Category Archives: sponsored post

The World at Your Fingertips — Top 10 Tips for Taking a MOOC

Thank you to for sponsoring this post.

The world at our fingertips…

Anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows I love to learn. If a day goes by without me soaking up some new bit of info, I feel brain cells wither. So when I read about the new MOOC trend sweeping the virtual world, I had explore my options.

What’s a MOOC, you ask?

A MOOC is a massive open online course — a web-based, college-level class (taught by a real professor) with unrestricted enrollment. They can take a variety of formats, but the most popular are usually a combination of video, lecture notes, assignments and projects.

Think of them as TEDTalks with homework. They cover subjects from cutting edge technology to the obscure. And, did I mention, they are free?

Yes, you read that right — free Ivy League classes at your fingertips. Have you ever wanted to take Computer Science 101 at Stanford, learned about The Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food at Yale, or brushed up on The Ancient Greek Hero at Harvard? It’s all available to you with only an investment of time.

Most MOOCs are flexible; you can watch videos on demand and fit readings and assignments into your schedule after work, between traditional classes, or even while waiting in the carpool line.

Student Advisors just launched a new website MOOCAdvisor. My article, Top 10 Tips for Taking a MOOC at Student Advisor, is featured over at MOOCAdvisor.

Curious? Go take a look. There are new virtual worlds to explore.

Have you ever taken or considered taking a virtual class?

For more information about MOOCs, please visit I was 
selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls 
Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are 
all my own.

photo credit: Éole via photopin cc

Easy Sweet & Sour Veggies & Meatballs with Minute Rice

We all have our go-to meals—ones whipped up from pantry and freezer staples that can come together in 30 minutes or less. This recipe has become one of my families favorites. It’s inexpensive, simple, and (relatively) healthy.

A few years ago I was searching for a recipe to use up a fresh pineapple before it went bad. I’d never tried sweet & sour meatballs—beef and pineapple? My family looked at me as if I was crazy, but they trusted my cooking and gave it a try. Everyone loved it! I altered that original recipe a bit each time I made it, balancing the sweet and savory to my tastes and adding tons more veggies. (In my house, the easiest way to get everyone to eat more veggies is to mix everything together.) The fruits and vegetables are more the stars of this dish, while the meatballs are the accompaniment. Dish this over a bed of rice, and you have a tasty, healthy meal.

I’ve always been a fan of one-pot meals, and this one totally fits that bill. By using Minute-Ready-to-Serve Rice, you don’t even need to wash a rice pot. It doesn’t get much easier.

*Note: recipe listed uses frozen/pantry staples. It’s almost as easy with fresh veggies & fruits.

 Easy Sweet & Sour Veggies & Meatballs

serves 4
total time 25 minutes 

1 20 oz. can of pineapple chunks (juice reserved)
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or fresh if you have it)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (14- oz) bag pepper stir fry (slice green, red, & yellow bell peppers & white onions)
1 12-oz. bag fresh chopped broccoli florets (or a bag of frozen will do)
1 pound precooked frozen meatballs
ground pepper to taste
non-stick cooking spray

2 packages Minute Ready-to-Serve Rice (2 servings each) *I like the Jasmine variety with this dish

  • Defrost precooked frozen meatballs as per your microwave’s settings.
  • Coat large pot or wok with non-stick spray. Cook pepper blend and broccoli until thawed and tender, about 10 minutes. Add thawed meatballs.
  • Meanwhile, mix the reserved pineapple juice with enough water to make about one cup. In a large bowl or measuring cup, combine juice mix, 1/3 cup water, brown sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce. Whisk in ginger and cornstarch. Stir until smooth. Pour into pot or wok with veggies and meatballs. Stir until mixed.
  • Simmer gently for about ten minutes.
  • Heat Minute Ready to Serve Rice as per directions (about one minute).
  • Serve Sweet & Sour Veggies & Meatballs over a bed of fragrant rice.

