Sunday, March 20, 2011

Digornio Pizza & Hoops Party Review & Wrapup

Thanks to House Party and Digiorno, I received a great party kit to kick off March Madness.
Included in the party kit were coupons for six FREE Digiorno Pizzas, coupons for $4 off one Digiornio Pizza to hand out to guests, Noisemakers, Wipes, a Pizza Cutter & Oven Mitt, a Spatula, a Cute Basketball Oven Timer, Digiorno Paper Plates, a Basketball Hoop & Ball with Score Sheet, and Nametags for all.

We had the House Party on Saturday, March 19, in the afternoon at my sister's house.  Guests arrived sporadically, but all in all, eight guests attended.  We got a chance to try some of the new Digiorno varieties like Pizza and Breadsticks and Pizza with Wyngz.  We really wanted to try the Pizza with Cookies, but they didn't have that variety at my local grocery store.  We used the name labels in the party kit to give everyone basketball names.  I was "Set-Up Cheryl", my sister was "Layup Lynnette", hubby was "Crossover Kelley", my 3-year old daughter was "Traveling Tessa" and my 1.5 month old niece got into the action with the nametag "MVP Melissa".

Everyone enjoyed both the Pizza with Breadsticks and the the Pizza with Wings.  Personally, my favorite was the Cheese Stuffed Crust Five Cheese Pizza!  We tried an Ultimate Toppings Meat Lovers Pizza and Tuscan Style Chicked Crispy Flatbread Crust Pizza as well.  Everyone agreed the pizza was great!

We played a few rounds of Basketball with the ball and hoop included in the party kit, with the winners taking home an extra coupon.  Everyone had fun, but I think my 3 year old daughter had the most fun throwing the basketball (although she didn't seem to care whether she threw it at the hoop or not, so long as she through the ball).

Here are a few pictures from the house party:

First pizzas out of the oven before devouring them:

Here we are chowing down on delcious pizza:

Shooting a few hoops:
Add caption

He's too good!

Here is my 3-year old apologizing to my 1.5 month- old niece after nearly hitting her with the basketball:

And Tessa getting a bit of help from her daddy to make a basket:

Digiorno Pizza is a Slam-Dunk, Daddy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Review: Purex Complete with Zout

Thanks to the Purex Insiders Program and Purex, I received a bottle of the New Purex Complete with Zout to sample.  Purex Complete with Zout combines the cleaning strength of Purex liquid laundry detergent with the triple-stain-fighting action of Zout pretreater.  Purex Complete with Zout fights stains using three power stain-removing enzymes: Protease, which works against protein-based stains like grass & blood, Amylase, which works against starch-based stains like chocolate & tomato, and Mannanase, which works against guar, a common thickener in foods like ice cream, sauce, and dressing.

Purex Complete with Zout is an innovative product because it can be used as a regular detergent for normal loads, can be used to spot treat tough stains, and can be added extra to heavily soiled loads.

In the short time since I received this sample, I had an opportunity to try it out quite a bit (owing to the fact that I always spill & stain things).  This detergent removed gross stains from hard water around curtains in a window air conditioner unit in the garage that probably hadn't been washed in three years!  I didn't even use any special treatment; as it happened, hubby had spontaneously decided to redo the weather stripping around this AC unit and through the curtains into the wash when I wasn't looking.  Not even knowing they were there, I was doubly shocked to see them spotless for the first time in years!  I also used Purex with Zout to pre-treat both spaghetti sauce and chocolate stains by rubbing some detergent into the fabric, letting it sit five minutes, and then washing the clothes.  Both times, my clothes came out spotless.  It also removed spilled chocolate milk stains from kitchen towels (without pretreatment) and blood from underwear - that time of the month- (with pre-treatment).

I have to say I love this stuff!  It is more economical than buying both a detergent and a stain pretreater and is priced from $3.49 to $7.99 depending on size and retailer.  You can't even buy a lot of normal plain detergents for that price.

Purex Complete with Zout is Available in two scents: Fresh Morning Burst and Free & Clear.  It also works in both traditional and HE washing machines.

Having tried this sample, I am now a convert!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: Johnsonville Italian Sausage

Thanks to SheSpeaks and Johnsonville Sausage, I received coupons to try Johnsonville Italian Sausage links.  I hadn't cooked much with Italian Sausage in the past and was wary of decasing sausage links, but the instruction booklet showed that it was really quite simple to butterfly the sausage and pull off the casing that way.   Johnsonville Italian Sausage comes in four varieties - mild, sweet, hot, and four cheese.

