The Art of Random Willy-Nillyness: 2014
Image Map

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Disney Movie Slate!!

WooHoo! I am happy to bring you the 2015 slate of Disney movies! This year looks as good as last year. Of course, I am so excited. I am over the moon that in May I finally can see the Avengers: Age of Ultron. OMG, I have been waiting for this movie since the first Avengers movie. I CANNOT wait. I keep watching the first Avengers over and over in anticipation. And also in May, Tomorrowland. This looks pretty good and how can you go wrong with George Clooney!!! 

I am also looking forward to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I am all about the Force! I cannot even believe there is another Star Wars movie and I am geeking out about it! I am also looking forward to Ant-Man because he is part of the Avengers and I am all over super hero movies! 

McFarland USA looks pretty good as well. I am a sucker for sports movies and Kevin Costner. And any movie directed by Steven Spielberg is always a must watch. He is one of my favorite directors and I love his work!!

And the rest of the movies look amazing as well. 2015 is going to be great!! Happy New Year!!

January 23, 2015 - Strange Magic (Touchstone Pictures / Lucasfilm)

“Strange Magic,” a new animated film from Lucasfilm Ltd., is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion. Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and Industrial Light & Magic bring to life the fanciful forest turned upside down with world-class animation and visual effects.


February 20, 2015 - McFarland, USA (Walt Disney Studios)

Based on the 1987 true story, “McFarland, USA” follows novice runners from McFarland, an economically challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley, as they give their all to build a cross-country team under the direction of Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a newcomer to their predominantly Latino high school. Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other but when White starts to realize the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change. Soon something beyond their physical gifts becomes apparent—the power of family relationships, their unwavering commitment to one another and their incredible work ethic. With grit and determination, the unlikely band of runners eventually overcomes the odds to forge not only a championship cross-country team but an enduring legacy as well. Along the way, Coach White realizes that his family finally found a place to call home and both he and his team achieve their own kind of American dream.



March 13, 2015 – Cinderella (Walt Disney Studios)

A live-action feature inspired by the classic fairy tale, “Cinderella” brings to life the timeless images from Disney’s 1950 animated masterpiece as fully-realized characters in a visually-dazzling spectacle for a whole new generation.



April 17, 2015 – Monkey Kingdom (Disneynature)

Life is an adventure for Maya, the clever and resourceful blonde-bobbed monkey in “Monkey Kingdom,” Disneynature’s new feature film set among ancient ruins in the storied jungles of South Asia. Maya’s world is forever changed when she welcomes her son, Kip, into her complicated extended family. Like all families, Maya’s has more than its share of colorful personalities—and she’s determined to give her son a leg up in the world. When their longtime home at Castle Rock is taken over by powerful neighboring monkeys, Maya's whole family is forced to relocate, where she uses her street smarts and ingenuity to lead them to untapped resources amidst strange new creatures and unsettling surroundings. Ultimately, they will all have to work together to reclaim Castle Rock, where Maya can hopefully realize her dreams for her son’s future. Featuring a rich cast of characters, including a mischievous mongoose, simple-minded langur monkeys, predatory leopards and monitor lizards, “Monkey Kingdom” is directed by Mark Linfield (“Chimpanzee,” “Earth”) and co-directed by Alastair Fothergill (“Chimpanzee,” “Bears”). 



May 1, 2015 – Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel)
#Avengers #AgeOfUltron

Marvel Studios presents “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the epic follow-up to the biggest Super Hero
movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go
awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible
Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the
balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his
terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and
unique global adventure.


May 22, 2015 – Tomorrowland (Walt Disney Studios)

From Disney comes two-time Oscar® winner Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland,” a riveting mystery adventure starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world and them forever. 



June 19, 2015 – Inside Out (Disney / Pixar)

From an adventurous balloon ride above the clouds to a monster-filled metropolis, Academy Award®-winning director Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”) has taken audiences to unique and imaginative places. In Disney•Pixar’s original movie “ Inside Out,” he will take us to the most extraordinary location of all—inside the mind. Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in
Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley's main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.



