Tuesday, November 30, 2021

It’s time to go holiday shopping.  I’m a little late with this, but Spoonies tend to be late with a lot of things. I’m going to make up for it by offering a ton of great ideas for you to give — and some you may want to keep for yourself.


By kids, for charity…

I love things created by children and this one is extra special because the kids are using their talent and ability to help others. They even have special socks for illnesses and organizations, such as autism and Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

The kids in charge are Brandon and Sebastian Martinez. They are now 15 and 13 respectively, but they first started their company in 2014! It was first done for local fundraising and then they took it national.

The socks are adorable and well made. They are also quite comfortable.

As of now, Are You Kidding Socks has raised $350,000 for charity. Pick up some pairs for gifts and help them out at the same time. You can purchase on their website.


Gentle scents for the home…

When it comes to perfumes, aromatherapy, or air fresheners, I always feel like less is more and Bags + Stella agrees with me.

The California company makes all natural products for the home, including candles, diffusers, and room sprays. I received a sampling of all, each in individual cloth bags, perfect for enjoying or giving. The fragrances are all mild, and I love the little touches, such as the small opening in the diffuser to avoid spillage and the little glass container of matches that is also decorative. 

Take a look at all the products available on the Bags + Stella website. They have options to get kits so you can give some out and keep some for yourself.

Gifts that make it easier…

For those on your list who use assisted devices, or just need some gifts to make life a little easier, I recommend Silverts. They have a wide range of items and their prices are very easy.

Silverts sent me a wheelchair bag which safely and securely attaches, and doesn’t hang to long to interfere with the wheel. I also got one of their Puffer Scarfs, which is the softest material I’ve ever felt and also has a pocket to put a hand in.

 I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this website for items Mom and I can use.

Give this for pain…

We all know someone who struggles with pain and has tried just about everything. This isn’t a cure, but it’s certainly something to take the edge off and get you a big thank you.

 I love the message from this company, “TRUST Biologic develops all natural health & wellness products that encourage leading an exuberant life - at any age.” I can’t speak for all of their products, but I really like the CBD+CBG Pain Gel.

The wide roll on is easy to use and get right to your areas of pain. For me, that’s usually my lower back. The menthol gives you instant relief and the CBD, from the hemp plant, and CBG, from the cannabigerol plant, help alleviate inflammation and make it last longer.

You can purchase the TRUST Biologic CBD+CBG Pain Gel on their website.

Make some bread…

Here’s a fun gift, whether you give the flour or make the bread as a gift.

As much as I love to cook at bake, I’m not a fan of working with yeast. I very rarely make breads that require it. That was the first thing that excited me about Pereg Challah Flour – they put the yeast right in it.

It’s simple to make this tasty, eggy bread, which is a Jewish tradition on the sabbath and many holidays. The flour also makes a delicious focaccia.

You can get Pereg Challah Flour on Amazon.

 A double-safe bet…

A book or a bottle of wine are usually good options for gifts, so why not a book about wine?

Richard Vine (could he have a better name?) is the author of The Curious World of Wine: Facts, Legends, And Lore About The Drink We Love So Much. He will teach you more than you ever thought you’d want to know about wine and you won’t even realize it. Everything is told through short, fun to read, stories.

Pick up two copies of The Curious World of Wine on Amazon because you’ll want to keep one.


If you are looking for more, check out these links. Not only will you find some unique things, but you’ll help me out as I get a commission on these:

My Amazon Influence Shop

This is filled with my tried and true recommendations.

My Etsy Store

I love to crochet. You’ll find lots of handmade items here for very reasonable prices.

My Medium Site

Read my stories, follow my page, and subscribe to Medium for unlimited, add-free stories.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Wine, Spirits and Coffee (Together)

I have never received as much coffee before as I have in the past two months. The interesting thing is that there is a spirited theme to all of it. I also had a bit of wine in the mix, as well as a few tasty surprises.

Fruity deliciousness…

Maison Ferrand makes Mathilde fruit liqueurs that are handcrafted with ripe fruit and French spirits. I received two bottles to try out and they were exceptional.

The Mathilde Raspberry reminded me of Chambord, but it’s not quite as thick and is even more filled with raspberry flavor. I enjoyed sipping it over ice. It would be a wonderful addition to any cocktail (definitely a martini), hot chocolate, or coffee.

The Mathilde Peach is delicious and reminded me more of a summer day with a lighter cocktail or mixed with club soda . I’d also love this in a frozen drink, such as a daiquiri or margarita.

French wine launch…

I wasn’t able to make the official tasting, but I still got to sample the launch of LGV wines. These French wines are made by predominately female wine makers who have been critically acclaimed. They also believe in keeping the process good for the environment and the wine drinkers.

First, I’d like to give a huge shoutout to whomever designed the individual bottles. They are plastic and easy to carry, and a very reasonable serving. The Le Grand Verre Domaine Caylus Rosé 2020 was my favorite, fruit-filled and light enough for a fall picnic. It’s also from a region I visited and tasted my way through, Languedoc-Roussillon.

