Wonderful Weekend Hop

Welcome to the Wonderful Weekend Hop
hosted by Planet Weidknecht and
Beck Valley Books.
It's been a wonderful weekend for me
because I had Friday off work!
Link up your accounts so
I can come visit all you wonderful friends.

Appliance Art Instant Chalkboard - Review

Ever wish you could hang a sign right in front of someone's face? Maybe you'd like a sign on your teenager's door that says Clean Your Room! Or a honey-do list for your husband on the garage door. Or a place to record your family menu for the week. I love these new Instant Chalkboard decals from Appliance Art! I'm using them all over my house.
They come in huge sheets, small sheets, and even shapes and designs. Instant Chalkboard is an easy to peel sticker that adheres securely to any smooth surface easily. If you need to reposition it, it peels off easily and sticks just as well the next time. I know this for a fact because the first time I put it up it was crooked and I had to redo it.
I put two in the entryway of the daycare so I can write down the weekly daycare menu for the parents. I know they don't always have time to check the website so this way they'll know with just a quick glance as the walk out the door. I only needed to use two of the eight sheets for this area, so I set out to put them in other convenient places in my house.
A new "To Do" list is now hanging on the pantry door in the kitchen. I can write down the list of stuff I need my husband and boys to complete. I know they will all see it because wherever the food is, they are. Since it's a chalkboard, we can erase the jobs as they finish. I love the eco-friendly idea that I no longer have to make lists on paper!
These Instant Chalkboards are quick, easy, convenient and I think they look great. They are easy to cut so I can change the shape or add some embellishment to the corners if I want. I'm thinking now of all the cute little chalkboard crafts I could make with these chalkboard sheets! Check out all the great ideas at http://www.applianceart.com.

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.
Win any Appliance Art product up to $25!
To enter just fill in the Rafflecopter form below. You must be at least 18 years old and reside in the US. Only the first entry is mandatory; bonus entries will increase your chances of winning. Giveaway ends at midnight ET on 6/30/12. Good luck!

Eco Friendly Trophies and Awards

There are at least three dozen plastic trophies laying around in boxes in my house. I've got several child development awards, my boys both have sports trophies, and my daughter has a bunch of baby pageant awards. Wouldn't it be great if trophies were made of eco-friendly materials? Well, ablerecognition.com has done just that!
They offer gorgeous trophies made of recycled materials and earth friendly resources. Imagine getting a beautiful 3-dimensional bamboo award for recognition of your time spent volunteering at your local school or church. I also believe that employee awards are much more meaningful when the award also blesses the earth. AbleRecognition also offers recycled cash laser plaques, recycled newsprint laser plaques, and even recycled sunflower laser plaques. Green recognition is just one more small step we can all make towards a better way of living.
This stunning recycled blue glass trophy would be an awesome trophy for soccer teams and baseball teams. There's also a recycled copper glass trophy that would be perfect for basketball trophies. Imagine what an impact we could have if all the sports teams and beauty pageants started using recycled materials and re-purposed materials for their trophies. I always love to find companies that go the extra mile to make sure we are using our resources wisely. Check out all the ways you can recognize someone's achievements while helping conserve what we've been given. Be sure to let your children's school and sports teams know that there is a better option for trophies!

Mara's Pasta - Italian Mac'n'Cheese Recipe and Review

In my quest for a healthier lifestyle, I came across Mara's Pasta, a 100% whole wheat pasta that comes in a variety of noodles - Macaroni, Penne, Spaghetti, Fettuccine, Rotini, and Farfalle. I was really excited to get a beautiful gift box of three different pastas to try. This Artisan Pasta is higher in protein and fiber than other whole grain pastas. It's created with a unique variety of Maragrain wheat designed for athletes and those looking for more nutritious foods. The important thing, of course, is whether or not it tastes good!
I decided to create an Italian Mac'n'Cheese Recipe. It turned out pretty good, so I'm going to share it here with you. You'll need a 16 ounce box of Mara's Pasta Whole Wheat Macaroni and you can order that HERE. You can also enter to WIN a gift box of Mara's Pasta in three varieties below.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 3 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (add salt if desired). Add 16 ounces of Mara's 100% Whole Wheat Macaroni to pot. Boil the pasta for only 7 minutes, then drain the pasta and set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 3 cups of milk. Add 4 tablespoons of melted, cooled butter and stir. Set aside. Put one layer of macaroni in the casserole dish.
Layer 1 cup of Shredded Romano Cheese, then a layer of macaroni, then 1 cup of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, then macaroni, then 1 cup of Shredded Asiago Cheese, then the rest of the noodles. Shake Grated Parmesan Cheese over noodle layers.
Pour the milk/butter/egg mixture over the noodles in the dish. Shake some garlic salt over the noodles. Add some pepper if desired. Press the noodles down slightly into the dish with a lightly greased spoon.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil, then bake in the oven for 50 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes to slightly brown the top of the Mac'n'Cheese. Serve warm.
My Mac'n'Cheese turned out really good, but the cheese consistency isn't as creamy as I'd like it to be. Next time, I might add something to make it a bit creamier. I'll probably add a bit more garlic salt than I did this time too. The pasta itself is wonderful. It's really great quality and I feel good knowing I'm giving my family healthier pasta. I definitely recommend Mara's Pasta!
Disclosure: Mara's Pasta provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Win a gift box of Mara's Pasta!
One winner will receive a gift box of Mara's 100% Whole Wheat Pasta in three varieties. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. You must be at least 18 years old and live in the US. This giveaway ends at midnight ET on 6/29/12.

