Heritance Wine for the Holidays

This holiday season I was invited to experience the 2008  Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon and include the wine in our Holiday 2012 Gift Guide.  I really enjoy discovering new wines so it took me less than a second to reply with an enthusiastic “Yes!”.

If you have been following Make Life Special, you know that I love wine and I enjoy serving it with all of my food.  I think the only real way to learn about wine is to try it.  

Heritance Wine proudly bears a label that says ”  1 Family/ 9 Generations/ 4 Continents”.

 Winemaker Bernard Portet has been making wine for decades, continuously drawing upon his family legacy of wine-making excellence through 9 generations and acroos 4 continents.  A Napa Valley winemaking icon ( he was a co-founder of the famous Clos du Val Winery) , Bernard is continuing his family tradition with Heritance Winery.  


Bernard Portet: Co-founder of Clos du Val winery and now the founder of Heritance Winery

Bernard Portet uses “assemblage” winemaking which has long been his signature style.  This means that he blends different lots of wine to craft a finished wine that is greater than the sum of their parts.  The Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.   I find that I really enjoy wine blends and this wine was outstanding in my book!

Here is their description of this wine:

 ”  A medium-deep to dark ruby hue with some violet overtones is gorgeous in the glass.  A gentle swirl releases fragrant black fruit aromas and a beautiful touch of oak that adds pleasant spice and complexity, without hiding the elegant and pleasing structure.  This wine is full, round and well-anchored with a classic finish.  Although it can age, it is ready to be enjoyed right now.”

 I enjoyed this wine very much!  I served it with my Rib Eye Peppercorn Steaks  and everyone thought this wine was outstanding!   My best description of the wine is “Elegant”.  I would definitely buy this wine again and would certainly recommend this as a gift for anyone on your list who enjoys wine.  

Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon has a SRP of $ 36.00 per bottle.  

The Heritance Website  will introduce you to other great wines produced by this winery.  You can also become a mailing list member.  Be sure to check out the Holiday Gift Sets they have available too!

Thanks to Heritance Winery for my sample to review.  My opinions are honest.  No compensation was received.  



Back to the Roots Gourmet Mushroom Kit


To watch our video review of this product, click here:  Back to The Roots

Back to the Roots Gourmet Mushroom Kit Gift Guide Age Recommendation:  3+



I do not have a green thumb. I do my best and sometimes it works out, sometimes it does not. I always apologize to any plant I buy as we head home. There are a few things that always make my “safe” list. These are the things I know I can grow successfully: Tomatoes, Basil, Dill, Chive, Parsley, Oregano, Mint and now… Oyster Mushrooms!

I was doubtful that I could grow mushrooms. I am happy to report that I was wrong! The kit tells you that you can harvest in as LITTLE as 10 days. I am on day 10 and they are not ready to harvest, but they are well on their way! I think my family and I will be dining on these mushrooms within a week. I’m thinking a mushroom risotto is in order…. Check out my Recipe!   Nicole’s Mushroom Risotto

Here are the kit’s stats: You can grow 2-3 harvests of oyster mushrooms. You only have to mist 2 times per day after the initial soaking. The kit grows up to 1.5 pounds of fresh gourmet mushrooms total. The mushroom garden will last in the box before opening – there is no shelf life! Oh, and you can grow the mushrooms at any time of the year.

The soil is made 100% of recycled coffee grounds (I love supporting safe & sustainable products)! Also, the cardboard of the garden box has tomato, basil and kale seeds! When you are done with the mushrooms, just plant the box and grow an entirely new garden!

And, here are pictures of my mushrooms thus far:

Let’s get started….. 






Day 4…


Day 5……..


Day 6…..


Day 7……


Day 8…..


Day 10….


I think this is a fantastic gift for the young child in your life. It is very educational and gives kids the opportunity to learn a bit about where their food comes from. My son is only 1, but he loved helping me! I can’t wait to see his reaction when he is older and can mist the mushrooms. This would also be a great gift for older kids and adults who enjoy gardening. Or, if you have a friend or family member who likes to cook with fresh ingredients (and is always complaining about the selection at your local grocery store) then this would be the perfect gift for them!

