Saturday, December 29, 2012

Easy Home Organization Craft for Kids (or Adults)

The New Year is coming, where we'll all make resolutions to get organized, get in shape, etc.  Well, I can't help with getting in shape, but I can help with getting organized (in a creative way, of course!).  Here's a fun craft you can do with your child, teenager, or just for yourself....

DIY Decoupage Organizer 

Here's how to make this easy, but useful craft!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chocolate Toffee - Only Four Ingredients and SO Delicious!

I could tell you that this dessert is great for a New Year's party.  I could tell you that this dessert is great as a gift.  I could give you tons of reasons, but, once you taste it, you won't need any!  I've been on a MAJOR dessert making kick this holiday season, and this one is by far the best I've made!!!!  Plus, it only takes FOUR ingredients!

Make your own Chocolate English Toffee

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

You CAN Do This - Easy, Quick Fleece Winter Hat with Ear Flaps

The days leading up to the holidays are always packed, with everyone rushing around to get things done!  But, what about when everything's come and gone and your hands are still looking for something to do?

Here's the EASIEST, cutest project ever - A quick fleece winter hat with ear flaps, for kids or adults.  You can sew this ALL by hand if you are allergic to your sewing machine like I am, and it takes 1 - 2 hours maximum.

Confession time:  This project was actually my first completed sewing project that followed a pattern!  I haven't had much luck with patterns in the past, but this one restored my confidence!  And, it's sturdy.  I made it for my son about 6 weeks ago, and it's still good as new.  Plus, it gets tons of compliments.  It feels really good when son proudly says, "My mommy made it!"

Are you ready to get started? 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Today Only - 20 MP3 Albums for $1.99 or Less, Including Taylor Swift, No Doubt, Rihanna & Blake Shelton

****Today Only****  Monday, December 24th

Once or twice a year, Amazon runs this crazy good deal where you can buy an entire MP3 album for $1.99 or less.  The cool thing is that most of the albums are from actual current popular artists, not just Jon Secada's greatest hits (not that there's anything wrong with that) or the soundtrack from Titanic. 

Normally, a download for one song could cost $1.49, so getting a whole CD for $0.99 is amazing!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Salty, Sweet, Easy & Pretty Dessert Recipe - Chocolate Covered Mini-Pretzels

City of Motherly Love reader, Wendy, was at it again this week!   After making the following treats for lucky co-workers and neighbors, she shared the pictures and how-to's with us.  I just wish the computer had taste-o-vision!

Without further adieu.....

How to Make Chocolate Covered Mini-Pretzels

Completely Free 2-Year Subscription to Parenting Magazine

We love magazine subscriptions in my house (probably because we've gotten most of them for free through various online offers).  Currently, I think we have about 15 subscriptions.  The mailman must love us!

Well, now it's your turn! is offering a completely free 2-year subscription to Parenting Magazine. 

Here's how:  Fill out a brief survey (past ones have been about MP3 players or music downloads), and you'll be subscribed.  We've used this site before, and it really is completely free!  Can't beat that!  Oh, and if you already have a subscription, just make sure to enter your address online as it looks on your monthly subscription label.  They'll extend your issues for two years past your current date.

Sign up for your free subscription here!
Thanks, BudgetSavvyDiva!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Little Friday Afternoon Cheer....

It's Friday afternoon - the stores are getting crazy, people are starting to cut you off in traffic (in a festive way, of course), and you can use a little pick-me-up!  Here is one, just for you, courtesy of Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Mariah Carey, some cute kids, and toy instruments! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Such a cool idea - I wish I'd thought of it!!!!

With help from other creative mommies, Ashley at She Makes a Home whipped up an issue of an online magazine.  It is absolutely gorgeous -  with tons of great recipe, decorating, entertainment fashion and DIY gift ideas.  Filled with lots of beautiful pictures, Snowed In is just inspiring to look through!  I wish I'd thought of this idea :)  Maybe next year, you'll be reading a "City of Motherly Love" special issue ;)

I'm not crazy about snow, so thankfully you don't actually have to be snowed in to enjoy it!

Easy Famous Fudge Recipe, plus THREE other dessert classics!

