Archive for the ‘Celebrations’ Category

How to Enjoy Autumn to the Fullest

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Tips to Enjoy Autumn at

Every year, as I sprint (or limp, depending on the year) toward Labor Day and long for routine and cooler temperatures and colorful leaves and pumpkin everything, I vow that this will be the year I really enjoy fall. Summer is, quite simply, not my favorite season — but my reward for surviving it each year is autumn. So you’d think I would enjoy it, right?

Ahhhhh, autumn.

Brisk air and comfy sweaters and crunchy leaves and hot drinks and apple picking and pumpkin carving. Autumn, the season of change and preparation as we gently roll toward the holidays and a colder, more hectic time of life. Right? It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it?

[Speaking of romantic, don’t forget to date your husband this fall…]

But the reality of September and October and [hold me] November is that this season is just as crazy chaotic as every other one. We have practices and games and rehearsals and concerts to add to the calendar, not to mention dentist appointments and counseling sessions and family dinners and book club and Bible study and craft projects. (Seriously. Is there another non-Christmas season with SO MANY craft projects?!)

In my family we have a birthday on top of all of the “usual” stuff, and more often than not, as we dive bomb into the holidays I realize that I missed it. I missed my favorite season, the best season of all (in my unbiased opinion!). I missed autumn. Again.

Well, not this year! I’m determined to enjoy every bit of fall this year, and I want to encourage you to do the same. I have a few ideas for making this happen, and I’m happy to share them with you. Just in case you have missed an autumn or two, but long to truly enjoy this beautiful season.

2 ways to enjoy fall to it's fullest at

2 Ways to Enjoy Autumn

1. Pick three things. We all know the temptation of bucket lists, and heaven knows I’ve made my share. But this fall, instead of adding every fall-type activity to your to-do list (not to mention printing it out and putting it on the fridge), why not keep it simple? We’ve already discussed how busy regular life is before we begin adding field trips to the apple orchard. So just pick three things. Pick one special autumn food to make (my all-time favorite is this DELICIOUS pumpkin bread), pick one craft to make (I’ve already bought the supplies to make this wreath from Amy), and pick one trip to take (and if it just happens to be the church fall festival, THAT’S STILL GOOD AND FUN AND ENOUGH!).

Pick three things – a food, a craft, and a trip.

And then? Use all that extra time you’ll have (hahaha!) to simply walk outside and breathe in the crisp air. Or watch a football game. Or let your kids buy pumpkins on your next run to the grocery store. (Believe me, they are still festive when they come from the grocery store and not the pumpkin patch.)

2. Count your days. Time flies when we’re busy or when we’re looking forward to big events, and fall is full of both those things for me. So this year I’m going to make sure I am intentionally taking note of each individual day. (I mean, probably not EACH and EVERY day. Let’s be realistic and accept that even every other day is still better than letting an entire season pass in a blur or parties and costumes and crafts and meetings!)

A few ways you might make your days count this autumn are with a daily photo challenge, reading a seasonal quote or a scripture each day, or keeping a gratitude journal. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious (or unable to make a choice…something I am quite familiar with!), you could do one of those each month of the season. Start reading a Bible verse each day this month, then take a photo challenge next month, and finish up with a daily gratitude exercise in November.

However you do it (and, really, keep it as simple as you need to), just do something to intentionally appreciate your days.

When it comes to enjoying every season, I sometimes struggle between committing to carpe-ing the diem out of life and remembering that, more than likely, there will be another opportunity to carve pumpkins if we don’t do it this week, this month, this fall. But this year, I’m determined to let all of that struggling and striving and regretting go.

I am going to LIVE and LOVE and ENJOY this autumn. Will you join me?


Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints

Friday, September 30th, 2016

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

Have you ever painted pumpkins with acrylic paints before? This was my first time painting our pumpkins this way and it could not be easier. I wanted to create a pumpkin display that would be perfect for the entire fall season and wanted to show you a cute way to display your pumpkins this year!

I am not big on decorating for Halloween and would prefer to skip right on over that part of the fall decorating. This month’s challenge was to create a Halloween display so I wanted to create a minimalistic display that would give a nod to the season, but complement our decor until it is time to deck the halls.

Let’s get painting!