The two 2019 reds, Le Grand Verre Domaine Nadal Hainaut and Le Grand Verre Château Peyredon, are also quite good. The Domaine Nadal Hainaut is a cabernet sauvignon, full of blackberry and cassis, while the Château Peyredon adds merlot into the mix, giving it more of a red fruit mouth.

All of the LGV wines are reasonably priced from $25-30 for four individual bottles.

Make some food to go with it…

Tre Olive sent me some of their extra virgin olive oil. I tasted it and was impressed with how light it was, making it a great salad dressing mixer. The real test is in the cooking.

I used it to sauté garlic for my sauce and it cooked light and full of flavor. I’ve since been using it as my first choice in preparing foods and I highly recommend it. 

Bourbon in my coffee…

Whether you chose it whole bean or ground, you will want to pick up a package of Fire Department Coffee Vanilla Bean Spirit Infused. I have never had such a taste-filled coffee straight from the pot, without the need to add anything too it.

The bourbon was there, but subtle, and the vanilla was deliciously pronounced. Best of all, profits are for a good cause, helping first responders.

They also have an espresso, which is bold, but not harsh, that’s worth getting too. You can purchase all the Fire Department Coffees on their website.

Quick and easy hot cocktails…
I think the case from Cask & Kettle was one of my favorite packages this year. This ingenious idea puts alcohol directly in coffee (and apple cider) K-Cups.

These are not lightweight cocktails. They range from 60 to 76 proof. There are five different varieties of Cask & Kettle and there are instructions on using them if you don’t have a Keurig coffee maker. I do so it was simple to try them and I enlisted some friends as I tried them all.

I liked them all. The Mexican Coffee had just the right amount of tequila so it was sweet, but not overpowering. The Irish Coffee, the most potent with both vodka and Irish whisky, was a less sugary treat, but that was made up for with some whip cream on top.  The Apple Cider had just a subtle hint of vodka and the spice of fall fruit.

It’s tough to pick my favorite of the Cask & Kettle cups as I’m torn between the Hot Blonde, a strong, sweet vanilla with vodka, and the Mint Patty, which tastes just like its namesake with a vodka surprise. 

They are a good deal at $15 for warm cocktails, especially with the colder nights approaching. You can buy them in most places alcohol is sold.

A CBD surprise from Martha…

I recently had a stay at Sable at Navy Pier and received a selection of Martha Stewart’s CBD collection, made with Canopy Growth.


I’ve tried quite a few CBD topicals with mixed results but these were very different: gummies and flavored sparkling water. The drink I had was Cucumber Mint and, in addition to feeling a little bit more relaxed, the taste was delicious. I’d say the same about the Berry Medley Gummies.


You can purchase these here.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Getting Healthy for Summer

I have lots of healthy and plant-based selections for this month, but I couldn’t not mention tequila. After all, July 24th is National Tequila Day – a.k.a. my birthday!

A tastier gluten-free option...

I love sweet potatoes so I was more than happy to receive some Let’s Do Organic Sweet Potato Flour made from the vegetables from my friends at Edward & Sons.

This flour is full of flavor and fiber. It also holds moisture better than a lot of other flours. I was excited to put this together with chocolate. My Loaded Sweet Potato Brownies were a big hit.

Tip: sweet potato flour can burn at lower temperatures than other flours, so avoid it (or mix it) in recipes that cook at high temperatures. 

Then there’s Casava…

I didn’t know much about casava before the flour bag came along. It’s made from the cassava root so it is gluten and grain-free.  It’s also high in Vitamin C. 

Casava flour can easily substitute 1:1 for regular flour. I haven’t had a chance to create anything unique with it yet, but I did try the small batch Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on the back of the Let’s Do Organic Cassava Flour bag. They were delicious! There was just a little bit of extra flavor in there. 

More plant based cooking…

Ecuadora Organic Hearts of Palm Lasagne is a most unusual product. Personally, I have a problem calling vegetables pasta. Maybe it’s my Italian background. That doesn’t mean I don’t thoroughly enjoy meatless dishes and know there are many around me who do often cook with noodles made from veggies.

Regardless of which category you fall into, it’s definitely work giving this product a try. It’s not going to get me to give up a pan of lasagna, but I love the combo of hearts of palm, tomato sauce, and cheese.

If you are looking to keep your dish vegan, Edward & Sons has you covered on that too. Parma! is plant-based parmesan cheese. I was really leery about this one. It surprised me with how much it tasted like the real thing. It also worked in consistency.


It’s Better Than Milk…

It seems like there’s a new type of milk every time you turn around. I’m one who doesn’t get along with a lot of dairy in my diet and, unfortunately, the same goes for almond, coconut, and oat.