July 17, 2015 - Ant–Man (Marvel)

The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering 12-10-14 threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

October 9, 2015 -  The Jungle Book (Walt Disney Studios)

October 16, 2015 – The Untitled Steven Spielberg Cold War Spy Thriller (DreamWorks Pictures)

November 25, 2015 – The Good Dinosaur (Disney / Pixar)

"The Good Dinosaur" asks the generations-old question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? In theaters November 25, 2015, the film is a humorous and exciting original story about Arlo, a lively Apatosaurus with a big heart. After a traumatic event unsettles Arlo’s family, he sets out on a remarkable journey, gaining an unlikely companion along the way - a human boy. “The Good Dinosaur” is an extraordinary journey of self-discovery full of thrilling adventure, hilarious
characters and poignant heart.

December 18, 2015 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm)
#StarWars  #TheForceAwakens

2015 is looking bright for movies and I am so excited for so many of these!! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Boursin Cheese Makes My Holiday Delicious #BoursinCheese

The holidays are always hectic. Luckily, we were gone for Christmas but now it is New Year's and we have people coming over and lots to do! Cleaning, cooking and getting the house ready for everyone is tough work.

Luckily, I have Boursin cheese to make my holiday a little less stressful and delicious. I love having snacks around the house during the holidays because I know when guests come over, I have to have some nibbles for them. My refrigerator is stocked with cheese, meats and olives. I also love to have grapes and crackers.

Not only are these goodies for guests but also for me. Hubby is home during the holidays and he gets hungry during the day. A little Boursin cheese, salami, crackers and a glass of beer or wine makes a wonderful snack for him. It keeps him out of my hair and keeps him happy.

Boursin cheese is the perfect food for entertaining. It is creamy and delicious and comes in many flavors. I love the shallot and chives flavor. You can also use Boursin Cheese in recipes. I have used it for Mac and Cheese. I also love using it on sandwiches or burgers as a substitute for mayo. It is really delicious.

This Holiday season is the perfect time to pick up some Boursin Cheese and have it handy for you or your guests!

Like Boursin on Facebook for entertaining ideas. Follow Boursin on Twitter. And head over to the Boursin site for recipes and more information.

Monday, December 29, 2014

What We Are Watching

I haven;t done one of these posts on this blog. I used to always do them on my other blog. But I like telling people what we have been watching.

Exodus: Gods and Kings
I thought this would be really good because I love a good Bible story. I was wrong. The movie itself is not bad. The acting is amazing but the story got screwed up. I think Ridley Scott decided to take out some of the Bible out of the story. My advice? Rent The Ten Commandments. That movie does a better job with the story.

In a movie that seems to be written for him, Michael Keaton is amazing. This movie is amazing. It is probably on my top 3 films for the year. It is such a great little movie. If you have the chance, go see it before it leaves theatres. If not, make sure to rent ASAP!

Sons of Anarchy
I have to admit, I was a little sad when I watched the last episode of this series. It is so good. I remember we were never interested in a show about bikers. But everyone told us to watch it and we did. It is one of the best shows on TV ever! If you have never seen it, watch it!

American Horror Story - Coven
I admit, we didn't watch this, I did. I loved AHS and I think Coven was the best season yet. It deals with witches and I love witches. Jessica Lange is amzing! Kathy Bates and Angela Basset are amazing and the rest of the cast is just as good. Added plus for me is that Stevie Nicks makes an appearance!! If you know me, you know I love me some Stevie Nicks.

Marco Polo
This series is on Netflix Streaming. It is really good! The first 2 episodes were little slow but then it started getting really good. A must see. I am loving that Netflix is making some amazing programs.

Okay, this series is really good. But we started watching it only to find out that NBC cancelled it. I am not sure why because it really has potential! Jonathan Rhys Meyers is amazing as Dracula and it was well made and wel acted. I am pretty upset that it will not return. Grrrr

Friday, December 26, 2014

Strange Magic Opens in January!