How to Paint Pumpkins With Acrylic Paint

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with

Supplies Needed (all of these supplies can be found at Walmart!)

Any size you like of their faux pumpkins- the small ones are just $.98!! (you could also do real pumpkins!)

Waverly Inspirations Acrylic Paints in Elephant, Plaster, Pool, & White

Waverly Inspirations 4-piece wide brush set

Cup with water, paper towels, and something to cover the surface while painting

Wooden Crate (I got this one with a chalkboard on the side)

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with

Directions for Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints

1. Remove the labels from the pumpkins and protect your surface with cardboard while painting.

2. With a clean wide brush, begin painting your pumpkins,using the stalk of the pumpkin as a handle to work around the surface. Paint the entire pumpkin and then set it aside to dry. Drying time can take anywhere between 15 minutes to one hour, depending on how thickly you applied the paint. Repeat this process as many times as you like to achieve the hue you are going for. I found the gray pumpkins only required a single coat, while the white pumpkins required two coats. Once dry,sprinkle these pumpkins throughout your house or create a crate display like I have done.
Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints with

I love how these pumpkins spill out onto some of my favorite childhood reads. The chalkboard side on this crate gives me the chance to make this display feel a little more Halloween and then can be replaced with a different label later in the fall.  I added my knitted leaf centerpiece to the side of the table- I can’t believe how well these branches have held up over the years!

For a corner in our home that used to have nothing, this has quickly become my favorite focal point in our living room.

Do you want more craft inspiration from Waverly? Try these!

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions

Fabric Wreath & Matching Garland

Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

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Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

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 makes me hanging our front door. The pop of orange is just what our door needs for the holidays and this wreath is perfect for all fall through Halloween and Thanksgiving.

If you haven’t made a burlap wreath before, this tutorial is for you! It outlines step-by-step how to recreate this wreath with my picture tutorial.

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

The crisp coolness of fall is moving in here in the Midwest and with it comes the urge to decorate every square inch of my home to honor it. Dare I say that we do more fall decorating than we do Christmas decorating? With simplifying as our goal, though, instead of decorating for Halloween and decorating for Thanksgiving, I am trying to create pieces that can double for both holidays and be appreciated until it’s time to break out the Christmas decorations.

The best part is that this burlap wreath requires no crafting skills, no cutting, and is very inexpensive to create.The one thing I will say with making burlap wreaths is that you need to have a little patience with yourself in the beginning. My first wreath, I took apart three times before I got the hang of it. Once you get the bubbling of the burlap down though, this really is a quick and easy craft and such a great way to dress up a door. (Note: affiliate links are included)

How to Make a Burlap Autumn Wreath


Supplies Needed:



1. Begin by folding your burlap in half, like I have shown above, and keep the fold going as we go along. Select one section of the wire wreath to start in. Feed the beginning end through the wreath as shown above: over the outer ring, under the next, over the next, and under to finish. Leave a little loose end to tuck in or you can wire it to the wreath with a little floral wire in the back. Now you have started your wreath- super easy!  This is the technique we are using throughout.

Note: I am showing it to you tightly so you can see how this will work, when you do this, you will actually be pulling out the burlap a bit to give it to that bubble effect that we are going for. 

2. Using the working end of the burlap (the working end is the side that isn’t the final end of the burlap, but the end you are working with), we are going to begin making the bubbled burlap right next to this row, within the same section of that metal wreath, but we will begin weaving in the opposite direction, continuing to pull out and bubble the burlap as we go, moving the working burlap into each section, weaving one direction than weaving the other direction.

4. When you run out of burlap (it should be when you are about halfway through covering the wreath), tuck the end towards the back and pick up where you left off. Again, you can wire these ends with a little floral wire on the back.

5. Once the entire wreath is covered, secure the final end with floral wire on the back of the wreath to make sure everything is held into place, twisted around one of the metal strands of the wreath.

6. Now you can fluff your burlap out to create that bubbly effect and to cover any of the metal you can see peeking out..

7. Clip small stems of your greenery to weave into your wreath. Starting with the front, add bits here and there, but not in a pattern, to make it look natural. Repeat this process with the middle layer and then finally attach a few towards the back to add texture to this wreath.

