Friday, December 19, 2014

Homemade Sugar Cookies with Icing

Several people have asked me how I make the homemade sugar cookies I recently shared on Facebook so I decided this would be the easiest way to share all the links and details on creating these sugar cookies.  
The first thing people say when they see these type cookies is "Those must be so hard to make".  Actually, they aren't really that hard but they are very time-consuming.  It's a 2 day process so you have to make sure you plan ahead if you want to make this type of cookies.  Honestly, once you do it a few times, you will get your timing down and it won't be such an overwhelming process, I promise.

COOKIE CUTTERS:
The Cookie Cutter Company is my favorite place to buy cookie cutters.  They are made of tin, hold up really well (even to lots of pressure), and they are very affordable.  They have tons of designs you can choose from too.  They also have design ideas on their site too.

THE DOUGH:
The dough recipe I use does not require you to chill the dough or chill the cut out cookies.  Using this dough, once you cut out the cookies and bake them, they retain their shapes very well too.  Here is the link to the dough recipe I use: Sugar Cookie Dough Recipe.  I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer that David surprised me with about 6 years ago and I use it to make my cookie dough.  Using a stand mixer, it will mix the dough well even after you add the last of the flour.  I also love the flavor of this dough and it makes lightly sweet cookies.  I do prefer to make thicker sugar cookies when I cut them out.  That way they hold the icing well and don't fall apart.

THE ICING:
For the icing, I have always preferred to use Wilton's Royal Icing Recipe.  It is super easy to make and it is easy to work with too for outlining the cookies, flooding them, and then decorating them.  I buy the Meringue Powder at Michael's and use their 40% off coupon to get it cheaper.  You can find it at Walmart too but it is usually cheaper at Michaels if you use a coupon.  You can find lots of recipes for royal icing on the internet but this is the one I have stuck with for several years now.  This type of icing also needs time to harden.  You can't just pipe it and then go onto the next step.  You must allow time for the icing to "harden" on each step.

DECORATING THE COOKIES:
Again, there are lots of tutorials and videos on the internet for outlining, flooding, and decorating sugar cookies.  To be honest, I watched a lot of tutorial videos I found online to learn how to do this a couple of years ago.  I would bake cookies and practice.  There were LOTS of flops and failures (but the upside was, we had yummy cookies to eat anyway even if they weren't pretty) and then gradually I began to get it and they started turning out.  So you have to be willing to experiment and try until you feel comfortable with it.  Plus, you will score "Mommy points" for all the cookies you're making too!

You can go to the internet and type in "outlining sugar cookies" to learn how to outline cookies, "how to flood sugar cookies" to learn how to fill the cookies, and I just go to Pinterest and type in whatever kind of cookie I am making to get decorating ideas for the cookies.  Most of the time I just look at how a cookie is decorated and then just try to copy the design somewhat myself.

I have also acquired my cookie baking supplies over the past few years also.  Most of it comes from Michael's or Walmart. In fact, I have got most of it at Michael's and would use their coupons to get the best deals.  I have a large Wilton decorating tip set but for these cookies I mainly use Wilton tips 4 or 6 for outlining and Wilton tips 1 or 2 for decorating.  For flooding, I use the Wilton mini decorating bottles.  They are super easy to clean and work great for flooding.  I use Wilton gel colors or Americolor Soft Gel paste for food coloring to make the cookies.  Basically, I buy either brand depending upon what color I am looking for and which brand has the prettiest color.  Both of these brands work really well and the colors go a long way.

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS:
1.  Make a batch of sugar cookie dough.
2.  Cut out your shapes and bake them.
3.  Allow them to cool completely on cooling racks.
4.  Pipe the outline for your sugar cookies and let the the outlines harden for at least 2 hours.
5.  Flood your sugar cookies and let them dry overnight (yes, overnight...if you don't let them harden at least 8 hours, they won't be set well).
6.  The next morning, you can decorate your cookies with all the fine details.  Let them harden for at least 2 hours.

SERVING/TRANSPORTING THE COOKIES:
When I am serving them, I like to put them on platters so each cookie is clearly displayed.  If I need to deliver them somewhere, I will put them in deep dish aluminum foil pans. I will put down a layer of cookies and then put a piece of wax paper over them and put another layer. The wax paper helps protect the cookies from breaking or losing decorations.  Then when I deliver them, the person can serve them however they want.

