MasterCard Marketplace

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and MasterCard MarketPlace.

All things considered, we don’t do a huge amount of Christmas shopping in our family. A few years ago we made a concerted effort to dial down the spend-o-meter a bit, and it’s one of the best things we ever did. I don’t feel rushed overwhelmed by present-buying, and that is a delightful change of pace from how things were five or six years ago.

However.

I still very much like to get the best possible deal when I’m buying gifts. I scour the internet, look at newspaper circulars, clip store coupons – it just makes good sense to do due diligence when it comes to getting the very best price. So you can imagine my delight when I found out about MasterCard MarketPlace. They run deals in conjunction with some of the country’s top retailers. Plus, sign up for an account, and you’ll get an advance notice of special deals and savings.

(By the way, if you’re wondering what I mean when I say “top retailers,” know that I’m talking about some of my all-time favorites: World Market, Sur La Table, Brooks Brothers, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, BlackBerry – and so many others.)

(SEE? That’s good stuff, huh?)

And for someone who isn’t a fan of shopping on Black Friday (THAT WOULD BE ME), MasterCard MarketPlace is a great way to get Black Friday-like deals at deep discounts. If you are a MasterCard cardholder, well, all the better – because if you register at MasterCard MarketPlace, you can participate in something called Holiday Overwhelming Offers every single day of the holiday season, until December 24th at 1:00pm Eastern time. Holiday Overwhelming Offers are good for 50% off of top brands – a whale of a deal, in my opinion. Quantities are limited, though, so sign up today and make sure you don’t miss out.

Yes, Christmas card shopping can be stressful. It can also be costly. But MasterCard MarketPlace offers over the top savings that bring over the top joy. And that’s priceless.

If you’d like to enter to win a $100 MasterCard gift card courtesy of BlogHer, leave a comment that answers the following question: what gift would you love to be able to buy at a discount this year? A cell phone? A video game for a kid in your life? A great book? A nice suit for your husband? Something else? Make sure that you leave an accurate email address with your comment since I’ll notify the winner by email. And don’t forget to visit the other participating bloggers; you have several other chances to win!

Rules:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry
 methods:

a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment 
on this post

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on 
this post

d) Read the official rules for alternate form of entry.

Sweepstakes ends 5 PM PST on December 31, 2010.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.

Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.

You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be
selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

MasterCard MarketPlace: A Smarter Way to Shop Online.

Giveaway Official Rules

Overwhelming Offers (OO) are limited in quantity, reservation only and limited in time. Participating merchants and offers are subject to change. The OO discount is provided as a statement credit. See www.mastercardmarketplace.com for restrictions and complete terms and conditions.

Chef Boyardee Healthy Eating

This is a sponsored post from Chef Boyardee and BlogHer.

Once our little guy started eating table foods, one of the things that concerned me the most was whether or not he was going to be a picky eater. Since I was raised in a you-eat-what-you’re-served household, I was bound and determined to do the same. But what if he balked? What if he wouldn’t eat his vegetables? What if I turned into a short-order cook?

Needless to say, these prospects did not fill me with joy.

But as it turned out, I need not have worried. Sure, we had a rough go of it a time or two when grown-up food textures were just too much for his two- or three-year old palate. For the most part, though, we’ve fared remarkably well with very, very few food-related battles. I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers (after all, there’s only one child in this house, and he’s of a super good-natured variety), but there are two things in particular that worked for us: 1) Try every single food on your plate (every single meal) and 2) You eat what’s prepared for you. As much as I love to cook for my family, I’d drive myself crazy trying to take requests from a seven year-old every single night (not to mention that our weekly menu would consist of little more than chicken tenders, pizza and cheeseburgers).

As a result of our two really simple mealtime rules, we have a child who will eat almost anything for supper. I think the key is to start early with the expectation of eating well-rounded, healthy meals and to be consistent with that expectation. We definitely have ongoing challenges in terms of our parenting, but thankfully mealtime isn’t one of them. This mama is very grateful for that.

But whether your kids eat well or not, it seems like every phase of a child’s life requires putting together a whole new parenting puzzle. Right now, for example, our little guy is doing a great job getting his homework done in the afternoons, but keeping his room clean is another thing entirely. We’ve finally reached a point where he keeps it tidy enough to keep the peace, but I can’t seem to figure out how to help him be organized. Maybe it’s one of those qualities that you either have or you don’t (and truth be told, I struggle with the organization, too), but I know his life will be so much easier down the road if we can cultivate some good habits now. I just can’t seem to figure out how to get those good habits off the ground.