**Another easy option: toss it all in a crock pot. Reduce water by half, cook on low for 3-4 hours. Serve over rice. Done.

Minute® Ready to Serve Rice is an ideal portable solution for lunch or breakfast because you can eat it on the go, straight from the cup. In just 60 seconds, you have fully cooked rice for any meal or snack. You’ll never get bored with your lunch since there are 10 flavorful and wholesome varieties. If you’re looking for a healthy option, Minute® Ready to Serve Rice provides easy portion control since it’s conveniently packaged in two individual single-serve cups.
Visit for recipes, including Minute® Ready to Serve Stir it Up recipe ideas and more information about the Minute® Rice family of products.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Minute® Ready to Serve Rice.

Holiday Recipes: Brandied Cranberry Apple Pie and Classic Sage Stuffing

When Unilever asked me to share two of my favorite holiday recipes using I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, knew exactly which treats I’d dish up. One is a recipe which has been passed down for generations, my family’s Classic Sage Stuffing. Trust me, you will never want to eat that nasty stuffing from a box again. The recipe is simple, budget-friendly, and can easily be doubled or halved depending on how large your family gathering may be this year.
I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to divulge my famous Brandied Cranberry Apple Pie recipe. Sweet apples mixed with tart cranberries and a luxurious layering of rich brandy finished with a crumb topping — you will never look at a plain apple pie again. It’s that good.


Brandied Cranberry Apple Pie


1 frozen/refrigerated deep dish pie crust


2 1/4 pounds apples peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I prefer a mix of Granny Smith and Gala, but use any variety you prefer)
1 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon clove
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 {generous} tablespoons brandy*


2 tablespoons I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spread, butter, or margarine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
sprinkle of cinnamon

  • Follow pie crust thawing instructions. Or, if you insist, make your own single pie crust.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • For filling: mix sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cranberries in a large bowl. Add in apples and toss to coat. Mix in vanilla and brandy, combining thoroughly.
  • Spoon mixture into pie crust. Gently press down with spoon to pack apples together. Mound slightly in the center.
  • For topping: in a separate bowl, combine  1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon (if desired). Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the 2 cold tablespoons of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Spoon mixture over pie filling, covering completely up to the edge of the crust. You may gently pat down to even out the crumbs. With a knife, poke a small slit in the center of the topping so steam can escape while baking.
  • I recommend placing pie on a cookie sheet, as the filling sometimes oozes out a bit. Cover the edge of the crust with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove foil from crust. Bake pie 35 minutes more.
  • Cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Topping Suggestions:  I am an à la mode  girl, and I usually top a slice of warm pie with ice cream: eggnog is my favorite, but vanilla or butter pecan blend deliciously as well. You can also top with whipped cream.

*You can omit the brandy, but I highly recommend you include it as it adds an amazingly rich layer of flavor. Don’t worry, the alcohol bakes out. You can also substitute Cognac or Bourbon.

Classic Southern Sage Stuffing

Makes 8 to 10 servings, but this recipe can easily be doubled or halved.


8 cups white bread crumbs (crust on)*

1 cup I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spread
2 onions diced
6 stalks of celery chopped
3/4 teaspoon marjoram
3/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons sage
2 eggs
2/3 cup chicken broth


  • *To make the breadcrumbs: Use slightly stale (NOT moldy) white bread. Hamburger buns also work. If bread is very fresh, spread on a cookie sheet and bake in a slow oven (200 degrees) until slightly dry. Cool. Slice bread into roughly 1/4 inch cubes. Do not chop in a food processor as the crumbs will be too small and the stuffing will not firm up. 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs = approx. 3 slices bread. (Can be prepped days ahead.)


  • To make the stuffing: In a large skillet, melt I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spread. Add onions and celery. Saute until translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes.


