shhh

Why We Need Quiet Time

Our lives and our world are full of noise and distractions. Sometimes so much so that we lose focus on what we need to get done. We also forget to take the time for some peace and quiet which is an important part of our overall well-being.

Many people view taking time for solitude and serenity as a luxury they simply cannot afford because let’s face it; if we aren’t doing anything then we’re getting nothing done. This mindset stops us from taking the time we need to grow, renew, and revive.

Look at it from a different perspective, when you take in the silence you allow yourself to engage in time for self-reflection and awareness. Everyone needs quiet time, but what does it entail and how will you benefit? We have some thoughts on that.

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  1. Renewal requires rest

It’s simply impossible to just go, go, go without resting. Everything requires repair and maintenance including the human body. The easy part is relaxing the body; it’s relaxing the mind that’s the hard part. Meditation is a great way to check-out for a bit, mute the noise in your head, and gain the peace you need.

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  1. Rediscover what’s important

When caught up in the whirlwind that is our daily routine, we forget or even ignore what really matters. When you have too many responsibilities or waste time on unnecessary tasks, you lose sight of the important things. You need quiet time to rediscover what you’ve neglected and to revisit priorities.

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  1. Make order from chaos.

When you’re knee-deep in a commotion of activity there is no time for prioritizing tasks. You’re too busy crossing things off the list. The best time to examine the reasons behind what you do in life is best found during quiet moments to yourself.

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  1. Quiet time reinforces your meaning

The human mind needs time to put things into perspective. This can’t be done when you are doing 20 things at once or always chasing deadlines. You need peaceful silence to do that. Only then are you able to rejuvenate and reboot.

Nap

  1. Quiet time is a stress eliminator

You might not be able to completely escape stress, but you can certainly practice ways to mitigate it. One quick and simple way to reduce stress is to  regularly carve out 15-30 minutes of your day to sit quietly alone, meditate, read a book or listen to music, go for a peaceful walk, or put on your pajamas and take a quick nap. If you have even more time (such as a long lunch break) use it. But it’s not all about how long you’re quiet; it’s about making time for it in your life no matter the length of time. It’s the easiest way to nourish your mind and body so you can return to your routine with more energy and focus.

Healthy

  1. Heal and stay healthy with quiet time

Medical professionals use dark, quiet rooms for patient recovery from surgery and illness for good reason. Any form of healing, both medical and physical require complete rest and relaxation so that your body and mind to recuperate. Similarly, when you learn to wind down improve your chances of staving off future health problems and disease. A body under less stress has a higher immunity level.

Quite time may seem like an unreasonable goal but believe us, it’s totally attainable. Plan it, do it, and make no excuses for taking the time you need.

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Fall Football

Five Fabulous Ways to Enjoy Fall Football

Fall is many people’s favorite season. Whether it’s the cooler temperatures, the changing of the leaves, or everything pumpkin spice there’s something about fall that is just warm and inviting. It’s also the time when football returns to stadiums, living rooms, and sports bars all across the country.  Regardless if it’s the Friday night lights at your local high school, supporting your alma mater, or cheering on your favorite professional team, one thing is certain; Americans can’t get enough of this exciting sport!

Going to an actual game and watching in person is something every fan should experience at least once, but it can be very expensive and not practical on a regular basis. It can be just as fun (and with fewer hassles) to get creative on your own and set up the ultimate football lover’s experience. We’ve got 5 great ideas for doing just that!

Outdoor Living Room 1

Set up a backyard living room. Fall temperatures are perfect for hanging out in the backyard with a bunch of snacks, a TV, and your family to watch your favorite team. You’ll get fresh air, you can make all the noise you want, and you don’t have to worry about long bathroom lines! Once the neighbors see how much fun you’re having, don’t be surprised if they bring over their own chairs to join the party!

