This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ALDI.
Today I wanted to share an adorable gift idea for someone special in your life. Today’s tutorial is how to make beautiful chocolate coffee spoons that you can pair with a big basket of coffee for gift-giving. This gift is perfect for any occasion and can be made in less than 30 minutes. The inspiration for this project came along with the opportunity to try the new Barissimo line of premium coffee products that are available at your local ALDI store. I’m so excited to be partnering with them again on this project.
In case you missed my Maple Coffee Bacon post from last week, I had the opportunity to try out all of the new coffees from ALDI and create some fun projects using this newly launched line at their store.
This line features nine bagged and single serve coffee items, along with additional seasonal and Special Buy items that will be available for a limited time. Pictured below are a few of the ones that I found on my store shelves this month.
Nothing pictured here is over $5 (even the Fair Trade coffee) which means it is quite the steal. In the past, I have relied on these bags of coffee for easy hostess gifts and breakfast baskets for new homeowners. It is an excellent gift to give especially to a tired new mom or a new college student. I thought it would be fun to dress these baskets up a bit with beautiful chocolate coffee covered spoons that you could package in your basket.
Let’s get started!
1 bag Baker’s Corner Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Morsels
1 bag Baker’s Corner Milk Chocolate Baking Morsels
1 cup Baker’s Corner White Chocolate Baking Morsels
½ teaspoon Carlini Pure Vegetable Shortening (or more, if needed)
Edible sprinkles of your choice
Pastry/candy decorating bags
Antique spoons or plastic spoons (I got these six for $5 an antique store)
*Some of these items are Special Buy or Seasonal items that are only in stores for a limited time and may no longer be available.
Melt your semi-sweet chocolate chips (the whole bag) over a steam bath or in microwave. Melt chocolate slowing, stirring frequently. If chocolate clumps or doesn’t melt smoothly, add 1/2 teaspoon of shortening to help smooth it out.
Dip your spoons into the chocolate and then rest them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
3. Decorate with your choice of milk chocolate, white chocolate and/or various garnishes. Drizzle with melted white chocolate (using my pastry bag) and then shake on some edible pearls so they would stick. Let these set completely before placing into decorative bags and tying with beautiful ribbon.
We placed these beauties into a basket with a variety of our favorite Barissimo coffees, exclusively from ALDI. A pretty dishtowel on bottom pulls it all together and acts as bonus gift.
These spoons add another level of richness to your coffee giving you a rich chocolate flavor. These also would make a fun addition to your cocoa.
I hope you enjoyed our fun series with ALDI this month and that these ideas have inspired you to give their new coffee line-up a try! I promise that you won’t be disappointed, not just in the incredible taste, but the incredible amount of savings to be had for your family!
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ALDI.
It’s no secret around here that I love a good coffee drink and you all know I love a good way to save – especially when it’s easy. Making your own versions of coffee shop drinks gives a particularly good return since most DIY drink recipes take only a few minutes to make and are only a fraction of the cost of buying. And the no-guilt feeling while you’re enjoying your beverage? That’s right – priceless.
So I’ve rounded up some of the best copy-cat Starbucks drinks recipes for you from our own Mom Advice archives and other fabulous blogs so you can save some of your hard-earned money and enjoy a coffee (or non-coffee!) break at the same time. Here are 33 copy-cat Starbucks drinks categorized into four sections for your convenience – Hot Coffee Drinks, Hot Non-Coffee Drinks, Iced Coffee Drinks, and Iced Non-Coffee Drinks (as always, please pin individual pictures from the original source):
This was originally published in July of 2013 and goes so well with our focus challenge on health that I thought you’d enjoy it again – fruit-infused water is refreshing any time of the year!
Back-to-school means back to the grind of packing lunches. Today I wanted to share a healthy alternative to juice boxes and recipes for creating a fun fruit-infused water for lunches any time of the year. Fruit infused waters are frugal, fun, and a healthy alternative to the traditional juice box.
Packing a healthy lunch is always a top priority in our house. You may recall my fun lunch box station that I created in our house just for this reason? I am happy to say that this lunchbox system is still performing so well in our house and I am looking forward to packing lunches with it again.
What is Fruit-Infused Water?
Have you ever infused water before? It truly could not be easier and you can mix up any flavors that you love and personalize these to your own personal taste. Pictured above are some mix-in ideas we tried in our house. We purchased mint, basil, berries, limes, oranges, and lemons to create different flavor combinations for fun fruit waters. We like to keep things simple with just plain water, but you can also make it a little sweet with a little liquid stevia.
Seltzer can also be a fun switch-up, but carbonated drinks are always a gamble in our lunchbox, since they tend to get a lot of shaking and movement on the way to school!
