3 Non-Food Easter Gift Ideas For Kids

Looking for something to stuff the Easter baskets with that won’t give kids a sugar high and rot their teeth out? We’ve got a few ideas to help! You’re welcome.

Idea #1: BOOKS

First off, just out this month is Cynthia Bardes latest children’s book, Pansy in Paris: A Mystery at the Museum

pansy in paris

My kids (boy 3, girl 6) thoroughly enjoyed this book and asked me to read it again when it was over. It really is a cute story with delightful artwork. This is definitely one children’s book worth checking out. There are more books in the “Pansy” series as well that we can’t wait to read. Visit www.cynthiabardes.com or click here to read more about the author and her dog Pansy (a real-life poodle!).

BUY IT: Get Pansy In Paris on Amazon ($14.99)


 

Idea #2: NAIL POLISH

What little girl doesn’t love nail polish? I know my 6 1/2 year old daughter absolutely LOVES polishing her nails. She’s always begging to use the computer so she can get on Pinterest and check out fancy nail art. Luckily, we found Totally Cool Nails: 50 Fun and Easy Nail Art Designs for Kids

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Of course we decided to try out BUNNIES first! The instructions were simple and easy to follow and clear pictures showed the step by step progression to it’s completion. We were both very happy with the result and she got tons of compliments, of course!

I enjoyed it because it was a great mother/daughter activity for us. We can’t wait to try the ombre dot, splatter, cupcake, flip-flop, and union jack nails. This would be a great book for a sleepover too!

BUY IT: Get Totally Cool Nails on Amazon or in your local bookstore ($12)


 

Idea #3: MOVIES

I’m sure every kid on the planet already owns a copy of Frozen, so why not get them something a little different.

iesodo dvd covers

Meet Iesodo, (YAY-sa-doe) a highly acclaimed Telly and Accolade Award winning series featuring a cast of animated birds who live in a Cypress Tree on the shores of Galilee.

As soon as I saw the cover of the DVD for this series, I immediately thought of Rio! My kids loved that movie so I knew they would be interested in Iesodo. The movie has cutting edge imagery that is somewhat unexpected for a Christian DVD series. Click here to read our review of the DVDs.

With each and every story in the series, Iesodo and his cute feathered friends “present the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a winsome, compelling way” through music and adventure (MovieGuide.org).

BUY IT: Get Iesodo DVDs on Amazon ($14.99 each)

 

New Baby? Five Tips To Feng Shui Your Nursery!

I’m not due until mid May, but I’m definitely nesting right now! I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to store my cloth diapers this time, what’s the best laundry detergent for baby clothes (which I will post about soon) and how to get organized before I’m too fat and tired to do anything!

TishaI was lucky enough to get some very helpful tips straight from Feng Shui Consultant and Interior Designer, Tisha Morris who recently released her latest book titled, Mind, Body, Home: Transform Your Life One Room at a Time.

Mind Body Home is geared to educate us on the energetic connection made between you and your home. Whether you believe in “Feng Sui” or not, her helpful tips offer an easy and comprehensive path to creating a holistic home. Whether you have a new baby on the way (like I do!) or you simply want to start over fresh for the new year, this book will help you improve the stability of your health and relationships just by changing some of the things in your surroundings. Tisha uses Feng Shui methods to connect every aspect of the home, from the basement to the roof, to the physical and mental state of the mind and body. Mind Body Home is available for purchase on www.amazon.com.

Mind Body Home Book Cover

Five Tips to Feng Shui a Nursery

Because babies are developing all five senses, they are extremely sensitive to the energy of their environment and are therefore quite the feng shui enthusiasts. In fact, good feng shui engages all five senses. For babies, it is important to engage the senses, but to not overwhelm them. In doing so, the nursery should feel safe, peaceful, and nurturing. Here are some tips to create the ideal nursery environment.

Engage the Senses:
Play soft or classical music in the nursery is recommended.Include textured items for the baby to touch and feel. Use gentle and natural aromatherapy in the nursery, such as lavender in an oil diffuser. Use a mobile above their bed is recommended to give them a sense of something around them as opposed to vast open space. Clearly, mobiles serve other functions as well, such as developing eyesight.