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

I don’t want to brag, but doesn’t this look like something out of a magazine? Weaving in the texture of the greenery really makes this wreath pop and looks professional. Thanks to catching some half-off sales at our local craft store, I was able to make this beauty for less than $20 which also makes me very happy!

Handmade Autumn Burlap Wreath Tutorial

I hope you can dress your home up simply and beautifully for the fall holidays with this fun idea!

 Disclosure: affiliate links are included in this article, if you use them, thank you -they help support the site!

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Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite sleepovers ever included a beautiful breakfast buffet for us in the morning. The parents got up early to make stacks of waffles and laid out a variety of toppings to make our own waffle creation. It was the stuff that little girl’s dreams are made of,  piled high with whipped cream, strawberries, and unlimited syrup.

I want to be that mom who rises early and makes these sleepover dreams come true, but often I am the mom dragging her tail out of bed after telling the kids to PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE, GO TO SLEEP IT IS THREE IN THE MORNING mom.

Are you her too?

That’s why I wanted to create a REALISTIC buffet that can be made in advance so you can just stumble into kitchen, put everything on the table, and curl up with a cup of coffee in bed with a little sweet silence.

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from

Today I am partnering with  Florida Department of Citrus to show you how to make this fun make-ahead sleepover breakfast buffet table complete with glasses of  FLOJ for everyone at the party.  Although waffle parties are fun, I wanted to create a healthy breakfast complete with a glass of Florida Orange Juice that provides 5 amazing nutrients in every glass for our guests. Not only are we loading our table with fresh fruit, but we are also getting, in just one single 8-ounce glass of 100% orange juice,  our daily recommended serving of fruit! Winning!

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from

Instead of spending your morning flipping pancakes, take a peek at my make-ahead recipe for breakfast burritos. This recipe yields eighteen delicious burritos and you can even make them gluten-free with the use of a gluten-free wrap. They are filled with eggs, turkey sausage, spiced potatoes, and cheese- yum!

Make these ahead and tuck them in your fridge or use these instructions for popping them in the freezer until the morning. The beauty in this one is that no matter what time they rise, each person can have a hot breakfast!

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from

I made a simple breakfast bar with burrito toppings like olives, sour cream tomatoes, avocado, salsa, and sriracha. You can just chop and set this in the fridge on a cookie sheet for the big morning.  

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet from


After warming their burritos, they can fill it with all of their favorites or simply put the toppings on top and dig in with a knife and fork.

Putting this spread together took me under an hour, even with all the chopping, and the best part is that I got to enjoy a hot cup of coffee even with a house full of kids. WINNING!

Thank you so much to Florida Department of Citrus for letting us share a make-ahead buffet with you. Be sure to kick back a glass of FLOJ for us and may your bedhead game be as strong as your coffee.

This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

I am so excited to be partnering this year with the Florida Department of Citrus to celebrate National OJ Day today.  In celebration of this fun day, I wanted to create an interactive way you can enjoy a glass of FLOJ and craft up a cute funny faces cup with your kids.

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

Did you know that one glass of Florida Orange Juice provides a total of 5 amazing nutrients in every glass? In just one glass you have Taste, Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium and No Added Sugar!

More importantly for me, as a busy mom always striving to get our fruits and veggies into our diet, it’s good to know that a single 8-ounce glass of 100% orange juice counts as one of your daily recommended servings of fruit.

We wanted to celebrate National OJ Day in an interactive way so we have loads of cute printables for you to decorate your own Florida Orange Juice cup. A serving of fruit AND a fun way to keep kids busy? #winning

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

Supplies Needed:

Free Funny Faces Printable (DOWNLOAD HERE!!)


