Archive for the ‘Celebrations’ Category

Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com

If there is one thing this girl loves it is a good yarn pom-pom project. I have created everything from pom-pom Christmas trees to bouquets of flowers for gift-giving. Today I’m partnering with Walmart to show you a fun winter craft you (or your little ones) can create for the holidays to decorate a window, mantel, or pretty up a ledge in your home. The best part is that it doesn’t cost a lot to create and can be used year after year!

Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

1 skein (or possibly two depending on your ledge size) Hometown USA Super Bulky Yarn in Los Angeles Tan ($2.97)

Package of 20 Mini Shatterproof Ornaments (in seasonal decor with the mini artificial trees) ($3.48)

Large Clover Pom-Pom Maker (use the blue one) ($6.61)

Scissors

Embroidery Needle

Scissors

Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com how-to-use-a-pom-pom-maker-4 Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com

Yarn Pom Pom & Mini-Ornament Garland Directions

1. Prepare yarn pom-poms as I have shown you in the step-by-step photo tutorial or follow directions on packaging to create your pom poms. Keep making pom-poms making sure to leave enough yarn to string your pom-pom garland.

2. Once all of your pom poms are made, thread them with the embroidery needle onto your yarn. Take the embroidery needle off (the needle head is too large to feed through the mini-ornaments) and then alternate it with a mini-ornament. Keep doing this until you have filled the entire garland leaving a little on each end to hang down. I ended mine with an ornament since it ends the garland securely without knotting.

Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com

Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com

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Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com
Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com
Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com

Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com
Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland from MomAdvice.com

Did you see that I got my first little fireplace? I decided to decorate it with this adorable garland. To tie it all together, I filled glass bowls ($1.97 each) with a package of mini ornaments ($3.48 each) and then stacked them on my little fake logs that I had bought for my fall decorating from the craft store. I found these adorable owls  for $4.98 in the seasonal decor and I love that I can leave these out even when it isn’t Christmas. This mini lighted tree was $9.98 and I finished her with a little pom-pom topper too. Since we took our painting down to decorate, I used the nails I had for hanging another shorter garland above the top to add a little interest to the wall.

This project took me about one hour and I look forward to enjoying it all Winter long and in the years to come.

I hope this frugal idea inspires you in your holiday decorating! Happy Holidays!

xo

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The MomAdvice Unique Holiday Gift Guide

Friday, November 28th, 2014

The MomAdvice Unique Holiday Gift Guide

 

I have been jotting down ideas for this holiday gift guide over the year since each year I aim to create a really useful gift guide that you really will use and love when selecting your gifts. This list is a compilation of my favorite things that have made me very happy and I believe they are the perfect gifts to share with someone you love.

I did not set a dollar limit this year on the gifts because I don’t get the opportunity to share some of the pricier things that I really have used and loved, but the list will offer a range of ideas for your own Christmas budget. I also try to share if I have found them somewhere cheaper or where to snag a coupon to make these gifts more affordable.

Magicbox Speaker

Magicbox Speaker ($29.99)

I absolutely love my Magicbox Speaker for listening to podcasts and music through my iPhone or iPad. This little guy is Bluetooth-enabled so it can connect with your device and charges with a little USB cable that it comes with. The sound is really good- not Sonos quality, but really perfect for my laundry/making dinner/cleaning house needs. I am one happy girl now that I don’t have to hold my phone to my ear to keep up with all my stories and to hear my music.  I really think this is a sweet little gift and I love the price tag.

Blanket Scarves

Blanket Scarves ($15 or less)

Blanket scarves are very trendy this year and are the perfect gift to give for the holiday season. These are also an ideal gift for someone who travels a lot since they fit perfectly in your carry-on luggage and can be wrapped around you when you get cold on the plane or at the airport.  I have an easy tutorial to create a blanket scarf  for gift-giving this year for the crafty and the not-so-crafty.  Head over here and check to see if flannel fabrics are on sale. If not, that same link will provide you a 40% off coupon. You will DEFINITELY want to use this because it makes these scarves budget-friendly for the holidays.

UGG Slippers

UGG Slippers ($55 on eBay)

I wish I could give everyone in the world a pair of UGG slippers because these make me that happy. Every year I buy a cheap pair of slippers from Target that I trash and then have to buy another pair, usually mid-season. I discovered that UGG makes slippers (I know, I am so behind on the times!) and I decided to hunt on eBay to see if I could find a pair of slippers for myself.  I wanted something that looked like a shoe and not yo grandma’s slippers. I found these Gray Suede Driving Moccasins that were brand-new (just missing their box) and bought them for $55. Considering I am probably spending that much on two cheap pairs every year, this is a worthy investment. The best part is that they have leather inserts for warm days and then they have that delightful furry insert for freezing days. UGG Slippers bought from UGG might be out of the budget, but checking eBay might be a great option for brand new slippers at a fraction of the price for someone you love!