Homegating

Homegait. One of the best parts about going to the stadium is the pre-game tailgating. The smell of grills cooking and the sound of fans getting ready for the day’s showdown are exhilarating. Recreate that in your own driveway! Invite your friends and neighbors over, set up a big TV, and get the grill going. Make it a potluck where everyone brings their favorite tailgating dish and you’re on your way to a party they’ll talk about all season!

Radio Listen

Listen on the radio. Believe it or not, back in the day, not everyone had a color TV – or A TV for that matter. Take a step back in time and just listen to the game while using your imagination to visualize the action on the field. The announcers that call the games over the radio airwaves are outstanding at making sure you feel the excitement and understand every detail of every play. Make a day of it by taking a drive to see fall foliage while you listen.

Sports bar

Visit a sports bar. There’s something about being surrounded by a bunch of strangers all rooting for the same team that really instills a sense of community. Many sports bars offer drink and food specials so you don’t have to do the pouring or cooking. You can just sit back and watch the plays while others do the work

Family

Have a football pajama party. Weekends are for winding down and there’s no better way to relax than staying in your PJs all day. Order Pizza, plop down on the couch, and get ready for some football. With no distractions, you won’t miss any of the important plays or game winning touchdown!

How do you do football? Tell us here in the comments of head over to our Facebook page and tell us there!

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Care Packages

Specialty care packages for your college student

Sending a child off to college for the first time is a period filled with emotion. Exciting, sad, stressful, and worried are all a part of the experience. You want them to get their education, become independent, and follow their dreams, but you still want to take care of them the best you can.

For the kids, when they are away from home, it may take a while until they realize that they no longer have the comforts of home at their fingertips. Don’t fret – we’ve got some specialized college care package ideas that you can get together and send off that will allow you to take care of them from afar and help them adjust to their new living arrangements.

Plaid Life

The stay warm care package. In many parts of the country, cool fall temperatures are settling in. Make sure that your student stays warm and toasty on those blustery fall days with things like:

  • Flannel pajamas
  • A new mug and hot chocolate or coffee
  • A mug warmer (if the dorm allows it)
  • Instant soup mix and instant oatmeal
  • A cuddly blanket
  • Slippers and socks
  • Scarves and hats

Home away

Home-away-from-home package. One of the hardest things about being away at college is making a dorm room feel like home. Help them make it more than just a place they sleep and study with the care package that includes items they can use to decorate based on their style. Consider items such as:

  • Cute signs with favorite quotes
  • Decorations from their own bedroom at home
  • Seasonal decor
  • A small chalkboard or dry erase board so that roommates or friends can leave notes on for one another
  • Scented candles
  • Homemade cookies

self care

Self-care package. As we all know, toiletries and personal care items can be very expensive and this type of package is always appreciated. Fill it with:

  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Razors
  • Deodorant
  • Loofahs
  • Toothpaste and tooth brush
  • Scented lotions
  • Plastic flip-flops for the showers

First Aid

A first-aid package. One of the things young adults send it to forget about once they leave the convenience at home is making sure they have first-aid products on hand in case of a minor incident. Get them set up with a box filled with:

  • Band-Aids
  • Vitamin C and multi-vitamins
  • Facial tissues
  • Anti-biotic ointment
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • General cold medicines like Dayquil or cough drops

College Laundry

Keep clean package. Whether they have to clean their dorm room or get some laundry done, a package full of these types of products will definitely help take care of some of their needs:

  • A handheld vacuum
  • Paper towels
  • Anti-bacterial wipes
  • Air freshener
  • Laundry pods (which are easy for them to transport)
  • A mesh bag for washing delicates
  • A roll of quarters for doing the laundry

Stress

The stress-relief package. Being away from everything they have always known can be a very stressful time for students – especially those leaving for the first time. Send them a package of stress-relieving items that will help them relax and work their way into their new living surroundings:

  • Aromatherapy diffuser
  • Back or foot massager
  • A bonsai tree or Chia Pet (that they can nurture and take care of)
  • A soothing eye mask that they can heat up
  • A relaxing music copulation
  • Herbal tea

Taking care of your kids is your number one priority but now it’s time for them to spread their wings and become young adults. These little boxes of goodies will show them how much you love them and help them make the transition to the next phase of their life. You got this… and they got this too!

