Candy-free, junk-free, still awesome Easter egg hunt ideas!

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Easter is coming, and I’m usually stoked about it because to us, it’s a time to celebrate SPRING!!!! Being from Florida and now living in North Carolina, winter blues have become a depressing part of life. All the gray, dry limbs just make my heart sad. Even after ten years in NC, these dreary months are no fun. So Easter has become a celebration of all the gorgeous color that’s coming back to life in all its pastel glory!

We tend to do our own little egg hunts at home.  I like that it’s just us instead of the madness that happens at public egg hunts. Still, sometimes we struggle with what to put in them. We try not do to a lot of candy, but I’m a little sick of the non-candy alternatives. Seriously, our home is just about at capacity with all that tiny junk: the tiny plastic ‘toys’, hair bows that my daughter won’t wear anyway, more stickers, more temporary tattoos, tiny tubs of play-doh that dry up five minutes after you open them and turn into a crumbly mess all over the house….yeah. I’m done with all that.

So what to do? After some thought, we decided on money and power. What kid wouldn’t want that?

  1. Money: Our kids are starting to learn to save up for things they want. We have a bunch of spare change. Why not fill the eggs with some money? Change can add up quickly, and this will give them an extra chance to learn money management, counting and all that stuff.
  2. Power: We did this in the form of coupons. You know how some people do ‘love’ coupons for their significant other sometimes? Like “free massage” and stuff like that? We adapted this concept for easter eggs. Ours will include things like: choosing a restaurant, choosing a movie for family movie night, staying up past bedtime, choosing the next family outing, and some funny ones like ‘make daddy do the sprinkler dance’.

Admittedly, some of our easter eggs will still have candy and toys (mostly balloons and stick on mustaches). I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t enjoy it and it would all be a big fail, but they loved it! The coupons were so exciting for them, and it’s become a ‘thing’ in our house throughout the year.

And the actual Easter baskets? Our approach to baskets also follows our no-junk philosophy. We reuse the egg hunt baskets or ‘package’ everything in something that is part of the gift. One year we got the kids plastic chairs for the yard (the $5 walmart ones that are still kicking around our yard years later), so the ‘basket’ was the chair. We used beach buckets one year as well. We generally take it as an opportunity to stock up on spring and summer items that we’ll get them anyway, but are so fun. Some examples are:

  • beach towels
  • sidewalk chalk
  • bubble solution and a new cool bubble toy
  • flip flops
  • beach/pool toys

I hope these ideas help your spring celebrations and help keep some sanity in everyday life!

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Our New Thanksgiving Tradition: Simplify and Do Our Own Thing

Happy Thanksgiving! I love this time of year. Everyone gets together, feasts together, and we all stop to focus on the good stuff in life.

Our celebration this year is different from our norm. Typically, we spend our Thanksgiving with family, on a big farm with all the usual trimmings: big turkey, stuffing/dressing, mac and cheese, pumpkin pie…the works. But this year, we’re not going. And I’m kind of excited. The years we’ve stayed home have usually had a major reason – usually baby-related (miscarriage, too close to due date, and then a brand-new baby). This year, a slew of small factors combined to keep us home, and I can’t wait to celebrate with just my little family of four-plus-dog.

If you know me, you’ve probably heard of my semi-rant about Thanksgiving. I just don’t understand why we cook a turkey, which is by nature dry, and what 80% of people have for lunch every day, to celebrate any holiday. I mean, how many times have you heard people say they’d rather have the sides than the main dish? Yet we all go out and pick out the ‘perfect’ turkey and spend almost an entire day babying it to try to make it ‘perfect.’ I don’t understand why we spend our precious time off stressing.

So this year, since we’re in control of the festivities, we decided to go off the beaten path. Which means simplifying what we do, and basing our choices on we’d enjoy, rather than what we’re supposed to do, while sticking to a basic framework of main dish, veggie, gratuitous carb and dessert.

Here’s our menu:
Grilled churrasco steaks with chimichurri sauce (sorry but steak > turkey any day, my friends)
green bean bundles (green beans tossed in olive oil, garlic and salt, wrapped in bacon and cooked til crisp)
mofongo (latin dish of green plantains mashed with pork cracklins – chicharrones to my people – and garlic)
apple crisp

Since I know my kids won’t eat the steak, and might or might not go near the mofongo (sometimes they devour it, sometimes they won’t to near it), I’m throwing chicken tenders and sweet potato fries in the oven – mostly so I won’t have to deal with whines of “I don’t like thaaaat!!!!”

Except for the kids’ meal and the chimichurri, everything is fresh and homemade, but simple. I don’t mind putting in effort, but I’m only putting effort into what we’ll truly enjoy. And as an added bonus, we get to choose where our splurges will be. So our apple crisp will be lower on the sugar and amped up in spices. I might hold back on the chicharrones in the mofongo to save a few calories.

