The Ultimate Cheesy Bread Bowl Recipe

ultimate cheesy bread bowl recipe 768x1024 The Ultimate Cheesy Bread Bowl Recipe
My husband got this Cheesy Bread Bowl recipe from a friend he used to work with (thanks Brooke!) and now we can’t host an event without it! I detest mayonnaise, and I still love this appetizer.

The Ultimate Cheesy Bread Bowl Recipe


  • 8 oz package softened cream cheese
  • 1 c Hellman’s REAL mayonnaise (my husband refuses to let me buy anything else)
  • 1/8 tsp of ground while pepper
  • 1/8 tsp of garlic salt
  • 10-12 oz of shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  • Round loaf of White Mountain Bread
*Cut a circle in top of bread and hollow out the top to create a large bread bowl.
*Take top of bread and pull into chunks and set aside.
*Combine first four ingredients in medium size bowl and mix well.
*Add cheese to mixture.
*Pour cheese mixture into hollowed out bread bowl.
*Bake on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes (until bubbly with brown edges).
*If desired, scatter chunks of bread around the bread bowl on the cookie sheet during the last five minutes of cooking.
*Serve immediately and wait for compliments to the chef icon smile The Ultimate Cheesy Bread Bowl Recipe
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Free Starbucks Holiday Drinks this weekend!

Who says you can’t get free Starbucks coffee? Starting on November 13th and running all weekend, get a Free Starbucks Holiday drink.

Screen Shot 2013 11 15 at 1.17.12 PM Free Starbucks Holiday Drinks this weekend!

Between 2-5pm Nov 13-17, you can share joy by buying one holiday drink and getting one free at your local Starbucks.

Wouldn’t that be a nice way to surprise someone?!

The free Starbucks holiday drinks include:
*Caramel Brulee Latee,
*Gingerbread Latee
*Peppermint Mocha

I’m hoping the Starbucks 12 Days of Sharing returns this year where they offer deep discounts on different products every day. You know I’ll keep you posted if this in fact happens.

Don’t forget, if you’re looking for a good deal any other day at Starbucks, you can get an Iced Grande Coffee for only $1.95 and you can add syrup for free. Couple that with Free WiFi for everyone and you can’t beat the value!

moz screenshot 1 Free Starbucks Holiday Drinks this weekend!

moz screenshot Free Starbucks Holiday Drinks this weekend!

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Hello My Name Is…

Hello, my name is Samara. 

In case you didn’t think Sami was a unique enough name, many of you might not realize that my full name is in fact Samara J’aime (Strauss) Cone.

Samara means ‘guarded by God’ in Hebrew. My British mother originally liked the name ‘Samantha’ for me, but worried I may find it difficult to spell as a young child. So when she came across ‘Samara’ in a baby book, that cinched it for her: she thought it would not only make her Jewish mother-in-law happy, but she’d also ultimately make my life easier. 

One out of two ain’t bad, right?

What’s been funny to me growing up is the overwhelming number of people who see my name and still call me Samantha anyway!

My mom also thought she’d help me out as a kid by giving me a short and sweet nickname. As you can imagine, not many people get ‘Sami’ right on the first try either (a little troublesome for a blogger whose website also happens to be her name icon wink Hello My Name Is... .

You would think that after an upbringing like I had, I’d opt to name my children slightly more traditionally.

Nope. Not a chance.

Despite the daily butchering of my name and never being able to find a souvenir keychain with my name on it while on vacation, I appreciated being unique. After all, I’d venture to say the seven girls named ‘Jennifer’ in my high school class had it much harder than I did.

I actually chose my daughter’s name far before I even met my husband. I found her name while studying my Greek/Hebrew Keyword Bible as a new Christian in my 20′s. While doing keyword research on Luke 1:30, I discovered that when the angel of the Lord visited Mary and tells her, “You have found FAVOR in the eyes of the Lord”, ‘favor’ in Greek is ‘charis’ and also means ‘grace’ or a ‘gift from God’. 

I was hooked. 

It didn’t take much for me to convince my husband once we met, other than changing the spelling to make it slightly more feminine and phonetic: Kariss.

When we became pregnant with our second child just one year later, we decided to represent all four of our parents names in our son’s name: Britton (after my mother’s homeland), Jerick (blending both our fathers’ names) and Kingrea (my mother-in-law’s maiden name). 

Of course, I completely empathize every time our kids’ search for a personalized mug or any sort of personalized trinket while on vacation.

When I was young, there were hardly any options to personalized clothes and gifts. The one prized possession I received at the age of seven was a stamp with my name on it my mother ordered from the office supply store next to the law office where she was a secretary (I still have that stamp to this day!).

