by Melanie

Holiday Gift Guide Giveaway

November 20, 2014 in Mailbox by Melanie

holiday gift guide giveaway

The Holidays are about giving, and this holiday season Bargains with Brittanie, Addicted 2 Savings 4 U, and The Budget Bandit have teamed up with an amazing group of bloggers to put you into the holiday spirit by offering a fantastic Holiday Gift Guide Giveaway! With over $1,800 in prizes and 21 winners, this is a giveaway event you do not want to miss!

I am always grateful for a little extra help with holiday gift ideas, so this year I am excited to be able to share some ideas to help out my fellow holiday shoppers. My 12 Days of Christmas Wish Lists series will help you find gifts for even the trickiest names on your list. You can find the Day One Wish List HERE. In the meantime, enjoy today’s awesome giveaway and great gift guide!

With the holidays in full swing, chances are you are already on the lookout for this year’s most wanted gifts. But what are you going to get for the person who seems to have everything? No matter who you are shopping for this holiday season, this Holiday Gift Guide has great gift ideas for you! Naughty or Nice, you will find the perfect gift at the right price! Many of the products featured are actually being given away below, but first let’s give a huge thanks to our sponsors who helped make this giveaway happen:

| RC Willey | Mohu | Erin Condren | Ninja | Zenni Optical | KISS | Cosmos Creations | Gordmans | Berkshire Blanket | Neater Feeder | | Aqua Bed Warmer | Pick Your Plum | Tarn-X | Baby Sign Language | 3D Light FX | Lapgear | | iLeesh | Carmex |

Enter the Giveaway!

Giveaway ends December 4th at 11:59pm. It is open to United States Residents only. Winners will be chosen via All Entries Will Be Verified. Winners will be contacted via email and will have 24 hours to claim prize or a new winner will be chosen. Enter using the widget below. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for participating in this event. This giveaway is sponsored by the companies mentioned above. This blog is not responsible for prize fulfillment or shipment.


Check out all 12 Days of Christmas Wish Lists for more help finding the perfect gifts for the ones you love.

  1. Geeks and Gamers
  2. Bloggers
by Melanie

The 12 Days of Christmas Wish Lists: Bloggers

November 20, 2014 in Mailbox by Melanie

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me… the greatest gifts for bloggers!

I consider myself somewhat of an expert on what bloggers want… or at least what this particular blogger wants. Hopefully Steve will sneak a peek at this list… 😉

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.


1. Canon PowerShot


Of course we all want fancy DSLR with a whole arsenal of amazing lenses, but sometimes it’s just not practical to carry around that huge fancy camera. Number one on my wish list this year is a compact camera with awesome features, and the Canon PowerShot SX600 has everything I’m looking for. It even has WiFi so you can share your images straight from your camera! Of course I want it in red, but it’s available in more traditional colors, too. This may just become my new favorite camera. It’s even on sale right now if you hurry! Save $50 Off a PowerShot SX600 HS in Black. Valid til 11/27/14 | or while supplies last. Shop now!


2. Jackery Bar


There are days when it feels like my phone is permanently welded to my hand. All of that work we do on our phones really drains the battery. A few months ago my mother-in-law bought me this Jackery bar for my birthday, and I am totally in l0ve. This handy little portable charger is even faster than my wall charger when it comes to charging my phone, especially while I’m still using it. I have taken it on vacation, to blogger conferences, and while I’m running around town on errands or picking up the kids. My Jackery has become a must-have item for me.


3. Fitbit Flex


As a blogger, I spend a LOT of time sitting – I mean way. too. much. time. sitting – and not nearly enough time sleeping. I love this Fitbit Flex Wireless Tracker for tracking activity and sleeping. During the day, it tracks steps, distance, and calories. At night, it monitors your sleep cycle and wakes you in the morning. The lights indicate how you’re doing at reaching your personal goal. While it’s kind of sad that I need a reminder to get up and move or stop working and go to sleep, it’s just reality.


4. Craft Table


Creating a perfect office work space is something I’m still working on, and this craft table is going on my list of things I want in my office. I love all the nooks and crannies to hold all the stuff I need daily, along with the HUGE work space that isn’t cluttered because everything is stored away in the nooks and crannies. Love, love, love.