Are you trying to figure out what to make for Christmas next week?  Do you need an easy recipe for your family get-together?  Is New Year's counting down to something sweet?  Look no further - The City of Motherly Love is HERE!  (Cue Superhero music) 

I plan on making my trusty fudge recipe for next week.  Calling it "trusty" makes it sound boring, but, believe me, it is NOT!  It only takes about 15 minutes hands-on time and tastes professional.  You can also change it up with all kinds of variations (but you probably won't want to!).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Greeting Cards - How to Save Money and Time (and Stay Organized)

Two Scenarios - 

A.  You're standing in Hallmark, surrounded by too many choices.  You look from option to option, starting to sweat.  Which wording would be best?  Finally, you choose a card.  You pick it up, turn it over, and see that this simple little card costs $4.99!  You put the card back and run out of the store!

B.  Your child gets invited to a last minute birthday party.  The night before, you realize you don't have a birthday card.  You run out to the grocery store just for a card.  Then, the following week, you do it all again.

Everyone loves a nice greeting card.  It sends the message that someone is thinking of you fondly.  But, that doesn't mean that finding the right cards should be stressful or expensive!

Are you ready for my system?!  It's easy, organized and saves you time and money!

How to Make Your Own In-Home Greeting Card Store

Monday, December 17, 2012

Motherly Love Subscribers, Don't Forget to Enter Our Contest!

The City of Motherly Love is Growing! 

If you're a subscriber, don't forget to enter our very first contest.... All you need to do is leave a comment in my previous post

And, if you're not a subscriber, it's easy to do...  Just enter your e-mail address here.  Then, head on over to my contest post and let me know the good news.

Don't Forget - December 17th (Monday) is Free Shipping Day!

On this magical day, over 1,000 merchants are offering free shipping and other discounts, with delivery to the 48 contiguous United States by Christmas Eve.

Even if you don't need to order any presents because you finished your shopping in September, or because Hanukkah is over, you can still get great deals on things you might need anyway.

Free Shipping Day

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Turn Family Memories into Art - Great as a gift! Easy to do!

Every Memorial Day, we go to the local Memorial Day parade.  My son gets so excited, and loves all of the cars and trucks that go by.  This year, I took pictures of all of his favorites.  Don't get me wrong, I love digital cameras.  They have turn me into a virtual paparazzi, but we almost never print out pictures.  If you take a picture and no one looks at it, does it exist??

After getting a free collage coupon code from Shutterfly, I decided to turn those pictures into something productive.  I made a collage, purchased a frame, painted it, and viola, instant art!!!!  It has been one of my son's FAVORITE presents, and he loves looking at it every day.  The thing that I really love about it is that it offers double the benefits - you get something pretty to look at, and it's meaningful because the pictures represent experiences you've actually had!

Here's how to do it!  It took me about 1 hour of hands-on time (with waiting time in addition to that), it cost me $15 total.

Make Your Own Memory Collage Art

-  Six to ten of your favorite photos
Tip:  Ideally, they'll all be of similar themed subjects, like honeymoon pictures, vacation pictures, beach pictures, holiday pictures, etc, and taken in decent resolution.
-  Inexpensive 11 x 14 frame
Tip:  If you're going to paint your frame a different color, make sure it's made out of wood or another paintable surface.  Shiny plastics are impossible to paint.
-  A Photo Site, such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, etc.

How to Make It
The Collage - 
- Select your photos and edited as needed.  Crop them, change the orientation (from vertical to horizontal, and vice versa, if necessary), etc.  Make them pretty!
- Google for "coupon codes" for Shutterfly, Snapfish, etc.  Right now there are tons of deals, so take advantage of them!
- Select which site you want to use, and create a new "Collage" product.  Select which way you want it (horizontal or vertical), upload your pictures and play around with it until you're happy.  Using Shutterly, I added lines between the pictures to make them stand out.  I knew I was going to paint the frame navy blue, so I used that color for the lines.
-  Order the collage.  Some sites offer the ability to pick the collage up at a store that day.  If you don't want to wait to receive it in the mail, give that a try.
The Frame - 
-  Go to a place like TJ Maxx, Michael's, or AC Moore.  If you're going to a craft store, make sure to bring your coupon with you!
-  Purchase an 11 x 14 frame.  I got one for $10 from TJ Maxx.  It was beige, but I knew I was going to paint it, so I didn't mind.
-  If you're going to paint the frame, make sure you have at least one or two containers of your favorite acrylic paint from a craft store.  They only cost about $1.50 each, so it's a steal!
-  Remove the glass and backing, and put the frame on newspaper.
-  Start painting!  My frame took three coats to completely cover.  The frame will only need about 30 minutes between coats, so you can get it done in one day!
-  Let the final coat dry for at least 4 hours, put in the collage, and enjoy the results :)

 Here's the $10.00 frame before I got to work.... From the exclusive "Valerie Bertinelli" collection, apparently!