These days, personalization is plentiful and, especially in the South, a rite of passage for many children and their parents.

In fact, one of the first questions we got from a good friend after she learned we’d gifted our son with four names was, “How on earth am I supposed to monogram that??”

I will say, some of the favorite gifts we’ve both received and given over the years have been personalized ones. 

The minute I get a personalized gift, it’s like I can hear the giver saying, “Not only did this make me think of you, I wanted to take that extra step to let you know just how much you mean to me.”

With Christmas coming, I couldn’t think of a better time to share some ideas on how to make your gift giving just a little more personal this year:

  1. Paint an ornament with a family name on it.
    Every year, I’ll get wooden or paper ornaments at a local craft store for less than a dollar and paint our friends’ names on one side while a decoupage a picture of their family on the other. I’m not crafty by any stretch of the imagination, but these are a great way to communicate love without spending a lot of time or money on the project (they also make great gift tags to tie on to a larger gift!).
  2. Purchase personalized clothing. 
    I’ve tried buying the iron-on printer paper to create unique personalized tees and such for friends, but without fail, these crack and peel after one wash. Instead, we love sites like Bright Star Kids where it’s quick and easy to order. Simply pick your design, add your child’s name and it’ll be printed and arrive to you within a few weeks!
  3. Individualized gift baskets.
    A great way we’ve found to surprise friends, especially for a wedding/anniversary gift, is by creating a basket with all their favorite things and dropping it on their doorstep. If you’re close with someone, chances are you know their favorite foods, drinks, snacks, magazines, etc. For less than $20 (including a basket we typically find at Goodwill), you can make a gift that will truly make an impact!

If you’re going to go through the trouble of giving someone a gift, why not put just a little extra effort into it to make it something the ones you love will never forget?

Giving a unique and personalized gift is easy this Christmas with Bright Star Kids super cute range of kids clothing. Order now so you’ll have it in plenty of time for Christmas!

Be different this Christmas & get the kids a super cute gift personalized especially for them! Save 15% when you use the code “GIFT” in the shopping cart. Min spend $30. Expires December 15, 2013.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Bright Star Kids. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Quick and Easy Holiday Entertaining Tips

Martha Stewart I am not…which is why if I’m going to do any sort of holiday entertaining, you KNOW it has to be quick and easy (and usually last minute!).

quick and easy holiday entertaining tips 236x300 Quick and Easy Holiday Entertaining Tips

I never want friends and family to feel like the can’t come over simply because my house isn’t clean enough, my decorations aren’t complicated enough, or my food isn’t pretty enough.

So as we quickly approach the holiday season, I’ve got a few simple tips to help you with your holiday entertaining (or anytime you want to have someone over, for that matter!)

Everything you see below (& saw me demonstrate on Talk of the Town on Friday, October 18) cost under $25.

Quick and Easy Holiday Entertaining Tips

*Look first at what you have in your fridge/freezer pantry
(Try to keep certain essentials always on hand to entertain with: crackers, cheese, meatballs in the freezer, etc)

*Keep it to finger foods that steer clear from utensils, like:
-Pepper Jelly poured over a block of cream cheese served with crackers
-Frozen Mini-Phyllo Cups filled with spoonable brie and raspberry jam
-Mini meatballs in a crockpot with a sauce made from an equal mix of ketchup and grape jelly

*Use clippings from your own yard to decorate: Fall leaves, holly bush trimmings, twigs in vases, etc

*Don’t forget dessert! Melt Rolos on pretzel squares and then push nuts, Reeses Pieces or holiday themed M&Ms into it for a quick & easy treat!

*Create a small campfire backyard with hot cider, hot dogs & S’mores

Most important – don’t let your entertaining inferiority complex prevent you from having family & friends over – just make your home full of love and laughter!

Watch my Talk of the Town video on the same topic below: | Nashville News, Weather

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Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!)

300x250 1FreeWallCal ACQ US 22024 Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!) Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!)
I have multiple free calendar deals for you right now!

This is especially exciting for me personally because this is the ONE gift we usually make for all our relatives, but I just couldn’t find the typical deals on photo calendars like I normally do, so we have yet to make one for 2013 icon sad Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!)

20121228 114048 Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!)

I’m sad because as I look at my cute calendar from 2012, I’m realizing I may soon be without one for the New Year… that was until just now! I almost simultaneously found two free photo calendar offers. Check these out:

1. VistaPrint
125x125 1FreeWallCal ACQ US 22024 Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!) Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!)
Right now, you can customize your own photo wall calendar for free at Vistaprint—just pay for shipping and processing (which is around $5)!

