Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

Do you remember when outdoor furniture looked like…  well, outdoor furniture. Now outdoor furnishings rival those inside my home and I have started looking at these pieces differently than I used to. I now see the true potential for outdoor pieces in indoor spaces and I wanted to chat a bit with you about that today!   I am partnering up with the BHG Live Better Network this month to show you the fantastic offerings they have this year for your outdoor (or indoor) needs.

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

A couple of years ago, we created the cutest spot in our house that isn’t in our house. My dreamy she shed makeover is one of the best ideas I have had to utilize a hidden space in our home. I wanted something that we could really lounge on and originally thought a daybed would be a great idea. The truth was though, I really needed something that could stand up to a lot of abuse and the idea of changing linens in a shed did not appeal to me at all.

Let’s be honest, I can barely change the sheets on my own bed.

Outdoor Bed Ideas

I did a lot of research on smart bedding solutions and discovered this Better Homes and Gardens Providence Outdoor Day Bed while browsing and just knew it would be so perfect for our space. This piece was coated in durable outdoor fabric since it was intended for outdoor use, making it perfect for a mom with two busy kids.

When I saw that it was available again this summer (YAY!), I just had to share it with you because it makes me so happy!

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

This outdoor daybed has become THE spot in the house for anyone who needs a little retreat. The generous size of this piece really is as deep and as long as a true bed would be, making it a fantastic place to take a nap.  I have been known to take many a blissful Sunday siesta on this bed. Curled up with a throw and and a good book, it’s the perfect retreat right on our very own property. When the kids and my husband can’t find me, they know that I am out here taking a little time for myself.

Although I loved the bed itself, I wanted to add a fresh accent color to this piece so I switched out the pillows with a few cute options I scored on Groopdealz as one of their deals-of-the-day and added a Too Legit To Quit pillow from Michelle Dwight Designs to add a splash of fun to the bed.

Even if you source your pillow covers somewhere else by supporting a fellow crafter, I have found inexpensive pillow forms from Walmart to create cushions with style for the back of this bed.  The pillow forms are two for $5.15 and feel like expensive cushions and line the back of our bed. I love that we can switch pillow covers on this piece to bring in a new accent color or simply to freshen things up.

outdoor-bed-ideas-2

We were lucky enough to have a very mild fall and winter so we were able to use this shed more than we usually do, as you can see by this cozy picture of my daughter nestled in blankets. I found a string of outdoor lights and hung them from the canopy to create a beautiful glow in the evenings.

Twinkle lights make any space magical, don’t you think?

I am so happy my kids have this spot to read in.

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

As a child, I only dreamed of places like this to curl up with books and I try to never take for granted such a special retreat!

I hope this inspires you to look at outdoor furniture a little differently. Whether you have a spot in your basement for a little nook for your kids, if you are looking for an alternative to couches for a patio space, or if you are making your shed into a dreamy bonus room, this bed is for you.

Live-Better-Network-Badge

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.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant (FREE Printables and Red Velvet Popcorn)

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series). I know we have so many Divergent fans out there and I am so excited to be partnering with Lionsgate today to share about the third film, The Divergent Series: Allegiant. I am new to the Divergent fan club and dove into the books this week and I am absolutely loving the storyline and can’t wait to see the first two films next week before Allegiant hits theaters on March 18! 

Allegiant Movie (The Divergent Series)

After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four and go beyond the wall enclosing Chicago. For the first time ever, they will leave the only city and family they have ever known. Once outside, old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless with the revelation of shocking new truths. Tris and Four must quickly decide who they can trust as a ruthless battle ignites beyond the walls of Chicago which threatens all of humanity. In order to survive, Tris will be forced to make impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

I wanted to utilize the landscape of  The Fringe (the unknown land they explore beyond the wall in this new film) and it’s beautiful red hues to create a Red Velvet Popcorn treat you can share in honor of the film. We also have adorable free printable Allegiant popcorn containers for your treat.

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

Popcorn is one of my favorite weakness and popcorn coated in white chocolate and red velvet cake… be still my beating heart. I was so excited to invent this fun treat and, of course, a Google search yielded that not only am I not the inventor, but one of my favorite blogging friends, Michael from Inspired by Charm, also had created this treat in his kitchen.

Of course, I am gluten-free so you can hunt for a gluten-free red velvet cake mix at your store or you can find many great options online. If you are short on time, not only can you save yourself from making a cake from scratch, but you can also utilize something like Skinny Pop as your popcorn base.  And, let’s say, if you are a mom who is required to make a bake sale treat for your daughter’s class, you can kill two birds with one stone and utilize the extra cupcakes that aren’t used in the popcorn for her treat. WINNING!

Don’t you love the vibrant red that captures the landscape of The Fringe so well? Gorgeous!

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series). Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series). Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series). Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

To assemble your Allegiant popcorn boxes, simply print and cut them out with scissors. Begin by folding the sides of the box and then fold up the bottom and side flaps. Once all the folds have been made, stand it up to assemble and secure with a little clear tape inside! Done!

Grab the FREE Printable Popcorn Box  HERE!!

