge our batteries. Its good for the soul.

For me? I'm going to window shop, shoe shop, have tea in some cute little coffee/tea house that I haven't discovered yet, go in to all the stores I've been terrified to bring a 2 and 4 year old into, go into all the stores my husband refuses to go into (lol) and whatever else I wanna do during that special time I will call my own. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Join @AflacDuck and Macy's to Help Fight Pediatric Cancer

Cancer. It's one little word that can silence a room in an instant. A word that no one wants to hear from their doctor. Especially their child's doctor. Its heartbreaking to watch anyone at any age go through it. Cancer treatment and research has come a long way but there is still a long road ahead.

Wanna help join the fight against childhood cancer? Thought so!

Aflac and Macy's have partnered up and are offering an awesome holiday gift-- Limited Edition plush Holiday Ducks. You can see the pic below. The net proceeds of these cutie pie ducks will go toward pediatric cancer treatment and research. You know you still have people on your Christmas list to check off, so why not buy one of these AND help out on a great cause?!



Aren't they cute! Holding those ducks is the beautiful sixteen year old Monica Sandoval from Winder, GA. Monica has been battling leukemia for four years. Aflac held a contest among their patients at the Alfac Cancer Center in Atlanta and Monica's design was chosen as the winner. I think they made a wise choice, don't you? These are too adorable. Monica is talented!



The 2012 Aflac Holiday Ducks can be purchased at your local Macy's for $15 for the large 10" or $10 for the small 6". Don't have a Macy's near you? Don't fret. You can head over here and purchase one online. So what's stopping you?!

In addition, there will be a twitter party to help raise awareness of childhood cancer and the Aflac Holiday Ducks. For every tweet with the hashtag #Aflackids Aflac will donate $2 for cancer research and treatment so please tweet your little hearts out! There will also be prizes awarded every 10 minutes totaling over $700!

When: Thursday Nov 29th at 9pm EST
Custom TweetGrid: http://bit.ly/SoBK68
Hashtag: #Aflackids


Mark your calendars people! You don't want to miss out on this!



*Disclosure--These opinions and mine and mine alone.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving




I just wanted to take a moment and say Happy Thanksgiving! The day will soon be hectic with turkey cooking and parade watching happiness. But lets not forget to take a moment and give thanks this year. This year I'm most thankful for my family. I've seen too many tragedies this year and I'm just so grateful   for my husband and 3 children. While they each drive me nuts in their own way, I couldn't imagine my life or where I would be without any of them. They each make me smile and feel a happiness and love that I could have never imagined. I'm also thankful for the roof over my head, the "hey girl" ad designer, my new favorite wine from Bennett Vineyards and good comedy television for the days when I seriously just need to relax, unwind and have a good laugh.

This year, what are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday






Here's to Thing 2 who finally learned how to ride his bike without training wheels this week! So proud of him!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe Recommendation

Lets face it! Your turkey is the main attraction to your table on Thanksgiving day. You can set your table up with your nice china and silverware. You can spend hours creating a masterpiece for the center of your table. But nothing and I mean nothing will matter if your turkey turns out bad.

So I'm here to save your day and post the most amazing turkey recipe. Ever. 

My recipe isn't something that I made up. Unfortunately its not mine. But I've been going by this recipe since 2005 now and its turned out amazing each and every year. As a matter of fact The Man doesn't even want me to follow any other recipe. What more can you ask for? The owner of the recipe is non other than Ms. Martha Stewart. I am a true lover of all things Martha. She is my idol. I love her. Sigh.

Martha calls this recipe the Perfect Turkey. And that it is. This is a multi-day process so please make sure you read through and allow yourself proper time. I would also like to mention that yes the brine calls for massive amounts of salt. Please do not be alarmed. It's only a brine. I'm not a big salt person but trust me when I say you need to follow the suggested amounts. A few years back we went to a friends house for Thanksgiving and she needed a turkey recipe. I shared this one with her. She was afraid to use all the salt and so she cut it down. The turkey was seriously lacking in flavor. As someone who orders her fries without the salt, I promise the turkey will not taste over salted. 

SO..here is the recipe that the awesome Martha Stewart created. 


