Meet The Make Life Special Dogs!

Meet Our Make Life Special Dogs!

Make Life Special features recipes that are quick and easy for busy cooks.  We work to bring you quality YouTube videos with how-to recipes as well as blog posts with step by step by step photos.  We have made a lot of friends through the blog and people often ask about our other hobbies and interests.

I thought you might like to meet the other two Make Life Special dogs!  Harley is a 4 year old Chocolate Lab and Nala is a 2 year old Yellow Lab.  These dogs are seldom apart.  Some of you have caught glimpses of them scampering outside my kitchen window while I’m doing YouTube videos and I have had readers ask about the dogs so I thought I would share a picture of them.  They certainly keep us entertained!

Make Life Special!

Be sure to check out these recipes:

Fresh Strawberry Dessert Flower

Fresh Strawberry Dessert

Strawberry Dessert Flower

Fresh Peach Cobbler

Fresh Peach Cobbler

I like to bake my Fresh Peach Cobbler in my Lodge Cast Iron Skillet.  Check out the post for other great tips on how to serve this delicious dessert!





Easy Entertaining Tips From Joan Lunden


Looking for some easy entertaining tips?  Here are Joan Lunden’s tips for success:

Here is the segment from my interview with Joan Lunden about entertaining in your home with ease .  Joan shared lots of great ideas!

Joan:  I love to entertain in my home.

Vickie:  I do too.

Joan:  And everything is at our house.  Everyone’s birthday, every holiday …you name it… it happens at our house.  And part of that is because I love to do it. Also, all of my aunts and my mother-in-law…everybody…they all come in the door and they say, “ I don’t know how you do this!  You WORK!….You’ve got little kids….and  how do you do this!”   “ How do you put together 5 tables for 36 people …they are all decorated! “   I can do this because I anticipate it.  I go out after a holiday when things are on sale … you know…just some Saturday when I don’t have to go to three soccer games.  Ha Ha! I look for those times and I go out and I buy little things .

I’ve got this incredibly organized pantry and I can pull out me little baskets .  If you told me I had to do a party tonight,  and you gave me a theme, I could do it!  But the only reason why I can do it and be so undaunted about it and have it be fun and not streeful is because I anticipate it and I make sure to go out and get all of these little things and I have all of them there and they are all labeled.

And also, if there is a holiday coming up, I’ll prepare my tables at least days in advance. …Sometimes a week or so in advance.  By doing it that way, I can do it when I’m not stressed out… I don’t get that last minute stress.  And, if I’m missing something, it gives me time.

If I have a dinner party on Friday night, I’ll start thinking about it on the weekend before.  And, as I come up to the day of the party, I go into my pantry and I pick out what I need.  If I’m making bread pudding for example, I get all of the ingredients out and see what I don’t have.  Do I want to make a Green Bean Casserole or do I want to make a Broccoli Puff?  Do I want to do Butternut Squash Soup ?  let me make sure I have all of the ingredients… and I’ll put them in little piles.  Again, that give me the chance to go out and get what I need ahead of time and not get caught short at the last minute.

So, I think that planning ahead  is the most important advice that I can give to people.  And, try to continue to make this whole thing fun.

Vickie:  I think you have touched on another important thing.  You know, people will come to my home when we have dinner parties or family events and marvel at my serving pieces or table settings.  But, you know, you don’t have to spend a lot of money.  I have special serving pieces, casserole dishes, etc, that I feature at different times of the year…but I did not spend a lot of money.  If you plan ahead, and you shop  after the holiday is over for next year…it’s not that expensive  to be able to entertain in style if you plan ahead.  That’s really the whole point.

Joan:  You walk into any big box store and you’ll see right after the holidays all the sales of all the Halloween stuff…then all of the Thanksgiving stuff…..and, you know, it’s a good idea to buy it then.  When you come home, go the next step – get a couple of organizer boxes and put it all there.  If its just here, there, and everywhere….its still hard to do.  But when you organize it, it realy does make entertaining  a breeze.  And, you’ll spend a lot more money going out to dinner, I think, than if you put together a dinner in your home.  You’ll never have the same atmosphere as when you get everybody together in your home.  And, if you have kids like me….I think it’s really important to get kids involved in the cooking process.


Part Three – Joan talks about her kids and living an organized life with a busy schedule.

Also, be sure to check out Loan Lunden’s website for lots of healthy living tips and recipes!


