Thursday, December 15, 2011

Going to See Santa

We took Peanut to Santa this weekend and were less than impressed.  Last year, we went as a family with my parents, my brother and his little girl who is just a few weeks older.  We had such a great time last year and so thought we'd make the outing part of our annual holiday festivities.  Last year, we arrived mid afternoon, but received a ticket that wouldn't let us in line until later that evening.  We went shopping, had dinner, had a minimal wait and the photo came out great.  Santa was really great with the two infants.  We didn't feel rushed.
This year, not so much.  We went to Bass Pro Shop for the free Santa photo like we did last year. We went earlier in the day, hoping to work around nap schedules.  We arrived at 11:20 and were given 12:00 tickets.  We were surprised when we arrived and realized we would only have a 20 minutes to wander the store, as we were told to get in line 15 minutes before our time--no problem. 
We went and stood in line at the appropriate time.  The kids are both now toddlers and don't like to sit still--so some of us would stand in line while the others took the kids to check out the cool activities the store had set up--no problem. 1/2 hour later, the natives are getting a little restless, but we finally make it to the front of the line. Except--there's a problem.  At 12:15 exactly, Santa is going on break--right when we get to the front of the line.  So we get to wait patiently at the front of the line while Santa goes to feed his reindeer.  Because we are coralled in to position--there's no taking the kids to wander.  There's just standing in place with two active toddlers and nothing to do but wait.
I get that Santa needs a break too, but couldn't they have put it in the schedule?  The line backs up even further and gets twice as crowded, as the folks with 12:30 tickets have arrived right on schedule.  Wouldn't it have made more sense to give Santa a break at 12:30 and instead skip the 12:30 crowd and go straight to 1?  Instead I smile and pump peanut full of cherios and point out trains to try to keep him from crawling everywhere.
Santa returns, and it's painfully obvious he's either having a bad day, or just doesn't like kids.  We place peanut on his lap and peanut instantly squirms.  Santa does nothing to interest or entertain the kid, just says "I can't hold a child against his will" and lets peanut plop to the ground.  After all that--we get no picture--I thought they had snapped one when they moved us on, but no such luck.  What a waste. I know Peanut's not perfect--I get that it's hard to get him to sit still at times, but really, the whole experience rather soured my holiday.  So maybe we won't be waiting forever at Bass Pro next year. 


Friday, December 9, 2011


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Stay Safe this Holiday with Master Lock

It seems so strange that at this most wonderful time of the year, people can be both at their best and at their worst.  While dozens of people find ways to give toys and food for those in need, others find themselves desperate enough to take what isn't there's.  Still others just find it a great time to take advantage of those of us who are too busy to be mindful of our surroundings.
There is also tons of travel during the holidays.   We'll be going both north and south for family gatherings.  It seems the weather doesn't always cooperate with that. All those wishes for a white Christmas can result in hazardous driving conditions.  It seems that we have to leave home just a little earlier to avoid some great snow fall between home and Rich's family gathering in the great white north.

This year, Master Lock wants to help you avoid any pitfalls that come with the eventful season by taking proper precautions to ensure safety and security remain top-of-mind.  
MasterLock makes the following recommendations:

• Travel Safely. Whether you’re planning a road trip or flight, be sure to take all the proper safety precautions. If driving to your destination, check tire pressure beforehand for optimal handling and traction and consider having your car winterized by your mechanic for added safety.

• Secure Your Home. During the holiday season, you’re likely to have guests coming and going from your home for a number of get-togethers. Be sure all entry points, including doors, windows and sliding glass doors, are locked before and after guests depart to help keep your family, home and valuables safe.

• Shop Smart. To stay safe while enjoying a fun holiday shopping trip to the local mall or shopping center, be aware of your surroundings. Park in well-lit areas

You can help Master Lock by sharing holiday safety and security tips and insights on the Master Lock Facebook wall.  If you do so, you'll be entered into  the Holiday Safety Sweepstakes. You could win one of four $50 VISA gift cards, one of two $100 VISA gift cards to help with holiday shopping or a Master Lock Holiday Safety Gift Pack.
 • For more information on and to enter the Master Lock Holiday Safety Sweepstakes, visit:
• For more information on Master Lock and their products, visit

I am a member of One2One Network.I wrote this blog as part of their promotional campaign.  I received no monetary compensation for this post.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hodgson Mills Grain Holiday Contest & Giveaway

Hodgson Mill® is a family-owned company with more than 125 years’ experience producing all-natural, delicious, healthy, stone-ground whole grain and organic foods made from premium quality ingredients and milled in small batches to retain each grain’s nutritional benefits. Hodgson Mill® products include: flours, corn meals, gluten-free flours, baking mixes, pastas, cereals, and more. Since 1882, Hodgson Mill®’s family of employees has been stone-grinding 100% whole grain to create wholesome, naturally healthy food – with no artificial preservatives, additives or colorings.

