@MezzettaFoods Recipes To Remember This December #SharingJoy #MezzettaMemories #sp

Disclosure: This article is sponsored by Mezzetta Foods.

December marks that special time of year when joyous memories are made together with friends and family. As a parent, the holidays have become even more special for me. My kids are at the ages where everything is just astonishing to them, from light displays to the arrival of Santa, and I want to make the most out of every single moment. The holidays are a time of love, warmth, happiness, and family. Even though we are busy throughout the year, we always make time for friends and family during the holidays, visiting people we don't usually see during other times of the year. Most importantly, we load up the car and make the trek to NC around December 23rd to visit my parents. The ride is long, but knowing what awaits us each time makes every minute worthwhile.

Come the afternoon of December 25th, the door to my parents' home is full of friends, family, and, of course, food! It never fails that we try a new recipe each and every year, so this time was no different. I had a chance to try out Mezzetta products and couldn't wait to incorporate them into a recipe to remember.

Each year we have the usual holiday food items: ham, turkey, dressing, and assorted vegetables. However, this year my son, Liam, requested something a little different: pasta salad! So, I set out to make a delicious, memorable side dish that everyone would enjoy. There are several Mezzetta products I use often, but my two favorites are the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and huge Pitted Greek Kalamata Olives. I use the EVOO often when cooking as an alternative to vegetable oil and it has a great taste to it. The Mezzetta Kalamata Olives are absolutely amazing and really are HUGE! My oldest son was completely shocked when I purchased them a few years ago for the first time. Our entire family loves olives, so I knew combining these two products would make for a great side dish that everyone would enjoy. Here's my new recipe creation, Mezzetta Holiday Pasta Salad:

Speaking of things to remember, Mezzetta is holding an awesome giveaway with 31 days of winners! Yes, winners will be picked daily throughout December, so enter now for your chance to win a Mezzetta Favorites Holiday Gift Basket.
The basket includes:
• 100% Italian Estate Grown Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• Golden Greek Peperoncini
• Garlic Stuffed Olives
• Castelvetrano Olives
• Pitted Greek Kalamata Olives
• Roasted Marinated Red & Yellow Sweet Bell Peppers
• Cocktail Onions
• 1 Apron (from House Party contents)
• 1 Metal Olive Spoon (from House Party contents)
• 1 Tote Bag (from House Party contents)
• 1 Ceramic Bowl
Mezzetta is the perfect way to spice up the holiday season and give your recipes a zesty new flavor. Be sure to enter the giveaway today by clicking here!
Are you a huge Mezzetta Foods fan like we are? Could you eat olives or peppers every day and want to try a new brand? Be sure to get your $.50 coupon for Mezzetta products before going shopping to save some money!

What are your plans for this December? We will be traveling to my parents' house, but also celebrating again at my mother-in-law's house! That makes two incredible dinners for our family and I look forward to every minute each year.


Dr Pepper Snapple Group Gives Back To Communities & Has Many Innovative Ideas for 2015 #DPSBalance

Disclosure: This post was written for the Dr Pepper Snapple Group in conjunction with The Motherhood. All opinions provided are my own. Compensation was provided in exchange for my participation in the group meeting and post.

Just last week I was fortunate enough to be part of a panel of moms who participated in a virtual briefing with the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS)  As a huge fan of Dr Pepper, I cannot express how excited I was to be presented with this opportunity and I was bubbling with questions for the DPS team! Apparently, I wasn't the only one because all of the other participants were actively participating and asking questions throughout the meeting as well, which made for a very interesting and informative experience for all.
I learned so much about DPS and am going to share a bit of that knowledge with all of my readers. Before last week, I had appreciation for the Dr Pepper Snapple Group products, but I had no idea just how involved they are in the process of creating new and innovative products as well as participating in communities. I wasn't at all surprised to learn that they are the leader in flavored carbonated beverages. I have been a Dr Pepper fan for as long as I can remember and, if there is a soft drink to be purchased when at the grocery store, that's the one in my cart. It is also a favorite of my son, Liam, who would drink it all day if I let him. As you may already know, Dr Pepper is a culmination of 23 flavors. Of course, I had to ask the group what the flavors are because I sometimes feel like I taste caramel and cherry, but I was surprised when told that only 2 people know the secret ingredients contained in Dr Pepper, so it is just a mysterious as it is delicious!
Dr Pepper Snapple Group sells more than 50 brands of carbonated soft drinks, teas, juices, mixers, and other premium beverages, which include YooHoo, Hawaiian Punch, Mott's, and IBC Root Beer. They consistently stay at the top of the charts, with 6 of the top 10 non-cola soft drink brands in the business. How are they so successful? They take the creation of new drinks very seriously. In fact, a product they put on the shelf may have existed in over 40 different variations before the final product was approved! DPS actively listens to their consumers, wanting to give them exactly what they are looking for in a product. I find the entire process, from scientists to store shelves, so interesting.
Outdoor play is very important for a balanced lifestyle!
As someone who really strives for a healthy balanced lifestyle, it's always encouraging to find out a company has similar goals for their products and consumers. DPS also believes that healthy lives depend on balance. You should balance the calories consumed with the amount of calories burned through physical activity to stay keep healthy and fit. This is why DPS has set a goal for the upcoming year to focus at least half of all innovation projects on providing healthier options for consumers. This includes adding low- and no-calorie beverages, adding smaller portion options, and improving overall nutrition. They even took full-calorie beverages out of schools and hope to reduce the amount of calories consumed in beverages by 20% over the next 10 years!

Of course, consumers are very important to any business, but DPS really takes a hands-on approach to reaching their consumers and helping them also complete their own goals. I had no idea that DPS was so heavily involved in philanthropic organizations, causes, and projects for local and national communities. To date, more than 2,300 employees have spent time volunteering!
Playing Frisbee with family on Thanksgiving!