Fitbit Flex

Fitbit Flex ($74.89)

I am one of those people that is slow to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to technology and gadgets. Before the Fitbit Flex even launched, my husband knew about it and wanted to buy it for me. Now that it has been enough time for the trend to pass, I figured I would look into getting one and I absolutely love it for motivating me to stay fit and hit the gym.

Several of my girlfriends have these and I tend to have an annoyingly competitive streak so being in a competition for the most steps has been pushing me to hit the gym and go on an evening walk so I can compete against my athletic friends.

The other thing that I love, not fitness related, is the silent alarm feature on the Fitbit Flex. I have to be the first one up in our house and when my alarm goes off, it triggers my husband to wake up and our cat to start the annoying meowing baby cry reserved for the morning alarm. You can set a silent alarm on the app and the bracelet vibrates to wake you in the morning.  I wake up happier,  my husband continues to sleep, and the cat doesn’t start her annoying meowing baby cry until she realizes I am up. Winning all around!

If you are gifting this, consider making a little DIY Fitbit Flex Leather Cuff to go with it- this has been one of my favorite things this year!

Logitech Keyboard

Logitech iPad Keyboard ($49.46)

I used to carry around my laptop when I traveled, but when I got my iPad, I knew that I wouldn’t need to carry that around with me anymore because HELLO…BROKEN BACK. How many pounds is a laptop? Ouch!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stand trying to type on the touch screen, particularly when sending lengthy emails or trying to conduct anything for my business. I found this Logitech iPad Keyboard and it has been one of the best tech investments I have ever made. It instantly turns your iPad into a mini-laptop that you can carry in your purse. The battery life lasts forever before it requires a charge with a small cord, making it perfect for me to take to my conferences. The outside of it is metal and durable, helping protect your iPad screen and it latches together magnetically, as though they weren’t meant to be together from the start.

The best part is that it holds my iPad up for me while I am laying in my hotel bed watching Parenthood episodes so that I can hold my Kleenex and cry without having to hold the screen at the same time. Can you just imagine how hard that would be?

But it is also very important for business. Yes, for business.

This American Life

This American Life App ($2.99)

An iTunes gift card makes the perfect little stocking stuffer for the holidays and may I offer a suggestion on how to spend it?  I am an NPR junkie and if  you haven’t discovered it yet  This American Life is mostly true stories of everyday people, and the best way I can describe it is that the show is like listening to a movie about these people.  It is typically told in three acts that all interact around the same theme. It is the best kind of storytelling and usually leads to a beautiful discussion about your own viewpoints after the show. The app is wonderful for listening to all of the Staff Picks and the best of the best in This American Life offerings.

My husband and I sit in our respective chairs and hang on every word. Every. Word. It’s become one of our favorite things to do in the evenings, further solidifying the exciting type of senior life you might expect from us in the future.  If you aren’t listening to NPR, you are missing the boat. And I can say this because I missed the boat for years and now I can’t imagine my life without it.

Faux Fur Throws

Faux Fur Blankets ($15.88)

I was hoping these blankets would be back from Better Homes & Gardens and spotted these faux fur throws back on the shelves this week at Walmart. This is MY FAVORITE blanket and a great gift to give for the holidays.  It is cozy fleece on one side and then the other side is a glorious faux fur.  They even had a free Better Homes & Gardens Magazine subscription attached to it which made the deal even sweeter.  Who wouldn’t love a cozy throw with a gift card to select a few favorite books to read.

Barnes & Noble Collectible Edition Books

Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions ($18 or less)

Every year I ask for one Barnes & Noble Collectible Edition to read.  These books are so beautifully bound and I try to read one classic each year so these beautiful books add a lot of motivation to read them since they are such a treat to page through. This year I have my eye on this Ernest Hemingway collection or to dig into this Laura Ingalls Wilder collection to read with my favorite little girl in the evenings. You will never regret these purchases for our bookshelf. I love all of the Barnes & Noble Collectible editions and even treated myself to The Giver collection this year (which I can’t wait to read!) that I found in my local store. (PS- Check here for coupons!)

Sorel Boots

Sorel Boots ($110 or more)

Five years ago I got my first (and only) pair of Sorel Boots and they still look just like the day that I got them. They have a cozy layer of Thinsulate inside of them that keep my feet toasty and each year a little polishing and waterproof spraying helps them to go strong from year to year. I have never spent a lot on shoes, but after the fifth year of these going strong, I can honestly say that they are a worthwhile investment especially if you live in the Midwest. I am planning to ask for Sorel gift cards to put towards my next pair of boots from my family members so I can pool them together to get another pair.