Give Dad Your Presence this Father's Day

Here is a game plan for the Father’s Day gift of presence:

1. Work backwards. Begin with the end in mind. What do you want him to say about the weekend? How would he respond Monday morning to the question, “What did your family do for you for Father’s Day?” What memories would you like to him to have five years from now? What do you need to do to create those?

2. Set him up for success. Block out the weekend. Don't let other people infringe on his special time. Run interference. Turn down invitations and prevent interruptions. Ask him if there is something special he wants to do. Fuel him for an outstanding Father’s Day by helping him get 8 hours of sleep and eating healthy meals rich in protein and abundant in veggies. Don't give him a weekend to-do list. Clear his plate of weekend responsibilities.

3. Disconnect to reconnect. This is a big one, and is a critical step in being present: disconnect. You may not be able to go phone- or screen-free the whole weekend, but try as hard as you can to really disconnect and unplug. Turn off ringers. Put away laptops and tablets. Stow all the screens and gadgets and everything that buzzes and beeps and says, “Pay attention to ME!” You can’t be unplugged and present if your smartphone is on your hand the whole time.

4. Think quality, not quantity. Think back to your greatest childhood memories. What created those magical moments? Invariably it was quality time, not quantity time. It was being fully present with the people you love. Well, it's ditto for dad. So carve out quality time together. Don't overthink activities or agendas, but think about ways to be fully present with one another, with undivided attention. Too much activity can get in the way of this. What if you planned a day with absolutely no agenda? Where no one had anything to do except be present with one another?

5. Simplify. Less is more, always. Resist the temptation to overschedule and overplan. Busy is not always best. Simplify your agenda, your menu, your demands. Scratch the extravagant adventures and complex meals. Plan his day to have a singular focus. Send him out for a bike ride with the kids (without his Blackberry). Plan a picnic. Go for a walk. The day doesn’t have to be a bright shiny adventure. Some of the greatest memories come from simple, heartfelt conversations, from just being together and doing “nothing.” Don't try too hard.

6. Give him a time out. By that I mean let him do what he wants. If he wants alone time to watch the game without the kids around, let him have it. If he wants alone time to go look at tools at Sears, send him on his way. If he wants alone time to nap in the hammock in peace, let him have it. Let him be unplugged and present with himself.

7. Relive it. Sunday night, take time to ask him what was magical about the day. What were the most memorable moments? What did he like best? Where did he laugh the hardest? What stories do you want to remember to tell your kids? This might sound silly, but it’s actually a neurologically proven way to reinforce good feelings. Replaying what was great sends the memory deeper into his brain, and it gives you insight into how to make more days magical.

Fathers are overwired and overwhelmed just like the rest of us. Give him the gift of your presence and set him up so he is present in his own life. It truly is the greatest gift of all.

Camille Preston, PhD, is the founder and CEO of AIM Leadership and the author of Rewired: How to Work Smarter, Live Better, and Be Purposefully Productive in an Overwired World.


