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Cleaning Up With Libman {review & giveaway}

My old house was about 1400 square feet. My new house is about 3200 square feet. As my mother pointed out, perhaps a little rudely, that’s a whole lot of house for me to keep clean. (Meaning she doubted I could/would.) And she’s made it clear that she’s not helping me. Neither should she, and that’s fine. I have a few tricks up my sleeve. But, rather than just closing off half the house when we’re not actively using it, having some excellent tools makes the job easier.

Just before I left Toronto, the Libman Company contacted me to see if I’d have a look at a few of their cleaning tools. I arranged for them to send the package to my new place, which meant I didn’t have to move my old brooms and mops. Even better – the new, clean house is now being kept clean with new, clean tools. Sweet!

The Libman Company is US-based, but they have product available in the Canadian market as well. Not the whole line, but a good assortment. I had a browse and chose a broom and dustpan, mop and bucket, plus a dust mop, so I have the essentials covered. Here’s what I chose, and what I think –

Libman dust mop, broom with dustpan

Precision Angle Broom with Dustpan

I love the size and angle on this broom, and the stiffness of the bristles.  The bristles are strong and tightly packed, so dirt particles don’t sneak through. I’m also finding these bristles are great for attracting and grabbing the masses of cat fur found all over this house. After I empty the dustpan, I just use my hand to pull the fur away from the broom and dispose. The dustpan attaches to the broom handle, so it’s always there when you need it.  And, on top of the great performance, I love that the broom fibers are made from recycled PET soda and water bottles. Keeping plastic out of landfills is a big concern, so thank you to Libman for finding a new life for these bottles.

Upright Dustpan

So, I probably didn’t need a second dustpan, but my mom has one this style, and I was a little jealous. My back appreciates that I don’t have to bend over to collect and empty whatever mess I’ve swept up. I’ve been using this one in my laundry room, where I am constantly sweeping up stray cat litter. The dust pan is wide enough for a variety of brooms, and it has “teeth” at the back to clean things like cat fur off your broom as needed.

Tornado Mop

It’s been a long time since I used a string mop, so I wasn’t sure how I’d make out with this, but it does a great job. The mop head is quite large so you get good surface coverage. fabric bands prevent tangling, and the polyester yarn resists odor-causing bacteria, so the mop doesn’t get stinky. I especially like the “grip and click ratchet wringer.” This feature lets you wring the mop out easily and thoroughly without getting your hands into the water. Super easy! And, the mop head is machine washable, easy to remove and replace.

Libman Tornado mop

This image is from Libman, and it shows the mop fully extended.

 

Libman tornado mop

And this is my (used, therefore a bit dirty) mop after I used the ratchet wringer to wring it out.

 

4 Gallon Clean Rinse Bucket with Wringer

This is a great size, and a good, multi-purpose bucket. The wringer basket can be removed if you aren’t using it (Tornado Mop doesn’t need it, for instance). You can use one side for clean water and the other for wringing out the dirty water. One thing I have felt weird about with mops and buckets is how quickly you end up mopping with filthy water, so this is a draw for me. Or, you could use one side for water, the other for cleaning supplies, or whatever works for you. It’s like having two buckets on one handle.

Microfiber Dust Mop

Oh, how I love my cats. Oh, how I hate their shedding. The shed is particularly strong at this time of year, since they are switching over from their winter to their summer wardrobe. I run this over my hardwood pretty much daily, and it easily grabs and holds the dust, dander, and fur that is attempting to take over. The cleaning pad is removable, machine washable, and reusable. Yay! And the mop comes with a specially designed comb to remove the dust, dirt, and pet hair you pick-up if/when it won’t shake free. The comb attaches to the handle so it won’t get lost.

 

So, yes, I’m pleased with each of these items, and especially impressed with the broom. I didn’t think I could get excited about a broom, but there you go. Also, it’s certainly a bonus for me that the company colour is green – my favourite! Just another reason to love these cleaning tools. Now I just need to remember to keep using them. I know the best way to keep my home clean is to do a little every day. But some days I need to be reminded to make the time to tackle just one room, or run the dust mop over the main floor. If I ever finally get unpacked, I’ll settle into a rhythm I’m sure.

