Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Party in Your PJs #108

Welcome to Party in Your PJs!

Happy Tuesday!  Welcome to the Party in Your PJs Link Party, where your posts will be seen on four different blogs each week.   In addition to Kim from The Cookie Puzzle, you'll also find Party in Your PJs every Tuesday evening at Grandma IdeasWood of Bell Trees and... here!

You'll still find the Awesome Life Friday link up here at RCHReviews, every Thursday evening at 8pm ET so we hope to see you there as well.

Are you ready to party? I can't wait to see what you've brought to share!

Kim ~ The Cookie Puzzle | Facebook | Pinterest 
Nina ~ Grandma Ideas | Pinterest | Twitter
Lynda ~ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos | Facebook | Pinterest
Heather ~ Woods of Bell Trees | Facebook | Instagram

 Meet the Co-Hosts

Kim @ The Cookie Puzzle 

Kim is a small town girl who love simple things. Simple cookies, simple crafts and simple people. She is a wife, mother to one son and two adorable fur babies. Slightly addicted to reality TV and sitcoms, but she loves curling up with a good book or a good walk while listening to podcasts. You can find her at The Cookie Puzzle, where she shares her love for cookies and crafting. 

Nina @ Grandma Ideas 

How is this: Nina is wildly in love with her grandchildren. She delights in doing activities with them that strengthen their relationship –- playing games, doing crafts, snuggling, reading stories to them, and cooking together. She enjoys reading, technology, and traveling. (Tahiti is her most favorite place on earth!)

Lynda @ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos 

Lynda lives outside DC with her husband Michael and elderly beagle, Sadie. She and her daughter Jackie started RCHReviews as a way to spend time together in spite of living across country, and along the way they've added several friends as regular contributors. Between them all, they bring together many different perspectives and lifestyles with one common philosophy - try new things, have fun, and remember you are awesome!

 Heather @ Wood of Bell Trees

Heather is a wife of a peanut butter fanatic and mom of one silly human and one furry canine, wrangling life on 2nd shift and glitterizing everything as she goes!

The rules for the group board include:
1. Limit of one pin a day.
2. Just like the party anything goes, but clear wonderful pictures with great descriptions are most successful.
3. Please no Spam ( Spammers will be deleted without warning)
4.  If you pin to the Pinterest Board, please link to the Party in Your PJs Party also, the party runs from 7 pm Tuesdays-Midnight Saturday (Central Time)
5.  Finally have fun and share this group board  with blog friends and followers!  The more success the group board is the more success you will see from your pins.

Want to be added to the group board?  Follow our Party in Your PJs board and email Kim at thecookiepuzzle@gmail.com

Features from Last Weeks Party!

Make sure you head over to the other member of Party in Your PJs
 to see their features - we each pick our own!

Were you Featured? Grab a button!

All links are pinned to a Party Board...you can follow the board on Pinterest...feel free to follow the board, there is lots of inspiration to be found there.

Ok...let's party!

-Link to post, not your home page
-Link to something YOU made, wrote or thought
-No Etsy or Business Pages
-Link Parties, Roundups and Giveaways welcome
- Don't Link and Run! Please visit other links, make friends, learn something new, leave a comment, we all love comments
-If you were featured, grab a"Featured" button, found below.
-Consider adding our Party button to your Party Page or Post.

Make Your Own Ginger Syrup!


One of my favorite flavor profiles is ginger - I love to cook with it, enjoy ginger-flavored drinks, like it candied, and find it to be the most soothing method of dealing with minor stomach issues.  The spicy hot flavor of ginger goes very well with both savory dishes and as a refreshing sweet treat.

Another thing I really like is carbonated water from my Sodastream - I only rarely touch commercial sodas anymore, but I do like the bubbles, with just a dash of something for flavor.

One obvious choice would be a bit of ginger syrup!

A hefty dose makes a soft drink that is somewhere between ginger ale and ginger beer (which tends to retain the warming spicy flavors of ginger more than ginger ale does).

A lighter dose adds that wonderful gingery flavor without too much sugar, and is a great way to settle one's stomach.

I prefer to make my own syrups for the Sodastreamer so I can better control what goes into them, and Ginger Syrup is very simple and fast to put together. Next time you come across one of those big nubbly roots in the grocery store, pick one or two up, and try this for yourself!

Ginger Syrup

enough ginger root to make 1 1/2 cups of thinly sliced ginger
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups cane sugar

Scrub the ginger root, and decide if you want to peel it or not - it is not necessary to make Ginger Syrup, but if you'd like to eat the resulting candied ginger, you may want to peel the skin from it before slicing.

