Support Our Troops with Marie Callender’s Comforts from Home Project

I have been selected by Tap Influence to be a spokesperson for Marie Callender’s.  While I have been compensated for my time, my opinions are my own.

I bet you’re already familiar with the delicious Marie Callender’s meals offered in your grocer’s freezer section.  Homemade meals and desserts, high quality ingredients, and the chance to slow down and enjoy a meal with your family without all the prep work?  That’s a win in my book any day.

Comforts From Home ProjectWhat are your comforts from home?  Mine would be Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house.  It’s a day filled with family, good food, naps in recliners, television, more food, board games, and good conversations filled with laughter and love.  It’s so special to us, and I know your family probably has traditions of your own that bring the same comfort to you year after year.  Unfortunately, for service members serving overseas, finding that kind of comfort away from home can be difficult at best.  With Thanksgiving and the holidays approaching, it can feel ever harder.  That’s why Marie Callender’s is launching the Comforts from Home Project this fall, which will help bring the comforts of home to those serving our country.

There are two great parts to Comforts from Home.  First, there is the chance for you to participate!  Every time you buy a Marie’s meal marked with the special Support Our Troops packaging, you can enter the meal’s code and Marie’s will make a donation to USO2GO, a USO program that brings electronics, sports gear, books, games, and more to troops stationed in remote locations.

Marie Callender's Codes

Second, Marie’s is hosting a television special called A Hero’s Welcome.  This heartwarming special will air on Veteren’s Day, November 11, 2014.  You can find the hour-long special on many of your favorite networks, including HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, DIY Channel, and Great American Country.  A Hero’s Welcome will be hosted by Robert Irvine from Restaurant Impossible, Genevieve Gorder from HGTV Design Star, and award-winning actor Gary Sinise, who also created the Gary Sinise Foundation.

A Hero's Welcome

Whether or not you’ve ever had a loved one serve overseas, I know you’ll want to help give our service men and women the Comforts from Home this holiday season.  Don’t forget to enter your codes from specially marked packaging so Marie’s can provide donations to the USO, and watch the heartwarming A Hero’s Welcome special airing on Veteran’s Day, November 11th.  Visit to learn more about the project.  You can also follow Marie’s on Facebook.

Tune-in as Marie Callender’s, the USO, and an army of experts from food, home, and travel provide the comforts of home as only Marie Callender’s can, in a truly heartwarming homecoming you’ll always remember.

“A Hero’s Welcome” will welcome one special soldier back to his or her family in a national television event airing on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2014.  The one-hour TV special will air across a range of your favorite networks, including HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, DIY Channel, and Great American County.

I have been selected by Tap Influence to be a spokesperson for Marie Callender’s.  While I have been compensated for my time, my opinions are my own.

Uncorked Ventures: An Adventure in Wine Delivered to Your Door

Complimentary samples were received to facilitate this review, but all opinions are 100% my own.

At the end of a long, stressful day (some people call it Tuesday), I enjoy unwinding with a nice glass of wine.  On those rare occasions when I get to prepare a nice meal at home for myself and my husband, a glass of wine is what I typically like to pair it with.  I try to keep a few bottles on hand for these moments, but sometimes I open my cabinet to find it grievously bare.  This happens because I don’t have a lot of time to shop for these things (in NJ, we have to make a special trip to a liquor store), and when I do, I never buy enough because I never know what to buy.  It would be nice if I could get good recommendations from a store employee, but I’ve found that most of them are clueless, so I’ve stopped trying.

Uncorked Ventures

The Exploration Wine Club from Uncorked Ventures has been a fabulous little solution to my dilemma.  Uncorked Ventures is a family business operated by food and wine lovers (and brothers-in-law) Matt Krause and Mark Aselstine.  These two spend their timing traveling around wine country where they develop relationships with top winemakers.  The result is that they are able to give their customers access to the best wines from California, Washington, and Oregon.

This particular wine club features one red and one white per shipment, but you can request only one or the other if you like.  Either way, you’ll be sent wine rated at 90 or more points.  Many of these wines come from small artisan producers whose wines are not widely available, so some of them haven’t even made it into the hands of wine critics, but you’ll always be getting high quality selections.

Let’s take a look at the two wines they sent me.

Sola Chardonnay

I generally prefer reds over whites, but I’ve found myself choosing white a lot more often than I used to.  It’s more refreshing during warmer weather, but it also effects me less the morning after.  The weather around here hasn’t exactly been warm lately, but I always have to worry about the morning after, so I sampled the 2013 Sola Chardonnay first.  White wines are often just too sweet for me, even the ones that I’m told are supposed to be dry.  This wine is described as having a “lightly toasted almond, slightly creamy citrus finish”, and I have to agree.  It’s not too sweet, but it is most definitely delicious.  Part of me wants to see if I can get my hands on more of this, but part of me is really excited to see what other white wines Uncorked Ventures might surprise me with instead.  I never thought I’d get so excited over white wine!