5. Mixing Bowls


Is it weird that I’m totally addicted to mixing bowls? As a blogger who often posts recipes, I love to have cute dishes to use in my posts, but I also just love to buy any cute bowl I see, regardless of whether it will have a place or a purpose. These retro mixing bowls may just end up under my tree this year – To: Melanie, From: Melanie.


6. Laptop Tote


I’m also a sucker for a great bag. I have been known to buy things I don’t really need just for the free tote that comes with it. I know, I know… I’m a sucker. This adorable laptop tote, however, does not make me a sucker because it really is a great bag for a blogger. It has plenty of space for a laptop, camera (especially if you get that awesome compact Canon), phone, charger (I never leave home without my Jackery), and more! It’s sturdy, cute, and gets great reviews.


7. Smart Pen


I am a paper and pen girl at heart, but I love the convenience and portability of fancy tech. I feel like I carry my entire brain around in my smart phone. This Livescribe Smart Pen combines the best of both worlds for me. I can scribble my lists on paper and this pen makes them magically appear on my apple device screen. Ok, it’s not exactly magic, but it is some awesome tech. And no more silly auto-correct nonsense.


8. Olloclip



So many times we wish we could do more with our smartphone cameras. The Olloclip is the answer for iPhone users! Just slide it over your camera’s lens and you’ve got a fisheye, wide-angle, and 2 macro lenses to help you take amazing photos and videos. The storage bag even doubles as a cleaning cloth. How’s that for convenience?


9. Light Box


One of the biggest issues for bloggers is finding the perfect light to take amazing photos. Natural light is the best, but when that’s not an option, a light box is a great solution. You can find tutorials online to make your own, but this light box cube from Wayfair is all ready to go and a great price!


10. Cake Stands


I love cute props to showcase my recipes, and I absolutely love cake stands. I would love these Ivory Scalloped Cake Stands. I’m picturing a chocolate silk pie sitting on that stand right now….  mmmmm.


11. Reclaimed Pallet


From photo backdrops and crafts to DIY furniture and storage solutions, there are so many uses for reclaimed pallets. I have so many things I want to do with reclaimed wood, but I’ve never know where to find some when I don’t have an old barn or wood fence falling apart on my property. Who knew The Home Depot was the answer? Order a few and get free shipping, too!


12. Hobby to Hot Bundle


I blog because I love what I do. Forty Eighteen is all about home and nurturing family whether through food, service, work, teaching values, or spending time together. That’s my whole life, and I am passionate about it. I love to write all about it and share that passion. But it’s also nice to be able to help support my family and make all that nurturing possible. Bonnie at Hobby to Hot teaches bloggers how to take their blog from a hobby to a business. If your blogger wants to learn how to take their blog to the next level with this amazing course – that really works – at an amazing price, you won’t want to miss this Hobby to Hot Black Friday Bundle.


Check out all 12 Days of Christmas Wish Lists for more help finding the perfect gifts for the ones you love.

  1. Geeks and Gamers
  2. Bloggers
  3. Grandparents
by Melanie

The 12 Days of Christmas Wish Lists: geeks and gamers

November 18, 2014 in Mailbox by Melanie

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. doesn’t it seem like that song never ends? And who gives their true love drummers, dancers, and birds anyway? How about we make that song a little more useful??? Turn it into The 12 Days of Christmas Wish Lists, and it’s a good thing it seems to go on forever.

Welcome to day one of The 12 Days of Christmas Wish Lists! Today is all about geeks and gamers. We’re starting here because some of my very favorite people are geeks and gamers – including my true love – and I know what they love.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.


1. Once Upon a Tee


You can find the ultimate geek shirts at Once Upon a Tee. They have so many fun designs! In fact, most of Beth’s Christmas wish list was made up of her favorite fandom shirts. We especially love the creative designs that combine several of our favorite fandoms. My favorite geeks drool over these shirts.


2. Video Game Bundle


More games = more fun. Cheap games = more awesome! I love these video game bundles at Walmart. You can get 2 or 3 or even 4 games for less than $25! Of course, most of the cheap games are a little older and not the hottest new releases, but we have found some fun family favorites in these collections. Free shipping is available for orders over $50.


3. Classic Nintendo shirt


Old school gamers will love this Classically Trained shirt, remembering the days of blowing in the cartridge when it wouldn’t play just right and the ultimate triumph of rescusing the princess only to find out the real princess was in another castle! My big brother’s best friend always let me play Super Mario Bros with them. I thought he was the nicest guy ever, but looking back I realize it was probably because I always managed to run right into the first goomba and die. My turn lasted about 2 seconds, and then they went on to win the game.


