Friday, September 30, 2016

Pumpkin Witch Garden

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SnappleRollback

When the world gets crazy all around me, I love to just take a couple of hours and craft. Crafting, especially when I am making something I am really excited about, like this Witch Garden, really helps me unwind. This craft is the perfect girls night or me time. It is easy to pull together, and who doesn't love little miniatures? So pull out your crafting supplies and your favorite flavor of Snapple® and organize a fun, stress free girls night.

For the Witch Garden Girls Night You Will Need:
  • a faux pumpkin
  • black stones
  • moss
  • Halloween figurines
  • Snacks
  • Snapple 64 Oz bottles
Check around at your local crafts stores for the fake pumpkins. They come in all shapes and sizes and even in quite a few colors. I was delighted to find this pumpkin with the cutout already in it because it meant one less step for me. If you buy a pumpkin without a cutout, you will need to carve an opening into the side of it. You could use a real pumpkin but it will only last a few days and this is such a cute decoration you are going to want it to stick around.

Fill the bottom of your pumpkin with rocks. I bought two bags of river stones from the dollar store and I needed both of them. I really loved the way the black stones looked in the pumpkin, but any stones you can find would work. You could even pull them from your yard and save yourself a couple of dollars.

Add a layer of moss on top of the stones. I used a Cherry Spanish Moss to keep with the orange and black theme.

After you add your moss your pumpkin is ready for the figures. My pumpkin has a total of five pieces in it. Two pumpkin stacks, a little witch, a Halloween gate and a black cat. The pumpkins and cat came from a craft store but the little witch and gate came from the dollar store. I was able to create a garden that I loved for an awesome price.

Whenever I have a craft night, whether by myself or with my friends one of the most important parts of the night is the snacks. What is a girls night without snacks? We have fallen in love with Kiwi Strawberry Snapple, my family calls it "pink juice." It is the perfect drink to unwind with anytime.

I love to cut up some fresh strawberries to go with it. My favorite is sharing Snapple with a whole fruit tray!

Right now, only at Walmart, 64 Oz. Snapple products are on Rollback at Walmart from $1.98 to $1.50. So you can have your girls night or me time for a great deal! I always feel better after a little me time, and I am sure you will too!

Which Snapple do you take a flavorful break with?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gluten Free Sweet and Sour Chicken

My whole family loves Sweet and Sour Chicken. It is something I made often before I went gluten free and It was honestly really easy to convert to a gluten-free recipe. It is so good, you will question whether or not it really is gluten-free

Chicken Ingredients :

  • 2- 3 lbs of chicken
  • cornstarch
  • 3 eggs

Cut chicken into pieces. Make a bowl of cornstarch and add a little bit of garlic salt. Make a bowl of the eggs whisked. Dips the chicken into the eggs and then into the cornstarch. Put in at pan at 375 , pretty hot with oil. Brown in sections, set aside on paper towel. Add oil each time each time you add a new batch.


  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 1 ½ c. vinegar
  • 1 ½ c. water
  • 1 teaspoon boullion ( I use Better Than Boullion) 
  • 3 tbs ketchup
  • 3 tbs soy sauce (Gluten Free) 
  • 3 teaspoons garlic salt
Combine all the ingredients and simmer 5-10 minutes. Turn down the electric skillet with the chicken in it to 240. Pour liquid in with the chicken. Stir in thickening of 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch with water, then stir in pan.(In a thickening all you do is add the right amount of cornstarch and then add enough water to make a small paste. This will help thicken your sauce up.)

This is probably one the the easiest Gluten Free Dishes I make and it reheats so well! This dish also reheats really well, so make extras and have leftovers!
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tips for a perfect DIY 1 Year Old Photo Shoot

We have all seen them on Pinterest. The cute cake smash photo or darling picture with a large number 1st birthday photos are all the rage right now, as they should be. It is a big deal for your little one to have their first birthday and celebrating it with a cake smash and photo shoot is the perfect way to remember it. Unfortunately, depending on where you go, a one year photo session can be kind of pricey. Don't let that stop you from getting the photos you want. Take them yourself! Read through these tips to help get the pictures you want at home! 


  •  Use a nice camera. While you can try and take these photos with your point and shoot, you are going to be happier with a nicer camera. You will be able to take photos faster, capturing your favorite moments. It seems like almost everyone has a nice camera, so ask around and see if you can borrow your sister's or friend's. 
  • A couple of people at a photo shoot is plenty. The more people you get that are telling a child what to do, the more confused they get. Keep it simple. One or two people to help with smiles is usually plenty. 
  • Work on your child' schedule! If they take naps at noon, don't try to photograph at noon. Photograph when they are the happiest. 