***Contest Closed****Collagen Sport Complex Giveaway

Collagen Sport Ultimate Recovery Complex

As you all know, my daughter, Nicole, recently tested the French Vanilla flavored Collagen Sport Ultimate Recovery Complex.

Read her full review :  Collagen Sport Complex Review.   She loved the texture and how easily it paired with fruit for a workout recovery smoothie.  No clumps, no grit, just a smooth beverage chock full of protein and nutrients.  I am thrilled to offer a giveaway of their product!

I have one (1) canister of Collagen Sport Ultimate Recovery Complex to give away.


To enter the giveaway, just answer the following question in the “Speak Your Mind” section of this post:

“What is your favorite way to workout?”

Perhaps you are a gym rat.  Or, maybe, you are a road warrior who trains for as many races as your schedule allows.  You could be like me and push play on your DVD player for your workouts.  Whatever gets your blood pumping, please share!

Note: If you don’t workout, no problem! Just say something along the lines of “hello” and you’re good to go.


One entry per person, please.

Giveaway ends Friday December 21st at 8pm CST.

The winners will be chosen by and announced Saturday December 22, 2012!

Winners must email with their name and mailing address.

Note: Giveaway sponsored by NeoCell.  Thank you!

Meet Nicole!

Hey there!  I’m Nicole.

I am a Midwestern gal with Southern hospitality and Northeastern artistic sensibilities.

I am a mother to a happy baby boy and wife to my best mate/high school sweetheart.

I love the great outdoors and high heeled shoes.

I love caffeine, but only in the form of coffee or tea.

I am a perfectionist who has a hard time keeping a clean house.

I believe that people do not change, they evolve.

Nicole is my oldest daughter, the mother of my wonderful grandson, Teddy….She is my friend….And I’m so lucky to have her working with me here at Make Life Special.  Vickie

Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box: Everything You Need to Host a Christmas Cookie Contest


Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  18+



            Takes the classic Christmas cookie exchange to a whole new level of friendly competition! Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box has everything you need to host your own contest. 

This kit includes scorecards, judge badges, place cards, and a handbook. The handbook includes recipes along with photos of the cookies and personal stories behind these special cookie recipes. Showcasing  a dozen winning Christmas cookie recipes, along with cookie swap tips from an expert baker, the book has chapters on a brief history of Christmas cookies, how to run the cookie contest, the art of judging a contest, baking tips, and a cookies tunes playlist.

Recipes include Berlinerkranser, Pistachio Butter Cookies, Chai-Spiced Meltaway, Vegan Orange Ginger Cookies, Smile Cookies, Gingersnap Thumbprints with Cranberry-Apricot and Minty Chocolate Rounds.

Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box would make an excellent gift for teachers, Girl Scout leaders, girl’s sports coaches and moms of all ages.  This would also be a good gift for the young ladies in your life who are part of a sorority or club. 

Where to Buy

            This item can be purchased at Amazon!           


Reviewed by: Nicole


Note:  Razonia PR graciously supplied me with one Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.

Linwoods for Healthy Holiday Entertaining

Linwoods Health Foods


Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  16+




            I could probably write several pages on the health benefits of the line of Linwoods Health Foods.  Depending on which variety you choose, these super foods can help you increase your intake of Omega 3, Omega 6, Omega 9, Dietary Fiber, Antioxidants, Iron, Zinc, Protein, Magnesium, B Vitamins and Co-Enzyme Q10.  And, you only have to incorporate 4 tablespoons into your daily diet! 


            For the past 6 years I have tried to incorporate flaxseeds into my diet.  I found the quality of this product to be quite excellent.  I really liked their flax blends.  The flax seed, almond, brazil nut, walnut & Q10 blend was a wonderful addition to my salads at lunch.  The flax seed, cocoa, strawberries and blueberries blend was fantastic on a yogurt parfait.  Their other blends, or the plain flax seeds, can be added to soups, salads, yogurt, cold cereal, hot cereal, smoothies, etc.  I found that I could easily add 1-2 tablespoons to each meal. 


Here is a picture of my yogurt parfait & my  Very Berry Parfait recipe:

Very Berry Yogurt Parfait
Serves: 1
  • 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • ½ cup sliced strawberries
  • ½ cup sliced raspberries
  • ½ cup sliced blackberries
  • ½ cup sliced blueberries
  • ½ cup granola
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Linwoods Ground Flax, Cocoa, Blueberries & Strawberries
  1. Layer ¼ cup sliced strawberries, ¼ cup sliced raspberries, ¼ cup sliced blackberries, ¼ cup sliced blueberries.
  2. Add a layer of ½ cup yogurt and a layer of ¼ cup granola.
  3. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon honey and 1 tablespoon flax blend.
  4. Repeat.
  5. Enjoy!


