How to Make Gifting Money More Meaningful

Posted 04-26-2017 at 12:16 AM by Jessica

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We’ve all been there… It’s the day of someone’s birthday and you totally forgot to grab a gift for them. OR you’ve searched high and low for the perfect gift and you’ve come up empty-handed. You end up grabbing some cash out of your wallet and decide to stuff it in a card and call it good. But you don’t want it to look quite as last minute as it is… Here are a few ways that you can spruce up that cash and make it look like you put a bit more time into it.

Fold it into a fun origami shape: This is my go-to. I simply hand the bill to my husband and ask him to fold it into something creative. He loves origami, so it always ends up looking cute. My favorite is the origami frog design, but even something much simpler will work perfectly. Because of the rectangular shape some designs may be more complicated, but there are lots of tutorials out there to help you.

Skip the card: Well, don’t skip the card entirely. It’s still nice to write out your birthday wishes for that person, but instead of using the card to hold the money, look for something else instead! Perhaps a mason jar can be filled with colorful shredded paper and the bills can be hidden inside? Or maybe use a ribbon to roll up the bills and then tie them together? You can really do anything as long as it’s slightly out-of-the-box it will be so much more fun!

Use all ones: This is sure to make kids go nuts with excitement at seeing so many bills, and will be the perfect amount of annoying for adult recipients. (Just remind them that you could’ve gone with quarters instead!) Roll them all up and put them in a small box, or fan them all out and tape them to a piece of paper. Whatever you choose to do, it will be so much more unique when it’s done with 20 ones instead of 1 twenty.

Money is a favorite gift for lots of people. It gives the recipient a chance to treat themselves, and makes kids feel like they’ve just won a game of Jeopardy. However you choose to gift the money, the birthday person is sure to appreciate it very much!

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DIY Messy & Washable Sidewalk Chalk Paint

Posted 04-22-2017 at 12:15 AM by Jessica

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Sidewalk chalk is super fun, but want to know what’s even better? Sidewalk chalk paint! I bet you’ve seen the containers of it sold at the store, but did you know it’s actually really easy to make? This is a great activity for you and the kids to do together now that it’s getting warmer and we’re moving into Summer. Simply mix up a batch of this paint and your kids will be entertained for hours!

All you need for each color…

    • 1/3 cup cornstarch
    • 1/3 cup water (or whatever amounts you want; as long as they are equal parts)
    • 1 – 2 tablespoons washable paint (or a couple drops of food coloring works great, too)
    • small plastic containers with lids
    • lots of fun brushes and sponges!

In each plastic container or bowl mix the cornstarch and water together. Add in the paint or food coloring until you reach the color you want and viola! You have paint perfect for the driveway and sidewalk. When painted on the sidewalk it will start out light, but don’t worry! The colors will darken as the paint dries – your kids will be amazed!

This paint is great because it will wash right off of the driveway as soon as you spray it with the hose (or it rains). Messy but washable is exactly what you want for maximum kid and parent happiness.

Have fun!

Birthday Pancakes – A Fun Birthday Tradition

Posted 04-18-2017 at 12:12 AM by Jessica

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Do you have any family traditions for birthdays that you grew up with and hope to pass on to your kids? Birthday Pancakes are one of my favorite traditions. Each one of us would wake up on our birthday to a stack of pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse and adorned with candles. Mom, dad and siblings would all join in singing Happy Birthday to the birthday kid, and occasionally a present was opened early. The tradition was such a fun part of growing up, and made birthdays that much more special!

It doesn’t take much to make the birthday kid feel extra special on their big day. Just a stack of pancakes with some sprinkles and candles (and as much syrup as they want – that’s the real kicker) can be all you need to really start the day off right!

We always did standard pancakes, but thanks to the era of Pinterest, I have recently discovered Cake Batter Pancakes. It doesn’t get more “birthday” than that! Though you can find detailed recipes out there, I’ve learned that simply subbing out a bit of your regular pancake mix and replacing that bit with some yellow cake mix is really all there is to it! Add some sprinkles and viola! You’ve got yourself the best darned birthday pancakes anyone could ask for!

