Friday, May 22, 2015

Super Saturday Giveaway Linky (May 23, 2015)

Welcome to the Memorial Day edition of the Super Saturday Giveaway Linky. I hope you'll take the time with your family to honor those who have given their lives in service for our country. We certainly owe them and their families a huge debt. After you've done that, feel free to peruse the linky below, as well as my right sidebar, throughout the week for the opportunity to enter to win terrific prizes! If you're hosting a giveaway on your blog, be sure to share it in the linky and post this page on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Have a wonderful week!

Softsoap Fresh & Glow Body Washes Feature 100% Real Extracts for Healthy-Looking Skin!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan of using body washes rather than traditional soaps because they always smell so wonderful, and I feel like I’m pampering myself. One of my favorite brands is Softsoap because they’re always coming out with different fragrances for me to try. I recently had the opportunity to use their new Fresh & Glow body washes. They’re made with 100% real extracts and, as always, they smell incredible!

Softsoap Fresh & Glow Hydrating Shower Cream
Made with 100% real extracts sourced from milk, coconuts and almonds, this unique formula is proven to lock in long-lasting moisture to hydrate skin, leaving it soft and radiant. Coconut is one of my favorite scents, so this product smells amazing! I feel like I’m on a tropical vacation when I use it, and I love to get whiffs of this scent on my skin long after I’ve showered.

Softsoap Fresh & Glow Exfoliating Fruit Polish
Made with a 100% real extract sourced from kiwi and orange, this unique formula is packed with apricot seeds that exfoliate, giving you smooth, healthy-looking skin. I really like exfoliating skin products because they scrub away the layers of dead skin, leaving the skin very soft and smooth. And, not surprisingly, this product smells fantastic, too.

Stay away from drying soaps and pick up some amazing body washes from Softsoap for softer, better-looking skin. And look for the new Fresh & Glow scents because you deserve to be spoiled! Softsoap body washes are available at mass retail, drug and grocery stores nationwide.

Disclosure: These products were provided to me by Colgate-Palmolive for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

DVD Review and Giveaway: "Spare Parts," Starring George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis and Marisa Tomei

About the movie:
When four wildly different high schoolers team up to enter a robotics competition against the nation’s top tech colleges, no one believes they have a chance -- no one but Fredi, their new substitute teacher. As Fredi challenges his students to be the best they can be, they show him the power of never giving up in an unforgettable tale that shines with heart, humor, and hope.

George Lopez leads an incredible cast in this inspiring film, which arrived this month on DVD (plus Digital), Digital HD and On Demand. Based on a remarkable true story of four Phoenix high school students who come together against all odds to compete against MIT in a national underwater robotics competition, the “crowd-pleasing” (LA Times) story features an all-star ensemble cast, including George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis, Carlos PenaVega and Marisa Tomei. Rated PG-13.

Watch the movie trailer:

My thoughts:
I watched this film with my 11-year-old twin boys, and they were definitely inspired by the teens in this movie who came from very disadvantaged backgrounds but were determined to show that they were more than their circumstances. There are some political overtones in this movie because some of the boys or their family members are in this country illegally, so this opens the way to a discussion on this hot-button topic. At the end of the movie, they show the actual people who inspired the film and tell what they have done since high school. Overall, there are many lessons to be learned and issues to be discussed in this film, which makes it a great choice for Family Movie Night.


One lucky winner will receive a DVD+Digital copy of Spare Parts! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on Friday, June 5, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this film to facilitate my honest review. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link.

Joshua and the Lightning Road Book Tour: Guest Post, "Playing on Our Fears," and Giveaway (5 Winners)

Joshua and The Lightning Road
Stay away from the window, don’t go outside when it’s storming and, whatever you do, do not touch the orb. 

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper’s grandpa has always warned him about the dangers of lightning, but Joshua never put much stock in his grandpa’s rumblings as anything more than the ravings of an old man with a vast imagination. Then one night, when Joshua and his best friend are home alone during a frightful storm, Joshua learns his grandpa was right. A bolt of lightning strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. 

