Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holidazzle with Litehouse Foods

 I created this recipe featuring Litehouse products for their Holidazzle Photo Contest. I used their Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, Blue Cheese Crumbles and Salad Herb Blend to create a tasty, cheesy spin on the classic green beans gremolata side dish for the holiday dinner table. I loved the ease of using the vinaigrette dressing and herb blend that allowed me to save time by being a one-stop source for what can amount to a number of individual ingredients.

"Blue Cheese Green Beans Gremolata "

1 pound green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons Litehouse Salad Herb Blend 
2 tablespoons Simply Artisan Reserve Blue Cheese Crumbles

Trim green beans and steam covered for 7 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and return to pan. Add vinaigrette dressing dressing and pine nuts to green beans; toss gently to combine. Transfer into serving dish. Sprinkle salad herb blend and blue cheese crumbles over top of mixture. Serve immediately. Enjoy! 

Do you have a recipe idea featuring Litehouse products? 
You can enter the Holidazzle Contest here for a chance to win one of three $1,000 grocery cards!  Enter through December 17th. You can also enter on Twitter, Instagram, or on the Litehouse Facebook page. Be sure to hashtag your photos #LitehouseHolidazzle

One of you will win a Litehouse Foods Product Pack. Prize includes one Litehouse Foods cheese, one Litehouse Foods dressing,  and one Litehouse Foods dried herbs.To enter, leave a comment below and let me know your favorite holiday dish. If you are not able to leave a comment, e-mail me at with "Giveaway Entry" as the subject line. Giveaway ends Thursday, December 17 at noon EST. 

Litehouse is offering a coupon for $1 off their products that you can view and print here.

You can connect with Litehouse Foods here:

Disclaimer: This review and giveaway was made possible by iConnect Influencer Management and Litehouse Foods. I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really) by Kay Wills Wyma

I was given the opportunity to review I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really): Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison and I have been greatly affected by the message of this book.

I feel the subject of this book is so timely for my generation and the generations younger than me as a 40-something who have literally grown up in what has become a digital age of connecting us with friends and loved ones.

About the Author

Kay Wills Wyma is a blogger, mother of five, and the author of Cleaning House through which she has appeared on The TODAY Show, CNN, Glenn Beck, The New York Times, Focus on the Family, and more. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, she held positions at the White House, the Staubach Company, and Bank of America. Kay lives in the Dallas area with her husband, Jon, and their family.

Hydrate For The Holidays
With the holiday season in full force, tackling this subject seems not for the faint at heart because holidays seem to bring with them a heaping helping of comparison opportunities to abound in every facet of our lives. I felt as a blogger that this would actually be the ideal time to bring this topic of discussion to my readers. That's also why Kay has chosen to discuss this subject during this season. She is sharing reflections on her blog to #HydrateForTheHolidays to learn how to recapture contentment and joy, especially during the holidays and she’ll be sharing thoughts on this subject throughout the season.

So I ask this question that the author Kay asks the reader: "Is comparison living hijacking your life?" What a powerful question.

Joy Stealers
Now, meet two of the joy stealers in this digital age: comparison and competition. One can easily give way to the other one. In this age of social media, it seems there is always something waiting for us online to post or peruse. There can be a tendency for friends who see our posts and pictures to become our audience, our judges for the tidbits of our lives we share on social media.

Here is where trying to measure your value against others comes into play. Measuring yourself against your friend's marriage, job, clothing size, vacations, car, life. The seemingly fabulous life unfurling through your friend's Instagram snapshots. This time of year, seeing that relative's or that friend's Pinterest-worthy holiday decor can quickly give way to feelings of inadequacy.

The Pinterest Trap  
If you're a parent, your child or children can take on a likeness as though they are a part of your brand. If you're the parent watching another parent's post on social media as they unveil amazing child activities and crafts accomplished on any given day and then it starts to creep in, that feeling of inadequacy as a parent. I have a cousin who is the mother of a young child and she mentioned this particular tendency when looking at Pinterest. What I say to her is that I have seen wonderful and loving parenting to her daughter shine through her social media posts that no amount of Pinterest-worthy parent-child activity can diminish.

What's happening here? The yield this way of thinking brings is discontent, exhaustion, loneliness, undercutting of relationships and sapping contentment.  

