Monday, September 22, 2014

Moms Need Friends, Too! #ItStartedwithHELLO

Many thanks to Lindt HELLO for sponsoring today’s story and giving my readers a chance to win really sweet prizes!

I am so thankful for my group of friends.  I have friends for everything: hanging out, venting, shopping, double dating, and for support.  I really don't know how I would make it through most days without them!

When my kids were toddlers and preschoolers, I met moms through play dates and friends of friends.  Our kids were friends, so we were friends.  Then we moved, and even though we keep in touch through text and Facebook, it's not the same.  I cherish those friends who've stayed in touch the last two years, but I wanted to connect with local moms with whom call with questions about the school and have bonfires with.

When you're a kid, teenager, or even young adult, making friends is a lot easier.  Once you become a mom, you're limited on time.  I work from home, so I don't meet friends at work.  I'm also painfully shy, so I need some kind of conversation starter.

Sometimes I need a change of scenery when I need to get some creative work done.  I take my laptop to my local coffee shop and get to work.  Customers come and go through the shop, but some people come back quite often.  What better way to meet new people than over a cup of coffee?

Luckily, one day I forgot my headphones, so I got the chance to talk to some of the other regulars in the coffee shop.  I'm so glad that I did!  I left with some new mommy friends, and those friends

It's hard to start a conversation, especially for introverts like me!  Luckily, great coffee and great chocolate are always good conversation starters.  Who doesn't love a good candy bar?

Chocolate is an even better conversation starter if you share it!  That's why I love the new Lindt HELLO chocolate.  It's available in decadent flavors like Caramel Brownie (my favorite!), Strawberry Cheesecake, Crunchy Nougat,  and Cookies & Cream.

If you're sharing with a good friend, try the sticks or bars.  For saying HELLO with food, pick up the mini-stick bags.  I promise you'll be the most popular person in the room when you open the bag!

Lindt It Started with Hello is sponsoring a sweepstakes, and you can win some sweet experiences!  Just visit the Lindt HELLO Sweet Connections page and enter your email address.  Be sure to come back here and enter the sweeps daily for more chances to win!

Each week is a different prize:

  • 9/10 – 9/16 Table for Two Dinner & a movie with the +1 of your choice!
  • 9/17 – 9/39 Double the Fun Say HELLO to a fun double date night + Lindt HELLO chocolate for dessert
  • 9/24 – 9/30 Girls Just Want to Have Fun Enjoy a shopping spree with the girls + yummy Lindt HELLO Chocolate!
  • 10/1 – 10/7 Sweet Staycation Lindt HELLO treats you to a pampered night in – movies, books + chocolate!
  • 10/8 – 10/14 Besties Reunion Reconnect with your bestie at the spa for a day + Lindt HELLO chocolate to sweeten the deal.
* No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. & D.C., 18 years or older (19 in AL or NE and 21 in MS).  Void where prohibited. See Rules at  for weekly sweepstakes entry periods, prize descriptions, odds and other details. Ends Noon on 10/14/14. Void where prohibited. Sponsor: Lindt & Spr√ľngli (USA) Inc., One Fine Chocolate Place, Stratham, NH  03885.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Canned Spiced Vanilla Pears Recipe

When we moved to the farm, one of the things we loved the most was the established orchard.  Building an orchard is expensive and can take years to produce fruit.  We have a full orchard with several types of peaches, pears, apples, cherries, and plums!  There are almost 300 trees in the orchard, so we have a lot of fruit!  I love experimenting in the kitchen, so I combined a few recipes and made these spiced vanilla pears for canning.

I was hesitant to can so many pears because the kids and I don't like them much.  Or we thought we didn't.  We'd only had storebought canned pears, and those don't compare at all to these amazing home canned pears.  I canned them in pints the first year, but I won't do anything but quarts from now on. As soon as I open these, they are gone.  There are never any leftovers!

If you can get some pears this year, make this recipe.  You won't regret it!

Links in this post may be affiliate links, which means that I earn a commission from sales.

Spiced Vanilla Pears Recipe

What You Need

  • 2-3 pounds of pears per quart jar
  • 3.5 cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 1/2 lemon, juice (or lemon juice)
  • quart jars, rings, and lids
  • water bath canner and accessories
  1. Wash, peel, and core pears.  Cut in to chunks or halves.
  2. In a 5 quart pan over medium heat, bring the water and sugar to a boil.  Stir and reduce heat to keep the syrup hot.  Add vanilla extract.
  3. Add sliced pears and lemon juice to hot syrup.  Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Place 1/2" cinnamon stick and 3-5 whole cloves in each quart jar.
  5. Pack hot pears in hot jars.  Add syrup to fill within 1/2".  Remove air bubbles and put the lids and rings on.
  6. Process for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.
About the sugar solution.  I don't like really sweet syrups, so this is a very light sugar syrup.  If you like sweeter fruit, you can use your favorite recipe and add vanilla.   