To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark place that steals children for energy. But getting back home and saving his friend won’t be easy, as Joshua must face the terrifying Child Collector and fend off ferocious and unnatural beasts intent on destroying him. 

In this world, Joshua possesses powers he never knew he had, and soon, Joshua’s mission becomes more than a search for his friend. He means to send all the stolen children home—and doing so becomes the battle of his life.

Playing on Our Fears
by Donna Galanti

Do you love to be scared? I do, ever since I was a kid—as long as I know it’s safe. Haunted houses. Hayrides. Adventure rides. Cemeteries at night.

And when I write, I return to the magical—and fearful—worlds of my youth, where monsters and faeries roam the land. Through my stories I can become these characters, good and evil, and wield their powers. My favorite stories as a kid were thrillers that made my heart race and my fingers keep turning the page to see if the good guys would win over the bad guys.

I grew up an only child on a mountain with only nature as a playground, so my time was spent roaming the woods with my notebook and pen. I wrote in secret fields and beside hidden ponds. The woods were my home. My favorite room with a view is still one strewn with fields, rock walls, and looming mountains.

So, you can see that I was never scared to be alone and I think we as readers like to see our beloved characters alone to face scary challenges. It makes us wonder—what would I do in that situation if I were all alone without any help? Would I be too terrified to act or would I face danger head on and conquer it? And these are the kinds of situations I thrust Joshua into in Joshua and the Lightning Road while trying to blend just the right amount of scariness and tension for a children’s book. I love it when an author takes my beloved characters to the edge of no return and gives me that spine-tingling rush of “oh, nooo!” This is what I aim for in my own stories.

I am drawn to stories that play on our fears because I am fascinated by how people act when put in dire circumstances. And I love the challenge of writing a tortured hero. It forces me (and the reader) to step out of our safe world for just a bit and be uncomfortable—while in the safe place of a book.

I love to see how much torment we can pile on a character, how lost they become, how near the brink of desperation they reach—and then redeem them or not. We can relate to their pain because they are flawed, like we are all wonderfully flawed—and this reveals our humanity.

So, in reading scary stories, for a short while we can live amongst monsters without the fear of facing them in real life. Our heart pumps. Our fingers grip the pages. Then we close the book and go out again in the sunshine.

Watch the Joshua and the Lightning Road book trailer!

Praise for Joshua and the Lightning Road:

"Vividly imagined characters in a gripping action fantasy that never lets you go until the very last page." —Jenny Nimmo, New York Times bestselling author of the Charlie Bone series
Title: Joshua and the Lightning Road
Publication date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Donna Galanti
Order Links:

Donna Galanti
Donna is the author of the Joshua and the Lightning Road series and the Element Trilogy. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers' The Big Thrill magazine and blogs at, a cooperative of published middle-grade authors. Visit her at and Donna wanted to be a writer ever since she wrote a murder mystery screenplay at seven and acted it out with the neighborhood kids. She attended an English school housed in a magical castle, where her wild imagination was held back only by her itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included!). There she fell in love with the worlds of C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and wrote her first fantasy about Dodo birds, wizards, and a flying ship (and has been writing fantasy ever since). She’s lived in other exotic locations, including her family-owned campground in New Hampshire and in Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives with her family and two crazy cats in an old farmhouse and dreams of returning one day to a castle.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway Information: Winner will be drawn June 19, 2015
• Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Joshua and the Lightning Road by Donna Galanti (INT)
Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My New Favorite Hair-Care Products: SoapBox Bataua Fruit Shampoo and Conditioner!

I have a friend who sings the praises of sulfate-free shampoo, so I was excited when SoapBox contacted me to review their sulfate-free Bataua Fruit Shampoo and Conditioner. Sulfate-free hair products are touted as less drying to the hair and even help hair color to stay in longer. And after using SoapBox Bataua Fruit Shampoo and Conditioner, I totally agree!