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

If you are looking for me this week, you will find me curled up with the books, binging on these fantastic films, and filling my tummy with this delicious popcorn treat. Be sure to check out the movie trailer below and hit your local theater on March 18th to catch Allegiant on the big screen! Learn more about The Divergent Series on their official website. I can’t wait to hear what you think about this one!

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

Red Velvet Popcorn
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8 servings
 
Red Velvet Popcorn is a fun treat to share that can even be made gluten-free, inspired by the movie Allegiant!
Ingredients
  • 8 cups popped popcorn (I purchased some Skinny Pop for this or you can pop microwavable popcorn for your base)
  • 3 red velvet cupcakes (prepare a boxed cake mix and reserve three cupcakes for crumbs to add to your popcorn)
  • 22 oz. (2 bags) white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
Instructions
  1. Prepare your red velvet cupcakes as directed on the cake mix box. Reserve three cupcakes and crumble these in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Pour eight cups of popcorn in a large bowl.
  3. Melt the white chocolate chips with a tablespoon of vegetable shortening in a double boiler on your stove. Be sure to stir it often to avoid burning your chocolate.
  4. Pour the white chocolate over your bowl of popcorn and stir to coat each piece completely. Pour the popcorn mixture on a large sheet of parchment paper.
  5. Sprinkle the reserved red velvet cake crumbs on the popcorn. Using a spatula, gently flip the popcorn to coat the other side of it with the crumbs as well.
  6. Leave on the parchment paper until it has completely hardened. Break apart and serve in our popcorn boxes.

Recipe Adapted from Inspired By Charm!

This post is in partnership with Lionsgate. Thank you for supporting the companies that help support our site! 

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Life is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

how-to-consume-more-books-5

(I like this skirt because it hides that knee brace right now)

I knew something was wrong over the holidays, but didn’t want to admit it to anyone. As I wrote the addresses of our loved ones on the envelopes, my hand would lose grip of the pen, cramp up, and spasm. What should have been a simple task done with joy became something that had to be split up over a week that resulted in embarrassingly scrawled envelopes that I resented. I also resented Tiny Prints for sending no back-up envelopes so I could throw out the really bad ones. I left our return address off, for the first time, because I didn’t want to see those cards again. Feliz Navidad.

A week later as I headed to the grocery store, I put my car into park, and my foot curled in and would not sit flat in its shoe. A painful cramping left me sitting in my car for twenty minutes so I could walk around and get the family groceries. As if I didn’t dread the task of grocery shopping enough, now I could barely make it through the aisles, dragging around this foot and worrying that it would happen again while I was trying to check out or while I was driving.

Then the pain started in my hands in such a debilitating way that I could not even type, shoot a camera, knit, flip a book page without pain, or do any of my usual routines that are expected of me as a mom.  Pain shot through my fingers so badly that I sobbed and called my Dad like a little girl again, hysterically sitting in a corner of our bedroom sobbing and wondering why this was happening again when I was doing all the right things with my health.

So You Like Being a Hypochondriac

I was in denial that this was coming back. In college, after a routine dental procedure that went bad (as all procedures with me do), my parents had a battery of tests ran on me that included the usual blood work and more serious tests like a spinal tap for Lyme and MS. Everything came back normal, but I was anything but a normal college student when it came to my health. Muscle cramps, spasms, and numbness plagued me, particularly when I was overworked or tired…and I was constantly tired.  I later saw a rheumatologist who gave me the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and treated it with antidepressants that aided in muscle relaxation, but I knew that I had never really been satisfied with that diagnosis.

I could go on and on about all the weird and quirky things in my medical history like being a klutz and chronically tired child covered in self-created bruises from walking into things. Every medical surgery that never went as expected. Weird scarring on my body from things that never healed correctly. A shocking placental abruption with the birth of my child that was like a really bad crime scene in our home. Menstrual bleeding that made me finally seek relief through an ablation procedure (that also went badly).  Poor recovery from every routine procedure and struggles with anesthesia. Reacting to all medications. Dental issues and excessive gum bleeding.  A recent hearing loss that lasted for months and months and months that threw off my balance.  The snap, crackle, and popping of bones shifting each time I would go up the stairs and worries that something was going to pop out with all the sound effects. The stomach issues that plagued me my entire life. Old lady back pain that had me seeking relief at the chiropractor. Constant dislocations of random joints that left me rocking a brace on some joint on my body almost weekly at my gym classes.

I headed to the doctor with my hypochondriac list again and the routine tests were all performed along with an EMG to rule out radial tunnel syndrome.  The follow-up visit revealed that, other than a few minor things, all was normal.

Of course.

“How are your hands and fingers today?”

“Well, they are feeling a little better, but now my knee. My knee is out and it hurts really bad too.”

We had double booked our doctor for the morning and my son sat on the examining table for his routine ADHD follow-up. I requested that while we were here, he take a peek at the poor circulation in his hands. As the doctor began to examine him, Ethan said the magical question that started the ball rolling on the real answers.