GIFT GIVING:
These also make great baby shower gifts, birthday gifts, party favors, etc.  You can make a batch of sugar cookies for any occasion and then put a cookie in a clear party bag and then tie some curly ribbon around the top with a little gift tag and it makes a cute and delicious favor.

Hopefully this wasn't too confusing for you and please don't be overwhelmed. I know it sounds like a lot but I promise you that once you've done it a few times, it will get easier.  It's really not that hard but it is just time consuming so make sure you plan ahead when you want to make these. However, the end result is so worth it and to be honest, I love making them even though it does take so much time.  It's fun to play around with decorating ideas, try new things, and see people's excitement when you make these type cookies.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me:  bamagv at aol dot com and I will gladly help you in anyway I can.




Monday, December 15, 2014

Shave Mob Stocking Stuffer


Last year, I introduced you to Shave Mob, a fantastic company that offers you up to 70% savings on premium shaving razors with no shipping costs or recurring membership fees.  Just in time for the holidays, they offer simple shopping and great savings so you can easily grab a stocking stuffer for a man or a woman with a gift they will appreciate all year long.

HOW SHAVE MOB WORKS:

STEP 1:  Choose a blade.  One of the (many) cool things about Shave Mob is that their blades work with all their razor handles so you don't have to buy specialized blades for different handles.  

STEP 2:  Choose your supply.  Each supply gives you 2 cartridges per month. 

STEP 3:  Save a ton of money.  When you are ready to check out, you will be amazed at how much money you are saving through purchasing premium shaving razors through Shave Mob.  

STEP 4:  Get your razor and start shaving.  With Shave Mob, you don't have to wait on monthly shipments to arrive.  You will get your entire supply in one shipment not only saving you money but packaging and shipping/handling too. 

STEP 5:  Reorder when your supply is low.  Shave Mob will actually send you an email when your supply should be running low based upon what you ordered. You can simply confirm your next shipment or you can change your order with just one click.  Shave Mob makes having new cartridges for your razor a breeze!    

STEP 6:  Incite the Mob.  Once you use Shave Mob razors you will naturally share them with friends and family. You can earn FREE razors and cool stuff simply by sharing Shave Mob!  

So, I have had my razors from Shave Mob for almost a year and y'all, I LOVE THEM!  They work just as well (if not better) than those expensive razors I'd been buying from retail stores.  In fact, our 13 year old daughter likes Shave Mob razors too.  Maybe for Christmas, I'll introduce my husband to a Shave Mob razor supply!  

You can check out Shave Mob's holiday special or follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the latest products, sales and specials. 

Disclaimer:  Shave Mob is sending me a holiday stocking stuffer kit as compensation for this post.  No monetary compensation was received.  The opinions expressed here are my own and reflect my own personal thoughts and opinions.  Your thoughts and experiences may vary from mine.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Spectrum Series Workbooks