A Giveaway

Could you use some new cleaning tools? Libman has graciously offered up a prize pack for one lucky reader. The prize will include the same five items I received for review.  Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 11:59 pm ET, June 24. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents, excluding Quebec. Best of luck!

 

 

Disclosure: I received complimentary review product to support this post. No financial compensation was or will be received. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

 

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Dumpling Cats – A Crochet Book for Cat Lovers {review & giveaway}

Do you remember how I taught myself to crochet last year? With a little (lot of) help from YouTube, of course. Well, I’m still at it, still learning, and enjoying it as much as ever. I’m drawn to it for the creativity as well as just having something to do with my hands while I’m sitting watching a movie or chatting with a friend. It is truly fulfilling to see a creation come to life!

My most recent challenge – crocheting these little cuties. Dumpling Cats is a collection of crochet patterns you can use to create your own little menagerie of furry friends. There are 25 cats in all, and each comes with a little write-up on their name and personality. I found it fun to read through and decide which dumpling cat to hook first. The collection is inspired by the game Neko Atsume: Cat Collector, which immediately appealed to me, as I’ve been playing that on my phone for about a year now. (The game is simply about placing food and toys to entice adorable cats, each with a different personality and preferences, to come visit. You can take pictures of the cats for an album, or watch them play. It’s purely about the cuteness.)

The cats in Dumpling Cats are adorable. I brought the book with me on a recent cottage trip, so I could work on the Finneus pattern. According to his bio, Finneus really likes to eat, and his favourite spot to hang out is the cardboard box near the kitchen – so he can always be first in line for lunch. My fellow crafters, and the teen and tween girls who were there were all excited for the book. I now have my work cut out for me as each of the girls pointed out cats they need me to make for them.

So, first thumbs-up for this volume – the creations are really cute, interesting, and something any cat lover would be happy to make. The next question of course is how accurate and easy to follow are the patterns. So far I’ve only done one cat, but can confirm that even this newbie was able to follow the pattern and create something pretty close to looking like it was supposed to. I had some difficulty with the legs and ears, and I put that down to my newness with crochet terms. Looking at the legs I first made, I knew they had to be wrong, so I went back and re-read the instructions. I quickly picked out where I had misinterpreted, and fixed the problem on my second try.

Important to note – the excellent illustrations accompanying the different steps of each pattern were the clue to tell me I’d made a mistake. They are a great help, especially to a more novice crochet fan. At the same time, the patterns are varied enough to keep a more advanced crafter interested. The directions explain every stage, from ears to tail, and some of the patterns include accessories and costume items. Plus, there are bonus patterns for a cat bed, food bowls, and more!

Here is my little guy. I used a larger crochet hook than indicated in the pattern, so he’s a bit out of scale, but still adorable, IMO.

For More Information

Dumpling Cats is written by Sarah Sloyer, and published by Dover Publications. You can connect with Dover on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Buy It

You can purchase this volume from Amazon.ca. This is my affiliate link, and if you make a purchase after clicking here, I will receive a small commission from Amazon.

Win It

Dover Publications has generously offered a copy of Dumpling Cats as a giveaway to a lucky RMB reader. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 11:59pm EDT, September 10. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only. Best of luck!!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book. No financial compensation was received. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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Getting Crafty with Duct Tape Bags {giveaway}

It’s really amazing the things that can be done with duct tape. Over the past couple of years this tool box staple has become a crafting material of choice, and is available in an ever-growing array of colours and patterns. Boo has acquired a fair collection. He is particularly fond of using narrow, metallic duct tape to make decorative patterns on various belongings. 
Taking this crafting up at least a couple of levels, we have this new book from indie crafter, Richela Fabian Morgan, Duct Tape Bags: 40 Projects for Totes, Clutches, Messenger Bags, and Bowlers. Fabian Morgan began crafting with duct tape 8 years ago, with simple bifold wallets, and has 3 previous duct tape craft books in print. 
This latest volume lays out clear instructions for creating 40 different bags in a variety of sizes and styles. The step-by-step directions are accompanied by photos, making it easy to follow along and feel confident you’re on the right track. Before you get started on any of the projects, an introductory section lay out the basics of working with duct tape and the tools you will need. Specific tutorials walk you through the process of creating your duct tape fabric (the base of any project), and how to attach the three different bag closures required in the projects.
The projects are gorgeous, with easy to follow directions, and beautiful photography. Perfect for all you crafty types – maybe you can even use this to make some wonderful, hand-made bags for holiday gifting?

