Disclosure: Some posts on this blog are sponsored, meaning that I received goods, services, or monetary payment for my writing. My opinions however, are not 'purchased' and are always 100% my own. Posts contain affiliate links that I earn a commission on. This disclosure is done in accordance with the FTC 10 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hot Gadgets at Best Buy!

If you're like me, you probably have a techie-gadget wish list. And if you like to keep up with the latest & greatest, the dollar amount on the bottom of that wish list probably goes up every year!

Check out a few of the things I'm loving on my list below. The links below are affiliate links, so if you see something you like, please consider making a purchase to help me keep my blog running!

I'll admit it, I've become completely addicted to watching shows & movies via the internet. Gone are the days I had to clear my schedule just to watch my favorite show; and definitely gone is making a mad dash to the bathroom during commercial time so that I wouldn't miss a single second! I do miss some parts of traditional TV though... like the couch. With that in mind, I plan on buying the Amazon - Fire TV device sooner or later so that I can access all those shows & videos from the comfort of my couch. (If I'm gonna waste countless hours staring at a screen, I might as well be comfortable while I do it!)

Amazon - Fire TV

For My Kids...

We all know that technology is fast-becoming a great way to teach little learners everything from ABC's to how-to-read, thanks to a plethora of awesomely kid-friendly apps. I like this Apple iPad Air because of the built-in Wi-Fi & 4G LTE, 9.7" display, and 10 hours of battery life. (Hellllooooo car-trip-entertainment!)

Apple - Ipad Air with Wi-Fi + 4G LTE - 16GB - Silver/White

For Work...

Yeah, yeah, wish lists don't usually include work-stuff, but since I work for myself it's kind of a necessity! One thing I would looove to have is a new DSLR camera. Sure, my phone takes pretty decent pictures, but I'm always looking for ways to improve and making my picture-quality better is one of those insta-improvements that I just can't resist. I like this Canon EOS Rebel camera because of its easy-to-use features and the fact that you can get a great packaged price-deal if you buy it in a kit. (Plus, the name of the camera has the word 'rebel' in it - how can I pass that up?)

Canon - EOS Rebel T3i Camera+EF-S 18-55 IS II Lens 32GB Tripod Case Battery Remote Filter Telephoto/Lens Kit

For Fun...

And last but not least (seriously, not least, I want this thing so bad I can almost taste it!), we have the Playstation 4. From all the new social features that were implemented to the awesome game graphics, this is one console I am dying to get my hands on. I love the fact that they have a huge selection of free-to-play games and I am psyched that it allows users to live-stream onto Twitch.

Sony - Playstation 4 (500GB)

What's on your techie-gadget list this year?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!

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(The $100 Best Buy Gift Card Giveaway that was associated with this post has expired; please check out our giveaways tab for a list of available contests! Please take a look at our Winners List or contact the good people over at NYSavingsSpecials.com if you have questions about the results of this giveaway.)

Disclaimer: MasterofMom.com was not responsible for the awarding of the prize. If you have any questions about this giveaway, please email the host at nysavingspecials@gmail.com This blog, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media networks are not associated with this giveaway.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

$100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway Event!

$100 Amazon Gift Card Event 10/12-

Win a $100 Amazon Gift Card 10/12-11/5

Thank you for joining us in this spectacular giveaway event!

We're giving away $100 to Amazon!


By now, you already know all about Amazon.com and how easy it is to find what you are looking for while shopping there. What would you do with $100 to Amazon.com?

Disclosure/Disclaimer: This site or any other site associated with this event has in no way been compensated for the preceding information. This giveaway is valid where allowed by law, open to anyone in the United States who is over 18 years of age. One winner will be randomly selected on 11/6/14, notified via email, and will have until 11/9/14 to reply. If there is no reply another winner will be randomly selected.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Happy at Home Prize Pack Giveaway!

Savory Savings Golden Birthday Giveaway Extravaganza!

Present Pack #4: Happy At Home

Birthday Girl Sharing Her Favorite Things:  Savory Savings

Golden Birthday Wingwoman: Swanky POV


Krista over at Savory Savings is celebrating her Golden Birthday this year and wanted to celebrate with all of you!  And how else do you celebrate if not with presents?  All month long, there will be amazing giveaways - some small, some big and amazing like Present Pack #4: Happy At Home - which is all about making life at home easier, more fun or just happier!!
Prizes in this incredible Beautiful Day present pack include gifts from the following official birthday sponsors:

Faucet Face (Stylish & Reusable Glass Bottles!)