This movie looks so cute! Of course, I will have to go watch it alone because Tom is not a kid at heart like me. This is definitely on my watch list.

“Strange Magic,” a new animated film from Lucasfilm Ltd., is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion. Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and Industrial Light & Magic bring to life the fanciful forest turned upside down with world-class animation and visual effects. Directed by Gary Rydstrom (“Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation,” “Lifted”) from a story by George Lucas, “Strange Magic” will be released by Touchstone Pictures on Jan. 23, 2015.

Like STRANGE MAGIC on Facebook:

Follow STRANGE MAGIC on Twitter:

STRANGE MAGIC opens in theatres everywhere on January 23rd!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Off for a few days!

I am in Cancun as you read this. Hopefully, I am sitting on the beach reading the new Stephen king novel!! Don't forget to enter whatever giveaways I have open.

I will not be posting for a few days unless I scheduled something. In the meantime, I want to wish all my readers a very Merry Holiday Season. Whether it is Christmas or Kwanzaa or Solstice or Hanukkah have a fun and enjoy your family.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Stocking Stuffers: #Hasbro Toys

Looking for some great gifts this year? Head over to the Hasbro site and check out all the goodies available. If you are looking for cute stocking stuffers, then you might want to try some of the following products.

My Little Pony Starter Kit
The My Little Pony POP assortment includes Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Princess Twilight Sparkle and Rarity. Kids can personalize each pony's look with colorful pop-on manes and themed stickers. Each sold separately. For ages 4 and up. Retail price: $3.99

Littlest Pet Shop Singles Assortment
Bobble in style with the bobblehead pets of my Littlest Pet Shop. Collect all 24 adorable pets including Zoe Trent ~ spaniel, Sunil Nevla ~ mongoose and Penny Ling ~ panda This toy is for ages 4 and up. Retail Price: $2.99

Elefun and Friends Barrel of Monkeys Game
This game is one from my childhood. How I loved a Barrel full of Monkeys and still do! You can create the same fun for your kids. You toss the monkeys and then try and pick them up by their arms. It's a barrel full of fun! This toy is for ages 3 and up. Retail Price: $4.99

Transformers: Age of Extinction Robots in Disguise One-Step Changers assortment
The greatest Autobot, Decepticon and Dino-Bot can convert from a great robot action figure into a vehicle or dino-mode and back in one step! Kids will have a blast converting Optimus Prime, Grimlock, Bumblebee and Lockdown! This toy is for ages 5 and up. Retail Price: $9.99

Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Bots Figure 2 -Pack Assortment
The bots are back and designed for little hands. Choose from Optimus Prime, Heatwave the Fire-not, Bumblebee ((my favorite) and Blade the Copter Bot.Products do not convert but kids will love them! For ages 3 to 7. Retail Price: $6.99

Transformers Battle Masters Rivals
Get in the ring with the Transformers Battle Masters Rivals. The bots will battle. Comes with a special digital code that unlocks more features in the Transformers battle Masters app!! Ages 5 and up. Retail price: $9.99

Star Wars Rebels Mission Series 3.75 inch action figures
I have a soft spot for these figurines. I was able to travel to Los Angeles and meet the cast. The show is a lot of fun and kids will love it. These come in a 2 figure pack. Collect them all. Each pair highlights an epic rivalry or classic partnership. For ages 4 and up. Retail Price: $9.99.

These are some amazing stocking stuffers for kids or adults. If I got the Star Wars Rebels in my stocking, I would thrilled! If you are looking for last minute gifts or stocking stuffers think about these great toys. You can find them in major toy retailers nationwide or!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Give the Gift of Olay this Holiday Season!

Now that I am 50, I have made a conscious effort to take better care of my skin. I am really lucky because good genes have kept my skin looking good for years but now I can start seeing the ravages of age creeping up under my eyes, around my eyes and on my neck.

But last year, I started using Olay products religiously to help my skin. They have. I noticed as I get older, my skin is not as radiant or healthy as it used to be. It is ruddy. I have had to start exfoliating every week just to make my skin look better than it is.