To learn more about this product, and their other products, please visit their Website:  Back to the Roots    or the  Back to the Roots Facebook Page  

Oh!  I almost forgot!  Whenever you post a photo of your grown kit on the Back to the Roots Facebook Page  , they will donate a kit and sustainability curriculum to an elementary classroom of your choice! I’ll be posting mine when it reaches full maturity and will have them donate to one of our local elementary!

Where to Buy

For $19.95, plus shipping and handling (free shipping if you buy 2), you can order the mushroom kits directly from their Website:  Order Back to the Roots   

Or, you can find a retailer near you by using their Store Locator!   Back to the Roots Store Locator

Reviewed by: Nicole


Note: Back to the Roots, Inc. supplied me with one Gourmet Mushroom Kit for review. No other compensation was received. The review in this post is honest and my own.

Sandra Lee 2013 Calendar


Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  21+




             First off, I’m going to give you a heads up.  This is not your typical calendar.  This does not have open boxes for your to hand write your appointments.  This is more of a recipe box with recommendations as to what day to serve them.  The box contains 157 recipes for 365 days.  So, you have 3 recipes per week.  The recipes span several genres.  Some are main courses, some appetizers, some desserts, some are beverages, etc…   All the recipe cards are 4×6. 


            I’m really happy that the recipes follow the seasons very well.  You will get recipes for English Popovers and Berry Crumble during the winter months and slowly transition to Blue Corn Chip Nachos and Lush Lemon in the summer.  I also like that there are only 3 recipes per week.  So, when I do my meal planning I can reference them and see if I want to try one, two or all three recipes that week.  If I have a busy week, I might not do the recommended dessert.  But, I have the option of taking that card and saving it in a recipe box for later!  Or, if it is a recipe that will not work for my family (my husband HATES cilantro), I can pitch the recipe card when the day has passed.  Overall, I like this calendar.  I’ve already found a few recipes that I want to try.  I think that the Ham and Cheese Souffle will be made long before March 6th gets here! 


            Santa’s elves unsure what to put in Chef Dad’s stocking?  The size of this gift lends itself for use as a stocking stuffer! Not sure what to get your sister-in-law?  Need to beef up your gift to a mom in your life?  I think that any home cook would be happy to have this calendar assist them in their meal planning.  Also, I see this as a great gift for anyone who likes to entertain, likes variety in their foods, or is new to cooking and is in need of easy, delicious meal ideas.  There are quite a few alcoholic drink recipes, so maybe it would be best to keep this to the over 21 crowd. 


Where to Buy

 The Recipe Calendar sells for $ 14.99 and  can be purchased at http://sandralee.com/books.


 Reviewed by: Nicole


Note: Sandra Lee supplied me with one Sandra Lee 2013 Calendar for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.








Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  6+



            It’s a cup and it’s an ocarina!   Okay, full disclosure, I had no idea what an ocarina was before this fantastic Teacarina crossed my doorstep.  I’ve since learned that ocarinas are an ancient flute-like wind instrument.  The sound that the cup/ocarina combo can produce is quite pleasing.  My inner child was reawakened… and so was my husband’s.  The Teacarina is about 3.5 inches in diameter (so it fits nicely in your hands).  It can play 8 diatonic notes and STL Ocarina gives you a fingering chart and some beginner sheet music.  Just like those piano lessons I took years ago, I got to learn a new instrument by playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Claire de la Lune.” As one reviewer put it, the Teacarina is “exceptionally fun and wildly additive to toot away at.”  I couldn’t agree more!   


Even if the Teacarina were just a cup, I would recommend it.  There is no handle on the Teacarina and it looks lovely next to a tea kettle.  The Teacarina is available in 8 colors.  So, you can easily find one that fits your friend or family member’s personality (or yours, if you decide to gift one to yourself as well)!  It’s double walled so your hands stay burn free while your tea stays hot (I have a few tea cups that get so hot I have to let my tea cool down before enjoying… not so great when you want a hot beverage to warm you up on a cold winter morning).  And, perhaps it is because I am a busy mom, I am thrilled to report that the Teacarina is dishwasher safe.  It’s also microwave safe, but that doesn’t get me quite as jazzed… I rarely microwave water for tea. 