Reduce the Clutter:
Although a baby may not be able to see clutter in the room, he or she can pick it up energetically. In fact, their sixth sense is the strongest, which makes them extremely sensitive to their environment. Although babies like small spaces, the room shouldn’t feel crowded due to clutter. It is important therefore to have the baby nursery neat and organized. In other words, it shouldn’t be a room that is also used for storage or other functions. Do not store items underneath the crib, except for soft linens. (This goes for adult beds too!)

Practice Organization Early:
Despite their actions at times, children love organization. It gives them a sense of boundaries and therefore safety. Organization is a learned behavior that is picked up at early ages so set a good example early. Have designated places for clothes and toys. As your child gets old enough, start teaching them how to pick up after themselves and where certain items go. They will start to feel an ownership over their belongings and a sense of taking care of themselves that will continue to benefit them as they get older.

Choose a Soft Color Palette:
Stick with soft pastels and avoid primary colors. Colors emit a lot of energy, particularly the wall color of a room. The bolder the color, the more energy it emits into a room. The softer the color, the calmer it will be on a child’s energy. Since the primary function for a nursery is sleep, use colors that promote sleep. Pastels, such as soft yellow, blues, and greens, and monotones are calming to the nervous system.

Choose Furniture Mindfully:
Avoid large furniture items that give the appearance of towering over the bed. Babies want to feel safe, protected, and cradled, but oversized furniture can feel overbearing. Also avoid furniture pieces with harsh corners. Also be conscious of the history of the furniture that you place in a nursery. For example, an antique crib from the Civll War era carries with it the energy of its past. Consider the energy contained in family pieces and whether that it is positive or negative energy that you want carried forward for your child.

I don’t have a nursery for the new baby since we only have three bedrooms in our house AND we co-sleep with our babies anyway. (Oh don’t act so shocked, you knew I was a little crunchy!) However, I am working towards making a nursery “corner” in my bedroom this time around. Hopefully I can employ some of these tips to make my bedroom more inviting and welcoming for the new baby. Luckily, I redecorated my bedroom last year (with the help of Target) and now have a calming yellow and gray theme in my bedroom that I absolutely LOVE. I think that will be perfect for the new baby. :-)

Cookbooks You Need For The Holidays And Tips To Stay Healthy

Hey all you domestic little home makers! I put together a list of my fav new holiday cookbooks that you will want to check out before you start making your menu for Thanksgiving.

european cookiesEuropean Cookies for Every Occasion

Allright first of all, I love cookies. That said, it would be hard to find me a cookie cookbook I didn’t like. This one appeals to me though because of all the gorgeous pictures! I like pictures in my cookbook because then I know what to aim for and I like having a visual in mind when I’m trying a new recipe. My professional chef brother in law prefers his cookbooks without pictures but poo poo for him. I like me some pretty pics to look at. (Yay Pinterest!)

Secondly, of course, the recipes in here are amazing and easy to follow instructions make this book great for beginners (or busy, distracted moms!). If you want to wow your friends and family this Christmas with fancy baked treats then this is the book for you. The book by itself would obviously make a great gift, but I personally prefer to bake things as gifts and then put together “food baskets” as Christmas presents. Yes, I’m “THAT” person!

From Chocolate Crescents and Lemon Bars to Jam Blossoms and Cherry Kisses, European Cookies for Every Occasion includes cookies for every skill level. Each recipe includes easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions to make sure you succeed in making the perfect cookies for the holidays as a special treat for your guests or to give as a hostess gift.

Along with more than 200 full-color photographs, the book also includes tips on setting up your kitchen and techniques for working with marzipan, melting and molding chocolate, and handling dough so that your cookies will come out perfectly every time.

Price: $15.99 ($9.99 Kindle Version)

Buy It: Amazon.com


new england recipesChef Daniel Bruce Simply New England: Seasonal Recipes That Celebrate Land and Sea

Being from New England and having grown up here my whole life, I think this cookbook is pretty dang cool. Just in time for Thanksgiving too! With 125 original recipes and 158 color photographs, you will be baking away from now until Christmas.