Theresa's Norwex (Basic Set & $25 Gift Certificate)

Deborah's Fragrant Memories (Breast Cancer Awareness Candle)

Lugu Lake (Bluetooth Portable Speaker with Stand)

Live Happy magazine (1 year subscription!)

This party is in full swing - don't forget to check out the GRAND PRIZE (value over $600!).  And you can check back throughout the month for more amazing giveaways to be added!  The Linky at the end of this post will reflect all of the amazing birthday prize packs available!
Do you want to win the Happy at Home prize pack?  If you would like a chance to win, enter with the Giveaway Tool below.  If you have won a giveaway from any of these sponsors anytime from another blog from any of these sponsors in the last 12 months, you are not eligible to win that prize and the  Prize will be altered for you.  The giveaway will run from through October 31, 2014 at 11 PM CST and is open to US residents, ages 18 and older.  Entries will be verified.  Winners will be notified via email (consider adding gloriouslygreengal@gmail.com to your safe list) – winner will have 48 hours to respond and claim prize or another winner will be selected.
Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beautiful Day Giveaway Prize Pack!

Savory Savings Golden Birthday Giveaway Extravaganza!

Present Pack #3: Beautiful Day

Birthday Girl Sharing Her Favorite Things:  Savory Savings

Golden Birthday Wingwoman: Swanky POV

Golden Birthday Beauty Prize Pack Ends October 31
Krista over at Savory Savings is celebrating her Golden Birthday this year and wanted to celebrate with all of you!  And how else do you celebrate if not with presents?  All month long, there will be amazing giveaways - some small, some big and amazing like Present Pack #3: Beautiful Day - which is all about making YOU feel beautiful from the inside out!
Prizes in this incredible Beautiful Day present pack include gifts from the following official birthday sponsors:

Piping Rock (Box o' Goodies valued at $50!)

NeoCell (beauty supplements)

Bandelettes (pair of thigh bands!)

Painted Earth (beautiful mineral makeup!)

Andi's Jams (Jamberry wraps & gift certificate!)

Amanda's Lilla Rose (clip of your choice up to $16!)

This party is in full swing - don't forget to check out the GRAND PRIZE (value over $600!).  And you can check back throughout the month for more amazing giveaways to be added!  The Linky at the end of this post will reflect all of the amazing birthday prize packs available!
Do you want to win the Beautiful Day prize pack?  If you would like a chance to win, enter with the Giveaway Tool below.  If you have won a giveaway from any of these sponsors anytime from another blog from any of these sponsors in the last 12 months, you are not eligible to win that prize and the  Prize will be altered for you.  The giveaway will run from through October 31, 2014 at 11 PM CST and is open to US residents, ages 18 and older.  Entries will be verified.  Winners will be notified via email (consider adding gloriouslygreengal@gmail.com to your safe list) – winner will have 48 hours to respond and claim prize or another winner will be selected.
Good Luck!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Yummy Fun Giveaway!

Savory Savings Golden Birthday Giveaway Extravaganza!

Prize Pack #2: Yummy Fun

Birthday Girl Sharing Her Favorite Things:  Savory Savings

Golden Birthday Wingwoman: Swanky POVYummy Fun Favorite Things Prize Pack 2 Ends October 31

Krista over at Savory Savings is celebrating her Golden Birthday this year and wanted to celebrate with all of you!  And how else do you celebrate if not with presents?  All month long, there will be amazing giveaways, and next up we have this wonderful Yummy Fun prize pack - including a $200 gift card from Star Sponsor Giveaway Center!  If you are looking to have a delicious and fun family night - this is the prize pack for you!
Prizes in this incredible Yummy Fun pack include gifts from the following official birthday sponsors:

Giveaway Center ($200 Gift Card!!)

Yum Earth (organic snacks and treats!)

Tyrrell's (assortment of English Chips!)

Winning Moves (board games and puzzles)

SunRidge Farms (assortment of delicious non-GMO treats!