The Teacarina would be a lovely gift for the tea enthusiast in your life.  They will appreciate how lovely the cup is and get reacquainted with their inner 6 year old.  This would also be a fabulous gift to the young musician in your life.  They don’t have to drink tea out of this cup.  I’m sure the Teacarina will gladly hold orange juice or chocolate milk.  Playing the Teacarina is very addictive.  Be forewarned, the parents of that young musician might give your kids a drum set next Christmas.


To see the Teacarina in action, please check out this rendition of “The Can Can” at Teacarina!  


Where to Buy

            For $18.00-$22.00, plus shipping and handling, this wonderful gift set is available thru STL Ocarina!   


Reviewed by: Nicole


Note:  STL Ocarina graciously supplied me with a 4 hole Teacarina for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.


Ring in The Holiday Season With Malmark Handbells!

Malmark Bells creates some of the finest quality bells in the world.    We all have heard a handbell choir at some time in our life…perhaps you have even learned to play handbells.  But did you know that bells are not just for ringing in the new year, they are a traditional gift and an important reminder to all of us that the holiday season has begun.

Bells add cheer to special occasions and are associated with happy times.  Whether you are looking for a gift for your family members, a friend or co-worker, Malmark’s holiday handbells will be a cherished keepsake.  

You can shop a wide assortment of these beautiful bells online  atwww.Malmark.com.  All of Malmark’s bells can be engraved with a personalzed inscription for added beauty.

There are several ways I plan on using Malmark bells this holiday season:

  • We will have one on the holiday table to use as a “Toasting Bell”.  Each person who wants to make a holiday toast will ring the bell first to set the stage for his or her toast to the holidays. The sound of the Malmark bell is really beautiful!
  • In years past, I have glued  jingle bells on holiday packages so no one could shake the package and figure out what was inside.  This year, I plan on adding a small Malmark Bell to my handmade bows instead.
  • The Malmark dinner bell will be a perfect addition to the kitchen decorations.
  • Malmark Bells would make a great hostess gift.
  • Music lover on your holiday list?  Give the gift of Malmark bells. 

  Malmark provided me with one Malmark handbell to use for this review.  No compensation was received.  These are my true and honest opinions.    

Gingerbread Love Crunch

Gingerbread Love Crunch® by Nature’s Path


Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  1+



            Run, run as fast as you can…. to your nearest Whole Foods Market!  Nature’s Path has released Gingerbread Love Crunch® just in time for the holidays.  And, it is a limited run, so I recommend you stock up on a few bags.  Gingerbread Love Crunch® is available now thru December only.  And, in the spirit of the holidays, Nature’s Path will donate the equivalent to every bag sold in cash and organic food (up to 1 million dollars) to a food bank as part of their desire to brighten the holidays for those in need.  It’s great that this granola not only fills your tummy, but also helps fill the empty tummies of people in need. 


             Gingerbread Love Crunch® is one tasty granola.  The spice flavors were reminiscent of a gingersnap cookie (which I love).  You can really taste the molasses, ginger, cinnamon and clove as you devour the bag one bite at a time.  (Not that I did that.  Please do not look in my trash can right now…)  I am also very appreciative that I could easily pronounce every ingredient.  Oats, cane juice, molasses, ginger, sea salt, etc.  No trans fats.  No cholesterol.  Just lots of 100% USDA certified organic & Fair Trade  Certified whole grains, fiber, iron & calcium.  I kindly ask that you not tell my son how good this is for him…. he thinks it is a special treat!  And, it is special.  It is so special that I need to go buy more… soon.  It was amazing with my almond milk as a cereal in the morning, on top of my Greek yogurt in the afternoon and by itself every time I walked through the kitchen.   


            Gingerbread Love Crunch® would make an excellent stocking stuffer.  It would also be great as part of a healthy care package to your son/daughter in college.  Or, you could put this in a gift basket for just about anyone.          


Where to Buy

            This product is only available at Whole Foods Market.


Reviewed by: Nicole


Note:  Nature’s Path graciously supplied me with one bag of Gingerbread Love Crunch® for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.

Della Bags — Carry Change This Holiday Season

The Make Life Special Holiday Gift Guide has focused on great cooking, kitchen, food and wine gift ideas.  I was asked if I would feature the Della Bags in our gift guide and after learning about the Della LA company, I immediately said “Yes!”.   The Della story is so inspirational that I had to share it with you.  