I have to admit, I am a pretty big fan of workbooks when it comes to homeschooling.  While we do use them more for supplemental purposes or for extra-curricular work, I do love them.  I was really excited to recently be introduced to Spectrum workbooks from Carson Dellosa.  Carson Dellosa was started over 38 years ago by two teachers and they offer over 4,500 educational products.  Their materials are all developed by educational experts.  
The Spectrum Series contains over 60 titles for Pre-K to 8th grade that have been updated to meet current state and national standards.  They offer workbooks for Math, English/Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and even Test Preparation.  Spectrum is the #1 teacher recommended workbook series and has been trusted by teachers and parents for over 15 years.  
Our family was blessed to receive 5 Spectrum workbooks to try out with our homeschooling.  We received the following workbooks:
*  Kindergarten - Sight Words
* 1st Grade - Sight Words
* 3rd Grade - Science
* 4th Grade - Writing
* 5th Grade - Vocabulary
Kindergarten Sight Words workbook contains 160 pages of activities designed to help your child master 300 high frequency words that appear in early reading books.  This workbook is filled with a wide variety of activities so your child won't get bored because activities change page to page.  There are fill in the blanks, seek-a-word puzzles, sentence strips, coloring pages, flashcards, tracing, matching, and more.  Our son has severe Dyslexia and to be honest, I wasn't sure if this would be something that would work for him.  However, he loved it and is able to complete all the activities.  In fact, when we start homeschooling each day, this is the book he wants to complete first because he said it is "fun".  Yes, you read that right....he said learning was FUN thanks to a Spectrum workbook!
1st Grade Sight Words workbook also contains 160 fun-filled pages to help build fluency, reading, and writing skills.  Based on Fry's Instant Sight Words, this book contains a lot of varied activities just like the Kindergarten level does.  I noticed that the 1st Grade level seems to contain more tracing, writing, and drawing and less coloring than the Kindergarten level.  It is also a little more advanced in the words they learn but let me tell you, this level is just as much fun for the student as the Kindergarten level is.  If you have a child who has been struggling with reading or learning sight words, the Spectrum Sight Word workbooks will be a great tool to make learning these concepts fun.
Grade 3 Science workbook is 144 pages designed to develop your child's Science literacy with a variety of fascinating facts.  This workbook explores topics like animal habitats, elements and compounds, irrigation, and the invention of the radio.  Each lesson contains a vocabulary word bank and one page of reading.  Then there are questions to help reinforce what they read about.  There are tests along the way and an answer key in the back of the book.  To be honest, this was my least favorite of the workbooks.  We are a family that uses more lapbooks and hands-on learning when it comes to Science and the kids just did not really enjoy the reading/workbook method when it came to Science.  However, the Spectrum workbooks are not designed to be stand alone curriculum and are mainly for reinforcement and tools of enrichment.  So, if you are a family that enjoys workbooks for extra Science enrichment, this is a fairly easy way to meet that need.
Grade 4 Writing workbook is a 143 page workbook created to guide students through the writing process. In this book, students will learn concepts such as writing paragraphs, personal narratives, fiction stories, writing how-to instructions, descriptive comparisons, research and reporting, persuasive letters, and more.  While this is not a complete writing curriculum, it is a very simple and fun way to help kids get a little extra help in areas they are learning.  Our daughter really enjoys using this book each day and has found that sometimes concepts are explained in this workbook in a simpler way then her writing curriculum. 
Grade 5 Vocabulary is a 160 page workbook that is filled with progressive lessons in vocabulary.  Not only will your child systematically build and strengthen their vocabulary and comprehension skills, but this workbook also contains test-taking practice pages and an answer key in the back.  Your child will learn about analogies, multiple-meaning words, passage-level context, domain-specific vocabulary, roots and affixes, and much more!  Our daughter has really enjoyed the ease of using this book because she says it is challenging but not overwhelming.  

All of the Spectrum workbooks are available for purchase in print and eBook format.  You can also visit their website to find more great educational products or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.  

Disclaimer:  I was given the above mentioned materials for review purposes only.  No monetary compensation was received.  The opinions expressed here are my own and your results and experiences may vary from mine.  









Monday, December 8, 2014

Susie's Hope DVD GIVEAWAY

We are a family that enjoys animals and our 11 year old is a big animal lover.  We were intrigued with Susie's Hope because not only is about animals but it is also based on a true story.  
About the Movie:
Based on the true story that successfully passed Susie’s Law in North Carolina, which seeks stricter punishment for animal abusers, Susie’s Hope brings to life the inspirational relationship between pit bull attack survivor Donna Lawrence and Susie, a pit bull-mix puppy found beaten, burned and left for dead. Recognizing reflect and abuse were to blame for the tragic attack that nearly claimed her life 10 months earlier, Donna resumes the battered animal and accepts her as family. Together, they learn to heal, love and forgive as thyey lead a historic effort to seek justice and protection, not only for Susie, but all animals. Starring Emmanuelle Vaguer (40 Days and 40 Nights), Burgess Jenkins (Remember The Titans) and Andrea Powell (Ender’s Game, The Twighlight: Breaking Dawn Saga: Part 2), Susie’s Hope is an incredible story of love, loss and redemption.
About Susie (the dog):
Susie was found nearly dead in Greenfield Park in Greensboro, North Carolina on August 20, 2009. Just a puppy, Susie had licked the face of her owner’s newborn baby. Her owner became violent—she was beaten so severely her jaw was broken. That wasn’t enough, though. She was then set on fire and left for dead. Incredibly and against all odds Susie survived. Donna Lawrence adopted her two months later. Susie is now a trained therapy dog and event won the American Humane Association’s American Hero Dog this year!

