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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cupcakes

Hi guys! Johlene again from FlavoursandFrosting.com :) I´m here today to bring you this Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cupcakes Recipe. Made with chocolate buttermilk cake mix with crushed peppermint candies and topped with pink peppermint cream cheese frosting!!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Cranberry White Chocolate Cashew Cookies

Dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, and cashews marry to create the perfect holiday cookie!  Think neighbors gifts and party platters! 

I feel like I should offer a warning before anything else goes down.  These cookies are ridiculously addicting!  So if you're counting calories (although who does that this time of year? That's what New Year's Resolutions are for. Ha!) these pretty things will not be your friend.

Although I'm trying to mind my waistline, I still attached myself to these tasty confections, because, after all, I am a cookie fiend!  And the diet can start tomorrow.  :)
That's what the holidays are for, am I right?  Enjoying yummy food (especially sweets) and not worrying about the consequences until the new year?  At least, that's my take on it.  :) 

Makes about 2 dozen

1 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour (+ 1 or 2 Tbsp...add later only if needed)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup cashews, roughly chopped or halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to wet mixture and mix until combined.  Stir in white chocolate chips, cranberries and cashews.  At this point, if the dough is a little too sticky, you can add up to 2 Tbsp. more flour.  My dough needed one more Tablespoon, but I'm high elevation, so odds are you won't need any extra.  If the first batch comes out too flat, stir in a tablespoon at a time of flour until it's just right.

Scoop cookie balls by the rounded tablespoon or with a 1 1/2" cookie scoop and place six balls, evenly spaced (two across and three down), on a greased or nonstick baking mat-lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or just until they don't look doughy.  Don't overbake or they won't be soft and chewy!
 This is probably the worst time of year to concern myself with avoiding desserts for the sake of fitting into my skinny jeans.  For this reason, I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.  Neighbors and friends bring baskets loaded with homemade yummies and then we attend parties where loads of delicious food await our enjoyment.  It's just the pits, isn't it?  No, just kidding.  I love it! 

I just don't love what the scale says after it's all over.
But I'll gladly accept and live with that number if it means eating these phenomenal cookies!  And then I'll layer myself in thick sweaters and heavy jackets all winter to hide it.  Ha!

Your friends will thank you whole-heartedly for bringing these to the party!  

But who wants to share something this good?  

I may be a little selfish when it comes to my desserts.  :) But it is the season of giving, so I sent a plateful with my husband to a meeting and they received rave reviews! 

These are one of my favorite cookies of all times.  You must make them ASAP!

Trust me, you're going to want a handful of these after you finish your Black Friday shopping today!  :)

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kids' Lunch Idea with Free Printable Thanksgiving Lunch Box Jokes

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HorizonLunch #CollectiveBias

Send the kids off to school with a yummy lunch container filled with cheese and crackers, baby carrots, cashews, and a Horizon Squeeze Pouch and Milk Box!  Then, don't forget the Thanksgiving lunch box joke for a good laugh!
I've mentioned before that my kids may be the pickiest in the universe. They refuse to even eat sandwiches.  But yet they love to bring home lunch every day.  So, needless to say, I feel stumped when preparing their lunches in the mornings before school. 

And because I have a new baby and can't devote much time or thought to what the older kiddos will be eating for their midday meal, I need easy and yummy options. We're talking ones that can be thrown together in minutes before we run out the door, and I mean run, because we're usually very tight on time before that first bell rings. :)

Without fail, I can count on a coat being missing or an "Oh no! You need to fill out this paper and sign it! It's due today!"

You know the drill.  Nothing like being pressed for time to help you suddenly remember everything you need to do. :) 
So lunch is basically an afterthought around our house. Yet, I pride myself in sending my kids to school with sustenance I can feel good about. Those tummies need to be happy and content with all the rigors of bookwork and recess, after all.
So I went to Walmart and picked up some Horizon Kids Aseptic Chocolate Milk Boxes (The kids took immediate notice of the cute Peanuts Movie packaging.  It's in theaters now!) and Horizon Mixed Berry Squeeze Pouches. 
The milk boxes are on the aisle next to the toaster pastries and the fruit pouches are easily found next to the canned fruit.
Convenience is key, so I'm all about things that I can just throw into their lunch boxes but that also look like I put some thought into it. :)

I paired it with some cashews, baby carrots, cheese squares and crackers, because we know how those kiddos turn up their noses at the sight of a sandwich.  :) But they get super excited about chocolate milk and fruit squeeze pouches, so no complaints there.