I didn't peel this time - but if you do, try scraping the skin with a spoon. It's easier to get into all those nooks and crannies that way than it is trying to use a peeler.

Slice the ginger as thinly as possible, and place into a medium large saucepan.

Add water and sugar, and stir.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then lower heat and let simmer another 15 minutes or so, until sugar is completely dissolved, and liquid begins to thicken slightly.

Let cool, and chill overnight with the ginger still in the syrup, in order to maximize the gingery taste.

The next day, strain the ginger from the syrup, reserving the now-candied ginger to enjoy separately, if desired.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use as you like.  This will last at least 2 weeks without spoiling (but that's a guess, because it goes fast around here).

I've seen a variation that includes a few whole peppercorns put into simmer, and that sounds like something I definitely want to try!

Use suggestions:

- Add to carbonated water, either from the Sodastream, or commercial selzer or tonic water.

- A splash of this is really good added to a cup of hot chai spiced tea with milk.

- This is a powerful tool for your bartender's arsenal - it goes nicely with all sorts of drinks.  Try a whiskey and soda with a bit of lime and ginger syrup. Yum!

- Toss some fresh fruit in a blend of Ginger Syrup, lime juice, and a bit of champagne vinegar for a really lovely fruit salad.

How would you use it? The possibilities are nearly endless!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: The Tea Spot


If tea could be elevated to an art form, The Tea Spot's teas would be in a museum.  I was sent a sample of loose leaf teas for this review and I honestly can say it was hard to even brew them.

Upon opening the box I knew this tea would be different.  With names like Coconut Crush Chai, Boulder Blues, Mango Tango, and Strawberry Fields the creativity of the teas stretches further than one would imagine.

The Tea Spot's premium loose leaf tea blends are microblended in small batches in Boulder, Colorado.

The company began in 2004, headed by a cancer survivor drawn to the health benefits of whole leaf teas.  In fact, the Tea Spot donates 10% of sales to cancer and community wellness programs.

These teas combine the simplicity of basic whole leaf tea and complexity of whole dried fruit and dried flowers.

The first tea I brewed was the Strawberry Fields, an herbal tea.  This isn't supermarket tea.  I opened the satchel and was hit in the face with the most amazing strawberry scent.

Now normally when I open a box of tea it might smell amazing, but the taste is kind of weak.  Not Tea Spot Tea.  This tea IS strawberry tea.  It was heaven in a mug for this fruit tea loving girl.

My 8 year old loved it too and he is picky as anything.

The tea was amazing both hot and iced and is caffeine free.

Next was the Mango Tango.  This is a black tea (which does have caffeine) blended with Mallow Flowers, Marigolds, and Mango and Passion fruit flavor.  You can taste the high quality black tea mixed in with the unusual yet complimentary tastes of the fruit.  I really liked this one hot, but it was AMAZING ICED.

Boulder Blues was a tea that was different from anything I have EVER tried before.  A green tea (Caffeinated again) mixed with Mallow Flowers, Cornflowers, Strawberry and Rhubarb flavoring, it was earthy and fruity at the same time.

Honestly I can't really describe it well - it is something that you have to taste.  My green tea loving husband wasn't a huge fan, but I really enjoyed it.  It is certainly a different spin on typical flavored green tea.  Right away I was able to taste the strawberry with a hint of rhubarb.  Again this one was great both hot and iced.

Last but certainly not least, the Coconut Crush Chai.  I could sing the praises of this tea forever.  I am a Chai loving girl to the max and I have probably tried every single Chai tea on the market.  This was, hands down, my most favorite chai EVER.

Rooibos tea blended with Ginger root, cinnamon, and shredded coconut and brewed at 212 degrees make this tea perfect.  I loved it hot mixed with some honey and milk, but honestly you could probably do anything with this chai and it would be perfect.

Best of all The Tea Spot sent me a recipe card to make Coconut Crush Chai Overnight Oatmeal!  I can't wait to give this one a try:

Coconut Crush Chai Overnight Oatmeal

1/2 C. Steeped Coconut Crush Chai, strained
1/2 C. Rolled Oats
1/2 Yogurt

Mix all the ingredients in a 16oz mason jar and store in the fridge overnight (or at least 8 hours).  In the morning top with coconut shavings, bananas, and granola and enjoy!

Trust me, you will enjoy it.