This party is in full swing - don't forget to check out the GRAND PRIZE (value over $600!).  And you can check back throughout the month for more amazing giveaways to be added!  The Linky at the end of this post will reflect all of the amazing birthday prize packs available!
Do you want to win the Yummy Fun prize pack?  If you would like a chance to win, enter with the Giveaway Tool below.  If you have won a giveaway from any of these sponsors anytime from another blog from any of these sponsors in the last 12 months, you are not eligible to win that prize and the  Prize will be altered for you.  The giveaway will run from through October 31, 2014 at 11 PM CST and is open to US residents, ages 18 and older.  Entries will be verified.  Winners will be notified via email (consider adding gloriouslygreengal@gmail.com to your safe list) – winner will have 48 hours to respond and claim prize or another winner will be selected.
Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

HUGE Blog-Birthday Giveaway Extravaganza!!

Savory Savings Gold Birthday Giveaway Extravaganza!

Birthday Girl Sharing Her Favorite Things:  Savory Savings

Golden Birthday Wingwoman: Swanky POV

Party Co-hosts: Peacock Review, My Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Life, Simply At Home Mom, Here We Go Again…Ready?, Giveaway Lovers, Dividing By Zero, and Joan’s 5 Star Reviews

Savory Savings Golden Birthday Grand Prize Giveaway October 1- 31
Krista over at Savory Savings is celebrating her Golden Birthday this year and wanted to celebrate with all of you!  And how else do you celebrate if not with presents?  All month long, there will be amazing giveaways, starting with this Grand Prize pack valued at over $600!

Prizes in this incredible Grand Prize pack include gifts from the following official birthday sponsors:

prAna

Maggie Bags

Dry Babe

PYSIS

Appeletics

But that is just where this party starts!  Check back throughout the month for more amazing giveaways to be added!  The Linky at the end of this post will reflect all of the amazing birthday prize packs available!

But while we wait, how would you like to win the fabulous grand prize pack with prizes from prAna, Dry Babe, Maggie Bags, PYSIS and Appletics?  If you would like a chance to win, enter with the Giveaway Tool below.  If you have won a giveaway anytime from another blog from any of these sponsors in the last 12 months, you are not eligible to win that prize and the Grand Prize will be altered for you.  The giveaway will run from October 1 through October 31, 2014 at 11 PM CST and is open to US residents, ages 18 and older.  Entries will be verified.  Winners will be notified via email (consider adding gloriouslygreengal@gmail.com to your safe list) – winner will have 48 hours to respond and claim prize or another winner will be selected.

Good Luck!

$500 Fabulous Fall Cash Giveaway

It's fall, and if you haven't grabbed your autumn-wear yet, now is your chance to score a huge chunk of cash to go on a shopping spree! One lucky person IS going to get this money - but it won't be you unless you remember to enter this giveaway!

Entering is simple, just follow the instructions on the widget below, and tadaa! - you're entered!

Have fun, and good luck!

Welcome to the $500 Fabulous Fall Cash Giveaway!

We have joined forces with a fantastic group of bloggers to bring you this great giveaway.
One lucky person will win $500 cash.

Enter to win $500 cash via PayPal.

Complete the tasks below to earn entries into this giveaway.
Refer your friends using your unique link to earn even more chances to win.
Open Worldwide.
Ends at 11:59pm ET on October 14th, 2014.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway was coordinated by Giveaway Promote.
If you love entering giveaways, visit Giveaway Promote to find the greatest giveaways listed in one place.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Contest: You could win with Truvia!

Win a trip to New York in the Truvia Baking Star Contest!

Have you seen the commercials advertising Truvia's baking contest? It isn't just for bloggers like me, it's for cooks everywhere!

If you have a video camera, a love of creating yummy food in the kitchen, and a desire to win a trip to New York... then this contest is definitely for you!

Here's the Rundown:

Truvia just launched its new Truvia Brown Sugar Blend, and to help promote it they're hosting a contest to let cooks & bakers everywhere shine in a video that showcases their talents! You can find recipes that feature Truvia Brown Sugar Blend and more info about the contest on their website.

What is the New Truvia Brown Sugar Blend?

It's a mixture of Truvia and brown sugar that offers a brown-sugar-like taste, with a similar texture and volume... but it has 75 percent fewer calories than regular brown sugar!

So about this contest prize...?

Entering the Truvia Baking Star contest gives you the chance to win a trip to New York and an all-expense paid professionally-filmed baking video that will be promoted by Truvia! 3 finalists will head to NYC for a bake-off, get to meet Truvia brand reps, chat with reporters and editors of top media publications, and even meet four of the most-popular food vloggers around!