I had never tried rice milk and was excited to do so when I was sent samples from Better Than Milk. In this case,  what I liked best was that it didn’t have much taste. It is perfect for adding to cereal, smoothies, and other recipes where you don’t want to add an extra flavor.

The Better Than Milk Rice Hazelnut is the opposite. It’s has that nutty flavor and I could definitely drink it straight, or in a smoothie I wanted more taste in. It was also good in my Cream of Wheat, waffles, and pancakes.

 As for the other Better Than Milk varieties, I had some friends taste the Almond and Oat drinks and they thought they were some of the best they’ve had.


 A different kind of CBD…

I haven’t found a lot of luck with health benefits from CBD, though I do use CBD Living’s Roll-on every day. The combination of menthol and CBD helps ease my back pain. I was too intrigued by ZV Botanicals not to give their bitters a try. After all, when do I say no when it has to do with cocktails?

ZV Botanicals combines Ayurveda, an ancient medicine, herbs in their products. They are all organic and handcrafted. Included in their selection are massage oils, healing salves, mouth pull oil, therapeutic tinctures, and digestive bitters.

It was the last item that I was very curious about. These full-spectrum CBD bitters are made for your drinks, whether they are alcoholic or water.

The LIFT has a bit of licorice flavor and is not at all bitter thanks to a tiny bit of sugar. You don’t need to create anything fancy for this one. A couple of drops in your sparkling wine would make a cocktail in itself and you might even see some health benefits. It’s also a good way to put some natural flavor in your vodka.

I also received Rosé LOVE Bitters from ZV Botanicals. This was a completely different taste, which I also enjoyed. It follows its name with lots of floral notes. While it’s suggested with gin, I wouldn’t mix it with a spirit already loaded in botanicals. I would put it in its namesake, Rosé wine, and if you don’t have any, it’s a perfect addition to that inexpensive white you weren’t sure you like! It would also be excellent in iced tea (even the alcoholic one).


Happy National Tequila Day...

Canned cocktails are becoming more popular as people are hitting the outdoors. Tequila Cazadores provided me with my first experience with tequila ones and it won’t be the last.

The three options give a nice variety of what you’d expect from tequila cocktails. The Margarita has that true lime flavor, even though it mentions orange liqueur as an ingredient. It’s as refreshing as a margarita should be.

 Paloma is heavy on the grapefruit juice, which is a good mixer for tequila and keeps with the summertime theme. As for the Spicy Margarita, it wasn’t at all spicy, and very similar to the regular Margarita.

 You can purchase the Tequila Cazadores canned cocktails in packs of four. They retail for $14.99.

Addition to the bucket list…
I haven’t traveled to Mexico in a long time, but there’s an item on my bucket list that seems appropriate for me to mention on this special birthday I’m celebrating today.  

The Jose Cuervo Express Train is an experience tequila lovers will never forget. It takes you from Tequila (the town) to Guadalajara in a luxurious train while you learn about the spirit and taste cocktails between stops.  You’ll even get to tour the agave fields.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

March Madness

It’s all about March Madness around here as the Fighting Illini are not only back in the NCAA Championship, but they are the No. 2 team in the country. Whether or not you are cheering a specific team, it is nice to know that sporting events are coming back.

Celebrate your hometown…

I got to celebrate the first round of the tournament with some special glassware from Well Told College Town. They decided to do something a little different with their university memorabilia. Instead of logos, these have maps of the actual cities on them. I loved the two (one orange, one blue) glasses of the downtowns of Champaign and Urbana.

Light wine…

The games will be going on for two weeks, so you don’t want to overdo on the drinks. I love Rosé Water, which conveniently comes in cans. It reminds me of a wine spritzer (the kind you got in the bar, not the bottle). It tastes like wine and club soda, but since it’s rose from Boudreaux, it’s a little more flavorful than a white wine spritzer. Each can is only 69 calories. There’s no sugar and only 4.9% abv.

 Another for easy sipping…

Stewart’s Premium Spiked Seltzer is another light option for watching the games. Each can is 100 calories, gluten free, and vegan. They have just a tiny amount (no more than 01g added sugar). The alcohol is also low at 5%.

Black Cherry and Orange Cream were the favorites. They also come in Raspberry Lime and Root beer.

Don’t forget the protein...

The Elxr Co has a great blend of superfoods to make a delicious, healthy  protein shake with.* The Balance Superfood Protein Powder. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and said to improve cholesterol and signs of aging. At 160 calories, 22 grams of protein, and only two grams of sugar, it’s a nutritional powerhouse, but a bit pricey at $67.

Kind for Equality...

Kind Bars are always a tasty, natural choice for snacking, but the company also is about doing good. They set me some of their KIND Bars Equality Salted Carmamel Dark Chocolate Almond Bars. It's one of those limited additions for a cause, this one part of a multi-year empathy program to support Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. You Can purchase them on Amazon. 


*Full disclosure, it contained some ingredients I am allergic to so I had a few friends try it for me.