Previously, I’d been using dandruff shampoo because my scalp was very dry, but it wasn’t working very well. Now after using the SoapBox products, my scalp is healthy again! No more scratching or dry patches. I’ve also noticed that my hair color seems to be lasting much longer since I started using SoapBox hair products. But I’m not the only one in the family to benefit from SoapBox Bataua Fruit Shampoo and Conditioner. My 11-year-old son is on a swim team, and his hair often feels dry and brittle thanks to the chlorine in the pool. But he loves the effects of using SoapBox shampoo and conditioner. He told me, “It smells good and it makes my hair really silky!”

Besides being sulfate-, parabens- and phthalates-free, SoapBox shampoo and conditioner are made with bataua fruit oil, which is native to the Amazon region. According to SoapBox, “The oil from bataua fruit looks similar to olive oil, but it also contains remarkably high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and oleic acid that makes it super effective at treating dry, flaky scalp. Traditionally used by natives of the Amazon as a hair loss and anti-dandruff tonic, this oil starts at the root (literally), moisturizing and calming the scalp, and works all the way to the ends of hair to promote intense hydration. Whether it is your scalp or your body, bataua fruit’s high level of oleic acid, vitamins A & E, and saturated fats can do wonders to restore and protect your skin.” And did I mention that these products smell amazing?

I will definitely be buying more SoapBox Bataua Fruit Shampoo and Conditioner. And here’s another great reason to purchase: SoapBox’s mission is to empower customers to change the world through their purchases. For every product they sell, they donate a bar of soap, a month’s supply of clean water or a year’s supply of vitamins to a child in need. I love a company that gives back. And I also love a company with a sense of humor. Here are the directions on the conditioner bottle: “After rinsing shampoo, apply conditioner generously to hair, focusing on damaged areas. Hum into the bottle/microphone. Wait 3-5 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.” Love it!

If your current hair care products aren’t making you happy, I hope you’ll try SoapBox Bataua Fruit Shampoo and Conditioner. You’ll have healthier hair, and you’ll be helping someone in need. Want more good news? These products are only $4.99/bottle at Target. Head to a Target store near you or purchase online through the links below.

Purchase at

You can find SoapBox at:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Super Saturday Giveaway Linky (May 16, 2015)

Welcome to the Super Saturday Giveaway Linky! My twins returned this week from a fun-packed three days in Washington, DC, with their school safety patrol group, so I think this is going to be a weekend for rest and recovery! While we're sitting at home, I'll be entering some great giveaways, and I hope you'll join me! Read through those listed in the linky below, as well as on my right sidebar. And check back throughout the week as more are added. And if you're hosting a giveaway on your blog, please share it with us in the linky and tell your Facebook and Twitter friends about this page. Good luck!

Children’s Book Review and Giveaway: JANINE, by Maryann Cocca-Leffler (2 Winners)

About the book:
Meet Janine. She is one of a kind! Janine dresses a little different, remembers random facts, reads the dictionary for fun, and has her own style of cheering. Nobody does things the way Janine does things! One girl in Janine's class is throwing a party and all the COOL kids are invited. But Janine is not cool. Some kids think she is strange and want her to change. Will Janine try to be different or just be her spectacular self?

Book trailer (in which you will meet the real Janine!):

My thoughts:
JANINE is a crucial resource for teaching empathy to children. When reading along, ask your children or students, “How would you feel if kids didn’t want you to come to their party?” Encourage them to recognize that every person is different and therefore perfect just the way they were made. Janine may not act like everyone else, but she’s so entertaining and smart! With the help of JANINE, adults can guide children in finding an opportunity to help someone like Janine feel special and accepted. This book offers life-changing lessons for kids -- plus it's a really fun book to read!

About the author:
Author Maryann Cocca-Leffler drew her inspiration for this delightfully spunky character from her own (now grown) daughter who has a developmental disability. April was Autism Awareness Month, but anytime is the perfect opportunity to share JANINE with your child, encouraging him or her to focus on one's abilities and promoting respect, tolerance and kindness.