 

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Back to work

Back to the office: Tips for a smooth transition

For many people, September will mark a real return to normal, as employees all over the country return to the office. Even if it’s on a flex schedule where it will only be a couple of days a week, the sheer thought can fill you full of anxiety. It’s to be expected. For the last 18 months or so you’ve been working remotely in your comfy clothes, having virtual meetings, and enjoying all the comforts of home while doing your job.

So how do you make the transition back? It’s not like you didn’t manage for all those years before the pandemic hit, but it still feels like you can’t even remember what it feels like to “go” to work. The following tips should help get you back to your old ways without too much stress

Routine

Remember your old routine. Think back to how you used to do things. What time did you normally go to bed?  What time did you get up? Did you shower in the morning or the night before? You have to get back to that or you’re going to have a tough time. Start doing these things now before your official “back to the office day” so you can ease back into your routine comfortably.

Construction

Consider drive time. Not everyone will be returning to their respective jobs at the same time and some will continue to work remotely full time. Don’t assume because of this you can leave the house later than normal to be on time. You’ll also have to check into road construction. It’s been a year and a half since you made the drive. Do you know if any of the roads on your route are under construction?

Lunch work

Think lunch. While you’re working from home it’s easy to go to the fridge and grab something for lunch or whip yourself up a quick salad or sandwich. Now you have to start thinking about bringing your lunch to work again. Do a little ahead of time meal planning to get you back in the mode. Create a list for a few weeks until you get your groove back.

App

Dinner too. Now that you’re going to be away for the day, what will you feed the family after work? Do you need to pull something from the freezer? Once you’re at work it’s too late. Lists and notes are a great way to keep you in check. Better yet, download an organizing app that you can plug all your reminders into.

Working dog

Get back in the office frame of mind. We’re all more laid-back at home. Our mindset, attire, and overall attitudes, are just more casual. There likely won’t be a dog lying under your desk either. Now that you’re going back into the office you’ll have to channel your inner professional a little more.  Don’t forget that you’re going to be around fellow employees and bosses all day who expect that same productive person that they could count on before.

Laundry

Make a to-do list. Slipping away from your desk to do a load of laundry or vacuum the living room during the workday is a thing of the past. These things will now have to be done during your free time so before you get overwhelmed, it would be a good idea to plan when you will take care of your regular household chores. The schedule you make will morph over time but in the beginning, it will help you stay organized instead of flustered.

Support

Seek and give support. Remember you aren’t the only one who has to readjust to the return to normalcy. Be open and honest about your own concerns and do your best to support co-workers that are also having a tough time. For many, this won’t be easy and the best thing you can have is a strong support group behind you.

At the end of the day, you really aren’t doing anything you didn’t do before this pandemic hit. You will likely wonder how you could have possibly managed before, but you did. And you will again- we promise!

 

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All about me

Make it all about you!

Life is crazy and day-to-day responsibilities can sometimes make it impossible for you to remember to kick back, relax, and think about yourself. With juggling family, work, a household, and all the other things that go along with adulating, there just aren’t enough hours in the day it seems. How often do you take a step back and take a day that’s all about you? That’s right… we mean forget about your responsibilities, forget about your to-do list, and just do what you want.

Pick a day, and declare it ‘All about Me Day’. What will you do with yourself? That’s the best part – it’s all up to you. We can give you some ideas to get the ball rolling, but in the end, this is your day to relax, regroup, reset, and of course – have fun!

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Don’t get dressed and don’t do anything. Stay in your pajamas all day long. Since today is all about you, no one’s going to see what you’re wearing, and you shouldn’t care if your hair is a little messy or you’re not dressed to the nine’s.  Pajamas are comfy, relaxing, and they are the best outfit to wear when doing absolutely nothing.

