Archive for the ‘My Work’ Category

Eating Well During the Holidays: Light Cranberry Bar Recipe

Monday, November 24th, 2014

*This post is sponsored by Celestial Seasonings. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I am very passionate about good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. You may not know that I actually went to school to study to be a dietician so I could help others eat and live better too. Although I never dreamed this would be my job, I am thankful for that background when putting together recipes for our site. I have come a long way over the years toward living a healthier lifestyle. I actually starting eating better because my body was indicating to me that something just wasn’t right after discovering I have a sensitivity to gluten. The other reason is how much better I feel when I eat well and exercise.

Today I am partnering with Celestial Seasoning Tea to share some ways that I try to stay on track for the holidays. You may not have considered tea a delicious (and healthy!) holiday indulgence, but they actually have 8 holiday offerings that include my new favorite Sweet Harvest Pumpkin Black Tea, Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland Herbal Tea, and Caramel Apple Dream that would all be lovely offerings for a post Thanksgiving feast treat.

Looking to stay on track for the holidays? Try these ideas!

Eating Well During the Holidays

Get in a Good Walk Before or After Your Feast

As you know I am absolutely obsessed with my Fitbit and we even shared a great way you can glam it up for the holidays.  Tracking my steps each day has been a great reminder to keep active and moving throughout the day. Whether you have a Fitbit, a pedometer, or use an app on your cell phone, try making a step goal for the day and get your steps in before or after your holiday feasts.

Many gyms offer a modified schedule for holidays for die-hard exercise enthusiasts (or just those of us who want to indulge in an extra slice or two of pie). Consider tackling a class in the morning, challenging your family to a game of flag football after your feast, or taking a family walk together after your dessert.
Eating Well During the Holidays

Eat Before You Eat

Since I have to be careful about what I eat for dietary reasons, I often eat before I head to a gathering because I know that many of the foods offered will leave me sick and feeling lethargic.  Consider indulging in a healthy meal or snack before heading out to your holiday gatherings that will help fill you up on the good stuff and give your stomach less room to indulge.

I like to keep a bag of spinach and roasted chicken or roasted turkey in my fridge for a quick salad with a few vegetable or fruit additions from the crisper drawer. Having a few items like these on hand during the holiday season will help you to eat healthy between the rush of holiday errands and gatherings. I have never regretted the time spent chopping and preparing my DIY salad bar for busy weeks.

Offer To Bring a Dish

I always offer to bring a dish to family gatherings that I know that I can eat and snack on. Opt for healthy options like a vegetable tray for snacking with a low-calorie dip or a fruit salad that can be a dessert replacement. Consider a lightened up holiday recipe as a dish to bring like these delicious Cranberry-Oatmeal Bars that can be enjoyed without the guilt.

Instead of coffee drowning in creamer opt to enjoy this sweet dessert with a tea that compliments it well. For these bars, I recommend the Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland Herbal Tea or, another one of my personal favorites, Gingerbread Spice.

Light Gluten-Free Cranberry Bars

Indulge Moderately

Even I can’t shy away from the dessert table around the holidays, but there are definitely fun, light desserts you can share in lieu of the calorie-laden pie.  To inspire you, here is a delicious Cranberry-Oatmeal Bar you can make for a sweet treat to enjoy with your cup of tea. May I recommend the Celestial Seasonings Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland Herbal Tea as an accompaniment?  It is a perfect pairing!  The best part, each bar is only 133 calories and has just 4.6 grams of fat.

Light Gluten-Free Cranberry Bars

Eating Well During the Holidays: Light Cranberry Bar Recipe
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
A lighter dessert option for the holiday season best paired with a cup of tea.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour
  • 1 cup gluten-free quick-cooking oats
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar $
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • Cooking spray
  • FILLING: 1⅓ cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces) $
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle butter and juice over flour mixture, stirring until moistened (mixture will be crumbly). Reserve ½ cup oat mixture. Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray using the bottom of a measuring cup to create a cohesive crust.
  3. To prepare filling, combine cranberries, sour cream, granulated sugar, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Spread cranberry mixture over prepared crust; sprinkle reserved oat mixture evenly over filling.
  4. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

 

*This post is sponsored by Celestial Seasonings. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Host a Friendsgiving Feast

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Host a Friendsgiving Feast

This post is sponsored by Walmart AND ALL PROCEEDS WERE DONATED.