Maryann Leffler is a beloved author/illustrator who has written over 50 children's books. With JANINE, Maryann gets personal and states, “Through my book, JANINE, I hope to encourage kids to celebrate their differences and stand up for themselves, as well as inspire all children to stand up for those who are left out or bullied.” Her latest release has been met with the highest praise, including:

"Gently dealing with a bully while remaining true to herself, Janine is an admirable character who doesn't need to put someone else down in order to feel good about herself. VERDICT: A refreshing tale of being true to oneself." - School Library Journal

"Inspired by the author's daughter, this gentle portrayal of difference is powerful, particularly since nothing can dampen spectacular Janine's upbeat attitude. Little ones needing some extra encouragement to feel comfortable just the way they are should take a lesson from Janine." - Booklist

"Cocca-Leffler's portrayals of her heroine illuminate her thoughtfulness, resilience, and self-assuredness, and while the story's message is far from subtle, it may encourage children who don't fit in (and wouldn't have it any other way)." - Publishers Weekly

"It's nice to examine how a group can choose kindness and thus take away a bully's power. Charming illustrations highlight Janine's independent style and unfailing optimism." - Kirkus Reviews

Visit, where everyone is invited! The website features links where you can find out more about the book, read some great poetry, learn more about the real Janine, and find other suggested books and movies that feature a positive main character who happens to have a disability.

* Follow Maryann Cocca-Leffler on Facebook
* Follow Janine's Party on Facebook
* Maryann Cocca-Lefler's website
* Maryann's blog
* Free JANINE coloring sheet


JANINE's publisher, Albert Whitman & Co, is generously offering this giveaway for two copies of JANINE (US only please)! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EST on Friday, May 29, 2015.

TriDerma: Soothing and Invigorating Products to Help Take Care of Your Skin (GIVEAWAY)

Taking care of your skin is so important, and TriDerma has some terrific products to help you do just that. They use only the finest quality, hand-selected ingredients, such as certified genuine virgin organic aloe, moisturizers, and other carefully selected botanicals to target a variety of skin problems. Just a few of their products include:

One complaint we often hear about sunscreens is that they feel heavy, but this extra-light, non-greasy formula has been designed to keep even the most delicate or sensitive skin happy. It offers protection from UVA/UVB rays and contains AP4® Genuine Virgin Organic Aloe complex, vitamins, Jojoba Oil and Allantoin. It is ideal for all skin types, even oily skin!

If you’re starting to see the effects of aging on your skin, consider this medical-strength, anti-aging complex, designed to quickly help erase the look of brown spots, age spots, and acne scars while diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles without skin irritation. With its rich botanicals, antioxidants, anti-irritants and specialized brightening ingredients, it encourages cell turnover without harsh chemicals, peels or procedures so your skin looks smoother and brighter.

As you age, pores become more noticeable, but TriDerma’s Pore Reducing Serum uses RefinaPore™ to help change the look of your pores and hide imperfections. It also helps absorb and control oil throughout the day. I received a sample of this product, and I really like it. I use it under my foundation, and my skin looks very smooth, but I don’t feel like I have too many products on my face.

As we head into summer and expose our skin to the sun’s harsh rays, make a vow to start taking better care of it. Visit to see all of the terrific products available to help you get the skin you’ve always wanted!


One lucky winner will receive TriDerma’s Pore Reducing Anti-Age Serum ~ a $24.99 value! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on May 29, 2015.

New DVDs from Shout! Factory: "Transformers Rescue Bots: Return of the Heroes" and "The Adventures of Chuck & Friends: Day at the Races" (GIVEAWAY)

Shout! Factory is pleased to announce the release of two great new DVDs for kids! Read on to learn more about them and enter to win both DVDs!