With over 300 design templates for you to choose from, it’s easy to find the perfect theme to showcase each and every one of your photos. You can upload your favorite snapshots to each month, create a photo collage, and even crop or resize your pictures, too. Plus, since they’re great to share with friends and family, in just a few clicks, you can even add the dates (my favorite part about these) for their birthdays, anniversaries, homecoming games, graduations, and your unofficial family holiday, so they have no reason to forget any special occasion in 2013.

2. Living Social
aa756a69 9414 45b0 99e0 39bc340a1b28 85 q60  jpg Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!)
Well, the actual deal is for $9 (which is an amazing deal in and of itself), but if you have any Living Social bucks like I had saved up, you get a FREE Shutterfly Photo Calendar Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!)! You can also buy the deal for $9 and then share a personalized link they give you after the transaction; if three friends buy through the link, it makes yours free!

I don’t know how long these free photo calendar deals will last, so I wouldn’t wait too long!

<a href=”″>100 Free 4×6 Prints</a><img src=”″ border=”0″ alt=”" width=”1″ height=”1″ />


pin it button Free Photo Calendar Deals (Multiple offers!)

Merry Christmas 2012 from the Cone Family

Screen Shot 2012 12 25 at 2.48.39 PM 215x300 Merry Christmas 2012 from the Cone Family

Merry Christmas 2012 from the Cone Family to your family!

Wherever you are and however you are celebrating today, I pray that it is filled with joy, laughter and memories to last a lifetime.

Still, I know that for many of us, the Christmas season can be bittersweet as well. If you are hurting this holiday, know that you are not alone. (You can read why Christmas made me cry too…)

But through it all, I am ever thankful for each of you who join me on this journey to live your best life on less and maximize your memories with your family. May you be even more successful in your pursuits, whatever they may be, in 2013!

With love & gratitude,

pin it button Merry Christmas 2012 from the Cone Family

Hurting during the Holidays (aka Crying at Christmas)

172649 crying angel Hurting during the Holidays (aka Crying at Christmas)

Photo Courtesy of Oziris

While most of us know Christmas as the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, I would venture to guess there is a much larger population than we think who are hurting during the holidays.

I recently heard Mandisa’s new song, “Christmas Makes Me Cry” and it made me realize just how difficult of a season this can be, even for those of us who celebrate the joy of Jesus’ birth.

For one reason, I’d say it’s simply because we stress ourselves out.

So many of us look forward to Christmas for so long that once it’s here, we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves to create the ‘perfect’ month for everyone.

Secondly, and a close follow up to reason #1, no-one is perfect. So to think we can create the perfect anything is absurd. Even when nothing else is going wrong around you, people are still people, and face it: we disappoint each other.

Thirdly, most of us do have broken relationships in our lives, whether through death, separation or even just family fall-outs. Regardless of where you stand in this spectrum, this season that centers around family will make those relationships ever-more present in your mind and can make your celebrations slightly bittersweet.

I for one spent most of our Christmas Eve service crying my eyes out. I grieved over most of the reasons I just listed…and then was mad at myself that I couldn’t ‘move on’ and stay focused on the reason I was sitting in church in the first place.

I’m especially thankful to my friend Trish (who, with her husband, wrote an amazing book on relationships that JUST came out, “Beyond Ordinary“…everyone needs to pick this one up!) who let me cry on her shoulder and reminded me that not only is it impossible for me to control anyone else’s behavior, it’s OK for me not to have all of my own pieces perfectly put together all the time either.

Of course, there are the plethora of other valid reasons why crying at Christmas is more prevalent than we might think:
*Families separated because they are separated by members serving in the military
*Family members in the hospital or assisted-living centers who can’t be at home
*Families torn apart due to a recent tragedy, whether it’s a car accident, an affair or anything in between
*Foster children who have been bounced from home to home and find themselves, once again, without someone to love them
*Family members who desperately want to get home to each other, but can’t afford to travel
*Children with parents in prison
*The homeless who don’t know where to go to get a hot meal on Christmas

I could go on and on, and still may not even have touched on what you’re experiencing this Christmas.

I bring this up not to depress you, but rather to say you’re not alone. And as much as I love this time of year, I think I may have been living in a bit of ignorance to think that just because the calendar says it’s Christmas, everyone should therefore be happy.

But I’m reminded of song lyrics that say, “Though the sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes in the morning” and God’s promise from James 1:2-3 that tells us:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

My tear-fest yesterday reminded me of what my Christian walk is all about: I’m not promised happiness on a day-to-day basis, but I can Choose Joy. In Kay Warren’s book with the same title, I learned that “Joy is deeper than happiness, lasts longer than excitement, and is more satisfying than pleasure and thrills”.