Luckily, the coupons I received came with a few signature recipes, and last Sunday, I cooked my first recipe using Johnsonville Italian Sausage Mild.  I made the signature Johnsonville Italian Meatballs.  The recipe was simple and didn't call for exotic ingredients.  Best of all, the meatballs were cooked in the oven, instead of multi-tasking meat & spaghetti both on the stovetop. The recipe is as follows and can be found on the Johnsonville Italian website

What You nEED

egg, lightly beaten
dry bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese, grated
onion, finely chopped
(19.76 oz.) Johnsonville® Mild Italian Sausage Links


Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, combine the egg, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, milk and onion.
Remove sausage from casings.
Add sausage to the bread crumb mixture and mix well.
Shape into 20 meatballs; arrange on a shallow baking pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through (160°F).
Serve with your favorite sauce and spaghetti.

Sounds simple, and is simple!  Here is what my meatballs looked like before devouring them:

Afterwards, we had a few meatballs left over, and I microwaved them to re-heat them, sliced them in half and mixed them with spaghetti sauce then made Meatball Subs and melted some mozzarella cheese over the meatballs. Those were delicious too!  Hubby couldn't stop raving about this recipe and told me to be sure to keep it, which is better than what he had to say about the last new recipe (none-sausage-related) that I tried out!

Later this month, Johnsonville plans to release new Chicken Sausage with 50% less fat in three delicious flavors - Apple, Chipotle Monterey Jack Cheese, and Three Cheese Italian Style.  Can't wait to try those!  You can also visit the Johnsonville website for coupons, more recipes, and to find locations where the sausage is sold.  I was able to find this product at my local Kroger grocery store and also at SuperTarget Center, both places I regularly shop.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Butterfly in Flame: A Fred Taylor Mystery by Nicholas Kilmer Book Review

A Butterfly in Flame: A Fred Taylor Art MysteryA Butterfly in Flame: A Fred Taylor Art Mystery by Nicholas Kilmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press, I received an e-copy of A Butterfly in Flame: A Fred Taylor Art Mystery by Nicholas Kilmer to review on my Kindle.

I had not read this series previously, and I'll admit, I found the first few chapters somewhat hard to follow, but I stuck with it and eventually got the characters straight and ended up enjoying the book.

Fred Taylor is summoned by his employer, Clayton Reed to meet with two men - Abe Baum, a lawyer, and Parker Stillton.  At issue, is the fate of Stillton Academy, a small art school, hoping for collegiate accreditation by the state.  A male instructor, Morgan Flower, and a female student have gone missing, and the academy wants the student found, especially since her father is the art academy's only significant donor.

Taylor agrees to go undercover as a substitute instructor for Flower's courses, with the further guise that he is also probing into the issue of accreditation for the academy.  It is not long before Taylor sees that the academy's hope for accreditation is a joke, and no one seems overly concerned about the missing instructor or student.  Flower's course seems a joke and Fred soon discovers plans for a posh real estate resort at Stillton in Flower's rooms.  It also seems the acting president, Elizabeth Harmony and the board have cleared the board and academy of dissenters.  It becomes clear that the board wants the academy to fail.

Then, the body of Rodney Somerfest, Harmony's predecessor, is found washed up nude on the beach, and it's clear he came to a violent end.  Fred's boss is secretive but hints that there might be a significant work of art to be found at Stillton academy that he would love to claim.  Fred discovers a postcard with a small piece of artwork he is sure belongs to Albert Bierstadt but could there be a more significant work of Bierstadt's on the academy grounds?

Fred soon finds himself investigating not one murder, but two while trying to pose as a passable teacher.  Can he find the missing instructor and 18-year old student, solve two murders, and discover a hidden piece of art before Stillton Academy is forced to close forever?

I enjoyed this mystery and the pace of the action though it took me awhile to get into the story.  I would read another book in this series.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

Faceless Killers (Wallander #1)Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After recently seeing a view of the BBC productions of the Inspector Wallander Series on Masterpiece Mystery! on my local PBS station, I became intrigued by the plots and thought perhaps the books would read much better than the film, and perhaps I would understand the plot much better in the book (found parts of the story difficult to follow on TV).  I was not disappointed.

I borrowed Faceless Killers (Wallander #1) by Henning Mankell from my local library.  First clue that it was a decent read should have been there was a bit of a waiting list, but finally, my request came in.  I can't believe I haven't read this series sooner, especially given that I am a huge fan of mystery/detective fiction.  Perhaps I was intimidated by the fact that the story takes place in Sweden, a country with which I'm not familiar, but I needn't have worried.

Kurt Wallander is a jaded middle-aged detective, recently separated from his wife of many years, long estranged from his daughter, and trying to cope with his father's rapid decline into senility.