  • In a large bowl, mix together bread crumbs and seasonings. Pour in all sauteed onions, celery, and remaining I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Mix.
  • In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs then add chicken broth (make sure broth is not hot). Add to bread crumbs and veggie mix. Combine thoroughly.
  • Spoon stuffing into a greased casserole and bake (uncovered) for 35- 45 minutes at 325 degrees or until top is lightly browned. (In my family, we cook it longer and fight over the crispy edges.) Note: this stuffing is pretty flexible, and it will cook at whatever temperature your turkey or other dishes require.
  • Though I prefer baking the stuffing on its own, you can also stuff this mix into a 5 – 10 pound turkey (double for a 11 – 20 pound bird) and bake according to the directions (on bird).  Stuff the bird just before placing it in the oven and remove all the stuffing when bird is cooked.

Leftovers (on the slight chance that any remain) can be frozen.

Thank you to Good to Know & Unilever Spreads for being a sponsor. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.


Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Mouse?

If you want to hear me scream like a little girl screech like a ax murder popped up from under the bed, just be in within my zip code when I step on a rodent.

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
It all started with a scratch, scratch, scratch in the middle of the night a few weeks earlier…

I shot up in bed. A branch scraping on the window? Scurry, scrape, scratch, bang! . . . right above my head.  Something had invaded my attic crawlspace. Hubby grabbed a broom and banged at the ceiling while I cowered under the sheets.

Let’s be clear: this is NOT my typical behavior. I don’t mind the creatures most people freak out over. I catch and release spiders, lizards, and frogs when they make their way indoors. I watch bees with curiosity, not fear. I get excited each time I find a snake in the yard. (I once doubled over laughing when a baby snake slithered up my son’s leg into his bathing suit. They both lived.)

I simply do not do rodents.

Ugh…I get shivers just typing that word.

Yet rodents have invaded MY domain.

 photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc
Okay, so they probably look more like:


After nights of torment, weeks of hearing those creatures squatting in MY home, I sent the hubby into the attic to do something. He squeezed through the hot crawlspace like a caver and found…nothing. Well, an area that may have been a nest (I couldn’t handle the details) so he sealed up any holes in the eaves and we crossed our fingers they wouldn’t return.

Banished from the attic, they took over the yard.

We have a lovely little backyard, and  the Sunshine State’s balmy weather allows us to make use of it year round. Unless there are rodents.

I saw the first one scurrying along the beam on the edge of the hedge. Was that a squirrel with a birth defect? A baby possum? A ginormous insect? (Seriously possible— we have roaches/palmetto bugs the size of kittens here.) Each evening, right before dusk, I’d spot a dark blur jetting across the periphery of the yard before it disappeared into the thick tropical elephant ear philodendrons. As they leaped atop the retaining wall I spied that long, hairless tail.

Chills crawled up my neck. I wondered if I could buy snakes wholesale.

Hubby investigated and unearthed a warren of holes under our greenery. I tried not to puke. We thinned out the plants, filled in the tunnels with dirt, and bought rodent bait. Guilt weighed me down. I don’t kill wasps when they get trapped inside. I cry when the cats mangle an innocent lizard. And here I was ordering the deaths if a family of . . .eeewww, nasty creatures that could NOT get back inside my home. This was war. There would be casualties.

The poison package informed us that our problem critters would be soaring though the big cheese in the sky within about a week. Each morning hubby patrolled the yard, checking for bodies. He never found any.

I found each one.

Snipped some herbs. Dead mouse. Watered a plant. Dead mouse. I flung the watering can aside, ran indoors, and drew the blinds. Not my job. Hubby could have some presents when he arrived home.

I should have just stayed inside for the rest of the week, but like the chick in slasher movies who HAS to go into the dark basement when there’s a killer/monster/giant rodent on the loose, I tempted fate. I went back into the garden alone.