Get Social

You can connect with Richela Fabian Morgan and see what she’s up to on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

The Giveaway

One lucky RMB winner will receive their own copy of Duct Tape Bags. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 11:59pm ET, November 26. This giveaway is open to both Canadian and US residents. Best of luck!!!

Entry-Form

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book. No financial compensation was received, and all opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

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Keep Cool This Summer with Hamilton Beach’s DrinkMaster {giveaway}

I’ve always loved a good milk shake, and so do all of my boys. We’ve traditionally used a blender for these icy treats, but I’ve got a new appliance on my counter this summer. The Hamilton Beach DrinkMaster Classic Chrome combines gorgeous retro styling with super easy drink preparation. Isn’t it pretty?
The DrinkMaster is quite a simple appliance, with a tilting head, a mixing spindle that pops easily in and out, and two speeds. The 28 oz stainless steel mixing cup rests in special supports on the machine for safe and easy mixing. You may need to hold the cup and spin it manually for thicker drink mixes though.
You can use this for mixing milk shakes, protein drinks, and more. We’ve been focused on the milkshakes though, which have been great with our recent hot summer weather. What I especially like is how much easier the clean-up is with the DrinkMaster than with our usual blender method. Cleaning in around the blender blades can be a pain, but this spindle needs little more than a rinse.
This was a first shake I made. 4 scoops vanilla ice cream, 1/2 cup of milk, a good squirt of chocolate sauce, and a handful of frozen cherries (defrosted). We topped it with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry, and there was enough for three glasses. The cherries weren’t completely incorporated, but their flavour came through and the pieces easily came through the straws. 
A recipe booklet is included, so you can follow those or just throw in the ingredients that most appeal to you.
Here’s one I made specially for me 🙂

Momma’s Icy Mocha

Combine:
2 scoops chocolate ice cream
1/4 cup cold coffee
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 oz Kahlua

Mix at high speed in the HB DrinkMaster until smooth.
Pour into a large glass and top with Gay Lea Coconut Whipped Cream.
Enjoy!

Honestly, I’m a little worried about my waistline now that this is on my counter. It is super easy and quick to whip up these frozen drinks, and Boo keeps asking for them too. I see a yummy summer ahead!

The HB DrinkMaster Classic Chrome is available at Home Outfitters, MSRP $67.99.

A Giveaway

Because we want you to stay cool this summer too, one lucky RMB reader will receive their own Hamilton Beach DrinkMaster. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 11:59pm EDT, July 13, 2016. Giveaway open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec. Best of luck!

Entry-Form

Disclosure: I received complimentary review product to test out with my family. No financial compensation has been received. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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American Standard’s Speed-Connect Faucets – A DIY Dream! #RMBReno {review & giveaway}

I feel like we’ve been in a pretty constant state of renovations for the past year. It started with Hubs wanting to tear down a wall in the basement and create a man cave of video gamer and musician dreams. That meant the living room was turned into the family room, complete with a sound system, and speakers hung from the ceiling. Then we went completely nuts and hired contractors to come in and do the kitchen. (Love the final product!!) Of course, there’s still this vain hope that one day I’ll finish turning my grown step-son’s bedroom into a functional home office, but for now I work in there surrounded by boxes and bins and unopened gallons of paint. One Day.

The thing is, once you start renovating it’s hard to stop. You finish your kitchen, and suddenly your bathroom looks so very shoddy. Bathroom done? The wall colour in the master bedroom is so 1992, and the lighting is terrible, so on you go. I doesn’t help when the contractor who did your kitchen keeps pointing out things they could work on next, if only you’d toss the cash his way. But I digress.

Once the kitchen was done we did start looking at the bathroom upstairs. It’s all grey fixtures and grey tile and could definitely use an update. It’s also super tiny, so we spent some time looking for a vanity we could fit in there to replace the horrible, grey pedestal sink. And then, in a moment of serendipity, I got an email asking if I’d like to review one of American Standard’s Speed-Connect Faucets. So I guess the reno was meant to be!