Royal Fox Print

Royal Fox Print

Royal Fox Print ($45)

My brother is an artist in NOLA and when I came to visit we had the best time checking out all of the art that the street vendors offered as well as the galleries full of unique art. I only brought home one souvenir from my trip and it was this sweet little Royal Fox print that I found  at the Gallery Burguieres in NOLA. The artist was as sweet as could be and has recently had a little drama going on with this fox that has made him rather famous in the Taylor Swift world. This shop is a little NOLA treasure and was one of my favorite galleries we visited and this print makes me smile every time I see it.

Janet Hill Studios

Janet Hill Studios

Janet Hill Prints ($26 or more)

My home is filling quickly with Janet Hill prints and every single piece just speaks to my soul in a way no other artist has ever spoken to me. Each print tells such a beautiful and unique story that I think would resonate with just about anyone. These beautiful prints would be lovely to share with someone you love particularly if you frame them with an inexpensive frame. I took mine to Hobby Lobby to get a matte that would make each one stand out. Of course, Janet Hill is just one of many talented artists that share their wares on Etsy so you if you are unsure of your recipient’s taste, consider a gift card to Etsy to make gift-giving easy and unique.

Knitted Boot Cuffs

Knitted Boot Cuffs ($5)

Our most popular project on the site right now are these knitted boot cuffs that you can whip it up in a mere two hours. I gave these to my best friend Christmas last year and you can make them for about $5 in materials. These are such fun toppers to your boots and would also make a sweet little stocking stuffer. If you are new to cabling, this is an easy project to tackle to master cabling and you can’t beat that these can be created in such a short amount of time.

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things for more happiness givers.

 

I hope this little list helps as you plan your holiday shopping. You can also find a great list of 54 handmade gifts you can make for those special people in your life!  What are your favorite gifts you have given or received?

 

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Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

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

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

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

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

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

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

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

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

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

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

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

Grab Your FREE Woodland Creature Printables:

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

DOWNLOAD HERE

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

DOWNLOAD HERE

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

DOWNLOAD HERE

Free Woodland Thanksgiving Printables & Decor Ideas

DOWNLOAD HERE

Catch up on my other projects with BHG at Walmart:

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

BHG Live Better Style Showcase

BHG Live Better Network

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

DIY Decorative Thumbtack Pumpkins

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

decorative-thumb-tack-pumpkin-tutorial-header

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

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

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5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids

Monday, October 13th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids - Mom Advice

My six-year-old will turn seven in just a few weeks, which for our family means a party. My mom told me yesterday that Annalyn had reminded her of pending celebration and said, “I need to get busy and make some lists!”

Hello, apple. I’m your tree.

It’s true that my daughter gets her penchant for list-making and party planning from me. Some of that may come along with her curly hair and short legs, but most of it is likely a learned behavior. The fact is that I love planning events, and as my daughter has grown, I’ve shared that love with her.

When I planned her first few birthday parties, I handled every little detail – just like I have for every other event I’ve planned. From theme to food to decorations, I took care of all of it. But when I began dreaming of her fourth birthday party – a Mickey Mouse themed bash at our houseI decided to let her help.

Since then, my little mini me has jumped on every chance to help me plan a party, from birthdays and holidays to fundraisers and church events. She gets so excited, and it’s been a fun way to share something special. Today I’ve got a few tips for making party planning a family affair at your house – without losing your cool (or ending up with an all-candy buffet and buckets of glitter on your floor).

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids - Mom Advice

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids

1. Be prepared for brainstorming.

It can be a lot of fun to dream up ideas for your next party with your kids. But – what’s that phrase? Don’t give the keys to the zoo to the monkeys? (No, no, YOUR kids aren’t monkeys. Just mine.) Seriously, though. Unless you are truly 100% okay with your party taking any shape your kids can imagine, I’d recommend having a framework in mind before sitting down to brainstorm with your children.

Anyone can get overwhelmed or out of control when faced with too many options – and that rings even more true with children. I’ve learned the hard way to do my Pinterest surfing in advance, to narrow down the options and filter out the crazy (too expensive, too difficult, not age appropriate, etc.) ideas before bringing Annalyn into the mix. Now, I talk with her about ideas for a theme (if it’s her birthday party), then create a Pinterest board for us to look at together.

Not only does this keep her options limited and manageable, it also makes sure we don’t land on less-than-family-friendly pins and pages by accident while searching. (Believe it or not, searching for Minnie Mouse costumes with my four-year-old on my lap taught me that lesson!)

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids - Mom Advice

2. Take the guesswork out of your guest list.

Left to her own devices, my daughter would invite every girl she’s ever met to her next birthday party. Telling her she was only allowed to invite seven girls took the wind out of her sails and began a weeks-long deliberation.