This is where Olay is helping me. After I exfoliate, I put on Olay moisturizer and I look years younger. Okay, maybe a year or so younger. THis ProX Advanced Cleansing system and Olay Regenerist Micro-Dermabrasion kit are pretty amazing. It really works and keeps my skin smooth and clean. It is exactly what my skin needs.

And now during the holidays, I want to make sure my skin looks good. With all the parties and events, I have to look my best! Luckily, Jackie Gomez, Colombian-Mexican makeup artist to the stars has some great tips to make your holidays beautiful!

1. During the holiday season, metallic eye shadows are a must-have! Start by applying your favorite metallic copper shade to primed eyelids. An easy way to intensify your smokey eye is by applying a dark brown eye shadow onto the crease of your eyes and rimming your bottom eyelids with the copper tone. Finish the look by adding a pop of shimmery gold tone onto the inner corner of your eyes. You will look your best beautiful at any holiday party! 
2. If you want to change up your look, try rocking a fashionable dark navy blue or an emerald green cat eye. Start at the inner corner of the eye and slowly work your way across the lash line. Once you're at the end of the eye, extend the liner to create the wing. Keep a cotton swab handy to correct any imperfection. Set it using your favorite translucent powder. 
3. Don't let the holiday blues get to your skin! Keep your skin fresh and renewed during the chilly holidays by using an exfoliation system like the Olay Regenerist Instant Fix Exfoliate & Renew System. Use it a few times a month to smooth skin and avoid your makeup from looking blotchy.  
4. Another trick of mine is highlighter! Shimmer always gives a touch of glamour to any holiday look. Add a shimmery gold or rose pink highlighter to your cheekbones, bridge of your nose and the cupid’s bow of your lips. Don't forget your d├ęcolletage too. Your skin’s subtle glow will have all eyes on you! 
5. After creating any holiday look, it’s really important to remove all makeup before going to bed. I always recommend my clients to use a facial cleansing brush like the ProX by Olay Advanced Cleansing System. This is a critical part of my skincare routine because it removes the layers of dirt and makeup, giving my skin a natural glow after a long day of festivities.
       (See the wrinkles around my eyes? But my skin is great for a 50 year old. #NoFilter)

This is my holiday look. Simple but the star is my skin! Make sure to have Olay on your gift list. It also makes a great gift for anyone! The Pro-X by Olay Cleansing system would make a great gift for a teacher, co-worker or friend. At $29.99 it is a steal! There are so many other Olay products as well. Check them out and put them under the Christmas tree!

You can follow Olay on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest

Friday, December 19, 2014

4 Tips to Bundle Up with AVEENO® Brand this winter + GIVEAWAY!!

You all know I love AVEENO® brand products. I use all the products from lotions to shampoos. This winter is no different. I have my shelves stocked up. And, just in time for winter, AVEENO® has a new line of products that will help my dry skin.

AVEENO® Brand Skin Relief products are now my hubby's favorite products. His skin gets worse than mine and when I received the new products, he tried them and they really gave him relief! These are some great products.

If you have dry skin you might want to check out these products. And thanks to Dr. Francisco Flores, Hispanic Dermatologist for AVEENO® has some great tips to avoid dry skin and to improve your winter skin regimen:

1) Moisture, Moisture, Moisture
AVEENO® skin Relief 24 hour Moisturizing Lotion can help alleviate the harsh effects of cold weather exposure for long-lasting, powerful moisturizing. It helps relieve itchy, dry skin, flaking and tightness which often results in ski dehydration which often occurs during the winter months.

2) Short Showers
Take short showers, use lukewarm water and switch to a less intense, moisture rich cleanser made for sensitive skin.

3) Get Comfortable and Modify the Air the Surrounds You
Wear soft and breathable fabrics to keep your skin from chafing and becoming irritated by perspiration. Also, use a humidifier to increase moisture levels in your home.

4) Slather on Sunscreen
Sunscreen is not just for summertime. Winter sun combined with snow glare can damage your skin. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your face and hands about 30 minutes before going outside and reapply frequently.