Della is a Los Angeles based fashion line that works directly with a community of women in Ghana, West Africa.  Every item from Della helps provide jobs, education and skills training to women.  They are a woman owned, women run business….and their products are absolutely beautiful!

Here is my daughter, Kacy, modeling the Della HoBo Bag, Della iPad Case and Della Laptop Case.  These items would be perfect for any woman on the go!  Kacy is a college student and she absolutely LOVED these Della fashion accessories.

The Della story began in 2009 when Los Angeles designer Tina Tangalakis traveled to Ghana, West Africa – unaware of the changes that would occur.  As a volunteer in the town of Hohoe, Tina fell in love with the local textiles and the people she met.  As a result of that trip, Tina created Della LA which strives to empower women to rise above poverty.  

Every purchase of a Della product helps to provide fair wages, skills training, weekly literacy classes, money management workshops, social security and healthcare benefits.  Della is making a difference and I hope that you will look at their beautiful products and consider doing your part to “Carry  Change”.

 The HoBo bag is a favorite and comes in several beautiful West African textiles.  Every HoBo bag is signed by the artist who made it.


The laptop and ipad cases are perfect for this years gift giving season!

Check out the Della Website for all of their great products and shopping online.  Several of my favorites are:

Laptop case  $ 38.00

HoBo Bag        $42.00

Headband        $12.00

ipad case          $ 38.00

Hope & Unity Earrings   $ 48.00

Shop Della LA  

 Here is the Fall 2012 Collection:

Della Fall 2012 Lookbook

Della is giving hope to women who have lived in poverty.  Della is giving skills to these women for a brighter future.


The bottom line is Make Life Special loves Della!  


Della provided us with the samples for this review.  No compensation was received.  These are my true and honest opinions.


Tea Tongs


Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  14+




Have you ever, accidentally of course, pulled too hard on a tea bag while unwrapping it and discovered that the tag on the string came off?  Or, have you discovered a fabulous tea that does not have a string attached to it?  You can, of course, fish out the tea bags with a spoon and dispose of the tea bag.


But, what if you want to treat yourself?  What if you want to reuse the tea bag for a second cup (Teatulia teas are great for this)?  These fantastic tea tongs are a cute, and practical, way to deal with the tea bag.  The tongs are great at getting the bag out of the tea and the little cozy will hold your tea bag until you are ready to reuse.  Just be sure not to squeeze the tea bag too hard – if you do, the stewed/bitter tea will be released into the cup.  A gentle removal will leave your palette much happier!


I think this would be a great gift for a co-worker who likes to sip tea all day long.  Or, you could gift this to the college student who likes to drink tea while studying/relaxing.  Really, any tea drinker who uses bagged teas can use this and appreciate its practicality.  The package is a lot bigger than the tea tongs.  So, if you decide to do a tea themed stocking for a family member, you would need to remove the tongs from their package to get them into a stocking.


Where to Buy


Tea Tongs by Food Network can be purchased at Kohl’s stores.   


Reviewed by: Nicole


Note:  Kohl’s supplied me with one red Tea Tong for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.

Navitas Natural’s Super Food Power Snacks


Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  14+




I love supporting wonderful company like Navitas Naturals.    A few months ago, I started exploring the world of “super foods.”  Berries, nuts, citrus fruits, dark chocolate, chia seeds, etc. are all on my list of foods to incorporate into my diet more often.  The health nut in me loves that Navitas Natural’s satisfying snacks are:


  1. Gluten and dairy free
  2. High in fiber and Vitamin C
  3. Free of refined sugar, artificial colors and flavors
  4. Full of Omega fatty acids
  5. GMO free
  6. Vegan
  7. Made only with raw/organic ingredients
  8. Trans fat free


It is fantastic to find a product that fits the above description.  Not only do they fit the description, but they actually taste good! Now, these are not going to be a good gift for those in your life who mock health foods as being “bird feed” or “rabbit food.”  If your mate is a chicken fried steak eating, cheese flavored potato chip crunching, processed food partaker… don’t buy these for them!  But, for the health conscious friend, family member or co-worker these would be a fantastic gift.  Snacking on these is guilt free.  And, they are a wonderful way to refuel after a grueling workout.