Unless your budget is unlimited, you might have to cap the number of invitations you send, too – and I’m learning that elementary school adds a whole new level of complication to this process. When we started talking about this year’s party, I didn’t realize the politics involved – and the life lessons that would come out of these conversations. After all, if you can’t invite every girl you know, choosing who to invite can be hard. Making these decision together has given me the opportunity to discuss friendship and fairness with my daughter – as well as financial responsibility. (Because yes, of COURSE inviting all 22 girls on her first list would be easier!)

3. Ask for input about the agenda.

Much as I like to think I’m hip to what the kids are loving these days, I don’t actually have a clue. So while I think musical chairs and carrot sticks in the backyard is a perfect plan for a sixth birthday party, it turns out my actual six-year-old (hypothetically speaking, of course) might prefer Goldfish and swimming at the community center.

Likewise, when planning a family event or other party that’s not necessarily celebrating your child, he or she might have the creativity you’re looking for. (Playing charades at the family reunion? Serving pizza at the committee meeting? Making a welcome banner for small group or book club? Why not?!)

5 Tips for Party Planning with Kids - Mom Advice

4. Cook up some fun with your menu and decor.

Keeping it simple is the key to every part of planning a party. But when you bring kids into the planning, you might just find your event looks a little more whimsical than you originally imagined. That might mean streamers in every color of the rainbow or balloons covering the floor instead of floating in bunches around the table. It could mean a build your own waffle bar or a pitcher of chocolate milk next to the fancy tea party china. Or it could mean pizza delivered to your door instead of the Pinterest-inspired three-course meal you’d envisioned.

Or, if you aren’t smart enough to curate a Pinterest board before your brainstorming session, it could mean you find yourself making an ocean-themed cake for a mermaid party – despite your annual vows to Never Make a Birthday Cake Again.

5. Put them to work!

When I was a kid, my parents often teased my brother and me by saying the only reason they had kids was to have someone to do chores. Now that I have my own home to manage, I’m not sure there wasn’t a bit of truth to that! But even more than lightening my load of work before and after a party (which may or may not happen, depending on the task and her age and ability), working side by side with my daughter as we prep for a party gives us one more opportunity to spend time together and teaches her the skills of cooking, decorating or cleaning. It also helps her understand just how much work goes into a fun afternoon or evening!

Special Offer: If you’d like more tips for planning parties – with or without kids – I’d like to offer a discount for my ebook, Plan a Fabulous Party {without losing your mind}. Just use the code MOMADVICE for 50% off the regular price!

Photo source

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Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake

For our family, birthdays are all about the cake and my son’s 12th birthday was just the reason to try out a new recipe. After browsing through the cookbooks, which is the birthday child’s honorary ritual and right, he decided to repeat his choice last year with another chocolate snickerdoodle cake. I rounded out our birthday dessert table with a gluten-free lemon chiffon cake so that I could enjoy a slice of cake with the family too. I would say that this cake was just as much of a hit as the the chocolate cake and tempted me everytime I opened the fridge.

“Just one more slice,” it screamed.

I would grab a fork and nip off a bit and eat it while still standing at the fridge.

Don’t judge.

I am not much of a sweets gal, but this cake was so light and lovely that I couldn’t stop eating it.

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake Chiffon cakes are my favorite cakes because they are so light. Much like an angel food cake, they are created with egg whites which really helps with the density of the gluten-free cakes. The cake is so delicate though that I ended up wrapping the cooled cakes in saran wrap and a layer of foil and freezing them overnight so they would not tear or fall apart when I frosted the cake. I highly recommend doing that too.  I still rely upon these two 8″ Wilton pans (affiliate)  (instead of those 9″ pans that produced flat layers for me) and a good spatula (affiliate) for all my cakes. With this cake, in particular, you want to make sure you don’t produce thin cake layers that crumble when pulled from the pan.

Smoothed between the layers is a delicious lemon curd (I used this recipe!) which sounds wildly impressive, but is so easy to make that you will wonder why you never tried making it before. My children fought over who could enjoy the last of the lemon curd that was in the jar.

I broke it up by telling them that since they were going to fight about it, I was going to eat it.

That’s the kind of mom I am, a true problem-solver.

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake

The cake is then frosted with a whipped cream frosting that has the lemon curd whipped through it.

I mean, seriously. It’s as if this cake fulfilled all my food dreams.

12

Happy 12th birthday to my beautiful boy. I think this is the happiest of his birthdays and it was because there was no fuss and no elaborate themes. We had just got back from vacation, I had a millionty projects for work, and our shed was in the process of being finished.  There was no time for an elaborate birthday. It ended up being the best birthday yet.

Just friends, a takeout pizza, and some cake.

Why have I been stressing about this birthday party every year?

The smile says it all- simple is better.

I hope you can give this recipe a try. If you gluten-free cakes aren’t your thing, definitely try this Cream Cheese Pound Cake With Homemade Lemon Curd- it’s a winner too!