This weekend was one of many cookie weekends for my family.  From time in memorium, December means baking.  We must go through multiple batches of at least 6 different varieties of cookies--and trust me, this is pared down from what we used to make.  We used to make so many Christmas cookies, we had frozen cookies that would last well in to February.

This year, I'm trying to do something a little bit better.  I'm trying to bake with more whole grains.    I've had a few disasterous botches with whole wheat flour.  I've learned that it doesn't work just right in Spatzles or in our crepe recipe.  Inspired by the Hodgson Mill's "Have a  Grain Holiday" Contest, I attempted to make cookie with Whole Wheat flour.  Competing with 49 other bloggers, I've attempted to create a delicious and nutritious holiday recipe using Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Flour and/or Hodgson Mill Best For Bread Flour.  I'm competing for the chance to win exciting prizes including an iPad 2, gift certificates to Williams Sonoma, and gift certificates to the Hodgson Mill online store. 

Here's my recipe. I was amazingly pleased with the results.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Cinnamon 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Flour
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1)Cream the sugar, butter, shortening, eggs and vanilla. Mix in Cinammon, baking soda, salt and flour until smooth.  Stir in Oats, chocolate chips and walnuts.  Works best if you allow dough to chill in fridge for a few hours or over night

2) Drop dough by the tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated 350 oven for 9-12 minutes until edges are slightly brown.

3) Cool slightly then remove from cookie sheet and place on cooling rack.
Makes about 4-5 dozen

Do you have lots of holiday baking to do? Wouldn't you love to give this recipe a try for yourself? If so, enter below for your chance to win a $25 gift certificate to the Hodgson Mill online store.

Until December 25th, you can also stop here: for a chance to win one of 50 Hodgson Mill gift packs containing $85 worth of Hodgson Mill products!

I received samples of Hodgson Mill products in exchange for my entry in "Have a Grain Holiday Contest." Official Contest Rules  from Hodgson Mill can be found here:
I received no additional compensation in exchange for this review.  All opinions expressed here in are my own.  StumbleUpon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Something about Silver Review and Giveaway

I am so excited to be able to bring this opportunity to you!  I recently had the good fortune to review a handmade necklace from Something About Silver.  The necklace I received is from the "Little Gems" line.  It is quite possibly the cutest silver necklace customized with Peanut's name and birthstone.  It is a dainty 5/8th inch disc in diameter, which really works for me--anything much bigger would seem a little gaudy.  We only have peanut, but you could add as many discs if you wanted to.  It's absolutely gorgeous and I seriously love having a reminder of my little guy with me all day.

I'm very in to personalized gifts, and Something About Silver excels with personalization.  For example, I love this one  with a quote from "Guess How Much I love you?"  Peanut has three copy of this book, one from my shower, one from his grandma, and one of those recordable hallmark  books as read by my best friend.  Anyway, a very sentimental choice that I'd love to add to my jewelry box.

Or how about a grandmother's necklace?  I  know my mother always wanted one--one with her kids, and her grand kids.  This just might be the Christmas I finally get her one.

Speaking of Christmas, I absolutely LOVE this baby's first Christmas charm.  I wish we had found this last year instead of settling for something that was a little generic.  I love the little feet!

I know I showcased mostly necklaces, but they have bracelets and rings too---even a "something for him" category.

How much would you love your own "Something about Silver treasure? 

Buy it:  Visit and use the coupon code kathrynmcgowan to earn 10% off your entire purchase.

Win it: Use the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a $40 gift code to customize your own special silver creation.

