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    Healthy cooking simple with "TurboCharged Recipes"

    I'm not one to go on diets. I look at maintaining one's weight and health as a life-long habit, not something you focus on for a few months then you're done.

    I am one to cook healthy foods, though—if it's simple and inexpensive. TurboCharged Recipes: Delicious Fuel for Your Fabulous Fat Burning Machine, a cookbook I recently received free for review, offers up a bounty of recipes that are exactly that: healthy, simple, inexpensive.

    The book by Dian Griesel, Ph.D., with Tom Griesel (her brother) is a companion book to their rapid fat-loss and health book, TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust. The TurboCharged method focuses on building diets around natural, fresh-as-possible foods. There are many benefits to such a diet, and as the info on such can (and does) fill books, I won't go into that here. You can read more on becoming a "TurboCharger" at

    While I don't have the first TurboCharged book to which my free review cookbook serves as a companion, that's okay. I don't need that first one to know there are plenty of recipes I'd be happy to try in the one I have in hand.

    The more than 400 recipes in TurboCharged Recipes are divided into chapters including beverages, dressings & dips, salads, vegetarian, eggs, meats and more. Most recipes can be made in 30 minutes or less, and there are quite a few I have on the mealtime agenda. Those topping my list of most-tempting so far are Elisa's Soup (made with broccoli, garlic, onions, celery and chicken stalk); Chicken in Red Wine (savory goodness baked in dry red wine); and Cheesy Pizza Dip (an appetizer featuring cream cheese, Italian seasonings and more).

    What I liked about the book: In addition to healthy recipes that seem pretty easy yet delicious, I appreciate the copious amounts of food info throughout, such as the list of foods that you should purchase as organic, the ones you shouldn't spend the extra money on, and the reasoning behind both lists. I also learned a thing or two from the tips on cooking vegetarian.

    What I didn't love so much: If you've read any of my previous reviews on cookbooks, you know I am a huge proponent of pictures in cookbooks. This book has not a one. Another thing that left a bad taste was the many typos and grammatical errors in the book.

    TurboCharged Recipes (softcover) can be purchased on for $17.96. For more information about the book and authors Dian and Tom Griesel, visit

    Disclosure: I received a copy of the book free for review. Opinions are mine. This post contains no affiliate links.


    Stay connected with grandkids with Blogglebeans

    As a long-distance grandparent, ways to stay in touch with my grandsons is always on my mind. Grandparents with older grandchildren can always connect on Facebook. Grandparents with younger grandchildren can now connect on Blogglebeans.

    Blogglebeans? What in the world is Blogglebeans?

    Well, I'm so glad you asked. This, my fellow grandparent friends, is Blogglebeans:

    Connecting with grandkids through Blogglebeans is safe, fun and free (for the grandparent; $2.99 for the parent to authorize by credit card or free if done via fax). Additional grandchildren can be added to the grandparent account, which includes one free grandchild connection, for $9.99. The memberships provide access to gifts, games and activities the grandparent and grandchild share with each other.

    As Blogglebeans is intended for grandchildren old enough to use the computer unassisted, a recommended age of 6 and older, I've not yet tried it with my grandsons, ages 4 and 1. I do, though, look forward to giving Blogglebeans a whirl in just a few short years. I have no doubt they'll be enchanted with Zonk, Toggle, Lolly, Hanlon and Doug, the quirky residents of Bloggleton. And I (and the boys' parents) can feel safe about us connecting on Blogglebeans, as it exceeds the expectations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

    For additional information and to sign up for a free grandparent account, visit Blogglebeans.

    Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this post, it simply seemed like something my readers would be interested in.


    Samsung Canister Vacuum: Quiet and powerful

    I have a pretty snazzy vacuum cleaner. Being pretty snazzy, though, means it's pretty big and bulky. So big and bulky, in fact, that my husband has to do all the vacuuming because lugging that thing up and down the stairs of our three-story house takes muscle (and motivation) I don't have for sucking up the dirt, dust, and animal hair that needs to be sucked up on a regular basis.

    Because of how cumbersome our current vacuum is, I was pretty jazzed when I was contacted about testing out one of the all-new Samsung Bagless Canister Vacuum Cleaners for free.