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A beautiful lemon chiffon cake with lemon curd between the layers topped with a whipped topping laced with more lemon curd. It is the perfect summer dessert!
Ingredients
  • Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pans
  • 2 teaspoons rice flour, for dusting the pans
  • 1 extra large or 2 small lemons
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 package (15 ounces) yellow gluten-free cake mix
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup orange juice (fresh or from a carton)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • For the filling and lemon whipped cream frosting: 1 jar (10 ounces) gluten-free lemon curd (or prepare the homemade version- link above)
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly mist two 9-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray, then dust with the rice flour. Shake out the excess rice flour and set the pans aside.
  2. Zest a lemon and measure out two teaspoons for the cake batter and place it in a large mixing bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice through a fine sieve, discarding the seeds. Measure ¼ cup of lemon juice, pour it into the mixing bowl with the zest, and set the bowl aside.
  3. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in another large mixing bowl and the yolks in the mixing bowl with the lemon zest and juice. Beat the whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Set the beaten egg whites aside.
  4. Place the cake mix, sugar, orange juice, and oil in the bowl with the egg yolks and lemon and beat with an electric mixer and beat until mixed.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until no traces of whites remain and the batter has lightened.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side. Place a large mixing bowl and electric mixer beaters in the refrigerator to chill.
  7. Bake the cake layers until they are golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 18-22 minutes. Allow them to cool on a wire rack.
  8. Freeze the layers wrapped in saran wrap & foil overnight to produce a sturdy base for icing.
  9. Meanwhile, make the filling and frosting. Measure ⅔ cup of lemon curd for the filling and set it aside in a small microwave-safe glass bowl. Pour the cream into the chilled mixing bowl. Using the refrigerated mixer beaters, beat the cream with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, 3 minutes. Fold in the confectioners’ sugar and ¼ cup lemon curd. Beat again at low speed until the lemon curd is incorporated, 30 seconds. Refrigerate the frosting until ready to use.
  10. Remove the layers from the freezer. To assemble the cake, place the glass bowl with the lemon curd for the filling into the microwave on high power for 10 seconds to warm it. Transfer one cake layer, right side up, to a serving plate. Spread the top with the warmed lemon curd. Place the second layer, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top and side of the cake with the lemon whipped cream frosting. Refrigerate the cake until time to serve.

Adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free (affiliate)

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Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

As my children grow older, I strive to find more meaningful ways to celebrate holidays. The 4th of July has always been a burst of red, white, & blue through our home, but I can’t say that we have ever spent time together discussing the importance of this day and getting to know the heroes behind what makes the 4th of July so special. Today I want to share with you a fun way you can share about the 4th of July Heroes in your home and a fun way to incorporate their images in your home to make the day more meaningful and festive.

I partnered with Walmart on this project and all the materials you need for this can be found at their store.

To begin, you can select your 4th of July Heroes that you want to talk about. I found this great list for kids that I used to select our heroes to focus upon. I then headed to Wikipedia and found images of each of our heroes and converted them to black & white and saved them on my computer. If you would like to use the same heroes as us, here are the heroes we selected for our project.

George Washington

George Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

John Hancock

John Hancock

Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks

John Adams

John Adams

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your heroes selected, head to the Walmart Photo Site and upload the images there. In addition to having 1 of each image printed in 4×6, also add 1 set of wallets for each person.  If you send these to the one-hour lab, it will be less than $6 for all of them. While you are there, you can also pick up a package of mini-clothespins, a set of notecards for your kids to write on, supplies for this easy flag bunting, and this burlap wreath to decorate with. Since I already had these things in our home, it helps cut down on cost and storage for us this year.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your images, have kids select which person they are interested in discovering and have them find information about their 4th of July heroes. I challenged my kids to find one or two facts about each hero.  We also read about the first 4th of July and how different is from how we celebrate today.

I am embarrassed to say that I was learning right along with my children and soaking it all in as much as they were. Abigail Adams, for example, was one of our favorite people we learned about. Did you know that she had five kids that she cared for and homeschooled while her husband was away serving his country?  Not only was she passionate about women’s rights, but she was also passionate about equality for all people, whether they were black or white. She helped care for the soldiers in her home (feeding them and treating their injuries), and she even learned how to make her own gunpowder. Emily and I are big fans of Abigail Adams now and all she did for our country.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Likewise, my son loved John Adams and his fun fact was that he thought his teachers, “held him back.” Despite being held back from his true potential in grade school, he passed his entrance exams to Harvard and his parents, who were farmers, gave up several acres of their own farm land to pay for John’s schooling. And, boy, did that pay off! John Adams strongly supported independence from Britain, signed the Declaration of Independence, and negotiated the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. He later became the nation’s first vice president and second president.  This led to a great discussion about recognizing our true potential when sometimes others do not.

Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King referenced Crispus Attucks in one of his speeches? He held him up as an example of black patriotism at the beginning of our nation’s history. Yet, we never knew anything about what he did for our country. I’m so glad we know now.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids
Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

If you have smaller kids, you can share simple facts and have them draw pictures. Clearly, the fact that Abigail Adams rocked it as a mom and had five kids was worthy of a picture. Make this time fun for your kids while acknowledging the sacrifices that so many gave up for our freedom.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once we were done discussing our heroes, I incorporated these pictures into our holiday decor. I pulled some of the flags off of our bunting and switched them with pictures of our heroes.  I took the items off of my burlap wreath and clipped the wallet images with mini clothespins on the wreath. I hung this in the center of our mirror and added the flag & hero bunting around the frame of the mirror.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

I love these touches to our 4th of July decorating, but I love even more that my kids know about these patriotic heroes.  I hope this idea inspires you to learn more about this holiday and the heroes who made this day possible for all of us.

Happy 4th of July, friends!

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Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

If there is one thing I love, it is creating a restaurant experience in the comfort of my own home with a price tag that fits our budget.  Father’s Day is just around the corner one way you can really wow those amazing dads in your life is by creating this restaurant style steak recipe for an amazing culinary experience at home.

Walmart wanted me to showcase a fun recipe you could create for Father’s Day and I immediately thought of making Dad a delicious steak dinner. What says I love you more than a delicious New York Strip Steak or a beautiful Filet Mignon?

Today’s post is less recipe and more technique. The truth is, if you have a beautiful cut of meat, the last thing you want to do is mask that delicious flavor. A beautiful steak needs only to be dressed simply with a little oil, salt, pepper, and a butter finish to be more than worthy of your taste buds.

I had hoped to have a beautiful picture tutorial for you, but this steak cooks so quickly that I am going to type out my tips instead. Even with the tomatoes and roasted asparagus as our sides, we still will have dinner ready in about fifteen minutes!  That will be even less time than it would take to haul everyone in the car for a meal out, not to mention the incredible savings you will experience by dining at home.

Here are my personal recommendations for creating that perfect steak for Dad! 

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

Pick the Right Type of Pan

Since we are need to sear the steak and then finish it in the oven, you want to make sure that you have a pan that can do this task well. I love a good heavy-bottom skillet that does not have a plastic handle or a cast iron skillet for this job. I bought one of these Lodge Logic 12″ cast iron skillets a couple of winters ago and it has been so good to me over the years.  This is definitely a work horse in my kitchen and it is also a great tool to use when outdoor grilling for delicate meats or when mixing up a big batch of fresh veggies so you don’t have to cook in a hot kitchen in the summer. It has truly been the best $20 I have ever spent and I know that you will feel the same way especially after cooking your steaks on it.

Let Your Meat Rest At Room Temperature

It is really important that you don’t put cold meat into your hot pan.  I like to pull my steaks out about thirty minutes before I plan to cook them and leave them on my counter. This helps to heat your steak more evenly and helps prevent the risk of your meat drying out before you have finished cooking it.

Get Your Pan Screaming Hot…Hotter Then You Think

If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need to be sure that your skillet is hot enough to add that beautiful caramelization on your meat. Turn your heat up to high with nothing in the pan for at least five minutes. When you place your meat in the pan it should stick and you should hear a nice sizzle on the outside. That’s exactly what you want to hear and see happening to your meat.

Dry & Season Your Meat Well

One of the best tools in your arsenal for creating the perfect steak is a paper towel. If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need the meat to be dry and not wet, otherwise you risk just having your meat steam in its own juices rather than sear. Dry the meat with a heavy-duty paper towel and then brush the steak with oil. I love canola oil and then season your meat simply with salt and pepper. Once your pan has to come to that screaming hot phase, drop your seasoned meat into the pan and let it sear for two minutes on each side.

Don’t Move Your Steak

Once you have dropped it in, the first thing I know I want to do is to shift the meat and take a peek at it. Just don’t. Let the meat get the golden sear it needs for two minutes on each side, giving it a beautiful crust on the outside, and keeping your meat perfectly pink on the inside.

Butter Makes Everything Better

A butter finish makes all dishes a little more beautiful, don’t you think? A dab of butter is a beautiful finishing touch to the steak before sliding it into the oven to finish cooking.

Avoid Overcooking

A meat thermometer is your best friend. I still rely on mine for my steaks. I love my steak to be medium rare, but cook it to the consistence that you love the most. Keep in mind that Rare is 120 degrees, Medium is 125 degrees, and Medium Well is 130 degrees.