In this beautiful cookbook, chef Daniel Bruce of the Boston Harbor Hotel highlights food that is deeply rooted in New England soil with dishes that are respectful of their ingredients and simple to prepare; dishes that he enjoys cooking at home and sharing with his own family and friends.

“Great food doesn’t have to be complicated,” says Bruce. “These are dishes that I make over and over again because they taste good and they work. I hope they will become part of your personal culinary history as well.”

Price: $24.80

Get It: Amazon.com


deliciously holistic book coverDeliciously Holistic: Healing Foods Recipes And Lifestyle Tips To Help Increase Your Energy And Immunity!

Some people think to themselves “Oh, it’s the Holidays! To hell with my diet! I’m going to enjoy myself!” Ya know what I have to say to that?! HAHAHA! How much are you going to “enjoy” yourself when you find yourself 10+ pounds overweight come January 1st? How much are you going to “enjoy” yourself when you have to spend $50+ month on a gym membership instead of treating yourself to a nice pair of shoes? Hmmm????? I stuck to my diet so well last year during the holiday season that I actually LOST 3 pounds over the holidays AND I still got to taste EVERYTHING.

Why not try something different this year instead of the same old vicious circle? Learn how to eat healthy foods that make you feel good and you’ll be less likely to let loose and eat junk for the next 2 months.

In “Deliciously Holistic”, holistic chef and certified healing foods specialist, Shelley Alexander, provides everything needed to prepare delicious, healthy foods that nourish, strengthen, energize, and helps heal the body. Deliciously Holistic demonstrates with 154 mouth-watering recipes that good nutrition never has to be at the sacrifice of great taste! This beautiful, colorful cookbook includes a comprehensive shopping guide; seasonal meal plans; vibrant color photos of prepared foods; and recommendations for useful online resources. This book also provides information about how to use healing superfoods; tips to improve digestive health; how to stock a holistic kitchen with the best proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, natural sweeteners, healthy oils, and beverages; along with a bounty of recipes using healing foods.

Price: $22.31

Get It: Amazon.com


Tips For Staying Healthy During The Holidays

shelley alexander

Shelley Alexander

Wondering how you are going to bake all those delightful treats and Holiday meals and still stay healthy? No worries! Holistic chef and certified healing foods specialist Shelley Alexander, author of “Deliciously Holistic,” (www.aharmonyhealing.com), a new, full-color cookbook featuring more than 154 of her favorite healing foods recipes and 50 pages of holistic lifestyle tips to increase energy and immunity, offers six tips for quick and convenient healthy eating during the holidays.

  • When shopping, check labels and avoid foods with a long list of ingredients. The best whole foods have one or just a few unprocessed or minimally processed, easily recognized ingredients, Alexander says. Among ingredients to avoid: chemicals, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, nitrates, MSG, genetically modified ingredients and preservatives (indicated by the initials BHT, BHA, EDTA and THBQ.)
  • Set aside a few hours each week to prep foods to eat in the days ahead. Cut up produce and store it in airtight containers. Lightly wash produce before using with natural vegetable wash or use one part white vinegar to three parts water. Make several homemade vinaigrettes or dressings to last all week so you can make leafy greens and vegetable salads in minutes. Clean and marinate enough meat or poultry for dinners over the next few days.
  • Start your day with a green smoothie. Cut and freeze organic fresh fruit to use in green smoothies. You can also buy frozen fruit that’s already cut up. Add organic kale or spinach, coconut water or nut and seed milks plus natural sweeteners such as dates or stevia for an energy-boosting beverage.
  • For your holiday dinners, plan on making at least three to four dishes that are both delicious and nutritious. Good examples are pasture-raised, wild turkey with sage and garlic, baked wild salmon with lemon and herbs, steamed greens, roasted heirloom root vegetables drizzled with balsamic glaze, pureed winter squash soups, and desserts made with seasonal fruits, spices, and healthy sweeteners like coconut sugar or raw honey.
  • Invest in a dehydrator. Dehydrate fruits and vegetables and raw nuts or seeds that have been soaked in unrefined sea salt water (which removes anti-nutrients, kick-starts the germination process, and increases key vitamins), and you’ll have plenty of on-the-go snacks with a long shelf life. Dehydrators are convenient and easy to use; Alexander recommends Excalibur.
  • Make batches of fermented vegetables twice a month. Alexander recommends eating fermented vegetables every day to keep your digestive system healthy. They’re loaded with probiotics – the good bacteria your intestines need. Mix a variety of organic vegetables such as carrots and celery into brine with warm filtered water, unrefined sea salt, and cultured vegetable starter or liquid whey, and mix with shredded cabbage heads. Pack the mixture into sterilized glass jars and allow the vegetables to ferment for five to seven days. Once done fermenting, store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Food For Thought…