“Are you going to ask him about our flexibility, mom?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I wonder if he has EDS. I have a friend that was diagnosed and it sounds like us.”

eds-test

The doctor started giving us The Beighton Score test and we, of course, could do all of this and more. You should see us at parties or just a fun night at our dinner table showing off with our bendy fingers.  After we passed this test with flying colors,  he pulled my son’s skin on his neck and watched it stretch to an unnatural amount.

“Look at the stretch in his skin.”

“Oh, I think mine is like that too,” and I pulled out skin farther than Ethan’s.

We finally have our answer.

We had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Oh, and my kid had scoliosis and Raynaud’s syndrome.

And the other one, she should be looked at too since she is bruising all the time and run down.

My head was spinning as I clutched a million handouts, appointments were made, tests duplicated for the specialist, x-rays done…in two hours I felt like our entire life had changed.

ehlers-danlos-syndrome-causes

What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome? And How Quickly Can We Get Over This?

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders, caused by various defects in the synthesis of collagen. EDS is known to affect men and women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

There are six distinct types of EDS currently identified. All share joint laxity, soft skin, easy bruising, and some systemic manifestations. Each type is thought to involve a unique defect in connective tissue, although not all of the genes responsible for causing EDS have been found.

These six types are defined according to the signs and symptoms that are manifested, in a set of major and minor diagnostic criteria for each type. Each type of EDS is a distinct disorder that “runs true” in a family.

Different subtypes of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are associated with a variety of genetic causes, some of which are inherited and passed on from parent to child. If you have the most common varieties of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, there’s a 50 percent chance that you’ll pass on the gene to each of your children. Thus, the demonstration made by my crew means that we will all need a diagnosis to see if we all have it.

To receive a formal diagnosis of what type we all have and the treatment required for that type, we have to seek the help of a specialist and one of the leading people in this field just so happens to be rocking a practice in our town. Her research on EDS and how it relates to our GI system really helped to explain why I have had so much relief from removing gluten from my diet, as all of this is connected to our connective tissue. Instinctively, I had been doing many of the recommendations to seek relief for my numerous issues, never knowing how much I had been helping my body. It is probably why I have been doing so well for so long.

Dr. Collins counseled our doctor on the new regime we should follow until we could see her.  It involves a really ungodly amount of supplements that should help with joint pain and digestion. You can see her recommendations for diet and supplements that have worked so successfully for many of her patients, diminishing symptoms with this disorder.

Unfortunately, we can’t get over it. It’s something that we will be dealing with our whole lives and that was devastating to me especially in the middle of a bunch of injuires.

ehlers-danlos-syndrome-diagnosis

We Have Answers And I’m Sad & Still in Pain

I would have loved to skip out of that office with prescriptions for us all and immediate healing to my body. That doesn’t happen though and it takes some time to figure out exactly what will work for me and for our kids.

I have wept more tears than I can count for the pain that I have been in this week and hearing that we have this is heartbreaking for us all.  I told my mom yesterday, as she came to be with her weepy daughter, that  I could handle all of it if I wasn’t in so much pain with my knees, hands, and fingers. If it would have come when I felt strong and fit, I would have done the whole pull myself up by my bootstraps routine and just killed it like I always do, but right now I feel really broken.

I’m heartbroken our kids may have this and I feel like a crappy mom for passing down such crappy genes.

I’m sad how this has impacted my workout routine of hitting my dance class each week. It was the one class that brought me inexplicable joy and I know that it is the worst thing I can do for my joints right now. I miss the routines and love I get from each of those ladies in that dance crew. They have become like a family to me and I hate not being there.

I can’t knit to curb the stress because of hand pain and the need to brace things to help relieve it.

I’m heartbroken to see my husband so sad and feeling helpless about what is happening to us all. To be honest, that hurts almost worse than the pain.

debbie-downer

Silver Lining? Maybe Someday!

I am not in that silver lining stage and I cringe when people try to put a positive spin on this. My body and heart are in terrible pain right now. I guess the silver lining is that it could always be worse and there is always someone suffering and struggling with something bigger than something this minor.

As the four of us curled up on the couch together on Friday night, all on a single couch, I wrapped my two in my arms as tight as I could and alternately kissed each of their heads while we watched an episode of Shark Tank and chatting about if we would invest in people’s inventions. It was a simple moment, but we all needed it and craved it in this mess, the comfort that can only be found with one another. This situation is another team building exercise together and I’m glad I have this team and these people.

I’m also thankful we have an incredible village who are letting me be the weepy mess that I am and still want to be with me in spite of being the Debbie Downer of friends right now.

I’m ready to take the next steps towards healing.

In the meantime, the site may suffer, my workload will need to be lightened until I can get the hand pain under control, and I’m sharing this to buy some grace if things feel off here or if I don’t respond to your emails.  I’m not myself right now, but I’m thankful we finally have an answer.

If you want to learn more about EDS check out the Ehlers-Danlos Foundation page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make a Dream Catcher (GIVEAWAY- Star Darlings Book Sets)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Disney Press. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site! 

I am so very excited to share with you an incredible new book series from Disney that just recently launched, perfect for girls in the age ranges of 8-12 years old.  Star Darlings  focuses on answering the question of where wishes come from, and features a diverse array of star-charmed girls who encourage and help others to fulfill their heartfelt wishes. Each Star Darling has her own wish that she pursues with the help of her faithful friends.