    The new Samsung Bagless Canister Vacuums come in three models: Black — "Perfect for deep clean" (MSRP $299); Electric Blue — "Superior cleaning power for best carpet clean" (MSRP $349); and Champagne — "Perfect for pet owners" (MSRP $449). We are pet owners and our current snazzy vacuum cleaner is a made for pet owners, so I was offered the Champagne model for review:

    And review it we did, using the Champagne Samsung Canister Vacuum to cover all our vacuuming duties for two full weeks.

    When the bagless canister vacuum first arrived, here are some of the features listed on the box that Jim (our primary vacuumer) and I were most jazzed about:

    • Tackles pet hair on all surfaces, reduces pet dander with sealed HEPA filtration, and eliminates pet odors with the anti-odor carbon filter
    • Auto dust sensing automatically adjusts the amount of suction power
    • Newly designed Super Multi Chamber System delivers improved efficiency with longer lasting suction power than conventional vacuums
    • Reduced noise level
    • Radio-frequency handle control
    • Slim design that makes it easy to use, carry and store
    • Attachments: Mini turbo brush, 2-in-1 on handle (crevice and dusting), 12" bar floor Parquet brush

    Right off the bat, Jim was quite impressed with how quick and easy it was to get the Samsung Canister Vacuum operational and ready to roll. 

    And it was so quiet! Typically when Jim vacuums, I just figure he's in another world and I'll save anything I want to say to him for when he's done. And he is essentially in another world, as he honestly can't hear over the roar of the vacuum. Not the case with the Samsung. It was so quiet—even at the highest turbo sucking setting—that Jim could happily hear the stereo play as he vacuumed here, there, and everywhere.

    It was indeed everywhere, too. Because we have a lot of wood floors throughout our house (with the basement family room being the only fully carpeted space), we have many large floor rugs. Vacuuming can be a real pain because each time you transition from a rug to the wood floor, you have to be sure to change the height of the vacuum as well as turn off the brush so you don't tear up the wood floors. On our current vacuum, that means bending up and down, up and down to change those things.

    On the Samsung Canister Vacuum it's super simple because all controls are in the ergonomically designed handle and are changed with just a flick of a finger. In the video below, you can see how simple it is. Notice the lights on the brush attachment—when they're lit, the brush is on; when not lit, the brush is off.


    Such an easy transition from rug to floor. Of course, there was no transition on the fully carpeted area in our family room, and the Power Brush performed perfectly well throughout.

    With the different attachments, the Samsung Canister Vacuum easily took care of some of the more challenging spots in our house.

    The one I was particularly thrilled about was the Parquet floor brush, as it easily slid under our baseboard heat registers (we have a boiler heating system). Those hard-to-reach spots typically generate lots of dust bunnies; the Samsung easily sucked the makings of bunnies-to-be right up.

    The most impressive thing about the Samsung Canister Vacuum overall, Jim and I agree, is the incredible sucking power. This thing really sucks. In an awesome and powerful way. At any of the three levels. In fact, we vacuumed with our current vacuum just a day or two before receiving the review model, and when we first revved up the Samsung, we tested it on what we thought was a clean rug only to find that the rug was far from clean. The Samsung dustbin (which attaches and detaches quite easily) immediately filled up with dust and animal hair.

    Another feature we loved was how quiet it is. Really. It's surprising how something so powerful can be so quiet. I'm a fan of quiet, so for me, that was a true highlight.

    This may sound odd, but Jim was quite impressed with the way the cord reels right back into the canister by simply pushing a button. He usually has to wind around the little do-hickeys on the machine to wrap up the cord for storage. So that seemingly small feature actually loomed quite large for my hubby.

    The Samsung Canister Vacuum is indeed pretty light and easy to tote from room to room and up and down stairs. It would have been helpful, though, if those attachments used quite frequently (which is all of them, for our house) had a storage spot on the canister. Carrying them around wasn't an easy task and usually required going back down the stairs for the one left behind as the one vacuuming moved to another floor.

    The only other design change we thought would be nice would be for the extension rod to stand by itself when the Power Brush is attached. There is a way to stand the canister vertically and push the Power Brush into place to make it stand, but that's mostly for storage reasons. It's when moving a chair out of the way or changing the outlet where the cord is plugged in that it would be convenient for the Power Brush to stand on its own.