Everyone’s favorite emergency first responders -- Chase, Heatwave, Blades and Boulder -- return for five new adventures with their Griffin Rock Friends, the Burns family! And this time, they’re joined by iconic Autobots like Bumblebee and, of course, the greatest leader of all time: Optimus Prime!

Episodes Include:
Bumblebee to the Rescue
Bot to the Future
A Virtual Disaster
Rise of the Heroes


Everybody, on your mark … get set … and race your way to fun with Chuck and his very best friends -- Digger, Handy, Rowdy, Biggs, Boomer and Flip! Join the gang as they race each other to win a radio contest, form an astronomy club, create the perfect Mother’s Day gift and more. Strap yourself in, sit back and enjoy the ride!

Episodes Include:
Contest Countdown
Tough Break
The Short Cut
Race to the Race
Join the Club
Rowdy’s New Rigg
The Regifters
Mother of All Gifts
Kid Stuff
Bonus Feature: A Brand-New Sing-Along!


One lucky winner will receive both DVDs featured above! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on Friday, May 29, 2015.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles (GIVEAWAY)

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles
101 Inspirational Stories of Faith, Answered Prayers & Divine Intervention
By Amy Newmark and Natasha Stoynoff
Foreword by John Edward

About the book:
Good things do happen to good people! You will be encouraged and uplifted as you read these stories about powerful hope, miraculous healing, divine intervention, messages from heaven, answered prayers and beating the odds, including:

  • The mother of a Sandy Hook shooting victim who prayed for a sign that her son Jesse was okay and minutes later saw “Jesse & Jesus” written in the sky
  • The businessman turned pastor who didn’t believe in miracles until he laid hands on a paralyzed man who then walked into his office a few weeks later
  • The brother and sister who were reunited in Australia 75 years after they were separated at a British orphanage during World War II
  • The grieving daughter who fondly recalled her mom’s appearance on Let’s Make a Deal, went to the show, got picked from the audience, and won a new car
  • The woman whose mother’s voice forced her off a bench seconds before a tree fell on it, on the one-year anniversary of her mom’s death
  • And 96 more stories that will make you say, “Wow!”

Note from Susan: These stories are so inspiring! They really do give us hope when life seems to be stagnant or heading in the wrong direction. Read one every day or when you’re especially in need of a pick-up. You can start at the beginning or close your eyes and just open up to a story. No matter how you read this book, it won’t fail to warm your insides and help you to realize that miracles still happen every day.


Three lucky winners will receive a paperback copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, May 24, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher to facilitate my honest review. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link.

Summer Reading Spotlight: "Gabby Duran and the Unsittables," by Elise Allen & Daryle Conners #GabbyDuran

I work at a library, and we’re planning our summer activities, so I’ve got summer reading on my mind! Did you know that students can lose two months’ worth of learning over the summer? Fortunately, we can easily combat this by making sure that our kids keep reading during summer break. But, as most of us have found, it’s not easy to get kids to read unless we find material that will interest them. I recently learned about a new book that sounds like a great choice for kids between the ages of 9 and 12.


BABY-SITTERS CLUB meets MEN IN BLACK in this sweet, funny new middle-grade series about a world-renowned tween babysitter who is recruited to take care of extra-terrestrial children.

Case File: The First Unsittable

The Association Linking Intergalatics and Earthlings (hereby known as A.L.I.E.N.) has a new member. After months of investigation, Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, has proven herself to be a babysitter extraordinaire. Her celebrity clients fly her around the country to care for their rambunctious little humans. Our spy, Associate 4118-23432B, otherwise known as Edwina, believes Gabby can be trusted with the truth: aliens are living among humans on Earth. And here at A.L.I.E.N we believe that even extraterrestrials need a babysitter now and then. No one was up to the task ... until now.

After accepting the top-secret position, Edwina has paired our new associate up with her first charge, a little girl from the planet Flarknartia. The timing for associate 4118-25125A is less than ideal. It's a school day on Planet Earth, Gabby's audition for the solo part in the band is tonight, and this tiny alien is a bit more than meets the eye.