These are excellent tips. I hope you found them helpful. This winter, take care for your skin. And, remember that AVEENO® is also a great gift to give and receive! If you want to win some of the new AVEENO® Skin Relief products, just enter below on the Rafflecopter widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rules: One entry per person per day. Once a winner is drawn I will contact them and the winner will have 48 hours to reply back before I draw a new winner. Giveaway is open to US residents only who are 18 years of age or older.

Disclosure: I received a sample product for review purposes. No other compensation was given and the opinions in this post are solely mine and are based on my experience with the product. Sponsors are responsible for shipping prizes unless otherwise stated. I am not responsible if sponsors do not fulfill prize. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery of any prizes.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Red Rose Tea Soothes the Soul + GIVEAWAY!

I love coffee but I am down to one cup a day. So I have to make up for that. Sure, I drink lots of water but sometimes I want something else. Enter, tea.

A cup of tea soothes the soul! And I need soul soothing, a lot! There is nothing better than a cup of tea on a cold winter day. I love mine in the afternoon with a little snack. It gets me through the rest of the day and motivates me to keep working.

One of my favorite teas is Red Rose Tea. Red Rose tea has so many varieties of delicious tea to choose from. I am a huge fan of the Lemon Chiffon tea. I also love their tea cups that fit right into my Keurig.

Tea is also a wonderful gift for the holidays. How nice it would be to receive a gift of Red Rose tea. You can create a great little basket that includes Red Rose Tea, a beautiful mug, a bag of biscotti ro scones, a tea holder and a tea towel. If you know someone with a brewer like a Keurig, give them a few boxes of tea. I know I would love that!

Plus, it is always a good idea to have tea handy for your holiday guests. A little Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast teas with Christmas cookies is a wonderful treat. Have some Cinnamon Bun or Creme Caramel and give those guests a real treat!

Head over to the Red Rose website and check out some of the wonderful gift baskets they sell. Ot buy Red Rose and create your own gift baskets! Red Rose tea is a wonderful gift this holiday season!

If you want to win some Red Rose tea for you, enter below on the Rafflecopter widget. One winner will win a variety of teas!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rules: One entry per person per day. Once a winner is drawn I will contact them and the winner will have 48 hours to reply back before I draw a new winner. Giveaway is open to US residents only who are 18 years of age or older.

Disclosure: I received a sample product for review purposes. No other compensation was given and the opinions in this post are solely mine and are based on my experience with the product. Sponsors are responsible for shipping prizes unless otherwise stated. I am not responsible if sponsors do not fulfill prize. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery of any prizes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tips to Keep Your House in Tip-Top Shape During Winter!

When we lived in the North Carolina mountains and had rough winters. We had to learn to winterize our home. This is something we ever had to do when we lived in Florida! But in the mountains or here at the coast of North Carolina, there are things we have to do to make sure our home stays safe and warm during the winter.

Luckily, licensed contractor and TV home-improvement expert David Leon from Home Made Simple on the Oprah Winfrey Network has provided the following tips to help make your home as comfy as possible this season.

These are great tips that everyone should follow. Trust me, one of our friends had their pipes burst one year and it was not pretty. Help protect your home and family this winter:

* Heating system and air filters – Have your heating system serviced every year and check the filters system every month. Also, inspect your system’s exhaust vent for rust, damage, or any corrosion.

* Seal the leaks – Check to make sure your doors and windows are properly sealed so heat doesn’t escape. Inspect caulking and weather stripping around openings for wear and tear, and replace if necessary.

* Plumbing – Busted water pipes can cause expensive damage. Take time now to wrap outside pipes that might be exposed to extreme temperatures. Review the locations for the main water and fuel shut-off valves with all members of your household.

* Have a plan - When you own a home, you know that things are going to break down – but when it happens, do you know who you’ll call or what you’ll do? A home warranty is a great way to protect your budget against costly repairs, and save yourself the time and hassle of finding a qualified professional to get major systems and appliances up and running again.