This product was provided by Something About Silver in exchange for my fair and honest review. No monetary compensation took place.  All opinions are my own.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Something Sweet about the Holidays

Listening to the radio on the way to work, I heard both inspiring and depressing news about those wonderfully sweet holiday favorites.  They were running down a list of the holiday treats that are the absolute worst for you.  Topping the list were my favorites egg nog and pecan pie. 
Where's the upside?  One of the radio co-hosts mentioned his personal philosophy for surviving the holidays.  He made a pact to ignore calories from November 1-Jan 1.  They simply don't count.  That way he can enjoy the holidays.  After that, it's back to health conscious business as usual. 
I don't know that I need that excuse, but seriously, for my family, the holidays equal food and lots of it.  I try to be good, but some of these food are only made once a year.  So although I will probably hate myself in January, I don't think I'm going to be able to make it through the holidays without sampling my favorites.  Perhaps portion control is a more realistic strategy?  One cookie instead of three....

One of my all time favorites has always been pecan pie.  It's so sweet a gooey and crunchy and wonderful.  I only make it once a year, but it is sooooo good.
This is the recipe I follow:
1 cup light corn syryp
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups pecans
1 9 inch unbaked pie shell

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
2. In large bowl, mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter vanilla, and salt. Fold in pecans. Pour filling into pie crust. 
3. Place foil around crust edge to keep from burning.  Bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Top should be golden and carmel color.  Center should spring back slightly when touched. Cool before serving.  Serve with a cup of hot coffee!

Do you have a favorite sweet recipe, especially one using Karo syrup?  Would you love to win a trip to Chicago?  If so, head over to their facebook page and enter the Karo Syrup "Tis the Season" sweepstakes by entering your favorite recipe.  The winner and a guest will spend New Years eve at the Wit Hotel, dine at Mastro's Steakhouse and take a chocolate tour featuring Sarah's Pasteries and Candies. 

Disclosure: I was entered for a chance to win a Karo Syrup prize package in exchange for this post.  No monetary exchange took place. All opinions are my own. StumbleUpon


I've been trying Endorse! for well over a month.  It sounds promising, and has potential, but I haven't seen it work well for me yet.

In case you don't know, Endorse is an application through Facebook that encourages you to shop at your normal stores and buy your favorite brands.  In theory, they will pay you for it --anywhere from 2-10% back.  If you share with your friends (the store or brand) and they follow along, you can earn even more. Once you reach $25 in your Endorse account, you’ll be mailed a check.
The way it works is you click the “endorse” button on your favorite things, buy them as you normally do in the real world, and then send in your receipts as your “proof of purchase.” (They provide a free return envelope!)  I returned an envelope a month ago--and still nothing.
You can also get your endorsed and purchased products for FREE by getting 5 others to do the same. After you endorse a store, you can then share it to your friends. When they click on the link, endorse, and buy, you get the “credit” for their purchases. If 5 do so, you will be reimbursed for your ENTIRE trip.  
However, when it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.  I mean, what's in it for them?  I sent in my receipts, but still no progress.  I'm starting to worry that this is just some sort of scam.  Maybe these stores feel that if they have our receipts, we won't be able to return holiday merchandise.  That might be worth 2% to a store, right? 

Has anyone actually tried this?  Does it really work?  I even thought maybe I should try endorsing other folks things, in hopes of building them up the magic five.  I hope this helps someone, because I'm not as wowed and amazed as I hoped to be when I first signed up.

If you are still among the Endorse faithful or are interested in giving Endorse a try, simply follow the links below and “Endorse” the stores you regularly shop at:

If you'd like me to endorse any of your items, I'd be glad to reciprocate the favor. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oral-B Stages Party! #OralBStages