We had decided to go DIY on the bathroom to save some cash, and, well, because I enjoy DIY. This line of faucets is perfect for a DIY lover as they really are quite simple to connect. They come with just 4 parts as opposed to the typical faucet installation with 14, and word is they install in one third the time. Having not installed a regular faucet recently I can’t specifically confirm that, but I can say installation basically involved placing the escutcheon plate, dropping the hoses down through, tightening a washer underneath, and screwing the hoses on to the water supplies. Done and done.

Times Square Monoblock Faucet
The faucet comes with this small plate as well as a larger one in case you need to cover a three-hole set-up.

Our new faucet is the Times Square Monoblock Faucet. I fell for the sleek, modern look. The lines and monoblock structure make it a great choice for a small space as well. Not having the hot and cold taps on the sides means less visual noise, and it looks great on the super slim vanity and sink we found.

Times Square Monoblock Faucet

This faucet is all metal construction, with a ceramic disc valve cartridge for smooth operation and no drips. It really moves like a dream. And there’s a hot limit safety stop built in that limits the amount of hot water allowed to mix with cold – super feature for families with young kids!

How did our installation go? Well, the first step was getting the old faucet off, and that was actually a big deal. I had to bring in reinforcements (Hubs) because I simply couldn’t loosen the nuts, screws, or anything. Also, our old sink was very awkward to get in under and there wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver a wrench. The whole process of getting the old faucet and sink out and new vanity in took way more time than thought it would and delayed the new faucet installation, but we got there. Just something to keep in mind as you plan your own renovations.

As I mentioned above, installing the new faucet was beyond easy. The most difficult part was tightening the washer underneath to keep it stable. And that wasn’t difficult at all, just a little tricky to position the wrench correctly to get at it. And that’s a comment on the shape of the sink underneath, not the faucet itself. The flexible supply lines and the stainless steel drain cable are pre-assembled to the faucet, so that saves three connection steps (and time) right away.

We did have some trouble with the drain installation though. The concept is very straightforward, and the drain itself was easy enough and sealed perfectly just by tightening the top and bottom pieces together. Our difficulty was with the stopper. For some reason we couldn’t immediately get it to connect to the lever mechanism the lifts it up and down. I’m not sure what we were doing wrong, but we got it after a couple of tries.

Times Square Monoblock Faucet
Isn’t she pretty?

Bottom line, I would recommend this line of faucets for any DIY bathroom or kitchen reno. Great quality and easy to install. A new faucet adds a whole new look to your bathroom (or kitchen!) It’s available in both Polished Chrome and Brushed Nickel finishes.

You can connect with American Standard on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

A Giveaway

I love my new faucet and how easy it was to install, and American Standard and I would love for you to experience one of their Speed-Connect Faucets for yourself! One lucky RMB reader will receive their choice of one of the following faucets from this collection! The value of the faucets ranges from $239 to $425. Winner will choose one of:

·         Times Square Monoblock Faucet
·         Fluent Monoblock Faucet
·         Fluent Centreset Faucet
·         Town Square Monoblock Faucet

Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 11:59pm EDT, May 23. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec. Best of luck!

Disclosure: I received complimentary product to facilitate this review. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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10 Tips for the Garage Sale Shopper #LeonsGarageSale

I recently shared 10 Tips for holding a successful garage sale, and today I want to follow up with 10 tips for successfully shopping the garage sale. I’ve got a fair bit of experience in this area; I’ve been an avid garage sale fan since I was a teenager. And my home in my late 20s was almost exclusively furnished and decorated with garage sale and thrift store finds. Just because one person is done with something does not mean that it doesn’t hold lots of life still for another owner, and garage sales are great places to find super deals on unique items. This is one of my favourite ways to spend a summer Saturday morning.

Of course sometimes your finds need a little extra love before they find their place in your home. Since DIY is another love of mine, that’s pure bonus. I’m particularly fond of this one. I spied this rusty, stained. metal bar stand at a church sale. They were asking $2!!! How could I resist? A little cleaning, sanding, and spray paint, and I now have a beautiful, bright rolling table on my back deck.