Let us know in the comments what some of your favorite birthday traditions are!

Growing Your Own Fresh Herbs and How It Saves You Money

Posted 04-15-2017 at 12:11 AM by Jessica

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Just a couple days ago I bought a basil plant. It cost me $3.49. I had just bought a small package of fresh basil leaves only a couple days earlier. That cost me $2.99. The plant has dozens of huge, healthy leaves. The package has maybe one dozen leaves that are already starting to wilt.

The packaged basil tastes the same (until it wilts) and sure, it’s easier to deal with. Doesn’t need to be kept in direct sunlight and watered frequently. It simply waits in your fridge until you need to use it. But it’s not at all cost effective! I actually LOVE the way my basil plant looks next to my kitchen sink in front of the window, and it’s not hard at all to keep the soil moist!

Personally, I think growing my own herbs is a sure-fire way to save money on my grocery bills since I love fresh herbs. I never used to use fresh herbs; I’d just use the dried variety, and it was fine! Until I tasted just how much better my meals were when I even substituted one dried herb for a fresh one. Basil is my favorite. It’s in so many common, yummy meals (omelettes, pesto sauce, tomato soup…) that I’m plucking leaves off my plant at least every other day for something. 

So if you find yourself looking to use more fresh herbs to season your meals, I’d highly recommend picking up a plant or two to help you save money. I also find that since it’s always right there, overflowing with goodness, you often look for more recipes to incorporate it into your cooking! Just make sure to do a little research on each plant and it’s individual needs, and you’re set!

Let me know what is your most favorite herb to cook with is in the comments!

Super Easy + Healthy One-Pot Taco Soup

Posted 04-12-2017 at 12:10 AM by Jessica

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Soups are the best because they’re super low-key. You can add just about anything to a pot with some broth or seasoned water and viola! It’s soup. Nothing fancy – no culinary degree required.

One of my favorite soups is Taco Soup mostly because it’s so easy to make, and super easy to improvise with whatever ingredients you have.

Here is what I usually like to add to my soup:

(*Remember, use whatever you have on hand!)

Ingredients:

1lb Ground Beef

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can corn

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 diced onion

1/2 cup cilantro

1 diced jalapeno

Juice from 1-2 limes

1 packet taco seasoning

1 packet ranch mix

3-4 cups water

Directions:

Brown beef in a large pot, then add all of the ingredients you’re using and let simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Top with sour cream (or plain greek yogurt), crushed tortilla chips and some shredded cheese if you so desire.

That was easy!

*Substitutions

No fresh cilantro in the fridge? Dried works fine, or just skip it entirely!

Don’t have canned tomatoes? Use some of that Pico de Gallo you have in your fridge (literally what I did last time, and it was SO good).

Hate corn? Cut up some carrots instead.

Don’t have taco seasoning? Use some seasonings like chili powder, cumin, garlic salt, red pepper flakes and/or cayanne pepper.

Vegetarian? Omit the beef entirely and add extra beans OR use vegetarian “beef” crumbles (MorningStar makes my favorite kind). 

Would rather use stock than water? Go for it! Just reduce the amount of seasonings you add.

Hate spicy foods? Use less seasoning and skip the jalapeno.

Want to bulk it up? Add in some quinoa or shell pasta!

As you can see, anything goes with this Taco soup! Just throw together whatever you have and you’ll have a super yummy, inexpensive AND easy soup made in less than 30 minutes!

 

4 Creative DIY Growth Markers

Posted 04-10-2017 at 12:09 AM by Jessica

My mom can’t be the only one to have us kids stand up against the wall so she could mark how tall we had gotten every so many months? In fact, I know she can’t be because my grandma still does it will all of her still-growing grandchildren to this day! (Though, thanks to my two taller-than-six-foot cousins she’s had to drag over a step stool so she can accurately measure them. ;) ) Almost every month she’ll have each grandchild stand up against the door frame of her pantry and pull out the trusted Sharpie! I think it’s an adorable tradition, and I love the idea of just using the wall or door frame, but if you’d like other less-permanent options for measuring your kids periodically check these out…

Four Creative DIY Growth Markers

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The Ruler 

This Pottery Barn “knock off” by 517Creations is SO cute. And it’s relatively easy with minimal supplies needed as well! Head here to check it out.