You can find The Tea Spot on Facebook and on their website to order and to see all their awesome teas and recipes too!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Review/Giveaway: Tailor Brands Logo Designs


I think one of the hardest parts about owning a business is branding, and to go even deeper, branding done right.  I have a small photography business, and was thrilled to have an opportunity to get assistance creating a striking logo and other branding materials from Tailor Brands.

It takes a bit of time to work through their set up, but you are able to customize your Logo to work with almost every aspect of your Business!

Every single thing they offered in my Tailor Brands Professional Bundle Package was very accessible and easy to use for my website, Facebook page, and all social media in general.

The program is also Mobile-friendly, which is such a great accessory, so I can still build my business on the go.

Taylor Brands starts by having you answer a type of Questionaire / Survery about your business, and which marketing tools will help you thrive.

It asks you about your personal preferences for fonts, designs, logo pictures, and titles, in order to create a brand design that you might like.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many stock photos they had to offer, to help make your Logo/Branding clean and professional.

For example, I am a photographer and they actually have a template category just for that, so I chose A camera-logo that I felt best represented my own Camera.

Another key point to highlight, is that I absolutely love how they give you so many options for your logo. They Inverse black and white, so you have different shading and color options for the style of your Branding. (Seen Below)

The page automates the design set up, making it easy to get started, but they don't leave you on your own. 

Once you answer the questionnaire through Tailor Brands, they send you these adorable Emails saying "your file is ready to download." I can open to files on my phone as well as my desktop, which enables me to use them so much more. I am always on the go, so have such a mobile-friendly service for my business, is very nice.

Tailor Brands has on-hands staff that can help you at any time through your branding process with their tools and online support. 

I decided I didn't like the way I made one of my logo layouts, so I asked for help through the site and received an email the very same day fixing my personal error.

The personal, hands-on help I received from Lindsey with Tailor Brands exceeded my expectations. She was professional, responsive and helpful from start to finish and this spoke volumes for me in terms of customer service. 

Tailor Brands created a custom Cover Photo for my Photography Facebook Page, with my professional photographs incorporated. You have the choice to use stock photos that Tailor Brands Provides, or you can upload your own pictures, as I did. 

I found it very helpful that Tailor brands emailed me just about every computer format of my logos and branding. They give you SO much to work with, and every template they send you comes with very detailed and helpful instructions to guide you through the process. 

I really love how you have the choice to design vastly different logos, but still stick with consistent branding guidelines. 

They have several options, in terms of pricing and packages. If you aren't ready to get the full bundle, they even offer select services available for monthly billing as well.

I received the Premium Package Bundle for review, a $128 value, currently on sale for $99) which included the following:

Bundles are available for as low as $39.00, and many items are available for individual purchase as well!

Another Feature of Tailor Brands that I love is everything you customize and work on through their site is saved online, and you can pick up where you left off at any time. You have endless online tools through the website, at your disposal to take your business to a whole other level.

I am very proud of my new customized branding through Tailor Brands and look forward to working with their business more in the future. 

I feel as though this is a valuable branding tool, that helped in the professionalism and consistency within my different Photography websites and social media pages.  Just as soon as I have time in my own busy schedule to work on a renovation of my online sites, I will be happily incorporatiing my new brand!

If you've been looking to revamp your online brand, now's the time - Tailor Brands is kindly offering a Giveaway to one of our Awesome Readers.

All files are digital so this one is open world-wide!

The value of the giveaway is originally $128, (although it is on sale for $99) and the winner receives a logo, an EPS file, business card and letterhead design files, branded presentation, a brand book, social media cover photos, and 21 logo sizes, to give you everything you need!  Read on to see how you can enter to win!

To enter the giveaway, you must leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Giveaway Tools Entry Form below. This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open WORLD-WIDE and will end just before midnight ET on 6/12. 

The winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway. In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Once the winners have responded and confirmed, their first names will be posted on our Giveaways  page.

Good luck!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Awesome Life Friday #65

Welcome to Awesome Life Friday!

We're so looking forward to seeing what you've been cooking, creating, growing, decorating, reviewing, giving away, and thinking about this week!

While you're here, leave your posts at the other link up we co-host here - Party in Your PJs!  It starts on Tuesday evenings, and runs through Sunday.  I hope you'll join us there as well!

Here's what some of us have been up to this past week:

We hope you'll check it out if you haven't already!  Don't forget to peek at the sidebar and check out what other giveaways we currently have going.


And now our favorite part - the FEATURES!  We missed the party last week, so these are from two weeks ago.  If you're one of our featured posts, we'd love it if you'd grab a button, and thanks to all of you who shared with us last week!