  • Try to capture who they are. Sometimes a pictures of a child, sitting and smiling for the camera work. Most of the time,they don't. Let the child be themselves. Let them wander and explore. Who knows you might find your best shots just by following them around
  • Try not to get frustrated. Your child will be able to tell you are frustrated and it will make it harder to get natural smiles. 

  • 1-year-old have a short attention span. Really short. Be prepared with props, outfits and whatever else you want to do. Don't be unrealistic, or you will both just end up frustrated. 
  • Go to their level. I spend most of the time I shooting a small child either squatting or on my knees. Being at their height allows you to interact with them better and it lets you see the world the way they do.

  • The best photo from a shoot isn't always one where they are looking at the camera. Capture all sorts of images. The ones you end up liking might surprise you.

Props: There are so many darling prop ideas out there for 1 year old birthdays. Try to pick props that really represent who your child is at this age, as well as some that celebrate their birthday. My favorite props for this age include: 

  • a large number 1
  • favorite blankets
  • favorite toys
  • balloons
  • birthday hats
  • cute chairs and benches
  • chalkboard with some of their favorite things written on it
  • a cake, for a cake smash

Location, Location, Location: 

You are so excited to capture your little's one first year of life in pictures, but where should you take them? It is much easier to get well lit, professional looking pictures when you take them outdoors, so try that first. Is it too cold or outside doesn't work for one reason or another? Try taking them inside in the middle of the day, next to a large window. If you do decide to go with a location, it can seem overwhelming to decide, here are some great suggestions as to wear to take these special photos.

Parks are always a good bet. They have lots of room to run around and usually lots to photograph. Look for a park with the following, which will help break up the background and give you lots of picture options.
  • Shallow Creeks. Especially on a hot summer day, it is fun to let your little ones wade into the water for some cooled off fun.

  • Bridges and waterfalls. There are so many things you can do with a good bridge. Bridges also help to break up the background so you don't look like you are shooting on a straight green field.
  • Fun and colorful playground equipment.
  • Large rocks. 

I love shooting in front of awesome old buildings. I look for old bricks, columns and historic old buildings to bring fun and texture to a shoot.

I love hitting up the beach, a local creek or waterfall for some fun and gorgeous pictures during the summer.

Consider seasonal ideas as well.

Is there a gorgeous flower patch or wheat field nearby? Is there a place where the autumn leaves are falling gorgeously? These are great places for photos!

Time of Day:

It would seem like shooting outside would always provide the perfect lighting. After all, the sun is out and shining, coating nearly every surface in a nice, warm light. Unfortunately, that's just not the case.

There may be 24 hours in a day, but there are about 4 total hours that are quality photo shoot times. The best times of day to shoot pictures are in the morning, just after the sun has risen and about an hour or two before sunset.  These may seem like arbitrary times, but there is some scientific backing for it. At those two times of day, the angle of the sunlight spreads the sunlight more evenly across surfaces and it's not as intense as midday or afternoon. Plus, the sunlight takes on different colors because of the way the light scatters in the atmosphere at those times of the day.

I know the afternoon would be just perfect to shoot, but try your best to avoid it. The sun is directly overhead and extremely intense. If you think about it, the effect is similar to a bare bulb over an interrogation suspect. The top of the head is well lit, but it casts many shadows that can look natural in person, but will likely look strange in a photograph. Remember, our eyes perceive light differently than a camera does because our brains process the information through experience filters of "how the universe should be." Cameras are not so forgiving.

If you do need to shoot during the middle of the day, look for a place with nice shady patches and watch your white balance is the shade so you don't end up with photos that have a blue tone. 


There is something about taking pictures that makes a toddler suddenly hungry. I like to bring along delicious and protein filled snacks to help keep them going longer through a photo shoot, like Gerber Lil' Beanies.

The first bean-based snack in the baby aisle, Gerber® Lil’ Beanies is made from the goodness of navy beans to deliver 2 grams of protein (9% Daily Value), 1 gram of fiber, and 10% Daily Value of Vitamin E per serving. Gerber® Lil’ Beanies Snack is baked, not made with genetically engineered (GM) ingredients, and is naturally flavored.

It is one of my very favorite snacks to keep on hand because my daughter loves it, and I know that I am giving her something good to eat that gives her good calories instead of junk good calories.

Gerber Lil' Beanies are the perfect snack to keep on hand during the photo shoot because they are crunchy and fun, but don't make the kind of mess most of the crunchy snacks do and you can feel good about what you are giving them! We pick up these guys in the baby aisle at Target when we do the rest of our shopping. From the second they hit the cart until the checkout, my toddler is begging me to open them up for her.