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Jute-Cloth Marker

I think this idea is so creative! It’s very unique and I love that you can transport it SO easily as the kids grow older and change rooms or you move to a new house. Get the instructions here.

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Growth Milestone Chart

For this one you’re not just marking the height, you’re also recording fun milestones as well! This one is similar to the ruler, though it’s much more detailed! Find inspiration here.

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Cloth Growth Chart

If you’re an embroidery whiz – this one’s for you! Or, if you’re not so handy in the sewing department (like myself) you can always use stamps or markers instead! I just love the whimsical feel of the fabric… It would look adorable in a nursery! Go here for the tutorial.

 

5 Hardy Houseplants That Purify the Air

Posted 04-8-2017 at 12:08 AM by Jessica

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I don’t have a green thumb AT ALL. I’m actually pretty terrible at keeping plants alive. I forget to water them, and then I go a little crazy and usually end up over watering them. But I love the ambiance plants bring to your home, and I especially love the fact that so many can help to clean your air. Pretty and purifying.

Here is a list of a few houseplants that are generally hard to kill, and help keep toxins out of the air you and your family are breathing.

1. Spider Plant:
I love these guys. They’re so easy to care for, too. Just keep them in a room where they can receive bright indirect sunlight and they can help rid your home of formaldehyde and xylene!

2. Garden Mum:
These pretty flowering plants help keep ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene out of the air you’re breathing. Woo hoo!

3. Ficus:
These babies can grow to be anywhere from 2 to 10 feet tall! They’re a unique-looking plant, a very easy plant to care for AND they’re a real threat to benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.

4. Peace Lily:
I love flowering plants that will still bloom indoors. The Peace Lily is a real air-cleaning champ, helping to get rid of ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene without asking much of you; simply keep them in a shady spot and keep the soil moist.

5. Snake Plant AKA Mother In Law’s Tongue:
Okay, why would anyone ever want to call this a Snake Plant when Mother In Law’s Tongue is the alternative?! I want this plant just for that reason alone. Oh, and also because it’s an extremely hardy plant that would be hard to kill even if you tried. And it takes care of benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and xylene. Perfection.

 

20 Fun Spring Bucket-list Activities with Kids

Posted 04-6-2017 at 12:05 AM by Jessica

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Now that the weather is getting warmer it’s time to switch over from that Winter activity bucket list to to a Spring one! There are lots of great things you can do with your kids in the great outdoors, whether that’s in your backyard, at the beach or up in the mountains – and it doesn’t have to cost much, either!

Here are just a few ideas…

  • Create a scavenger hunt
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood
  • Jump rope
  • Draw pictures with sidewalk chalk
  • Play hide-n-seek outdoors
  • Blow bubbles
  • Use hula-hoops
  • Have a BBQ
  • Play hopscotch
  • Find shapes in the clouds
  • Play baseball at a park (or a simple game of catch is always fun)
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Fly a kite
  • Start up a soccer or basketball game
  • Go on a picnic at the park
  • Take a hike (literally, ha)!
  • Collect seashells on a beach (or wade in the chilly water at a lake)
  • Plant flowers
  • Have a weed-pulling competition
  • Feed the ducks at a pond

There are so many fun things to do now that the weather is warmer! After being cooped up inside all Winter the kids will LOVE heading out to have some fun in the sun, even if it’s not totally warm yet. Be imaginative and you’re sure to make lots of great memories this Spring without having to spend a dime!

 

Saving Money at the Grocery Store without Using Coupons

Posted 04-3-2017 at 12:14 AM by Jessica

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I’ve always dreaded grocery shopping. Especially when you end up leaving the store feeling bad about how much money you had to spend! Here are a few simple tips for saving money at the grocery store without even needing to use coupons!