I’m learning to take my victories where I can find them. Today, for example, has been a pretty good day as far as his room is concerned.

I can live with a few pillows in the floor and a bed that hasn’t been made up yet. I just don’t fare so well when the floor looks like a lake of books and action figures.

So what about you? Care to share your parenting secrets? If you’d like to be entered to win a $200 Visa gift card courtesy of BlogHer, tell us one of your best parenting tips in the comments. How do you teach your kids to be organized? How do you manage homework? How do you get them to eat well? How do you handle bedtime? Chime in on one or all of these topics – I can’t wait to read your suggestions!

Be sure to check out the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page – you’ll find other bloggers there with even more chances to win.

For great tips from moms just like us, sharing experiences, ideas and advice on how to get kids to eat better, visit Club Mum. Club Mum is the perfect resource for moms to learn helpful hints on a variety of topics, which can be applied to their own family. Club Mum is also on Facebook with daily tips, recipes, articles, questions and a terrific and active community!

Rules:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

d) Visit the official rules for additional forms of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older.

Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.

You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

Sweepstakes ends 5 PM PST, December 23, 2010.

This giveaway is now closed.

The Laughing Cow – Post 6

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and The Laughing Cow.

The thing about the holidays is that they seem to arrive on the scene in the form of a big ole party buffet.

And a party buffet – oh, it can be tempting. The temptation probably has something to do with all the dip and the bread (THE BREAD!) and the sweets and the nuts that have been roasted in three or fourteen sticks of butter.

Those nuts are DELICIOUS, by the way.

But here’s the thing that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten a little older: it really isn’t fun to be indulgent all the time. There’s a price to pay for loading up a plate with a whole bunch of not-very-healthy foods. Because while yes, it might all be very tasty and wonderful in the short-term, in the long term it’s not so great. Besides the fact that I rarely sleep well when I’ve eaten a whole bunch of super-rich food, there’s also the consequence of feeling bloated the next morning.

And believe you me: I have enough issues with morning as it is. I don’t need to add ill-fitting clothes to the equation.

The good news is that there are several things that we can do to avoid a chronic bout with holiday-related bloat. Even better? These tips are SUPER simple. Seriously.

Ready?

1. Water. We need to be drinking lots of it. In fact, I’ve realized over the last few years that when I feel like I’ve had enough water, I need to drink even more. It fills us up, keeps us hydrated, and it never, ever causes a hangover. I’m convinced that it’s a huge part of conquering the tendency to put on five or ten pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Water is our friend – our holiday BFF, if you will.

2. Vegetables. Vegetable platters are a feature at almost every holiday get-together. And I happen to think that it’s way better to fill up on vegetables dipped in a little bit of your favorite salad dressing than it is to avoid the food table altogether. Not eating anything at all will only make you drink more, and if you’re drinking alcohol, “more” isn’t a very good idea at all. A hearty snack of raw vegetables will temper any tendency you have to fill up on drinks – and it might even keep you from making a post-party run through a nearby drive-thru. Because let’s face it: trying to be the “strong one” who doesn’t eat a single bite at a party is probably going to lead to some super-sized French fries at the end of the night.

Not that I’ve ever done such a thing, of course.

Oh heavens no.

3. Move. This one is definitely the hardest for me. When it’s cold outside I tend to be drawn to activities like watching TV, napping, sitting in front of a fire, napping, drinking beverages with the word “mocha” in them, and napping.

You may sense a bit of a pattern.

But here’s the thing: making time to move every day is the single most important thing we can do, especially during the holidays. Sometimes the combination of gray weather and holiday treats and Christmas parties can take a toll on us physically as well as emotionally. It’s so good for us to get outside (if weather permits) and take a 20-minute walk. It makes a world of difference in our outlook, our metabolism and our energy level.

And when I find myself feeling drawn to the couch on a winter afternoon – when I think that a nap sounds like the best thing on earth – that’s a sure sign that it’s time to grab the dog’s leash, bundle up my little guy, and head outside. It’s the best free medicine on earth.

Now it’s your turn! Share a tip on how you stay healthy during the holidays and you could win a $150 Visa card! Please keep your comments G-rated as any profanity or offensive content will automatically disqualify you from sweepstakes entry. You should also visit The Daily Dose of Well-Being hub to read helpful content each day and for weekly chances to win $100 at the “Play For Laughs” game. If you share a really great tip, we may even use it in The Daily Dose!