Mercy Pinot Noir

The red bottle in my shipment was the 2010 Mercy Pinot Noir.  SMOOTH.  I admit that I am partial to Pinot Noir, but this really is a very good one.  You can taste the red raspberry and black cherry here, but it’s silky and soft and not too sweet.  I’ll have a second bottle please.  A third wouldn’t be turned down either.

The Explorations Wine Club is their lowest-priced at $40 per shipment, and they also have a Special Selections and a Reserve Selections clubs if you want to be even more adventurous.  Each club offers several options for the frequency of deliveries, from once per month to a one-time shipment.  Other benefits of membership include a monthly newsletter and discounts on reorders.

Uncorked Ventures has been a really great find.  Not only are they doing all the work for me, but they’re bringing me options I can’t get at my local stores.  It’s a delicious adventure in a box, and I look forward to embarking upon more of them in the future.

A wine club shipment from Uncorked Ventures would be a great holiday gift, don’t you think?  In my opinion, experiences and consumables make the best gifts, no matter what the occasion; they’re fun and clutter-free.  This one definitely makes my own Christmas Wish List.  And would it be too much to ask to be able to trick or treat for this on Halloween too?  Chocolate is wonderful, but I’ll take wine over chocolate any day.

To learn more about their wine clubs, visit Uncorked Ventures.  You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Interview with David Benoit & A Charlie Brown Christmas Giveaway!

When you’re watching a TV show or a movie, you tend to focus on the characters and the storyline, and sometimes the accompanying music doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves.  It can’t be denied, however, that the right notes can set the tone of a story and evoke strong emotional responses.  There is no end to my admiration of people who can create that kind of magic, so you can imagine how delighted I was to be part of an interview with David Benoit, contemporary jazz pianist and composer and the musical heir to original Peanuts composer Vince Guaraldi.

Since becoming the official Peanuts composer, David has given us some great releases, including Here’s To You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years and the star-studded 40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas.  In the interview below, he shares with us how he became connected to Peanuts, what he loves about it, and what exciting things he’s bringing us in the future.


Peanuts Christmas

When did your passion for Peanuts and the Peanuts music begin? 

When I started reading strip at 8 years old; this was in the ’60s. I followed it very closely every day. Then I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas—we all gathered around the TV to watch it. It’s been a lifelong thing.

What was it about music and the brand that appealed to you so much? 

Well, it was Charlie Brown and he was a loser! He was depressed a lot, and I was having a childhood like that myself[laughs]. I related to him, and felt I had a kindred spirit out there. Then the music was jazz and piano and upbeat and fun—I got hooked on it right away.

What was your favorite piece of Peanuts music? 

Of course, Linus and Lucy is the most popular one. I like Christmastime Is Here, that’s still one of my all-time favorites. Another one I like wasn’t written for Charlie Brown Christmas, it was written for a documentary on Charles Schulz—it’s a piece called Pebble Beach. A lot of hardcore fans will know that one.

What is it about A Charlie Brown Christmas and its music—what would the special be like without the music? 

It wouldn’t have quite the same charm and appeal. It’s a perfect marriage. You can’t imagine one without the other. It must have been fate that brought Vince Guaraldi to Lee Mendelson. I know from writing original music for Peanuts, Vince Guaraldi was always the reference point.

So you feel jazz is the right genre for Peanuts music? 

I do. The kids are very sophisticated, their emotions, their vocabulary. Peanuts was one of first strips to do that—to have kids speaking intelligently, expressing deep emotions. Jazz, because of its sophistication, seemed to work very well.

After Vince Guaraldi died, they tried using other composers; many of them, like Judy Munson, were very good. But she approached it from traditional cartoon composing, and it wasn’t the same. Upbeat jazz just hit a spark. They were looking for another jazz pianist to start writing music, that’s how they found me.

What makes the Linus and Lucy theme so memorable? 

It’s one of those immediately recognizable motifs—you’ve got the left hand movement, then the right hand comes in, and it’s highly syncopated. It just gets everybody happy. The power of music.

Why has the special remained so beloved? 

It might be the simplicity in its message, that Christmas has become so commercial. It’s so simple and heartfelt. It has the makings of a classic because it’s so simple and so heartwarming.

Can you elaborate on your professional connection to Peanuts and how that came about? 