This recipe made enough syrup for 7 quarts, or one canner load.  What I do is cut the pears and measure them in my 4-cup measuring cup.  I cut 7 quarts at a time and get those processing before I start the next round.  I use leftover syrup with the next batch, so after a few batches, I only have to make a half batch of syrup.

Let these sit on the shelf for at least a month before you eat them.  It really takes them a few months to get their full flavor.  

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Moms Need A Girls Night Out #mymikesmoment

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for mike’s hard lemonade. I received a Circle K gift card to facilitate this review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

When was the last time you had a night out with your friends?  If you are like me and can't remember, then you need to a plan a GNO quickly.

My friends and I get together a few times a month, but we always have the kids with us.  Yes, they play together, but we can't get some real quality girl time in.  And when the kids are there, it always turns in to our favorite topic - our kids.  We all have awesome kids, but we are more than just moms.  We are women too.

I love my kids, and I love my hubby.  But sometimes I need a night off.  We all need a break to recharge our proverbial batteries.  A few hours off for me helps me be a better mom, and it definitely gives me more patience when I'm at home.

So I called a few friends and invited them over.  Of course, the day they were coming over, I was in full mom mode running errands and shopping.  Thankfully, Circle K has mike's hard pink lemonade so I could grab a pack while I filled up my car.

We had two rules:  This night was for women only.  We can't talk about our kids or husbands.  Easy rules, right?

Nope!  We did relax the rules for half an hour so we could catch up on the last week, but then we enforced the rules again.

In two years of being friends with these women, this was the first time we talked about our childhoods, our teenage years, and our jobs.  We got to know who we were as people and not just moms.  Being a mom might be the most important part of our lives, but it's not the only part.

We talked politics.  We talked religious. We disagreed.  We agreed.  We had fun!

Honestly, I don't remember the last time I laughed so much.

Thank you mike's hard pink lemonade for the great night with friends!  Also, a big thank you to Mike's for donating over $1 million to breast cancer research!

A great night with great friends, great tasting drinks, and donating to a great cause.  Sounds like a perfect night to me!

When was the last time you had a night off?

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This book has received so much hype lately, that I had to read it before I saw the movie.  I was honestly a little scared to read it.  I was afraid that it would be too sad for me.  I hate hearing about kids suffering from cancer or a disability.  It's just too much for my heart to take.  The book was sad, but I am so glad that I read it.  I would put this book in the top books I've read in the last five years.

Links in this post may be affiliate links, which means that I earn a small commission from sales.  Thanks for supporting my blog.

I always look up books on Good Reads before I read them.  I don't want spoilers, but I don't want to waste my time on a poorly written book.  The Fault in our Stars is one book is one that I wish that I hadn't looked up.  A lot of people mentioned in their reviews that the book wasn't realistic.  Teens don't really talk like that, they said.    

Well, mine does.  He's only 12, but I can imagine him talking just like Gus did in the book.  He's well read like both Hazel and Gus, so he would definitely quote books like they do.  

Even their names allude to their character.  Hazel and Augustus. They are both old names, which means they will be old souls.

This books is a shorter one, so it's a quick read.  It's so well written that the pages just seem to flow together.

Hazel has cancer, but a miracle new experimental drug shrunk her tumors and is, so far, stopping the cancer from spreading.  Augustus is a cancer survivor who lost part of his leg due to the bone cancer.

Living with cancer at 16 is obviously difficult, so Hazel's mother encourages her to join a support group for kids with cancer.  There she meets Gus and hits it off with him immediately.

I know other readers have a problem with their meeting.  They just didn't feel that they could fall in love that quickly.  I don't think they did fall in love that quickly.  They made a connection.  Their stars lined up, they met, and they both felt that they needed to get to know each other better.

One of the first things they realize that they have in common, besides cancer, is a love of reading.  They trade favorite books, and thus begins a beautiful relationship.

Hazel's favorite book is about a girl chronicling her life with cancer.  The book ends abruptly with many questions, and this irritates Hazel.  She's made it her life's mission to find out what happens to the girl, and she's written several letters to the author to find out, but they are all unanswered.

After Gus reads the book, he also tries to find out what happens, and he has some success contacting the author.  The author agrees to meet with them, and they are off on their adventure.

Although their relationship is brief, Gus helps Hazel grow in her life more than anyone else.  He helps her see that even though our destiny is written in the stars, we can write our own story.  We can change some things, and we can choose how we live within our destiny.  We are here on Earth but a little while, and we need to make the most of our infinity, even if our infinity is smaller than other people's infinities.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
"As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once."
“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.” 
“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.” 
“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.” 
“Without pain, how could we know joy?' This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.” 
“But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he has Cassius note, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.”  