Fruit-infused water is best enjoyed after two-four hours or after it has had a chance to infuse overnight. The length of time it lasts depends entirely on the type of fruit and herbs you use. Basil, for example, only lasts for three days while heartier varieties like rosemary or thyme can last up to seven days.
You can reuse the same fruit and add another batch of fresh water over it once you have gone through your first batch. The fruit can be used (typically) up to three times, but it will also depend on the freshness of the fruits you are using. If the fruit starts to look bad, it’s best to toss it and start with a fresh batch.
Citrus fruits are best cut fresh for your batches because the rind can add bitterness to your fruit-infusions. I like to keep my lemons, limes, and oranges fresh for that reason while reusing my berries for several batches.
It is really a matter of preference though and once you get the hang of making your own batches of fruit-infused water you will have a better idea of timelines.
Fruit Infused Water Combinations
The beauty of making your own infused waters is that you can create any combination that your heart desires and add as little or as much fruits and herbs into your drink as you like! Get inspired by the fruits and herbs that are on sale that week in the supermarket flier to help inspire new combinations and keep your fruit-infused waters frugal!
If the recipe calls for muddling, it just means bruising your fruit or herbs to release the flavors. I just use a wooden spoon for this.
Here are a few of our favorite combinations we tried:
*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.
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” 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, 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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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 fast and delicious cocktail made from Celestial Seasonings Jammin' Lemon Ginger Tea, fresh lemon juice, and a splash of bourbon.
1.5 oz Bourbon
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz Jammin’ Lemon Ginger simple syrup (see instructions)
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.
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.
I am so excited that my book club was chosen to participate in a This Is Where I Leave You book club before the film hits the big screen on September 19th. When I was asked to participate, I had heard of Jonathan Tropper, but had never read one of his books before. I can honestly say that if you are wanting to add a little sparkle and hilarity to your book club discussion, This Is Where I Leave You is the book for you.
I read this book in a record two days and my husband kept finding me with it in some state of crying-laughing almost every moment I read it. Although he isn’t much of a reader, I handed it to him and said, “You must read it.” Each night when I crawl into bed, I hear random laughing and snorting on his side of the bed. It is that kind of book that you finish and hand off to someone else so you can laugh about it together.
When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide—driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.
In this story, each of the siblings are told that it is their father’s dying wish for them to sit shiva together as a family. The irony is that their father is an atheist who made it known he didn’t believe in religion, but with their mother’s persuasion, she manages to get their family together under one roof for one week. With no escaping each other and a lot of time to reflect on life and the choices they have made, it really makes for some hilarious moments of family dysfunction at its best. What I loved about this story more than anything is the message that even when they drive us crazy, we will always love our family.
I love it in the way that I loved the movie Bridesmaids- so wrong and so right. Raunchy, hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming, and so perfectly pitched. I would highly recommend this one for fans of Arrested Development as it reads just like my favorite episodes of the early seasons of the Bluth family. The crazy family dramas are always my favorites and this family does not disappoint in the craziness department. For better or worse, they are family, with all that history and messiness and love.
Love stories told from male authors sometimes fall short for me, but that was not the case in this one. Tropper does such a fantastic job of sharing what a failing marriage looks like, what it would feel like to lose the love of your life (interweaving old stories of the couple and new), and how one can find love again. Even in the darkest of moments of this marriage, Tropper finds a way to bring the hilarity into even the depressing situations of losing your life partner.
Since the movie will be hitting the big screen on September 19th, I hosted our book club to read the book and then we plan to make an outing to see the book on the big screen. Sometimes it is difficult to find a book that we all like, but this one fit the bill perfectly for our group and we used the time to have a delicious brunch together and celebrate the kids heading back-to-school.
After seeing the trailer, I already know that this is going to be one of my favorite movies this year. I have to say that after reading the book, the film could not have been more perfectly cast and I kept seeing these actors in these roles even as I read the book. Many times the movies just don’t live up to the books, but I can already tell that this one won’t be the case.
TIWILY Boozy Brunch Ideas
Here are some delicious brunch options for a fun morning with your girlfriends that are some of my favorite when I am entertaining. I am selecting these because they can be made before everyone arrives so that you can really enjoy book club with your friends. You will also find a fun drink I have created just for your book club that you can sip while chatting about the book.
In the theme of the book and all the food that is brought to the family as they sit shiva, you could also make your friends bring you brunch dishes potluck style in excessive abundance, taking the pressure off of you as the hostess.
Perhaps you could even pass some of these recipes on to them and ask them to make them for you.
It just seems like something awkward that the Foxman family might try in the book.