Can Gabby Duran, Associate 4118-25125A, First Sitter to the Unsittables, keep her otherworldly charge safe in the unpredictable halls of middle-school and keep A.L.I.E.N hidden?

Learn more at the Official Site
Follow Disney-Hyperion on Twitter
Follow Elise Allen & Daryle Conners on Twitter

This post contains my Amazon affiliate link.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, moms-to-be, and other special women in the world! 

Friday, May 08, 2015

Super Saturday Giveaway Linky (May 9, 2015)

Welcome to the Mother's Day edition of the Super Saturday Giveaway Linky! I hope you win something for the special moms in your life -- and that includes you, too, if you're a mother (or even if you're not!). Explore the giveaways listed on the right sidebar, as well as those in the linky below. And if you've got a great giveaway to share, be sure to list it in the linky and shout this page out to your social media friends and fans. And don't forget to thank a mother this week!

Check Out the "We Love Moms" Video Courtesy of THE PEANUTS MOVIE! #PeanutsMovie

Celebrate Moms and all the reasons we love them with a brand-new video from THE PEANUTS MOVIE. Featuring all your favorite Peanuts characters, this heartfelt video is a great way to show your mother just how much she means to you!

Watch THE PEANUTS MOVIE "We Love Moms" video!


Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the beloved “Peanuts” gang make their big-screen debut like they’ve never been seen before -- in state-of-the-art 3D animation. Snoopy, the world’s most lovable beagle -- and flying ace -- embarks upon his greatest mission as he takes to the skies to pursue his arch-nemesis, The Red Baron, while his best pal, Charlie Brown, begins his own epic quest. From the imagination of Charles M. Schulz and the creators of the ICE AGE films, THE PEANUTS MOVIE will prove that every underdog has his day.

3D Animation
Release: November 6, 2015
Director: Steve Martino
Screenplay: TBD
Producers: Craig Schulz, Bryan Schulz, Cornelius Uliano, Michael J. Travers, Paul Feig

THE PEANUTS MOVIE hits theaters everywhere on November 6, 2015! If you love this video as much as we do, please consider sharing today using #PeanutsMovie.

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Celebrate National BBQ Month with a Farm Rich Smokehouse BBQ Recipe, Backyard BBQ Tips and a Giveaway! #NationalBBQMonth

National Barbecue Month has arrived -- just in time to get us all in the mood for BBQ and outdoor summer fun! To celebrate, our friends at Farm Rich have created a lot of simple and delicious recipes with their Farm Rich Smokehouse BBQ line of products. Check out this fun video from food “inspirationalist” Libbie Summers, author of The Whole Hog Cookbook.

Try Libbie’s BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos with a Green Apple Slaw for a dish that will have the kids begging for more! This recipe is also easy to throw together for an impromptu gathering or poolside supper.

BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos with Green Apple Slaw

1 carton of Farm Rich Smokehouse Pulled Pork BBQ
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
8 (6 inch) corn tortillas
2 granny smith apples, washed and grated
1 (12 oz.) package coleslaw mix
Chopped cilantro for garnish, optional

Heat barbecue according to package directions and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, toss together the coleslaw mix and grated apples. Stir in the mayonnaise mixture and toss to coat.

Place the corn tortillas on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the edges begin to get crispy but the tortilla is still pliable (about 1 minute).

To serve, divide warm barbecue evenly among the tortillas and top with apple slaw. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Makes 8 tacos

Makes: 4 Servings

[Recipe can also be found at]

And for more entertaining tips, check out what Libbie considers to be “The Secret Sauce for Memorable Backyard BBQs”!

A Q&A with Libbie Summers

What makes for a great backyard BBQ?

It's the same answer for every party, fancy or informal. Four letters, L.O.V.E. The love you have for your guests and the love you put into your food and decor always make for a great event. Oh, and no bugs.

How can busy families make time to throw a BBQ for family and friends?