So what are food vloggers saying about the contest?

Check out videos from Gaby Dalkin, Byron Talbott, April Moore and Joanne Ozug to see the recipe vids they created to kick off the contest!

How long do I have to enter?

Not long, so you'd better hurry with those vids! The Truvia Baking Star contest videos are due by midnight EST on October 7, 2014!

Connect:

Find out more about the Truvia Baking Contest on their website at www.Truvia.com, then make sure to connect with them on social media via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. Want to submit a video? Click HERE to go straight to the contest page!

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Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post and, as always, my opinions are purely my own.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The #VitaVoxBox: What I got for free from Influenster!

Get Free Stuff

We live in a society where "free" is a code-word for "scam", and yet everyone is always trying to get something for "free".

So does free really exist? Can you ever really get something (good) for "free"? I think the answer is yes - but you definitely need to know where to look! As a blogger, I'm constantly on the lookout for any opportunities that will allow me to review products for free. So far, a site called Influenster is one of the best things I've found that will give the everyday person a shot at getting awesome products in exchange for nothing more than their opinion. (And in this day and age, I don't think anyone is running short on those.)

But are the products any good? Well, I suppose that the depends on the individual, and the particular VoxBox you've received. I've gotten several VoxBoxes since joining with Influenster, and they've all been different, but I've always enjoyed most of the items in each one. Check out what I received in my most-recent VoxBox below, then keep scrolling to the bottom to find out how you can join!

PureLeaf Tea #LoveOfLeaves

I received some PureLeaf Tea to sample, and it was awesome. It was a full-size bottle and the taste was great. I love getting food items in my boxes because it gives me something yummy to drink or munch on while I check out my other products!

#LoveOfLeaves with Pure Leaf Tea via Influenster


Elizabeth Arden #FlawlessFuture Ceramide Serum

Whoa. This one was a surprise to even me! The Elizabeth Arden product line is nothing to sneeze at, and the fact that this serum (found at the beauty counter in department stores) was sample-sized did nothing to dampen my spirits. I would have loved full-sized of course, but the sample was so big that until I saw the full-size one at the beauty counter, I had no idea that I was in possession of a smaller version!

#FlawlessFuture Collection from Elizabeth Arden


SoftLips Cube #GetCubed

This was possibly my favorite item in the whole box. Works amazingly, just as good as the brand of chapstick I've used for years... but it didn't have the same horrible taste as the chapstick I use. (Can you guess which one I probably used? I'm not going to blast them here, but c'mon. We all know which one tastes like awful medicine...) This came full-sized and I've been toting it with me everywhere. I'm gonna need a new one soon, and I'll be able to get it at a discount because they tucked a couple of $1 off coupons in the box for me!!

#GetCubed with SoftLips

Bikini Ready Gummies #BikiniReadyLifestyle

I was a bit confused about this one. It was a sample size (which is no biggie to me) but it is also after Bikini season. (At least where I live. I'm pretty sure if I went out in a bathing suit now, I'd freeze my buns off.) I liked the energy that it gave me - a definite bonus since I've been crunching to work fast against piling deadlines - but I didn't like the taste. It was too bitter for me, and I needed a sip of that PureLeaf Tea afterwards just to get the taste out of my mouth! However, I have to give them points because the caffeine was about what I get from my insta-coffee each day, minus the stains that my daily cup is always trying to leave on my teeth.

#BikiniReadyLifestyle Gummies


First Degree Burn Cream #BurnsHappen

This I could have used all year! My family gets burns on a pretty frequent basis... partially due to clumsiness and partially due to stupidity. (As in a month ago when my husband decided that he was going to make bacon. Naked. Nice job honey.) Needless to say, the hubs and I both have our fair share of cooking burns from working in the kitchen, and I've earned myself a few "badges of honor" from the hair straightener I use on a weekly basis. All in all, this stuff is a definite keeper and handy to have around in the first aid kit.

Alicia Figueroa with First Degree Burn Cream #BurnsHappen


So there you have it. The #VitaVoxBox. It was full of (mostly) stuff that I enjoyed quite a bit. It's simple to get a VoxBox and it's easy to complete the review tasks for Influenster. So why not join up for yourself and see how much fun it is to get one!?

Connect:

You can join Influenster on their website at www.influenster.com. Or, connect with them on social media via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube.