Sushi

Make or order your favorite meal. Lots of us have a favorite meal we enjoy but don’t eat very often have because other family members don’t like it or it just doesn’t fit with the usual routine. Since this is your day, indulge. Make, or better yet, order yourself that special meal. Don’t forget to pour yourself a glass of wine to make it extra perfect.

Binge

Binge-watch your favorite show. Running a household may mean that you don’t have time to sit down and catch up on missed episodes of your favorite TV program. Or, there may be a new show you really want to watch but just haven’t been able to fit it in. It’s your day so do things your way. Watch what you want, when you want with no interruptions.

bath

Relax in the tub. Draw the water, throw in a bath bomb, light some candles, and climb on in. Grab your favorite book, or turn on your favorite music and simply enjoy your alone time. Don’t forget to lock the door to avoid any unwanted interruptions.

Shopping

Shop till you drop. Visit your favorite stores and shops and buy yourself something new that you WANT- not that you need. Our favorite words for shopping day are “impulse buy.”

Spa

Go to the spa. If it’s going to be impossible for you to have your special day uninterrupted or done on your terms, consider going to a spa. Get a mani, pedi, facial, massage, and anything else that will make you feel pampered and special.

Friends

Visit with friends. Maybe the day-to-day grind makes it impossible for you to get together with your besties as often as you like. Get the gang together and do a group ‘me day’. We’re sure you can find a few people in the same boat as you who would love to be a part of this new self-proclaimed holiday.

Bread

Throw away the rule book. Not eating carbs? Eat bread, pasta, and anything else that is normally a no-no. Go to the gym every day? Skip it, one day will not matter. Is the house a mess? Let it wait, the mess will still be there tomorrow. Do you cook three squares for the family every day? Leave a cookbook and the takeout menu on the counter and let them fend for themselves. The bottom line is that it’s all about you for 24 hours.

Everyone should take the time to love and pamper themselves. It’s how we get through the rigors of life. If you’ve forgotten to take a teeny bit of time to do the things that make you happy, this is your reminder. And make it something you do from time to time. Your mental well-being will thank you.

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National Family Day

Bring everyone together on National Family Day

With more summer behind us than ahead, it’s time to make the most of the remaining summer days we have before fall sets in. The first Sunday of August is National Family Day. It was created to encourage us to enjoy the waning summer days with the people we hold dearest to us.

This day urges families across the country to focus on family relationships. Although we probably don’t need a reminder about how important family is, we all tend to get caught up in the busyness that everyday life brings.  Many times it’s difficult to bring entire families together, so when we get the chance to connect with those closest to us; it’s the best gift we can give ourselves. On August 1, 2021, make time to spend with your family. Here are just a few ideas for family bonding opportunities.

Walk

Enjoy time outside. If the weather permits play outdoor games, go for a walk, visit the zoo, have a picnic, or anything else that gets you outside and moving. You’ll spend a wonderful day together, and also get some beneficial exercise.

Family Lunch

Visit grandparents or other family members. We see the immediate family that lives in our households every day, but how often do we see Grandma, Grandpa, a married child, or a special aunt or uncle? Family reaches far and wide, so go visit, take them to lunch, or bring a special meal to them. Anything that brings you all together is the purpose of the day.

Family Cooking

Try a new recipe together. A great way to bring family together is in the kitchen. Have some recipes that you’ve been dying to try but just simply haven’t had the time? This would be a great opportunity to do it. Not only do you get everyone involved in the cooking process, but you spend quality time together making an incredible meal you all can enjoy.

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Have a pajama day. The best days are when everybody stays in their pajamas all day and takes part in fun activities at home. Work on art projects, have a movie day, have your own mini at-home spa day, or whatever else you can dream up. The best part is that you never have to get out of your pajamas!