On a cold January morning, an elderly farming couple in the remote village of Lunnarp, Johannes and Maria Lovgren are brutality attacked.  Johannes is dead on the scene and Maria found barely clinging to life, tied to a chair with a noose around her neck. It soon becomes a case of double murder, and before her passing, Maria revives enough to whisper one word, "foreign".

It is the only clue the police have to go on, and a leak reveals to the press that the police are looking for a foreigner, which reveals tensions between the Swedish citizens and refugees seeking political asylum in Sweden.  Soon, refugees are being attacked - fires set, a Somali brutally gunned down.

There is evidence the knot in the noose is foreign but the crime feels personal to Wallander.  He soon learns that Johannes Lovgren was a wealthy man who made money selling horse meat to the Nazis with his father during WWII and that he made a large cash withdrawal just a couple days before his murder.  The cash is nowhere to be found, and it seems robbery was indeed the motive for this murder but who and how remain to be seen.  In addition, it is revealed that Lovgren kept a mistress who bore his child and that it is a tightly guarded secret but that he regularly spent more money on his mistress than his wife, keeping the fortune and investments he made during WWII a secret from his wife.

Wallander becomes obsessed with solving the crime before more random acts of violence erupt among the refugees and bring Sweden's anti-immigration activists to more violence.  The crime is dogged by dead ends, and at times, Wallander feels hopeless, but eventually, and with dogged determination, he is able to crack the case.

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Purex Complete Crystals Softener Review

As part of the Purex Insiders program, I received a sample and coupon for a free bottle of Purex Complete Crystals Softener.  They are a fabric softener made by a trusted (and economical laundry brand - Purex) and work differently than other fabric softeners on the market.  You do not have to add them to the rinse cycle or deal with a fabric softener ball; instead, you add the crystals directly to the laundry at the start of the cycle, no balls, no hassle.  You can measure out different amounts of crystals based on laundry size but I was skeptical if they would work as well as my traditional fabric softener especially on large loads or on towels.  I have used up my sampe bottle, and it works great, even a large load of bath towels came out of the dryer remarkably soft and smelling fresh. The crystals dissolved completely in the laundry and left no residue on my clothes and are much less messy to use than liquid fabric softener.

Purex Complete Crystals are available in three scents - Fresh Spring Waters, Lavender Blossom, and Tropical Splash.  I have not tried the Tropical Fresh Scent but the Fresh Spring Waters & Lavender Blossom scents work great, and I love that the crystals seem to keep clothes smelling fresh longer than my traditional fabric softener.  In addition, the crystals are made with 92% natural ingredients.

Purex Crystals Softener

You can download a coupon for Purex Crystals Softener on the Purex Facebook Page after liking Purex on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dead Is Not an Option by Marlene Perez Book Review

Dead Is Not An Option (Dead Is, #5)Dead Is Not An Option by Marlene Perez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Press, I received an advance e-copy of the book Dead Is Not an Option by Marlene Perez to review.  

The town of Nightshade is like no other - populated by paranormals such as vampires, werewolves, psychics, and ghosts as well as humans.  Mostly, the citizens get along, and for more than 50 years a truce has been formed between the Weres and the Vamps and has held up.  However, the Scourge seek to rid the town of all paranormals and are up to their old tricks.

Psychic part-time sleuth Daisy Giordano is finishing up her senior year at Nightshade High.  She is fretting over her lack of college acceptance letters, but doing her best to put on a cheerful face as she works her part-time job at Slim's diner and hangs out with her Were boyfriend Ryan Mendez, son of Nightshade's chief of police.  Ryan has announced his intentions of going away to college, and Daisy is bummed at prospect of their relationship perishing because of distance but tries her best to make the most of the time remaining.  She has intentions to work on breaking the enchantment that has trapped her friend Lily Varcol in a jukebox and turned her fiance Balthazar into a pig.

Out of the blue, however, Elise Wilder, a Were is attacked and left for dead.  As chance would have it, Daisy is the person to find her and call for help.  Later, a Vamp is left in the beach in the sun and badly burned.  Suddenly, it's Weres versus Vamps and the town's truce seems a thing of the past.  Daisy is sure it isn't Weres or Vamps behind the unease but the Scourge only she is not sure how to prove it.

This was a light read, and obviously a play on the whole Twilight series.  I don't know if I'd read another book in the series.  The story-line was so-so, and I could spot the obvious bad guy before the big reveal towards the end.  The undying teenage love theme throughout did get a bit sappy and unbelievable for my taste, and much was alluded to the earlier books in this series, which I hadn't read and which left me feeling at lost ends.  Probably, if you desire to read this series, you should start at the being and not with this book.

Not a bad read, but not one that stands out either.

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