Do you ever review products? What do you think of reviewing in exchange for freebies?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Feather The Nest - The New Way to Fund Your Down Payment

How-to crowd fund your down payment!

Trying to save up for your dream home? Check out this guest post from Feather The Nest to find out how you can crowdfund your down payment.

A New Way to Fund Your Down Payment.

Saving up for a down payment is hard work. It means taking a long look at your budget and finding out what you can cut back on. That probably means eating at home more, no more expensive lattes.

But there are occasions like a wedding, a baby shower, even your birthday or Christmas when your friends and family are generous enough to give you gifts. Why not turn these gifts into donations towards your down payment?

Did you know?...

There are websites that will help you do that! Asking for cash gifts can be an etiquette no-no, so sites like Feather The Nest allow you to set up a nest to collect funds to make asking less awkward.

Feather The Nest makes it easy to ask your friends and family to give you donations towards your house savings in lieu of gifts. They can see how much you have collected and you can post pictures and videos to keep them updated on the status. They get the satisfaction of giving you a gift that has lasting value and you get contributions to your home savings.

Where to sign up?

You can start a nest online for free at www.FeatherTheNest.com, and there is only a small transaction fee taken when you cash out your nest.


To see the in-depth review of Feather The Nest on MasterofMom.com, click HERE!

What do you think of crowdfunding? Would you prefer donations instead of gifts?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Beginner's White Bread Recipe - Easy AND Delicious!!

Easy White Bread Recipe for Beginners

It can appear daunting to tackle a homemade bread recipe if you're not a frequent baker, but this beginner's recipe I found was so simple that I had it memorized within a day!

Not only is it easy, but the bread comes out so fluffy and delicious that you'll be hard-pressed to keep it stocked in your kitchen! We love this bread because it makes great sandwiches and even better toast.

Bread-making isn't an "instant" sort of task, so before you bust out those pans, make sure that you're prepared to give up the time. Take it from me though, it is so, so worth it. It usually takes me about 3 hours (which includes clean-up) from beginning to end to make two loaves of bread. The majority of this is the time it takes for the bread to rise, which means that you can be doing something else (laundry, watching TV, etc.) while this is going on.

My thanks to BreadWorld, which is where I found the original recipe that I based this one off of.

Easy Beginner's White Bread Recipe

Makes 2 Loaves

Ingredients:

  • 5-1/2 cups flour, minimum, on hand (the amount of flour you use will depend on how much it takes to get the dough to the right consistency)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus one teaspoon for yeast-proofing (yeast proofing is the act of testing the yeast to make sure that it is "alive")
  • 2 envelopes of active dry yeast OR 4-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, depending on what you have on hand (We buy jarred yeast instead of envelopes since I bake a lot of bread and it's more cost-effective)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup water, plus an extra 1/2 cup for yeast-proofing
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (for greasing dishes - do NOT add this to your bread!)

You Will Need:

  • One large microwave-safe bowl
  • One small or medium microwave-safe bowl (or a large, glass measuring cup)
  • One (preferably wooden) mixing spoon
  • Two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pans


Directions:


1. Heat the extra 1/2 cup water for 30 seconds in a large, microwave-safe bowl. (Glass bowls work best.) This will bring the water to the appropriate temperature for the yeast to grow (approximately 100°F - 110°F) and make sure that the bowl retains enough heat to keep the water from going cold too quickly.

2. Mix the yeast and the extra teaspoon of sugar into the bowl (preferably using a wooden spoon), then let sit for about 8 minutes. The yeast should be foamy on top, which means that it is good to use. (This is called yeast-proofing.) If there is no foam, wait another couple of minutes. If nothing occurs, you will have to start over again. If you aren't having luck proofing your yeast, it could be because you are using a metal utensil to stir. Yeast can react oddly to metal, causing it to fail.

How to proof yeast

3. Mix the remaining one cup of water, milk, butter, and sugar in a microwave safe dish. (I use a glass Pyrex measuring cup.) Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds so that it is warm enough that it won't cause failure when you add it to the yeast.

4. Stir the water, milk, butter, & sugar mixture WELL before adding it into the yeast mixture. (You don't want to leave any of that tasty sugar behind!)