Family Pic

Take a family portrait. Family picture day used to be an annual tradition. Nowadays however the idea of a portrait seems to have fallen by the wayside. Bring it back in style with a good old-fashioned family picture. Plan your outfits, gather everyone at a designated location, and take lots of shots. You’ll all be together while creating a keepsake that everyone will treasure forever.

museum

Visit a museum. You never want to stop learning something new and the incredible museums we have in this country are the perfect place to pick up knowledge in. Make it an educational adventure and the Marvel at the things everyone will learn.

However you choose to spend the day, the most important thing is that you are enjoying quality family time, making memories, and hopefully you’ll want to do it more than once a year.

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CIJLadies Night

Girls Night – Host a Christmas in July Slumber Party

Looking for a different kind of get-together to mix it up between the summer barbecues, weddings, graduations, and birthday parties? Make plans to get your hubby and kids out of the house for the night, and get the ladies together for a good old-fashioned slumber party – adult style. Add to it a theme like ‘Christmas in July,’ and you’ve got the makings for a super fun evening that may become a tradition within your inner circle.

It’s hot outside and this is no time to think about sweaters, snow, or Santa. Instead, adapt what you would traditionally do for the December holiday to something that’s all about summer. We’ll get you started with some awesome ideas for your party, but don’t be afraid to let your creativity take over and make the sleepover all yours!

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Matching Pajamas for All: In December it’s a fun family tradition to all dress up in matching PJ’s to celebrate the season. Why not do the same thing for girl’s night? Cool cottons, Japanese satins, sassy short sets, or tropical prints are all perfect for your summer sleepover.

Frozen Cocoa

Frozen Hot Chocolate: The idea of a warm comforting beverage is probably the farthest thing from your mind when it’s 90 degrees outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a rich creamy drink in the middle of July.  Make a batch of hot cocoa and pour it into ice trays. Then use the cubes with your favorite Irish cream, coffee liquor, or rum. If it’s a free day on the calorie counter, top the drinks off with some whipped cream!

Beach Gift

Gift Exchange: We aren’t talking hats and gloves, perfume, or picture frames here… think summer. Exchange gifts that are perfect for the season you’re in. A beach gift basket (sunscreen, flip flops, a good book, and a bright towel for instance), floral candles, a park or zoo pass, a pedicure kit, or seashell jewelry (we LOVE ankle bracelets) are all great ideas for your best gal pals.

Tiki Buffet

Tiki Buffet: Get yourself some thatched grass, Christmas twinkle lights, and fiesta-ware to set the mood, and then put out a spread made with light, delicious summer ingredients and refreshing drinks (think Sangria). Have a handy husband? Have him build you a tiki bar for the occasion!

Movies

Watch a movie – NOT kid-friendly:  It’s your night to get away and enjoy the company of your besties. We do holiday movie night with the family, so instead, for your Christmas in July girls night watch a movie you’ve wanted to see but can’t because it isn’t appropriate for kids.  There are lots of great ones out there so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

CIJ Karaoke

Sing Karaoke: Once the alcohol kicks in, the inhibitions tend to disappear so let loose and sing! If you’ve never sung karaoke, you’re missing out and if you have, you know how fun it is. It’s just you ladies so have fun with it and you can even sing Christmas songs!

Games

Play Adult Games: If you’re tired of Monopoly or Candy Land and want to laugh, laugh, laugh play games that are just for adults. We like Cards Against Humanity, Social Sabotage, or For The Girls. All of these options can be played with additional rules that you make up (like you must use the word “elf), so you can customize them for your Christmas in July theme.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to planning your mid-summer pajama party. Let your imagination run wild because Christmas in July only comes once a year. You and the other ladies deserve to let loose!

 

 

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4thpicnic (1)

5 Red, White, and Blue Recipes for your 4th of July Celebration

It’s the Fourth of July weekend and time to celebrate the USA! That means cookouts, picnics, parades, and parties. Great food makes for great gatherings and Independence Day gives us the opportunity to show our patriotism through the food we make. It’s all about the red, white and blue and we’ve got 5 recipes that are a must for your celebration.