Yes, that's a lot of quotes.  All of them made me think, and I think all of them are worth sharing.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

Get The Fault in Our Stars for your Kindle today.  Don't have a Kindle?  Download the app for free for your computer, iPad, iPhone, or Droid device. - Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices
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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Save the Undies! Feel more confident with U by Kotex® + A Free Sample

This article is sponsored by U by Kotex® Pads.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Time of the month.  Your period.  Aunt Flo.

Whatever you call it, it means the same thing to most women:  Ruined undies.  Ladies, it is time to Save the Undies!
Pretty colors!

Raise your hand if you've got a stash of panties just for that week.  Now raise your other hand if you've been caught off guard and ruined a good pair of panties on accident.

I see a lot of hands out there.

How much money have you wasted replacing your panties?  Three pairs per year?  Six pairs per year?  Times...what...10 years?  Twenty years?  All of those panties thrown in the trash add up.

Do you get frustrated when you have to toss a pair of undies or delegate them to "that time" panties?  I do.  I definitely have some pairs that I love more than others, and I hate to not keep them in rotation.

Save the Undies!

Ladies, I have some awesome news for you.  You can Save the Undies with U by Kotex®.  They have 3D Capture Core, which is a brand new kind of center that locks wetness to stop leaks.  They are available in different absorbency levels in liners, pads, and tampons.

Want to Try It?

Want to try it for yourself?  Click here to get a free sample of U by Kotex® sent to your home!

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How to Can Tomato Juice at Home - Vita Nut Milk Bag Review Juicing Without a Juicer

Thank you to Vita Nut Milk Bag for providing the bag for this post.  As always, all opinions are my own.

I love the taste of home canned spaghetti sauce from my fresh tomatoes, but I hate making it.  Last week, I cooked it for 9 hours to get the water off, and that was only half a bushel of tomatoes.  By the time I was done, I only had 6 quarts for my pantry and the extra liquid had evaporated.  A few days later, I got the Vita Nut Milk Bag to review.  It's made for making almond milk and juices, so I decided to use it on my tomatoes to try to save some of that precious juice.  This was a great idea because my sauce only had to simmer for about 2 hours and now I have a gallon of tomato juice to can for soups and chili!  Here's how to make tomato juice to can at home without a juicer.

What is Is

The Vita Nut Milk Bag is a fine mesh bag that you can put fruits, vegetables, or even nuts in to strain.  The holes are smaller than cheesecloth, so less solids pass through.  

It measures 12" x 10", so it is big enough to hold quite a bit of food.  

I've got to say that this little bag really impressed me.  I've squeezed two bushels of tomatoes through it this season, and it has held up great.  The seams are still intact, and it was easy to clean by turning it inside out and rinsing well and washing with my dishes.  

How to Make Tomato Juice

I prepared my tomatoes the night before by taking the skin off.  I washed them, cut out any bad spot and the stem, and put them in boiling water for 30 seconds.  Then I took them out and put them in ice water to stop them from cooking.  I let them cool for a few seconds and the skin slides right off.

I let them sit all night in the fridge because this helps more juice come off the tomatoes, which means less work.

I filled the bag about half way with peeled tomatoes and squeezed until no more water came out.  I was using the pulp to make spaghetti sauce for canning, and I was concerned that maybe I was squeezing out too much water.  I needn't have worried because the pulp release even more water when you heat it.

I ended up with 4.5 quarts of juice from a bushel of tomatoes. I could have gotten more, but I was planning on cooking my sauce for 2 hours so I wanted a little extra water.

I've made juice before by squeezing the tomatoes by hand, but it ends up with bits of pulp and seeds.  The bag catches the seeds, so I have pure juice that can drank or add to soups this winter.

Tomatoes are a borderline acid/nonacid food, and so many things can affect their acid content.  To water bath your canned tomato juice, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid to each quart
(use half as much for pints).

You can cold pack this by adding cold juice to cold jars and placing them in a cold canner. Let the water come to a full boil before you start the timer.  I usually have jars boiling in my water and reuse the canning water from other things, so I hot pack my tomato juice.  I heat up the juice on the stove and add it to hot jars and put it in the hot water in the canner.  Either method works fine.

Process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Your home canned tomato juice will separate as it cools.  This is perfectly normal; just shake it before you use it.  

One of my lucky readers can win their very own Vita Milk Nut Bag!  The company is offering a 100 percent discount code to order it from Amazon.  Please note that the winner will  be responsible for shipping costs if they do not have an Amazon Prime account!  
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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