Friday, April 30, 2010

The Flavor of Staying in Touch

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and Coffee-mate.


I turned 25 the other day, and it was a shock. I am no longer in my early twenties! How did this happen? One day I was running wild through a cherry blossom campus, writing short stories and drinking bright green Midori sours. Then I was dropping off waterfalls in South America, sleeping by the river. And now here I am with rent to pay, insurance to grapple with, a fledgling career and a Subaru, in my mid-twenties. So, this is what reality feels like, huh!

I’ll be honest with you- I don’t have any money. I pay the bills and I’m not in any debt, so that’s nice. But I do not have any money for the little things that spice up the daily grind. In my experience, money is the easiest way to add flavor to your life, as it makes a lot of fantastic things possible. I’d love to add pieces to a funky wardrobe, or fill up the gas tank and hit the road each weekend. But right now, those things- and many other things- are not possible.

Thankfully, growing up in the absolute middle of nowheresville, Vermont, taught me innovation and creativity. I’ve discovered a way to infuse my life with the flavors of joy, delight, and connection, all with the help of a small square of paper, worth 42 cents exactly. That’s right- I use the oldest, most archaic of systems: the post office.

I have always loved to give things, to browse through colorful shelves for pick-me-ups and just-becauses for my friends. I go overboard at birthdays and holidays, sinking as much money into the fancy wrapping as I do for the gift. I’ve always thought that if I won the lottery, I would make a full time job out of buying little things and flinging them around the country to all the people I love.

Eventually, I started to rethink this idea. People don’t actually need the things that I want to send them. And if they’re anything like me, constantly in transition, the last thing they need is clutter building up. Most importantly, the environment just cannot handle unnecessary consumption, even the most frilly, fun- filled, best intentioned kind of consumption that I love so much.

And so, when this concept merged with my pitiful monthly bank statement, I changed my habits. I started to send letters. I filled an old cardboard box with stamps, pens and a velvet-bound address book, so that everything I need to send a letter is right in one place. I can write a quick hello while I wait for the kettle to boil, or while my computer is doing yet another 3- minute security update. Filling those odd moments with something so personal and worthwhile makes me feel crafty, like a little genius.

I create my own stationary from the back of tea boxes, pictures and magazines. I include all sorts of things into my letters- quotations, lyrics, clippings of lovely things I find in magazines. Tossing a thick stack of letters into the mail, all bound for different corners of the US, is the most satisfying feeling.

I am happy to spend an evening listening to the radio and drinking cinnamon tea as I go at magazines with scissors and glue. Knowing that my words and thoughts are zooming across the sky, heading towards their respective mailboxes, always makes my not so glamorous everyday life seem a little more fun.

The week directly after I mail a stack of letters is studded with email and phone messages. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is having trouble adjusting to the constraints of adulthood. “Your letter arrived at exactly the right time,” is a sentiment I hear over and over. “I was having a tough morning….I was having a long workweek….your letter really cheered me up.” Knowing that I am not alone in my mid-twenty anxieties makes them that much easier to bear.

The best by far are the letters that come back, letters heavy with clippings and photos and words of their own. I put them on my fridge so that I see them every day. They are daily reminders of all the wonderful things that are in my life right now. And they’re free. Every time I stand in my kitchen, I feel rich. And I cherish that feeling.

Remember as you drink your morning coffee…..coffee is like life—it’s better when you add your flavor. With a wide variety of over 25 flavors, COFFEE-MATE is the delicious way to personalize every cup. Head over to Coffee-mate.com to find over 25 to add your flavor. Discover what your newest favorite could be!

How do you add flavor to your own life? Leave a comment for a chance to win a $100 visa gift card from BlogHer and Coffee-Mate! Remember to leave your email address so we can find you if you win!!

Want to add some flavor to your day right now?! BlogHer is giving away $500 on the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page, and nine other bloggers are offering a chance to win a $100 gift card from BlogHer and Coffee-mate!

Read the official rules here.

And as always, thanks for reading the wild pages, and be sure to check out The Wilder Coast!