Our Thoughts:
We really enjoyed this movie and it is one that is extremely family-friendly too.  Warning....this movie will require a box of Kleenex nearby.  There are some aspects of this movie that are really touching and some that are sad too.  Our kids really enjoyed this movie.  Our 9 year old thought the dog attack scene was a little scary but it was also a great opportunity for us to teach him to respond if a dog is attacking him or chasing him.  There are teachable moments in everything!  The storyline was great and kept you entertained throughout the movie.  This is a story of love, compassion, a love for animals, and has a beautiful ending.  Because of the events of this story, a law was passed in North Carolina called "Susie's Law" which was created to protect animals from abuse and cruelty.  This is a super cute movie that all families will enjoy and it has some great teaching moments too.  

You can watch a video of Susie's Hope here, or view Susie's Hero Dog Award video here, and learn more about Susie's Hope and learn more about Susie on their website.

You have the chance to win your very own copy of "Susie's Hope" DVD by simply entering on the form below: 
"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Lumo Project - The Gospel of John

Our family LOVES Biblically based movies so when we were introduced to the Lumo Project we were really excited.  The Lumo Project is quite different from other Bible based movies.  
The Lumo Project encompasses 4 feature length films - one for each New Testament Gospel account - that revolutionizes the way we experience the story of Jesus and the world of 1st century Palestine in which Jesus lived.  These films will transform the way we discover, study, and engage with the life of Jesus found in the 4 New Testament Gospels.  The Gospels of the New Testament have always been so interesting to me because they give us the life and ministry of Jesus Christ yet they all have their own accounts and details from these events.  For example, I've heard it said that the gospel of Luke gives us more details than the other gospels and that may have been because he was a physician and was accustomed to details.  Only the gospel of John tells us that Jesus wept.  Matthew gives us the very detailed genealogy of Jesus Christ.  Each gospel is unique yet they all tell one story - the story of Jesus.  Our family was given the opportunity to watch "The Gospel of John" in a sneak-peek preview.  
There are several things that set Lumo Project apart from other Biblically based movies.  First, the scripting for each movie comes directly from the Bible itself. From the first word of the movie to the last word, all of the script is straight from scripture, word for word, unedited.  You can even choose if you want to watch King James Version or New International Version.  We choose to watch the NIV version simply because it is easier words for our kids to understand and we wanted to watch the movie as a family.  The whole movie, every single minute of it, is narrated straight out of scripture.  So there is no need to worry about misrepresentation, events or conversation being misconstrued, important details being left out, or them taking great liberties with the text.  It is word-for-word straight out of the Word of God.

Second, the cinematography in this film is fresh and different. The portrayal of Jesus himself, the depiction of Palestine in the 1st century, the acting and dramatization, and even the costumes and clothing are all beautiful.  This was one thing the kids immediately noted and actually made several comments on throughout the movie was how great these parts were. 

Third, the Lumo Project is a versatile educational resource that can be a true "global tool" in helping spread the gospel around the world to "every tribe and tongue and people and nation".  These films can be dubbed into any version and any language which absolutely thrills our soul since we are so passionate for mission work and for spreading the flame of the gospel across the globe.  It is also exciting because we live at the TX-Mex border in a dominantly Spanish speaking community and these films are already available in Reina-Valera Spanish version!  Since the film is narrated straight from scripture, we can confidently share it with others and know they will be getting solid teaching.

Fourth, this is a movie we can highly recommend to anyone...not just Christians.  We often tell people who have never read the Bible or people who are new Christians to start by reading the book of John.  Now we can tell them that they can watch the Lumo Project films as a great starting point too!  This is perfect for someone who can't read, doesn't like to read or learns best visually.  Not only is Lumo Project films educational but they are great witnessing tools as well.
Even though we got to get a "sneak-peek" of The Gospel of John, you don't have to wait.  The Gospel of John is now available on Netflix (as of 12/3/14)!  David and I often tell people that there is no substitution for the Bible (and we still believe that) but Lumo Project has done a great job of giving people the Bible (straight from scripture) to change and challenge hearts with beautiful cinematography to delight eyes.  You can also learn more about Lumo Project on their website, following them on Twitter, "like" them on Facebook, or follow them on Instagram

Disclaimer:  I was given the opportunity to preview this film from FlyBy Promotions. No monetary compensation was received for this post and the opinions expressed here are my own. Your results, thoughts, and experiences may vary from mine.  