Backyard BBQs are meant to be casual, so make everything "help yourself” … from drinks to dessert. Also, don't offer a lot of different food choices -- just make a few really delicious choices!

How do you get the kids involved?

My son always loved helping at our parties. I'd have him fill fun containers with ice for beverages. He's filled up everything from a dinghy, his blow-up swimming pool and a wheelbarrow with ice. The great thing was it kept him busy for a long time AND he had great pride in helping with the party! Kids can also help with the decorations (days in advance). Have them create simple décor like paper pinwheels and pennants to hang from string or stick into the grass. The meat is always the star.

What are some delicious and easy side dish ideas to round out the menu?

I love cooking up sides that are great "mixed" with BBQ. Like a wonderful slaw that can pile on top of a BBQ sandwich, or how about baking up a bunch of potatoes (russet or sweet) and serving them alongside a platter of pulled pork or beef brisket? Your guests can make their own BBQ loaded potatoes!

Marinating, seasoning, smoking, grilling … this can take up a lot of time! What are some shortcuts?

There's a saying (and even a book) based on what you should and shouldn't spend your time making from scratch -- it’s called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. Sometimes when time is tight, it's a good adage to follow. For BBQ, I like to say “Make the Baked Beans and Buy the BBQ!” You can throw together a great dish of homemade baked beans or slaw and heat up an already cooked tray of delicious BBQ like Farm Rich Smokehouse BBQ. You can also create a lot of recipes using pre-prepared barbecue.

What are some beverage ideas for that perfect dish+drink pairing?

I'm a big fan of doing a great lemonade or limeade and adding other fruit and berries to it. A creative twist would be adding chunks of frozen watermelon. It says summertime BBQ all the way, is refreshing, the kids will love it and it’s the perfect mixer for a mother's little helper cocktail! You can also freeze some watermelon cubes and drop them into a big pitcher of iced sparkling water.

Should there be entertainment?

Classic fair games, like an egg toss or a family sack race, are always a hit. The key is to ALWAYS have a trophy or ribbon to win to amp up the competition! When bragging rights are on the line everyone will get involved and have a fun time. You can even have the kids help out and make the trophy.

What about a sweet ending?

I love sheet cakes for BBQs! They bake fast and feed a crowd. One of my favorites, Family Reunion Sheet Cake, I shared in my cookbook, The Whole Hog Cookbook. It's a riff on a Texas sheet cake but the cool thing is it's studded with pecans and bacon on top! Serve it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I also love store bought ice cream sandwiches and drumsticks -- they’re fun, nostalgic and everyone loves them. And you can't go wrong with a big platter of homemade cookies. To raise the stakes with no effort, sit a big bowl of ice cream over ice next to the cookies for a make-your-own ice cream sandwich set-up.

Any other tips to have guests asking, “So when’s your next BBQ?”

BBQ or formal dinner, my rules are the same. No one knows what you didn't get done, so don't sweat the details and give folks something to be excited about when they arrive (decor and your excitement to see them) and be sure to leave them with a great ending (dessert)! Remember: As long as you’re having a great time and aren't stressed out, your guests will follow suit!


Enter our Farm Rich Smokehouse BBQ Giveaway from now until May 22, 2015 at 11:59 PM EST to win a BBQ Swag Pack and LOTS of free Smokehouse product to enjoy all summer long! Giveaway open to U.S. residents only. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

New CD from PLUMB: EXHALE ~ Review & Giveaway

About the album:
EXHALE, the seventh studio album from acclaimed multi-genre singer, songwriter and author PLUMB, expresses a new focus and vision. After the runaway success of NEED YOU NOW (the album, title track and book), which coincided with her own moving story of brokenness and ultimately healing, Exhale brims with worshipful songs of gratitude and hope.

The defining concept of EXHALE was born from a sermon at Plumb’s home church, wherein her pastor Pete Wilson expressed the notion that the Church doesn’t exist for itself. Rather, believers come to church to breathe in grace and truth, be changed, and then go out and “exhale” that hope into their surrounding community.