Celebrate National Flip Flop Day with JFlops.com

Today is National Flip Flop Day! Check out my fabulously fun flip flops from JFlops.com! They make custom flip flops to match whatever you desire, from your bathing suit to your wedding dress. Their specialty flip flops are full of girly glitz and glamour. I was so excited when these patriotic flip flops arrived and I've been wearing them since. They're so comfy! They offer flat flops or 1-1/2 inch wedges in nine different colors.
They will match any swatch or photo you send them, or you can choose from their designs on their website. You could put your whole wedding party in comfy flip flops, including the flower girl with their Mini Flops for kids. All their fun flip flops are made of 100% rubber of the highest quality. They have so many cute styles to choose from on their website, with bows, gems, ribbons, flowers, and charms.
These would make a great gift for your friend, your sister, or anyone whose day you want to bless. Starting at around $20 they are an affordable way to express your personal style! You can visit them online at www.jflops.com and on Facebook too!
Celebrate National Flip Flop Day with a SPECIAL DISCOUNT at JFlops.com that happens just ONCE A YEAR! Save 30% through midnight PST Monday, June 18 with the code FLIPFLOPDAY.
Disclosure: I received these products at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

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OXYwater the Ultimate Hydration Beverage - Review

Living in Texas means we need to pay close attention to the amount of time we spend in the sun and heat. Dehydration can occur very quickly and people die every year from heat exhaustion. Now that I've tried OXYwater, I know what I'll be drinking this summer. This amazing hydration drink is pure water with extra oxygen, plus so much more!
I received six flavors of OXYwater and tried each one of them, as did my husband and son. The OXYwater Pink tastes like berries with maybe a shot of watermelon. We all liked this one. Proceeds from the sales of Pink help support cancer research! The all natural flavors come from fruits and plants, with NO artificial sweeteners. OXYwater has no sugar, no carbs, no caffeine and no calories.
The Cherry Pomegranate is a really unusual blend of tastes, but I really liked it. My husband said it was okay and my son said it tasted good but smelled like a medicine. I love cherry flavors so it was really refreshing to me. OXYwater contains essential vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.
OXYwater Black almost tastes like it has a hint of licorice in it. We all liked this one too. It's funny, because I feel so "classy" when I'm drinking black water! It is a natural and healthy water, a great option for active people, for those dieting, even for those with diabetes.
The Passion Berry is my favorite. Both my husband and son liked this one too. Honestly, when I'm drinking OXYwater, I can tell that I feel better. Each serving has antioxidants equal to THREE servings of fresh fruit. Since the bottles are 20 ounces, with a screw-on lid, I can sip on it all afternoon or gulp it down. The plastic containers are also recyclable.
The Island Citrus was my husband's favorite and my son's favorite. It is definitely delicious. My son is very active in Kung Fu and he said one bottle of OXYwater kept him hydrated through a full hour's workout. As a parent, I feel very good knowing my kids will choose healthy drinks.
When he and some friends went skateboarding in a outdoor skate park, I sent them with a cooler of six OXYwater bottles. It was 95 degrees outside and the skate park is in full sun. They drank all of them and were very thankful I sent OXYwater with them. Many athletes are drinking OXYwater!
My husband didn't like the Peach Mango, but I like it. It tastes like a Fuzzy Navel, but its much healthier for me! I will definitely be buying OXYwater this summer. Find out more at http://www.tryoxywater.com/ and connect with them on Facebook and Twitter. You can buy it online and at retailers nationwide like Walgreens and Meijer.
Disclosure: I received these products at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

Sarah Ehrlich and Give A Flock is Helping End World Hunger

Every so often something comes along that challenges the norm and takes a stand to make a change and social entrepreneur, Sarah Ehrlich has done just that by founding http://www.GiveAFlock.org - an innovative social movement dedicated to ending world hunger.

Check out their newest video about teens "Giving a Flock" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wM_HatE-fE

Sarah has a long track record of helping those in need and for years has been actively involved with helping orphaned children. After a visit to India in 2006, Sarah founding Help for Orphans International to help meet the serious need for safe places for children to live.
Help for Orphans International has committed their effort to increase their scope and influence and has successfully expanded their operations to include, most notably, the Give A Flock organization. Give A Flock's unique strategy is to donate chickens to the orphanages in Kenya, Haiti, and many other locations with each purchase of their trendy T-shirts found on the GiveAFlock.org website. Each chicken provides food for the malnourished orphans for up to 15 years and is a sustainable way to fight the hunger epidemic in these third-world countries.

In addition to the Give A Flock project, Sarah has added movements such as, Operation Backpack, Healthy Smiles, and Clothe the Children which provide much need learning materials, dental care, and clothes to the children of Help the Orphans International.

It's time to join together and take a stand against world hunger and to help children in need. And with the support of Sarah Ehrlich, Give A Flock, and Help for Orphans International we can make a change.

For more information about how you can get involved with Help the Orphans International please visit, http://helpfororphans.org/.

To get your very own Give A Flock social awareness T-shirt, visit http://giveaflock.org/.