Always Let Your Meat Rest

If you cut into your meat right when you take it off the pan, chances are that all the juiciness will just pour out on your cutting board or plate. Cover your steak with a little tin foil and let it rest for ten minutes before diving in.  I promise you will have a much more flavorful bite if you just wait the recommended amount of time.

asparagus 2 asparagus 3

I hope these steak tips help you and a great accompaniment to this steak is my Simple Roasted Asparagus. You can slide this in at the same time and temperature as your steaks and it should be ready in 10-12 minutes. I also added a side of the warmed tomatoes from this tomato appetizer we created last week!

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A beautiful restaurant-style steak, perfect for celebrating any occasion. Once you follow the tips & techniques for a perfect steak, you will save a bundle on special occasion meals out.
Ingredients
  • 2 (10-ounce) filet mignon (you can double this recipe, just make sure you have a large skillet so all the steaks have room)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Heat a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them lightly with canola oil. Combine the salt and pepper on a plate and roll the steaks in the mixture, pressing lightly to evenly coat all sides.
  4. When the skillet is ready, add the steaks and sear them evenly on all sides for about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes.
  5. Top each steak with a tablespoon of butter and place the skillet in the oven. Cook the steaks until they reach 120 degrees F for rare or 125 degrees F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer. (To test the steaks, insert the thermometer sideways to be sure you're actually testing the middle of the steak. Mine took 4-5 minutes to come to medium rare)
  6. Remove the steaks to a serving platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

 

 

Looking for more Father’s Day ideas? Check out these Monster Cookie Bars & Monster Printable Cards for Dad, this chalkboard cookie jar you can personalize for your favorite guy, or this beautiful candy bouquet we created for our Dad last year!! Happy Father’s Day!

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Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.

For years I have been wanting to make beans in the slow cooker, but was intimidated with the process. Beans in the slow cooker though are surprisingly easy and frugal to create in large batches for your family. Today I wanted to show you a foolproof and delicious recipe for Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans for all of your Cinco de Mayo fun, or as a frugal side dish for your next taco night. Today’s cooking tutorial is going to take you through the in’s and out’s of how to cook beans, how to freeze them, and then in the comments below you can share your views on bean preparation. Everyone has a theory, a trick, and a recipe. Let’s share what we know works best for us!

Bean Cooking 101

How to Cook Dried Beans

Why Should You Trouble Yourself With Dried Beans?

There is true convenience in grabbing a quick can of beans for your dishes out of your pantry. Although it is still a frugal staple, dried beans are oh-so-much cheaper and they have much more flavor than the canned variety. Dried beans typically cost two to three times less than canned beans and they have the added benefit of less sodium, more flavor, and can save you a lot of room in a small pantry. Did I mention that they can be made while you are sleeping in your slow cooker? Now that’s a beautiful thing.

When I posted that I was working on this on Instagram, many people commented on their techniques as well as their failures in cooking beans. I guess I am not the only one a little intimidated by the process. Now that I have made them though, I will be making this a regular habit because it saves me a lot of money and is a very filling protein for someone who is on a gluten-free diet and always hungry.

A Little Sorting Never Hurt Nobody

Once you purchase your beans, make sure you sort them out. Arrange dried beans on a sheet pan or clean kitchen towel and sort through them to pick out any shriveled or broken beans, stones or debris. This is not an all-day affair, just a quickly peek and move on to the next steps.

Rinse It, Rinse It Good

Always make sure you rinse your beans really well before beginning. Make sure you also rinse them well after our salt brine (below).

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.

To Soak or Not to Soak

Sounds like a great Shakespeare line, doesn’t it? I know that many people skip the soaking process and opt to just throw them right into the slow cooker after a rinse.  I always consult the experts when it comes to cooking and according to Cook’s Illustrated, quick soaking can be effective, but their proven method of soaking beans in a brine, yields a bean that a girl can really be proud of.  Just as a brine on a bird can yield tasty results, beans can benefit from salt too. The salt soak prevents magnesium and calcium from binding to — and, subsequently hardening — the cell walls on your beans. When people  complain that they can never get the beans to soften, you can be assured that a brine can help with that, while maintaining the shape of your beans.

Cook’s Illustrated recommends, for 1 pound of dried beans (about 2 cups) dissolve 3 tablespoons of salt in 4 quarts of water. Add the rinsed beans and let them soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. (If you’re short on time, quick-soak the beans: Place the beans in a large heatproof bowl. Bring 2 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Pour the water over the beans and let them soak for 1 hour before draining and rinsing.)

As far as salting goes for your beans for seasoning though, it is advised to wait until the end and salt once they are cooked and season to taste. You also want to be sure that you are rinsing that brine off before you get started with your recipe.

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.  Cook Them Low & Slow

Since beans need to be cooked low and slow, the slow cooker is ideal for cooking your beans. Once you have rinsed these after the salt brine, add them to your slow cooker along with liquid and seasonings of choice and turn your slow cooker on Low and head to bed.  Skip the addition of anything acidic though because the acid can prevent those beans from breaking down and it’s all about getting these beans to break down.

