Archive for September, 2010

Amy’s Notebook 09.29.10

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

These free Halloween cupcake toppers are so festive (@ the crafting chicks)

This maple-butter spiced popcorn looks like a fun fall snack (@ the kitchn)

This meatloaf recipe looks sinful (@ The Pioneer Woman Cooks)

I want to make some of these modge podge pumpkins for our house (@ The Other White House)

I love this guide for iPhone users on Hipstamatic for taking photos (@Photojojo)

This pumpkin maple oatmeal would be a satisfying way to start the day (@ The Ungourmet)

I want to try making this recipe for big batch pancakes (@ Dine & Dish)

I am going to have to try this whole wheat sandwich bread recipe (@ foodwhirl)

These perfect chocolate chip cookies look delicious (@ How Does She?)

I am inspired by this birthday gift wrapping job (@ not martha)

These Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts would be a yummy side dish (@ $5 Dinners)

These apple dumplings look like a delicious and frugal way to end a meal (@ PartyBlueprints Blog)

This double chocolate zucchini bread looks delicious (@ under the high chair)

I like this tutorial for creating rolled fabric flowers (@ Sugar Bee)

These giant fabric flowers would be beautiful on a handbag (@ Trey & Lucy)

This quick minestrone looks like a satisfying fall dish (@ life as mom)

I love making DIY pumpkin spice lattes at home (@ the kitchn)

These bibs made from old t-shirts are genius (@ sew  like my mom)

These no-knead dinner rolls would be a great accompaniment to soup (@ Salt and Chocolate)

This Indian corn wreath is the perfect fall decoration (@ Gingerbread Snowflakes)

Family Travel: Exploring Wilmington, North Carolina

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I got the opportunity to travel to Wilmington, North Carolina for a trip with Homewood Suites by Hilton to explore the family-friendly attractions and budget-friendly travel that you can find there. The trip was hosted by Homewood Suites in conjunction with the Wilmington/Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. I had no expectations for what to expect from the trip, other than the opportunity to have a little getaway and I was thrilled when the company said that I could bring along a guest. Unfortunately, the kids had already started school and  my husband would need to stay with them. It is rare that I get to share a trip with anyone else so I was excited to bring my best friend along for the weekend. Who could turn down a girl’s weekend that is all-expenses paid?

We set off for Wilmington and got to stay at the beautiful Homewood Suites by Hilton Wilmington Mayfaire which was a short 5 minute drive to Wrightsville Beach. I have stayed at a lot of hotels over the course of the years with my business, but I have never stayed at a hotel that offered more amenities to their guests than this one.

Room rates start at $120 a night and the company admits that they are not the cheapest in town, but that they do strive to offer the best service and the best amenities for their guest.  I am used to paying for my internet, some dry cereal for breakfast, and paying for any extra frills that I might desire so I really was genuinely shocked by what the hotel offered.

All of the rooms offer a full kitchenette that includes a full-size refrigerator, a two-burner stove, cooking utensils/tools with service for four,  and a dishwasher. For no additional charge (other than the actual price of groceries), you can call ahead and have them stock your refrigerator for you before you even arrive for your trip!

The hotel offers a free huge hot breakfast seven days a week and a bigger bonus for family’s on a budget, was a “Manager’s Reception,” dinner Monday through Thursday for free, that included a full delicious dinner, a kid’s buffet for dinner, and wine/beer for the parents while you are staying there.  As an example of the dinner choices, two of the offerings the nights we were there were tortilla-crusted tilapia and home style meatloaf including two side dishes. I have never been to a hotel that offered a full dinner and full breakfast  for free for its guests and this is available at any of the Homewood Suites locations.

The rooms also offered DVD players and (for no charge)  you could select a family-friendly movie to watch with your kids. Baskets of cookies were available for a free late night snack and a free coffee & tea bar were always open. These little inclusion are the things that I love to look for in hotels especially when it comes to keeping my children entertained and fed well.  The coffee bar is a tired vacationing parent’s dream and it is the first time I have actually loved coffee at a hotel.