What is a book club without a good discussion? LAME. Here are some of my favorite book club questions that I gathered for our discussion together!
TIWILY Book Club Questions
1. What was your first impression of Judd’s wife, Jen? Because you see her almost entirely from Judd’s perspective, was there any chance to see her as a sympathetic character before Judd finds her so? Do you think that Judd and Jen have a chance at salvaging their relationship, with or without a baby girl to raise?
2. Discuss Judd’s mother and her relationship with each of her children. Do you think that Hillary Foxman was truly a bad mother? Was there any real irony in her being a child-rearing guru? What was your opinion of her character?
3. Most of the characters in this novel struggle against living up to an ideal established either by themselves or by a friend, family member, or spouse. Judd fails to be the perfect husband, brother, and son; Jen fails to be the perfect wife; Wendy fails to be the perfect mother and Alice fails to become a mother at all. Mort and Hillary Foxman, it turns out, fail their children spectacularly in some ways while succeeding in others. What do the lives of these characters reveal to us about perfectionism, ideals, and our expectations for ourselves and others?
4. For all of their faults, is the Foxman clan a likeable group of people? What makes them an endearing group of people? Who did you like the most, and who did you find the least appealing, and why? Were there any characters you would have liked to see developed further?
5. Clearly, Judd is an adult, yet this book can also be seen as a delayed coming-of-age story. What does Judd learn in the end about himself and his role in helping to create the world in which he finds himself?
6. Discuss Judd Foxman, the novel’s protagonist, from his very ironic and dry sense of humor (shared also by his brothers and sister), to his anger and vulnerability regarding his wife’s infidelity, to his conflicted emotions regarding his immediate family. What was your first impression of the protagonist/narrator of this novel? What did you find the most engaging aspect of his character? Did you find any aspect of him off-putting?
7. What comment is Tropper making about the role of trauma and tragedy in our lives? Almost every character in this book suffers or has suffered: Phillip from his neglected/overindulged childhood; Judd from his wife’s infidelity; Horry from his brain damage; Paul from the Rottweiler attack; Wendy from her unhappy marriage; and Alice from her infertility. What does their unhappiness, and the way each person copes with that unhappiness, teach us?
Be sure to head to the theaters to see This Is Where I Leave You on September 19th!
Share your own book club and hashtag it with #TIWILY #TIWILYbookclub
In honor of the movie, I am hosting a giveaway today for one (1) $50 Visa gift card and a copy of the book so you can enjoy reading the book and then catch the film in theaters September 19th! Please follow instructions in the Rafflecopter below to enter to win by September 12th! One winner will be chosen at random! a Rafflecopter giveaway
This watermelon ice smoothie is thick, smooth, and refreshing. With its coconut water and a touch of lime, it’s reminiscent of Slurpees and Icees, except all natural at home.
I sat down back in May, an oversized paper calendar in front of me and five or six Sharpies at the ready. Neatly I wrote down the activities for each day through the summer, color-coding by child, so I knew when each one needed to be where at what time. It seemed like a worthwhile task to clear my Type-A brain from the clutter of keeping all the information piled together in one place. At the end of the August page I even filled in school orientation nights that we’d already received reminders for, lest we forget summer’s length and imagine it stretching on forever.
I sat back and admired my handiwork. There were the camps and the sports practices outline in a rainbow of color. Family activities were marked in black. I flipped back to June and rather than feeling better, I instead felt the dread of too much to do all summer long.
No one ever prepared me for the reality that comes with having children out of diapers. It’s this idea that they are now little people with lives and activities and interests of their own. Try as I might to keep our lives simple and our summers as low-stress and relaxing as possible, what ends up happening when you are outnumbered four to one is that activities get spread and spaced out.
A month in and several deep breaths later I can tell you the secrets to surviving summer.
Take it one day at a time. Say yes (to beach days and trips to the park) as often as you say no. Forget about scrubbing your floor (bare feet and clean floors do not go together). Serve plenty of on-the-go snacks that keep you cool, hydrated, and are just plain fun to drink.
These watermelon smoothies are just what summer ordered with their hint of coconut and bit of lime. Whether you’re carting one kid to soccer while picking another up from baseball or just relaxing in the backyard, they are the refreshing, invigorating, and full of summer flavor.
I’ve taken to freezing the leftover watermelon in batches, whenever there’s a bit leftover. I scoop the last cup or so into a container, covering it and pretending all is well. Rather than ending in the compost pile at the end of a meal, these leftover chunks become an intensely hydrating snack that boasts vitamin C and antioxidants. It’s just what the summer heat ordered.
St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner! This holiday makes me want to indulge in one of my all-time favorite treats… the oh-so-delicious Shamrock Shake. You don’t have to swing by your local fast food joint to indulge though because I have the recipe to this one and you can indulge in it for a fun family night treat any night of the week.