When doing their research, DPS found some very interesting facts, including that only 20% of children live near parks and 2/3 of children get less than an hour of play each day. It's no surprise that obesity rates have tripled when children aren't as active and also have poor eating/drinking habits. With all of this in mind, DPS began its $15 million 3-year Let's Play program in 2011 with KaBOOM!, an awesome non-profit organization dedicated to promoting active play. I've mentioned KaBOOM in prior posts on my blog and fully support their work encouraging children to get off the couch and play! Thanks to the partnership between DPS and KaBOOM!, 2,000 playgrounds were built or improved. The Let's Play program was so successful that they extended their partnership this year through 2016 with an additional $10 million from DPS with hopes of continuing the dream to provide children with safe and fun playgrounds for children and encouraging the entire family to stay active and lead a balanced lifestyle.

This year DPS also made a $1 million contribution to Good Sports as part of the Let's Play program. Good Sports is a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting active play among older children by providing athletic equipment to disadvantaged youth. As we all know, participating in sports can be very expensive. Many children are not able to be a part of organized sports in their communities due to lack of funding, the cost of equipment, uniforms, and entry fees, so Let's Play has also expanded to also include individual children who "lack the opportunity to participate in organized sports due to the cost of equipment, uniforms, and entry fees. By the end of 2016, DPS will have donated more than $26 million to Let's Play.

Participating in this meeting gave me the opportunity to see how the Dr Pepper Snapple Group works from the inside out and I'm not an even bigger fan of their company. I'm utterly amazed at the dedication all the employees have for not only their products, but also for their consumers. DPS takes it a step further by focusing on consumers, what they want, and what they need, before moving forward each year. I have no doubt that DPS will succeed in their goals for 2015 and cannot wait to see what is in store for the future.

I hope this post gave you a but more insight into what DPS is all about. What was the most important fact you learned about DPS? How do you work to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle?

For more information on fun ideas for active play as a family and grants, be sure to check out the Let's Play website. While there, take the Let's Play Pledge to add more playtime to your schedule and spend time as a family outdoors! My boys would spend each and every hour outdoors if they could, so when it isn't too cold, that's where you will find us.

Disclosure: This post was written for the Dr Pepper Snapple Group in conjunction with The Motherhood. All opinions provided are my own. Compensation was provided in exchange for my participation in the group meeting and post.


Beautiful Personalized Holiday Cards With Snapfish & $50 Gift Code Giveaway #SnapfishBlogger

I look forward to the holidays for many reasons and having children just makes everything more exciting. Many of our family members live far away and this is why it is so important for us to make holiday cards each year and send them out. I used to buy cheap cards in the store before I had kids, but they are so impersonal! Snapfish is a service we have used for many years to purchase prints and I've always been very pleased with their fast shipping and quality items. This is why I was so excited to try out their holiday cards this year.

I'm the type of person who takes many, many photos each year. If we go somewhere special or have a special event, I am going to snap hundreds of photos. I love showing off my boys and how much they've gown each year. Personalized photo cards are the perfect way to show what we've done over the year and share our progress with family members and friends we don't see often. Snapfish has a huge variety of holiday cards from which to choose. The great thing is you can also choose the style and how many photos you want included.

This year has been very busy, so I just wanted a nice looking card with one family photo. My favorite was the Christmas Swirly 2014.

I just selected that as my option, uploaded our photo and was finished in no time. Not to mention, 20 cards is less than $20! I love the prices and all the different cards. Plus, if you are in a big time crunch, you can actually have Snapfish send out your cards for an additional cost. I'm all about making the holidays simple and this is the perfect way to do so.

Here is our family holiday cards for 2014:

Have you made your holiday cards yet? If not, don't despair. You still have a bit of time if you hurry. We want to help you with those holiday costs and, thanks to Social Chorus, two lucky from Children Teaching Mama and from This Mama's Life will win a $50 gift code to Snapfish! Just use the form below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post was created in partnership with Snapfish and Social Chorus. All opinions are my own.


A Holiday Donation To CaringBridge Can Do So Much #MC #sponsored

 I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for CaringBridge. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

I've written about CaringBridge many times in the past because they are very important to our family and many others around the world. This amazing non-profit organization provides an online community allowing family and friends to connect and receive report when they need it most. For our family, that time was when Liam was diagnosed with brain tumors and Neurofibromatosis. CaringBridge allowed us to share his journey with others and connect with other families going through similar situations. It is so wonderful to know support is available at the touch of a keyboard. Seeing comments each day, prayers, and wishes for Liam's wellness has been a much needed blessing.

When the Steinback family found out their daughter, Julia, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which consisted of three years of treatment, CaringBridge provided the constant emotional and physical support they needed, allowing them to share Julia's story with others.

This holiday season, we are so happy that Liam has a few months without chemotherapy and Julia's family is also excited that she is in remission. These are such amazing gifts for our families and we are all looking forward to making the holiday season the best yet!

CaringBridge not only provides support, but they rely on the support from others as well. They also need donations to continue their service and their WonderFull year-end giving campaign hopes to raise $1.2 million. Nearly 95% of funding comes from people who use CaringBridge, so if we also spread the word and others donate, just imagine how much more CaringBridge can do for others.

Be sure to check out the WonderFull campaign and make a tax-deductible donation if you can. The campaign also features match contributions from three generous donors ranging from $10,000 to $25,000! We wish CaringBridge luck receiving just as much support as they offer so many families each and ever year. Families like the Steinbacks and our own family really need all the support they can get during tough times and you can help make that a possibility.
I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for CaringBridge. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.