Glue Stick

Clear plastic cups

Florida Orange Juice


  1. Print out our funny faces printable and have your child cut out the different mouths, shapes, noses, & Captain Citrus action graphics to decorate their cup. This is a fantastic way for your child to practice cutting.
  2. Have your child flip each piece over and cover it in glue using their glue stick.
  3. Finish by applying the pieces to the clear cups. Don’t forget to fill your glass with Florida Orange Juice

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

Celebrate National OJ Day (Funny Faces Printable) from

How fun is this? We hope that this post inspires you to celebrate today with your family. If that wasn’t fun enough today we are giving away a Florida Department of Citrus kit to one lucky reader. Follow the instructions in the widget below to enter to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

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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!
  • 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
  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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Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp from

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and for many years I have chosen to honor this occasion with a special dish for my man. Battling crowded restaurants is one of the least romantic ways to spend this holiday so instead we choose to eat a special dinner at home.  In years past, I focused my efforts on mastering a restaurant-worthy filet, a skill I never thought I could nail. This year, I wanted to challenge myself to make a great risotto for our feast. Mastering risotto has been on my wish list of cooking skills because it is the dish I always order when dining out. Risotto is pricey for such a humble dish when dining out, but one bite has always made it worth it for me. Risotto is gluten-free comfort food at its finest and a beautiful dish to prepare for your favorite Valentine this year.

Rice Select Arborio Rice

When you head to the grocery store, you are looking for Arborio Rice. This is the exact brand I used and it was perfection. Can I be honest and say it was sitting in my pantry for months because I lost my nerve to make risotto? That is the truth! Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice. It is named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, where it is grown. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, creamy, and chewy, due to their higher amylopectin starch content. It creates a deliciously starchy and creamy dish that compliments other flavors that are added to it and it is the rice that is most commonly used to create risotto.

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp from

Have you had risotto before? If you haven’t yet, you are in for a real treat! It has a reputation for being a fussy dish, but really this dish takes just thirty minutes or less. In fact, I remember watching risotto preparation for the first time on a Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meal show. What makes risotto so delicious is actually you stirring the dish throughout that thirty minutes to release those starches in the rice that helps to create that creamy comforting flavor. The privilege of being the stirrer is having another hand to do the wine sipping as the dish pulls together. It’s a great reason to volunteer for the job, in my opinion.

For a first risotto these simple flavors are so easy to pull together. The shrimp dressed simply in paprika adds a beautiful smoky flavor on top of these creamy bowls of risotto. I have found that the wine, parmesan cheese, and frozen shrimp are all very affordable at ALDI.  That isn’t sponsored talk, I’m just a true store enthusiast!

For frugal girls like myself, I have even found that the risotto reheats well with the addition of a little stock to bring it back together on the stovetop. If you prefer though you can also transform the leftovers into risotto cakes, which I have found makes a delicious addition on top of a spinach salad!

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp from

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
Risotto is an elegantly comforting gluten-free dish that is perfect for a slowed down feast or to celebrate any of life's occasions. Be sure to read the tips for ideas on what to do with leftover risotto.
  • 1 pound medium shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, divided
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Rinse the shrimp and pat them very dry. Toss them with olive oil and then the paprika and a generous quantity of salt and pepper. Spread them in a baking dish and return them to the refrigerator.
  2. Warm the broth in a saucepan set over low heat.
  3. In a separate Dutch oven or wide, deep sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until they are soft and beginning to brown around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir thoroughly to make sure it is coated with the butter and onions. Cook the rice for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring and scraping the pan until the wine has evaporated.
  5. Begin incrementally adding the warm broth one ladle at a time, stirring frequently. Wait to add another ladle until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed by the rice. This gradual addition of liquid is key to getting the rice to release its starch and create its own delicious sauce. It is important to take your time with this to achieve the creamy texture you are after. If the broth is evaporating very quickly, or the rice is boiling hard, turn the heat down so you just see a gentle simmer. Expect this stage to take about 18 minutes, and to add most of the broth.
  6. Begin tasting the rice after about 13 minutes to gauge how far it has cooked. The risotto is ready when the rice is still a bit chewy, and the dish has the consistency of thick porridge.
  7. In the last 5 minutes of cooking the risotto, put the pan of prepared shrimp in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are pink.
  8. When the risotto is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and about ½ cup chopped parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  9. Serve immediately, spreading risotto in pasta bowls and topping with shrimp and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

 Recipe Slightly Adapted From The Kitchen.

Do you have a tried and true risotto recipe or technique? Feel free to share it in our comments below!

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love- pinky promise! 

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Blind Date Book Club Exchange

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Blind Date Book Exchange from

As a minimalist, I really love to give and get gifts that I really would love and use which can be difficult when it comes to holiday exchanges. We all, I am sure, have went home with a White Elephant gift we really did not love or spent good money on exchanges where we have felt a little disappointed in what we received in exchange. It’s tricky to not look like a Scrooge when you want to opt out to save money.