Kat's Adventure Book was super excited to get to host an Oral-B mommy (and daddy) party! We've hosted a sponsored house party before, but never a mommy party--so we were all super excited. We invited cousins, family, friends, and co-workers with little ones.  There were tons of kids with there moms and some dads too.  We had a blast.
The party kit provided  the Winnie the Pooh DVD.  Before the movie, we played a few games with the kids, especially a super fun flashcard game that helped get the kids excited for the movie and reinforced the idea of good oral hygiene.  We talked about the toothbrush, and toothpaste, and even the dentist.  
To their credit, some kids did watch the movie.  Most, like my son, are super active kids.  They alternated between video watching and game playing. The kids had the best time getting together to play.  Having so many kids together, they were able to entertain themselves, which meant more time for the parents to talk.    
As parents we talked brainstormed ideas for taking care of our kids teeth.  Some said their pediatrician say they should see the dentist when the first tooth comes in, other said their dentist didn't want to see kids until they were at least 3.  My cousin said that she was encouraged to bring her daughter to her cleanings, to help her get used to the dentist by seeing Mommy do it. We haven't yet taken peanut to the dentist, but we have used a clean wet cloth or finger brush to clean up after he eats (we should probably be more consistent than we are).  
Lately we've been having trouble getting peanut to cooperate with brushing.  I was relieved that some of the other parents had the same problem too.  They recommended turning brushing time into a game.  They sing special brushing songs.  They also recommend modeling good brushing behavior by brushing with your kids.  Finally, many agree that having age appropriate brushes like the Oral B stages with characters that their kids love helps to make the time a pleasurable activity and not a chore.

What movie would be complete without concessions.  We had popcorn--which in no way came close to Cadillac 5 movie theatre popcorn, but we made due.  We also had Rabbit's Favorite Carrot sticks, Piglet's Parfaits--yogurt and fresh sliced berries layered in clear cups, Pooh Bear's Bagel Pizzas  and Peanut's favorite, Eeyor's Cheerios--served in paper cups with Eeyore stickers.  In short, we all ate our fill and still had plenty of left overs!
When the movie ended, it was definately getting toward nap time for some of our youngest guests.  Each kid received an amazing goodie bag to take home.  I was so thankful I had taken the time to prepare the bags in advance.  Each bag contained an Oral-B toothbrush (either Stage I or Stage II depending upon the child's age), a tube of Oral-B toothpaste featuring Disney Princesses or Pixar Cars or Toy Story characters, Winne the Pooh lavender scented baby wash, coupons, a fact sheet, and a balloon.  The kids all seemed to really love these pre-Christmas presents!
Personally, our favorite item in the goody bag has been the bottle of Lavendar Disney Daily Renewal Baby Wash---it just smells so good.  The first few days we used it, we couldn't stop sniffing peanut's hair.  We also love the Stages toothbrush--it really is perfect for his small hands.

We all had a great time and would love to thank Oral B, Disney, and MomSelect and MommyParties for providing us with this wonderful opportunity!
Be sure to follow Oral-B on Facebook and twitter, and Crest on Twitter too to keep up with their latest news and updates!
 If you would like to learn more about MommyParties, please visit their Facebook page.

*I was chosen by MomSelect and Oral-B to host this party. I received free products to keep and to distribute to my guests. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.  They were not influence in anyway.  No form of monetary compensation was provided.


Book Review: Forge

Forge is the sequel to author Laurie Halse Anderson's acclaimed Chains  and the second inThe Seeds of America trilogy. In Chains, we meet Isabel and Curzon, two slaves struggling for freedom.  While Chains focuses on Isabel's tale, Forge is told through the eyes of Curzon.  Set in Revolutionary America, we follow Curzon as he again finds himself a private in the continental army.  Through battling the British at Saratoga, to fighting to survive the elements during the winter at Valley Forge, Curzon becomes a well-research character of historical fiction. 

Compounding their struggles, the runaways Curzon and Isabel find themselves again under the ownership of Master Bellingham, providing a new meaning to the fight for independence. One must acknowledge that the tale of slavery during the revolutionary era is one that is sorely underrepresented in history and literature as a whole and especially true of works for younger audiences.  Particularly compelling  for young readers are the arguments between Curzon and his contemporaries as they debate the issues of race, and what a war for independence really means for all american patriots. 

In her storytelling, Anderson strives for authenticity.  The characters are careful to describe their living conditions, food, etc.  One has the feeling that Anderson is writing a "living history" in disguise.  Without patience, the reader is liable to become annoyed with the repetitive use of 1776 style slang.  As a former history teacher,  I find the concept good, but the execution contrived.  Too often, the reader looses sight of the real drama behind the story the author is neglecting to tell when she focuses too much on the the history lecture. As a book that will tie in to historical studies of the revolutionary era, Forge outdoes itself.  However, valued strictly for its enjoyability as an independent read, Forge fails to  make its mark.
Overall Grade: B- StumbleUpon