And don’t miss the other bloggers’ posts – you have 17 other chances to win each month!

Rules:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) Read the official rules for alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.
You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
Here are the official rules.
This sweepstakes will run from 12/8-12/28.

Happy Laughing Cow, everybody!

Welch’s Share Your Story

This is a sponsored post from BlogHer and Welch’s.

When my husband and I got married, I was the queen of stressing out over Christmas parties. Our first Christmas together I decided that I was going to throw a party for his co-workers, and I promise you that I cooked for about six days. I found all sorts of elaborate recipes in different cookbooks that we’d received as wedding gifts, and it took me a sweet forever to get all of the food prepared. And then, the night of the party, I spent almost all of my time in the kitchen – trying to remember when to put in this dish and take out that dish and find serving spoons for everything else – and as a result of that I barely spent any time with our guests.

So basically I wore myself out and missed all the fun. Merry Christmas, y’all.

These days I know better. These days I understand that the secret to a great holiday gathering is to KEEP IT SIMPLE. I make basic foods that I know people will love, and I try to think of people’s favorites when I’m planning a menu. I keep things relatively inexpensive, something that’s admittedly easier when you don’t harbor the foggiest notion of serving beef tenderloin and expensive wine. We tend to go with a low-key, no-alcohol plan – nothing too fussy, and nothing that will interfere with our guests’ ability to drive home at the end of the night.

(Right now I’m picturing my 27 year-old self looking at my 41 year-old self and saying, “So. At what point did you become PRACTICAL?”)

(The answer? Somewhere around my 35th birthday, apparently.)

One of my favorite things that I’ve done the last couple of years is to fix a special, non-alcoholic drink for the holidays. I always try to use cranberry juice in the drink because, well, it’s my mama’s favorite thing on earth, and last year I really hit it out of the park. But this year I’m going to try something new – something that you make with Welch’s sparkling grape juice – and I think Mama is going to LOVE IT.

Mainly because I love it. And because I might be a tiny wee bit just-a-smidge addicted. It’s the The Sparkling Cranberry Spritzer.

Hallelujah.

There’s also a Sparkling Cranberry Punch that we’ll use as a back-up. We like options. And if a cranberry drink isn’t your thing, you can rest in the peace of knowing that Welch’s has lots of other great drink ideas:

The Holiday Toasting Cup
Sparkling Holiday Punch
Spiced Grape Punch

So that’s pretty much my lesson-learned-the-hard-way philosophy about entertaining during the holidays. Keep it simple. Make a special drink. And above and beyond everything else, ENJOY YOUR GUESTS. Life’s too short to stay in the kitchen while everybody else is having fun.

If you’d like to win a $100 Visa gift card courtesy of BlogHer, leave a comment on this post that answers the following question: which one of the Welch’s drink recipes would you like to try this year?

Rules:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post…Don’t forget to check out my review post next week for 2 more chances to win!
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) Follow this link (https://spreadsheets2.google.com/viewform?formkey=dGg5WXJTRGdUZEEtVzAxYTl0RmY5SGc6MA) and provide your email address and your response to the sweepstakes prompt.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.
You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
For Official Rules click here: http://goo.gl/PPqgR
Sweepstakes ends 5 PM PST on December 31, 2010.

Be sure to check out BlogHer.com exclusive offers page and visit the other 11 participating bloggers (you can enter to win a gift card on each of their blogs, too).

The Laughing Cow – Post 5

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and The Laughing Cow.

I love the holiday season for a whole host of reasons: the weather, the family time, the football, the Thanksgiving dinner, the roaring fires, the Christmas trees, the Harry Connick, Jr. Christmas CD, the twinkling lights that make everything look beautiful.

And there’s one other thing that I really, REALLY love about the holiday season, though it probably isn’t an entirely positive object of my affection:

THE APPETIZERS.

Oh, y’all. I adore appetizers. And it seems like the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to make lots of them. After all, you never know when someone might stop by. Plus, since November and December are pretty much the only months of the year when I really BAKE (as opposed to cook), we like to scatter lots of sweet treats among our selection of appetizers. After all, how in the world could I possibly offer our guests something savory without also offering them something sweet? It only stands to reason that I would HAVE TO HAVE both.

It’s a purely selfless act, you understand.