And, here is how I used my favorite salad with the regular flax … the recipe is here.


Feta and Walnut Salad with Grilled Chicken
  • 2 to 4 handfuls of Spring Mix Salad
  • 2 handfuls of feta cheese
  • 1 handful of caramelized walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon Flax
  • 1 chicken breast, grilled and sliced
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of Cherry Vinaigrette ( store bought)
  1. Layer Spring Mix, feta, flax and walnuts.
  2. Top with chicken.
  3. Serve with Cherry Vinaigrette on the side.

And here is my EASY recipe for Caramelized Walnuts……
Caramelized Walnuts
Cook time
Total time
  • 1½ cups Walnut pieces
  • ½ cup light brown sugar ( not packed)
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon salt OR ½ teaspoon cinnamon sprinkled on finished nuts
  1. Place brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in a small skillet ( preferable non-stick as this gets very sticky).
  2. Heat ingredients over medium to medium-high heat. Stir until bubbly.
  3. Add walnuts to mixture and stir to coat.
  4. Continue cooking 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. They are done when golden brown in color and smell very toasty.
  6. These will burn if left unattended.



            I also sampled their hemp.  I’ve never had it before.  It kind of reminded me of a pine nut or a strong walnut.  Very nutty, very earthy and very tasty if you pair it right.  Sprinkling a bit on your hummus or adding a tablespoon to your rice dishes is an easy way to incorporate this super food into your routine. 


            I would recommend this for the health enthusiast in your life.  The marathon runner, the hiker, the yoga lover and anyone who is generally health conscious would enjoy this product.  You could also pair these with some granolas, organic cereals, health bars and nut mixes as a lovely care package for those busy college students or young professionals in your life. 


            For more information, please check out their Webpage  and/or  Facebook !


Where to Buy


            The prices range from $9.59 to $15.67 per standard size bag.  You can shop their entire selection on their Website.   


            For those who love the convenience of Amazon, you can purchase yours Here!   


 Reviewed by: Nicole


Note:  I received  one sample size bag for each of their 6 products.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.

Pet Gifts for the Holidays

My daughter, Kacy, sent this picture to me last night.  She said it made her think of my dog Max. We both laughed until we cried!   Max has been with me almost 14 years and he really thinks he is a little boy with fur — not a dog.  He has travelled all over the world with me – content to ride in his carry bag.  He follows me every step I take.  When I’m working on my blog posts, he is on the chair beside me, watching me work.


 When I’m cooking in the kitchen – he’s watching… and hoping for some little taste of whatever I’m cooking.  The other night I was making Eggplant Parmesan for the Velvet Palate wine pairing and guess what… Max was supervising!

Max even made it into one of my YouTube Blooper Videos!   See Max’s YouTube Debut Here


Max also wanted to help with our video review of some of these great gifts for dogs.  To watch the Make Life Special YouTube Video Review with my “Little Helper”  Click here:  Pet Gifts for the Holidays

Here are some great ideas for gifts for your “Little Helpers” this holiday season:

Loving Pets Payton Double Diner

Loving Pets introduces a Black Label collection of Vintage single and double diners for dogs.  Max’s diner is Matte black vintage with scrolls to give this diner an Art Deco flare.  It has no-skid rubber feet and removable stainless steel bowls that are dishwasher safe.  

Sunbeam Pets Microplush Warming Pet Pad

Max absolutely loves this!  He snuggles into this at night and enjoys a toasty warm bed.  This is really soothing comfort for him and any dog would appreciate this gift.  Check out Sunbeam Pets to see all of their heated pet pads and heated pet beds.