 

American Flag Caprese Salad with Blueberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Caprese Appetizer

A perfect starter, this Caprese salad from eatingwell.com has cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and blueberries with a sweet yet tangy dressing on the side. The American Flag presentation is a perfect way to show your patriotism!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages mini mozzarella balls
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, divided
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh shallot
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish

 

  1. Trim the stem end off each tomato, so they sit flat on their cut sides.
  2. Arranging one row of 10 tomatoes, cut-side down, on a large platter or cutting board. Arrange a row of 10 mozzarella balls directly below the tomatoes, and repeat with another row of tomatoes, another row of mozzarella balls, and another row of tomatoes. On the third row of mozzarella balls, add 5 more to extend the row to the left. Repeat with tomatoes and mozzarella balls two more times, ending with tomatoes.
  3. Set aside 1/4 cup blueberries. Arrange the remaining blueberries in a square to the right of the shorter rows of tomatoes and mozzarella balls.
  4. Slice mozzarella into 4 pieces, then cut each piece into quarters. Using a paring knife, cut a star from each quarter, creating 16 stars total. (Alternatively, use a small star cookie cutter.) Gently arrange the mozzarella stars on top of the blueberries.
  5. Combine the reserved 1/4 cup blueberries, oil, vinegar, honey, shallot, salt and pepper in a blender; blend until smooth. Scatter basil leaves around the flag, if desired, and serve with the dressing on the side.

 

Red White and Blue Burgers

RWB Burger

No summer holiday celebration is complete until you add the burgers! This delicious twist on the basic cheeseburger is courtesy of tablespoon.com. It’s topped with mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, and blue cheese. Perfect for the 4th of July!

Ingredients:

  • 2lbs ground beef
  • 8hamburger buns
  • 8oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 2 red peppers, roasted and peeled
  • 4oz blue cheese crumbles
  • Salt and pepper

 

  1. For roasted red peppers, place peppers on grill over over gas burner on high for about five minutes, turning occasionally until the pepper skin is very charred. Remove peppers and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let steam for ten minutes. Remove peppers and peel off skin. It should come off pretty easily and it’s okay if some skin is left on. Slice stems off of peppers and remove seeds, then slice.
  2. Form burgers into quarter pound rounds and make a small indent in each burger with your thumb. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Grill burgers over high heat for 3-4 minutes. Flip burgers, cook for another 2 minutes or so and then add a slice of fresh mozzarella to each burger. Close the lid on the grill to help the cheese melt. Let cheese melt for a minute, then add pepper slices and blue cheese. Cook for another minute. That should leave you with about a medium burger. Cook longer if you want your burger more done.
  4. Serve burger on a toasted bun.

Easy and Sweet Honeyed Quinoa Fruit Salad

Quinoa Salad

A sweet, delicious, and healthy salad is the perfect accompaniment to you celebration meal. This beautiful side dish from saladmenu.com will bring out the oooh’s and aaah’s from everyone at the party.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ lb strawberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ cup blackberries
  • 1 stem fresh mint
  • ½ lemon
  • 3 Tbsp honey

 

  1. Cut strawberries into bite size pieces, mix with 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup blackberries, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, and chopped fresh mint.
  2. Sweet dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together juice from 1/2 lemon and 3 Tablespoons honey; mix with fruit and quinoa and serve.

Sparkling Red, White & Blue Sangria

Cocktail

No party is complete without a cocktail and this Sangria recipe from gimmesomeoven.com is the perfect libation to toast America with! Fresh fruit and summer flavors will also cool you off on a hot summer day.

Ingredients:

  • White wine: One bottle of any kind of (still, not sparkling)
  • Sparkling white wine: We will also add in a bottle of sparkling white wine (such as cava or champagne) just before serving to make the sangria “sparkle.”
  • Berries: Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
  • Apples: Thinly slice some crisp apples to serve as our “white.” Use a small star cookie cutter or cut the apple slices into star shapes.
  • Liqueur: Brandy is the liqueur that is most traditionally added to sangria. But you’re welcome to add cognac, orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple Sec), white vermouth, or whatever sounds good.
  • Ice: For serving.