5. Add the salt, then begin carefully pouring in flour a few handfuls at a time while stirring.

6. Mix in flour at a steady speed until the dough is soft and only slightly sticky. Do not add more than four cups worth, as this will make your dough taste floury and give it a bad texture. The goal should be to add as little flour as possible, while still having a dough that isn't too sticky to knead. Make sure you are scraping the sides of the bowl so that no ingredients are left behind!

Making Bread Dough

7. Spread a little flour on a clean surface, this is where you will knead your bread. Add small handfuls of flour during the kneading process to keep it from getting sticky on you and to perfect the texture. With this recipe, 7-9 minutes of kneading should be plenty.

Below I've listed a video that demonstrates how-to knead bread. It isn't difficult, although it can be a bit tricky to know when your dough has been kneaded enough. Just remember that a dough that has been kneaded to perfection will be smooth, bubble-free, and feel slightly like pushing on a memory foam topper (it will have a bit of "bounce" to it). Make sure you aren't over-kneading (since that will make the bread tough) or under-kneading (since that will make the bread full of bubbles).


8. Grease a large bowl (I just wash out & use the same bowl I made the dough in) by spreading a tablespoon or so of oil around the inside. Put your freshly-kneaded dough inside (roll once to coat all sides with the oil), cover with a clean kitchen towel, and place the bowl in a warm area. The easiest thing to do is to put the bowl on top of the oven, and heat the oven to about 200°F. (Don't heat the oven higher than this or too much heat may transfer through the top of the oven and start to make your bread dough crusty!)

Preparing Bread Dough

9. Allow your dough to rise for an hour, then (while still in the bowl) punch the dough down. This is exactly what it sounds like - just put your fist right into the dough to let out the air!

Punching Bread Dough

10. Divide your dough in half, then head back to your kneading area (which is hopefully clean again!) so you can make your loaves. Your dough shouldn't stick to the table or your fingers at this point, but if you do find a spot that seems slightly sticky, it is fine to lightly dust that spot with flour so it stops sticking.

11. Spread each half of your dough out into a rectangular shape. For best results, try to make a rectangle that is approximately 12 x 7 inches. I have had rectangles that were bigger (and some that were even not-exactly-rectangle-shaped) and they always turn out just fine, so don't sweat it too much!

Shaping Bread Dough

12. Roll your halves up (beginning at the short end of course), until they look like jelly rolls. Pinch the seam running across the bread and turn the loaf so that the pinched seam is on the bottom.

13. Scoop both ends of your bread under and wiggle slightly. This will make sure that the ends aren't full of little cracks and creases when it's baked. Roll the bread over and pinch together any cracks or open seams you find. (If it doesn't look beautiful, it's no matter - the bread will expand enough during the second period of rising that any uneven pinch lines should disappear anyways!)


14. Grease both loaf pans (don't forget the sides!) and place your freshly-rolled dough loaves inside, seams down. Cover your loaf pans with a towel and return them to the top of the oven so they can stay warm.

15. Allow loaves to rise for 45 minutes.

16. Heat oven to 400°F. (I like to start preheating the oven when my loaves have about 10 minutes left to rise.)

17. Bake loaves in the oven for 25-30 minutes. (Mine usually do well at 28 minutes each, but all ovens vary, so keep an eye on your loaves the first time you bake them and write down which time works best for you.)

18. Remove bread carefully from pans. If you properly greased them, the bread should come right out. If not, a flexible pie scoop works nicely to help ease the bread away from the sides and bottom of the pan.

Bread Baking For Beginners

19. Allow the bread to cool on wire racks, then seal into plastic bags or containers to keep fresh. (This last part is optional of course, my husband and I usually eat about half a loaf of bread while it's still piping hot!)

Enjoy!

Do you have a bread recipe you love? What do you think of this recipe?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!

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"Feather The Nest": How You Can Crowdfund Your Down Payments & Home Improvement Projects

How To Crowdfund your downpayment and home repairs

As some of you (as in all of you) have probably noticed by now, the economy struggled hard in the past decade. In a lot of places, it's still struggling.

The current generation is reporting huge percentages of kids still living at home with their parents, and the number of multiple generations living under one roof has sky-rocketed in the past decade. The reason of course comes directly back to the fact that funds are tight everywhere. Many times, it isn't so much a problem of coming up with a monthly payment on a mortgage (which can sometimes be cheaper than apartment rent) as it is a problem of saving up the necessary down-payment for such a dream.