Other important inclusions were free wireless internet, grills on-site if you wanted to grill for your lunch, and they even had a little putt-putt golfing for the kids near the pool and hot tub that didn’t cost an extra dime.

Yeah, all of that starting at just $120. I figure just the breakfast, kitchenette in every room, the family entertainment, and the free dinner with beverages would really help to keep our family on budget.

If you were wondering just how pale I am, this picture speaks a thousand words. I was really missing my giant beach umbrella, but used the shadow of my friend Becky and an expert tuck and pull to allow my dress to keep me covered at the beach. I always chant to myself that someday I will be a beautiful old lady and everyone will envy my pale skin… at least that is what I like to tell myself!

In all seriousness the beach was simply stunning and I loved dipping my toes in the water and collecting shells for the kids while enjoying the peacefulness of the ocean. It was beautiful and it was so nice that it was only minutes from the hotel!

The Wilmington/Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitor’s Bureau were so gracious to allow us the opportunity to explore Wilmington’s family-friendly offerings. We toured the Battleship North Carolina, The Children’s Museum of Wilmington, the Cape Fear Serpentarium, a horse drawn tour of downtown Wilmington, North Carolina Aquarium Fort Fisher, and sampled delicious seafood chowder at Michael’s Seafood, took two boat tours of the beautiful beach, downtown shopped, and enjoyed all of the town’s offerings.

I can’t wait to share with you more as it gets closer to vacation season about my experience in both North Carolina and Orlando for some fun ideas for family travel. I will say that of the places we visited, I loved the Children’s Museum of Wilmington and the North Carolina Aquarium Forth Fisher the absolute best and can’t wait to revisit them for a trip with my own family. The enthusiasm of the employees was enchanting and I know that we could spend a whole day just visiting these two spots alone.

I have to say my favorite part was just getting the opportunity to relax! We spent an evening window-shopping in the Mayfaire shops, grabbed a delicious pizza one night, popped popcorn and watched silly girl movies like, “Fame,” and ate ice cream cones. I loved everything about Wilmington and can see it as a new destination for our family!

In full disclosure, while I was there, I found a new place to write and will be joining the SuiteTrip website for the next few months (through Homewood Suites)  to share ideas on budget-friendly travel and ideas for making travel enjoyable as a family. I can’t wait to share more ideas with you there! It was an unexpected new freelance job that I am really looking forward to!

Disclaimer: We were invited by Homewood Suites in conjunction with the Wilmington/Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. for an all-expenses paid trip to experience Wilmington, NC  and share with our readers about our experience. All-expenses paid means that our travel, hotel stay, visits to area attractions, and food were covered by the company. We will receive no other additional compensation for this particular project and are asked for our honest opinions without any further obligation. To find out more about how things work here at MomAdvice, please feel free to visit our official Disclaimer page!

Where is your favorite family vacation spot? Where is somewhere you would like to explore? Feel free to share!

An Apron Full of Giveaways: Shark 2-in-1 Vac-then-Steam Ends Today

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

jj & jojo, $16

I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week,  here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers! We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Our giveaway for the Shark 2-in-1 Vac-then-Steam (valued at $150)  will be ending at 8PM this evening! You will definitely want to add this to your cleaning tools especially if you have a lot of hardwood or laminate flooring like me. This is a 2-in-1 so you can do all of your vacuuming and then steam your floors using the same great tool. PLEASE NO ENTRIES HERE!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them!

Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Children’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

Pesto Chicken Tortellini Soup

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I am rejoicing this week because I finally won a food victory in our house. After years of trying different soups on my family, we have finally settled on a soup that the whole family will eat. And not just eat, but LOVED to eat. A soup that every single family member asked for seconds on, quietly slurped away with no  noise at the table, and all asked for seconds on. If I had ever been a good cheerleader, I would have done a high kick and had us build a tower together because I was really that pumped. My parents can attest to the fact that I had great spirit, but was no cheerleader, so you will just have to pretend that this really happened. Can’t you just envision me screaming, “V for Victory,” at the top of my lungs and throwing my fists wildly in the air?