 

  1. Mix together the base ingredients. Stir together white wine, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and orange in a large pitcher.
  2. Cover and refrigerate. Pop the pitcher in the refrigerator for anywhere from 1-4 hours, so that the drink can chill and all of those fruity flavors can meld.
  3. Stir in the “sparkles.” Once you’re ready to serve the sangria, stir in the sparkling white wine, apples and a handful of ice.
  4. Serve! Then pour the sangria over ice, serve and enjoy!

 

Berry-Patch Brownie Pizza

Brownie

Don’t forget the dessert. This patriotic pizza from tasteofhome.com is a decadent way to round out your amazing meal. Chocolate and fresh berries will create your own fireworks when your guests get a taste of it.

Ingredients

  • 1 package fudge brownie mix (13×9-inch pan size)
  • 1/3 cup chopped unblanched almonds
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups whipped topping
  • Assorted fresh berries
  • Optional: Fresh mint leaves and coarse sugar

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare brownie batter according to package directions for fudgelike brownies, adding almonds and almond extract. Spread into a greased 14-in. pizza pan.
  2. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 15-18 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. Beat next 4 ingredients until smooth; fold in whipped topping. Spread over crust to within 1/2 in. of edges; refrigerate, loosely covered, 2 hours.
  4. To serve, cut into 12 pieces; top with berries of choice. If desired, top with mint and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

We hope you have a wonderful 4th of July celebration. This year more than ever it will be wonderful to celebrate with family and friends!

 

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Backyard Camping (1)

Planning a Summer Backyard Camping Adventure

This weekend marks the official start of summer. The kids are out of school and it’s time to start finding creative ways to keep them entertained. June is National Camping Month so many families pack up their cars and campers, head out to campgrounds, and enjoy the great outdoors. If camping is something that you’ve had on your radar but haven’t yet taken the plunge because of time commitments or a limited budget, why not consider escaping to your own backyard campsite to get your feet wet?

Camping is a great way to escape computers, phones, and TV’s, get some fresh air, and teach kids a different way of doing things. Plus, you avoid what is sure to be an extremely crowded season in the campgrounds. Backyard camping is also economical and with proper planning, you’ll even forget you’re at home as you sleep under the stars. To make sure your at-home getaway feels authentic, here are eight things you’ll want to include in your plans to ensure success.

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  1. Have rules. These should be followed by adults and children alike and should include things like no electronics – put them in a non-accessible place in the house, limited access to the amenities in the house (ie: you can only go in to use the bathroom), and full participation from everyone which includes set-up and tear-down. Camping can be a great adventure and quite educational if everyone is 100% in.

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  1. Put safety measures in place. Although camping in your backyard is a much more controlled environment than trekking out into the wilderness, safety should still be your #1 priority. Have a way to extinguish the campfire, make sure the area is free of things someone could trip over in the dark, employ proper lighting –including nightlights and flashlights, have bug spray readily available, and check the area for poisonous plants.

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  1. Create a campsite. If you don’t have tents, there’s no need to spend a lot of money to buy them. Create makeshift shelters with sheets, blankets, or tarps. Make sure to keep the kids involved in the building process so they will have the satisfying feeling of accomplishment and pride in what they have created.

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  1. Set up sleep accommodations. The shelter is ready and it’s time to set up sleeping arrangements and even though there are no comfy beds, you can still be comfortable sleeping outdoors by using air mattresses, yoga mats, or cots. Keep in mind that you don’t have the luxury of a climate-controlled home, so also plan for cool nights and dewy mornings with extra blankets, cozy socks, and warm pajamas. Here are some of our favorite camp themed pj’s.

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  1. Build your campfire spot. Have the whole family gather sticks for kindling to get your fire going and make sure you have bigger hardwood logs on hand to keep it roaring. If an in-ground fire pit is not an option you can buy a portable fire pit that will serve the purpose. Also note: It’s important to know the burning regulations in your area beforehand to make sure you aren’t breaking any rules.