Let's face it:

When times get tough, we're tempted to sit on every last penny. Unfortunately for most people, extreme saving ends up being something like extreme dieting, and the need to splurge just so you can get a break can become almost constant. When things are good, it's easy to sit on a pile of money that you're saving up for a down-payment because you aren't denying yourself an extra here or there (like a dinner out or a nice bottle of wine). When things are bad though, that extra cash is usually what goes towards those "normal" treats. And that means you are saving at a snail's pace.

Not being able to save up a huge chunk of change for a down payment is a big part of the reason that home-ownership has taken a back seat for most fledgling families and college graduates. And I know how rough it can be because I've been experiencing this dilemma first-hand.

Saving Up For A Down Payment

My Dream On Hold:

I've been dreaming about having my first home and being able to decorate it since I was twelve. I was a magazine-saver. I had a subscription to redecorating magazines while I was still in high school. I dreamed of the day I'd be able to put together my own themes for each room, strip wallpaper to put up fresh paint, buy a couch, refinish my cabinets...

Baby Shoes

Fast forward to the present, and here I am: 30 years old and no home of my own for my young family. It's been hard. Some days it's made me sad. I've got two kids that are just beginning to grasp for the first time what it's like to have a bedroom, or a play area in the backyard, or even just a corner of the house that they can claim as belonging to them. We lived with my husband's mom for the past four years (in extremely tight quarters), and while I can't thank her enough for everything she did for us, it was frustrating to constantly know that home wasn't "home".

Behind Our Big Move

Recently I let my readers know that I moved across the country. For us, this was a leap of faith. The job market was awful where we were, and the expenses were even worse. We moved in hopes of landing jobs that would make life on our own a possible experience. But (unfortunately) we still haven't been able to move into our own place. We're keeping watch over my grandfather's home while he's in Florida (and we are grateful for the opportunity!) but we're hoping & praying that by the time spring rolls around, we'll have saved up the down payment we need. We aren't just saving on our own though - we're enlisting our friends & family to help!

And Just How Are Friends & Family Going to Help?

Hopefully this Christmas when I send out my annual greeting cards, I'll be able to let my loved ones in on the scoop: We don't want gifts this year, because we want some help for for a goal bigger than snagging the latest cookware (or a pile of ugly ties).

That's Right, No Gifts.

Instead of presents, I'm going to ask my friends & family to "feather my nest", and by that I mean I'm going to ask them to help me achieve my home-ownership goals by contributing to my fund through an awesome crowdfunding site called Feather The Nest.

I was asked last year to review Feather The Nest's website (you can see my nest HERE), and after I did so the company and I got more involved. They did a video on my story (seen below) and even had me talk with a reporter recently to tell them what I thought of the whole process.


So just what do I think of them?

I think they are amazing. This site isn't just a lifesaver for those who are looking to fund a down-payment... it's a great source for funding home-repairs and renovation projects too! Feather The Nest was thought up as a way to help people achieve their home ownership & maintenance goals by using the greatest resource that all "nesters" already have: the support of friends and family.

When you break it down, the average person probably has about 10-20 family members they would describe as "close", and 10-20 friends that they could say are always there for them. If you suppose that each of these people gives even one gift worth $10 twice per year (which is probably underestimating it by a long-shot) then a single person has a possible $400-$800 in gifts coming in each year. If you add in a spouse and a couple of kids, the number increases to around $3000 that your family probably receives (every year!) in gifts. (Kind of crazy to think about, isn't it!?)

Reality Check:

The problem is though, people who are trying to save towards a house, or even struggling to make a necessary home repair, aren't always psyched about getting sweaters & candles for Christmas. What they really want is money. Asking for money is not classy though. (And we're all trying to be mature, classy adults, right?)

This is where Feather The Nest steps in. They take the uncomfortable-ness out of saying, "Hey, could I have MONEY for my birthday instead of another cologne set?" They make it cool to say, "I need some cash to repair the leak under my sink." They make you seem chic and in-the-know when you announce, "I'm crowdfunding my down payment."

Feather The Nest Logo

In a Nest-Shell?

This site allows me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My family has had to dig their heels in during this long struggle, but we're on the verge of being able to bounce back from our rough start. By the time my grandpa returns in the spring, I'm confident we'll have our down payment money ready-to-go.

And not only is Feather The Nest a safe and reliable source to crowdfund with, but it's free.