85 comments:

  1. My favorite way to add flavor to my life, without spending a lot of money, is by taking time to learn how to make my own food out of the raw materials the earth has to offer (sun, seeds, rain, and time). Growing fresh herbs right outside my door, planting a garden full of vegetables I'll get to enjoy fresh as well as preserved, and even raising and slaughtering my own meat animals. Flavor is the simplest thing these farm-like actions add to life, but it's just the beginning. Gardening and other ways of interacting with the earth and the sun are forms of exercise, and often of meditation. Working with animals gives you a chance to look at your human mind from the eyes of another creature--and you can learn a lot! Food is exciting, and it's primal. Learning how to coax nourishment from the environment is the most satisfying journey I've ever begun, and I hope it never ends. I might start some seedlings tonight!

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  2. I add flavor to my life by visiting family across the country at least 4 times a year. I travel during off season, thus saving on ticket prices.

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  3. My 2.5 yr old quadruplets add 4x the flavor to my life everyday:) They keep me young/fun/crazy and help me with my passion for photography--what better than to have the most beautiful subjects to shoot everyday:)

    Jenny B
    jennyhasquads at yahoodotcom

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  4. Basil, just basil. Bushes and bushes of basil. And when the basil runs out, honey.

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  5. Adding flavor is a necessity for me as I tend to get a little bored with the same things day in day out. In cooking, I experiment a lot and am always curious to see where my improvisations take me. Last night, for instance, I used miso broth intead of the chicken broth a recipe called for, and the results were honestly outstanding. Doing things like this keeps the flavor going for me.

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  6. I go an climb mountains. Especially when they are all snow covered and cold :)

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  7. i add flavor to my life by using lots of candles at home :)
    ann.altima at gmail dot com

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  8. i add flavor to my life through you, melina! you are the spiciest, sassiest, sweetest, cutest thing ever and add the best kind of flavor to my life!

    --Abby

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  9. I wish I was committed enough to write letters like you. I love your ideas, but honestly don't like to write letters. LOL I am a computer type person and prefer email or sending just greeting cards and gifts.

    I also add flavor with candles...love all the different, wonderful smells it brings into my home. I usually always have at least one candle burning.

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  10. I ad flavor to my life is many ways, my absolute favorite flavor is my Sage (my 2 year old daughter!) Besides her, I love cooking homemade meals for my family. I take my time, put some music on and savor every aroma my nose encounters. I try and use fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, which add that something extra to each recipe. I also try to make as much from scratch as possible: pizza dough, tortillas, breads, pastas, sauces, everything and anything I can. Its cheaper and tastier! But the most important part of my cooking routine is dancing, you can't make a good meal without making a fool out of yourself in the process!

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  11. It's pretty lame, but I am having to remove flavor from my life!! My picky eater of a 6 year old boy doesn't seem to like anything to flavor his food... and my husbands' eyes water when I saute onions! So I get my flavor from reading, gardening, taking a different route home, and talking to people I don't know. Or was I supposed to write, "I get my flavor from COFFEEMATE."?

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  12. I am a musician. A struggling one. My money is spent long before I ever get it. Gas costs. Food costs. Promotion costs. Airplane costs. When-does-it-stop costs. My solution? Dogs. Dogs are not free. They can be fairly expensive, especially when they eat things they should not. But on a day-to-day basis, a dog is the best cost-to-fun ratio on earth. We take long walks. We sniff behinds. We run in the lake and get all muddy and track it all over the house. We bark at the cats next door, and snuggle together. When I am at the end of my rope, nearly in tears, my dog hops in my lap and licks my face. We spend endless hours throwing Ball in the park. We get out of my head and out of the house and into the beautiful city that is my home. My flavor is Dog. Preferably Clean Dog, but Muddy Dog is a good flavor too.

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  13. I am torn between being mad and happy for Melina Coogan at the same time. First she makes you envious of her free time with her creativity and investments toward being appreciative of others. But if you had the time would you actually do the same? So, being happy and excited for the flavorful author is inevitable.
    Back to the question, "How do you add flavor to your life?" It is a tougher question than you might expect when you really begin to contemplate the daily routines of life.
    The first thought is that everyday I enjoy a morning cup of coffee. No food, no work, just a cup of coffee and relaxation. But that's not really adding flavor, is it?
    Adding life flavor might seem like it has to be going out of your way, but what if your life flavor is your routine and you are just a flavorful life kind of person on a daily basis?
    I teach and mold teenagers into students and athletes. Listening to a struggling teen, helping them process challenges, motivating, and helping develop strong decision making skills has become common routine. For many the work is frustrating, but if you are passionate for the right reasons then helping youth truly is a way to "add flavor to your life." Who would have described their life prior to this article as "flavorful?"
    hugeh2o at yahoo dot com

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  14. My grandsons add flavor to my day. Their smiles are contagious and full of any kind of flavor you may be looking for.