And here are some more helpful tips. I like these because we did have a problem with our gas fireplace in our new house and had to call the gas company. I also use space heaters since we try not to heat the whole house:

* Always be aware of gas odors. If you smell gas around your heating unit, leave the area and call your gas company immediately.Be sure your pilot light is burning a steady blue flame. If it is not, call your heating professional or a gas company.

* Take a close look at your exhaust fan for any rust, damage or deterioration. If you notice any, call a qualified professional and describe what you see to determine whether a repair is needed.

* Take extra care with space heaters. They should be plugged directly into a wall outlet, never into an extension cord, and turned off at night. When in use, always be sure space heaters are a safe distance from curtains and other flammable items.

American Home Shield, the nation’s leading provider of home protection plans, has some great videos that can help you this winter. Homeowners can watch helpful videos about a variety of home maintenance tips and home heating warning signs at . The informational videos are hosted by David Leon. American Home Shield also publishes the Home Matters blog, a resource to help homeowners balance their busy lives with tips and news on everything home.

How do you winterize your home?

MinuteClinic New Years Wellness Campaign: Smoking Cessation Program

I think I started smoking when I was about 15 years old. It wasn't serious. It was one of those things you did to be cool around your friends. I didn't start seriously smoking until I was in my 20's. I loved it.  I was never a one or more pack a day smoker though. I smoked, at most, a half pack a day. Those were the days when smoking was accepted and we really did not know the dangers of smoking. I knew it was bad but never paid attention. 

When I met Tom, he did not smoke. He never asked me to stop but at that point in my life, I decided it was affecting my health. I was always getting bronchitis and coughing up a storm. One day, I decided to go cold turkey. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It took a lot of willpower. I did though and I have been smoke free for over 20 years. 

I know many who were not so lucky. Many of my friends still cannot break the habit. Did you know it takes about 7 attempts to quit smoking. Sometimes even more. Smoking is addictive. I know I was addicted and it took me years to finally lose the need to smoke. I would be in the car and be craving a cigarette. I would have a cup of coffee and want a cigarette. But, luckily, I was able to say no. 

This is why I was glad to see that CVS removed tobacco products from its shelves. It also started a smoking cessation campaign to help people become tobacco free. Studies show that smokers who get help by a health care provider often have a better chance of becoming smoke free. MinuteClinic has a program to help people, over 18, to stop smoking. 

This is fantastic because 1 in 5 Americans still die as a result of a smoking related illness. And it is hard to quit. Every day I didn't smoke was tough. You have to understand that you are addicted to smoking and then move on. SOme people need that motivation and coaching to get through the process and MinuteClinic is there to help. 

The MinuteClinic Smoking Cessation program is safe and effective. You can get customized treatment. It also includes Nicotine Replacement Therapy. The MinuteClinic program offers one0on-one education and coaching with a nurse practitioner. The program costs $69 for your initial assessment and visit and $59 for subsequent follow up visits and coaching sessions. Check with your insurance provider because they might cover this program. 

I remember when I quit smoking I gained weight. I started eating to satisfy the need for a cigarette. I wish I had help back then to not gain weight. Luckily, MinuteClinic also offers a Weight Loss Program. MinuteClinic has partnered with DASH, the #1 ranked overall diet by U.S. News & World Report 4 years running. With this program, people who quit can also get help to not gain weight. I am actually looking into this program for this coming year. New Years is the perfect time to focus on a new, improved me.

It is amazing that MinuteClinic offers these programs and so much more. It even offers a MinuteClinic Eyelash Lengthening Consultation. That is great for people who want to improve their looks. I know I would love longer lashes.

That is why I love MinuteClinic. It offers a lot of valuable programs that try to make you feel better about yourself. This New Year, you might want to check out the programs offered at MinuteClinic. They might change your life. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Costa Rican Tamales ~ A Christmas Tradition

Last year I posted this recipe on my personal blog: Carolyn in Carolina. I wanted to share it on this blog as well. You may or may not know that I am Costa Rican. I was born and raised in the U.S. but still hold fast to some of the traditions that I learned from my parents.