Yield
  • Serves 12 to 14

Ingredients

  • 3 cups coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 pounds), rinsed and patted dry, giblets and neck reserved for gravy
  • Gravy
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted, plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • Stuffing
  • Crab apples, fresh rosemary sprigs, and fresh sage, for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Put salt, sugar, onions, leeks, carrots, celery, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, and 10 cups water in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring until salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat; let brine cool completely.
  2. Add turkey, breast first, to the brine. Cover; refrigerate 24 hours. Remove from brine; pat dry with paper towels. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Stir together melted butter and wine in a medium bowl. Fold a very large piece of cheesecloth into quarters so that it is large enough to cover breast and halfway down sides of turkey. Immerse cloth in butter mixture; let soak.
  4. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack set in a roasting pan. Fold wing tips under turkey. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper inside turkey. Loosely fill body and neck cavities with stuffing. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Fold neck flap under; secure with toothpicks. Rub turkey all over with softened butter; season with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove cheesecloth from butter mixture, squeezing gently into bowl. Reserve butter mixture for brushing. Lay cheesecloth over turkey. Place turkey, legs first, in oven. Roast 30 minutes. Brush cheesecloth and exposed turkey with butter mixture. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Roast, brushing every 30 minutes, 2 1/2 hours more; cover with foil if browning too quickly. If making gravy, add giblets and neck to pan 1 1/2 hours after reducing temperature; roast 30 minutes, and reserve.
  6. Discard cheesecloth; rotate pan. Baste turkey with pan juices. Roast, rotating pan halfway through, until skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees and stuffing reaches 165 degrees, about 1 hour. Transfer to a platter. Set pan with drippings aside for gravy. Let turkey stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes. Garnish, if desired.
Link for reference http://www.marthastewart.com/353177/perfect-roast-turkey

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A lesson from my kids

Last night I was in the kitchen thinking about what time I should start on dinner. Actually, I was procrastinating. Most days I love to cook but we were making Thing 2's favorite dinner. He had been begging for several days to have hot dogs. Ugh.

Anyway, Thing 2 came into the kitchen to show me something he recently accomplished. (A much welcomed distraction!) He learned from his friends today in preschool how to hop on one foot without holding onto anything for balance. A major accomplishment in the eyes of a 4 year old :)  With that new found discovery I told him he should finally be able to skip now, something he's been trying to master for a few months to no avail. We did it in slow mo together and then he tried. After a few times he wasn't too bad at it! After that Thing 3 came into the kitchen to see what the laughter was all about. The next thing I know we're skipping all over the house. I felt like a kid again.

I forgot how much I loved skipping.

 I watched Thing 2 skip around and Thing 3 try with all her 2 year old might to skip and jump after him. They were carefree and full of laughter. While I was teaching Thing 2 to skip, he was teaching me to be carefree again. I've been so overwhelmed lately with so many activities going on and events coming up that I was beginning to get pretty tense. Skipping was just the thing I needed. We spend so much of our time teaching kids this and that and we forget that they can teach us too. This is a prime example.

Holidays are such a hectic time. As the big day in December draws closer we are bombarded with activities and events on top of our normal daily routine. To keep from getting overwhelmed let's all take five or ten minutes a day to just step back and breath and relax. You don't realize just how much you need it until you actually take it. I have a feeling that this year when I get stressed or overwhelmed, I'll just skip right through it. :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I'm dreaming of a retro Christmas....





Christmas has always been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. The most memorable Christmas from when I was younger was when I was about 5 or 6 years old I guess and our tree fell over. I think it also involved my dad getting a big gash on his head which was always common. (I come from a long line of clumsy people.) I remember getting a doll on roller skates that actually would skate! I loved her. I think I got my first Easy Bake oven that year too. LOVE!

I remember our Christmas tree having handmade ornaments on it which is something I started doing with my kids 3 years ago. They love it and its a great way to get creative. And the tree just looks personalized that way. It adds a certain coziness to our house.

One thing that seems to have changed over the years though is kids wish lists. Gone are the days of play-doh, slinky's and building sets. In are the days of expensive electronics and super high tech toys that you seem to need a college education to understand. What's going on here?! So I've decided I'm done with that. This year is going to be a mix of old and new for my kids. That's right! I'm taking back Christmas! No video games or anything electronic will be given to them. I'm still letting them pick out items from the Big Toys R Us book and they will get a few of those items. But in addition to that they will be getting old school toys that require imagination and creativity. I've already bought them each an Etch-A-Sketch for Christmas. I will be buying more old school toys like that from my childhood days that I loved so dearly. Slinky's (Slinky, Slinky what a wonderful toy!) yo-yo's, legos, and of course some books. I'm hoping they will love these items and well, if they don't then I guess the man and I can have fun with these items and re-live our childhood all over again. Works for me. But either way, I'm dreaming of a retro Christmas.