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  15. Flavor in the form of photography - I never know what I'm gonna get. I like it that way.
    shutterboo at gmail dot com

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  16. Hey Melina,

    I really liked this article a lot. It's been too long since I've seen you, let's change that sometime. I hope you're doing great and I'm looking forward to the next thing you write. I still read the amazing piece of work your wrote about Dave from time to time. Have a great day.

    dnjones3@ncsu.edu

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  17. i want a letter just so i can send one back to you :)
    ekt646 at gmail.com

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  18. My work (I'm an engineer) adds flavor to my life. Most people don't realize how creative engineering is; it's not a dry subject at all, and I wake up every day excited to go to work and further my research. The systems I study help me to look at the world in a different way.

    urchiken at gmail dot com

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  19. Cooking adds flavor to my life. I like to experiment with new recipes.

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  20. The flavor and spice in my life comes from arguments with my husband. No, not fighting, I mean debating. We love to discuss issues and current affairs, and we love it when we get each other to see sides to the debate that they haven't seen before, and point out errors in each other's reasoning. Our conversations stimulate each other's minds, not (just) bodies! And when things get a bit overheated, making up afterwards is twice as sweet :)

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  21. I am learning to make bread. Real bread...with yeast...kneading...rising...punching down...rising again. All that stuff. It's not easy and I'm definitely still learning! But I love it! :)

    Thanks for the opportunity to win! If I'm a lucky winner, there is an email link in my Blogger profile. :)

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  22. I add flavor by trying new exotic recipes

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  23. blogged
    http://bluegirl1423.blogspot.com/2010/05/win-100.html

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  24. baking adds flavor to my life, i love it

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  25. We LOVE flavored creamer

    mjharvey26@yahoo.com

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  26. Love the Hazelnut. Belated Happy Birthday. You're at a very exciting, wonderful time of your life. Savor every moment.

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  27. Mocha is my go-to for flavoring my coffee. Chocolate is my weakness, what can I say. As for flavoring my life in other ways, I love to try new things, whether it's a enrolling in a fun class or a trying a hard new recipe. Variety is the spice of life!

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  28. I add flavor to my life by reading, and listening to audio books. They bring me to a different place, time, era ~~ all for a time, and then drop me back to my own reality.
    1prizewinner(at)gmail(dot)com

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  29. I add flavor by staying in contact with old friends.

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  30. I add flavor to my life with dancing to work out and lots of laughter.

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  31. I add flavor to my life by walking my dog. I dont have alot of material things either, so low tech walking is good rather than spending money at some fancy gym. What I have found though is by walking with Odin, I have met my neighbors, watched the first birds of spring, saw the geese flying and all of these things make me smile.
    Its good to be money poor and experience rich sometimes :)
    baypayments@yahoo.com

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  32. I add flavor to my life by trying to get out and take walks as often as possible and explore the great outdoors!
    junkforcarmen at gmail dot com

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  33. My kids add flavor to my day.

    mami2jcn at gmail dot com

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  34. I LOVE to send letters, cards and "just because" notes to my friends. You are TOTALLY right, you can't help but smile when you drop that lovely stack of mail off.. your steps are lighter, you stand up straighter, you SMILE even sing a little as you go about your day. The thought that it will make the recipient smile when they reach into their mailbox and see a hand addressed envelope just for them - with my flourish or funky return address... just tickles me, maybe even more then my friends.
    Friendship and letter writing, simple and wonderful old fashioned time tested letter writing are one of the "fun" flavors of life.

    Oh and I'm 45 and well.... yeah Reality can stink a bit - but the ride is so worth it! ;)

    livelaughlovecj (at) g mail (dot) com

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  35. I add flavor by exploring different genres of music. I am always open to checking out a new band or style of music I don't usually listen to.

    email in profile

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  36. I add flavor to my life by crafting and pursuing my etsy shop and other hobbies!

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  37. cdziuba@aol.com I love adding French Vanilla Coffee-Mate to my morning coffee, how wonderful. My foster kittens add a lot of flavor to my day too!

