Saturday, November 28, 2015

Holiday baking traditions {+ a giveaway from Betty Crocker}

The holidays are probably my favorite time of year, and for so many different reasons. It's not even about getting presents anymore like it was when I was a kid- it's about doing things for the people I love, and it's about family traditions that get you in the holiday spirit. Sure, a really sweet gift is always appreciated too, but as an adult I've found that it really and truly is better to give than to receive.

One way that I love to give to others is through food, and this time of year, specifically, baking. Probably because as a kid, my mom was always baking up tons of yummy baked goods, cookies, fudges, and treats of all kinds around Christmas time to give to friends and family. I remember she would have these days where all she did was bake, bake, bake...all day! She'd put together these huge gift baskets filled with delicious sweets and give them all away to everyone we knew. People loved it, too! We didn't always have a lot of money, but these home-baked gift baskets were a great way to show the people we loved that we cared, and that goes a lot further than a fancy, more expensive store bought gift. Plus, it was fun helping my mom in the kitchen baking up the treats. I have so many fond memories of learning to bake with her, and as a mom myself, I love baking with my daughter, Lily,  around the holidays now too. She's 7 and loves to help out in the kitchen now, so when I asked her if she wanted to bake some cookies with me to give to some of our friends and spread some holiday cheer, she jumped at the idea.

I decided that I wanted to keep the cookie baking extravaganza somewhat simple (if there is such a thing), since baking with kids can be somewhat messy. I found a coupon for some Betty Crocker cookie mixes, so we grabbed a few of those and some Betty Crocker icing pouches for the sugar cookies. Lily loves decorating cookies the most. I love how Betty makes even cut out sugar cookie pretty easy- no mixer required. We just added some melted butter, an egg, and a few tablespoons of flour to the sugar cookie mix, rolled it out, and it made the perfect, quick cookie dough

Lily thought it was "really cool" how we sprinkled flour on the counter top on purpose. I would usually never let her make a mess like that, haha. Neurotic mother alert. 

The sugar cookies only took about 7 minutes to cook, and then Lily had to very patiently wait until the cookies were completely cooled before she could decorate them. This was excruciating. I can not stress this part enough! I am proud that she survived the wait, because for a while there I thought she wasn't going to make it (wink, wink).

When it was finally time to decorate the cookies Lily went straight to work.

Even big brother, who thought he was just too cool to bake cookies with his mom and little sister, broke away from his video game induced zombie-like state to come decorate a gingerbread man and get his picture taken.

Cookie decorating tip: give the kids an extra cookie sheet to decorate on- it works great for catching sprinkles!

Who can resist decorating a gingerbread man?

My little baking queen made me a pretty blue star cookie with a "M' on it for mommy. Isn't she the sweetest? She also made a gingerbread man that she told me was her great grandpa, which is a little weird, I thought. But it made her happy, and she did a great job, so I told her she did a great job, and then she proceeded to eat the great grandpa cookie. 

As much as I begged and pleaded  for there to be no finger-licking and frosting tasting, fingers were licked and icing tips were contaminated by sticky little mouths. I figured these cookies, while beautifully and painstakingly decorated, should probably not be shared with our friends and loved ones after all (unless they don't mind spitty germs). So while Lily finished icing the last of the cookies, I whipped up a quick batch of Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookies. I love how quick and easy these cookies are to make- no measuring! Just a stick or two of butter and an egg mixed with the chocolate chip cookie mix resulted in these deliciously soft, perfectly light, and crisp cookies. 

When the chocolate chip cookies were completely cooled, I gathered up some stuff to put together my little gift baskets (before the cookies disappeared). Since we actually baked our cookies the morning of Thanksgiving, we were a little pressed for time, so I was aiming for something cute but easy (that's kind of a theme around here, in case you haven't noticed). I found these cute little boxes and treat bags in the dollar section at Target and I'd been holding on to them for the perfect occasion, plus Betty Crocker has the cutest little printables for you to print and use at home and use to help #SpreadCheer to your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. 

I stuck a few cookies in each of the little bags, sealed them up, and placed them in the baskets. I chose a cute red Betty Crocker gift tag to cut out and stuck it in the basket too, and our #SpreadCheer basket was good to go! All that was left was to deliver it to someone.

I decided to bring some to my friend Anna. I've mentioned her on the blog many times- we became friends through beauty school about 9 years ago and our daughters are the same age, plus she does an amazing job on my hair! Anyway, we're pretty close, and we see each other on a fairly regular basis, except it's been a while because we both were dealing with the recent mass power outage after that stupid wind storm. She just recently got to go back home and have her power restored, so I figured she was probably in need of some extra holiday cheer. She loves when I bring her treats!

To help spread cheer this holiday season, I'm challenging YOU to find a way to spread cheer to the people in your life. You saw how easy it was to whip up a quick batch of Betty Crocker cookies and put together a fun and tasty little gift basket- who would you give one to? Plus, baking together is just plain fun, and it's a great holiday tradition that I look forward to every year with my daughter. I know she is going to look back on these memories quite fondly one day, and hopefully she will continue the tradition with her children. I also hope she continues to spread cheer to everyone she knows! 

To facilitate and #SpreadCheer even further, I'm including a giveaway for a quick $20 cash to one lucky person! Now, keep in mind that you can do whatever you'd like with this $20, but I encourage you to use it to help spread cheer too. 

When you're spreading the cheer this holiday season, don't forget to use the hashtag #SpreadCheer on social media. I know a lot of people don't get the need for hashtags- but if you click on one (on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter) you'll see all of the other people out there using the same hashtag, and maybe you'll be inspired to spread a little cheer around your area :) Don't forget to grab a Betty Crocker coupon first! 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Gelish MINI Red Matters holiday 2015 collection {review + giveaway}

'Tis the season...for gorgeous red nails!