My anniversary fell on a lovey spring day.  I ventured outside to check on my tomato seedlings and see if any of my peppers had sprouted. Hubby swore the coast was clear. I waltzed by the pool, enjoying the perfect weather and crossed to my veggie garden. Something soft, pliant, and NOT a stepping stone mushed under my foot. I screamed as if I had just fallen into a pit of knife-wielding evil clowns. I’m surprised the cops didn’t show up, guns drawn.

My husband, at least, came running. (If we hadn’t been dealing with a rodent problem, he probably would have come armed.) He knew not much could make me bellow such blood-curdling scream. Happy Anniversary.

The shoes were thrown away, the mouse dealt with, and I hid inside for a few weeks. The rodents were eradicated—for a while.

 photo credit: Abe K via photopin cc

I think they’re back, but we’ve agreed to an uneasy truce. They stay outside, attempt to be stealthy, and stay out of my line of sight. I pretend they don’t exist and send the cats on patrol . . . for now . . .

Which creepy crawlies make you swat, shiver, or scream? What are you afraid of?  Come on, share your story so I don’t feel like such a wimp, please? is your go-to resource for everything you need to know about bugs, rodents and other household pests. You can identify your infestation, find helpful prevention tips, pest photography and videos, educational articles on a variety of pest topics, and more.
In the fall, pests often enter our homes seeking shelter from colder weather, so it’s important to take steps to pest-proof your home. Pest issues are better handled by licensed pest professionals. They have the knowledge, training and tools to properly identify a pest species and recommend ways to safely remedy an infestation before it becomes a serious problem.

 You can find a pest professional in your area by entering your zip code in the Find a Pro database on

 This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the National Pest Management Association. The opinions and text are all mine.

Holiday Comforts


Fall doesn’t arrive in the sunshine state until after the Halloween pumpkins have been retired and the traditional stuffed turkey sits atop our dining room table. (Not a real bird filled with cornbread stuffing, but this guy. He’s the only Precious Moment creation I own, I swear.)

There are no trees covered with leaves of varying shades of scarlet and gold, no early season snow falls. Instead we thrill when the temperatures dip to the 60’s and we light the pumpkin spice candles to fill the cool air with the scent of fall.. Then we have full permission to break out the jeans, sweaters, and flannel p.j.s, and to unpack the down comforter to create a nest of warmth and softness.

I do my best to make the holidays a time of peace and comfort instead of stress and drama — well, at least as much as within my power. Thanksgiving is always held at another family member’s home — as long as everyone vows to get along and there is enough wine it’s a lovely day. I MUST watch the Macy’s Parade every year. Not until Santa rides by on his elaborate float is the Christmas season is officially allowed to begin.

If I am lucky, I have most of my shopping done by then. Not fighting the cranky crowds relieves some of the pressure and gives me time to enjoy decorating the house and filling the air with the aroma of bayberry and cookies and memories of holidays past.

Around the 1st of December I put up our tree, carefully placing each ornament while White Christmas (or more recently Mama Mia) plays on the TV.  My mom bought one special ornament for me each year as I was growing up, a keepsake documenting a stage in my life.  The year I bought my first scraggly Christmas tree for my own apartment she passed the box along to me and those ornaments are some of my most cherished possessions. She continues the tradition still, only now she buys one for Kiddo as well. Someday, he’ll have his own tree too…

I break out our stash of holiday books —  an eclectic mix of my childhood classics and modern tales — to read while snuggled up together in Kiddo’s bed. This year he will be reading many to us. Christmas Eve we must read Twas the Night Before Christmas, the pages lovingly worn from over thirty years of tradition.

I host the Christmas festivities each year. Kiddo is the only child in our tiny immediate family and I insist that he not be ripped away from all his new toys right after he opens them. Instead we spend the day together, in our home full of family, friends, and food.  I always make my heavenly brandied apple pie (if you are exceptionally lucky I might share the recipe soon). Everyone usually leaves happy, stuffed, and perhaps a tiny bit tipsy — signs it’s been an awesome holiday, filled with peace, love, comfort, and joy.

Time to start planning, kids…