Friday, November 2, 2012

Crazy Mountain Ranch

So last spring I come home from running errands and I'm on my cell yapping away to my sis. I walk over and check my email and start freaking out. The man won a trip for two to the Crazy Mountain Ranch owned by Marlboro. You know, the cigarette company? He's been a smoker since he was a teenager. I'm not a smoker. Guess its true what they say about opposites attract.

Right away I tell my sis about the trip and ask her if she'll come and watch the kids if I buy her plane ticket and she says yes. I call the man and freak out on him and tell him all about it. He tells me its just a  spam email and to delete it. WHAT?!? How could he have not heard about the greatness of this ranch and all its glory and wonder? I'm not a smoker and I know all about it. Most smokers know about this ranch and pray for their email invite that they won a lottery drawing inviting them and a guest for 3 nights of total fun and pampering and activities that most people would never otherwise have the chance to participate in. I made him call the number in the email right away and confirm that we wanted to go and they gave us early June dates for our trip. Well that worked out because the movers were coming to pack up our house for our big cross country move on June 12th. Talk about cutting it close.

Fast forward to day one of the trip. Can we say awesome! I'm not going to spoil it for others who may have the opportunity in the future to take this trip by spilling the details on the goodies they give you but I will say this, make sure you have lots of extra room in your luggage or bring a second bag. You WILL need it. When we landed in Montana we were the last of 2 couples to arrive. There was a car service waiting for us with a tasty dinner inside for us to eat on the hour drive from the airport to the ranch. When we arrived at the ranch we were greeted by the staff and escorted to our rooms. The entire ranch was recreated to look like the old west. How cute!


 Almost every little building was a hotel room and each room had a different theme and was different in every way possible. The bedrooms were all different and different sizes. Same with the bathrooms. We were in the pheasant room which was in the building that everyone seemed to love because there were dead stuffed animals everywhere including a large bear that greeted you when you walked in. 

 Above is a picture of the bathroom. So cute! It was so old school and I loved the claw foot tub!



Next (above) is a picture of part of the bedroom. The other pictures I have show some items that I don't want to show you. Nothing gross or weird. I just don't want to ruin any surprises :) Notice the stuffed pheasant above the lamp? Yeah. They also had these birds above the bed, one of each side. It was interesting to wake up during the night and look up and see that. lol



This is a picture of the earlier mentioned bear. He's there to greet you when you walk into the building. 



Here we have a picture of the Livery where the night life happens. Live music and a DJ. Lots of dancing, drinking and just plain fun. They even had poker tournaments going on. The building to the right is where we ate some of the best food ever. I mean insane amounts of food all made fresh. I tried to eat light at breakfast so I could pig out at lunch and dinner (both of which had dessert afterwards that was amaze balls). 


Some of the entertainment inside the Livery. He did a lot of old school 80's music (heck yeah!)


On to the adventure! There were so many choices. You pick before you arrive and they try their best to give you what you pick. You can always change when you get there and do something else. You would be amazed at how many people would get trashed and then not show up to their activities because of being hung over. Such a shame. By the way, if you get completely trashed and make a fool of yourself they will send you home on the next flight home. Please be responsible and take advantage of this awesome trip by drinking responsibly. Anywho! During the summer trips you can choose from horseback riding, cattle driving, archery, zip line, off roading, shooting, fly fishing and I'm sure there's more but I'm sure there's more but I can't remember. One of our adventures was horseback riding which was awesome! The horse in front of me was pretty gassy though which smelled horrible and was insane but other than that it was great and I would have done it over and over and over again if I could have. He was such a sweet horse other than the fact that he really didn't want to take me on this scenic ride. Seriously, he really didn't. As soon as we tried to leave the corral he turned back around and walked back in. Three times. Finally, one of the ranchers grabbed my horse by the reins and walked me to the road where the rest of the group was patiently waiting. How embarrassing. And a few times he sorta kinda decided to start trotting which scared the holy hell out of me. I thought I was going to die. And when he wasn't doing that he was biting the butt of the horse in front of us. But in all fairness, that horse, as I mentioned before, would not stop farting. Other than that he was super sweet and it was a blast. :)

The man and I on our final night in the Livery. We were hanging with out new found friends that I still talk to and only live 3 hours away from our new house in North Carolina. It was such a fantastic trip and I'm so glad that we were able to go. All we did was sign up on their website for coupons and Marlboro randomly selects people to invite to their ranch. The ranchers told us that majority of the people who get invites don't respond because they think its spam (much like my husband). So if you come home and find a rock the ranch email from Marlboro inviting you to their ranch for their summer or winter trips, its real and call the number right away! Its an all expense pair trip. You pay for nothing, not even your luggage. And it was the most fun the man and I have ever had without the kids in a long, long time. :)