Tuesday, November 25, 2014

December 2nd: World Vision Partners with ThirtyOne Gifts for #GivingTuesday

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

Support a great cause while buying some really cute gifts with Thirty-One Gifts and World Vision on #GivingTuesday!

Take a break from the retail frenzy following Thanksgiving and join with World Vision and Thirty-One Gifts to celebrate generosity during the 3rd annual #GivingTuesday on Dec. 2, 2014. For the first 3,100 donations made by phone (1-888-511-6588) or online (Worldvision.org) to World Vision on Giving Tuesday, Thirty-One Gifts – a direct-selling company focused on personalized totes, purses, home organization solutions and more – will donate a Hope Kit tote filled with hygiene supplies to a woman or girl in need in the U.S.

On #GivingTuesday every donation made to the Christian humanitarian agency World Vision will make twice the impact by combatting poverty in one of the 100 countries where World Vision works and helping a woman or girl in need in the U.S. get back on her feet with a Hope Kit.  Each kit is filled with essential hygiene supplies such as a toothbrush, shampoo, hairbrush soap and a special note of encouragement.

Why the Need?
Poverty in America is real and affects millions of vulnerable women and children every day. The Shriver Report on Women in America, released in January, provides a bleak outlook of the financial state of women and children: 1 in 3 American women -  42 million women, plus 28 million children - either live in poverty or are right on the brink of it.

Connect with World Vision's Facebook page at /WorldVision and Twitter at @WorldVisionNews 

Since it began in 1996, the World Vision Gift Catalog has grown in popularity as a gift-giving alternative; featuring over 100 ways to improve the lives of children through gifts such as: clean water, food, medicine, education, job training and small business loans, among others. Gifts range in price from $16 to $39,000 and can be made in a loved one’s name.  Last year alone more than 822,000 people were helped through the Catalog.

To order from World Vision’s Gift Catalog, visit www.worldvisiongifts.org or call 855-WV-GIFTS.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Celebrate all month long with the Care Bears Advent Calendar App!

Terracycle: Eco-Friendly Holiday Gifts for the Whole Family! #Spon #HolidayGiftGuide

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

We recently had the chance to review 2 new products from Terracycle, the Dopp Kit and the Bracelet:

If you are looking for the perfect gift for the eco-conscious gift recipient, look no further than Terracycle!  Some of their newest items are made from recycled tent material.

The Upcycled Tent Dopp Kit is a toiletry organizer that is made entirely of recycled tent material. It's a great gift for those who like to travel, hike or just love the outdoors.  Even the clips and zippers are recycled!  It has lots of roomy, mesh compartments that makes staying organized while travelling easy.  This is a really cool gift idea and has a masculine feel to it, so it would be great for the man who has everything:)

The second Terracycle item we received was a simple, yet beautiful tent bracelet.

  This bracelet was handmade in Guatemala by village artisans who used recycled materials.  It features a Zamak metal button and would make an awesome stocking stuffer!  So pretty!

Terracycle has quite a selection of great gift ideas for everyone on your list this year!  

ABCD Diaries gives Terracycle an A+! 

Buy It:
Visit Terracycle to get eco-friendly gifts that everyone will love!

Safari Ltd. TOOBs: Educational Stocking Stuffer Ideas! #Giveaway #HolidayGiftGuide

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

We recently had the chance to review the Prehistoric Sealife TOOB® from Safari Ltd.:

Safari Ltd® is well-known in the toy industry for their figures that are both lifelike and beautiful and teach children the importance of nature and conservation through imaginative play.
They feature true-to-life animals from all time periods along with more fantastical characters like dragons and mermaids.  They also make action figures for historical characters and time periods.
The TOOBs are cool because they provide hands-on experience with miniature replicas for each category.  My kiddos are both really interested in anything prehistoric or related to the ocean, so the Prehistoric Sealife TOOB® was perfect for them.  
The Prehistoric Sealife TOOB® contains ten figures, including: Liopleurodon, Ichthyosaurus, and Elasmosaurus, Metriorhynchus, Tylosaurus, Basilsaurus, Chlamydoselachus, Nothosaurus, Dolichorhynchops, and Henodus.

They love playing with these neat creatures both in and out of the water.  They have created habitats for them, played with them in the tub and done research on so of the species that were new to them.  I love any toy that encourages my kiddos to learn while they play!
The set comes with a handy TOOB to store and display the pieces when not in use.  Another bonus:)
ABCD Diaries gives the Prehistoric Sealife TOOB® from Safari Ltd. and A+!