These shared journeys and experiences provide exceptionally positive examples to inspire tweens to follow their dreams and helps to  harness the power of their individuality, highlighting the power of making positive choices, and shows that they can make anything possible.

Star Darlings Book Review

Star Darlings A Wisher's Guide to Starland

These books are rich with themes of friendship, confidence, leadership, and teamwork, the Star Darlings as they are known, go on many magical adventures together. Determined to succeed in spite of their youthful inexperience, the girls show courage and ingenuity—plus a whole lot of humor—as they guide Wishers to discover happiness and fulfillment.  You can learn lots more about the Star Darlings series on their webpage and find fun activities, music, and videos to watch about these inspiring girls!

My daughter is an advanced reader at ten and found these books to be fun AND challenging. Within record time she had finished the first book and could not wait to start diving into the next ones.  If you have a tween girl, these have been a great step towards reading more advanced books! She really loved them and also told me that she has already found something in each character that feels a little like her.

Since the new Star Darlings series is all about the power of wishes, we wanted to share with you a few of our dreams and wishes for this year and show you a fun way to capture those by crafting a DIY dream catcher together. Not only that, but we would love to share with you the chance to win these books for a special young lady in your life so be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this post to participate in the giveaway!

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed:

Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

Embroidery Hoop (we detached the inner hoop for our project)

Fabric Scraps or squares

Hemp Cord (available in the jewelry supplies section of your craft store)

Feathers (any amount/color- we used 3)

Colorful embroidery thread

Scissors

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Dreamcatcher

1. Begin by cutting a small cut on the longest side of your fabric piece and then begin ripping it down until you have a nice even piece.  Holding it in place at the top, begin wrapping the fabric around and round the hoop. When you come to the end, add a dab of hot glue to secure it and then repeat the process until you have covered the entire hoop. Once you get to the end, finish again with a dab of hot glue.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

(source)

2. The most challenging part is, of course, creating the webbing inside the dreamcatcher.  Here are lots of examples that you can see on Pinterest. Depending on your child’s age and craft level you can make this very easy, like we are showing here, or more difficult!

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

Measure approximately five feet of hemp and start with a knot at the top of your dreamcatcher. Then begin creating loops, twisting and looping until you get to the beginning again. Then begin the next loop of webbing by going between those circles to create the next round of loops. You can then keep repeating this pattern, as the circle begins to get smaller and smaller.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

3. Have your child tear strips of fabric to tie to the bottom of the dream catcher. We chose two colors and alternated them in our dream catcher.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

4. Finish with decorative details like feathers or beads to complete the look. We used a little embroidery thread to secure these to our dreamcatcher.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

When I asked Emily what her big wishes and dreams were for this year, they were all focused on our big jump to middle school next year. Starting at a new school is a big challenge and I can tell that this has been on her mind a lot as she asks her brother many questions about the school and how her day will look there. She said that her big dream is for middle school to be full of good stuff. Doing this craft together gave us time to really talk about that and focus on catching all the good things in life and focusing on the positivities of new friends and new experiences at a new school.

With our busy schedules these days, crafting together has gotten pushed off and I loved making time to create with her this week. This was an easy one hour project that really gave us some time to bond and talk about our wishes for the upcoming year.

Star Darlings

Star Darlings Book Review

In honor of this new series I am giving away a Star Darlings prize pack. One (1) winner will receive:

  • A Wisher’s Guide to Starland
  • Sage and the Journey to Wishworld
  • Libby and the Class Election
  • Leona’s Unlucky Mission
  • Scarlet Discovers True Strength
  • Vega and the Fashion Disaster

This giveaway open to US addresses only and prizing and samples will be provided by Disney Press.  Please check out the widget below for more details on this contest! Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Disney Press. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site! 

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Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Tracking PixelGluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Lingham’s Hot Sauce. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site! 

Sloppy Joes are nothing fancy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them. When my husband and I were in high school, we would hit a local deli each week where he would enjoy a good old-fashioned sloppy joe sandwich and I would indulge in a flaky spinach & feta croissant as a special treat. When you have been with your partner as long as I have, almost every memory, every dish, and every life moment is laced with each other. I always think of those lunches when I make this dish for him, these high school moments that later shaped my life and family.

We have held steady and true to this classic sandwich over the years, but this week I’m partnering up with Lingham’s Hot Sauce and thought it would be fun to switch up this classic comfort food in their honor. My husband, a lover of traditions when it comes to the classics, was not too sure about my Sloppy Buffalo Joes idea, but after one bite of these delicious sandwiches, we all agreed that this was just as good as the classic version and a fun gourmet twist on a cafeteria staple.

Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes from MomAdvice.com

Lingham’s Hot Sauces were new to me, but have actually been around since 1908! They come in a variety of flavors from garlic to ginger and they offer an extra hot variety for those of you that like your hot sauce with an extra kick. Their original hot sauce is absolutely divine and the closest I have tasted to homemade from the supermarket. It has a complex flavor on the tongue that at first tastes sweet and then the heat travels through, just like an experience that you get with a good glass of wine.