I feel like such a lucky mom to have so many incredible women in my life. Most of these friendships started when I was a new mom still trying to figure out the ropes of motherhood.  Now my kids are growing up, but I need them as much as I did in the early days. Unfortunately, our schedules have all become so crazy that it becomes nearly impossible to get our group together anymore. I decided a few weeks ago that I really wanted to see them all before the holidays took over and we all began to hibernate for the Indiana winter. I invited them to my home for my first annual Friendsgiving feast to share in a meal together before the holidays and I couldn’t wait to share about it with you.

Let me disclose by saying that I wanted to make this as easy on myself as possible and, if you are considering hosting a feast of your own, I would advise you do the same. I wanted to do it on budget, make it as effortless as possible, and I wanted the cooking to be easy too.

Here is how I executed the world’s easiest Friendsgiving Feast and helped give to our community in the process.

Host a Friendsgiving Feast

Create a Facebook Event (And Get Positive Responses)

Like I said, my friends are crazy busy and getting our group together is nearly impossible. Instead of setting up an event and shooting blindly in the dark for a date or receiving a million responses and being responsible for sorting people/dates, I utilize Doodle to schedule get togethers. Simply plug in the dates and times that will work for you and send out the link to the scheduling tool for each person to vote for the days that work best for them. Once you receive the responses you can set the date for the one that received the most positive response.

Once you have the date, it couldn’t be easier to invite your friends especially since everyone (at least in my group) is on Facebook. I just put up an event and asked that everyone respond there. It was easy to create, to monitor, and gave me an accurate headcount for making food purchases. Make sure that you set the privacy to, “Invite Only” for viewing otherwise everyone who is a friend can see a response (and might not be included- ouch!) I admit, the only time I wish I had a bigger house is when I host events like this. Believe me, Invite Only for viewers is the way to go.

Herb Roasted Turkey

You Supply the Turkey, They Supply the Fixins’

Last year I hosted my family for Thanksgiving all while photographing each and every dish for the site. This year I wanted to take an easier approach so I offered to supply the turkey, gravy, and stuffing, but requested that each person bring their own dish and a bottle of wine to share. To make sure all the categories were filled, I utilized Jooners to create a sign-up sheet for dishes. Be sure to specify what you need under the, “Needed,” box. That is where I asked for side dishes, desserts, bread, and appetizers. This will help you have a well-rounded feast and since everyone can fill in the dish they are bringing, it  helps cut down on anyone bringing the same dish.

Not only did I do store-bought stuffing and gravy, I purchased turkey breasts (here is my favorite method of preparation) instead of dealing with the bones and carving. It killed me a little bit to do this when I know I could do so much more, but this also helped me to truly enjoy the evening with my friends and allowed me to not worry about laboring over dishes and missing out on all the fun together. Not to mention the cost factor that I saved on by having everyone help me with dishes and drinks.

Decorate Store Bought Pies

Of course, there is always our make-ahead feast that gets you out of the kitchen that day altogether!  Here are my make-ahead mashed potatoes, make-ahead fresh green bean casserole, make-ahead gravy, make-ahead stuffing, make-ahead cranberry sauce, make-ahead appetizers, make-ahead rolls, make-ahead pie crust, and even some great make-ahead ways to dress up a store-bought pie… just to name a few!

Knitted Leaves Centerpiece

Invest in Smart Party Supplies That You Use Over & Over Again

Over the years we have hosted so many gatherings that I have accumulated an arsenal of tools so that I can pull a get together at a moment’s notice.  I honestly didn’t buy a thing other than disposable cups for our get together, but that is because I have invested over the years and I try to create handmade items that can double as centerpieces if I don’t have time to run out and purchase fresh flowers.