One of those traditions is tamales. Now I do not make tamales at my house because it is a lot of work and Tom does not appreciate the fine qualities of a good Costa Rican Tamale. Making Costa Rican tamales is, frankly, a labor of love. It's not for sissies! The work involved is pretty crazy. You need at least 2 days to make them. But, in the end, it is always satisfying. Plus, you end up with little packets of deliciousness and love.

So, unless I go to Costa Rica, I don;t get tamales here in the states. But when I do go to Costa Rica to visit my family, I get tamales because my mami always makes me some. Plus, you can find them at restaurants all over the country!

Tamales have always been part of our Christmas tradition. I remember making tamales when I was a little tiny thing. It was just something that is done. We HAD to work the tamale line. My abuelita and mami would do most of the work. But me and my sister were always on hand to do the easy work of adding the ingredients to the tamales. My dad was even involved because he was in charge of the fire that cooked the tamales. Making tamales is a family thing!

You make tamales to give away to family and friends. If you are a Tico (nickname for Costa Ricans) you have to have tamales for Christmas. I wrote a post about my childhood memories here. To really understand the importance of tamales in our family, this post is a must read.

I decided a few years ago to document the tamale making process. So when I was in Costa Rica, I had my mom take me through all the steps. My sister and my cousin, Tito, helped too. There is no real recipe for tamales and everyone makes them differently but this is the basic recipe. I am glad that I had the opportunity to document it because I think it is important to preserve family traditions.

When my grandmother died, I was not sure it would continue. I moved away from home but my mom has always kept up the tradition every Christmas. To this day, she makes them. It doesn't matter how much work is involved. Our family and friends will always have tamales for the holidays because of her.

Costa Rican tamales unlike Mexican tamales have a zillion ingredients. Both are made with masa but Costa Rican tamales have so many more ingredients and taste completely different. Don;t get me wrong, I love a good Mexican tamale. But there is nothing like Costa Rican tamales.

You need to get a lot of ingredients together. You need a lot of big pots and a lot of space. You will also need banana leaves, parchment paper, string and various dishes to have the production like ready.

You have to start with the meats. You take a pork shoulder and a chicken and marinade them in various spices and herbs. You need lemons, onions, cilantro, red peppers, salt and pepper and Salsa Lizano. Salsa Lizano is the Worcestershire sauce of Costa Rica. We use it on everything! The goal is to flavor the meat and, thus, flavoring the broth that will go into the masa. You marinade these overnight and then the next day you boil them to make the broth.

My mami

You do not just use masa. You need to add potatoes to the masa. All you need to do is make a mess of mashed potatoes. The ratio of potatoes to masa is 2 to 1. For every 2 pounds of masa, you need a pound of potatoes. Once the potatoes are cooked, you need to make sure they are mashed up well and then you have to make them smooth. You do not use milk just butter and salt. The potatoes also have to be watery and not thickened.

One of the most important things for the masa is to add FAT! It not only help the masa's texture but flavors it as well. When we were younger, my mom and grandmother used chicharrones to flavor the masa.  We then moved on to using bacon. I prefer the chicharrones though. You can also use real pork fat or lard. Sometimes my mom also uses margarine but I would rather use butter. It is about the flavor so it is super important to use tasty fat. The fat ratio is important. How do you know if you have enough fat? You have to eyeball it. My mom said if you can see a little fat rise up in the masa, it is good.

The masa is so important. If you have crappy, tasteless masa, the tamales will be sucky. We use Maseca corn flour. This stuff is great and will make good masa.

Take the Maseca flour and put it into a large pot. Add the potatoes and start mixing. The next step is to take a stick of butter and melt it down and add that as well. Also, take the broth from the pork and chicken you cooked and start adding it slowly to the masa. The whole time you need to keep mixing the masa which is sort of a pain.

The masa must be smooth.  The lumps need to be taken out and this is best done with your hands. You want the masa pretty loose but not watery. It will thicken up when you cook it.