Right now there is an offer on Ibotta to earn .75 cents when you purchase any flavor of Lil' Beanies! Head over here to check out the details.

What are you favorite 1st birthday photo ideas?
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Easy Elmo Cupcakes

My two-year-old is right in the middle of her Elmo phase. She requests Elmo's world as her lullaby and begs to watch Sesame Street. Her birthday party was full of red and Elmo from the decorations to the party games, but I have to say these little cupcakes were my favorite part. They were so easy to make and were the absolute hit of the party.

You will need:

  • cupcakes 
  • red frosting in a piping bag with a star tip 
  • candy eyes
  • orange gumballs
Add red frosting in a piping bag with a star tip. Make sure you if you make the frosting that you use a no-taste red formula for the dye, so you don't end up with dye flavored frosting. Make short stars all over the top of the cupcake with the frosting to give Elmo his fur.  Add the eyes and gumballs and in just a couple of minutes, you have the cutest homemade cupcake, perfect for an Elmo party! 

This last week, my 2-year-old received some serious happy mail. She told me it was the best day of her life. Along with the Elmo backpack and hat, that she can't get over was the new Love2Learn Elmo Toy! This toy is so cool that my 7-year-old keeps playing with it too!

The Love2Learn Elmo is synced with an app on the parent's phone so that Elmo is completely personalized to each child. Elmo says the child's name and parents can even have Elmo praise their child for cleaning up or brushing their teeth. Elmo is programmed to know much more than just the name of their new best friend. He knows their favorite colors, animals and favorite foods.

This Elmo is much more than a toy, he can be customized to your child's learning level to help your child learn their letters, numbers, shapes, colors and animals. My daughter LOVES that he responds when you clap his hands, in fact, he has multiple sensors so he is really responsive.

Tonight, we laid Elmo down in the doll bed by my daughter's crib. We tucked him into the blankets and I sat at the door and listened to Elmo talk to her as she chatted about her day to him. I love that at this age, he isn't a toy, he is a friend. This Elmo has only been in our house a few days and he is high up on the list of favorite toys. I am pretty sure this little friend is going to be on a lot of kids Christmas's lists this year!

Would your kiddos love this Elmo as much as mine do? You can enter to win your own Elmo Love2Learn, using the Rafflecopter below!

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Love2Learn Elmo
Large Candy Eyes
No Taste Red Food Coloring

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Pearl Bubble Necklaces

Three different dresses, one necklace. My girls were just flower girls in both of their aunt's weddings and with Christmas coming up, there are a lot of new dresses in their future. They needed necklaces to wear with all three dresses, but instead of making three different necklaces, I went with a simple and gorgeous necklace that would match all three. I love how these pearl bubble necklaces turned out and they really do go with just about everything! 

I got everything I needed for this necklace from Fizzy Pops! 

You will need from Fizzy Pops:

 First you will need to cut your wire the desired length of your necklace plus 1.5 inches on each side. My wire is 20 inches long, plus the 1.5 inches on each side, for a total of 23 inches.

Close a 6mm jump ring and slide it on the end of your wire. Loop the wire around the ring and then slide two crimp beads over both sections of wire. Use a pair of pliers to crimp the crimp beads down until they are tight and flat. You can also add an extender chain at this point, if you want to. For detailed instructions on adding an extender chain, check out the Fizzy Pops tutorial here.

After your beads are crimped. you are ready to add your necklace beads.

Spacer Bead
Pearl Bead
Spacer Bead
Pearl Bead

(repeated 4x)

Spacer Bead
Flower Pendant
Space Bead

Spacer Bead
Pearl Bead
Spacer Bead
Pearl Bead

(repeated 3x)

Slide a lobster clasp onto a 6mm jump ring and then close the jump ring. Slide the jump ring onto the wire and then double back the wire through the crimp beads and a couple extra of the necklace beads. Crimp the crimp beads until they are tight and then trim the excess wire.

If you want the rose pendent to hang directly in the center, instead of to the side, use the same amount of beads on each side of the necklace, instead of a few more on one side. You can also make this necklace a straight pearl necklace by omitting the flower pendent.

I truly love Fizzy Pops! They have the best quality beads and great customer service. I have made quite a bit with their beads. You can check out my other Fizzy Pops Necklace tutorials here: BB8 Necklace, Red, White and Blue Necklace, Harry Potter House Necklaces and a Oreo Necklace.

Fizzy Pops has generously offered to give on lucky reader the supplies to make their own pearl necklace, like the ones my daughters are wearing in the photos!
Contest is open to the USA, enter using the Rafflecopter below?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Who would you make a necklace for? 
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Fall Cupcakes and Pumpkin Donuts!

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