The things that I have used the most over the years:

Centerfold Table- I bought this three years ago and I use it at least three times a year. It has a handle on it and folds down the center making it easy to pack up and take it if you need to and also making it easy to store when you don’t.  I purchased this tablecloth (you can see it here in a game day party I did awhile back) because it was stain-resistant.  To save on time ironing, I just wash it and then spread it on the table the night before since it is so lightweight and dries quickly without even going through the dryer. It helps cut down on wasting time ironing and is wrinkle-free in the morning.

friendsgiving-2

Elegant Plastic Dishes- Elegance and plastic might not seem like they go together, but plastic dishes have come a long way. I hosted a shed-warming party (totally a thing!) this summer and since we had so many guests coming, I decided to buy twenty of these dishes. If you go to Walmart, you can purchase the plates individually, which is exactly what I did.  Unfortunately (but then fortunately), they didn’t have enough in a single style so I ended up getting three different styles which adds a bit of fun to the dinner table. I love that these are lightweight and can be reused over and over again.

DIY Bar Cart

Bar Cart- This summer I transformed a tool cart into a bar cart and it is truly one of my favorite entertaining tools. Since we live in a small home (which we are very committed to) we don’t have a lot of counters or surfaces to use for putting out drinks and food. My bar cart resides in my shed, but I wheel it in when I am entertaining and it offers a fun place to tuck bottles of wine and glasses.

Inexpensive Silverware- I actually hit our local restaurant supply store for inexpensive silverware that reminds me of some of my favorite diners. There is never a shortage of forks, spoons, or knives at our home.

Decor That Can Be Used Over & Over Again- I love to craft and in the back of my mind, I am always thinking how I can weave these items into our seasonal decorating especially when it comes to the holidays. For our Friendsgiving feast my Knitted Leaf Centerpiece was perfect for my table (and is on display year-round in my craft room). This winter the table will be adorned with these Yarn Pom Pom Trees that I made. Think of creating something that you can get out every year and that can save you money when entertaining.

Friendsgiving

REALLY Make it a FriendsGIVING

I have some truly generous friends so I called upon them to assist me with giving back to our community.  First, I asked each of them to take a moment to clear out their pantries so that we could make a donation to my church’s food pantry. Right before the holidays is a great time to clear some space and make room for all of those items you will need to tackle your holiday baking and dishes.

The shelter that I have helped in the past where we achieved our MomAdvice Big Give, the Elkhart Faith Mission, is a charity that I love to support. Longtime readers may recall the MomAdvice Big Give we executed with them. Here is a little throwback footage for you.

It costs a mere $.1.79 to give a Thanksgiving meal to one person at the shelter. I left an envelope out and asked if anyone felt like giving that they could donate as little as two bucks to give someone something to look forward to for the holidays.

Consider making a true FriendsGIVING experience and find a scraps of life way to give back or gather together to make care packages for the homeless.

Faith Mission of Elkhart

Each year I like to dedicate one post from Walmart to those in need and today’s post is for the families heading to Faith Mission that need a holiday dinner to look forward to.  

I understand that sponsored posts aren’t always the favorite posts here, but the proceeds from this post today and the donations I collected fed 187 PEOPLE a Thanksgiving meal and many of our posts this year gave a community of  people clean water this year.  How cool is that? Please support our sponsors because they do help many- perhaps, more than you realize! 

I hope my Friendsgiving inspires you to give back to your community and to throw a get together with your own amazing friends!

Have you ever hosted a Friendsgiving? Any tips or tricks you would like to share!

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Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

As part of the BHG Live Better Network, I am partnering with them this month to showcase a beautiful way to entertain for the holidays utilizing products from BHG that are available at Walmart.  Have you seen the woodland creatures line of dishes? Swoon- I am IN LOVE. These items are over in the seasonal display section of your store.  As someone who couldn’t be fonder of foxes or owls, I was so excited to see these beautiful dishes at the store and most of these items are under $3 each- what a fun way to dress up your table.

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

I used my basic white dishes as I do for every holiday and keep things economical by adding a fun design to my salad plates for the holidays each year. These owl plates are so sweet and add a little pop of color to my table. A natural table runner like this one helps add texture to my table and I used owl mugs to hold our forks and spoons for our dinner. The foxy salt and pepper shakers add a little woodland whimsy to round out the table.

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas I used driftwood log cuts from our craft store to add different dimensions to the table, added a jar of branches from our backyard, and then added my DIY thumbtack pumpkins to finish the table.