  • It has a soft removable microplush cover that is machine washable. 
  •  It can be used with any style of pet bed.
  • It’s great for aging pets ( like Max) because it gives comforting warmth 
  • Exclusively available at PetSmart.  It sells for $ 49.99 and is only available in PetSmart stores – not online.
Sherpa Pop Tote EVA Airline Carrier
Max loves his Sherpa Pop Tote Carrier!  He really feels safe in it.  This is super lightweight and includes a convenient detachable carry strap.  Max goes into his carrier when I’m doing my YouTube videos.  That way he can watch what’s happening without the risk of him trying to be included in the video!  
This great carrier is approved for airline travel, and guaranteed under Sherpa Pet Group’s proprietary Guaranteed On Board program.  This carrier features a fully collapsible design that creates a convenient carry case.  Check out to see all of their great carriers. 
Here is their store locator:   Sherpa Pet Store Locator
Evanger’s Nothing But Natural Jerky Treats
Every dog loves treats…and Max is no exception!  Evanger’s Nothing But Natural Jerky Treats make a perfect stocking stuffer. These chewy jerky treats pack the juicy flavor of naturally-raised meat and farm- fresh fruits and vegetables into every treat.  The bite siz, low-calorie treats ( only 6 calories per treat !) are easy for dogs to eat and are perfect for training.  All of Evanger’s food and treats are sourced, blended and packaged in the USA, in the kitchen of Evangers
Loving Pets Grill-icious Gog Treats
Add sizzle to your pet treat assortment with Loving Pets’ new Grill-icious, 100% all-natural Beef, Chicken and Turkey treats.  Made in the USA from USA-grown ingredients, these lean and tasty meat treats mixed with a touch of antioxident-rich sweet potato will light a fire in your dog’s taste buds ! Each treat is naturally seared over a hot grill to seal in a juicy flavor dogs love.  These are available in both regular and bit-sized treats.  Check out the Loving Pets  Website for all of their products and some great offers.  Here is their store locator:   Loving Pets Store Locator
Note:  Propel Communications provided me with samples of  the Sunbeam Pets Microplush Warming Pet Pad,  the Loving Pets Layton  Double Diner,  Evanger’s Nothing But Natural Jerky Treats, Sherpa Pop Tote EVA Airline Carrier and Loving Pet’s Grill-icious Dog Treats for this review.  No compensation was received.  These are my true and honest opinions.


Gleegums Make Your Own Chocolate Kit

Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  8+




I love dark chocolate.  Before this kit, I only had a vague idea how it was made.  Turns out, it is a lot of fun to make chocolate!  This is not the sort of project that an eight year old child needs to be doing by themselves.  But, with adult supervision, this is a fantastic project for kids!  This project allows kids to learn about the history of chocolate and experience the science behind this delicious treat.


Each kit comes with organic cocoa butter, organic cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, starter crystals, a temperature indicator, paper candy liners, instructions and the story of chocolate.


The process couldn’t be much simpler.  You can either use a double boiler or your microwave.  I tested this product while my son was sleeping, so I chose to use my microwave (clanging around in my pots and pans would have ended his nap very quickly!).  Melt the cocoa butter.  Add the cocoa powder & sugar.  Stir for a good bit.  Let the mix cool to the right temperature (it took almost 25 minutes for mine to cool enough) and add the starter crystals.  Voila!  You’ve made chocolate!  Spoon it into the wrappers and refrigerate it for 15 minutes to set.  Then, enjoy!  I know I did!


Here is a picture of my finished product (I filled 10 wrappers… not all of them lasted long enough to get photographed…):



 And, the chocolate is delicious!  You can add vanilla, marshmallows, graham cracker crumbles, coconut or any other ingredient that pairs well with dark chocolate.  I chose to keep them plain so I would know how it tasted.  I’m thinking next time I will make half with graham cracker crumbles and half with shredded coconut.  Mmmm…


This will make a fantastic gift for any kid over the age of 8.  The younger the kid, the more adult supervision needed.  But, even the adults will enjoy this kit!


Where to Buy


The Make Your Own Chocolate Kit (as well as their Make Your Own Chewing Gum and Make Your Own Gummies kits) is available at your local Cost Plus World Market and Whole Foods Markets.


Priced at $13.95, you can purchase the Make Your Own Chocolate Kit (It’s listed under DIY Candy Kit – Chocolate) directly from the Gleegum Website  or find a local retail store by using their Store Locator  

For my fellow Amazon shoppers, you can purchase a Make Your Own Chocolate Kit HERE!    



For Additional Information:

Check out Glee Gum’s Facebook  and  Gleegums Twitter    


Reviewed by: Nicole


Note: Glee Gum supplied me with one Make Your Own Chocolate Kit for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.

Shimmer and Bliss Scarves For the Holidays

Here is and great holiday gift idea for Mom and the tweeners who borrow everything… the beautiful Shimmer and Bliss silk scarves.