Recipe and Cookbook Review - If You Can't Stand the Heat by Robert Medina

Firefighters are heroes! I have to admit I've always had a "thing" for a fireman in turnouts. My husband actually used to be a volunteer firefighter, but that was many years ago. I was really excited to find Robert Medina's cookbook If You Can't Stand the Heat. As I thumbed through the cookbook, I marked all kinds of recipes I want my husband to make for us (he's the fancy chef around here). I did find an easy-to-make dessert that I'm sharing here with you!
Dump Cake is my kind of recipe - just a few ingredients, no fancy spices I've never heard of, and, well, it's cake! Go get your 9"x13" metal pan.Turn on your oven to 350 degrees F. Open a can of crushed pineapple and dump it in the pan, juices and all. I used the back of a spoon to kind of spread it around to the edges.
Then open a can of cherry pie filling. Rather than dump it, I kind of spooned the cherry pie filling onto the pineapple so I could arrange it nicely (my OCD kicking in there). Try not to eat too many of the cherries,  even though it's very tempting. I only ate one because there's just never enough in the can, you know?
Then open the box of cake mix. Robert Medina recommends yellow or white cake. I used yellow cake, although it looks white when you pour it all over the pineapple/cherry mix. Don't stir! I got a clean spoon and kind of spread it out nicely. The next step is to sprinkle 2 ounces of crushed walnuts over the cake batter. I got walnut pieces, put them in a zipper bag, and smooshed them with my rolling pin to crush them.
Then take a stick of butter (not margarine, real butter) and cut it into teaspoon size pieces (that would be eight pieces normally). Arrange them on top of the walnuts and put the pan into the oven for fifty minutes. Your house will begin smelling amazingly tropical very soon.
After fifty minutes, remove the pan from the oven with oven mitts and set the pan on a wire rack to cool a bit. Don't burn your mouth, wait until it cools before you try it. I used a spatula to cut a piece when it was warm. The consistency is like a cobbler and it's absolutely, positively delicious! I love it!
My daughter ate a piece, then left for work early so she wouldn't have another piece. My son ate three pieces and wanted more, but we're making him wait until his brother gets home from work so he can try it too. My husband, who hates pineapple, said, "This is REALLY GOOD."
I can't wait for my husband to make the Shrimp and Crab Martini! You can grab a copy of If You Can't Stand the Heat, a New Orleans Firefighter's Cookbook by Robert Medina at http://fireitup.tateauthor.com/. Best of all, every purchase of this fabulous cookbook helps support the National Fallen Firefighter's Foundation.
Disclosure: I received this book at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Probiotics for Dummies by Dr. Shekhar K. Challa

Two years ago I had never even heard the word "probiotics." It sounds like some kind of robot terminology. Now I know that it's about the digestive system and a big part of overall health. Probiotics for Dummies by Dr. Shekhar K. Challa is a very informative guide to learning more about it. Probiotics can actually help fight many ailments and diseases. Learning how to balance probiotics and nutrition can help with allergies, infections and more. Did you know that probiotics can even mean fewer tooth cavities? There are some really good recipes in the book that can help you incorporate probiotics into your daily lifestyle. The chapter that most intrigued me was the one about children's health and how probiotics can help in the areas of autism, asthma and obesity in children. It's not an exciting, gripping thriller, but definitely worth the read for the information. You can purchase Probiotics for Dummies at the link below.
Disclosure: I received this book at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

EZwipers - Review

I'll never forget the night we were driving around in our car and it started raining after not raining for months. We turned on the windshield wipers and the horrible screeching sound was a very good indicator that the scorching sun had deteriorated the wipers. We pulled into a parts store and my husband went in and picked out a new pair. Standing in the pouring rain, he fought with the wipers for ten minutes before he figured out the guy inside had given him the wrong pair. By the time he got the right pair and installed them both, it was done raining and he was steaming mad.
EZwipers.com has just simplified life with their convenient website! You just type in the year, make and model of your car, and EZwipers will recommend the right wipers - the right style, the right length, and even make sure you get the right attachments. They are 100% guaranteed to fit! They will even ship them to you free. You'll never have to stand in the parts store again, flipping through a confusing catalog of 300 different wipers.
My EZwipers arrived quickly and once my teenager finally showed up at home, I grabbed my husband to change the wipers on the truck. The wipers are even marked "driver" and "passenger" so there's really no way to mess up the installation. It took my husband longer to take off the old ones, than it did to install the two brand new ones from EZwipers. There were installation instructions included and I'm sure he would have read them if he needed them.
The wipers I received are top rated, Anco brand, quality wipers. They look great, they work great, and we are very happy with them. You can get your next set of windshield wipers at http://www.ezwipers.com/ and save time, money and sanity! Enter to win your next pair of wipers below!

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.