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

Crisp napkins made of stain resistant fabric are always top on my holiday shopping list for replacing each year. I found these over in the clearance section priced at a mere $1 each. I bought a package of rosemary, which adds a beautiful fragrance and a touch of green to the table, and clipped it with our free printable, “give thanks,” napkin tag and a mini clothespin.

You could also tie these napkins with a little jute twine and then clip the rosemary and, “gather together,” napkin tags to them, placing these on top of your owl plates. Print out all one variety of tag or use them both, alternating them at the place settings.

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

Even with my burlap runner, this entire table setting (minus my white dishes) costs just a little over $30 for everything. I love an affordable touch and really love these trendy pieces that BHG is offering this year for the Thanksgiving table. These would also be adorable for a kid’s table for the holidays!

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

We also have these beautiful woodland printables that you can print and hang in your kitchen or foyer to welcome your guests to match with the rest of our beautiful printable offerings this year! To help your guest feel warmly welcomed, my amazing designer & contributor, Sarah Milne with sarah m style, has created these amazing printables that you can share with your guests for Thanksgiving Day.

Grab Your FREE Woodland Creature Printables:

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

DOWNLOAD HERE

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

DOWNLOAD HERE

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

DOWNLOAD HERE

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

DOWNLOAD HERE

Catch up on my other projects with BHG at Walmart:

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (Free Guest Room Printables)

BHG Live Better Style Showcase

BHG Live Better Network

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

Fun New Ways to Dress Up Boots For Fall

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Fun New Ways to Dress Up Boots For Fall

As soon as the temperatures start dipping, I know it is almost my favorite footwear season… boot season, friends!  There is nothing cozier than a warm pair of boots and this season, embellished boots and boot toppers are all the rage for making your boots feel fresh again. Whether you score your boots at Goodwill or if you find the perfect pair elsewhere, I have some fun and creative ideas for making a tired pair of boots feel like new again with these 7 tutorials for fun ways to dress up your boots.

Head on over to the Goodwill Tips blog to gather some fun new ways to dress up your boots!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: New Coffeemaker, Hot Coffee To Go, & a Perfect Tote

Friday, October 31st, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Halloween, friends. It has been a flurry of parent teacher conferences and Halloween preparations over here. My big plans this weekend only involve indulging in a marathon of Netflix-bingeing with my favorite quilt on our giant couch after our trick-or-treating! What about you?

Let’s talk about what is making me happy this week!

Cuisinart Brew & Grind Coffeemaker

A New Coffeemaker

My coffeemaker died last week. I did everything I could to get that thing to hobble along, lovingly flushing it with vinegar periodically and caring for it. I would have to hit the power button three times to get it to brew, the water never fully went through, but then the coffee just stopped being hot.  You cannot imagine my stress levels. To get up THAT early and have no HOT coffee was a travesty.

I am thankful that I can rectify this so quickly though thanks to our Amazon Prime membership. The next day I had a brand new coffeemaker sitting on my front step and I am happily having the hottest coffee with my favorite Michigan cherry coffee beans. After reading all of the reviews, I settled on this Cuisinart Grind & Brew because my last one held up so well for so long and it was still under $100.

This one is loud when it is grinding so I grind the beans at night and then turn off the grind for my morning when I program it. I no longer have to hit the power button three times to finish a brew and the ratio of beans to water is much smoother thanks to the grinder.  My mornings got oh-so-much better

Diva Vacuum Thermal Cup

HOT Coffee To Go

I started volunteering at school again and I always like to take my coffee with me when I visit there and read with the kiddos.

Confession time.

My husband went to an event for some kind of prize drawing for Lexus because he has a used Lexus and gets the fliers from the dealership. He didn’t win the drawing, but he came home with a thermal mug that he said would be perfect for my coffee. And I hated it. I hate carrying around a mug that advertises a car that we got for less than my Subaru, but seems like we are part of some kind of weird exclusive club.

So I keyed it.

I did.

I know. I have issues.

I scratched the logo off, but I could still see it and I was planning to craft something out of washi tape over it because it bothered me that much.

Instead, when I went to Celestial Seasonings shop I found this amazing carafe and I snagged it for my mornings.  My coffee is brutally hot (just the way I like it- I did admit to keying things!) and it has a lock on the top to doubly insure that your coffee doesn’t escape. Did I mention it vacuum seals? It’s seriously awesome and has made my mornings at school better. And now I don’t have to carry around that awful mug so…winning!