The sauce is thick and requires a good shake before you use it since they don’t use any bulking agents, something the brand really is proud of. The best part for this gluten-free gal is not only is it gluten free is that it is 100% all natural, verified non GMO, Halal and Kosher…

Oh, and did I mention you can find it at Walmart stores nationwide? Yay!

Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes from MomAdvice.com

Sloppy Buffalo Joes are a healthier take on a big plate of buffalo wings as we get back to more balanced eating in the new year. This sloppy joe mixture consists all white ground chicken meat, garlic, diced onions, diced celery, and diced carrots. Next is a spicy sauce layer with our Lingham’s Hot Sauce (feel free to go Extra Hot on this one!), tomato sauce, chicken broth, and a worcestershire sauce finish. Once this cooks down together, it has that perfect balance of sweet and spicy, just like the hot sauce we added and I love that there is a healthy serving of veggies in these for my kids!

Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes from MomAdvice.com

The thing that really brings this whole thing together on this sandwich are those finishing touches. Blue Cheese crumbles are sprinkled on top and the addition of a toasty bun completes this deliciously sloppy joe treat. The creaminess of that blue cheese really adds balance to the spicy sauce on this.

I usually avoid the gluten-free buns, but have discovered that a gluten-free bun slathered with a tiny bit of butter and then toasted on a hot cast iron skillet improves the flavor of these 100% for me.  Of course, you could also serve this delicious filling stuffed in a sweet potato or over a big pile of brown rice.

The true test if a dish is a success is if the leftovers are eaten in our house. Not only did our whole family love this, but they begged to eat those leftovers the next day. This one is going into our regular meal rotation and I have a feeling if you try it, it will go into yours too. What a fun spin on an old classic!

Be sure to pick up some Lingham’s Hot Sauce to add that perfect balance of sweet and spicy to your dishes!

Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 servings
 
Take classic sloppy joes up a notch with this spicy buffalo flavoring and creamy blue cheese finish. It's sure to be a new family favorite!
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped or grated
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼-1/3 cup Lingham's Hot Sauce (Original or Extra Hot- we used a ¼ cup in our house)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 8 gluten-free buns, split and toasted
  • 1 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 large dill pickles, chopped (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the meat and break it up with wooden spoon, then cook for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add in the carrots, celery, onions and garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then cook for 7-8 minutes more.
  3. In a bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, tomato sauce and stock. Pour into the pan and stir to combine. Simmer until the mixture comes together, five minutes or so.
  4. Pile the sloppy Buffalo filling onto the toasted buns and top with blue cheese and chopped pickles.

 Adapted from Rachael Ray

This post is sponsored by Lingham’s Hot Sauce. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site! 

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Transitioning Your Holiday Decor

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

Now that the holidays are behind us, it is the natural time for many to declutter and organize their spaces . I am partnering up with the BHG Live Better Network to show you some tips for transitioning your holiday decor and adding some organization to a hutch or any open shelving unit in your home.

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

Here is what my hutch looked like before I added some thoughtful winter touches. I got this hutch  from a thrift store many, many years ago for less than $100, painted it black, and spray painted the handles all on the same day I got it. It was my first DIY, before that was even a thing here, and I loved this piece because it gave me confidence to try painting furniture.

I often think of repainting it in a fresh color or doing something with the backs of those shelves, but for now it serves its most important purpose as extra storage in our home. My kitchen is smaller and I was always struggling with space to prepare our meals on my counters. Relocating our microwave, coffeepot, coffee cups, and fruit bowl help keep my counters clear and made this piece a true workhorse in my kitchen.

As far as decorating goes?

I never have!

That said, these long months after the holidays can feel a little barren with decor and I wanted to make this a little more decorative while still making the most of storage.

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

I got some little houses and trees from the holiday section of our local Walmart store and added these for decoration, got a beautiful fruit basket (available in stores only) to allow the oranges to bring more color to this set-up,  got plate stands (over by the photo frames) to display my Better Homes & Gardens metallic plates, and added a decorative wood top jar to house my homemade cocoa mix nestled next to a jar of snowy white marshmallows.

The side of our coffeepot got a sprinkle of family photos with a little washi tape. I later discovered this side is also magnetic so now my daily to-do list hangs there too!

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

 

These affordable and simple additions will help me power through these winter months and then I will tuck them away to be used again next year. Mini trees and houses are perfect for adding a sprinkle of beauty to any bookcase or shelf.  Be sure to check out all the great organization and storage solutions that Better Homes & Gardens offers at Walmart as you ready your home for another winter season!

 

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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.

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See You in 2016

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Happy Holidays!

We hope you have a wonderful, wonderful holiday season! I am planning to take a much-needed break to rest, read, and love on my people. We are so thankful for your continued love and support of this site and our family.  In January, we will be celebrating 12 years of this funny made-up job and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Sending all of our love as you celebrate all the things! xoxo

Dora Band-Aids for a Hurting World

Monday, December 21st, 2015

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When my daughter was small, I remember that each and every hurt required some type of medical treatment. We had a constant rotation of ice packs and tiny bandages, often for nonexistent wounds. It was as though the act of putting that Dora Band-Aid on her superficially scraped up knee was enough to close the floodgates of tears and make the world right again. She needed me to see her hurt, to echo how awful it was to be hurt, and then to show my efforts to repair it.