  I took out the glass and the backing, squirted my paint on a paper plate.....

 And got to work....  Here it is after the first coat!  You'll notice that my favorite paintbrush for frames is a nubby little guy.

The finished product turned out great!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Blueprint for an Easy, Inexpensive Gingerbread House

It's that time of year.... Gingerbread House time.  Until last week, I had never made one before!  My son's class had a gingerbread house making party where the parents got to help.  

And now, I'd like to share my newly acquired knowledge about how to build your own gingerbread house.  Don't get me wrong, if you're looking for Architectural Digest to come knocking after you're done, this isn't the tutorial for you.  But, if you want to have fun with your kids and make a fairly inexpensive, easy gingerbread house, please read on!

The supplies - Yum!  
Don't worry, you won't need anywhere near this much for your house!

Homemade Gingerbread House Made Easy

A one pint carton (could be from milk, half and half, egg beaters, etc.)
-  Tip:  A smooth carton is best.  The ones with the built in plastic spouts make it a little harder.
Frosting (either homemade or store bought)
-  If homemade, see the recipe below.  You'll need egg whites and confectioners' sugar.  Yum!
-  If using prepared frosting, one can of vanilla frosting should more than cover it! 
One box of graham crackers
Various decorations
-  You don't need to break the bank on this... Use what you have around the house; M&Ms, cookies, chocolate chips, pretzel sticks, marshmallows, cereal, raisins, licorice, hard candy, candy canes, lifesavers, tic tacs, shredded coconut, jelly beans, etc.  If you don't have a lot of supplies, the check-out aisle at the grocery store should have plenty of choices.  Get a couple of small bags of candy, and you're good to go!
A sturdy plate, either plastic or otherwise


Step 1:  Spoon frosting into a bowl and cover with a wet paper towel to keep it moist
Step 2:  Turn your (clean & dry) carton over and place a healthy dollop of frosting on the bottom.
Step 3:  Place the (frosting covered) bottom of the carton on the plate and let it dry for about 15 minutes.
Step 4:  Using a spoon or spatula, apply a nice layer of frosting all over your carton.  Make sure to get the sides and the angled tops.
Step 5:  Affix the graham crackers onto the sides and top.  Break them into pieces along the joints to make them fit nicely.
Step 6:  Slather frosting all along the open creases where no graham cracker is present.
Step 7:  Put decorations all along the creases!!!
Get creative - Flaked coconut can be snow on the bottom of the plate (with frosting glue, of course!), Marshmallows can be snowmen, Lifesavers can be windows.  And, if some of the decorations accidentally get eaten before they make it onto the house, that's okay!!!!
Step 8:  Let it set for about 15 minutes.
Step 9:  Admire your work (and don't let the dog eat it!)

To Fancy
From Plain

*Basic Gingerbread House Icing Recipe
  • 2 egg whites
  • 5 cups confectioners' sugar
In a large bowl, lightly whisk egg whites.  Gradually beat in approximately confectioners' sugar. The icing should be smooth and stand in firm peaks.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

DIY Heirloom Cookbook - Great as a holiday gift, bridal shower gift, or anniversary gift!

Are you looking for a unique, meaningful, useful gift you can make for a family member or friend?  Look no further....  Here is one of the most memorable gifts I've ever received, and I want to share it with you.

Do-it-Yourself Heirloom Cookbook
This gift can be tailored according to how much or how little time you have.  I received this gift from my mom at my bridal shower, and I treasure it to this day! 

1 recipe binder that has slip in, transparent sleeves and dividers (Hallmark has nice ones)
Plenty of recipe cards
A little bit of creativity