Urban Outfitters Small Vegan Tote

The Perfect Tote for a Petite Girl

I have been eyeing tote bags for awhile now that I could use for travel and for the errand running that I do throughout the day. We popped into Urban Outfitters this weekend because I have been eyeing this bag online forever. When I saw it, we laughed hysterically because it is as big as me. I tried to sling it over my arm, but I could have probably crawled inside it. I love the concept of the reversible vegan leather, but the bag was too big for this petite gal. I was thankful I did not add it to my Christmas list since I was not in the market for a beach tote.

I did spy though this mini tote in the corner and it is just perfect for me. The $49 price tag fits well for me since I am usually a TJ Maxx purse shopper and I plan to use this until the straps fall off.

cape + black leggings + boots + camel purse

It has a crossbody strap too that you can use when you are out running around and it sits upright when rested on a table. I mean, it really is that perfect and a far better price than most bags that look like this.  I am a happy, happy girl! It goes well with my vintage Forever 21 cape I have had since the store opened in our tiny mall. May herringbone capes never go out of style. Amen.

chambray shirt + statement necklace + black skirt + mustard tights + booties

On a personal note, I have been one proud mama this week! My daughter had her first guitar recital and she played her songs beautifully. I have never seen her more scared and then more proud than she was on this day.  We have the best guitar teacher in the world and it was so fun to see all the kids play and sing so beautifully.

I went to conferences this week for both kids who truly rocked their report cards with the best grades a mom could ever hope for.  More than that though, they all remarked on just what good people they are. I want to raise good people. I think the world needs more of those.

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule. I will unveil the next capsule on November 3rd to hopefully inspire you on your own fashion capsule journey. Did you read what I am learning from this project? You must!  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board and minimize that wardrobe!

black tunic + black leggings + green cardigan + nude booties + long necklace + belt

Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Forest Fairy Cardigan (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Nude Booties (Old Navy)/Black & Gold Necklace (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Fitbit Bracelet (make it here!)/ Black Belt (one of those ones that came attached to something else! ;)

chambray shirt + statement necklace + black skirt + mustard tights + booties

Chambray Shirt (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Gap Black Skirt (purchased second hand on Twice)/Camel Suede Booties (Madden Girl- DSW Shoes)/Lace Slip Skirt Extender (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Pearl Statement Necklace (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Fitbit Bracelet (make it here!)/ Leopard Print Belt (owned- Target)

blanket sweater + gray shirt + black leggings  + belt + brown boots

FINAL WARDROBE STEAL- Angora Blanket Sweater (owned- Flourish Boutique)/The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Long Sleeve Seamless Layering Piece in Gray  (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Brown Boots (6PM- Naturalizer/Brown Belt (owned- Maurices)

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

3 Benefits of Using Household Subscription Services

How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker

7 Easy Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Appetizers

Bonus Happy! How awesome is this? My kids were simply amazed.

Review & GIVEAWAY: Empowered SAFETY Membership

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

How to Keep Your Family Safe by Monitoring Product Safety Recalls from MomAdvice.com.

*This post is sponsored by the Empowered SAFETY. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

When my children were small, I was absolutely obsessed with tracking recall information. Let’s face it; the sheer amount of equipment needed to keep your baby safe in that first year is astounding.  Back then I subscribed to Parents Magazine and would skim the magazine for the latest recall information. Over the course of those first few years as a mom, there were many recalls, but I was so busy and so tired that I struggled to stay on top of that and keep up with it all.  Thankfully, there are faster and easier ways to stay on top of recalls now.

This week I am partnering with a fantastic site called Empowered SAFETY to share with you all of the great advantages of a membership & how it can help you keep track of legitimate complaints & recalls when it comes to items you use in your home and the food you consume. We are giving everyone one free month to try this service and giving one lucky reader a six month subscription.

  How to Keep Your Family Safe by Monitoring Product Safety Recalls from MomAdvice.com.

What Does Empowered SAFETY Offer?