Last month though, I got a little inspiration for an idea to host a book exchange for my fellow bookworms. I visited Asheville for a conference and saw my first Blind Date Book display in person at the book shop. After snapping a photo for Instagram, I started thinking what a fun idea it would be to have a Blind Book Book Exchange for the holidays with my book club. What would an evening look like where we all brought blind dates to share?

Last night we had our exchange and it was, honestly, one of the best exchanges I have been a part of.  Perhaps, a bit nerdy, I loved going home with a great book AND a whole slew of ideas for books I’d love to check out at the library. 

Blind Date Book Exchange from

What Are Blind Date Books?

If you haven’t seen a display before, they are books that are wrapped in paper and then they have words written on them that describe what the book is about. Displays can be found at many bookstores and I have even heard that libraries do this too.  You can illustrate the paper or just write words about what makes the book special. I love this Pinterest board that shows so many ideas for a fun blind date book display. As you can see, there are many interpretations.

As someone who truly judges books by their covers, this gives you a chance to think differently, perhaps, about a book you might not have picked up before. Since it is a blind date, you are taking a bit of a risk that the money you invest may or may not pay off so you want to choose wisely.

I purchased a book at the bookstore and it sounded just like something I would love.

Guess what? It was something I already loved very much. I loved it so much that it made our top ten books of 2015.

I was happy to pass it on to someone else and, honestly, if I loved it enough to put it on my top ten, I would have been happy to own it too.

Blind Date Book Exchange from

How Do You Do a Blind Date Book Exchange?

Of course, since I have never heard that anyone has done this before, I made up my very own rules. That means, if these rules don’t work for you, feel free to make your own! It’s your blind date, friends!

Tell Everyone to Bring a Book Wrapped In Paper- I encouraged everyone to bring a book that was special to them or that they would want to read themselves. You could pass down a book that you already owned and loved or purchase a book for the exchange. Have everyone wrap their books and then write their own descriptions about them. I have found that reviews on the backs of books offer a plethora of beautiful words to use.

Draw Numbers- Write down numbers equal to the amount of people participating and have everyone draw a number.

Select Your Books- Give people time to browse the descriptions before the exchange and then start going in order of the numbers drawn. Beginning with the person who has drawn #1,  have them select their book, read the description on the outside, and then open it.

Steal Away- Just like those White Elephant exchanges, the next person in line can steal the opened book, if they are wanting to read it, or they can draw from the book pile. We allowed two steals per book to keep it fun while still moving along.

Go Home With a New Book, But Keep The Exchange Going Strong- What a treat to go home with a new read! The best part is, if your book club meets regularly, you can bring the book back to the next book club meeting and share it again with your book club members. It creates a little lending library for your group with just a small investment.  I can’t take credit for that idea though, it was thought up by my fellow book club member, Kate! Smart girl!

What Book Did I Give?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

GAVE: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

DESCRIPTION: Worldview Changer, America’s Mandela, A Voice to the Voiceless, Thrilling, Heroic Endeavors, Compelling, Hope for Humanity, Inspiration for Change

Nonfiction can be intimidating to fiction lovers so I wanted to share this one because it read like a legal thriller and completely changed my view on people in the prison system. I couldn’t put it down and I wanted someone to read it so I could talk about the injustice of so many.

What Did I Go Home With?

Looking for Alaska by John Green

GOT: Looking for Alaska by John Green

I am really excited to dig into this- have you read it? I’ve heard such good things. I think this is the only John Green book I haven’t read yet!

Blind Date Book Exchange

This was the best exchange I’ve ever been part of  and it’s not because I invented it.

Or maybe it is.

Who is to say?

Regardless, I hope it inspires you for a fun night with your own book clubs. We look forward to making this one an annual tradition and it made for a really fun evening talking about all of our favorite books. I look forward to cozying up with my book over the winter break and I don’t even have to return it back to the library- winning!

Want to be part of a book club? Join me over here for our first online book club happening in January. We are reading this one as our first selection and I am so excited!

Have you ever taken a blind date with a book? Tell me about it!

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love, I promise!