Last week I discovered that a family I had been working with, through a volunteer opportunity I am involved with, had fallen on some particularly hard times and had been living without things that I would consider basic human needs.  The gas in the home had been shut off, the stove was not in working order, medical needs couldn’t be addressed through their insurance, and there was not even a washer to care for their family’s clothing.

When you have a platform like this to work from, you can often make swift work and can create fast resolutions to problems, simply because of the large circle that comes with this type of job. In a matter of 24 hours, I found I could meet all of these basic needs for this family between our family’s resources and many, many generous givers that I reached out to who helped me close the gap through material and financial donations. If there is one thing I feel proud of, it is is the company I keep.

As I shared those gifts with this family this weekend  I had a flashback of being that mom sharing a Dora Band-Aid again- I was so unequipped. This wound was so beyond the reach of the tiny offering that I had.  I could see so very clearly that there were many other needs that were there and I knew that the gift I offered, while appreciated, was just a small bandage on a problem bigger than I could fill. 

I left my humble bandage for this wound, I echoed the hurt, and I hugged those people and gave what I could.

Those bandages though, those are mine to give out and sometimes I have a whole box at my disposal and sometimes I just have a couple to share that I can sprinkle around. This box is mine to do with what I choose, and yet,  I was surprised at some of the commentary that came from what others said about those bandages.

“Did they deserve them?”

“Were they working?”

“Why had they fallen on hard times in the first place?”

“So many people working the system….”

You have probably heard a few of these before, am I right?

Here’s the thing.

My family?

We worked the system. 

My husband lost his job for a year and we became part of the system that people refer to with that shake of their head.  We found ourselves unable to make ends meet, unable to find employment, and the seeker of any government gift that we could qualify for. My husband and I went without health insurance (a gamble that kept me up every night), we placed our son on a healthcare plan funded by the state, and we eagerly waited for those unemployment checks so we could do things like get groceries and pay our mortgage.

What helped us get through those times were those tiny bandages that so many giving and kind people shared with us. They knew they couldn’t heal the gaping wound we had…it would have been impossible!  Yet, they were happy to share the smaller bandages that made each of those dreary days in my life better.

They brought us meals, they watched our baby, they gave us gift cards to have nights out, they even bought a pizza for the volunteers who later had to move us out of our very own home that we could no longer afford.

I could not even have purchased that pizza for them as a thank you.

Our debt situation?

Well, we needed a full-body cast at that point, not a tiny bandage.

But those bandages made such a difference and I still reflect on the generosity of the people that got us through such a depressing time in my life. 

And now, I’m the lucky one who has a box of tiny bandages to help those in need.

The bandages are often the smallest gifts, but not only are they my gifts to give, but it is their gift to do what they need to do with it. I don’t worry about if that bandage is going to someone working hard enough or if they are deserving of my tiny bandages.

I know God will figure all of that out.

He has a way of sorting things out for me. 

I only hope that other people are sprinkling them in some of the same spots that I am so we can close the gap on those hurts in the world together. When cobbled together, incredible things happen like the small Christmas miracle I got to witness this weekend as we met these basic needs for a family I love.

As we close out another year here at MomAdvice, I hope you will find a way to share your gifts with others, whether they are big or small. Just as I did with my daughter,  I am acknowledging these hurts in the world today, I echo your hurts because I think about them too and pray for resolutions, and I share a tiny bandage with those of you who are hurting.

I am also hoping you are one of the lucky ones holding a box and you won’t forget to share a few Dora Band-Aids of your own, even if the wounds seem too big for such small offerings.

They all matter.

And so do you.

xoxo

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

Friday, December 18th, 2015

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3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

*This post is sponsored by Shoe Carnival.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

I’ve really enjoyed sharing some new holiday gift-giving strategies and traditions that are important to our family with you. Today I wanted to talk about a gift that I really struggle with… the gift card.

While practical in so many ways, I have found it difficult to make gift cards feel personal. I want people to always know that when I give them a gift card, it isn’t because I don’t care about them to shop, but only that I want them to treat themselves to something they really love.

I can tell you that I don’t know a single girlfriend, sister, or mother that would object to a shoe gift card. I may not know their shoe sizes to always shop for them personally, but I know that if I give them a gift card for shoes that they would be more than thrilled to peruse the shoe aisles for the perfect gift. Bonus points if that gift card accompanied a gift card to their favorite coffee shop so they could sip while browsing.

Today I wanted to share with you 3 ways I have created to make a gift card to Shoe Carnival more personal and make it truly stand out!

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

(Shoes: Nicole Carleigh in Black)

Create a Snow Globe Jar

If you put anything in a jar, I think it instantly amplifies its level of awesomeness on any gift. Jars are very inexpensive gifts to give and this little snowy-filled scene only took a couple of minutes to pull together and requires zero craft skills.