This tortellini soup brought together all of the flavors that my family loves, but is a versatile recipe that could be created with what is at your supermarket that day or what your family loves to eat. For our vegetarian readers, the chicken tortellini and chicken broth can easily be switched to a cheese-filled tortellini with vegetable broth instead. I used basil pesto in this, but you could also try a sun-dried tomato pesto or omit the pesto altogether if it is not a favorite of your family. Versatility is the beauty of a good soup recipe  and this recipe is quite versatile!

The broth for this is so rich and flavorful, thanks to the addition of the pesto, and the tortellini is tender and mixed with the brightness of the flavors from the diced tomatoes and spinach. It is delicious and satisfying. I served this with a little of my favorite bread, made in my bread machine,  which is perfect for mopping up the last of the broth. My Portuguese White Bread is a family favorite and is made from items that are already lurking in your pantry. It is the perfect accompaniment to the bold flavors of this tortellini soup.

May I say it is so fun when you can develop the cooking confidence that you see a recipe and can I just use it for inspiration and create something entirely different with what your family loves? That is what happened with this recipe which has given me a new quiet confidence in the kitchen.

If your family doesn’t love soup, this is the recipe to try on them. Don’t forget to get that old cheerleader uniform dry cleaned for this occasion! Rah-Rah-Rah!

Pesto Chicken Tortellini Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans petite diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound chicken herb tortellini or tortellini of your choice (I used the refrigerated kind, but you can also use the dried pasta)
9 ounces spinach, chopped roughly
1/4 cup basil pesto

In a large pot, saute the garlic in the olive oil. After a minute or so, add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth to the pot. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and then add in your tortellini. Cook tortellini as directed on package. In the last minute of cooking time, mix in your roughly chopped spinach and stir in the 1/4 cup of basil pesto. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top. Side Note: When reheating, feel free to add some additional chicken broth to thin the soup, as the tortellini will absorb the liquid!

Portuguese White Bread

1 cup water
3 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Add all ingredients in order listed into your bread machine. Choose the”basic” cycle and wait for the perfect loaf of white bread to appear! Yes, it is that simple!

Freebie Friday: September 24, 2010

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We are so lucky to have Freebies 4 Mom share their list of the best freebies of the week with our readers each and every Friday. Please visit her site for fabulous freebies and sweepstakes information every single day!  This week Heather is giving away a $200 and $100 Sears gift card to a “local hero” (police, military, veterans, firefighters, teachers, and hospital staff). Be sure to get those entries in for this fabulous prize!

This week on MomAdvice we are sharing a recipe for apple pie muffins, an idea for what to do with those leftover apple bits, a notebook of ideas, and our links to sixty other great giveaways. While you are applying to those giveaways be sure to get your entry in for our Shark 2-in-1 Vac-then-Steam to get those hardwood, laminate, and tile floors gleaming in record time.

Health & Beauty
Buxom Lash Mascara at Sephora inside JCPenney
Crest Pro-Health for Me (Vocalpoint members)
Aveda Birthday Program

Anthony’s Pasta Meal Planner (CA and AZ only)

Baa Baa Black Sheep at A Story Before Bed
Twirl: The Playlist from Kate Spade

$10 Babies ‘R Us gift card (add Diaper Genie to registry)
Old Navy Birthday Club
Earth’s Best Playdate Parties
Tombstone Pizza Haunted House Party
Simple Holiday Pleasures House Party
BrewStation Cup of Creativity House Party
Martini Gold Party (details on Facebook)

CareFresh Complete (rabbit or guinea pig food)

This Week’s Freebie Events:


thru Oct. 14Smucker’s Daily Giveaway

thru 29 – Panda Express: Coupon for FREE Kobari Beef

25 – Michaels Crop Nights from 3pm – 8:45pm

25 – Michaels American Girl Event from 10am -2pm

25Smithsonian Free Museum Day

25Lowes Build and Grow Clinic make a fire truck 10-11 am

25 Free Admission to National Parks! It’s “Public Lands Day.”

26Free Pottery Barn Home Decorating Class: Design Your Dream Living Room at 10 am