Buy It:
Check out all of the cool figures and TOOBs at Safari Ltd.!

Win It:
One lucky reader will win a TOOB or figure of their choice from Safari Ltd.!

Moose Toys: The Gifts Your Kids Want! #Spon #HolidayGiftGuide

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

We recently had the chance to review a few hot holiday gift ideas from Moose Toys:

  • Named in the 2014 Toys “R” Us Holiday Hot Toy List
  • An interactive pet without the mess!
  • Looks and acts like a real pet, responds to touch and fits easily in the palm of the hand
  • Makes 30 different playful sounds - tweets, chirps and even whistles popular nursery rhymes!
  • Features a unique chatter back recording feature, which allows kids to talk to their bird and hear it talk back
  • Colorful cage houses one included Bird
  • Features a handle so kids can take their pet on the go
  • MSRP: $19.99

  • Mutant Mania features a line of wacky, action-packed, mix and match collectible wrestlers (over 80 total!) that kids can build up and smash down for exciting wrestling action
  • Each customizable figure is created using an interchangeable head, torso and legs – so kids can easily swap out a piece to create a new mutant every time
  • The Mutant Mania Rampage Arena is the ultimate battle arena where kids can build up their ultimate wrestlers and launch them into the ring to see who will survive, and who will break down in front of the crowd
  • Includes crowd stands, character launcher, battle handles and two exclusive Mutant Mania figurines (heads, torsos, legs and spines)
  • Available in October 2014
  • MSRP: $29.99
What we thought:
A loved the Little Live Pet Bird.  This pretty bird is super fun because it is interactive.  It responds to touch and knows lots of popular songs.  You can "teach" it new phrases with the chatter back feature...super cool!  

The bird itself is super soft and the cage is fairly portable, though A prefers to carry her bird around outside of it's cage:)

D was the main reviewer for the Mutant Mania Rampage Arena, though A had a lot of fun with it as well and even B and I got in on the action:)  D really enjoyed this set, though he did say he wished it came with a few more fighters.  He liked that the players had interchangeable parts.  

This game is a bit loud, but lots of fun.  It also has a handy storage drawer for holding all of the small pieces.  D has already put "more Mutant Mania characters" on his wish list:)

Moose Toys has a great line up of hot toys this holiday season that are sure to be a hit with every kiddos on your list!  

ABCD Diaries gives Moose Toys an A+!

Buy It:
You can find Little Live Pets, Mutant Mania and other Moose Toys at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and other toy stores nationwide!

Educational and Crafty Gifts from Lakeshore Learning! #Spon #HolidayGiftGuide

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

We recently had the chance to review the Arts and Crafts Supply Center from Lakeshore Learning:

This fantastic organizer contains hundreds of creative craft supplies! 20 clear-view drawers are overflowing with fuzzy pom-poms, colored wiggly eyes, sparkly pipe stems & much more! Includes activity book with 14 memorable projects. The center measures 6" x 7 1/5" x 15".

All you need to add to create hours of crafty fun is paper!  A and D LOVE crafts, so this was (and still is) a HUGE hit!  Here are just a few of the crafts they made within the first few days of receiving this kit:

As you can tell, one of their favorite art techniques is collage:)  There are so many great supplies to choose from in this set that their imaginations were kept bust for quite a while.  I love that clean up is easy since everything has a place and the clear compartments make it simple to find where everything goes quickly.

The Arts and Crafts Supply Center would be a great gift this holiday season or just a fun activity center to have on hand to entertain the little artists that will be visiting for the holidays:)

ABCD Diaries gives the Arts and Crafts Supply Center from Lakeshore Learning an A+!

Buy It:
Find this fun set and a huge selection of educational and crafty gift ideas at Lakeshore Learning!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Have a #BeachHoliday at Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark! @usfg

Experience the Valley's premier entertainment destination on Texas' island jewel. This beach paradise features a 221 room resort hotel, indoor waterpark, full service restaurants and more. Enjoy 11 world-class attractions, roar down twin water slides, feast at the Shrimp Haus full-service restaurant or kick back and relax on the beach. Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark and Resort is the perfect combination of family adventures and state-of-the-art attractions, right on Texas' favorite beach. Experience the beach atmosphere, unique mix of attractions including a great carousel and the award-winning Torrent river system. Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark and Resort is the perfect Beach Holiday. Book Yours Today! http://www.schlitterbahn.com/south-padre-island/resort 

Whole Foods Market Helps Make Memorable Holiday Meals! #Spon

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

Are you headed out this weekend to gather all of the ingredients for you Thanksgiving feast?  Maybe you're a guest at someone else's house this year.  You know the cardinal rule...don't show up empty-handed:)  Either way, Whole Foods Market has tons of great items to make your Thanksgiving celebration one to remember!