Pretty much all my kiddos care about is that the food tastes good (no surprise there), but as their concerned mother, I'm a fan of the fact that these Horizon products contain lots of calcium and protein, but no high fructose corn syrup. 

Because Thanksgiving is just a few days away, I added in a cute and silly joke.  You'll want to tuck these away for next year too!

Download and print your free Thanksgiving Lunch Box Jokes HERE.

My favorite is the one that says, "What smells the best at Thanksgiving dinner?"

Your nose! Ha ha!

I bet you didn't predict that one.

I can just see the kids chuckling at the lunch table. 
Now I can send the kids off with an easy lunch that I'm proud of and I know they will thoroughly enjoy.

What are your favorite things to send in your kids' lunches in addition to fruit squeeze pouches and milk boxes?  I'm always up for new ideas!

Happy lunch packing! 

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you are a chocolate chip and oatmeal lover like me, then these cookies are for you!
I just love the chunky texture oatmeal lends to cookies.  Not only does it provide substance, but it's so yummy when combined with other flavors like (ahem, loads of chocolate).   These cookies have lots of dimension and are so versatile!  Add nuts, raisins, candy pieces, coconut, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, caramel pieces, or what have you, and they are the bomb! 

I got this recipe from a good friend, who got it from someone in our church.  It seems like it calls for a lot of oatmeal, but the oatmeal is what makes these cookies!  Just think of them like a granola bar, but a hundred times better because they're cookies! :)

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that we just moved into a new home.  My advice?  If you think you want to move, think again!  

No, just kidding.  We love the new place, but it was just a TON more work than I thought it would be, or maybe that was just the nine month pregnant me speaking.

I unpacked like crazy after closing on our home so we could feel settled before baby arrived.  The kids started school and are making new friends there and enjoying their teachers.  


3/4 c. shortening
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
3 1/4 c. oats
1/4 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Chocolate chips

Add all ingredients (except chocolate chips) to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Roll into large balls, place six on a cookie sheet, spaced 2" apart, and bake at 350 for 14 to 15 minutes.  If making standard sized cookie balls (walnut sized) bake for approximately 9 minutes.  Don't overbake or they'll be dry!  Allow to cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.  Store in an airtight container.
Another huge adjustment has been getting used to my new kitchen.  It literally takes me twice the time to make anything because I find myself opening every cupboard in search of the baking soda or my cookie sheet. 

I'm also getting used to baking in a new oven.  So far I like it, but every one is just so different, you know?  And, I won't even get started on the altitude adjustment.  We are high elevation.  So I basically play a guessing game every time I place something in the oven to cook.  But, with time, things will be normal again.
My first attempt in the new oven turned out delicious, if I do say so myself.  My kids and husband can second that.  You need these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies in your life! 

The kids enjoyed them as an after school snack with a tall glass of milk!  Mmmmmmm.....!!!

If you're a cookie monster like me, you'll want to check out THESE cookies too!


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Friday, November 20, 2015

Play Creatively with Bunchems

Bunchems are a perfect way to keep the kiddos creatively happy when the after school boredom hits!

Every day when that bell rings and the kids' backpacks hit the floor after walking in the door, they grab a snack and then immediately plop on the couch.  They could veg like this for hours!  Their little minds have been working all day and they are tired! Though I completely understand and always allow them some time to just sit and unwind, I love for them to keep busy while being productive.  If not, I get to play referee instead of getting dinner done.  :)

So after a little while, I encourage and then urge them to go upstairs to the toy room to play. :)
My kids were ecstatic last week when they came home to see this box waiting for them to open!  They immediately started dreaming up fun designs to make with their new Bunchems pals.  I love when those wheels turn in their cute heads!
They quickly dug in, grabbing the colorful, squishy balls and bunching them together.  
The creative options are limitless with adorable eyes, legs, wings, and hat accessories to add and so many colors to choose from.   

Bunchems easily pack together to make cute designs.  The more imperfect, the better!  I loved the character and personality of each creation the kids showed me.  They were so proud of their masterpieces and kept pulling them apart with ease and re-inventing!
The clean freak in me didn't worry at all, because when the kids were done playing, they literally stuck them back together in a split second and placed them in the box. 

My daughter thought that by creating her own little Frosty, she could bring us good luck for lots of real snow in the months to come.  :) Here's to hoping.

Oh how I adore the little embellishments she added.  The eyes and nose poke easily into the indentations in the Bunchems.

Just in case the kids drew a blank on what they wanted to make next, they could search through the Bunchems pamphlet for loads of inspiration!
The Bunchem balls were just asking to be formed into a fuzzy-looking caterpillar, so we indulged! 
Because Halloween is always in our hearts, the kids put together an adorable bat.
And then my daughter formed and named "Mr. Cool Sunshine".
Apparently these are "The blob twins".
Meet "King Prickly".  

We had lots of good laughs while naming the kids' new "pets" and coming up with stories to go with them.  

Bunchems provide hours and hours of creative entertainment for kids!  And after that time has passed, they have something adorable to show for it!  Productivity at its finest.  :)  I love when the kids find fun ways like this to beat the boredom!

These make perfect holiday gifts too!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Gratitude and Acts of Kindness Kids' Turkey Craft

My kids and I really enjoy crafting together, and since we don't really have many Thanksgiving traditions, we started a new one this year with this adorable Gratitude and Acts of Kindness Turkey Activity!
As I mentioned, our family Thanksgiving traditions are pretty typical and really just center around getting together with loved ones and friends and enjoying good food and conversation.  Other than that, we don't really have anything special that we do leading up to the day.  I wanted to change that this year.

I'm doing my very best to teach my children good values like being thankful and helping others. I love that we have this time of year to really realize and appreciate our blessings and to turn outwards in serving those who are in need.  

I'm a leader in my church over what's known as "Activity Days" for girls ages 8-11.  It's basically an organization where we meet every other week for an evening and have an activity where we accomplish certain goals and learn values through crafts, games, educational demonstrations, etc.

As I was thinking about what we could do for a creative Thanksgiving-themed craft, this particular, simple idea popped into my head.  The girls had so much fun with it and I hope they will take it to heart and really act on it.

Then, I went home and my other kiddos wanted to make one too, so we did.  :)

I love that the supplies are super inexpensive and ones that you probably already have on hand.

You'll need:

Construction Paper
White Paper Plates
Markers (be sure to use washable if there will be little ones)
Small Googly Eyes
A glue Stick
Start by cutting"feathers" out in various colors of construction paper.  You'll need about seven.  Cut out a half circle for the body and a head and neck shape, a beak, legs and a gobbler thing (sorry, not shown). 

Cut your paper plate in half.  You can use the other half for another turkey if you'd like.
Let the kids label each of the feathers with something they're thankful for.
Now turn those feathers over and help the kids note an act of kindness they will perform in relation to what they said they were thankful for on the front.  (e.g. Parents-be obedient, siblings-share my toys, friends-cheer someone up, teachers-be a classroom helper, etc.).  Encourage them to really put some thought into this.  
Put a little of glue on the very tip of the back of the feather and stick it to the paper plate. 
Fan the feathers all the way around the plate.
Now glue the body over the feathers.
Add the head, eyes, beak, and gobbler.
Don't forget the feet!  That's it!
Isn't Tom Turkey cute?!
Now encourage the kiddos to perform those acts of kindness in secret so the person receiving the service won't even suspect!  The goal is for them to choose a feather each day for the week leading up to Thanksgiving or just randomly throughout the month of November and perform that act of service.

This craft is a perfect way to get the kids in the spirit of being grateful and giving!

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Soft Gingerbread Cookies Recipe and Fun Holiday Traditions for Kids

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SendHallmark #CollectiveBias

Make and decorate gingerbread cookies with the kids to create fun holiday memories!  Then let them select a special Hallmark ornament to place on the tree each year! 
 My kids and I can't wait for December to arrive so we can get started with our many wonderful Christmas time traditions. Among many other things, we always do an advent calendar, decorate graham cracker houses, make goodie plates to give to neighbors and friends, go see beautiful lights around our city and of course watch lots of festive movies and listen to Christmas music.

But one of my kids' most treasured holiday activities is making and decorating cookies together.  Sometimes it's sugar cookies cut out in pretty candy cane, Santa Clause, and tree shapes that we frost with yummy vanilla buttercream icing and embellish with brightly colored candies.  But this year, after we headed out to Walmart and selected our special new ornaments, a tradition we also love, I was inspired by our adorable Hallmark Gingerbread House Ornament, to make Gingerbread Cookies!
I found a great selection of Hallmark ornaments on an aisle end cap in the seasonal section at Walmart.
This Hallmark gingerbread house ornament was so perfect for our family this year, since we just moved into a new home a few months ago!  Now we'll relive this special event every year when we decorate the tree.
We also picked up a pretty gingerbread house Hallmark greeting card (also available at Walmart) which we'll send to someone special very soon. My three year old daughter had her eye on the sparkly Sleeping Beauty Hallmark ornament, since she's obsessed with all things Disney Princess right now, so I let her add it to our cart. :)
In keeping with our fun gingerbread theme, the kids and I headed home and baked up some delicious Gingerbread cookies cut out in the shape of adorable little men!

The kids sat on the counter and helped me measure the ingredients, then were right there to help roll out the dough and cut out the shapes after it had chilled in the refrigerator. We made sure the little guys didn't run off after we removed them from the oven.  My littlest ones were concerned after reading The Gingerbread Man story.  :)


1 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. molasses
1/2 c. hot water
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ginger
5-7 cups white flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, butter, molasses and hot water.  Add eggs and mix until combined.  Stir together the dry ingredients (baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger and flour) in a separate bowl, then add to wet ingredients.  Mix until combined.  Refrigerate dough over night.  Roll out (not too thin) on a little bit of flour or cooking spray and cut with cookie cutters.  Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, but don't overbake.

I only needed to add five cups of flour to my dough, and it was perfect.  However, this could be because of my high elevation, so judge by the stickiness of the dough and not how much flour you've added.  I also only cooked mine for 6-7 minutes, also possibly due to my elevation.  You want them to look done, but not be browning on the edges too much or they won't be soft and flavorful.

Store in an air tight container until ready to decorate. These cookies freeze well.


1/2 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Milk (add by the tablespoon until frosting is nice and creamy but not runny)

Add all ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until creamy.

Decorate cookies with frosting and candy and enjoy!

We can't wait to put up our tree and place our new ornaments on it.  We're holding off until the first snowfall that sticks here in the mountains and we're hoping it happens sooner rather than later! :)

Making and decorating gingerbread cookies is such a fun tradition to start with kids. Now we can share these yummy cookies with neighbors and friends!

What are your favorite holiday traditions with your kids?

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Blender Tortilla Soup and My Holiday Must-Haves

When the weather turns cold, I turn to warm foods for comfort.  This Blender Tortilla Soup could not be easier to make and store with a few of my designated holiday must-have items that I'll share with you today!
I'm always in the mood for soup.  However, I'm not always in the mood to make soup.  Sigh.  Can you relate?  There are many times when I wish I had a personal chef, especially after a long, hard day when I wish my food could just magically appear in front of me on a silver platter.  :)

The monotony of waiting for the veggie and broth concoction to boil, then simmer, and then cool to a temperature that won't scald my mouth is at times just too much.  When that hunger hits on a cold evening, sometimes I just need a warm meal, pronto!

So, this is where a few of my most favorite things come into play. Now I'm not going to be able to get the image of Julie Andrews singing "These are a few of my favorite things" to the von Trapp kids, out of my head.  :)

Anyway, I digress, it's this time of year that really brings into focus not only what I'm grateful for (which is so many things), but what I'm going to give to those I love.
 And since I tend to give people on my gift list things that I adore and that make my life easier, I wanted to call out some of those fabulous items that I received in my November Acorn Box just in case they could be helpful to you as well.  :)  And hopefully none of my close relatives and friends will read this post, or there goes the surprise.  Ha!
 I mentioned how I really enjoy eating soup but don't always feel like making it.  Nutri Ninja With Auto IQ to the rescue! I just added some hot chicken broth, some veggies, and seasonings to it, blended it for a few seconds, and voila! Dinner was served.  And I'm pretty sure it was one of the easiest meals I've ever made.  :)  The amazing, powerful Nutri Ninja With Auto IQ is available at Walmart and Walmart.com.

I love that it has two auto IQ settings on it for blending both fresh and frozen ingredients.  It handled my solid ingredients like the carrots, just like a champ and produced a perfectly-textured soup just waiting to be eaten.

You can bet I'll be whipping my Nutri Ninja out again and again when the holiday company arrives.  I already see some Peppermint Chocolate Milk Shakes in my future! :)


1 slice red pepper
1 slice onion
1 slice jalapeño, seeds removed
1 slice tomato
1/2 large carrot or about 5 baby carrots
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. chili powder
pinch of salt
2 sprigs cilantro
2 c. chicken broth, hot (I made mine with 2 c. hot water and 2 tsp. chicken bouillon granules)

Pulse all items together in the Nutri Ninja and then blend for a few seconds until desired texture is reached.

Toppings: avocado slices, cilantro sprigs, crushed tortilla chips

Prepping for the soup was so easy with my colorful Chicago Cutlery Knife Set.  I'm obsessed with keeping great knives at my fingertips for all my cooking needs, but I don't like to spend a fortune on them.  These knives are very affordable at Walmart.  I like the serrated blades for cutting baguettes and tomatoes and the straight edged blades for cutting veggies like carrots, onions and peppers for today's soup recipe. And, the brightly-colored handles just make me happy while I'm slaving away in the kitchen.  :)
I always like to send my husband to work with yummy leftovers, so I'll be making another batch of this tasty blender soup and adding it to this handy dandy Rubbermaid 5-cup Premier Food Storage container.  I'm pretty sure his coworkers will be jealous of the festive modern Christmas tree design I created on top with some Scotch washi tape and my Sharpie Extreme Marker Set.  They write boldly on surfaces and resist fading, so they're perfect not only for crafts but also for labeling items around the house. I like to use these markers to note the date the leftovers were stored to prevent food spoilage.  A little bit of organization goes a long way!

I have a huge drawer in my kitchen devoted just to food storage containers, and this Rubbermaid beauty will take its place right at the top!  It's so easy to wash and reuse and is perfect for keeping leftovers like today's soup fresh!  And, it's so convenient for my husband to just grab out of the refrigerator on his way out the door in the morning.

I also love these Rubbermaid containers for small craft supply storage because they're clear, so I can see what's inside, and they stack so nicely!
I've been thinking about what "that perfect gift" is for everyone on my list, and I know just who these organic teas from the Signature Tea Company will be going to!  I don't drink coffee, but I occasionally enjoy a cup of herbal tea, especially when I'm not feeling well.  I really enjoy the peppermint variety.

When I saw these teas, I immediately thought of our wonderful new "neighbors" here in the mountains.  I put it in quotations because they aren't right next door, but they're about as close as neighbors get around these parts.  :)  They're the sweetest older couple who have taken my children under their wings and into their loving arms as their grandkids since they don't have any of their own.  They've been so welcoming and kind to us, and we just adore them.  Because the temperatures at our elevation plummet to levels that should be illegal, I'm sure they'll enjoy a warm, soothing cup of tea or twenty over the next few months!  And I'll be sipping on the Peppermint Herbal Tea for sure! These Signature Tea Company teas can be found at Walmart.

I hope I've provided you with a little holiday gift-giving inspiration if you're in a rut!  :)  I hope you are enjoying this wonderful time of year and that you can take some time to savor it (that's my goal, at least) because it comes and goes so quickly!

This was a sponsored conversation on behalf of Acorn Influence.  All opinions and excitement are my own.

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