  • Come up with the recipe categories:  Some examples.... Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Entrees, Side Dishes, Desserts, Snacks 
  • If you have a lot of time: Solicit family members, friends, and co-workers for their favorite recipes.  The more tried and true the better.  Provide everyone with a blank recipe card.  If this is for a shower or anniversary party gift, include a blank recipe card with each invitation.  My mom even sent the recipe cards to special people from my past, like teachers and neighbors.  Everyone jumped at the chance to participate!
  • Hint:  To make sure there is a wide variety of recipe types, assign everyone a different category.  For example, some people are asked to provide an appetizer recipe, some are asked for a dessert recipe, etc.  Otherwise, you'll get a lot of cookie recipes (not that there's anything wrong with that).
  • If you don't have much time: Fill in the recipe cards yourself with your favorite recipes.  Call family members and ask them to e-mail you with their favorite recipes, and complete the cards on their behalf.  Make sure to say who the recipe is from!
  • Include a personal inscription:  Inside the front cover, include your own "recipe for a happy life together" or whatever is appropriate for the occasion.  My mom wrote the most beautiful, creative "dedication"... Here's a starter, "Take a wonderful couple, mix, and let simmer for 5 years"...  It's so cute and personal.  
  • Organize by Recipe Category:  Put all of the completed recipe cards in the sleeves, and organize by category.
  • Include extra recipe cards and sleeves:  This is a great way for the lucky recipient to grow their collection as the years go on!
  • Hint:  Make sure to save the box that the recipe binder came in, so the recipe binder is even easier to keep in heirloom condition!

So easy....
Purchase a sturdy recipe binder:

Make sure you have plenty of blank recipe cards.....

Come up with the categories for the recipes and assign everyone a category (or, assign yourself all of the categories!).
Send out the cards (or fill them out yourself) and slip the completed recipes into the sleeves, by type.

Then, add your own personal inscription on the front.

Make sure to include plenty of extra recipe cards and recipe sleeves.  Get ready for this to be the favorite gift the recipient receives!!!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Do Drinks Taste Better in Creative Mugs?

I think they just might....

This mug always makes me smile....  I got it from Our Name is Mud years ago... Our Name is Mud offers the kinds of ceramics I aspire to make when I go to Color Me Mine.  They're cute, fun and funny.

Or, if you have a shutter bug in your family, they will love the Camera Lens Coffee Mug from Tanga.  Just make sure they don't try to put it on their camera.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

City of Motherly Love Book Club: 2012 Book Awards

Welcome to the first meeting of the City of Motherly Love Book Club!  Like most moms, I love to read.  Also like most moms, reading comes at the expense of other things (like sleep!).  But, if the book is good, it's worth it!

Finding the books that will keep you turning pages all night (and feeling happy about it) can be tricky.  To help, just announced the winners of their highly anticipated 2012 book awards, based on over 1,000,000 votes. 

To give you an idea of the power of Goodreads:  50 Shades of Grey became a cult favorite on Goodreads, which led it to winning best romance of the year, which led to a major publishing deal.  If not for Goodreads, the world may not have met Christian and Anastasia.  Okay, that might not be a bad thing.  But, you get the point! 

So, without further adieu, here are the big winners of this year's awards...  Several I have read, and my mini-reviews are as follows!

Fiction - The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
As a Harry Potter fan, I gave this book a chance.  The writing was good and the characters were fully developed.  The story, however, was very dark and slow as molasses.  I kept waiting for the big pay-off and it didn't arrive!

Will The Casual Vacancy Keep You Up At Night Reading?  No!

Nonfiction - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I didn't read this one, but it is all the buzz on the Business bestseller lists.  As someone who never stops talking, it makes me a little nervous.  

Mystery & Thriller - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I just saw that this is getting made into a movie with Reese Witherspoon as the star.  I'm not a huge mystery fan, because I can never figure out whodunnit.  However, if everyone is going to keep talking about this book, I might need to give it a try.

Paranormal Fantasy - Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
This is the second book of the All Souls trilogy.  The series gives off a thinking woman's Twilight vibe.  Shadow of Night is quite lengthy, but the world that Harkness paints is very vivid. The heroine is strong-willed and intelligent, and doesn't grate on your nerves like another female lead in a certain vampire series (ahem... Bella).  Harkness is a historian, so at times Shadow of Night reads like a history lesson disguised as a romance at times.  But the medicine tastes good enough that you don't mind.
Will Shadow of Night Keep You Up At Night?  Yes.

Romance - Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James
I am a sucker for reading the pop culture juggernauts of the day, just so I can say I did.  This rationale only excuses me for reading the first installment of this series, but not the next two!  Did I stay up all night reading these?  Yes, I did.  Did I like myself for it?  No, I did not!  After the first book, I was skipping through the racy parts to get to the "story".  I know, I know... that wasn't what the author intended!  And, if you have kids of reading age in the house, HIDE THIS BOOK.
Will Fifty Shades Freed Keep You Up At Night?  Yes (but you won't feel good about it!)