As far as the ‘timeline’, we’ll sit down at the table when it’s all ready instead of trying to stick to a self-imposed deadline. We’ll keep the table simple, and I have cute disposables for dessert to lessen the cleanup.

Mostly, we just want time to relax and be together. Besides, we’d rather save the crazy for our son’s fifth birthday this weekend.

And that’s our Thanksgiving tradition: celebrating with those you love, and being thankful for what we have, and doing it in a way that will allow us to truly enjoy our time.

 

I’m guest posting for Vend Raleigh today – check it out!

Some of you may know that I am lucky enough to be part of Vend Raleigh’s Illuminate planning committee. Today, I got the chance to blog over there about the absolute craziness that I put myself through to get to the conference last year, and why it’s #worthit.

To all of you how have a craft shop online, or are thinking of starting your own business (any type of business), or have started but don’t know how to take it to the next level, check out the blog post and poke around the Vend Raleigh site, the Illuminate 2014 page, event page and member directory. It’s a world of resources designed for mompreneurs.

Here’s a taste of my post. Hope you enjoy it!

“Let’s take a little trip back in time to the summer of 2013, shall we? 

Back then, I was a mom of a 3 ½-year-old boy and a 10-month-old baby girl. I hadn’t slept more than three hours or so at a time in well over a year, I was exhausted and really didn’t think I could handle more on my plate. Despite all that, something was telling me that I needed to revitalize my small sewing business. I had started it right before I found out I was pregnant with our second baby, but the teal magnolia sat dead in the water with the occasional blog post and custom order as I took time to focus on our family. But I wanted to make it grow. I wanted to be me again, to come out of that post-baby fog and create again. “

Click here to read the rest!

Patriotic Rag Wreath

Happy Independence Day! I hope you are all enjoying the day, celebrating our country and hopefully avoiding Hurricane Arthur!

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Do you have your red, white and blue out? My patriotic decor is sadly lacking, so I decided to channel my inner Betsy Ross (sort of) and make a rag wreath to show a bit of patriotism.

Here’s what I used:
a wire wreath form (or you can stretch out a wire hanger, but it won’t be as full)
1/4 yards of 5 different patriotic fabrics plus a few scraps of my stash
old jeans (two pairs of my old jeans and two pairs of my son’s old jeans)

I love this wreath. I wanted to make it very ‘American’ and what’s more American than jeans?

I cut the fabric into 2×6-inch(ish) strips. Some were narrower. Some were longer, some were shorter. It’s a rag wreath. It all works out. I found the denim easier to tie if it was narrower. Also, I tore some of the denim to make it more raggy. Denim with stretch in it doesn’t tear well. I used a rotary cutter for the fabric because it was easier and quicker and I know it will fray on its own.


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Then, I tied the strips to the wreath form. This is great to do while watching TV. The mom in me can’t sit still and has to constantly be doing something. Tie tie tie…then tie some more. I was surprised at how much fabric this took. I had originally gotten just three 1/4 yards, but ended up having to go get more and dip into my stash for a few extra strips (the blue polka dot and the yellow fabrics).

So that’s the rag wreath. I love how fluffy it is. Easy peasy and fun. I might add to the center of it, but for now, I’m enjoying seeing how it’s been unraveling. And now I have something handmade for all my patriotic holidays!

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I’d love to see any patriotic crafts you’ve made! Link them below!

Caramel S’mores Popcorn

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A few months ago, I saw an article (I think a Dr. Oz thing???) about how microwave popcorn is full of chemicals and is linked to lung cancer (something about there being added chemicals to make it smell good while popping) My son loves popcorn, so we have it frequently in our house, and hearing this kind of freaked me out. I had some regular non-microwave popcorn left over from Christmas gifts that I made for neighbors (vanilla glazed cranberry popcorn), so I switched to using the stove type. I love it. It takes just as long as microwave popcorn, and it’s a really cool thing that my son gets to help. He helps pour/spoon the oil and the kernels, and gets to watch everything pop (we use a deep pan that has a glass lid so we can watch).

But it’s a little boring. For normal days, a little fine sea salt mixed in with the oil you’re using to pop is delicious. But sometimes I want more.  And more is what I did when my son and I were having a sleepover last night.

I don’t know where the idea came from, but I’m so glad it came to me.  And, like everything I do, it’s super easy, but packs a big wow factor.

Without further ado, here’s the “recipe” if you can even call it that. I didn’t put measurements, because it’s really up to you how much of everything to add.

Ingredients:
popcorn
caramel sauce (I use this super easy, super quick 3-ingredient recipe, but I zap it a minute or two longer until it gets thick)
chocolate chips
mini marshmallows
Golden Grahams cereal
salt (optional. I love salty/sweet stuff, so I used kosher salt, but for a more subtle version, I’d use fine sea salt)

Method:
Pop your popcorn. Microwave is fine, but if you want to try the stove top type, I’ve added directions at the end of this post. Spread the popcorn out onto a sheet pan.