Isn’t it pretty? The teapot is a garage sale find as well.
You can check out the full DIY in this post. This was a really easy and quick project with great results. Always keep an open mind and focus on the bones of an item, not its current cosmetics. Think how you could transform it to become the perfect item for you. DIY is so satisfying!

Garage Sale Tips

Thinking of heading out to the sales? Here are a few tips from me to you, to help you make the most of your garage sale shopping experience.

  1. Be prepared to bargain, but don’t be cheap. You’ll only insult the seller, and that will shut down negotiations quickly.
  2. But don’t quibble over a 25 cent item. Just pay it.
  3. Buy in bulk for deeper discounts. If you want a number of items from one seller, you can usually get a bundled cost. The price tags may add up to $11.50, but offer $10. Sellers usually just want to clear things out.
  4. Take your time. Sort through items to find the treasures. Look with your hands. And keep an open mind – what might this become?
  5. Be polite! Don’t call things junk, even if they are. Firstly, it’s just rude. Secondly, it’s not going to get you anywhere with negotiations.
  6. Decide on a budget and bring only that much with you. 
  7. Bring coins and small bills; not all sellers have a great collection of change on hand. Plus, presenting exact change can help you strike a bargain. “I’ve got $3.25. Is that good for these?”
  8. Bring your own bags and/or a buggy to carry your treasures.
  9. Also good manners – respect the advertised sale times. Early birds showing up an hour before the sale starts, while the family is still setting up = just plain rude. As with any engagement, 10 or 15 minutes early is acceptable, but be respectful of the sellers’ time.
  10. And a final note on timing – go early in the sale for the best selection, late in the sale for the best deals. You will likely find sellers more willing to negotiate on price the closer they are to facing packing everything up and trying to figure out what to do with it all now.

#LeonsGarageSale

Coming this weekend, July 31-August 3, Leon’s is hosting Canada’s Largest Garage Sale at their locations across the country. Come on out for great deals on new merchandise for your home! Plus there will be food and refreshments from local vendors and FREE LEMONADE!

A Giveaway

To celebrate their garage sale, Leon’s is offering up the chance to win a $150 gift card for their store. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until August 3rd 2015 at 11:59 PM. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec. Best of luck!
Leons Garage Sale

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Leon’s. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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Happy Father’s Day! #PGMom #ThanksBaby {Giveaway}

I’ve always been Daddy’s little girl. You might say I was spoiled by him, but I prefer to say loved. Look how happy he is in this (ancient) picture, holding me in his arms. And see how I am cuddling in to him, and peeking out cheekily. I think this shows the beginnings of me getting him wrapped around my little finger. Ha!

father and baby daughter

Dad recently had a minor stroke, and he’s spending a few weeks in a rehab hospital retraining his leg to listen to his brain. Or his brain to talk to his leg. or however that works. He’s making great progress and is in good spirits, but I hate that I am so far away, especially on Father’s Day.

father and toddlers in boat
Out in the boat with Daddy

My Dad taught me so many things over the years, like the value of hard work, but not working so hard you forget to enjoy life. How to check my oil and top it up, boost a car or replace the battery when needed, hammer a nail, use power tools, and how to mix a decent drink. He tried to teach me how to bait a hook, but I only ever did it once, to prove I could.  He did teach me how to fish though, and always removed the fish from the hook for me.

I love my Daddy and wish I could be with him this Father’s Day. I’ll be thinking of him though, and sending lots of healing vibes his way.  And I’ll spend Father’s Day with the equally great father of my boys, making new memories for them. Hmm. I wonder if he wants me to cook for him, or if we can take him out instead? I guess I’ll have to ask! It’s Dad’s day after all, and he gets to make the choices.

In honour of Father’s Day I’m sharing this sweet video with you. Pampers swaddled my bum when I was wee, and then Boo’s as well. They know babies, and they know how babies change us. Your heart will fill watching these dads and their special little darlings. Enjoy, and Happy Father’s Day!

A Giveaway

In honour of all those babies making daddies, one lucky reader will receive a prize pack valued at approximately $50 and including Pampers diapers and wipes, plus a bottle of Ivory Snow to keep those baby clothes soft and clean. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 12:00 midnight EDT, July 5. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only. Best of luck!