27-Oct 2Chick-fil-A’s FREE Spicy Nuggets (8-count) at participating locations

29 – Free Budweiser Sample

30 Coldstone Creamery Make-A-Wish Ice Cream Social: receive a free scoop of ice cream from 5-8pm

Amy’s Notebook 09.22.10

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I love these tips on how to ice a cake (@ Prudent Baby)

I am going to have to try creating a few of these pencil sketches for art work around the house (@ Blue Cricket Design)

I love this idea for creatively reviewing for a test (@ kellicrowe, HT to Parent Hacks)

This homemade hot chocolate looks like a wonderful way to warm up on a cool day (@ My First Kitchen)

These apple cranberry bran muffins sound like a hearty snack (@ Good Things Catered)

This crocheted ric-rac is really cute (@ Fox Lane)

These grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free granola bars are perfect for people with dietary restrictions (@ Joyful Abode)

These coffee cake muffins would be a great way to start the day (@ Baking Bites)

These grilled breakfast sausages sound delicious and are another fun way to use the outdoor grill (@ Serious Eats)

These pink lemonade cupcakes would be a fun birthday treat (@ The Idea Room)

These cinnamon walnut dolce de leche bars sound like a fun treat (@ the kitchn)

This fall canvas is a beautiful seasonal decoration that won’t cost a lot (@ my blessed life)

Pumpkin cinnamon rolls? I think I am in heaven! (@ goodLife{eats})

This pumpkin nutella bread combines two of my favorite flavors (@ Two Peas and Their Pod)

These fried apple cakes look like another fun way to use up those apples (@ joy the baker)

Apple Picking & Apple Potpourri

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

It is that time of year again and I couldn’t wait for fall to arrive. This year we took a trip to Jollay Orchards to go apple picking as family for the first time and the kids absolutely loved it! What a beautiful day it was! We splurged for the admission into the petting zoo and rides for a fun family day together. We also picked a ton of apples this year and I will be creating a lot of apple dishes in our kitchen to use up the apples we have on hand! The kids enjoyed every minute of this activity and we all enjoyed our cider and donuts treat at the end of the day.

Some ideas of fun were better than others. Apple picking, hay rides, and corn mazes…a blast. Haunted house… super bad idea. Poor kids-  that picture speaks a thousand words!

We also can’t wait to do a little pumpkin picking next month. I have to say,  personally, the pumpkin picking is my favorite kind of picking. You know why? No obligation to do kitchen duty with a pumpkin and I get to just enjoy the pumpkin out on my front step and time spent with my husband & kids. A lot of the other picking translates into lots of work for me!

With apples though, there is a no apples go to waste policy in our house! While I have been creating those apple dishes in the kitchen, I throw all of the cores, peel, and leftover apple bits into a pot. With a generous sprinkle of  cinnamon and filled to the top with water, I simmer these leftovers on the stove. This creates a delicious apple pie smell throughout the house with items that would go in the trash.

What fall activity do you look forward to with your family? Please share!

An Apron Full of Giveaways: Shark 2-in-1 Vac-then-Steam ($150 Value)

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Great Goods, $12

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways, where we round up all of the best giveaways on the web. This is the spot where you can share your blog contests or where you can find fantastic stuff to enter. As always, we welcome your links to your contests so please link on up!

I know you will be excited to hear that we are hosting another great giveaway for our readers. Today I have a brand new giveaway for a Shark 2-in-1 Vac-then-Steam (valued at $150) that you will definitely want to add to your cleaning tools especially if you have a lot of hardwood or laminate flooring like me. This is a 2-in-1 so you can do all of your vacuuming and then steam your floors using the same great tool. Entries start today so follow the links below to enter. PLEASE NO ENTRIES HERE!