Simply add a little faux snow on the bottom with whatever you might have in your craft supplies or purchase those delicious rolls of snow they have out with all of the snow villages this time of year. Place a little snow on the bottom, add an inexpensive ornament, and finish with a bottle brush tree. TADA!

With just a few moments you have created something really cute for their mantle out of items that they can use for their own holiday decorating or food storage. Best of all, tucked underneath that blanket of white is a gift card to do a little shoe shopping!

WINNING!

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

 

Knit a Gift Card-igan

As you know, I am a knitter, so I always find fun ways to use my hobby for the holidays. This year, I stumbled upon this amazing little pattern for a Gift Card-igan and knitted this out of a little scrap yarn I had left over from another project. It is a perfectly gratifying project since it is so small in size and the pattern is easy enough to execute while watching holiday movies on the couch.

Whatever your craft skill set is, consider using it to create a unique gift card holder of your own. Sewing, embroidery, decoupage, crochet… there are so many fun ways to incorporate your own crafting skills to make a gift card holder that is unique and special. It adds that personal touch to any gift you give and showcases your talents in such a fun way!

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

 

(Shoes: Crocs Cap Toe Rhinestone)

Add Our Free Holiday Sparkle

I’m all about the holiday sparkle from attire to the gifts I give. These Crocs Cap Toe Rhinestone shoes add that holiday touch I love with their shiny cap toes and rhinestone embellishment. Did I mention how comfy these are? They are the perfect shoe for any gathering because you can be on your feet for days without any discomfort! I found the same holds true for the Nicole Carleigh Boots I got, thanks to their low and wider heel.

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

Of course, sparkle can also be added to your gift and I wanted to share this fun printable that our designer, MJ from pars caeli, created just for you to add that personal touch to your gift card this year!

(scroll to the bottom for this freebie!)

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

 

Shoe Carnival happens to be running a Give 1, Gift 1 Gift Card promotion this week which is perfect timing with our gathering of packaging ideas. If you purchase a $50 gift card, you can receive a $10 bonus reward card that can be redeemed from 12/26-1/16, in-store only.

Be sure to cash in on this incredible promo and I hope you can use a few of our ideas for your gift-giving needs this year!

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

FREEBIES Galore:

FREE Colorful Cute Shoes Fund Envelope

FREE B&W Cute Shoe Funds Envelope

 

Today I am giving away two $50 gift cards to two winners to add a little holiday sparkle from Shoe Carnival for those upcoming holiday festivities!  Follow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter.  Good luck and happiest of holidays!

 

*This post is sponsored by Shoe Carnival.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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How We Grew Our Site By 4 Million More Page Views This Year

Friday, December 18th, 2015

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

MomAdvice is celebrating her 12th birthday this year. For those of you following along all these years, I can’t thank you enough for your support. It’s this time of the year where I reflect back on my hits and misses with my business in 2015. After going through our traffic numbers from the past two years, we realized we had experienced a growth of 4 million page views since 2014. Our growth has been holding steady around the same figures overall for years now, so this type of growth was very exciting.  This year I really buckled down and got serious about strategy for our business and I believe the growth is a reflection of that.  

Let’s face it, I’m a dinosaur in this business. Young women are joining my field all the time and I struggle with the trying new things because of the reality of my time constraints coupled with the laziness of doing what already works. That said, there were many new things we tried and I’d love to share them with you, if it might help your business in 2016.  My biggest piece of advice is just try one new thing out a month and really look at your numbers. If you are finding it isn’t helping you grow, don’t be afraid to try something else.

Let’s go through the hits that drove the hits (wink, wink!)

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

I Drove Pinterest Traffic To The Most Popular Posts

As a lifestyle blogger, Pinterest is my biggest driver of traffic to the site.  If you look at your web stats (through Google Analytics or your web host), you can grab a clear picture of what and why people are visiting you from their search terms to the amount of traffic each post is driving.  In the past, I was really focused on the new content I was creating and pinning that, but those weren’t driving the traffic as much. Although that’s important too, my top ten posts are more important for my traffic.

Once I figured out my top ten posts, I promoted these regularly and I utilized Ahalogy to schedule these pins for optimum times when people would be on Pinterest. 

I’ve been a lazy blogger about affiliate revenue, but I started taking that avenue more seriously for building passive revenue to these top ten posts too.  This diy blanket scarf post now offers fabric options that readers can peek at which generates a small amount of revenue that can pay for things like web hosting, my newsletter, or my editorial assistant.

Driving traffic to these posts only required tweaks on existing content (new headers, adding affiliate links, and pointing people back in their direction), and did not require me to create new content.  It helped me get through times when my creative wells had run dry.

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

I Paired My Passions With an Interview Series

I think any blog can benefit from some type of interview series. Design Mom & Cup of Jo are two great examples of sites that pair thoughtful editorials with a great balance of interview content. I am a big fan of the Living With Kids series and the Beauty Uniform series always yields fun beauty tips and tricks.

Most of all, I appreciate the fact that doing an interview series relieves my shoulders of some of the content creation, although it isn’t without work.

My passion is for books and writers so I created our Sundays With Writers series to interview authors about their books and to share those with our fellow bookworms. They are very popular with our audience and I have a natural place for affiliate links for books that helps support the site financially.