“That idea of exhaling hope hit me right away, and I couldn’t get to the Notes section on my phone fast enough. I started writing the chorus of Exhale right then and there,” explains Plumb. “I have been made new by the ultimate hope, and I want to share and exhale that hope in every way I can.”

About PLUMB:
Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, better known by her stage name Plumb, is a songwriter, recording artist, performer and author. Plumb has sold more than 500,000 albums and over two million singles worldwide, co-penned songs for numerous other artists, including Michelle Branch, Mandisa, Mandy Moore, Jaci Velasquez, and Natalie Grant, and had music placed in many films and television shows. Originally signed as a Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) recording artist in 1997, Plumb is now known as well as in alternative rock, electronic dance music, and for the use of her music in film and television.

My thoughts:
How do I describe this music? Empowering. Worshipful. Beautiful. Simply WOW! I’ve found my new favorite musical artist. Every single song on this CD is a “keeper.” (And Plumb wrote 10/12 of them … I’m always impressed by singers who write their own songs.) I can’t get enough of this music. I play it in the car before work and head in with a feeling of love and hope. Plumb’s love for God shines through every track and will inspire you to strengthen your own walk in faith. Please, please pick up a copy today for yourself and everyone you want to hear the message, “You are loved.”

Watch the music video for the title song, “Exhale”:

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One lucky winner will receive Plumb’s EXHALE CD! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to residents of the US & Canada only and will end at 11:59 PM EST on Friday, May 15, 2015.

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. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Serve Mom Breakfast in Bed on Mother’s Day with These Recipes from Jarlsberg® Cheese

Jarlsberg® Cheese, the nationally recognized premium brand of cheese, invites you to celebrate Mother’s Day by surprising Mom with breakfast in bed. No matter the age, your children can surprise Mom with a homemade breakfast fit for a queen, with the natural, wholesome taste of Jarlsberg® Cheese. Serve Mom her favorite omelet, filled with Jarlsberg® Cheese and Mom’s favorite sautéed vegetables, bacon, or other ingredients. Making fresh quiche, hot from the oven, is easy as pie when you mix eggs with cream and shredded Jarlsberg® Cheese.

Try these mouth-watering, back-to-classics Jarlsberg® Cheese recipes for Mother’s Day breakfast in bed, and show Mom how much you care! (Just remember to have an adult handle all cooking.)

Jarlsberg® Quiche

Pastry: 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups of white flour
2 tbsp water
Or, simply purchase a ready-to-bake pie crust in your local supermarket, in the frozen aisle section

2 1/2 cups of shredded Jarlsberg® Cheese
1 cup of fresh spinach
1 red onion, cut into rings
1 cup and 1 tablespoon of milk
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
2 cups of sun-dried tomatoes
¼ cup of olives (Optional)

Mix the butter and flour in a food processor or by hand, until the mixture has a granular consistency. Add the water and knead into the dough. Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough and fit into a 26 cm pie pan. Prick several holes in the bottom with a fork and blind bake in the oven at 400° for 15 minutes. Let cool. Sauté onion and spinach with butter in a frying pan, then spread the mixture evenly onto the quiche base. Whisk together the milk, eggs, salt and pepper and pour over spinach and onion. Top with sliced sun-dried tomatoes, olives and the Jarlsberg® Cheese. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes.

Jarlsberg® Cheese Omelet

1 cup of Jarlsberg® Cheese
3 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra ingredients of your choice, such as cooked bacon, fresh chopped spinach, tomatoes, etc. For a richer texture, add 2 tablespoons of half and half, milk or cream.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Cook over medium heat until eggs mixture sets, then fold in half. Flip over once, and let cook about 3 minutes more. Serve with a toast or a croissant.

Jarlsberg® Cheese is available nationwide in the specialty cheese case in grocery retailers, and comes in pre-sliced packages, or sliced at the deli counter, and is also available in club stores.