Shimmer and Bliss scarves are made of hand-dyed softest silk and are versatile additions to any wardrobe.  There are so many different ways to wear these scarves.  They can be transformed into tops, skirts, sarongs, shrugs, belt or head wraps.    Click here to get some amazing ideas:  How to wear a scarf 

One Scarf, 12 Ways- Shimmer and Bliss-

One is not like the other in the Shimmer and Bliss dying studio. Each hand-dyed, air-silk scarf is a stand alone statement of style and fashion. Each piece is a work of art and a fantastic flash of color.  With dozens of colors to choose from, men and women will find one, two or three to match the shades of the seasons. Not only are a there a variety of colors and collections to choose from but one scarf can be worn at least a dozen ways. From a top to a skirt, as a belt or a head wrap, it’s the only piece in your closet that can fool your friends if your wore it more than two days in a row. Because of it’s versatility, no one will know it’s the same scarf.

A favorite in the celebrity gifting suite at the 39th annual Daytime Emmy’s, each Shimmer and Bliss scarf comes in an eco-friendly stainless steel canister that can be reused or re-purposed. Shimmer and Bliss scarves are sold online,  in select boutiques and department stores throughout Austin, the state of Texas, VeraMeat New York and at the Duke Cancer Center Belk boutique in North Carolina.

Note:  I received one Shimmer and Bliss scarf to review for the Holiday Gift Guide.  No compensation was received.  These are my honest and true opinions.

World Vision – The Gift That Keeps Giving

World Vision gets down to business with the true spirit of Christmas.  We all love giving gifts ( and getting them).  But, my Dad taught me a lesson about giving many years ago.  I still remember it to this day and I’d like to share it with you.

I was not raised with money.  In fact, far from it.  But I was fortunate to have an abundance of love in my family and all of my basic needs were met.  One year, when I was in grade school, our teacher decided to teach the class how to knit.  She sent us home with a list of supplies we were to bring to school the next day — knitting needles, yarn, etc.  Dad took me to the store that night to buy my supplies.  As we were standing in front of the knitting supplies, Dad asked me about a little girl in my class that I had been telling him about who really lived in poverty. Her name was Beth and Dad asked if I thought she would be able to afford her own yarn and knitting needles.  I told him that I doubted it.  Then my Dad did a very nice thing.  He put two sets of knitting needles and two bundles of yarn in our basket.  As we checked out, I realized that the added cost for my supplies alone was probably a stretch for us, but buying the extra supplies for Beth was really generous.  Then Dad told me that I was to give Beth’s supplies to the teacher and I was to never tell anyone in the class that the supplies had come from us.  He said you should never brag when you do something nice for someone else.  That experience taught me an important lesson about giving.  I will never forget the expression on Beth’s face when the teacher handed her the knitting supplies.  

And now this brings me to World Vision.  What better time of year to give an unselfish gift than the holidays.  There are so many people all over the world who are less fortunate than us.  Many people are starving and World Vision offers all of us the chance to give a gift that can change a life forever.

The World Vision Catalog is quite unique.  You can view the catalog here:  World Vision Christmas Catalog.  On page 3 for instance, you can donate $75 a give a goat that will save a child’s life with milk, cheese and even fertilizer for their garden.  You can see how goats are saving families at  .   On page 5, you can give hungry children the gift of 2 chickens for $ 25 and this gift will supply them with a daily supply of eggs.  Chickens are easy to breed — so your gift will grow and multiply to share with neighbors and ultimately make life better for the whole village.

The catalog offers lots of choices in lots of price ranges.  You can give sheep, ducks,  a family fishing kit, pigs, fruit trees and the list goes on.  For a gift of between $ 35 and $ 140 you can send a girl to school.  Most girls in developing countries don’t finish primary school.  Most have to go to work or stay home and care for siblings, but World Vision can change that.  

You can select a gift to give in the name of a friend, relative or co-worker.  Your friend or co-worker will then receive a personalized card that features a photo and description of your special gift.  You can also send e-cards or print your own card.  Either way, this alternative gift idea is sure to touch everyone on your holiday list and bring back the true spirit of Christmas.

So, I hope you will take a look at some of these alternative gift ideas which will honor the recipient and create a lasting impact for people in need.

World Vision supplied me with a sample of the coffee set to use in this Holiday Gift Guide review.  No compensation was received.  These are my true and honest opinions.



Make Life Special
2 Cypress Rd Litchfield, IL 62056 US
Phone: 217-556-8297 Website: