Love Story

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Torani Holiday Cheer

 There are so many things to love about this time of year and one of them is all of the seasonal flavors we get to enjoy! I wanted to share with you two of the Torani Syrups we have been using in our house for the month of December.
 The first Torani syrup that has been making many appearances this month is the Peppermint flavor. It's like a candy cane in a bottle! This is great added to a homemade mocha and my kids have especially enjoyed it poured into their hot chocolate. If you caught my DIY hot chocolate jars post, if you removed the peppermint candies and instead paired a bottle of the Torani Peppermint Syrup with the cocoa jar, it would make for an awesome gift.
My personal favorite lately has been the Salted Caramel syrup. I add it to my french pressed decaf coffee along with almond good! The kids have also really been liking it in their hot apple cider. For more ideas on how to incorporate Torani's Salted Caramel syrup into your drinks and other treats, check out the recipe idea page HERE.
What flavors are you enjoying this holiday season? As I was browsing the flavor list at I was so surprised to see that their syrups extended beyond the typical sweet flavors I knew existed. Did you know they have flavors like Bacon and Chicken 'N Waffles in their arsenal? I didn't either. If you haven't checked out all that Torani has to offer, I encourage you to do so. Great for this season and beyond.

**This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks and Torani. In exchange for my opinions, I was given free Torani products to sample. However, all opinions given here are completely my own.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

DIY Gifts - Hot Cocoa Jars

I am so excited to be co-hosting a Christmas party this weekend for some awesome women who serve in the same ministry as me. We know these women give a lot so we wanted to make sure they had a great time and felt loved. The games, devotional, food are all going to be great and we just needed something great for them to take away as well. That's when I decided on these super adorable Hot Cocoa Jars. They are so cute and who doesn't love a delicious cup of hot cocoa this time of year? Let me share with you how we created these.
You could certainly use a store bought mix for this project but I wanted to go the extra mile so I started by making a huge batch of homemade hot cocoa mix (I used this recipe from Pennies On a Platter).
Now you need a mason jar...I used 16oz but you could make this work with any size. I added a little less than a cup of cocoa mix to the jar using a canning funnel to keep the powder from going everywhere.
Next come the toppings. You could get all kinds of creative here! We went with a 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows, 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, and 5 or 6 peppermints all layered on top of the hot chocolate. I left the mints in the wrapper so that anyone who didn't like them could just take them out but you could crush them up if you wanted. You could also separate the topping layers with little baggies so it is easy to get out of the jar. I really liked the look of the layers on top of each other so I did it that way.
Finally, time to make it beautiful. I found some fun polka dot cupcake wrappers that I put on top of the lid before I screwed the ring onto the jar. Then I tied on a homemade tag. The silver backing is just a mini foil cupcake wrapper flattened out and cut along the edges. The snowflake tags that are glued in the middle are part of a free printable from Simple As That. On the back I put the directions for making the cocoa. Tied it on with a ribbon and it was finished. I think the ladies will love them! (Only 23 more to make...thankfully it will go fast thanks to help from my co-hosts. Nothing beats an assembly line and girl talk while you are getting work done:)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Meet the Gundersons

I want to introduce you to a dear friend of mine, Jessie Gunderson, who has been on quite a journey this past year. I'll let her tell you more about it in her own words:

I’ll Never Get my Life Back

I’ve never thought of myself as the mothering type. The delight I experienced once I started having kids surprised me but I still longed for a day when they’d be grown up and I’d get my life back. 

One day I was thinking about God’s profound love for us and how Jesus gave up his life so we could live and I began to change. I realized I couldn’t love God and despise His creation. I prayed for Jesus to show me how to love people.  

I’ve been a mother eleven years this December, learning how to love, surrender my agenda and the 
perfectionist tendencies, and grow to a place where I no longer want a different life. Isaiah 58:10 says to spend yourself. And as I studied God’s selfless character, I realized that’s how I want to be. 

I delivered a little boy, my fifth child, at our home in the woods and I knew that our family wasn’t complete. God revealed over the next year and a half, His plan for further growing our family to include internationally adopted children. We’re currently in the process of adopting a 5 and 7 year old brother and sister from Ethiopia. She wants to be a judge when she grows up and he wants to be a runner. The journey toward them is immense and the heart change has taken me a lifetime but I no longer want out. I want to surrender to Christ’s strength and lean on him so I can spend myself loving the least of these. 
How cute are they?
It has been pretty awesome to watch this family fully surrender to something they feel God is calling them to do and to trust Him despite how impossible the end goal seems. They are working diligently to bring their two missing kiddos home where they belong. 

You too can be a part of their amazing story. First and foremost, they need prayer. The enemy continues to put up roadblocks but they are trusting that nothing will get in the way if this is God's plan for their family. The second step you can take is to check out their online store ( They are currently $5000 short of the next goal which they would like to reach by the end of December and every penny of what they sell goes towards adoption fees.

If you want to know more you can find Jessie in her muddy boots at and on Facebook at


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gingerbread Nativity

I have had some crazy experiences trying to build gingerbread houses. The one that most sticks out in my mind was in high school when my best friend and I decide to make houses from scratch. We wanted to do it alone so we went out to her grandparents lake house, in the middle of winter, and tried to tackle the project. Needless to say, after hours of work and problems like no running water, we ended up with disasters for houses. After that I shied away from that particular part of Christmas for a long time. I think the next time I did it was at a party with my kids and they had graham crackers for easy house building. Last year,more than 10 years since the great gingerbread fiasco, I got brave and decided to give the homemade thing a try again.

My husband and I did most of the work for this but we let the kids get involved some too. We had decided that a Gingerbread Nativity would be a fun spin on the typical house idea so I found a basic gingerbread recipe, a royal icing recipe by Martha Stewart (royal icing is the key because it dries rock hard), and some marshmallows and spaghetti noodles for the rest. It was a lot of fun and the nativity turned out great!
Time to start brainstorming this years creation....

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Kids Craft - Nativity Scene

My favorite season has once again arrived and as we pull out the decorations, welcome back Elfie, and let the fun of this time of year fill our schedule, I more than ever want to make a conscious effort to keep Jesus the center of our celebration. All of the other stuff is great and we enjoy it but none of it matters if we forget about Him. So as I was browsing for ideas to do with the kids I came up with this Nativity Scene collage idea and thought I would share it with you all.

The idea is to have the kids create their own nativity scene as they listen to the story of Jesus' Birth. I got out my Bible and read portions from both Matthew and Luke and the kids created their scenes as they listened.
This could be done a number of ways from using stickers to letting the kids draw their own pictures. For this particular activity, I printed off cute cartoon images of the different aspects of the nativity and let the kids cut, paste and arrange their scene however they wanted.

I got the images from Prepared NOT Scared (she actually created a Silent Night Bingo so you could print out the whole thing and have a fun game but I just used pages 16 and 17 from the PDF). I made copies for each of my older boys and let them chose if they wanted to cut out the squares or the actual images themselves. I wasn't surprised when they both chose to do it differently!

This was an easy activity that required little prep ahead of time and it was fun to listen to the kids interject when they were familiar with a part of the story. It was also great to see how differently they created their nativity scenes.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lunch Round Up #4

 It's that time again...lunch round up. Actually, I'm a little overdue so you are going to get your money's worth on this one! Here's what has been showing up in the lunchbox the last few weeks:

Salad, applesauce, turkey sandwich on a homemade roll, tootsie roll treats, ranch

Bratwurst, apples, carrots, homemade roll, marshmallow treat

Homemade fried chicken, applesauce, potato casserole, carrot sticks

Leftover pasta grilled cheese, crackers, carrots

bratwurst with ranch dipper, applesauce, fire beans, carrot sticks

apple slices, fire beans, tortilla chips, enchiladas

waffle sandwich with peanut butter and honey, apple sauce, pretzel rods, carrot sticks

Cowboy spaghetti, starburst treat, apple slices, carrot sticks

apple half with peanut butter, crackers, carrot sticks, shepherds pie
homestyle baked fries with ranch dipper, french onion mushroom swiss burger, grapes, celery sticks
If you like these ideas, you may want to check out my past round ups:
Lunch Round Up #1
Lunch Round Up #2
Lunch Round Up #3

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What's for Snack?

 What's for snack??? How many times a day do you hear this in your house? My kids have two small snacks a day (one between breakfast and lunch and one in the afternoon) so I feel like I hear this all the time!

I mentioned a few posts ago that I had revamped breakfast around here. That is continuing to go smoothly and we are finding all kinds of great food to start our day. Now I am starting to work on doing the same with snacks. Moving away from some of the processed snack foods they have come to rely on (can you say fruit snacks and store bought granola bars?) and trying to incorporate more homemade, healthy options. Not everything is totally healthy, but I at least try to know what ingredients are going into what they are eating. Artificial dye does not make that list.

Let's get onto the good stuff: pictures of food!

These are peanut butter balls that I made by loosely following a recipe at Sweet Pea's Kitchen {browse while you are there because there are zillions of other amazing food ideas}. I used steel cut oats after soaking them first and left out any dried fruit because one of my children doesn't like them (although next time I will make a batch both ways to please the masses!). This is so versatile because you can really add whatever you have on hand. Here's what ours looked like:

I had some almonds on hand that the kids had been snacking on raw along with string cheese or fruit but decided to sweeten up the remainder for a special snack one day. The resulting toasted cinnamon almonds from Aldi Food Blog were A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. So good and definitely a crowd pleaser. Yes, there is quite a bit of sugar on these bad boys but as a once in awhile treat I think they are great.
You can never go wrong with popcorn, but sometimes it can be kind of bleh if you do it too often so we like to add in different toppings to keep it interesting. Kind of like a popcorn trail mix! This particular bowl has raw cashews and dried apricots:
These quinoa granola bars are about as easy as can be. I threw a handful of ingredients into the food processor, used cookie cutters to mold the bars, and baked for about 15 minutes. Thanks Anja's Food 4 Thought for the inspiration!

Homemade cheese crackers - if you have never made these, you NEED to. They are a simple 4 ingredients (compared to the 15+ in their boxed store bought counterpart) and come together in no time. These are gone in no time and eaten by both kids and adults in this house:) There are tons of recipes out there but this time I used this version from Cooking Ala Mel:

This is just a sampling of what has been showing up on the snack list. As I mentioned, we do lots of snacks around here so if you like what you see here and would like more ideas make sure you let me know!

Past snack related posts:
Homemade granola bars (this version is more similar to store bought with different nuts, etc)
Homemade graham crackers

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lunch Round Up #3

I am feeling pretty pleased with the lunch line up so far...while some things show up in the rotation on a more regular basis than others, I feel like I have kept a decent amount of variety in his lunch box. I will admit that part of the reason for that is the accountability of sharing it here. Whatever gets the job done, right?
Apple slices with peanut butter, homemade fries and cucumbers with ranch dipper, popcorn and chocolate

Rice cakes, string cheese, celery sticks with peanut butter, carrots, banana
carrots, lunch meat, cheese cubes, cucumber slices, popcorn, banana
pumpkin cornbread, oranges, applesauce with cinnamon, carrots, rice cakes with crock pot refried beans
Made this lunch special for my visit to his school (all his favorite things!) carrots, cornmeal and cheddar biscuits, homemade mac n cheese, turkey rice meatballs
orange slices, celery, leftover chicken and fries with ketchup dipper from his brother's birthday dinner at Texas Roadhouse
banana, cucumbers, homemade tortillas and crock pot refried beans rolled up and fried with ranch dipper, carrots
Want more ideas? Check out past round ups:
Lunch Round Up #1
Lunch Round Up #2

I also have to be a little bit of a lunch container nerd and share how excited I am about the new dipping cups I got. I love, love, love the EasyLunchBoxes I have been using for 2 years now but couldn't find a dip container that fit inside. Imagine my excitement when they came out with their own perfectly sized dipping cups that have a snug lid and fit right inside the container!! You can find them here or on Amazon. (and no I am not getting reimbursed for this plug...I just truly love the product and wanted to share for any of you looking for the same kind of thing:)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Halloween Countdown Calendar

I was browsing Pinterest {anyone else frequently find themselves starting their sentences that way too?} and actually looking at Christmas advent calendars when the idea hit me - why wait for December when October is here and has a perfectly fun holiday worth counting down to! So I did a quick little search for inspiration and came across an adorable Countdown to Halloween at Tailored Pages that was made using a cookie sheet from the Dollar Store. I happened to have an extra on hand from our road trip {remember the activities I made for the kids?} so I took the idea and ran with it.

I started by raiding my stash and grabbing goodies I already had laying around. I have a friend who snagged a bunch of Halloween craft stuff on major discount last year and was kind enough to share some with me so I knew this was a great opportunity to use some of that. Here is most of what I started with:
After the kids were in bed I sprawled out on the floor and in no time had whipped up this cute hanging Halloween Countdown:

The marker is a cute little spider attached to his web (he has a magnet on his back to keep him stuck to the tray):
I think the kids will get a kick out of this and it will be a fun new addition to our Halloween decor. I am excited that it cost nothing and we will be able to use it year after year!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

{No-Sew} Fabric Scrap Tutus

A few years ago I made a no-sew tulle tutu for my niece's 2nd birthday. It was so easy and I have been meaning to make more, especially now that I have a second niece to spoil! So when I saw the new trend of fabric scrap tutu's, I knew that I had to give those a try.

This was a super easy project and took no time at all. And what a great way to use up your scrap pile! Here is how my youngest niece's skirt turned out:
Hers is made up of 4 different fabrics and I cut a point on the ends of the orange flowered strips for some extra dimension

Want to see how I did it? Let me walk you through the steps I took on my older niece's skirt. To get started you want to measure the waist of the person you are making it for (I used my 4 year old to get a rough estimate) and then subtract 3 inches. This is how much elastic you want to cut. I believe I am using the 1 inch wide elastic here. Then you want to sew the two ends together to create a waistband. (Okay, I said no sew but this step is super easy so I don't think it counts:)

Then you want to find some coordinating fabrics and start cutting strips. My strips are between 1 and 2 inches wide and to determine length just measure from the waist to wherever you want the skirt to hit and then double. It doesn't hurt to go a little longer because you can always trim it down. You can also cut the different fabrics in various lengths for dimension. The number of strips you need is going to depend on how big your skirt is. For this skirt I used almost 50 strips (this isn't all of them, I had to add some at the end):

Now you are ready to assemble your skirt. Find a comfy seat {and if you are like me, some ridiculous Reality TV show to past the time} and slide the elastic band up over your thigh.

At this point you need to decide what order you want to add your fabric in. You can alternate colors in an ABCD pattern or clump them together in various ways - AABCCD or ABACAD, etc. This will depend on what you want your skirt to look like and how much of each fabric you have. You can also just wing it as you go and see what looks good. When this is decided, you can start adding the fabric to the waistband. This is done with a simple slipknot (I will label the directions with numbers that correspond with the following pictures for those of you who need a visual). Fold a strip of fabric in half so that the non-pattern sides are touching[1]. Slide the folded piece of fabric under the elastic[2]. Create a loop at the top of the fabric[3] and pull the ends through the loop[4]. Pull and adjust until it has created a tightened knot on the waistband[5].





Continue doing this until your entire waistband is covered and you have a full skirt.

You can see that I got through my first pile of fabric strips and had a gap so I had to find some more fabric to add to it. The nice thing is that you can slide the knots around so you aren't limited to adding to the gap, fill that fabric in wherever you want to:

I also added in a few ribbon strips and a bow and then I was done!

This is such a versatile pattern, you can feel free to add in ribbon or tulle as you go for accents or embellish with fabric flowers or bows. The possibilities are really endless! Wouldn't this be fun in team colors for a little fan? I think tights and boots would be darling with these skirts. Can't wait to see them on my already adorable nieces!
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