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  38. Hazelnut in my coffee is the best!! It helps start mornings off great!
    I add flavor to my life by playing the lottery! It's a race whether I find a job before i win the lottery or not!
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    email in blogger profile.

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  39. I don't have to ADD flavor to my life. It rains down on me. I have a 17 year old and an almost 20 year old who are as different in personality as night and day. Just keeping up with them is more flavor than I could ever dream up on my own!

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  40. I have a teenage daughter who keeps me on my toes. And that adds plenty of flavor to my life. I never know what mood is going to walk in the door!

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  41. I add flavor to life by always having fun! Whether singing/dancing with the kids I take care of, going out with friends, having a cookout with family, or just staying home with my bf...I am always having fun and am always happy!

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  42. I add flavor to my life by phoning friends. Yes, that seems a bit simple, but sometimes I have to nudge myself to pick up that two-hundred-pound telephone. Breaking out of isolation is good for my head, good for my soul, and good for my sense of humor.

    Great giveaway. Thanks!

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  43. I add personal flavor to my life in the hobbies that I pursue. I love taking time to knit and crochet, to create something beautiful for someone else.

    psmomreviews@gmail.com

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  44. I add flavor to my life by playing with my two boys and trying new things with them!
    winnieayala at yahoo dot com

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  45. I got to my favorite Italian restaurant and have a martini by myself while watching the band play.

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  46. I add flavor to my life and sanity by having my coffee with Hazelnut Coffee Mate coffee creamer. It is the one guilty pleasure that adds happy 'flavor' to my life! My two boys and husband add the 'joy' part!

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  47. There’s nothing that makes me feel more relaxed and special than sipping a cup of flavored coffee while sitting in the porch swing watching hummingbirds at the feeder. But not just any flavored coffee. My absolute favorite is Coffeemate Amaretto! In fact I’m enjoying a cup right now. :) Coffee just isn’t coffee without Coffeemate, and Amaretto adds that little touch of variety and luxury that makes it all mine. I keep a stock of it at all times, both liquid and powder. Love it!!

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  48. Our dogs add flavor to our life, never a dull moment

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  49. I add flavor to my life by spending time with my friends. They're from all over the world, and there's never a dull moment. Who knew that other cultures could be so different and so similar at the same time!?

    Thanks for the great giveaway.
    shawna at couponladyonline dot com

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  50. Cinn. Bun and Vanilla nut are great but I LOVE the seasonal Caramel Apple the most!

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  51. I am a member of the brew crew team and I add flavor to my life each day with a cup of coffee flavored wet coffee mate hazelnut or French vanilla. While drinking a cup of coffee each day flavored with my favorite coffee mate cream I get a lot of energy to complete my morning exercise using my stationary bike. Depending on my mood I have many flavors to choose between using the coffee made flavored creams.

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  52. I add flavor to my life by always being willing to try new things.

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  53. I add flavor to my life by being myself and being optimistic, even when life gets me down.

    shopgurl101 at gmail dot com

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  54. Enjoying my grandkids adds flavor to my life

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  55. I add flavor to my life and my cooking by growing herbs. Thanks for the contest.

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  56. I love to read any and all kinds of books, a little each day!

    amiedanny@msn.com

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  57. every now and again, my sister and i will take a class to add flavor to our lives

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  58. Much like Lina, I am forever broke. I can't buy expensive clothes and change up my style every time I want to add some sort of flavor to my life. I can't go to nice restaurants and fill my days with flavorful savories and sweets. And I certainly can't take a vacation every time life's inevitable boredom rears its ugly head. So I dye my hair. $8 and thirty minutes later, I'm a new person-a fiery redhead with sass to spare, an intellectual brunette who would rather be reading Proust than doing anything else, a blond who is just having more fun. It's a little thing, but it's revitalizing.

    ali@aliwalshart.com

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  59. My kids add all the flavor I could need (and then some more). Three littles under five, and plenty of flavor here. Thanks!
    Rosie Girl Dreams
    jjertl_at_gmail.com

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  60. I'm a teacher working with over 100 teenagers each day, so I have a ton of flavor in my life! As for my coffee, the Chocolate Raspberry is the most amazing flavor and I have it every afternoon in my coffee. Thanks for the great giveaway.