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My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Tracking PixelMy Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

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

I hope you didn’t miss my post last week about our family’s first celebration of St. Nicholas Day. We had the best time adding this new tradition to our family rituals and hope you can bookmark it for next year for your family too!

Today I wanted to share with you a few of our family’s favorite holiday traditions. We really try to focus on simple blessings in our home and moments with our kids, rather than a lot under our tree. It’s a focus that has served our family well and it frees up funds to do more giving to those in need which is a big priority for us.

I’d love to share with you a few ways we have found to do this!

The 4 Gift Rule

The 4 Gift Rule

Years ago, I ran across a gifting strategy that has worked really well for our family over the years. As you know, last year our family went the Choose Your Own Adventure route with our kids and we had an incredible vacation to Florida. Due to my husband’s new role at work, it has become difficult to get away this year and so we are defaulting to a timeless tradition of 4 gifts that keep our gifts thoughtful and keep the excess at bay. Have you heard of the 4 Gift Rule? It’s so simple and easy!

In our family we do:





My husband and I do these gifts for each other as well and the tradition has really served us well over the years. Everyone gets one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, and one book to read. It simplifies purchasing for each other and we all end up with really great gifts that actually get used every year.

Open One Gift Early

Of all the categories, the wear category is my favorite because it is the one gift that my kids get to open early before all their other gifts. In that gift is typically a pair of festive pajamas that they get to slip on to see the holiday lights through a local neighborhood known for their tradition of incredible lighting in our town (that also happens to give back to our community).

We usually head to Steak & Shake for Peppermint Shakes and take in the beauty of the holidays in our jammies and bundled up in cozy blankets. Why icy cold shakes became the tradition, who knows? It is that cold and warm contrast that the kids love though so we have been doing this for many years for them as a holiday treat.

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

Have a Family Day in the Snow

Our family loves to play in the snow together and we make it a point to hit our favorite sledding hill at least once a year! When they put up a caution and sled at your own risk sign on our favorite hill, we felt like we were snow warriors or something!

If you haven’t checked out Shoe Carnival’s winter boot selection yet, you are in for a treat. Warm boots are a must-have item in Indiana and, thanks to my children’s enormous growth spurts each year, one of those items we purchase each year.

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

Welcome, to the boot show!  I picked out four great shoe options for our family that I think you will love. First, for girls I have the Capelli New York Kids Storm Duck Boots as a winter must-have. As I have said before, I have discovered Duck Boots are a really practical option for Midwest weather because it can protect you from the snow and rainy season very fashionably.

For the less snowy days (or for our friends enjoying warmer climates this winter) we recommend the Mia Lauren in Cognac Smooth for a great kid’s boot option to stay fashionably warm and that should go with everything in your closet.  I only wish it came in my size!

For my son, Tommy Hilfiger Charlie Duck Boots were the best option for all of the crazy weather conditions here.  We aren’t a very brand-focused family so I really just looked at all the options at the store and felt the insides for warmth, good stitching, and a well-crafted shoe. I can truly say that these are boots that will last him forever. Should he outgrow them, he can hand them down to his Dad to wear (how crazy is that?).  For tweens and teens, this is the boot option I would recommend!

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

The third option is for me, the fashionable Northside Bishop. The lower portion is water resistant while the top is decked out in faux fur and a Nordic-inspired trim.  It also has a Nor-Foam insulation to protect my feet against the cold. Once again, these boots are fashionable AND practical.

Do you remember the boots that we had when we were kids? They often weren’t that warm and they definitely weren’t stylish. How lucky are we to have such beautiful options and at such affordable pricing.

Lucky for you it is the Perfect 10 season! You can get $10 off for every $50 spent, upward of $40 off of 200! That is one great deal to take advantage of as you stock up on your winter necessities.

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

This year I wanted to make the occasion even more magical so after our annual day of sledding we are finishing the evening with this rich Peppermint Cocoa to warm up by the fire. I created this delicious treat for my kids and would love to share it with you today to inspire you to spend a day in the snow with your kids!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
A delicious peppermint hot cocoa recipe perfect for sharing while viewing those holiday lights as a family.
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 quart milk
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (3 ounces)
  • 7 peppermint sticks; 3 crushed (1/4 cup), 4 left whole
  • pinch of salt
  1. Place cocoa in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until cocoa has dissolved. Add chocolate chips and crushed peppermint; simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and peppermint have melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Add salt. Ladle into mugs; serve each with a peppermint stick.