In this book, Kay shares the simple remedies that helped her and her family reboot their perspective against this way of comparison thinking and the yield from this change brought their family freedom, authenticity and joy.

Kay confronts the comparison epidemic raging in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our social-media feeds, offering remedies along the way. She takes the reader on a journey exploring the troubling effects of living in an excessively competitive culture—and reveals simple yet effective ways to escape the comparison trap and trade comparison for compassion.

For more information on I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really)you can visit Kay's  Official Website here.

One of you will win I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really),
 valued at $14.99. To enter, please leave a comment below. Giveaway closes on Saturday, December 5 at 8:00 pm EST. Open to US and Canada residents only. 

If you are not able to leave a comment on this blog post, please e-mail with "Giveaway Entry" in the subject line and that will count as your entry.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Review and Giveaway: Celebrate Hanukkah with Hallmark Personalized Books

Hallmark now has a line of personalized books that I think make beautiful heirloom-quality gifts for children. This year, there is a new addition to the holiday book selections: "Magical Hanukkah". I enjoyed being given the opportunity to review this selection and will be gifting a "Magical Hanukkah" book to a special brother and sister pair in my life who celebrate this holiday, Cecilia and Harry. They are receiving their books to celebrate this Hanukkah season, which begins on Monday.

I love that Hallmark allows you to personalize not only the child's name on the book, but also the child's hair, eye and skin color. The child and their name are featured throughout the delightful story. I had so much fun "bringing Harry and Cecilia to life on the pages of the book" for their Hanukkah adventure. 

A beautiful introduction page graces the book with the name of the child and the person gifting the book to the child. Here is the introduction page in Cecilia's book from me.

There is also a dedication page for sharing a Hanukkah greeting to the child from the person gifting the book. Here is Harry's dedication page from me. 

I love how they incorporate Hanukkah traditions into the story. Here is Cecilia pictured with a glowing menorah. 

I am so taken with the gorgeous illustrations throughout the book, like these colorful and fun dreidels from Harry's story.

I feel no story about holiday traditions would be complete without sharing about a food tradition and they did not let me down. I love how they not only show latke on the dinner table, but also shared about the preparation for making the traditional Hanukkah food, shown here in Cecilia's story.

You can view Hallmark's entire collection of personalized storybooks here or go directly to the "Magical Hanukkah" book information here. From now through December 13, you can receive $5 off the purchase of a Hallmark personalized book, both online and in-store.

Thanks to Hallmark, I am giving away a "Magical Hanukkah" personalized book, valued at $39.95, to one of my readers. To enter, please leave a comment below letting me know if you have a favorite Hanukkah tradition or food. If you are unable to post a comment here, please e-mail me at with "Entry Giveaway" as the subject line. Giveaway closes tomorrow at noon EST in order for the winner to be notified and order the book to arrive in time for a child in their life to enjoy during this Hanukkah season and my hope for many more, as well.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or another winter holiday, I wish for you the common bond between all of these holidays: I send you wishes for a beautiful season of miracles!  

Disclaimer: Hallmark provided me with "Magical Hanukkah"for the purpose of my honest review and a book for a giveaway prize. I was not financially compensated for this blog post. All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Give the gift of Holiday Memories with A Christmas Story- The Musical at Paper Mill Playhouse

I was excited to attend Opening Night of Paper Mill Playhouse's exciting holiday show, ‘A Christmas Story- The Musical’, a musical comedy that the whole family can enjoy. I was a child in the 1980s when the movie this musical is based on was released in theaters and became the classic holiday movie it is today. That made Paper Mill's announcement that this would be their holiday show for the season extra special.

Paper Mill Playhouse is a not for profit organization that has been entertaining audiences with live theater performances since 1938. Endeared to my heart is their award-winning access services for disabled and autistic patrons. Paper Mill will present an autism-friendly performance of the show on December 29.

Paper Mill is located in Millburn, NJ and making the journey from New York, one of the many benefits of attending shows at this theatre is the ease of traveling to Millburn. We are located the same distance from NYC that we are from Millburn, NJ. I can't tell you enough about the convenience of driving into Millburn to attend world class theatre productions with A-list at Paper Mill as opposed to attending he same calibur of productions in the hectic, daunting traffic I encounter to attend a theatre production in NYC. 