“Stick to whole, healthy foods this holiday season, and you’ll feel so good, you won’t want to go near the buffet table at your office party,” Alexander says.

5 Must-Haves For Surviving The Fall & Winter Season

must haves

I’ve finally accepted that Summer is over and Fall is here. Yup, I literally had to wait until I had bare trees in my yard to accept this whole “autumn” thing. It’s my least favorite time of year (except for the one week that the fall foliage is gorgeous here in New Hampshire). For me, summer living is easy. Come Fall though, I have a hard time functioning and keeping up. I don’t feel like exercising anymore, I don’t feel like eating healthy things like salads and I start packing on the carbs with apple cider donuts and homemade breads and I don’t feel like waking up in the morning because it’s still dark out when I want to get up!

So I put together a list of my 5 favorite things that help me get through the Fall and Winter season in hopes that it might help some of you to make it through the next few months too!

 

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Good Reads: Books To Read This Summer

books

Books We’re Reading This Summer

  1. The Art of Cake Pops: 75 Dangerously Delicious Designs
  2. Copykat.com’s Dining Out At Home Cookbook 2: More Recipes for the Most Delicious Dishes from America’s Most Popular Restaurants
  3. The No-Cook No-Bake Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes for When It’s Too Hot to Cook
  4. The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Child Say Good-Bye to Diapers
  5. Savory Bites From Your Cake Pop Maker: 75 Fun Snacks, Adorable Appetizers and Delicious Entrees

Now if I just had time to sit down and actually get through a whole book, I would be a happy, happy girl!

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Eco-Friendly & Affordable Kitchen Products

Earth Day is quickly approaching (April 22nd) so there has been a lot of buzz about “green” products lately. Yesterday we discussed 10 All Natural Beauty Must-Haves for women.

Eco-living on undeniably on an upward trend. Nearly 54% of today’s consumers are gravitating towards eating organic, chemical-free food. (Pinterest infographics must be to blame!) It’s not just about the food you eat… Although we all know the saying “You are what you eat!” We’ve got to pay attention to the surfaces that we are cooking on and the chemicals we use to clean up afterwards.

There are a slew of “green” kitchen tools and products that can help keep your household routines and your family healthy and safe, but not all of them are affordable. Well, I’ve put together a list of eco-friendly and affordable products you’ll want to make sure you have in your kitchen if you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle.

Tips For A Healthy Kitchen

Cook it on Ceramic: The fewer chemicals you have in your cookware, the better. Most non-stick pans can scratch and the teflon particles will get into your food. Gross! Instead opt for one of the best non-stick options available… WearEver Pure Living cookware has ceramic surfaces free of toxins such as PFOA, PTFE and cadmium. Best of all, each piece is totally recyclable and dishwasher safe. 10 PC Set ($79.99), 5 PC Set ($59.99), 8” and 10” Fry Pan Combo ($34.99), 12” Fry Pan Red ($24.99). Find them on Amazon and Target.

Handle it Without Scratching: Metal utensils will scratch up most types of cookware and especially harmful on ceramic cookware. Don’t opt for plastic though! Use a gentler, yet durable options like bamboo utensils. They keep pots and pans scratch-free, your food safe, and makes stir-frying, sauteing, deep frying, steaming and parboiling a cinch! (IMUSA’s 3 Piece Bamboo Utensil Set for $3.99 at Target.com).