Drizzle a little bit of the caramel sauce over the popcorn. Sprinkle chips, marshmallows and cereal over the popcorn. Add more caramel sauce. Sprinkle with salt if you’d like.

To make stove-top popcorn:
It’s so easy. I put a little oil in a deep wide pan. I like to use vegetable or coconut oil (this is where I would add salt if I’m keeping my popcorn plain).I pour in enough kernels to almost cover the bottom of the pan. Then, I turn the burner on high and let it go. When it starts to pop, I shake it a few times. Just like microwave popcorn, you’ll hear/see the popping slow down. Take it off the heat, and you’re done. I like to move it to a different bowl or pan right away because it tends to scorch a little bit if you leave it in the hot pan.

Ta-dah! You have fancy popcorn!

 

DIY Coffee Hand Scrub

the teal magnolia | coffee + coconut oil scrub

I love to cook. Something about the chopping and sizzling is almost therapeutic to me. What I don’t love is the lingering garlic smell on my hands that no matter what I do (other than sacrifice a lemon for its juice – what a waste of a lemon!), just won’t go away. It’s an annoying problem, especially now that I’m a mompreneur and SAHM because I tend to have a lot of meetings in the evenings and do my work at night.  This leaves me with garlicky hands when I go on business meetings (or GNOs) or when I go work with the beautiful fabrics that I get to play with for the shop.  Not good.

And then I found a solution that seemed to float down from heaven on a cloud – it was that perfect. I came across coffee soap, and saw that it was sometimes labeled as ‘kitchen soap’ because it helps eliminate those smells from your skin.

Well, considering how how big a DIYer I am, I decided that while I may not be a soap-maker, I can certainly make a scrub with the copious amounts of coffee grounds that we go through in our house. And it couldn’t be simpler.

Ingredients:
used coffee grounds (seriously – used coffee grounds. Instead of emptying my used coffee grounds into the trash, I put them in a plastic container)
coconut oil

Method:
1. Place coffee grounds in a container.
2. Add about half the amount of coconut oil as you have coffee grounds. I started with 1/2 of espresso grounds an a couple of teaspoons of coconut oil.
3. Mix well. Add coconut oil or coffee to get the consistency you like. I like mine to be like gritty cookie dough, so heavy on the coffee and easy on the oil.
4. Store in a closed container near your kitchen sink.

That’s it. It’s that simple and it works. It gets rid of smells and exfoliates your hands too! I just put a little bit (about a quarter-size amount) in my hands and ‘wash’ them. I then follow up with soap to get the oil off. And to all my mamas out there – you know how getting diaper cream off your hands is nearly impossible? This works for that as well.

I’ve found that I can add more coffee to it and it magically still stays together.

I love that I’m using something that would normally go in the trash – getting just a little more use out of what we have. I like that I don’t waste coffee – I’ve already enjoyed my espresso, and I’m simply using up the by-product.

And the super bonus for you evil wevils out there is that it looks like Oreo truffles. Oh the pranks I could pull!

Thank you moms!

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I am so proud to be a mom in today’s world. Really. There’s good and bad, but overall, it seems like for the first time, a mom can make the choices that work for her to lead her family in what works for her. Have I said ‘her’ enough? But it’s true. Crunchy, traditional, stay-at-home, glass-ceiling crusher…whatever it is, there are other moms there to support you. And yeah… there’s a fair amount of snark, but for the most part, we respect and help each other.

But it’s that support that makes me proud to be a mom. Having kids so far from any family has forced us to build a network. Thanks to friends, neighbors, social media, and of course, family, I have learned so much about being a mom.  Seeing all this around me has given me the confidence to try to be the mom I want to be.

Today, I wanted to share some little tidbits that have been ‘aha!’ moments for me that I’ve learned from other moms:

– freezing Gogurts to have yogurt pops: I spent the better part of last summer pouring yogurt into tiny ice pop molds and then fighting the molds to get the pops out. Gogurts are way easier, and I feel better about them than the regular ‘juice’ popsicles (although we have both).

– telling my kids ‘thank you for apologizing’ when they say they are sorry instead of ‘it’s okay’ because chances are, if they had to apologize for their actions, then what they did is not okay.

– asking ‘are you hurt or are you scared?’ when they are crying after a fall or something like that: It gets them to stop and think, and in the process, calm down a little bit and gives you a better idea of what’s really going on.

– brushing my daughter’s hair while she’s in the high chair having breakfast: She can’t run away from me, and she can’t fuss too much because she’s busy eating.

These are just a few of the solid, tangible ways that this great ‘village’ of moms around me has helped me, but there is so much more that I’ve learned that has allowed me to be a mom and to continue to grow in this amazing job. I can’t wait to see to see what else I learn as my kids grow. I only hope I’ve been able to support other moms as well.

So to all you moms – thank you! Thank you for the job you do for your kids and for the role you play in each other’s lives to make us all better.

Happy mother’s day!