But the problem, of course, is that if I give into all my cravings – with the appetizers and sweets at the top of the list – over the holidays, then I’m going to find myself in need of a new wardrobe when January rolls around. And while I would never claim to emerge from the holiday season in better shape than when I started it, I do keep a few tips in the back of my mind that help me make it through all of our holiday festivities without wreaking too much weight-related havoc.

Ready? Here we go.

1) Keep healthier snack options on hand at all times.

I have a terrible habit of snacking and tasting while I’m cooking and baking. And obviously if I choose to snack on cake batter and cheesecake batter and cookie dough and all manner of butter-laden confections, I’m going to be in a world of hurt by the end of the holidays. So I make a point to buy whole wheat crackers, small packets of cheese (The Laughing Cow Original is a long-time favorite), peanut butter and almonds so that I always have filling, healthier snacks in the kitchen.

2) Eat a healthy snack at home before heading out to a holiday party.

Now I don’t mean to sound like Scarlett O’Hara before she went to the barbecue, but it’s so much easier to resist the temptations of fattening party foods if you’re not ravenous when you arrive. It’s pretty remarkable how much a healthy snack helps. So about 15 minutes before we walk out the door, I’ll fix myself a little plate with almonds, cheese and whole-grain crackers. That little plate goes a long way in terms of keeping me from falling face-down into a pile of 7-layer Mexican dip, and for that we’re all quite thankful.

3) Use smaller plates at holiday meals.

Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t have any intention of serving my guests a meal on a saucer. But modern dinner plates are HUGE – the size of charger plates, practically – so I make a point to use my very old-fashioned holiday china when we entertain. The plates are considerably smaller than what passes for normal these days, and you can fill it to the brim with food without feeling guilty. The smaller plate keeps portions much more manageable, and even better is the fact that you don’t feel completely stuffed when the meal is over. That’s a win-win.

Now it’s your turn – Share tip on how you keep holiday food from getting the best of you and you could win a $150 Visa card! Please keep your comments G-rated as any profanity or offensive content will automatically disqualify you from sweepstakes entry. You should also visit The Daily Dose of Well-Being hub to read helpful content each day and for weekly chances to win $100 at the “Play For Laughs” game. If you share a really great tip, we may even use it in The Daily Dose!

And don’t miss the other bloggers’ posts – you have 11 other chances to win each month!

Questions about the sweepstakes? Check out the official rules. This sweepstakes will run from 11/15-12/5

Happy Laughing Cow, everybody!

This giveaway is now closed.

Kellogg’s Love Your Cereal – Post 12

This is sponsored content by BlogHer and Kellogg’s.

There are lots of times each year when we make breakfast a really special occasion: first day of school, birthdays and anytime we have guests staying with us – just to name a few. But there is one day each year that is like no other as far as breakfast is concerned. In fact, breakfast on this particular day has become such a tradition for us that I start looking for new recipes – or start thinking about how to modify old recipes – months in advance.

Anybody want to guess when our big breakfast day is?

Yep. You probably figured it out. Christmas.

Oh my word I love Christmas breakfast so much that I may have to stand up and hop a little bit. Just gets me all excited. Makes me want to put on the Harry Connick, Jr. Christmas album and make homemade biscuits.

The big Christmas breakfast hasn’t always been a tradition in our family, but a few years ago, when I started to be the one who was primarily the one responsible for the big family meal, I figured out that it just made good sense. We wake up on Christmas morning, open presents, then eat a big breakfast around 9 – and that’s it until Christmas dinner around 5 in the afternoon. I always serve breakfast foods that I can (mostly) make ahead of time, and there is just nothing like the smell of homemade coffee cake and sizzling bacon on Christmas Day. It just screams “HOME” – and I hope it’s a tradition that we’ll continue for years to come.

So what about you? Do you and your family have any special breakfast days? Tell me about it in the comments, and you’ll be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card. This is our last week of Kellogg’s giveaways; thanks so much for your participation!

For a second entry, you can:
· Tweet about this post with a link to it (and put your tweet URL in a separate comment below)
· Blog about this post with a link to it (and put your blog post URL in a separate comment below)
· Sweepstakes ends 5 PM EST on November 1, 2010.

And be sure to visit the BlogHer.com Kellogg exclusive offers page – you have 24 other chances to win $100 every single week that this program is running! Here are the official rules.

Mom’s Breakfast Club was started to help educate moms and families about kids’ cereal and share the scoop on their nutritional benefits and ingredients. To learn more about the program, visit www.loveyourcereal.com.

This giveaway is now closed.