Entry-Form

Disclosure: I am a P&Gmom. As part of my affiliation with this group I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

P&G has only provided me with the product that I am using as the prizes for this contest. The contest is not otherwise endorsed, designed and/or administered by or associated with P&G. By entering the following contest you are accepting that, if you win, your contact information will be shared with a P&G PR and shipping agency for the purpose of mailing your prize. Please allow 4-6 weeks from the contest closure date to receive your prize. This giveaway may appear on other blogs as part of the #PGmom/#mamanPG program. However, to be fair, you can only win once per giveaway. If your name is chosen more than once, another winner will be selected. All winners must be resident within Canada.

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Keep Working Hands Feeling Soft & Healthy with Crabtree & Evelyn {review & giveaway}

I spent the vast majority of the long weekend in my garden, digging and weeding and planting. Over the next few months I will continue to spend every moment possible out there digging in the dirt. My garden is my happy place. But that happy place can really do a number on my hands. Forget manicures! These hands work hard, and I’m lucky I can keep even short nails, let alone pretty polish. I often don’t even wear my gardening gloves, particularly when I’m weeding. The gloves make it harder to feel for and grip the smaller weeds.

Digging and pulling and scraping and drying out my hands in the soil leads to the need for lots of hand washing, which can also be very drying for the skin and nails. If I were more vain about my hands I guess I wouldn’t garden at all, but as it is I just look for quality products to help me combat the worst of my offenses. And I’ve had great success with Crabtree & Evelyn. They have a line of liquid soaps, creams, and treatments specifically for gardeners.

The Gardeners collection is ideal for hands in need of a little tender loving care. Gardeners hand care is blended with natural ingredients and botanical extracts inspired by an English herb garden with notes of rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme and oak moss. They smell so fresh!

I’ve used the Gardeners Hand Therapy in previous years and love the rich, silky feel of the cream. Ingredients include macadamia nut oil and shea butter for a luxurious treatment that soaks in quickly, leaving hands feeling soft and nourished. The Gardeners Liquid Hand Soap combines soothing herbal extracts like alfalfa, carrot root and chicory leaf to deliver gentle cleansing and conditioning, as well as naturally deodorising sage, rosemary and cucumber. I keep these two next to the kitchen sink so I can wash and moisturise each time I come in from the garden, as well as to give my hands a treat after washing the dishes. You don’t have to be a gardener to appreciate this duo!

The Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Duo comes ready to gift, in this gorgeous botanical box. You can purchase online or in-store, and it retails for $40 CDN. I’m currently using the box on my desk, holding note cards and pens. It’s too pretty not to keep out on display!

A Giveaway

One lucky Raising My Boys reader will receive their own Gardener’s Duo gift package, including the hand soap and hand cream, in this beautiful box. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 12:00 midnight EDT, June 5. Giveaway is open to both US and Canadian residents. Best of luck!

Disclosure: I received complimentary product to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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Holiday Entertaining with Black Diamond Cheese Spread #spreadyourflavour {giveaway}

Do you love to entertain over the holidays? I do, but never seem to do enough of it. Once my house is decorated, all I want to do is show it off and enjoy the company of friends and family. A roaring fire in the fireplace, a sparkling Christmas tree, and holiday treats for all. There’s always a tray of cookies on the table, just in case anyone drops in, but when I’m planning a gathering I do put some thought into a variety of both sweet and savoury snacks to have on hand. The key thing for me is that my offerings be both delicious and easy to prepare.

An old friend used to say that any recipe that required more than three steps was just too much work. We mocked her of course, but she wan’t far wrong. Life is busy, and what I really want to do is enjoy time with my guests, not stress about getting everything ready for their arrival (or continue preparations after they’re here!)

I have a new tool in my arsenal this year – Black Diamond Cheese Spreads. This new product takes the great taste of Black Diamond Cheese and puts it into a spreadable, dippable, mixable format. Available in four different flavours; Original, Original Light, Sharp and White Original, these are fresh dairy products with a creamy texture and less sodium content compared to other spreads.