By this time, we have boiled the pork and chicken with all the marinade stuff and made a tasty broth. You don't have to cook the meats all the way. You just have to make enough broth to flavor the masa. But you have to make sure that the broth is just broth and nothing else so make sure to strain it! Once that is done, you take the broth and add it to the masa along with the potatoes and butter.

Once this is done, you need to add more flavor to the masa. The broth is not enough. This is where that great fat comes in. I have been the masa taster for years. I have a better palate so I was designated the taster when I was in my teens. Besides the fat of bacon or chicharrones, you need salt, pepper, Salsa Lizano and Tabasco sauce. We discovered a long time ago that you could use the bacon or chicharrones by blending them with a little broth. You just have to ensure that those are blended well. You make a bacon smoothie! Yum! This is not rocket science but you have to add the ingredients and taste until you get a great masa. And you want it a little over flavored because once it cooks with the other ingredients it loses a little taste. Once the masa is flavored, it is time to cook it.

You have to cook the masa in batches. It has to be cooked because at this point, it is pretty watery. It has to be thickened up. So we take a smaller pot and start cooking it over low heat. And you have to watch it. You have to constantly stir it. It will burn easily and if you scorch it, it is ruined.

This is also when you check the edges of the pot to see if you have enough fat in the masa. If not, add more butter or bacon grease. If it is too thick, you can add a little broth. But at this point in the process, the masa should not need anything. You want to make sure that the consistency is like polenta. It should be thick but not stiff. It should simmer, not boil. Once the masa cools though, it will get stiff so you have to make the tamales right away.

While someone is cooking the masa, you have others working on the filling. One of those filling is the rice. The rice can be made ahead of time. It is easy to do since it does not have to be cooked all the way. But you HAVE to have the rice. We make the rice and add achiote (annatto seed) for coloring and flavoring. Cook the rice so it is still al dente. Do not cook it all the way. And you add a ton of black pepper.

The meat you cooked up will also be used. So at this time, you should have already have it chopped up into chunks. You use the chicken as well. My mom adds encurtido de mostaza (pickled vegetables in mustard) to flavor the meat. This, however, is just something my mom does. You can use the meat as is.

Here is the list of the fillings we use: carrots, green beans, capers, olives, prunes, raisins, garbanzo beans, red pepper strips and peas. I might have forgotten some ingredients but that list is pretty complete. Plus, you have the rice, meat and chicken. I like my tamales with just rice, meat and olives. So I get special tamales.

You put all the ingredients in little bowls to make the tamale production line easier. The banana leaves are the next important thing you have to have. We bought them at the Central Market already prepped and cut. When my mom ran out and had one of the guards who takes care of the parking lot across the street cut some for us. Before you use the banana leaves, they must be be cooked. You can either boil and clean them or grill them. Then they are cut into squares.

I remember when we were little and lived in Los Angeles, we had banana plants in our yard. SO my dad would always cut the banana leaves from the yard for the tamales. 

This is my cousin prepping the leaves

You need to have a tamale production line. That sounds weird but that is how it has to be done. There should be one person who arranges the banana leaves. You need two per tamale. Then that same person puts a dollop of masa on the banana leaf. Then they add a tablespoon of the rice. Then it is passed on to the next person who adds the meat and chicken and maybe one or two of the other ingredients. Then on to the next person who finishes adding the ingredients. The last person should be the tamale wrapper.

Wrapping the tamales is something I don't do. I might be able to do it but I let others take that job. It's not that hard but it requires some skill. I stick to flavoring the masa. You wrap them up and make sure they are tight. Then you tie them with string, in packages of two.

The last step is to cook the tamales. You take the tamales and boil them for about an hour. Once that is done, they are ready to eat. You have to let them cool just a little and then eat them.

After they cool you can store them in the fridge and just boil them again to eat them. They are best eaten for breakfast or with a little coffee in the afternoon. Again, making tamales is a labor of love and a wonderful tradition that I cherish! I cannot wait to go back to Costa Rica to eat more of these.

These are my special rice, meat and olive only tamales. 

The family recipe has been passed down and I am glad I can share it with my readers!

Buen Provecho!