I had recorded Linus and Lucy on a record called This Side Up. At that time, no one had ever covered it. I did it, then it opened up a new group of fans. I also recorded Christmastime Is Here on an album called Christmastime. Lee Mendelson’s wife, Debbie, said, “Lee, you should check out David Benoit.” And he and I hit it off. It was one of those magical relationships that really worked. They were trying out several other jazz musicians, Dave Grusin, Dave Brubeck, George Winston,Wynton Marsalis, and me. We just clicked. Not long after that I became the official composer, but it wasn’t official until I met Sparky. That’s what you called Mr. Schulz because that’s what he asked you to call him. But it took me a while to get used to that!

What’s next for you? 

I’m working on my first all-vocal album. We’re talking with an artist named Jane Monheit, getting the songs ready for that. I’m getting ready to do a tour of The Music of Charlie Brown, starting in December and going all across the country. You can find the dates and cities on my website,

Who is your favorite Peanuts character? 

It’s Charlie Brown. However, I think Schroeder would have to be a close second! That would tell the whole story about me. I like Snoopy, but I’m not hip enough,not quite that cool.

For the Christmas tribute to Charlie Brown, how do you decide what songs to play, and how long is the set? 

It’s about an hour and a half. Many songs come from that show, but we also play a few traditional Christmas songs. And I play a few of my own compositions for audience to hear the other side of me. There’s a pretty good variety of stuff. It’s a fun show.


I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty big fan of all things Charlie Brown, but I have to admit that I’m not familiar with Pebble Beach.  Guess I’m going to have to look that one up!  I can’t wait to find out what other Peanuts-related music I might have been missing out on.

Ready for another great Peanuts giveaway?

Decoration is the name of the game at holiday time—and with this month’s festive giveaways, you can decorate your home and yourself! First, give your nails the Halloween spirit with these adorable Great Pumpkin–themed nail polishes from OPI. Then make your holiday home even more adorable with this miniature Peanuts ornament. And you’ve got the perfect soundtrack for your tree-trimming party, courtesy of this month’s interview subject, jazz musician and Peanuts composer David Benoit, whose classic CD, 40 Years of a Charlie Brown Christmas, offers Benoit’s gorgeous take on the music we all love so much.

Giveaway is open to US residents who are 18 and older.  Ends 11/11/14.  Good luck!

Charlie Brown Christmas Prize Pack [Read more...]

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Get Peace of Mind with 3D Mammography.

This post is brought to you by iColor Studio.  All opinions are 100% my own.

As you probably know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we’d like to take this opportunity to talk about early detection and screening.  I know, nobody really likes to talk about mammograms.  They’re not exactly anyone’s idea of a fun day out, and they remind us of scary things we may someday face.

But they’re so important.   And with new 3D mammography technology (also known as tomosynthesis), there are even more reasons to get them.


South Jersey Radiology


Let’s talk about a few common concerns about mammography, as misinformation and misunderstanding can be deterrents to life-saving exams.

For example, some women have been afraid that the radiation involved in a mammogram could end up being harmful rather than helpful.  But research shows that we tend to overestimate the amount of radiation.  Additionally, the radiation dose used in digital mammography is significantly lower than that of conventional film mammography–22% lower! (Statistics taken from:

Another common concern is the fear of false positives and being called back for more tests.  With 3D mammography, you get a more precise and sensitive test, and the risk of call-backs is reduced up to 15%.  Tomosynthesis can also find significantly more cancers than traditional mammography.

If you are in the New Jersey area, you may be interested to know that South Jersey Radiology Associates (SJRA) is the first site in the region to offer 3D mammography.  Not only that, but SJRA Women’s Centers have been designated as Breast Imaging Centers of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.  There are multiple locations throughout New Jersey, and you can find them all at their website.  You can also learn more about SJRA and 3D digital tomosynthesis mammography here.

There is still time left in October.  If you’re due for a mammogram and you haven’t made an appointment, maybe now is the time to consider it?  And don’t forget to remind all the wonderful women in your life that mammograms are an important part of early detection.   We want to make sure that every mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece, and wife know exactly how much they’re loved and that that their health is of the utmost importance.  Please join us this Breast Cancer Awareness Month in sharing this information.

$50 PayPal or Amazon Gift Code Flash Giveaway!

Flash Giveaway

We have a special treat for you this weekend:  a flash giveaway for your choice of $50 PayPal payment or Amazon gift code!

Yes, I said FLASH giveaway, so you only have THREE days to enter.

We’ve made it super easy to enter this one; just use the Giveaway Tools form below.

Remember, this giveaway is only open for 3 days; it ends at 11:59 PM on 10/26/2014, so make sure you enter now!  Don’t forget to tell your friends so they can enter too!

Good Luck! [Read more...]