Did you know that there can be hundreds of complaints made to government agencies about child-specific products before a recall is actually issued?  Instead of waiting for the recall to occur, a subscription to Empowered SAFETY can alert you of the complaints prior to the recall even is issued.

With a premium membership you can simply match the products in your home with the half-million child products in Empowered SAFETY’s database, and you will receive an email notification on that product should complaints be made against it. It is as easy as that!

How to Keep Your Family Safe by Monitoring Product Safety Recalls from MomAdvice.com.

We aren’t just talking car seats and baby equipment though; the service also offers valuable information about food safety which, as we know, can be potentially life-threatening to a child with food allergies. You can receive the food recalls in the area where you live so you can stay on top of potential allergens and safety hazards in your home.

How Can This Help You When Making Purchases?

When I make purchases for my family, I spend hours online trying to decide which item will be the best for us based on the reviews of other shoppers. I hate wasting my money or time on purchase that don’t have longevity in our home. When it comes to purchases that keep our family safe, I really want to know that the items that I am choosing will do their job well and that I won’t find myself needing to replace them later.

Empowered SAFETY can let you know if the product you are thinking of purchasing has had any complaints on it, allowing you to be a more empowered consumer and saving you valuable time.

What Do They Monitor For You?

Complaints can come in many different ways and Empowered SAFETY monitors all the different sources so you don’t have to. Not only do they monitor actual consumer complaints, and product and food recalls and warnings to government agencies, they also follow news reports, legal filings, press releases, blog postings, federal & state agency websites for outbreaks & health alerts, as well as member-reported product issues.

As a busy mom, I certainly don’t have time to monitor all of that so a membership like this can save your family a lot of time, hassle, and unnecessary clutter from items that are potentially unsafe and won’t have longevity in your home.

Everyone is a Winner

Today I am giving EVERY reader a free 28-day promo code to try the Empowered SAFETY site. Just enter code the code ES28DAY93  (Expires 11/30/14) upon sign-up on Empowered SAFETY.

Follow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter to win a FREE six-month premium membership to Empowered SAFETY.  Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This post is sponsored by the Empowered SAFETY. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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DIY Decorative Thumbtack Pumpkins

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

decorative-thumb-tack-pumpkin-tutorial-header

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I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for new ways to decorate the holiday table that are festive while staying easy on the budget. The gold trend has really been catching my eye this year so I wanted to create something beautiful and gold that anyone can do, no matter what your craft level. Today’s tutorial is for a decorative thumbtack pumpkin that requires just two items for a fun and festive touch to your table.

Head on over to the Kenmore Blog to learn how to make these easy ZERO CRAFTING SKILLS REQUIRED DIY Gold Thumbtack Pumpkins!

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Miniature Felted Pumpkin Tutorial

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Miniature Felted Pumpkin Tutorial

Some people lean towards the spooky decorating for Halloween. This girl leans towards a more classic look from dressing up my front door for the season to the small nod to autumn through our home decor. I have loved our knitted leaf centerpiece so much that I thought it would be fun to add some knitted pumpkins to the mix this year. Since Walmart challenged me to take on a Halloween craft, I thought it would be the perfect time to try something new. Not only are these a knitted stuffed item (something new for me), but they are also felted.

Before you run away, I was SO scared of felting that I have thought about felting for years and never tried it. Seriously, folks, could NOT be easier.

This project is super fast to create and will get lots of love in your home as a fun addition to a bookcase, a cute centerpiece for a Halloween party, or could even make a place card holder for the Thanksgiving table.

Miniature Felted Pumpkin Tutorial

Supplies List

4- US Size 11 double pointed needles (I prefer bamboo for their gripping ability in this project)

4- US Size 6 double pointed needles

Natural Fiber Yarn (any color) that will shrink (Walmart offers this inexpensive option for wool)

Poly-fill Stuffing (something like this)

Free Miniature Felted Pumpkin Pattern FOR FREE HERE

Miniature Felted Pumpkin Tutorial

Skills Needed to Tackle This Project

You need to be able to knit in the round- This is much easier than knitting a hat and can teach you how to increase and decrease your stitches.  If you have never knitted in the round before, check out this picture tutorial that I created to help you navigate the tricky terrain of 4 needles.  You will need to be able to knit both the body and the stem in the round. I actually find the stem to be more difficult due to its size.