Whole Foods Market sent us a selection of goodies that would be perfect for entertaining.  They have several different types of  365 Everyday Value Organic Stuffing Mix.  Whether you prefer a savory chicken stuffing, a sweet tart cranberry stuffing or a vegan stuffing, these mixes are so simple and delicious!  You can have a dish of stuffing ready for the table within just a few minutes!

To indulge the sweet tooth of your guests, these fun treats would be great to have on hand.
Seely Mint Patties are so delicious!  Decadent peppermint fondant covered with bittersweet chocolate...yummy!  The Whole Foods Cookies and Cream Peppermint Bark is another sweet treat infused with one of the most popular taste combinations of the season, peppermint and chocolate...you really can't go wrong! 

A healthy sweet treat option would be Simple & Crisp dried fruit slices.  We tried the orange slices and the pear slices and both were fantastic!  Whole Foods Market also offers an all-in-one brine and seasoning kit made with organic ingredients.  Perfect for a moist bird!

After dinner settle in with a warm cup of Biodynamic Organic Holiday Chai from The Republic of Tea.  This spicy treat is so comforting and the perfect pairing for the Greyston Bakery Cookie Thins:

This cookie box is filled with thin cookie crisps in Sugar, Ginger and Chocolate flavors.  These crispy cookies really hit the spot and are a lighter dessert option, perfectly paired with coffee or tea.

You are sure to find everything you need for holiday entertaining at Whole Foods Market! 

Pick and Prepare the Perfect Turkey with Whole Foods Market!

Picking Your Poultry:
  • Start early: reserve your turkey ahead of time to make sure you get your pick of the flock. 
  • Weigh your options and try to get fresh: Go for turkeys that allow at least one to one-and-a-half pounds per person. At Whole Foods Market, fresh turkeys are raised to reach the perfect size just before the holiday season, then processed and stored so you get the juiciest, most flavorful meat possible.
  • Consult your butcher: When it doubt, your butcher is your best friend. From organic to heritage turkeys, there are a lot of options to choose from. Your butcher can help you pick the perfect bird for your gathering. 
  • Factor in defrosting time: For the best results, your turkey should be as close to room temperature as possible before roasting. Frozen turkeys take about 24 hours per five pounds of meat to thaw in the fridge. Extra tip — you can save on time with a fresh turkey!
  • Brining is the way to go: Brining makes for a tender, juicy bird. Whole Foods Market's 365 Everyday Value brine kit and adaptable basic brine recipe are two great picks for first-timers.
  • Instructions: They are your friend – each bird tends to cook differently, so follow instructions carefully.
  • Check for doneness: Use a meat thermometer to test the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. When it registers 165 °F, the turkey’s ready. If you stuff your turkey, plan for an extra 5 top 7 minutes cooking time per pound.
  • Rest: A key thing to remember when your turkey is done is to let it sit for 30 minutes before carving so the juices can redistribute. This locks in moisture and makes for smooth slicing. 

@SavorySpiceShop: Your One-Stop-Shop for Spicing Up Your Holiday Cooking and Baking! #Spon

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

We recently had the chance to review a wide selection of spices from the Savory Spice Shop: 

Savory Spice Shop is pretty much your one-stop-shop for all things spice related.  They have some really great spice sets to get you ready for all of holiday cooking and baking.

We reviewed a couple of holiday baking and cooking assortments:

While we haven't had the chance to sample every single spice blend in a recipe, we have used quite a few of them in the last few weeks.

The Pumpkin Pie Spice is amazingly delicious and versatile in many dishes.  We used it in our Pumpkin Butter:

and our Pumpkin Bread:

I tried my hand at making homemade chai lattes, one of my favorite beverages, and oh-my-delicious! You really can't compare the boxed concentrate to the taste of home-brewed chai from spices:

What a warm, comforting blend for this cooler weather! (Yes, even along the Texas coast we are experiencing chilly weather:)

Our chai lattes went nicely with our chocolate chips cookies.  The Spiced Vanilla Bean Sugar was a great addition to really up the spicy vanilla flavor in our cookies. Both of the Vanilla Bean sugars were also amazing in coffee and tea. 