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  1. Plan your menu. For each day you camp, you’ll want breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. You can look online for all kinds of yummy campfire recipes, but if you want to stay the traditional route think foil pack meals, roasted hot dogs, campfire pies, and of course S’mores. Eggs and bacon are easy to do with a cast iron pan and one-pot meals can easily be heated over your open flame. Don’t forget a cooler to keep everything from spoiling. Remember, you’re not really at home, so the fridge isn’t an option.

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7. Keep everyone entertained. Make a list of fun activities to partake in once you put your pajamas on and gather around the campfire. You can tell stories (ghost stories if age appropriate), sing songs, or play campfire games. This is when your family will really bond and have quality time together. It’s also when so many memories are made so make sure to take pictures!

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  1. Observe the nature around you. Camping is all about taking in the beauty that Mother Nature has given us. During the day, participate in bird watching (a bird book can be a fantastic reference guide), have a nature scavenger hunt, or learn about the foliage that grows right in your own backyard. At night you can identify star constellations or listen to wildlife sounds and try to figure out what they are.

Whether you camp for one night or a whole weekend, having happy campers is the ultimate goal. We hope these pointers will make for fond family memories you’ll treasure for years to come!

 

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10 ways to spend fathers day (1)

10 Ways to Celebrate Father’s Day in Pajamas!

It’s already June and that means Father’s Day is just a few short weeks away. Dad works hard for the family and deserves this special day dedicated to him! This year, plan a fun pajama-wearing day at home doing activities that you plan and execute so he can just sit back and enjoy the family time together.  Here are 10 great ideas to get your wheels spinning towards pulling off the most perfect Father’s Day ever.

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Breakfast in bed. It’s the most important meal of the day so do it up right with a homemade breakfast served up to dad in bed. You’ll want to make sure you make plenty of food because he’s going to need a lot of nutrition for the rest of the day’s festivities.

bagtoss

Have a Cornhole tournament.  Also known as Bags, Bean Bag Toss, and Tailgate Toss depending on what part of the country you are from, this fun game is perfect for Dad’s special day. You have 2 teams and 2 boards with holes in the middle where you want to toss the bean-filled bags through. The first team to 21 wins!

Birdhouse

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Watch a ballgame. Get some peanuts and Crackerjacks and plop yourselves in front of the TV for America’s favorite pastime. You’ll have the best seat for the game while you cheer on your favorite team dressed in your PJ’s!

Man Napping

Take a walk without Dad. Father’s Day is for spending with the kids and that’s why it lasts a whole day! But if only for an hour or two, Dad would probably really appreciate just a little peace, quiet, and alone time. He could read, nap, catch up on his favorite show, or just pad around the house in his pajamas!

Photo scrapbook dad

Scrapbooking. Dad probably has all his favorite pictures stored on Facebook or Instagram but there’s just nothing better than printing all those pictures up and putting them together in a real-life photo book. Have them all ready to go so he can reminisce, laugh, and enjoy his fondest of memories.

Kids Dress Up

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Have a Daddy spa day. Ladies love to get pampered but did you ever think Dad might like it too? Give Dad an at-home spa day complete with a home facial, manicure, and pedicure.

Grilling

Barbecue his favorite dinner. We know that it might be tough to keep Dad away from the grill but tell him that this is the one day of the year he doesn’t have to do anything. Give him a cold beverage, a relaxing chaise lounge, and let him watch while the family cooks all his favorites just for him!

Dad Movie

Have a backyard movie night. Set up a screen or TV in the back yard, fill the area with pillows and blankets, and roll Dad’s favorite movie under the stars. Don’t forget the popcorn!

However you decide to spoil Dad this year we know it’s going to be a hit! Head over to our Facebook page or leave your comments here and tell us about your big plans.

Happy Father’s Day to all you Dad’s out there!

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