We’ve been enjoying the Sharp variety spread on salted crackers for a snack in the evenings with a glass of wine. Hubs and I both enjoy the flavour as it has a bit of tangyness that is nicely accented by the salt. The cheese spreads really easily, so you don’t break your cracker getting it on.

Of course, cheese and crackers can be dressed up for entertaining as well. Why not try White Original on a bagel crisp with a slice of cucumber? Or try using these spreads in your favourite cheesy appetizer recipes. The Black Diamond website has a great selection of yummy-looking recipes, including main courses as well as appetizers. There’s even a recipe for Cheese and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast. My boys would love this for a special brunch on Christmas Day. I’ll be pulling out the Bacon, Cheddar & Salsa Dip for entertaining, and I think we’ll have the Chipotle Cheddar Pasta Crumble (read – fancy, grown-up mac & cheese) one night next week.

I’m getting very hungry now.

You can get both hungry and inspired too if you head on over to SpreadItDipIt.ca find more unique and different recipes and ideas on how to use the product. Or just pick some up and use your imagination!

A Giveaway

One lucky Raising My Boys reader will win a $150 Black Diamond Cheese Spread prize pack, including product coupons, a cheese tray, bread bowl, spreaders, oven mitts, and more. Entries are via the Rafflecopter widget below and will be accepted until 12:00 midnight EST, December 19. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received my own gift basket to facilitate my review and thank me for hosting this giveaway. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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Holiday Baking: Shortbread Bliss with Gay Lea {Giveaway}

Gay Lea Shortbread Bliss
This weekend I’m starting my holiday baking. I get all happy homemaker this time of year and really enjoy donning my Christmas apron and baking up a storm of treats, both old family recipes and new favourites. Among my recipes are a few for different shortbreads. For me, shortbread is the ultimate Christmas cookie.

This year Gay Lea Butter, the shortbread experts, created a number of tasty new shortbread treats, including this recipe for Winter Wonderland Shortbread Snowmen, which includes both baking and crafting. These would be a fun activity to enjoy with the kids on a snowy afternoon. And then of course you’d get to eat your finished sweet treats.

Winter Wonderland Shortbread Snowmen
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups softened Gay Lea Unsalted Butter 375 mL
3/4 cup icing sugar (plus extra for decorating) 175 mL
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 7 mL
1/2 tsp salt 2 mL
3 cups all-purpose flour 750 mL
Mini chocolate chips, gum drops,
licorice whips, jelly beans, fruit
leather etc.
Instructions:
Line 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat butter with icing sugar, vanilla and salt until fluffy. Add flour and mix well.
(Chill if needed until easy to handle)
Measure level 2 tbsp (30 mL) portions into 8 balls for snowman bases; arrange on
prepared baking sheet. Measure level 1 tbsp (15 mL) and 2 tsp (10 mL) portions
respectively for 8 bellies and 8 heads of snowmen. Arrange on baking sheets. Chill
dough balls for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In batches, bake largest balls for 18 minutes,
medium balls for 15 minutes and smallest balls for 12 minutes or until balls are
golden on the bottom and set. Cool completely. Roll in icing sugar to coat. Create a
paste using additional icing sugar and water (see tip); use to stack and assemble
balls into a snowman shape. Decorate as desired with candies.
Makes about 8 snowmen.
Preparation Time: 90 minutes (plus chilling)
Tip:
Easy Icing Sugar Glue: Stir 6 tbsp (90 mL) icing sugar with 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL)
water. Spoon a small dab between balls to assemble snowmen. Use toothpicks
to help paste on small items such as chocolate chip eyes and buttons.
  

Make sure to check out www.gaylea.com/shortbreadbliss2013 for even more recipes, expert baking tips and the chance to win daily and grand prizes.

A Giveaway

Gay Lea Butter is offering a gift basket to help one of my lucky readers make their own Shortbread Snowmen. This prize includes:

  • All the snowmen decorating ingredients (gum drops, chocolate chips, jelly beans, coconut, liquorice whips and leather) 
  • Gay Lea cookbook and snowman recipe card 
  • Apron 
  • Oven mitts
  • 2 vouchers for Gay Lea butter 
  • Reusable basket
Entries are via the Rafflecopter widget below and will be accepted until 12:00 midnight EST, December 7. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway