Monday, October 31, 2011

I will not be doing a Monday Inspiration today and I am not going to apologize for it!:) I am in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin with my husband! This is our first time getting away from the children! IN. FOUR. YEARS! It is bittersweet, it was hard to leave but it is nice to get a break. Thank you again to my parents for watching our kids so we can enjoy our time!

Have a great week!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Acorn Kisses

(At this point I am realizing that maybe I could have put them on something nicer than a paper plate but oh well)

I have seen these babies in a number of places this year. No wonder that they are this fall's hot treat because they are so stinkin' cute! What's even better is that they are easy and don't require a culinary degree to make them! My children enjoyed helping me make these but I warn that this is more like a very messy craft project for them and is not for those who are faint of heart when it comes to doing craft type projects with their children. They looked like Willy Wonka's grandkids when we were finished!
This is everything you need to make the Acorn Kisses- Hershey Kisses, Nutter Butter Bites, thin pretzels and chocolate chips!
First, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring each time, until chocolate is completely melted.
I found that it works best if you put the melted chocolate on the cookie and then place the Kiss on top. Sometimes I used the entire cookie and other times I twisted the cookie apart. Do whichever you prefer.
Place the Kisses on wax paper to dry.
Once the chocolate is dry, attach the pretzel tops by slightly re-melting the chocolate (do not melt too far or the chocolate will be too soft to stick onto the cookie) and dipping one end. Try to get a small glob on it so there is enough chocolate to "glue" the pretzels. Let dry and you have adorable acorns!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

Back in my "youth" I worked at a number of phenomenal restaurants and caterers (and occasionally still do!) One of my favorite things that I looked forward to when the weather turned cooler was a wonderful collection of soul-satisfying autumn fare.  My favorite was always squash soup. Since I now am a stay at home mother, I am constantly searching for recipes that replicate food that I regularly enjoyed in my prior life. When I recently found the blog Our Best Bites, I FINALLY found a recipe for Butternut squash soup that satisfies my cravings. It truly feels like velvet on the tongue.  Make it. Try it. You'll love it!

Butternut Squash Soup

1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 Cup sliced carrots (about 1 med carrot)
2 stalks celery, diced
1 Cup diced onion
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium butternut squash, cubed (about 4 cups)
1 medium potato, diced (about 2 Cups)
32 oz chicken broth (that’s one box/carton)
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon dried sage
1 pinch cayenne pepper

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil and butter. When butter is melted add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic.
Saute for 2-3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add the squash, potato, sage, salt, red pepper, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Simmer with the lid on for 30-40 minutes or until everything is tender. Check a piece of squash and also a piece of celery and potato to make sure they area fork tender. Stir in 1 Tablespoon brown sugar.
Use an immersion blender, or transfer soup to a regular blender and puree until smooth.

Sara from Our Best Bites recommends topping with parsley or sour cream.
However, from personal experience and preference, I topped with a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese. Try it this way. The drizzle of olive oil seems unnecessary but it adds an amazing roundness to the soup.

Serves 6-8.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Contentment- It's Your Choice

These days are here, these days are now.
Help us treasure everyday somehow.
Don't look back or up ahead, but
live and love today.
These days are here and then they're gone,
Help us be content; they won't last long,
For we only have these days.

                                    - words by Laurie  Hilliard
                                            -music by Pat and Sharon Autry

   Wow- I was shocked when I came across this. A few weeks ago I started jotting down words very similar to this when I had found a lump on my thyroid which turned out not to be cancer but got me thinking A LOT about my family. Even though the chance was slim that it would be cancer, those days of uncertainty really put many things into perspective and solidified my list of priorities.
    The fact is, I was suddenly looking at my life differently because of a health concern but it could be anything that could put my life or quality of life in jeopardy.  I have said in the past that when I would come across something that I found inspiring, it seamed to fade after time and I would forget about my new found outlook. I didn't want this experience to fade and I realized, truly realized, that tomorrow could be my last day because of a car accident or any other catastrophe. That's when I started writing words that sounded very much like this because I didn't want to forget how I was feeling in that moment. That life is about today. What does that mean for me? That I want to give my best to everything every day. I may have commitments to take my kids to playdates and gymnastics but when I get home, I don't want it to be an excuse for why I didn't read books, do projects or love my children as much as I can. If you have been reading along with my blog, you know that this has also lead to guilt issues that I didn't accomplish everything everyday but I'm working on that!
   Then, not only with my children but also my husband, friends and family I have a different outlook. I let stuff go a lot more now and try to concentrate on the positive. My husband may not be perfect (who is?!) but in the end of the day, I know that he truly loves me (and shows it in his ways) and I find THAT to be much more important than if he helped put the dishes back correctly. I am not perfect myself but I also feel a lot less accepting of negative thinking, my own outlook now is that life is too short!
   In the end, yesterday already happened and all we can do with that is learn from it. Tomorrow hasn't happened yet so why spend precious time today worrying about it when tomorrow can worry about itself!
Have a great week and be content because it is what you have now!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Christmas Card Holder from A Diamond in the Stuff