Where to Buy


For $8.99 per package, you can purchase these healthy snacks directly from Navitas Naturals.

Or, you can purchase them at a retail store near you by using their Store Locator.  Navitas Naturals

And, because I know several of you are Amazon lovers, you can also purchase them thru Amazon  


Reviewed by: Nicole


Note:  ­­­­­­Navitas Naturals supplied me with one package each of their Cacao Goji Super Food Power Snack, Blueberry Hemp Super Food Power Snack and Citrus Chia Super Food Power Snack for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.

Plush Puffs Gourmet Marshmallows

Plush Puffs are handmade, all natural, low-fat intensely flavored marshmallows!  They are light, fluffy, billowy puffs of sticky, gooey goodness.  They are made the old-fashioned way — handmade in a two day process of whipping to a heavenly lightness and flavored with the absolute highest quality all-natural ingredients.


There are 8 decadent Plush Puffs flavors to tempt your taste buds:

  • Vanilla Bean – This “Cadillac Marshmallow” is a classic for toasting and simply divine when melted into coffee or hot chocolate.
  • Simply S’Mores – Plush Puffs mixed their Vanilla Bean Marshmallow with  all-natural graham cracker pieces, dusted with light cocoa powder and then topped with chocolate chips….need I say more???
  • Luscious Lemony Meringue –  These have just the right amount of tartness…float one in a hot cup of tea…
  • Chocolate Chipetta – These start with an intense cocoa flavor and are then topped with micro-mini chocolate chips…A chocolate lovers dream….
  • Caramel Swirl – Wonderful roasted or dipped into a chocolate fondue..
  • Peppi-Mint – These turn an ordinary cup of coffee into a special treat!
  • Toasted Coconut – Delicious roasted and dipped in dark chocolate
  • Sydney’s Cinnamon – Whipped with the highest quality ground cinnamon and almond extract 

Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  8+


             When I think of the Plush Puffs marshmallows, the following words come to mind:  delicious, tasty, fun, addictive, gourmet, kid friendly, sugar rush and empty bag.  You see, these didn’t last very long at my house.  I loved them.  They reminded me of something my great-grandmother used to make.  My husband loved them (he is a huge gourmet/homemade marshmallow fan).  And, my little 1 year old son thought they were the bomb diggity.  Well, he hasn’t learned that phrase yet, but that was his expression! 


            The Peppi-Mint marshmallows have a huge burst of peppermint flavor, but are not overpowering.  The Toasted Coconut, my favorite of the flavors sampled, has a fabulous coconut flavor and the benefit of real toasted coconut on top (crunchy with fluffy is a fabulous texture combination).  The Gingerbread Spice really did taste like Gingerbread and was delicious crumbled into my morning coffee.  And, the Pumpkin Spice is not for the faint of holiday heart.  They will have you craving a slice of pumpkin pie… or more Pumpkin Spice Plush Puffs, because your bag will be empty.


            I loved making s’mores with my Plush Puffs.  2 Graham cracker halves, some chocolate (I prefer dark) and a Plush Puff.   Wrap the s’more in aluminum foil and toast in the oven.  This is quite a decadent snack.   


            I think that these would be loved by your children if Santa left a box in their stocking.  These would also be a fabulous hostess gift.  Like my husband, the gourmand in your life will appreciate these immensely.  Oh, and you will need to buy a box, or two, for yourself… these are not a treat you will want to miss! 


Where to Buy


             You can locate buy these lovely marshmallows at Fresh & Easy and many Whole Foods locations.


            If there isn’t a local retailer near you, you can always buy online thru their Store:  Plush Puffs     They come in 16-18 one-inch cubes — about 4 ounces for $ 5.99.  Plush Puffs website also sells a number if special gift ideas for a truly unique surprise!

These are luxurious for adults but still fun for kids, they are an amazing treat. 


Reviewed by: Nicole


Note:  Three Girls Media supplied me with one package each of Peppi-Mint, Toasted Coconut, Gingerbread Spice & Pumpkin Pie for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.

Make Life Special
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Phone: 217-556-8297 Website: http://www.makelifespecial.com