Today I am giving away two $50 gift cards to two lucky families to find some warm and stylish boots for the holiday season from Shoe Carnival so you can tackle those crazy sled hills too!  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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Celebrating St. Nicholas Day (Giveaway with Shoe Carnival)

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

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How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with

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

I am so excited to be partnering with Shoe Carnival again for the holidays. This month I will be sharing some of our family’s favorite holiday traditions with you, some gorgeous shoe options for outfitting your entire family, and some refreshing new ideas for personalizing gift cards for this holiday season. We will also be offering gift cards to share at the end of each of these posts to treat yourself or someone you love to a beautiful new pair of shoes!

To kick things off, I wanted to show you a fun idea to bookmark for next year. This year our family started a new tradition to celebrate St Nicholas Day which is observed in the states on December 6th.  Have you heard of St Nicholas Day? It is actually something I heard about recently from my friends and I thought it would be a sweet tradition this year to share with my kids.

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with


What Is St. Nicholas Day?

St. Nicholas Day is a popular holiday for children, especially children in many parts of Europe, because it is another day of sharing gifts. What kid doesn’t love that?  In fact, in some European countries, St. Nicholas is celebrated with not only gift-giving, but it is so special that it is celebrated through parades and festivals too.

This holiday celebrating him is derived from Nicholas of Myra who officiated as a bishop in 4th century Greece. During his lifetime he was known, in particular, for his gift-giving. They say that he slipped coins in other people’s shoes, which accounts for many of today’s Christmas traditions that involve leaving gifts in shoes or boots today.

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with

The Simplest of Treats

The presents need not be grand, but are simple gestures that build up that sweet anticipation for Christmas. Gifts like chocolates, chocolate coins, nuts, cookies, small trinket gifts, apples and oranges are just a few sweet treats that are perfect for tucking in your shoes on December 5th.

When I think of things to tuck in our shoes it reminds me of the cozy nights I spent reading with my daughter about how Christmas was celebrated in the Little House in the Big Woods. As Laura described her thrill over a peppermint stick and a small cake made with real sugar, I remember my daughter’s wide eyes that these small offerings were the only presents they received for their Christmas. Can you imagine anything that small feeling magical for our kids today? It’s that nostalgia of sweet treats that is so perfectly captured through this tradition and why I wanted to share it with my two. Less electronics and more magic, I say!

We are displaying our treats in two beautiful shoe options from Shoe Carnival. In Indiana, it is all about cozy footwear and these are two great selections that I found for the holiday season that would be great options to wrap under your Christmas tree this year.

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with

The first option is the Tommy Hilfiger Charlie Duck Boots that I found for my son. We have outgrown the days of little kid’s boots after an enormous growth spurt this year and now my son & husband can share shoes.  Duck Boots have become my new obsession because they can be worn in the Fall, Winter, & Spring making them a really great option for keeping your feet warm & dry for several seasons unlike boots that are just dedicated to snow. I consider them to be a wise investment!  I have a pair for myself and my daughter has a beautiful pair too. They are stylish and practical which is why I am recommending this option this Winter.

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with

The second pair is actually one that we featured here this summer for myself and fell in love with.  I discovered that they make Lil’ Bobs for kids with the same supportive memory foam sole that I love for my own feet. It’s like walking on a cloud and I wish everyone could feel that way! This trendy Bobs Pure Flex gives a nod to our pink obsession with the stripe detail on the sole, but reflects her big girl status in the print. If my daughter is anything like me, these will be doubling for slippers because they are so darn comfortable. You just can’t go wrong with this option and the modern prints available are beautiful and on trend.

I am so excited to share with you that this weekend is the Friends and Family Weekend which means that everything will be 30% off all weekend long so definitely take advantage of these discounts on top of their affordable pricing! Yay!

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with

I hope that this tradition inspires you for next Christmas season and I hope these shoe options help you when selecting shoes for your kids!

Today I am giving away two $50 gift cards to two lucky families for a holiday shopping day at Shoe CarnivalFollow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter.  Good luck and Happy 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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