So if you’re hurting this holiday or crying this Christmas, just remember, we worship a Savior who Himself experienced the ultimate pain and humiliation: a criminal’s death on a cross. Reach out to Him with your troubles while also reaching out to those around you. Chances are if you’re harboring hurt, they just may be too, and you can comfort each other while challenging each other to choose joy this Christmas.

Wherever you are and whatever you may be going through, I pray the peace of Christ Jesus falls on you and your family. Merry Christmas!

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How to Throw a Holiday Party for Less

IMG 8132 225x300 How to Throw a Holiday Party for Less

Been wondering how to throw a great holiday party for less money? It seems like holiday parties are a dime a dozen this time of year, but many of us shy away from hosting such a bash because the dent it can put on our wallets.

But I’m here to break the holiday party myth: Throwing a great party doesn’t have to cost a lot, but can still be simple, safe & fun!

How to Throw a Holiday Party for Less:

1. Go to stores you know & trust where you can get a lot of things done at once, but still stay on budget.
Example: Use Aldi for all your baking needs. Not only do they have all the essentials, but they also have fun add ins and nuts that are usually much more expensive. (Everything below was under $25!)

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If you’d rather not go the scratch-made route, consider a place like Sam’s Club: a one-stop destination for all your entertaining needs! They have everything for your table! Whether you’re looking for platters of gourmet-to-go desserts (like The Cheesecake Factory Hershey’s Cheesecake & the Artisan sampler pie) or appetizers like chicken and bacon bruschetta and mini quiches, you can find it there, as well as holiday decorations, tablescape & serving items.

 How to Throw a Holiday Party for Less

The best part is that Sam’s Club offers a 200% satisfaction guarantee on fresh meats, savory seafood, crisp produce and baked goods so you’ll feel comfortable knowing you are serving quality food items to family and friends.

2. If you want to keep it even simpler and don’t want to serve food, consider doing just a holiday beverage bar with a kid friendly hot cocoa or apple cider, as well as a coffee drink and blended drink for the adults using quality small appliances from Black & Decker (I love their single-serve coffee maker and blender – you can get each for under $30!). And don’t be afraid to to ask people to bring cookies to share and maybe even enough to take home!

IMG 8140 300x225 How to Throw a Holiday Party for Less

 How to Throw a Holiday Party for Less

3. Keep it family friendly by coming up with a fun theme (like Christmas PJs), putting out kids’ Christmas crafts or showing family-friendly Christmas movies (like VeggieTales) and make sure to put away breakable decorations and instead opt for Energizer flameless candles.

 How to Throw a Holiday Party for Less

Keep decorations simple and budget friendly – shop deals at Michaels, find receptacles you already have and fill them with fruit, cheap ball ornaments or tree cuttings from your yard! (Makes your room smell great too!)

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I also love the new Christmas designs they’ve come out with! Now you literally don’t have to watch your money burn as they flame does icon wink How to Throw a Holiday Party for Less

Check back to watch my segment on the topic from Fox TN Mornings!

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Starbucks 12 Days of Gifting Discount: Day 12

The 12 Days of Gifting from Starbucks are back. With a new gift each and every day, there’s bound to be something for everyone on your list.

The Day 12 Deal is (LAST DEAL):

40% Off Cranberry Bliss® Bars 6-Pack.  This offer is valid 12/12/12.


Check back every day to find out what’s special for that day. You can also text “MERRY” to 697289 to get a text with the daily deal sent right to your phone.

If you’re looking for more Starbucks freebies, stay tuned over the coming days and don’t forget about their Free WiFi and weekly free iTunes music downloads.

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Spread Joy Through Metro Ministries’ Operation Holiday Hope

12 days of holiday hope logo Spread Joy Through Metro Ministries Operation Holiday Hope

I want to invite you to check out a simple way you can spread joy this Christmas through Brooklyn, NY-based Metro Ministries and their Operation Holiday Hope 12-day campaign.

Metro Ministries is a global Christian ministry that has worked with children in metropolitan areas around the world through inner city Sunday school classes for more than three decades. Through December 12th, Metro Ministries will be posting the amazing stories of 12 children helped by their initiative, and it’s something we all could benefit by learning about with our families.

The 12-day Operation Holiday Hope campaign is their biggest outreach effort of the season and the chance to give a child a Christmas they will never forget. A simple $10 donation puts a wrapped present in the arms of a child and gives them a thrill of hope, knowing someone is thinking and caring about them.

If you’d like to learn more, just check out their Facebook page! It’s a simple way we all can give back and instill a little bit of hope to kids in need this Christmas!

pin it button Spread Joy Through Metro Ministries Operation Holiday Hope