I cooked mine in my Ninja Cooker and set it for six hours and it set’s itself to warm after that.  The beans should take roughly six to eight hours to cook and slow cookers can be the ideal tool for cooking them. According to The Kitchn, it’s adviseable to pick a slow cooker that fits best with the amount of beans you are cooking. They advise that for small batches of beans, a pound or less, to rely on a 3 1/2-quart or smaller slow cooker. If cooking 2 pounds or more, you can use your 7-quart slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com. Freeze Those Beans

Once the beans are done, divide them up into two cup portions in freezer bags and put them in the freezer.  You can now enjoy the savings all month long and enjoy these beans as a side or accompaniment to any of your favorite Mexican dishes.

I hope this tutorial helps and I can’t wait to read your own tips for cooking beans in the comments below! These would be delicious paired with my favorite 10-minute fish tacos, our chicken enchiladas (made with homemade enchilada sauce), my roasted corn salsa, and a tall margarita or mojito…just in case you are looking for a few great dishes for Cinco de Mayo!

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans from MomAdvice.com.

SAFETY NOTE: If you are cooking kidney beans, boil them for 10 minutes before cooking. This neutralizes a toxin called phytohemagglutinin that can cause acute digestive distress.

Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Be sure to read our Bean Cooking Tutorial before you begin! These beans make the perfect side dish for any meal!
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, or 2 cups fresh chopped tomatoes (ADD AT THE END)
Instructions
  1. Follow the instructions for sorting, rinsing, brining, and then rinsing again as I have outlined above.
  2. Put the drained beans into your slow cooker, then add the chopped garlic, broth, cumin, and chili powder. Stir well to combine.
  3. Set on LOW for six to eight hours in your slow cooker (see above for recommended slow cooker sizes based on pounds).
  4. Once they are done, stir in diced tomatoes and season.
This post contains affiliate links.

What’s your favorite way to cook beans? Any tips, tricks, or techniques that work well for you?

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5 Gluten-Free Treats, Perfect for Easter

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
5 Gluten-Free Treats,  Perfect for Easter
Happy Spring, MomAdvice readers! My name is Sarah and I’m the baker/blogger over at Sarah Bakes Gluten Free Treats. I have loved baking for as long as I can remember and for the past 3 years, I have been baking 100% gluten free. My husband has celiac disease and both my son and I have a gluten allergy. Most of my baking is also dairy and egg free. It was quite the adventure, learning how to transition over to gluten free baking. Now I have a passion for sharing delicious gluten free recipes with others so that they can also have the confidence to bake again!
April is one of my most favorite months. Beautiful spring weather, flowers are in bloom and most importantly…Easter! Such a joyous holiday, celebrating with family and friends. We always gather around a good meal (total feast) and enjoy plenty of satisfying sweets. Always too many desserts!

I’m sharing a few of my favorite gluten free treats with you today! All of these goodies would be a lovely addition to your Easter gathering. They also egg and dairy free too (vegan), which is great for those with multiple food allergies. Each recipe features Sarah’s gluten free flour blend, a staple in my pantry. Perfect for all of your gluten free baking needs!

  Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Every celebration becomes that much more fantastic when cupcakes are involved! These chocolate cupcakes are simply delicious. Moist chocolate cake, topped with a creamy dairy free chocolate buttercream. Those colorful sprinkles are a must!

 

Gluten Free Vegan Mini Lemon Blueberry Cakes

Gluten Free Vegan Mini Lemon Blueberry Cakes

Anything in miniature size is my favorite. That’s one reason to love these mini lemon blueberry cakes. Bursting with blueberries and drizzled with a simple glaze. The fresh lemon zest gives this cake a beautiful brightness.

  Gluten Free Vegan Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Gluten Free Vegan Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Wouldn’t this apple cinnamon coffee cake be a delight to serve at your Easter brunch? Vanilla cake, topped with sliced apples and covered in cinnamon crumb topping. Everyone will be asking for a second slice.

  Gluten Free Vegan Raspberry Hand Pies

Gluten Free Vegan Raspberry Hand Pies

I remember the first time I made these raspberry hand pies. It took me right back to my childhood. Eating those “home run” pies that we would get from the local market down the street. This homemade version is even more delicious and let’s not forget…it’s pie you can eat with your hands!

  Gluten Free Vegan Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

Gluten Free Vegan Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies

Every kid loves a good frosted sugar cookie. This gluten free version is just about as yummy as you can get. Let the kids help with the decorating and get creative. They may end up eating more frosting and sprinkles along the way, but that’s the best part!

  Sarah Bakes Gluten Free Treats- Sarah Hornacek

You can check out more of Sarah’s recipes at Sarah Bakes Gluten Free Treats. You can also follow her on facebooktwitterpinterest, and instagram. Happy baking!

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