To continue building upon that concept of making the most of every interview, I asked each author about their favorite book of all-time and compiled these recommendations into a single post that is updated weekly for our bookworm readers. This post is also a top post on our site because my readers are always looking for new book recommendations.

The success in this as a traffic driver though has really relied upon my own ability to create unique interview questions. Many of these have taken an hour or more of research to gather nuggets of information about the author and their books to try and create content that is both unique and compelling. This time-investment pays off because the authors and their publishing houses are happy to push traffic my way to help with book sales. These new readers may or may not stick around to find out more, but a seed has been planted that we are a good resource for book recommendations and for the stories behind the stories.

All in all, I feel like this one was a big win and traffic driver this year!

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

I Worked On Getting the Balance Back

In 2014, I was really focused on financial recovery which sounds kind of funny, but writing a book in 2013 meant that my site really suffered and we took a financial hit. I just couldn’t keep those two balls in the air. 2014 was our most profitable year and, I admit, the least balanced year on the site because I took too many sponsored jobs. This year, I increased my rates and took fewer jobs. Overall, it was a better balance for the site and for me personally.

I worked on more personal posts that were more community-building or that I thought our readers might find interesting. Our 3 little things (something anyone can replicate) is a weekly happy list that shares everything from what we are watching on Netflix to comfortable lingerie.  These posts are a regular reader favorite and are a place where I can inject more of myself in them. I finally felt confident enough to let you tour my home and that seemed to be a big hit this year too.  We also talked (with my son’s permission) about his ADD diagnosis and how we work with him to succeed at school.

My struggle always is building that intimacy while keeping our privacy. As a protective parent and as a person who lives in a small town, I choose to keep the site as personal as I can with a clear line drawn in the sand about the boundaries for personal content. I grappled a lot with sharing the ADD journey, for example, but the outpouring of emails we received after that led me to believe that this personal series was important to share about, simply to let parents know they are not alone.

We joined a new ad network that has increased our revenue considerably, giving me the ability to write more personal pieces and not having to rely so much on sponsored content to pay our bills. That said, sponsored content is still how I earn the majority of my revenue and is necessary to sustain the site. I am very proud of the content I create (you can see my work here although many posts were duplicates this year for our m challenge series) and I try to always only select jobs that add value to my reader’s life.  It means I turn a lot away and that is okay.  An increased rate though allows me to be more selective and also do a better job for my clients because their products can really shine.

I think restoring balance restored our community and contributed to our higher traffic numbers. 

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

We Got Serious About Our Newsletter

And when I say WE I mean Jami. Jami blogs over at An Oregon Cottage and she works very hard behind the scenes here at MomAdvice. I am an ideas person while she actually executes half the things I think about, but would have never followed through on.  We hired a designer to design a simple template and got serious about newsletter building by offering free printables periodically that would drive newsletter subscribers.  We keep it clean, personal, & useful each week with all of the happenings in one spot.

I never know how social platforms will change. Facebook, a top driver, no longer drives as much for us without putting in considerable funds & effort. This newsletter helps deliver consistent readers who really love the site back to the new offerings. Moving forward, we will continue the consistency (meaning Jami will continue being consistent and I will be dreaming of other ideas) and we will continue develop offerings that make this newsletter useful to you.

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

I Diversified & I Did Good Stuff With That Money

Dinosaurs have a hard time changing their old ways, but I tried new things this year. I sold an e-book, I taught a course on creativity, I guest spotted on podcasts, I taught myself iVideo, I finally applied to some affiliate programs for things I was already talking about, and I sold my first product through Hazel & Ruby.  All of these projects, in turn, drive unique traffic to the site and some generated profit that we weren’t expecting this year.

All of these funds earned from diversifying the revenue went to charity. We were able to supply courses and materials for women at a local women’s shelter, we supported a non-profit doing great things for cancer patients & their families, we assisted with gift-giving for kids in need, we provided a large donation of gifts of warmth for a men’s shelter, we supplied items needed for a local food pantry & shelter, and we took care of a family in our community that had fallen on hard times. 

I continue to look for ways to diversify the income to benefit those in need. It’s money we never expected and we know all that good stuff will come back to us. My next focus is on building an Etsy shop with 100% profit to Burkina Faso for wells. It’s a dream of mine to give the gift of clean water to many more there.

That Was Great, But I Can Do Better

The misses? Tons! I know I can always do better. Sometimes I wonder if this is what I should be doing. I have dreams of developing something (still stewing on that!)  for those in need, but when I do it, I want to do it very seriously.  For now, I’m just using this as a vehicle for creativity, connections, and causes.

2016 will be all about continuing to work smarter and not harder. My first goal is to produce an ebook on our journey towards minimizing. I have much to say about our journey. I also have a big dream to publish a cookbook/memoir that I think would sell really well. The concept feels concrete, it’s the doing that is the hard part for me.  January will be about making these things come to life and continuing to be open to the possibility of new projects and new ways to diversify.

how-to-increase-your-page-views

Have questions? Ask me and I promise to try to be as honest as possible! Have tips for growth? I need ‘em!