4. Gaming Headphones


Every serious gamer needs a great pair of headphones. According to Steve, he plays so much better when he has some serious headphones because he can hear enemies coming up behind him that he can’t hear otherwise. Apparently good headphones like these PLYR2 from Skullcandy can save your life. And you can get free shipping with no minimum and no code!


5. Gamer Chair



Everybody needs a little place to call their own, right? This Boom Chair A44 gamer chair puts your gamer right in the middle of the games, music, and movies they love. With interactive vibration motors, 2-way speakers, adjustable headrest, and storage pockets, this comfy chair will make your gamer feel right at home. And it even folds for storage! It easily hooks up to any video game system, DVD or DVD players, or any portable MP3 device.


6. Game Over Mug


There’s nothing like a heat activated mug to tell you when it’s time for a refill. Right now you can get free shipping with no minimum order  at Think Geek when you use this code: USPACK.


7. SQL query shirt


Everyone I know who works in IT loves these programming shirts from Think Geek. It’s always fun for us non-IT types to figure out what they mean… and that’s so much of what makes it fun for the IT geeks. Remember to use your free shipping code: USPACK.

8. Superhero Socks


Dress up your feet like your favorite superheroes with these superhero socks. And they have capes. ‘Nuff said.


9. Light Saber Chopsticks


What makes Asian food even better? Eating with light sabers: an elegant utensil for a more civilized age. “Don’t play with your food” simply does not apply here. Another chance to use the free shipping code: USPACK.

I’m a geek who loves to cook, so trying to choose just one kitchen geek gadget was not easy. Tardis apron? R2-D2 measuring cups? Spock oven mits? What would you choose? You can see the whole kitchen collection at Think Geek here.


10. Rock Paper Scissors Lizzard Spock Game


Watching Sheldon explain Rock Paper Scissors Lizzard Spock has to be one of my favorite Big Bang Theory scenes of all time. Now there’s a dice version! This set includes 7 dice in your favorite colors – like grape-ity purple – and a handy dandy bag that not only holds the dice but also draws out the order of things in a handy diagram. This Big Bang Theory Clue game looks like a hoot, to0. And you can use the free shipping code USPACK. I love free shipping.


11. XBox One Controller Charger


iconI get so tired of buying package after package of batteries. I love using chargers for game controllers. This Insignia Charge and Play icon even charges your XBox One controller while you’re playing. What gamer doesn’t love an endless supply of power?


12. Steven Spielberg: A Retrospective


Geeks love Steven Spielberg. That’s just a fact. So this coffee table book would be a hit with any Spielberg-loving geek.


Check out all 12 Days of Christmas Wish Lists for more help finding the perfect gifts for the ones you love.

  1. Geeks and Gamers
  2. Bloggers
  3. Grandparents
by Melanie

Are you prepared for an emergency?

September 9, 2014 in Junk Drawer, Mailbox by Melanie

Last night I had just fallen asleep when a HUGE boom woke me up. Heart racing, wide awake, I watched an AMAZING light show put on by Mother Nature while I tried to go back to sleep. Steve also woke up at the loud boom, jumped up from the bed and took a minute to realize he wasn’t back in Iraq and didn’t have to get to a bomb shelter.

In the morning I found out we had missed all of the excitement. The HUGE bang preceded the lightning that struck the field behind a few friends’ homes and started a fire. We have really wonderful neighbors who did everything they could to help – from calling 911, to grabbing hoses and working to put out the fire, and even taking care of the kids from the houses closest to the fire until it was safe for them to go back home.

Way too much excitement for the middle of the night! One of the fire trucks who responded to the call even lost control on a turn and drove through a few front yards, tearing up the landscaping before regaining control. Steve and I slept through all of it!


As we were getting ready this morning we talked about our reactions to our midnight wake-up call and what we would have done in an actual emergency. Our kids generally know what to do in case of a fire thanks to some unplanned fire drills in the wee hours of the morning, but we haven’t talked with them about any other kind of emergency. Our food storage looks a little more like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard than a well stocked supply. Our 72-hour kits are woefully sparse after we got rid of all of the expired food and haven’t replaced it yet.