You need to be able to i-cord- The first time I i-corded, I was like…”That’s it?” Seriously, it sounds complex, but it is just moving your stitches back and forth on a double-pointed needle. This is a fantastic video tutorial if you are trying to get the hang of it.

You need to be able to felt- Again, this one was a new one for me, but the pattern I shared offers some great tips for felting. I will note below how I did this in my front-loader.

 

Miniature Felted Pumpkin Tutorial

Words from a First-Time Felter

As you can see, wool shrinks up beautifully. I wanted to still have a little bit of stitching showing, but you can continue to shrink your piece if you want it to be completely smooth. For these pumpkins, I knitted them loosely (advice given by my wise knitting pal, Deb) so that the stitches would shrink well. For my front-loader, I placed these in the washing machine with two pairs of my jeans to help create agitation and friction on the yarn. I used the Whitest White cycle (which is the hottest cycle on my machine) and let the machine decide the level of water.  For detergent, I just used a small amount of Woolite (or you can use Eucalan Woolwash). To replicate this, I just ran the cycle for ten minutes and then hit cancel.  I then ran a spin & drain cycle just for a few minutes to get rid of the excess water and then stuffed my pumpkins while they were still damp.

You can read more about felting in the pattern above.

Miniature Felted Pumpkin Tutorial

Miniature Felted Pumpkin Tutorial

 

Miniature Felted Pumpkin Tutorial

Aren’t they adorable? Feel free to friend me on Ravelry and visit the Knitting section of our site for more cute yarn-lovin’ projects!

 

Looking for more great Halloween ideas? Check out my Knitted Princess Leia Hat, fun ideas for DIY Halloween Costumes, paint up some Chalkboard Pumpkin People, make pumpkins out of duct tape, throw some pumpkin chili in your slow cooker on Halloween night, and whip up some glow-in-the-dark JELL-O for dessert!  Happiest of Halloweens, friends!

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Tea Tips and Tricks From Celestial Seasonings (Plus a HUGE Giveaway!!)

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Tea-Tips-and-Tricks-From-Celestial-Seasonings *This post is sponsored by Celestial Seasonings. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I don’t  travel as much as I used to, thanks to two busy kids with two grueling schedules, but when Celestial Seasonings contacted me to see if I would like to learn more about their teas and how they create them,  I just could not turn them down. I credit their Sleepytime Extra with breaking my melatonin habit, I got my husband (who drinks neither tea nor coffee) to indulge in a cup of Sugar Cookie Tea with me on cold days, and I consider all of their holiday teas the ultimate stocking stuffer. I could not wait to hear more about how they develop their products and how I could share about that with my readers.

I was expecting the best in tea offerings because that is what I know as a consumer.

As an observer to the inner workings of the company, I was surprised by the passion and enthusiasm from EVERY employee I talked to.  These people have a passion for tea and they have a passion for their customers.

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We got the chance to hear about where and how they source all of their ingredients and even heard from a farmer who provides the mint for the tea from his family farm. We got to see, smell, and hear the stories of where the ingredients are sourced and how these herbs are processed into the tea bags.  Although Americans might not embrace tea the way our European friends do, it is still the world’s second most popular beverage, topped only by water.

Do you know the difference between the different varieties of teas? I did not until this week!

Herbal Tea

Herbal “tea” actually does not have any tea in it, it is a combination of herbs,  which is why it is naturally caffeine free!  Whether hot or iced, naturally caffeine free herbal teas can calm, energize, refresh and delight naturally, depending on their ingredients—including herbs, spices, flowers and leaves.

Black Tea

Black tea, or what we commonly think of when someone mentions “tea”, is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis, a white-flowering evergreen bush about 3–5 feet high, native to China and India. Most people don’t think of black tea as an herb, yet it is the most widely used herb in the world.  Black tea actually comes from the same plant as green, white and oolong teas—differences in processing determine which kind of tea the leaves become.

Green Tea
Green tea has become increasingly popular in the United States, but it has been enjoyed in Asia for more than a thousand years, especially in Japanese tea ceremonies. The leaves used for green tea are initially the same as those that make black and oolong teas, but they are steamed right after being picked, so they stay green. Brewing green tea is a little different than brewing herbal or black tea – be sure you use water that is very hot but not quite boiling.