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  61. I try to be spontaneous as much as I can as a natural planner type person! LOL I will suggest weekend road trips on a Saturday morning or surprise my hubby with his favorite meal when he doesn’t expect it. May not seem like much, but for me its a lot! LOL
    Angie
    one 4 earth at aol dot com

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  62. It may seem simple, but I take all country roads on my 22 mile commute each week day morning. I could take the interstate all the way in, but I hate the interstate and its boring and crowded. By taking backroads, I see deer, fields of flowers, birds, etc. Its gorgeous and relaxing both going to and from work.
    Scott
    nynekats at aol dot com

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  63. I add flavor to my life by eating delicious food, listening to good music, and relaxing. For variety in my coffee, I like to sample Coffeemate's various flavors.

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  64. First of all, I would like to say that I really like your upbeat attitude. ;)
    Quite simply, I am a people person. My mom tells me, that since I was knee high to a grasshopper, that I never meet a stranger. I love interacting with others-etc. it brings me joy and "flavor" to my life.
    aunteegem@yahoo.com

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  65. I add flavor to my life by traveling with my husband whenever possible! Day trips, longer trips... we just love seeing and learning about new places!!

    Sarah
    untenuredteacher at yahoo dot com

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  66. I add flavor to my life by reading cupcake design blogs and books. There are so many adorable ideas out there!

    Hannahshirley88@gmail.com

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  67. I add flavor to my life by creating something every single day. As for my coffee, I use Cinnamon Vanilla Creme Coffee Mate..it's my absolute favorite!
    sonie1459@gmail.com

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  68. I add flavor by trying new foods, learning new languages, working on art projects, and going to thrift stores to find old "junk" and turn it into "treasure" :) Thanks!

    shevilkenevil1 at aol dot com

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  69. I flavor up my day with a good playlist and my coffee with hazelnut coffeemate! :)

    dreamzz12{at}aol{dot}com

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  70. I add flavor to my life by listening to music and maintaining a positive and optimistic attitude towards life.

    runningmatey at hotmail dot com

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  71. I add flavor to my life by cooking fun meals, spending time with family and friends, and reading great books and blogs! (Love your blog Melina- read it regularly!)

    cassidy1209@gmail.com

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  72. Reading, gardening, listening to new music, painting and drives in the country add flava to my life. Thank you for this giveaway, like you I'm broke so every bit helps.

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  73. I add flavor to my life with the herbs that I grow in my garden. Thanks for the contest.

    slehan AT juno DOT com

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  74. I add flavor to my life by reading and learning new things.

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  75. Scrapbooking! It reminds me of all the good times we've had together as a family. It also helps me look forward to what we may share together in the future.

    cookiesandclogs@gmail.com
    http://www.cookiesandclogs.com
    Deals and reviews from a stay-at-home mother of 1

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  76. I add flavor to my life by dedicating my life to helping people with Developmental Disabilities. Actually, they add flavor to my life. There is nothing like a beautiful and innocent heart to show you what is important in life.

    ShawnaMichelle@ymail.com

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  77. I add flavor to my life by reading..... books, blogs. I learn new things, experience adventure, so many great people share their hearts.

    mayacarpenter at verizon dot net

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  78. I add flavor to my life by reading and trying to learn something new everyday.

    rhoneygtn at yahoo dot com

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  79. I add flavor to my life by taking chances and not being a slave to my schedule. If I want to go do something fun I do it, not agonize over the decision.

    ajolly1456 at gmail dot com

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  80. My son adds flavor to my life. I couldn't imagine not being his mom. I love to watch him learn and grow.


    charisscharity at yahoo dot com

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  81. I exercise this old body and visit my grandbabies, decorate, cook and take care of my family. Travel, if we can afford it.


    spencer1953 at gmail dot com.

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  82. I add flavor to my life with dancing, new music, and lots of long walks. scg00387 at yahoo dot com

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  83. I add flavor to my life by enjoying time everyday with my grandchildren. seeing the workld through their eyes is wonderful.

    susan56bft at gmail dot com

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  84. I add flavor to my life by facing my fears. My fears take a different shape everyday. I decide I WILL try out for that sports team, I WILL surf that wave in my kayak, I WILL take that Biology final and earn an above average score, and I WILL try that pineapple upside-down cake recipe. It sure keeps life tasty and adds relish to any day. :)

    cassablanca@gmail.com

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