    Overall, the Samsung Bagless Canister Vacuum Cleaner was easy to use, powerful, quiet, and a super machine for ridding our home of the tremendous amount of hair and dander left behind by our two cats and two dogs—as well as the mini messes made by humans, too.

    Samsung Bagless Canister Vacuum Cleaners are available at Best Buy and HH Gregg.

    Disclosure: I was given the Samsung Bagless Canister Vacuum Cleaner free for a two-week trial period. Opinions are those of the reviewers (Jim and me) and were not influenced in any way.


    Worth watching: "The Penniless Princess" from VeggieTales

    Fans of A Little Princess, the book or movie version, will find plenty to love about the latest VeggieTales DVD, The Penniless Princess: God's Little Girl. As British-accented and smoking jacket-bedecked Larry (the Cucumber) the First points out in the Masterpiece Theater-style opening to the inspiring story of Sara Crewe, The Penniless Princess is based on the beloved classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

    I recently received a free DVD of The Penniless Princess for review and brought it to the desert to watch with Bubby, Mac, and mommy Megan. Mac, being just over a year old, wasn't all that thrilled with it, but Bubby, Megan, and I enjoyed the show.

    Rather than give you my own rundown of the story, the following trailer provides an official sneak peak at the most recent silly-yet-sweet treat from VeggieTales:

    What we loved about the DVD: The Penniless Princess closely follows the original story of The Little Princess and has a dramatic, sweeping feel I've not yet found in the always cute and worthwhile VeggieTales DVDs. Whether that's because I'm a fan of The Little Princess movie, I'm not sure. I like the fact this is a VeggieTales program that leans more to the feminine side, as most of those I've seen (and I admit, that's not a lot) have been more for boys. Bubby still appreciated the story, though, and was quite empathetic toward little Sara Crewe and others who were not being treated kindly.

    I especially appreciated the moral of the story, considering the rough economic times of late, that we all should know our own true worth and trust in God, no matter what happens in life.

    Megan's favorite part of the DVD was, hands-down, the bonus feature singalong "Silly Song" Best Friends Forever in which two little Veggie gals sing about being BFFs. The song, full of texting lingo that went right over Bubby's head, made Megan and me literally LOL...and replay the feature so we could LOL again and again at the part in which the animated girls do indeed ROTFL. So cute—and an earworm, for sure, once you figure out all the abbreviations.

    Additional bonus features include a special tour of London with the French Peas, a silly history of the Teddy Bear, behind-the-scenes clips and a discussion guide for parents.

    The Penniless Princess—God's Little Girl was released August 14 and can be purchased on the VeggieTales website for $14.99.

    You can make a great gift set for a birthday or other special occasion by purchasing the VeggieTales "365 Daystarter Devos for Girls" for $6.97 to go along with it.

    Disclosure: I received a free DVD and book for review purposes. Opinions are my own, with input from my merry band of fellow reviewers (Megan, Bubby, and Mac).


    Introducing Sonny the Seal: Ring-toss fun for the family

    In my family, we've joked for many years about owning a monkey because, well, haven't you always wanted a monkey? I've purchased stuffed monkeys for each family member; even Mac got one of the leftovers from the bunch purchased long before he was born.

    We're all set on monkeys. And now, thanks to a new game from Goliath, we can have our fill of seals. One seal, in fact. A seal named Sonny.

    Sonny the Seal is an interactive, electronic ring-toss game for ages three and up. As my regular toy reviewers—Bubby and Mac—weren't on hand when Sonny arrived at my door, I enlisted game players at a recent barbecue with friends. No, we didn't take turns tossing rings as we tossed back beers, there were actually youngsters in attendance. Youngsters the perfect age for playing Sonny the Seal.

    My little guest game players, whom I'll call K and R, since they're not my children and I don't want to reveal their real names here, loved Sonny. It didn't take K, at five years old, long to figure out not only the rules—which are pretty simple: toss the ring around Sonny's neck, get a fish for each successful toss, the winner is the one and the end of the game with the most fish.

    It also didn't take her long to become a pro. Form is everything, and K had form in spades.