Steam it On Bamboo: Everyone knows eating raw is best, but the second best way to enjoy your veggies is to steam them! Mix things up with IMUSA’s Asian Bamboo Steamer that cooks your food on multiple layers of woven bamboo, allowing the steam to pass through easily and cook a variety of foods at the same time. ($14.99 at Target.com).

Drink it Without Containers: By brewing your coffee and tea at home, you eliminate the use of chemically prone plastic and paper cups. The T-fal Balanced Living Kettle quickly heats water to your liking, using adjustable temperature controls, viewing window, and 360 ° rotating base, locking lid and concealed heating element. Convenient! ($49.99 on Amazon.com).

Interview with Hollis Wilder, Celebrity Chef and Author of Savory Bites

Hollis Wilder headshot

Hollis Wilder

We interviewed Celebrity Chef, Food Network Champion Hollis Wilder who recently authored the new book Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan that will be released this Saturday – April 6th!

I can’t wait to see her new book because I’ve heard of making cool recipes in cupcake pans but I haven’t had the chance to try any out. I think the kids are going to love this too!

Here are the questions we had for Hollis Wilder…

1. What veggies are the best ones to “push” onto your kids and what’s the best recipes you know of that will get kids to eat their veggies?

I don’t think of it as “pushing” as much as I think of making it my child’s idea to eat and enjoy vegetables. When my children come home from school they are starving. I have a crudité of fresh green beans, carrots, peppers, red and yellow tomatoes, and hummus waiting for them. I can get them to eat all 5 servings of vegetables at that snack. This is much easier for me to do when all they have to eat are veggies. When I send veggies in their lunches with other choices, the veggies come back home. When we make Savory Bites, meals in the cupcake tin, I use clear bowls filled with the very same vegetable options and I add sautéed spinach, blanched broccoli, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and tomatoes, grilled vegetables, so that when they are making “personal pan pizzas” or penne pasta gratins they can layer in the Colors they are attracted to first, instead of thinking about the taste. I have tricked not only my children but other children into using the cupcake pan as there pallet for creating the meals they want to eat, just because I have given them an edible paint brush to work with.

pic from Hollis Wilder's new book "Savory Bites"

Photo Credit: Tina Rupp

3. What’s your favorite quick & easy family meal to make?

I like to keep it simple, protein, vegetables, are the main part of our meals. My children like Spinach Soufflé, easy ladies it’s Stouffers (freezer section) Salmon pan seared, fresh lemon and a Salad of romaine, apples, avocados, grapes, and a seasoned rice wine splash. We pretty much eat like this every meal.

Pic from Hollis Wilder's new book - "Savory Bites"

Photo Credit: Tina Rupp

4. Do you have any tips of tricks for busy moms that want to entertain?

Whether you are entertaining for your neighborhood friends with families or having an adult only party, the most important piece of the meal is keep it simple sisters. I am with you! Don’t feel that you have to impress anyone, just make food that will make your guests feel like they are coming home and you will succeed.

Prep everything in advance. You can fill the wells of the cupcake pan the day prior and wrap in plastic wrap for fresh cooking the day of the party. Make sure that all of your side dishes are diced sliced and chopped ahead of time, so that you can make yourself and your home pretty prior to the guests’ arrival.

Get the rotisserie chickens from the grocery, cut them up into portions and brush orange marmalade or pesto, or BBQ sauce on them and re-heat. (No one will know)

Make more food than you think you will need. The best part of Savory Bites is that you can pack up leftovers in 6 inch square plastic containers so they guests can live your magic all over again the next day.

Pic from Hollis Wilder's new book - "Savory Bites"

Photo Credit: Tina Rupp

Thanks to Hollis for taking the time to answer our questions!

If you like her tips and trick, be sure to get her new book Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more info!


Twitter: @HollisWilder
Facebook.com/HollisWilder
Facebook.com/SavoryBitesCookbook
Facebook.com/PotluxeDinner
Pinterest.com/HollisWilder
Pinterest.com/SavoryBites
Instagram.com/HollisWilder