This is the cutest idea for storing Christmas cards! OK, so I'm not actually going to make this for myself this year but I will put a shutter on my "keep an eye out at garage sales" list to make for next year. In the meantime, I have to share this tutorial with you from A Diamond in the Stuff that was posted last December. If anyone has an extra shutter laying around, it would save me searching for one so please let me know!

And this was the top half of the shutter:

Isn't this awesome?!
 Once again, the link for this project is at:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thoughts from Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy!

Today I thought I would share just a few simple thoughts I've found in "Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy" by Barbera Johnson. I haven't read the entire book yet but some of these extra thoughts at the end of her chapters really stick with me!



Choose to love- rather than hate.
Choose to smile- rather than frown.
Choose to build- rather than destroy.
Choose to persevere- rather than quit.
Choose to praise- rather than gossip.
Choose to heal- rather than wound.
Choose to give- rather than grasp.
Choose to act- rather than delay.
Choose to forgive- rather than curse.
Choose to pray- rather than despair.

                                          -Source Unknown


Life is easier than you think-
All you have to do is:
Accept the impossible,
Do without the indispensable,
Bear the intolerable
Be able to smile at anything.

                                          -Source Unknown



We do not understand:
Joy... until we face sorrow,
Faith... until it is tested,
Peace... until faced with conflict,
Trust... until we are betrayed,
Love... until it is lost,
Hope... until confronted with doubts.

                                         -Source Unknown


Have a great week!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fire Starters Tutorial

A number of years ago one of our friend's mother told me how to make homemade fire starters. We enjoy spending many summer weekends around the campfire at the cottage and at my parents' who live up north in Wisconsin. My husband prides himself on being an awesome fire builder and when we made these he was pleasantly surprised how much easier they made starting the fire. I know this comes at the end of summer but it could also be used in fireplaces or make great homemade Christmas gifts for the children to give!
Start with egg cartons and remove the two flaps
 You will need to save dryer lint for a few weeks until you have enough to stuff the egg cartons. It actually takes more than you would think once you really pack it in there. At this point you can tell we have a dog by all the hair in the lint!
 Just take the lint and pack it in the egg spots. If giving as gifts, it would be neat to save fun colors, maybe from the first time you wash new towel, etc.
 Next you will need paraffin wax. A few years ago these paraffin " melting pots" were really popular so if you have one, pull it out. Otherwise, just warm it in a bag in some hot water. It really is ideal to use the paraffin because it is the lowest temperature melting wax. When you use this to start a fire you don't want a wax that needs to get very hot before it melts. Also, if you have young helpers, this means that if by accident the wax would spill or drip on their hand it will just feel hot but not burn them (we use this wax on clients' hands during facials.)
 With a disposable cup, pour just enough paraffin over the lint to cover and seal it. You want to try to use as little as possible to do this and not soak the egg carton.
 The fire starters always turn out better if you have an adorable helper!

When you're ready to use them, just place the fire starters on top of the kindling and under the wood tepee.
Light the fire starter....
Sit back...
And wait for it to slowly turn into a beautiful fire!
Be sure to finish the evening enjoying your fire with...
A gorgeous sunset...
And hotdogs and marshmallows!

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Guilt-Free Tale

A Guilt-Free Tale by Michelle Leichty

  Once upon a time as a mother, I wasted plenty of time feeling guilty. Guilty I wasn't making cute crafts with my preschoolers. Guilty I wasn't making fancy lunches to tempt my toddler's appetite.
One day, as I sat feeling overwhelmed by my responsibilities and a messy house, I stopped. I looked at the precious baby I was nurturing, and and I heard the happy voices of my toddlers and preschoolers.
  I realized: I'm not that bad!
  I thought about my husband's grandmother, raised on a Midwest farm. Grandma Marce inspired me during those early years with kids. Whenever I felt guilty about hiding the craft supplies, I thought about her life raising three boys, largely without the benefit of electricity. I asked Grandma Marce if she ever had time to read to her children.
  "Oh, I remember Junior (her eldest) had an alphabet book. He would sit on the floor in the kitchen with that book, and I would read it over his shoulder while I washed the dishes. He loved that book."Junior is a well-adjusted adult, a retired teacher and leader in his church. Yet Grandma Marce couldn't stop working just to read to him.
  I started looking at the time my appliances saved me and decided to use that time to read to my children. I began to focus on what I liked. Crafts make me feel grumpy. Then I snap at the children. Why feel guilty avoiding crafts? I love reading. So I started reading to my children. After breakfast, we'd pile on the couch for a reading session. I felt better about being a mom. And I focused on loving my kids the way I knew best.

This article is from MomSense- the periodical from MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers)

  I have been struggling with guilt myself lately. Some of it justified but most of it not. Justified guilt over losing patience with my children and after I really thought about it, most of it was caused by myself. I would talk to my mother every morning on the phone and when my children got crazy  (as most children do when you are on the phone) it would upset me and we had a bad start to the day. Now I wait until they are doing something constructive like play-doh (or sometimes not until naps) and the day runs smoother. I also became irritated when the kids wouldn't move fast enough as we were leaving for somewhere. Now I see how it really is my fault that I didn't start the process earlier to give them enough time (I tend to run late, that's one more thing I'm working on.) I am happy to say that truly realizing all of this has helped immensely!
  Then, I know, there is unjustified guilt and I'm working on that as well. I have been trying to improve all the areas where I feel I am falling short.  After A Guilt Free Tale, I started to think about how silly some of my expectations have been. I too have guilt over not being perfect. Some days I don't read as many books as I'd like, make as healthy of meals, do enough craft projects, get all the dishes done, have the place spotless (which never actually happens but I always hope.) I'm not saying that these are not important, they just don't need to all be done everyday. Now, at the end of the day, if I know I worked hard, did my best (which is most days), spent quality time with the children and didn't get impatient- I too now realize: I'm not that bad!
  As moms, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We need to look at them and use it to our advantage. No two moms are created equal and we each need to see our own strengths and stop comparing ourselves to the rest. Each of us are unique and we all need to appreciate that!

Have a great week!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A few months back I read an article about an non-profit organization called ConKerr Cancer which provides homemade pillowcases for children with life changing illnesses or injuries. It was a very touching story about a mother who made a special pillowcase for her son when he became ill and was in the hospital. As his illness progressed, so did her need to help other sick children by starting ConKerr Cancer and making pillowcases to brighten the life of other children who were going through the same thing. It is such a wonderful organization and I plan to donate as I am so blessed that my children are healthy and my heart goes out to all the families who go through children illnesses.

On a lighter note, this article also gave me the idea to make special pillowcases for my children for different occasions. I am thinking that I can have a few options of extra pillowcases for when they get sick for them to choose from to add a small amount of cheer to an otherwise unpleasant experience. I also had the thought of making special pillowcases for going to the cottage, camping, traveling, etc. The first ones I chose to make were for our last weekend at the cottage for the season.

Directions for making pillowcases can be found at the these links: ConKerr Cancer under "Help Out" or at the blog MADE!

This is my son's pillow at the cottage. Both of my children were so excited to have the special pillows! My daughter walked around with it and layed down everywhere pretending to sleep!

 I found the cutest "vintage looking" cowboy fabric for him and cowgirl fabric for her.

 Here are both the cowboy and cowgirl pillowcases with matching red horseshoe fabric on the edges.

 I love the true vintage curtains in the back that my husband's Grandmother made years ago for the cottage.

I just had to add this picture of my son holding one of the many bugs that he found. It's a good thing he got such a great night's sleep on his special pillow to give him more energy for exploring!