1. Stock up on sale items.
Even produce! Are the bananas on sale? Grab a bunch and freeze half of them. If it’s an item you use frequently it’s best to grab lots when it’s on sale.

2. Bring cash.
If you leave your credit or debit cards at home then you’re forced to only spend what you brought with you! You will need to make sure you’re calculating as you add items to the cart so that you don’t have to end up putting food back once you get to the register.

3. Buy generic.
Most generic items taste exactly the same, but are much cheaper. Choose the store-brand whenever possible.

4. Don’t shop hungry.
I repeat – don’t shop hungry. You’ll easily spend much more than you would with a full stomach!

5. Mean plan ahead of time.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a ton of food and ended up realizing I still couldn’t make many meals because I didn’t get all of the ingredients I needed for particular recipes. Also, lots of food would go bad because I simply didn’t have a plan for using it! Decide on the meals you’ll make for the next 2 weeks and buy what you need for them along with basic staples and snacks, and keep it at that.

6. Use an online curbside grocery pick-up service if available near you.
This is my all-time favorite money-saving secret. I order all of my groceries online and then pick them up at the store, curbside. It helps because I’m not tempted to buy whatever I see as I’m walking down the aisle, and I can always keep track of my total – simply deleting items if I feel I’ve gone over my budget. It saves me SO much time and energy. No running around the store looking for specific ingredients, pushing heavy carts, and praying that my total isn’t too high.

These are just a few of the many ways you can save money when you buy groceries. What are some of your tried-and-true tips?

 

Ditch the Standard Basket – 8 Creative Easter “Basket” Ideas for the Whole Family

Posted 04-2-2017 at 12:05 AM by Jessica

Baskets are darling, don’t get me wrong. They’re an Easter staple and a super fun tradition! But trust me, after seeing these super creative ideas for a non-traditional Easter “basket” you’ll likely ditch the standard basket for good! PLUS, there are ideas for everyone in the family!

For the littles…

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Dump Truck w/ Paw Patrol:

Paw Patrol is so in right now. And toy dump trucks are always in, making this a clever idea for the little ones! Click here to see the full description!

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Dump Truck w/ Candy:

If you weren’t already convinced that you need to make a dump truck basket, you should be fully converted now. Head here to see just how stinkin’ cute this is!

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Plastic Pool w/ Lots of Goodies:

Instead of doing multiple baskets for each kid, why not wow them all with this adorable idea?

For the teens…

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Filled Baseball Cap:

You know those ideas that are just so genius yet so simple you can’t help but wonder why you never thought of them? That’s how I feel about this Baseball Cap basket idea. This is perfect for any of your hat-loving teens (or spouses)!

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Makeup Bag Basket: 

I would have loved this girly Easter surprise as a teen! Ha. Who am I kidding? I would STILL love this today. Fill up a makeup bag with a few of their favorite products and throw in some candy and viola! You’ll have a very happy lady.

For the adults…

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Tool Box w/ Goodies:

Got a handy-man (or woman) at home? They’ll LOVE this idea. Stuff a tool box with some of the equipment they need and throw in a few treats as well! Hop on over here for more info.

For everyone…

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Umbrella Easter Baskets:

Okay… I think this is my favorite idea, and that’s saying something because these are all so creative! You have got to learn more about how to make these Umbrella Easter Baskets – they would be a HUGE hit with everyone!

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Beach Towel Bunnies:

You know how I said that the Umbrella baskets are my favorite? Well… I think they are tied with this idea. This ‘Bunnies made from Beach Towels‘ idea doesn’t link to a blog as it was just an image uploaded by user Jacqlyn Smith to Pinterest, but she did mention in the comments that she followed the instructions in this YouTube tutorial, simply starting with a Beach Towel folded in half instead of a washcloth. CUTE!


There you go! 9 super unique Easter Basket ideas, minus the “basket.” Let me know what your favorite non-traditional Easter gifts are in the comments!