Basically we are NOT ready for an emergency.


Luckily for me September is National Preparedness Month! We’re “celebrating” by working on getting our 72-hour kits fixed up.

I know the basics… food, water, first aid, but I want to be prepared in case of emergency. That’s what the kit is for after all. So I’ve been searching for answers and compiling a list of what I need to put in a very well-stocked 72-hour kit. Here is what I have come up with so far.

  • water – 1 gallon per person per day
  • hand crank radio or battery powered radio and extra batteries
  • flashlight and extra batteries
  • first aid kit
  • whistle to signal for help
  • dust mask to help filter contaminated air
  • baby wipes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • wrench or pliers to turn off electricity
  • plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • manual can opener for food
  • lighter, waterproof matches
  • emergency blanket
  • clothes, especially cold weather gear
  • toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • soap – dish soap works as hand soap, shampoo, for washing wounds, and washing dishes
  • deodorant
  • medications
  • eye glasses, contact lenses and supplies
  • diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, diaper rash ointment
  • feminine supplies
  • pet food and extra water for your pet
  • water purifier/bleach
  • mess kits
  • books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
  • identification for children, photos and emergency numbers of family members
  • cell phone, charger/solar charger
  • Important family documents in a waterproof, portable container
  • cash
  • food, non-perishable and portable

What am I missing? What do you have in your 72-hour emergency kits?

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone else put together a comprehensive emergency kit for you… and you didn’t have to pay a dime??? This could be the day that dream comes true.

Kristina at Mother’s Niche and some other fabulous bloggers and I have all gotten together with Nitro-Pak to talk about Emergency Preparedness AND give away 3 amazing prizes. And believe me, if you want to be prepared, you WANT these prizes!

Nitro-Pak is a premium Emergency Preparedness company. Featured in magazines and newspapers as well as numerous radio and television programs, Nitro-Pak has been recognized as one of the leading authorities in on emergency preparedness and awarded the highest rating a business can be awarded. Nitro-Pak provides high quality and unique products along with excellent customer service.

Now a little more about the THREE amazing prizes they are generously giving away.

72 hour kitExecutive 72-hour kit: Nitro-Pak was highlighted in a Wall Street Journal “Catalog Critic” article that selected their Executive 72 Hour Kit as the “Best Overall” kit for completeness and best design compared to a host of other competitor kits. Click here to see what is included.


1monthMountain House 1 Month Entree Reserve. This one month entree reserve from Mountain House is the perfect unit for those wanting to prepare of a short-term emergency.  Everyday you will have a delicious entree for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  This unit has 12 different meal choices to provide you with plenty of variety.  With a 10+ year shelf life you can rest assured that when disaster strikes and you need good nutritious food, this unit will be ready!

6monthMountain House 6 Month Supply of Entrees: For those desiring a 6 month supply of Mountain House gourmet tasting foods for one person, this awesome unit was made for you. We included some of every main course entree available. Now you and your family can enjoy fast, delicious tasting meals anytime with no preparation hassles or cooking! Just add water…and eat! We call it ‘no-brainer’ food storage. All Mountain House #10 canned freeze-dried foods have a 30 YEAR Shelf-Life… the LONGEST of ANY storable foods!  No other dehydrated or freeze-dried foods have a longer shelf-life than Mountain House.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s time to get ready for an emergency! What is the next step for you?


by Melanie

Favorite Popcorn Balls

May 17, 2014 in Kitchen, Mailbox by Melanie

Welcome to the final day, Day #6 of Kick Off to Summer Week, a multi-blogger event co-host by Lauren of From Gate to Plate and Summer of Summer Scraps.

With summer quickly approaching and Memorial Day in a few weeks, we want to make sure you have plenty of ideas for your Memorial Day activities. For the past six days we have been serving up a variety of different appetizers, main dishes, desserts, decor, printables and more all centered around the up-coming Memorial Day.

We hope you enjoyed all of these wonderful ideas and thank you for tuning in each day. We have great prizes up for grabs and you will not want to miss out on any of the days! Be sure to check out previous days out here. Follow #KickOffToSummerWeek2014 on Twitter to keep up to date with all of our spectacular ideas and giveaways!


For our final day of Kick Off to Summer Week, we’re rounding out our Simple BBQ Menu with a simple, no-bake dessert that only takes a few minutes to throw together.