Here is the link one more time to ConKerr Cancer. I really love this charity and plan to make pillowcases to donate. There will be more information to come on the average cost of a pillowcase after I spend some time scouring the sales & clearance racks to find affordable but cute children's fabrics. My plan is to ask for donations to help cover the cost of the fabric and then I will sew them. It can be a great combined effort for a great cause!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Top Money Savers for Families

Those who know me know that I love saving money and getting great deals. The reason I included this in Monday Inspirations is because I personally know many (ours included) families who choose to have mom stay at home or worked reduced hours. This translates into less income and more bodies as before and I think that family budgeting can be just as difficult as many of the other tasks required by moms. I find it inspirational to read some of these money saving tips and use them to improve my portion of our money spending. #10 Buying Things You Don't Need- Since reading this, I have remembered it and put items back after asking myself "do I really need this?" Sometimes small reminders like this lagging in the back of your mind can really help. 

Top 10 Wastes of Money Families Can Avoid

What is the biggest waste of money every family could easily avoid? We asked our Top 25 Money-Saving Tips Bloggers and they divulged over 60 smart ways to trim family expenses. Here, we reveal the 10 most popular tips. Time to stop these money-wasting habits, and start saving!

#10 Buying Things You Don’t Need
“Buying things you don't need or can't afford is the biggest waste of money. This is true for grocery, drugstore, household, big-ticket items, things for your kids — anything and everything. You really have to ask yourself, is this something I (we) REALLY need?” -Michelle Hovestadt, Wicked Cool Deals

#9 Eating Junk Food While Traveling
"It is amazing how much money you can waste just by stopping at fast food places and convenience stores. Make sure to pack a cooler with snacks, sandwiches and drinks for the driver and all passengers!...If you wait until you are on the road, not only will you pay full price, you will normally pay an inflated price for the convenience." -Mommy’s Money-Saving Obsession

#8 Paying Full Price for Toothpaste
"There are plenty of coupons in the Sunday inserts for a variety of toothpaste...every family can find one or many that suits their needs...Smaller sizes combined with coupons will have the biggest savings." -Rebecca Autry, Moms Saving Money

#7 Eating Out
"Many families are on busy schedules and trying to fit in a sit down meal at the dinner table is hectic. One of the quick answers is to hit the drive through, or order a pizza. These ‘quick fixes’ add up to major money! … A little planning can go a long way and save a lot of money!" -Wendy Pesce, Saving With Wendy

#6 Skipping Meal-Planning
"By creating a meal plan you not only save money at the grocery store, but you save money by not eating out as much. If you already have a plan for dinner that night you are less likely to deviate from it." -Lauren Greutman, I am THAT lady

#5 Residential Phone Bill
"Many people have already deleted their home phone bill through the use of cell phones…but what if your plan isn't unlimited? Ooma is VOIP that has very little cost after you buy it. It costs around $200 and then you only pay about $3.50 per month thereafter. Ooma gives you unlimited local and long-distance calling, caller ID, call waiting, and voice-mail." -King Dealio

#4 “Now” Thinking
"Black Eyed Peas talk about being a “Now Generation.” We don't have to get things now unless we can afford them! How many people get things now and pay for them later? The only thing is...[then] people really pay for them! -Enza’s Bargains

#3 Not Using Coupons
“There are so many great high value coupons and ways to ‘stack’ and ‘double’ your coupon savings, that it is a waste of money to pay full price for just about anything! You can shop according to the weekly sales and match them up with available coupons to get the most savings power! There are many items that you can get for free or very close to it when you use this method!” -Adventures of a Couponista

#2 Being a Brand Snob
“Do not rely on certain brands. Do not only buy a brand you think your family loves...Different brands will have sales and coupons at different times. This means that even the most expensive brand may be free or close to it at a certain time….Once you start getting the brands that are on sale or have coupons, you will really save a LOT MORE MONEY!” -Sarah, Raining Hot Coupons

#1 Your Family’s Personal Money Waster
“I believe the biggest money waster a family can avoid resides right inside each of our heads. Changing your habits, planning ahead and vowing to work together as a family will make all the difference. Everyone is different and must find their shortcomings and resolutions...You have to find out what’s costing you, and take steps to change your habits.” -Wendy S., Gimmie Freebies

I hope you gained something out of these great money saving tips!

Have a great week!