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What's in the Bible DVD Volume 10 GIVEAWAY

I'm all for products that help children understand the Bible and Biblical concepts and the What's in the Bible DVD series does just that!  Our family was given the opportunity to check out What's in the Bible Volume 10:  Jesus is the Good News DVD and here's what we have to say about it.......
First let me just say, we are huge What's in the Bible DVD fans!  If you aren't familiar with this fantastic series, Phil Vischer (the creator of VeggieTales), has created a series of 13 DVD's that kids (and parents too) the story of the Bible - God's great rescue plan.  Vischer shows kids how all the characters and stories of the Bible fit together to tell one big story - God's redemptive story!  

Jesus is the Good News (Vol. 10) actually focuses on the 400 years between the Old & New Testament before it starts teaching about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Kids are introduced to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and get to walk alongside him and his closest friends (the disciples). Some of the stories and concepts covered in this video are:
  • Intertestamental Period
  • John the Baptist
  • Jesus' miracles, teachings, and healings
  • Jesus feeds the 5,000
  • The Kingdom of God
  • The Last Supper
  • Jesus' arrest and trial
  • Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection
  • Jesus' ascension
In true Vischer fashion, Buck Denver and his friends teach this material with great animation and lots of catchy tunes and melodies.  I especially love how clearly the gospel message is presented in this particular video.  This DVD also encourages children to talk to their pastor or an adult if they have any questions about what they are learning about.  Volume 10 contains two 25 minute episodes so kids will hang with the content and not get bored or tired.  The first episode deals with the Intertestamental Period and the second episode deals with Jesus' life and ministry.  

I also love all the "extras" that are available with this DVD series.  There is a parent's guide for Volume 10 making it easy to discuss this video with your child and lead them through the concepts they are learning about while watching it.  There are also activities designed to correlate with Volume 10 as well.  You can view a trailer of Jesus is the Good News by clicking here.  

What's in the Bible has some great sales and specials going on just in time for the holidays too. Through December 18, 2014 all their DVD's are just $9.97 and they are offering free US shipping too!  You can check out all their great products for home and church use at their website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the latest sales, specials, and new products.  
FlyBy Promotions has graciously offered to give one of you a copy of "What's in the Bible Volume 10:  Jesus is the Good News" DVD just in time for the holidays!  For your chance to win, simply enter on the form below:
Disclaimer:  I was given the above mentioned products for review purposes only from FlyBy Promotions.  No monetary compensation was received.  The opinions expressed here are my own and reflect my own personal thoughts and opinions. Your results may vary from mine. "Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.  Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Monday, December 1, 2014

CHARM IT! GIVEAWAY

Christmas, Christmas time is near....and if you have a girl to buy for this Christmas I'm about to making holiday shopping one step easier for you!  We were introduced to CHARM IT! a few months ago and our 11 year old immediately fell in love with their line of products.  CHARM IT! by High IntenCity is the original, detachable charm jewelry line for girls ages 5-14.  High IntenCity was founded with a mission:  to inspire girls to express their individuality through creativity and since 1993, their team has been creating fun, fashion jewelry for girls worldwide.  Not only can you purchase their products online but now you can find CHARM IT! at GapKids nationwide.  
CHARM IT! bracelets range from $5.00 - $14.00 depending upon the style and the cute little charms are just $5.00 each.  All charms and bracelets are sold separately so you can totally customize your gift to fit the person you are buying it for.  CHARM IT! offers fun, modern and colorful collections of endless charms so there is sure to be the perfect charms for each girl....sports, food, techie, princess, initials, animals, etc.  

As a parent, I love that CHARM IT! is a gift that keeps on giving. I can buy one bracelet and a charm or two and then add to their collection for various events...birthdays, Christmas, Easter, baptism, achievements, etc.  This is a gift that they will treasure for years to come and also something they can keep to hand down to their own children one day too.  

Our daughter actually has a CHARM IT! necklace already and she wears it constantly and of course, she is always showing off the charms to friends too.  CHARM IT! products are extremely well made and stand up to lots of wear, usage, and the colors stay on the charms well too even when they are touched and played with a lot.  With CHARM IT! you can feel good about gift giving because this is something they will enjoy for a long time and the "new" won't wear off it like most other gifts.
CHARM IT! wants to bless one of my readers with their very own bracelet just like I received and just in time for the holidays!  For your chance to win, simply fill out the form below:
Disclaimer:  I was given the above mentioned product for review purposes only from CHARM IT!.  No monetary compensation was received.  The opinions expressed here are my own and reflect my own personal experiences and thoughts.