I cannot say enough about this show for the ease of your holiday giving as a "gift experience" you can give a loved one. A ticket to this show can be the easiest one-stop gift giving to check off your list. gift experience is exactly what this was for me and it made a memory I will hold dear. 

I had such fun picking out my holiday attire to wear to the show. I chose to debut my tartan vest ensemble and I headed out for my evening at the Paper Mill.  A smooth traffic pattern all the way to Millburn!

By the time I was outside the theatre, I was already giddy with excitement for the show. I had no idea, however, just how much the show would impact me and begin to shape my holiday season ahead. 

Paper Mill's production of A Christmas Story- The Musical so perfectly captures the spirit of the movie, but the musical gives the audience a very special "up close" glimpse into the lives of the Parker Family during their Christmas season of long ago as young Ralphie quests for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. To be precise: "an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle".

I was blown away by the magnificence of the set designs for what is a multitude of scene changes, including the Parker home, Gimbels Department Store's holiday hustle and bustle and several exceptional "dream" sequences where Ralphie envisions his life when he receives the BB gun for Christmas and circumstances surrounding his quest to own the esteemed Red Ryder.   

The cast is phenomenal. The pairing of Colton Maurer and Hudson Loverro as brothers Ralphie and Randy will both warm and win your heart. Chris Hoch so perfectly encompasses the role of the father as "The Old Man"and Elena Shaddow gives an ideal performance as "Mother". Together, the four of them bring this beloved screen family to life with the advantage of seeing this family's often madcap adventures play out in person on the stage. Ted Koch gives a wonderful performance as the narrator Jean Shepherd and I love how the musical has his character onstage narrating the action as it is happening. It gives the show an extra-special perspective and I love how Koch and Maurer have such a chemistry with one another in their roles as adult and young Ralphie. I have to say that cast members Pete and Lily, the dogs portraying The Bumpus Hounds rival this talented cast in their ability to be scene stealers. Their spirited stage entrances and exits received deserved the mountainous applause given by the audience. I expect to see Colton Maurer win a Tony Award someday. There, I have officially made my prediction to you, my readers! He is one of the most talented young performers I have ever beheld on any stage and he is currently onstage at the Paper Mill. 

Danette Holden as Ralphie's teacher Miss Shields gives a delightful performance in the classroom but brings a powerhouse performance in a dream sequence that finds her and the students performing a wonderful tap dance routine in a fun throwback theme. 

The children knocked my socks off. The iconic roles, including bullies Scut Farkus and his sidekick Grover Dill, played by Ryan McInnes and Gavin Swartz are performed by young actors who bring these larger-than-life characters to life on the stage with such an ease and natural ability. Vincenzo Faruolo as hapless flag pole-dweller Schwartz endears the audience with his plight to free his tongue from said flagpole during a very fun scene.  

Ted Koch as narrator Jean Shepherd, through every moment of the show, brings the audience birds-eye insight into what is happening on the stage. It was his insight shared in the show's final scene that moved me to tears and the tears flowed, and they flowed. My tears were a testament to the powerful performance Paper Mill's production of A Christmas Story- The Musical brings to audiences this holiday season.    

This year marks Paper Mill Playhouse's first-ever short film, “Ralphie’s Christmas Wish”. This video is 5 minutes in length and it uplifted my spirit to see the surprise Christmas wishes granted, delivered to each of the recipients by the show's "Ralphie", young Colton Maurer, who warmed my heart with his caring spirit and this short film was such  wonderful way to kick-off this season of giving in our home. Because of  this short film, I was already a Colton Maurer fan before I even saw him take the stage as Ralphie.

A Christmas Story is a perfect way to kickoff this season at Paper Mill, which will include A Bronx Tale, Pump Boys and Dinettes, and West Side Story. 

You can find more information on "A Christmas Story- The Musical" at the Paper Mill here.

I get to share some Christmas joy for residents of NJ, NY, MA and CT because I am giving away 2 tickets to the show, which runs through January 3. To enter, leave a comment below and let me know if you have ever been to the Paper Mill for a show. If you are not able to leave a comment, please e-mail me at with "Giveaway Entry" as the subject line to count as your entry. Giveaway closes on Sunday, December 6 at noon EST. 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Paper Mill Playhouse. All opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.