The lovely people at Gelish MINI sent me their latest gel polish collection, and I'm over here swooning over these 6 luscious hues. Red Matters is their 2015 holiday collection, and it contains 4 existing Gelish MINI colors and 2 new, exclusive shades. These fun, festive, red-hot soak off gel polish colors are sure to keep you dressed to the nines for all of your holiday occasions.

The Red Matters collection all applied quite nicely to the nail and provided even coverage with no issues. All pictures in this post show two coats of color. Let's check out these gorgeous shades!

Good Gossip is a fun, bright, glittery red with flecks of gold glitter.

Man of the Moment (new color) is a rosy red creme with no shimmer.

Queen of Hearts is a deep, rich red with a frosty finish.

Hot Rod Red is a classic bright red cream with no shimmer. 

I'm So Hot (new color) is a deep burgundy with a lush shimmer. 

Life Of The Party is a Trends glitter topper with a sheer red base and multi-sized chunks of red glitter. This topper adds a fun pop of glitter over any existing Gelish MINI color, or could be worn alone. 

I love this collection so much! It's so bright, cheery, and,! The Gelish MINI Red Matters holiday 2015 collection can be found online and in stores now at Sally Beauty Supply for a limited time and retail for $12.99 each (don't forget to sign up for their beauty card & save $$ on every purchase though! It's so worth the extra $5 and the card is good for 1 year). You can also find them online on Amazon

But because I'm feeling the holiday spirit right now, one lucky Lulu & Sweet Pea reader will win 3 bottles of polish from the Gelish MINI Red Matters collection! Simply enter on the Rafflecopter widget below. Please refer to the terms and conditions.

Please refer to the terms and conditions.
Open to US residents only.
Must be 18 to enter.
No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.
Only the first entry is mandatory.
Never tried gel nails? I've got a ton of tutorials for you! My DIY Gel Nails post is a great place to start. I walk you through the entire process, step by step, and I include a lot of pictures and I'm a stickler for detail. It's a long one...but I promise: read the tutorial from start to finish and you'll end up with an amazing gel manicure. Once you've got that down you can move on to some of my other tutorials and you'll soon be a pro.

This post contains affiliate links. I was given these products free of charge from Gelish MINI for reviewing purposes. All opinions are, as always, my own.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Simply perfect pasta salad {+ a Mezzetta holiday giveaway!}

I can't believe the holiday season is already upon us!

When I think of the holidays, I think of the three F's: family, friends, and food. In my family, both the one I was born into and the one I married into, and even in my close circle of friends, every get-together is really just an excuse to make yummy food. I mean, really, there's nothing better than spending time around the holidays with family and friends whilst stuffing your face, am I right?

 What's a holiday without the finger foods, snacks, and olive trays?

Growing up, I spent hours in the kitchen watching my mom cook for us, especially this time of year. She was always in the kitchen when it came to holidays, parties, barbecues, and potlucks, and she had her signature dishes for every occasion. Everyone could count on my mom to bring salads, famous casseroles, and delicious desserts, and I picked up a few of these special recipes from her while on my way to adulthood. Mom's pasta salad is one of my all time favorite crowd-pleasers because it's easy and everyone loves it. Plus, you can make it simple and super kid-friendly, or you can go all out and jazz it up for a more refined palette. I tend to land somewhere in the middle most times I make it, and my kids love it. I'll be making this deliciousness this holiday season:


1 package of tri-colored rotini pasta
1 small carton of grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup Mezzetta olives (any variety- I'm using the Blue Cheese Stuffed ones)
1 14oz can artichoke hearts- cut into small chunks
1 small pkg salami or pepperoni
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Italian dressing, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste


Cook pasta according to packaged instructions- I prefer my pasta al dente for this. While it's boiling, cut the tomatoes and Mezzetta olives in half. Drain the artichoke hearts and chop them up into bite size chunks. Quarter the salami or pepperoni, and shred your cheese. Set aside chopped ingredients.

When the pasta is done, drain it, and rinse it well under very cold water. Make sure the pasta is completely cold! Drain well, and dump into a large bowl. Add the chopped ingredients and some dressing, and stir it gently. Taste the salad to see if you need more dressing- I tend to use a lot (like 1/2 a bottle) so use your own judgement.

Add the cheese (I didn't use any this time, since I was using the blue cheese stuffed olives) and salt and pepper to taste, tossing lightly again. Chill in the fridge or serve immediately!

As I mentioned above, you can get creative with this recipe and change it up to your liking. Sometimes I use Mezzetta's black olives and turkey pepperoni in it if I'm going to a barbecue, while other times I'll use higher quality salami and tangy kalamata olives with feta cheese in it. Either way, I've never come home with leftovers!

Mezzetta's Holiday Memory Sweepstakes 

Make sure to enter the Mezzetta Holiday Memory Sweepstakes right now on their website for a chance to win this cool grand prize- an instant print digital camera to capture your own holiday memories! Or be 1 of 10 runners up to win an Ultimate Olive Lover's gift basket!

• Grand Prize (1) - Instant Print Digital Camera plus a Ultimate Olive Lover’s Gift Basket including Mezzetta Olives, Olive Spoon, Cutting Board, Olive Bowl, Cocktail Napkins and Recipe Card.

• Runner Up Prizes (10) - Ultimate Olive Lover’s Gift Basket including Mezzetta Olives, Olive Spoon, Cutting Board, Olive Bowl, Cocktail Napkins and Recipe Card. 

Do you have a favorite holiday recipe? Mezzetta has tons here. Check them out for some inspiration! Also, grab a coupon here for Mezzetta olives this holiday season.

What's your favorite holiday dish?


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