These Favorite Popcorn Balls were my go-to treat as a kid. I made them all summer long. I have fun memories of sculpting the gooey popcorn into animals and other fun shapes with my siblings. So much fun… and so tasty!

We always made this in two HUGE bowls, and that never seemed odd to me, so I was shocked to discover when I was a little older that our recipe that we made all the time had actually been doubled! I guess we really didn’t need that much sugar that often, so I started halving our recipe to cut back to “normal.”

popcorn balls

Favorite Popcorn Balls

  • 1/2 cube butter
  • 1/3 c water
  • 1/3 c light corn syrup
  • 1 c sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • Food coloring
  • A big bowl of popped popcorn

Combine butter, water, corn syrup, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Now this is where you need to make a choice. Just how hard or soft do you want your popcorn balls to be? When my mom taught me how to make these popcorn balls, she taught me all about hard-ball stage and how to determine when your candy is there, but as I “perfected” my own version I realized I liked it a little more soft and gooey.

You can use a candy thermometer or the “cold water test” to determine when your syrup gets to the right stage. Fill a small bowl with cold water and drop a bit of the syrup into the water. Form the cooled syrup into a ball with your finger.

Soft-Ball Stage (235-245 degrees): When the syrup has reached soft-ball stage, the syrup easily forms a ball in the cold water, but it flattens one removed from the water.

Firm-Ball Stage (245-250 degrees): When the syrup has reached firm-ball stage, the syrup ball will feel firm but pliable and slightly sticky. It will hold it’s shape when you remove it from the water, but it will lose its shape as it warms to room temperature.

Hard-Ball Stage (250-266 degrees): When the syrup has reached hard-ball stage, the syrup ball will hold its ball shape and deform only slightly with firm pressure. The ball will be quite sticky to the touch.

I like it somewhere in the soft- to firm-ball stage. Once your syrup is as done as you want it to be, remove it from the heat and add the vanilla and food coloring. Colored food is always a little more fun.

Form it into balls with a popcorn ball maker like this Jolly Time Popcorn Ball Maker (affiliate link) we had when I was a kid. Or you can form them by hand – just remember to grease your hands first so the sticky popcorn sticks to itself instead of you!

However you make them, my family’s favorite popcorn balls are a fun treat the whole family will love!


Don’t forget to check out the rest of my blogger friends who’ve participated in this great event and show them how much you’ve enjoyed this week… drop them a line and show some love 🙂

Grilled Garlic and Basil Rubbed Pork Chops by From Gate to Plate
Mango Lassi by The Haas Machine
Shrimp and Corn Salsa Shooters by It’s Yummi
15 Barbecue Favorites by Summer Scraps
Greek Pork Kebabs with Tzatziki by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Favorite Popcorn Balls by Forty Eighteen
Making Memorial Day a Family Affair by Bits of Ivory
Sea Breeze Punch by Keep it Simple, Sweetie
Steak Sandwich Stackers by Lady Behind the Curtain
Memorial Day Whoopie Pies by The Freshman Cook
Steak Verde Tacos by Clarks Condensed
Red, White and Blue Sangria by Love in the Kitchen
Sriracha Coleslaw by It’s a Keeper
Lemon Pomegranate Punch by Food Lust People Love
Peanut Butter Cup S’mores by Little Dairy on the Praire
Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs by Like Mother, Like Daughter
Vintage Patriotic Book Craft by We Like to Learn as We Go

We couldn’t let this week end without one more fabulous giveaway!

We want to offer you a $150 gift card to Amazon. How awesome is that?! We’re talking a $150 smackaroo’s to buy all of  your Memorial Day necessities. Whether it’s a new grill, grilling utensils, cookbook, new cookware, or decor.. we’ve got you covered! It’s really easy to enter.. just follow along in the Rafflecopter!

Good luck and thank you for partying along with us this week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What a fun week! I’m ready to grill and party now!!! I hope you enjoyed it, too, and got some great new ideas and recipes for your Memorial Day and summer fun. You can find the rest of my Simple BBQ menu here.

Main dish • Easiest Ever Grilled Chicken marinade

Veggie Side Dish • Creamy Corn Salad

Fruit Side Dish • PB & Y Fruit Dip

Salad • Six Simple Pasta Salads

Drink • Perfect Fresh Lemonade

Dessert • Favorite Popcorn Balls

What is your favorite thing to grill?

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