We used the Citrus and Savory Brine Spices to brine a chicken that we then rubbed with spices and put in the crock pot.  Though my pictures aren't the best, this chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender and super moist.

 The Mulling Spices smell great and I can't wait to serve our Thanksgiving guests mulled wine!  Other spices that we will be using to prepare our Thanksgiving feast will be the Sage and Savory Stuffing Seasoning and Tiny Town Turkey Rub.  We are also looking forward to coffee flavored biscotti with the Baker's Brew Baking Spices. Our Christmas ham will be seasoned with the Brown Sugar and Spice Ham Rub. 
Phew!  We've got a lot of cooking and baking coming up in the next few weeks.  Thanks to Savory Spice Shop, I feel prepared to take any culinary challenge:)

ABCD Diaries gives Savory Spice Shop an A+!

Buy It:
Prep your spice cabinet with Savory Spice Shop!  They also have storefronts in Austin and Houston...check them out!  You won't be disappointed:)

Get Connected:

Stay tuned for our gift guide post for Savory Spice Shop's Texas Gift Set!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crayon Rocks: The Perfect Stocking Stuffer! #Giveaway #HolidayGiftGuide

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

We recently had the chance to review Crayon Rocks:

The kiddos were super excited to receive this beautifully presented package for review from Crayon Rocks.

Crayon Rocks were created when Barbara Lee realized the need for a writing implement for children that encouraged the tripod grip.  The tripod grip is useful in teaching good handwriting skills and happens when children are taught to use his or her thumb, first and second finger to grip the writing tool.  Crayon Rocks are designed to allow children to practice this skill while creating beautiful works of art. 

Crayon Rocks are made from US grown and processed Kosher soy wax instead of petroleum paraffin wax like most other crayons.  They use natural pigments to color these beautiful crayons. The colors always go on smoothly and and blend easily.

The kiddos have really enjoyed trying out crayon rocks.  The selection of colors vary quite a bit from the "normal" colors in a crayon box and they love having new colors to experiment with.  I love products that encourage creativity and imagination and Crayon Rocks does both:)

Crayon Rocks would make a fun stocking stuffer that is sure to be a hit with your little artists!

ABCD Diaries gives Crayon Rocks an A+!

Buy It:
Shop for these awesome art tools at Crayon Rocks!  Use the code: ABCD20 to get 20% off any gift in the Holiday and Birthday section!

Win It:
One lucky reader will win a set of Crayon Rocks!

Unique Jewelry from Bullet Designs for the Holidays! #Giveaway #HolidayGiftGuide

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

We recently had the chance to review a pair of 40 Caliber Nickel Bullet Head Stud Earrings:

Bullet Designs features unique and unusual gifts for men and women using recycled fired bullets.  Many of their pieces can be customized by bullet caliber and gemstone.  The stud earrings we reviewed were gorgeous!  They are really well-made and were beautifully presented...definitely "giftable":)

Bullet Designs is more than just earrings though.  They offer necklaces, bracelets and body jewelry along with tie clips, cuff links, ink pens, valve stem caps and much more!  Any firearms enthusiast is sure to love a one-of-a-kind and memorable gift from Bullet Designs!

ABCD Diaries gives Bullet Designs an A+!

Buy It:
Visit Bullet Designs to shop for beautiful holiday gifts today!

Win It:
One reader will receive a pair of earrings from Bullet Designs!

Hank Player Classic Tees Make Fun Gifts! #Spon #HolidayGiftGuide

**Complimentary products received in exchange for out honest review.  All opinions are ours and ours alone**

We recently had the chance to review Hank Player Classic Tees:

Hank Player offers cool American-made graphic tees and hip baby gifts.  They are "vintage washed" which results in an uber-soft and comfy material.  Seriously, I could live in these tees!  They are great for everyday casual wear, workout wear and even sleepwear.  

My Hank Player tees are loose fit (I ordered a size up and I'm glad I did:) and I love them!  My fashion sense usually leans towards the comfortable and Hank Player tees are the perfect addition to my cozy wardrobe:)

Hank Player has styles and sizes for the whole family which means you can outfit everyone on your holiday gift list this year in the comfiest and most stylish tees around.

ABCD Diaries gives Hank Player an A+!

Buy It:
Check out all of the awesome designs on the comfiest tees this season at Hank Player!