I am SO excited for one of my favorite times of the year, fall! While I enjoy every season and the special things we like to do in each, there’s something about the falling leaves and the cooling temperatures – and the fun holidays we get to celebrate – that makes the autumn months some of my absolute favorites.
And I’m here to admit that one of the reasons I look forward to the fall is all the fabulous flavored hot drinks I can enjoy again during the cold weather! You know I’m a coffee girl, and adding flavor to coffee is probably one of the greatest inventions ever in my book! I’ve rounded up some of my favorite hot drinks I’ve created as well as a few others I’ve found that I can’t wait to try.
If you have been a reader of mine or have checked out my book, “The Good Life for Less,” I am sure you are familiar with our easy homemade slushies recipe that we use throughout the summer months. Making your own slushies is fun, frugal, and a sweet summertime pastime for my kids. In fact, as soon as school got out, they asked if they could have mom’s infamous homemade slushies to celebrate their last day of school.
The great thing about our easy KOOL-AID slushies is that you can make a different batch every time. We love trying new flavors and now you can find fun ones like watermelon, mixed berry, and even strawberry kiwi.
I am always tweaking my recipes and have tried everything from sugar-free Kool-Aid to make slushies (they did not turn out for us) to reducing the sugar in our slushies to see if the kids notice a taste difference. We decided to drop the sugar to a 1/2 cup in our batch (originally 2/3 cup) and we found that we didn’t notice a big taste difference, but I felt better about sharing this treat with my kids with the lower sugar content.
Do You Have a KOOL-AID Creation To Share?
KOOL AID is working with the Nickelodeon boy band, Big Time Rush (BTR) during their 2013 summer concert tour and would love if you uploaded a unique “KOOL AID Creation” to participate in their fun summertime contest! Perhaps, you can create your very own slushie creation or other fun project with KOOL-AID?
Walmart shoppers who purchase $6 worth of KOOL AID products can upload an image of their Walmart receipt to the free Shoparoo app on their smart phone or to Shoparoo.com. You will receive a unique code for an exclusive ticket price of $50 for (4) four on Big Time Rush tickets. The ticket purchase can be made at Walmart Ticket Master kiosks, Ticket Master online or through Ticket Master phone orders.
Winners will receive (2) VIP tickets to one of the 37 BTR concerts this summer and an autographed BTR KOOL AID tee , Meet & Greet including photo with the Band.
How fun is that?
We don’t just love our slushies though, I had to showcase these adorable double-insulated mason travel mugs that Walmart has over in their seasonal section of their store. Our slushies stayed super cold and there were no worries about slushie spills. I ended up buying four of them for myself, so I could sip a little iced cold iced tea or iced coffee on my patio this summer!
In the summer I am always looking for fun summer cocktails to share with my girlfriends and this blueberry sangria lemonade is the perfect summer drink to share with a good friend. You won’t believe how easy this blueberry sangria lemonade is to create and just how easy it is to drink…well, you might believe that last part of the sentence. This drink just screams summer, backyard fun, and begs to be enjoyed poolside.
Each month Walmart is challenging me to create a recipe using one of their produce items. Last month I tackled strawberries with a fun baked strawberry doughnut recipe and this month it is all about the blueberries with this easy blueberry sangria lemonade recipe.
Blueberries are one of our favorite summer fruits and we love to enjoy our summer bounty all year long. A few years ago I started freezing my berries in a different way using the Cook’s Illustrated method for freezing my berries and I can’t rave enough about how much better my frozen berries taste. You should definitely add this to your summer to-do list this year.
As we await our annual berry picking season, I wanted to offer some advice for selecting the perfect berries at the supermarket. Be sure to select a package of firm, plump berries with an indigo blue color and a silvery white frost. Avoid any with a green or red tint, which indicates under ripe berries. You will want to make sure there are no juice stains at the bottom of the carton or moldy or crushed berries buried inside of the cartons as well when selecting those berries.
Now that you have the perfect berries, you can start incorporating them in this easy sangria. All of the ingredients can be found at your local Walmart store. I recommend mixing this one up the night before your gathering to really allow the flavors to incorporate together and for the best flavor.
You don’t have to splurge on the wine on this one, but make sure that you buy one that you would enjoy drinking. I love the budget-friendly and always delicious, Barefoot Chardonnay for this recipe because it fits sweetly in my budget and really tastes great for an affordable wine.
If you grow mint in your garden, this is another fun drink to add a little mint to for fresh flavor. And don’t forget, that mint can be put to good use in our Perfect Mojito recipe too in those long and hot summer months!