Children’s Book - The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
    And here's where things get embarrassing... A few years ago, a friend told me about a series he'd read called "Percy Jackson & The Olympians" on his various business trips and how much fun they were.  With a recent B&N gift certificate burning a hole in my wallet, I ordered the set of five books.  Let's just say I read them in about a week. Written in a breathless style and with plenty of wit, these tales are entertaining and mildly educational at the same time.  I haven't read Mark of Athena, the recent installment of a Percy Jackson spin-off series, but I have it on reserve at the library.  A caveat: these books all follow the same formula, kind of like General Hospital, complete with amnesia and love triangles.  But, just like General Hospital, you don't mind!
Will Mark of Athena Keep You Up At Night?  Yes!

If you're interested in the rest of the winners on the Goodreads list, head over to their awards list.  Some of them, I think I'll tackle.  Some of them, I'll leave on the shelf!  You can guess which :)   Happy reading!

Oh, and we want to hear from YOU!  Did you read any of the books on this list?  Did you love them?  Did you hate them?  Leave a comment below and let's get the conversation going!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Free Shipping Day - Helping You Procrastinate!

Do you remember the episode of Friends where the gang procrastinates and needs to buy Christmas presents for each other at a gas station on Christmas Eve?  To make sure that no one on your list receives candy bars or antifreeze like Monica did, sign up for an e-mail reminder about Free Shipping Day on December 17th.

Free Shipping Day

On this magical day, over 1,000 merchants will offer free shipping and other discounts, with delivery to the 48 contiguous United States by Christmas Eve.

Even if you don't need to order any present because you finished your shopping in September, or because Hanukkah is over, you can still get great deals on things you might need anyway.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Easy Peasy Fleece Scarf for Kids or Adults

Do you have any leftover fleece but don't know what to do with it?  Have you been looking for an excuse to get that cute superhero or princess fleece that is on sale at JoAnn Fabric?  Here's a quick and useful idea...  Make an Easy Peasy Fleece Scarf, as modeled by our stuffed bear.  He is so photogenic ;)

Easy Peasy Fleece Scarf
Skill Level - Easy
Time Estimate - Less than one hour

Get one yard of your favorite fleece fabric.  
Cut a rectangle that measures 11 inches wide by 60 inches long (or however long you'd like it)
Fold in half width-wise, right sides facing each other.  The scarf should now be 5.5 inches wide by 60 inches long.
Sew the right sides together on the edge of the scarf, leaving 1/2 inch allowance or so.
Turn right-side out
With scissors, cut about four inches of each end of the scarf into equal width strips.
Knot the strips together by twos, effectively closing off the ends of the scarf (I wound up having eight knots total)
Be cozy! 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Easy Dessert: Everyone Will Want THIS Recipe!

Are you looking for a new dessert to make this holiday season?
Do you want to blow everyone away at the neighborhood cookie exchange?
Will you need something easy to whip up for the school bake sale?

Look no further!  Behold, our family recipe for Mondelbrodt (pronounced:  Mandelbread).  It is traditionally a dessert made for Hanukkah, but you'll want to make it for every occasion!

Did I mention how it easy it is?  The secret that really makes this recipe pop is the almond extract.  You may not have it in the cupboard, but it's worth getting!

These are the only ingredients you need for Mondelbrodt:

First, combine sugar, oil, lightly beaten eggs, and almond extract in one large bowl and the flour and baking powder in another bowl.

Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture in thirds and stir.  Stir until just combined.  Don't overmix.  Mix in the chocolate chips.

Shape the dough into three loafs on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle cinnamon liberally on top!

Bake for 20 minutes in a 325 degree oven.  Remove, and let cool down.

When cool, slice into squares.  ENJOY!!!!!!

Mondelbrodt Recipe

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 lightly beaten eggs
  • 4-5 teaspoons almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon

Combine sugar and oil in a bowl.  Spoon in eggs. Add almond extract.  Add flour and baking powder.  Mix until combined.  Add chocolate chips.  Shape mixture into three equal loafs on an ungreased baking sheet.  Sprinkle cinnamon on top.  Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees.  Cool.  Slice.  ENJOY!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

No Gift Bag? Try Yarn

We got two presents for an upcoming birthday party, and I wanted to make sure they stayed together until the birthday boy gets them home.  I never seem to have any ribbon in the house, so we used yarn (you could also use a strips of fabric).  My son told me his friend's favorite colors and off we went. 

I know - this is a pretty simple idea, but it's a nice way to make sure those cute little presents stay together and also to save a few dollars on a gift bag!

If you're really in the mood to get fancy, check out these ideas for using yarn to add some flair to your gifts at Lionbrand's site....

Woven Topper