    It's harder than it sounds, as Sonny bobs and weaves erratically so you don't always know exactly how to succeed in tossing. Believe me, I'm not a successful tosser. K, though, was quite the tosser, regularly getting rings to land where they should and slide down over Sonny's tail again and again. Each time she had a successful toss, Sonny clapped his flippers and barked in joy. Then she got to take a fish. And win the game. (I must admit: I never got Sonny to bark and I never earned a fish. But I'm working on it.)

    K's two-year-old brother, R, was quite enchanted by Sonny. So K took the time to teach him, and let him give ring tossing a try for himself. Being a two-year-old playing a game intended for those three and older meant R got a bit of a handicap. Meaning, he was allowed to sit right at Sonny and plop the ring on his head. Sonny was just as cheerful each time R succeeded from his starting spot as he was when K made it from hers.

    While the claps and barks from Sonny are reward in themselves, K said her favorite thing about the game was the little orange fish she collected for each successful toss.

    My favorite thing? The opportunity to try the game by myself, once K wasn't around to show me up and nab all the fishies. Made no difference, though, as I still couldn't manage a successful ring toss. I'm planning on using R's method next time—starting my tosses right next to Sonny. Grandmas should be allowed a handicap now and then, too, I say. At least when it comes to tossing rings onto a seal's head.

    Sonny the Seal—for 1-6 players, ages 3 and up—has a suggested retail price of $29.99 and can be found at Toys R Us and other toy stores.

    Disclosure: I received this game free for review. Opinions are my own, with input from my fellow reviewers.


    Best Loved Recipes: Taste of Home's latest offering

    I've been a fan of the Taste of Home brand for quite some time. Take a look at this:

    That is my collection of Taste of Home's Quick Cooking magazines, pulled from my cookbook shelves for the photo. The magazine on top? Take a closer look:


    That is the premiere issue of one of my favorite cooking magazines. I obviously have pert near every issue since that first one in 1998. Yes, I'm a Taste of Home fan.

    I recently received free for review Taste of Home's Best Loved Recipes cookbook. Considering the number of Taste of Home recipes I've looked at through the years, I think I'm pretty well qualified to tell you, yes, the 1,485 recipes included in the massive tome are indeed some of the best.

    Upon receiving Best Loved Recipes, I spent quite some time going through the 26 chapters, everything from Appetizers to Soups. In between are chapters on anything and everything cooks—from beginning baker to accomplished chef—need to know, need to offer. A few of my favorite chapters: Cooking for One or Two (equally important for my empty nest as well as my little birdies who are now living solo), Mom Made It Best, Mealtime Express, and Grand-Prize Winners.

    From the many chapters, I chose a handful of delights to try in preparation for this review. Of the few desserts and main dishes I prepared, these were my far (photos and recipes directly from the book):

    CANDY BAR APPLE SALAD — In my husband's words, "Any time a candy bar is included in the meal, it's a good meal."




    My friends and family enjoyed those goodies in just the first week or so of having the hardcovered book in my hands. With more than a thousand left to choose from, I have no doubt we'll find many more favorites, many more that will be our very own best-loved recipes.

    What I loved about the cookbook: As is the case with most Taste of Home offerings, the recipes are the real deal from real people, with no hoity toity kitchen acrobatics meant to impress judges over taste buds. I love that the cream of the crop—the very best of the best loved recipes—are marked with a Top 100 Recipe icon or included in the Grand-Prize Winners chapter. The quote from each contributor preceding their recipes provides a homey touch. the Mom Made It Best and Our Favorite Contributors' Meals chapters were especially delightful to peruse.

    What I didn't love so much: I love that there are so many recipes between the covers, but that makes for a massive cookbook (928 pages!) that doesn't stand up real well on my cookbook holder. There are several full-color and glossy pages of luscious photos of many recipes batched together throughout the book, but I'm a phot fiend and would have loved to see more—though I realize that including more photos would make the book ridiculously large, so I get the reasoning on limiting them.

    Taste of Home's Best Loved Recipes hardcover cookbook has a suggested price of $34.99. The cookbook will be available at all major book sellers September 13, but can be ordered now for $24.99 (with free shipping) through the Taste of Home website.