Our giveaway for the Learning Tower ends at 8PM tonight! Don’t forget to get those entries in for one of their Learning Towers including two kits to maximize the usage of that tower in your home. We are giving away a playhouse kit perfect for a little puppetry fun and an art easel so your child can embrace their inner Picasso! This giveaway is valued at almost $300 and makes playing and learning easy AND safe for your child.  Head on over to the contest in the link below to learn more and enter to win. PLEASE NO ENTRIES HERE!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we aren’t giving away the aprons just showcasing them!

Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Children’s Movies).”

Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck to each of you!

Apple Pie Muffins

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Fall is my favorite season and what says autumn more than apples? I wanted to share with you one of my favorite apple recipes from my own kitchen. My family does not like apple pie, but they do really love my apple pie muffins that incorporate those delicious flavors of the apple pie with a simple crumb topping. If you happen to have an abundance of apples on hand, I highly recommend giving these apple muffins a try.

You can choose any kind of apples you like and we happened to have a large amount of Golden Delicious apples that worked really well in these. You just want to make sure that you select an apple that is sturdy enough and appropriate for baking. My usual selection in these apples is a Granny Smith because I love how the tart addition balances out the sweetness in these muffins.

The batter is sweet, but not too sweet, and the apples have a warmness to them thanks to the cooked apple and the cinnamon that is worked into the crumb topping and within the muffin itself.  Serve these up with a big glass of milk and you have the makings of a perfect snack!

Apple Pie Muffins (Adapted from

Crumb Topping:

1/2 cup  firmly packed  brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon


1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 cup of regular milk and then added 2 tsp. white vinegar to sour it)
3 cups diced peeled firm tart apples

Topping: In a small bowl toss together sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon until crumbly; set aside. Muffins: In a large bowl whisk together brown sugar, oil, egg, cinnamon, and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, soda and salt. Stir oil mixture into flour mixture alternately with buttermilk. Fold in apples, mixing just until combined. Spoon into greased muffin cups filling 3/4 full.
Sprinkle topping over evenly.  Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes (mine took about 27 minutes)  or until golden brown and tops spring back.


Frozen Crumb Topping

Crumb topping is an easy recipe to double or triple for your freezer. I love to make a huge batch of this to keep on hand for topping any muffins we might be creating in our kitchen. When you want to use it for your next batch of muffins, just pull it out and use a fork to give it a scraping to loosen the topping. I find when it is frozen, it makes it even easier to get that delicious crumb effect on top. It is my favorite topper to these muffins and my banana crumb muffins and adds that bakery feel to any baked goods you might be making!

If you still have lots of apples on hand, I highly recommend giving some of these Apple Pork Chops a try! They are moist, sweet, savory and the perfect addition to your menu planner!

What are your favorite apple recipes? Feel free to share your links or ideas for using those apples in your house!

Freebie Friday: September 17, 2010

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We are so lucky to have Freebies 4 Mom share their list of the best freebies of the week with our readers each and every Friday. Please visit her site for fabulous freebies and sweepstakes information every single day!  This week Heather is giving away 40 packs of Dentyne Pure gum.

On MomAdvice this week, we are sharing a delicious recipe for black bean & roasted red pepper soup, we are answering your questions on how to have success as a long-term blogger, a notebook of ideas, and over 70 great giveaways to enter.  Don’t forget to get your entry in for the Learning Tower with art easel & playhouse kit (an almost $300 value) today!

Health & Beauty
Jergens Moisturizer
Crest ProHealth toothpaste

Quaker Life Nutrition Bars
Smucker’s Uncrustables (daily giveaway thru 10/13)
Luxury Pasta (only AL, LA, MS)

$5 Sears/Kmart gift card for 5 Reviews
Seventeen magazine (3 issues)
Disney Moms Panel
Free eBook Collections

Cottonelle Fresh Flushable Wipes (full-size tub)
Glade Fragrance Gift Pack
Earth’s Best Playdate Parties
Tombstone Pizza Haunted House Party
Simple Holiday Pleasures House Party
BrewStation Cup of Creativity House Party
Martini Gold Party (details on Facebook)

World’s Best Cat Litter (free after rebate)
By Nature dog or cat food (free after rebate)