Budget Like a Rock Star // Saving & Simplicity

Grain-Free Strawberry Pie // Thyme to Embrace Herbs

DIY Pill Pockets (For Dogs) // Little Miss Dexterous

Torta Caprese // Olives n' Okra

Amazingly Good Chocolate Chip Cookie S'Mores // Fun Money Mom

Roadtrip Fun // The Queen in Between

If you are one of our FEATURED bloggers, this button is for you!

Thank you all so much for sharing your awesomeness!

Are you all ready to party?  If you like, we'd love it you'd help spread the word by grabbing our button:

Here we go!

The Importance of Reading Together


I'm a total book nerd. I am always in the middle of a book at any given time. For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I'm also a bit snobby about them...I'm ok lending out a book if I really trust you, but before I allow it to enter your hands there is basically a blood oath that you won't dog ear a single page.

Also, there was a period of time where I tried the Nook, then the Kindle, and I always find myself just wishing I had the paperback.

I love having multiple bookshelves filled with books, organized by genre and author. Some I've never read, I just like to own (such as the complete works of Shakespeare) Some, I've read more times than I have fingers to count (Harry Potter, anyone?) and some I know I won't read again, but don't dare throw away because I hope my children will some day enjoy.

Which brings me to my topic. While I don't particularly recall sitting on a lap being read to as a child, it's something I knew since very early on in motherhood I wanted to do.

I have two daughters, a 6 year old and a 1 year old. From the time my oldest, Hailey was about 2, she had already begun to gather an impressive collection. Not only was I a frequent shopper at the major bookstores, buying her all the classics from my childhood, but we also participated in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

The Imagination Library program is only available in some states but it is entirely free and they send one age-appropriate book for your child a month, until they are 5 years old!! I encourage everyone to check if it's available in your area.

As Hailey got older, it went from cute board books she usually had the attention span to sit through, to more recently, chapter books we'd read together.

She can now read to me as well, which is beyond special. Reading together has always been part of our nighttime routine. When it was just the three of us, my husband and I would each read her one or two books a night.

Now that a baby is in the mix, she and I read together while my husband puts Penelope, my 1 year old, to bed.

In fact, one of the most weighted consequences we can scare Hailey with is the prospect of skipping our evening book. We could take away TV for a week and it would not have nearly the same reaction as one missed night of reading! I'd hate to miss it, too.

Not even a blackout can stop us!

While we still tuck in picture books at her level occasionally, we've had a passion project for about 6 months now. I am beyond thrilled to say she has been sharing in my love of Harry Potter! She was interested in the movies, and I insisted she could watch them only if we read the books together first.

We try to do one chapter a night, which doesn't always happen for numerous reasons – whether it be her falling asleep, not focusing, a really long chapter, etc.. so it takes a bit to get to the end of a book.

At the end of each, we then watch the movie together. At this point in time, we have recently started book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. While I think some things are a bit over her head, and I find my self having to remind her of facts chapters later, I love the experience it gives us. It is my most favorite series and discovering that magic through her eyes is unlike any other feeling.

I feel like reading together is such a major bonding for us. I know that there are many studies that show the longerm benefits of doing so, but on a smaller scale it just really brings us together. It is a time of day we both look forward to. Especially once a new baby was brought on it was harder to carve out time that was just me and her, but we have managed to make this count.

Without even going into a textbook lecture of all the psychological reasons why you should be doing this with your children, let's just shoot for the obvious:

Introducing a love of literature to your children early on will encourage them to continue the practice alone, helping them in learning to read and to develop the habit of reading for pleasure.

I also believe you are creating a wonderfully amazing imagination in a child. Hearing my child pretending to be a wizard, or princess or goblin based on a story book character is so magical. Above that, reading has allowed for a comfortable launchpad for necessary conversations about complicated topics, such as religion and 'growing up'.

Reading to the little ones is a bit more challenging, but I've learned you can't expect them to sit still and listen first and foremost. I feel like with my 1 year old, I'm teaching her what a book is, with the turning pages and treating them well.

Many times a day she brings me a book (or a GOOK as she says) and says “Please” (“Pweez”) wanting me to flip through it with her. As far as I'm concerned that's setting solid groundwork for our future story times, and that is good enough for now.

I look forward to the day when both my children can read to me, and we can continue this tradition for as long as they're willing.

It's never to late to start. Sit down with your kids and take a journey to a far away land. Open their minds to the endless possibilities that lay between the majestic pages of each tome. You won't regret it.