That's right, you don't have to do anything to take advantage of these resources other than create your nest on their website at www.FeatherTheNest.com. Create your own nest today and send your friends & family a message to let them know that you're saving up for something awesome in your life, and you want them to be a part of it.

Connect:

You can get your down payment or next home improvement project crowdfunded on Feather The Nest by clicking HERE to sign-in and create your nest. You can also connect with them on social media to stay up-to-date on what's happening in the nest-world by finding them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Have you ever crowdfunded anything? What would you crowdfund on Feather The Nest?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Want your youthful looks back? This antioxidant Vitamin C serum from Valentia might be just the thing...

Valentia Even Glow Serum Does It Work?

As I've said before, I can be a skeptic (a big skeptic) when it comes to facial creams & anti-aging serums that claim to help you turn back the clock. Don't get me wrong, I've found a few products that actually do help out a lot, but the majority of the time that a company claims to have a "miracle product", it's actually about as miraculous as a toad on a log.

Because I especially love reviewing beauty products, I was happy to check this Even Glow Serum (which is an antioxidant treatment) from Valentia. I received my product for free through BrandBacker in order to do my review (because no way am I going to pay for everything I review, that would be silly), but as always, my opinions are 100% my own!

The First Day:

I have had a rough month (I've had a lot of rough months lately it seems like), so when I first got this package my skin was looking about as bad as it can get. I've been sick, I've been sleep-deprived, and I've been working myself to the bone day & night. (Okay so maybe not to the bone, but I've lost 20 lbs in the past two weeks, that should tell you something!)

My skin wasn't full of blemishes necessarily, but it was looking a little "peaked" as my grandma would say. Also, I should point out that I turned 30 this year, and I know that it isn't some super-duper old age to become, but I'm suddenly very conscious of the fact that I'm no longer a 20-something with zero wrinkles. I have wrinkles, I have crows' feet (darned crows...), and I'm even getting some weird shading.

Before Photo of Valentia Even Glow Serum Review

Because I know that a little prevention now will go a long way towards keeping these problems from getting worse, I'm trying out all the anti-aging serums and formulas that I can now, when they can do me tons of good! (Trust me, most products work better at prevention than cure, so even if you feel like facial issues are only a little problem for you, now is the time you want to start working on them!)

While Using The Product:

I'll be honest, for the first week or so, I didn't really notice a difference. I hadn't used an antioxidant serum before, so I wasn't sure how long it would take or what to expect. After about a week and a half, my husband stopped me, looked me over, then promptly told me that I looked different. I asked him what was different and he said (no lie here, ladies!), "You look young... and hot!"

I told him that I'd been using this vitamin c serum for my face and even he agreed that the product was most likely to blame for my more youthful appearance. He said that the antioxidant serum made my skin look younger around my eyes and cheeks, especially near the side of my nose.

I started to notice my face becoming more & more even - not something I would have thought about before, or even pinpointed as the reason behind an aging look! I'm very glad that I used this vitamin c serum because it made me realize that even skin-tone has just as much to do with lookin' good as getting rid of wrinkles does! (Also, it smells like oranges. Gotta love a product that smells tasty!)

Valentia Even Glow Serum, User Review By Alicia Figueroa

After Two Weeks:

I could tell you how much better my skin looks, but we all know a picture is worth a thousand words. Below I've included a side-by-side Before & After for comparison. As you can see, the redness in my skin has evened out and my complexion does appear younger. As a matter of fact, I was carded last week at the grocery store, and that hasn't happened in almost a year! (Funny how that starts to be a big deal as you grow older...)

Valentia Even Glow Serum Before & After, Products To Even Skin Tone

As always, I like to remind people who are using a skin product that consistent use is a MUST. You cannot use a product for anti-aging, brightening, softening, smoothing, wrinkle-removing, skin-evening or otherwise, unless you are using it as recommended. The skin is a fickle beast - sporadic application of products will probably mean sporadic results. (Or in some cases, no results.)

Connect:

You can find out more about Valentia on their website at www.valentiaskincare.com! Want to make a purchase? You can find them on Amazon! I'd love it if you'd use the affiliate link I've listed below since that will enable me to help keep my blog running, and it doesn't cost you anything extra!

Here's the link to buy Valentia's product!: Vitamin C Serum

What did you think of the Before & After photos? What are your biggest facial worries?
Chat with me in the comments, I love hearing from my readers!

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