White Tea

In the mountains of China, white tea is harvested only from springtime’s first tender buds and top leaves that are covered with soft, silvery-white needles. Very simply and naturally dried, white tea retains the unique flavor of a freshly picked tea leaf—mellow, delicate and slightly sweet. This also preserves an even higher level of healthful antioxidants than in green tea. Because it is so delicate, white tea requires less brewing time than green or black tea.

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Not only did we get to actually smell, touch, and hear the farming stories behind where the ingredients were sourced, but we also got to do a tasting of teas and experience how these teas are meant to be prepared. What I discovered from this process was that I absolutely leave my tea bags in far too long, especially when it comes to green and chamomile tea, and a shorter duration of steeping really yields a better flavor experience overall.  Distilled water was recommended for optimum flavor, but I can’t say that this is an extra step I would take at home. I can, however, be more diligent about removing my tea bag after 1-3 minutes so that I have a better flavor experience overall.

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I am a coffee drinker in the afternoons and have always considered tea to be something to relax with only in the evening hours.  I asked their team if I was making the afternoon switch from coffee to tea what they would recommend for someone who desires to be highly caffeinated all day long (*ahem*) and they shared that Fast Lane just might be the tea for me. It is a black tea, sold exclusively online and in their gift shop, and this tea has 20 milligrams MORE caffeine per 8 ounce cup than coffee. I snagged a case of it for myself and I am giving a case away below (along with tons more stuff!) for one of you. I believe everyone should be as highly caffeinated as me so I am excited to share this tea with you! 

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Did you know that you can tour the Celestial Seasonings factory?  Check their schedule for factory tour times and consider it a must-see attraction in Boulder. I happened to visit while recovering from a sinus infection and I think there is, perhaps, no greater cure in the world then getting to stand inside the mint room to open up those sinus cavities. Getting to tour the factory gives  you a chance to really see how the product is made from start to finish!

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One thing I haven’t thought of is using tea more as an ingredient in my cooking.  To inspire us, our evening meal was created utilizing the Celestial Seasonings tea in each dish from a delicious tea-infused sorbet to a tea brine on the main dish, a roasted chicken. We also got to have a happy hour where the tea was utilized in simple syrups to create a variety of cocktails. I happily indulged in their Jammin’ Lemon Ginger Drop and came home to make it myself. The combination of the Jammin’ Lemon Ginger Tea brewed into a simple syrup, bourbon, and fresh lemon juice makes an elegant and easy cocktail perfect for entertaining.  You can find the recipe below our giveaway today!

Today I am giving away $100 worth of tea and tea accessories from Celestial Seasonings! Not only am I including over a case of Fast Lane tea, but I am also including a few seasonal favorites, a beautiful handmade tea mug, a tea bag holder,  and a thermal carafe to take your teas on the go. Follow the instructions below to enter to win! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Jammin' Lemon Ginger Drop
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
A fast and delicious cocktail made from Celestial Seasonings Jammin' Lemon Ginger Tea, fresh lemon juice, and a splash of bourbon.
Ingredients
  • 1.5 oz Bourbon
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ oz Jammin’ Lemon Ginger simple syrup (see instructions)
Instructions
  1. To make the Lemon Ginger Simple Syrup: Combine 4 Jammin' Lemon Ginger Tea bags, 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Using two spoons, remove tea bags and squeeze out excess liquid. Allow syrup to cool.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker as listed above. Add ice and shake. Strain and serve in an old fashioned glass with a sugar rim.

 

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

I am so excited to be sharing another tutorial for how to make a burlap wreath today! I can’t begin to tell you how happy this wreath has made me on our new front door. The pop of orange is just what our door needed for the holidays and this wreath is perfect for Halloween and Thanksgiving.  I created this beauty for Kenmore and have had to wait an entire month to share this project with you. If you haven’t made a burlap wreath before, this tutorial is for you. It outlines step-by-step how to recreate this wreath in my picture tutorial.

Head on over to the Kenmore Blog today to find this EASY and no-crafting-skills required  craft for decorating your door with a handmade autumn burlap wreath for the upcoming holiday season!

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