Friday, November 30, 2012

Recipe: Pretzels + Candy Canes + Chocolate = Heaven

This idea comes from Wendy, a City of Motherly Love reader and chef of all things yummy.  Thanks, Wendy!



Candy & Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods

Ingredients
  • Box of pretzel rods
  • Bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Crushed candy canes or starlight peppermint candies

Use your food processor to grind the candy canes or starlight candies into bits.  Put crushed candy into shallow dish.  Then, put the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave the chocolate chips for 30 seconds.  Stir.  Repeat twice and stir after each time (for a total of three 30 second intervals).  Dip a pretzel rod into melted chocolate (Use a spoon under the pretzel to catch the excess chocolate).  Put chocolate covered rod in dish and roll in mints.  If needed, use your hands to cover any other parts where the mints didn't stick.  Put finished pretzels on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for 20 minutes to set.  Done!!!

These look pretty enough to give as presents, but delicious enough to keep for yourself!!!!!

Do you have a recipe you want to share?  Let me know! 



Preserve Your Family's History.... Here's How!

Problem:  We all have tons of old VHS tapes, filled with family memories, but gathering dust (and taking up room!)
Solution:  Purchase a DVD Converter, and ensure that your videos stay up to date!


When you have tapes professionally converted to DVD, it is VERY expensive.  But, when you purchase the DVD Converter yourself, you can save a lot of money.


Over the summer, I converted all of our VHS tapes to DVD (including the ones where I had a perm and sky-high bangs!).

Benefits:
* Relatively simple to do.
* Finished DVDs can be played on your computer.
* Files can be copied onto your hard drive.
* Your kids will have a BLAST seeing all of the old videos.
*  Cheaper (and more private) than having a professional do it for you.
* It is beyond satisfying to throw out the old, clunky VHS tapes and make way for the space efficient DVDs!!!!

Drawbacks:
* DVD Makers are not cheap
* It can be time-consuming 

There are a lot of DVD Makers on the market, but we used the one below! 
 Sony VRDMC6 DVDirect Compact Size DVD Burner with AVCHD Recording 
Savings Tip:  Keep the DVD Maker in your cart for a while on Amazon and see if it goes down in price, since they often put it on "sale."

Happy movie making!

DVD Maker

FYI - You may also need to purchase a separate AV cable to get the job done! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Design on a Dime - Get the Most Out of Old Furniture, Part II

The Problem:  Under-utilized bottom half of kids' closet due to the those short, cute little clothes.
The Solution:  Use an old (or inexpensive new) bookshelf to create instant storage.



My son has tons of books (a great problem to have) and a nice-sized closet.  So, we went to Big Lots (one of my favorite stores) and got an inexpensive bookshelf for $20 to put underneath his clothes.  We use it for books, but you could use it for toys, shoes, etc.  We also have a nice, cozy chair right next to the closet, so the books are within easy reach!

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Design on a Dime - How to Get the Most Out of Old Furniture, Part I

I loooooooove finding uses for old furniture, or furniture that is not as quality as it could be (a.k.a., junky furniture).

The Problem:  Old furniture, plus an unorganized, poorly utilized closet.
The Solution:  Use an old chest of drawers in your closet.

Many times, the lower halves of closets aren't utilized to their potential.  While my dream is to turn this space into one of those HGTV closets with tons of shelves and racks and built-ins, I'll settle for a few extra drawers for now!  Realizing that my old, beat-up IKEA dresser wasn't the attractive thing in the world, I used some decals purchased from JoAnn Fabrics for $1 and dressed it up a little. You could also paint it, stencil it, etc.  If room permits, you could put a little mirror on it and turn it into a little vanity.  A few old scarves hung from the shelf help make the closet look a little more fun.  Oh, and don't pay attention to the ironing board next to the dresser.  I NEVER use it and am the worst ironer in the world!


If you like what you see on this site, make sure to Subscribe to City of Motherly Love by Email. You'll get great updates once a day!  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Check Out Our New Logo! Learn How to Make Your Own!

Every new blog needs a new logo, and here's ours!!!  Ah, can't you feel the love?!  




And, because I share WAY too much, here's the easy (free) site I used to make it.  It was fun, and makes me want to create logos for everything now.... Maybe a family crest? 

Instant Therapy - Free, creative, and no calorie!


I have a theory... The world would be a gentler, kinder place if everyone was required to color every day.  I'm serious!  My son LOVES to color, and I always loved coloring as a kid.  But, when I would sit and color with him, I would zip through the pictures in his coloring books too fast!

Enter: Coloring books and coloring pages for GROWN-UPS!  You think I'm kidding, but it's the most relaxing thing in the world!.  Once at a consignment sale, I bought a pack of three grown-up coloring books for $1. 


You can find awesome, sophisticated coloring books lots of places, like Barnes & Noble (they actually have an "Occupy Wall Street" themed coloring book).  Just be careful what happens when you google "Adult Coloring Books"... You'd be a little surprised (and a lot grossed out!)  

Here are the benefits of coloring with your kids....  It's CREATIVE, relaxing, and it makes them want to talk about their days.  We've had the best conversations during coloring sessions!

Want to experience the zen of coloring without committing to a whole book?  My friend turned us onto printable Mandalas.  Mandalas have long been used as beautiful pictures used while meditating, so there you go!  You can't argue with thousands of years of Eastern philosophy, can you?

There are TONS of spots on the web, but here's one to get started for printing your mandala coloring pages. 

Printable Mandalas

Happy coloring!!!!!  Just don't blame me when you're so relaxed that you forget to make dinner!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

City of Motherly Love's First CONTEST - Great Chances of Winning!!!!!

As promised, it's time for our very first giveaway here at the City of Motherly Love!  One lucky winner will receive a new copy of "YOU: Raising Your Child.  The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade", written by Michael F. Roizen and everyone's favorite doctor, Dr. Mehmet Oz

YOU: Raising Your Child

How to Submit Your Entry Just Subscribe to City of Motherly Love by Email and add a comment to this post saying that you subscribed. All entries must be received by 12/31/2012.  A winner will be chosen at random from the entrants.  Good luck!

More about "YOU: Raising Your Child" - There’s little doubt that parenting can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences you’ll ever have. But it can be plenty tough, too: Around the clock, you’re working to keep your little one healthy, teach her the difference between right and wrong, and make sure none of her little fingers find their way to the electrical outlets, the dog’s nose, or grandpop’s cup of coffee. In YOU: Raising Your Child, Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen, the New York Times #1 bestselling authors of the YOU health series, help you navigate the often tricky journey of parenting with the ultimate guide to raising a happy, healthy child.


Subscribe to City of Motherly Love by Email

What a Personal (and Beautiful) Gift Idea for ANY Occasion!

Here's a creative, personal gift idea for any occasion - Hanukkah, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Anniversary, etc.  

This one is another super thoughtful idea from my mom.  One year, she had our wedding invitation professionally framed. 




Coupons for Michael's and AC Moore are everywhere these days, and they often have 50% off professional framing (just google it before you go!).  Or, you could frame it yourself with a mat and a frame.

We've had it hanging in our entryway for years, and when our son was born, we added his framed birth announcement below it!!  Sort of like a Hall of Fame, if you will!

A Little Tuesday Inspiration


Monday, November 26, 2012

Go OUTSIDE the Box with Your Gifts! Two Ideas!

Hope you all had a good Cyber Monday!  What did you buy?!  If you're like us, you mainly bought things for your own household that you needed anyway!

If you're looking for some good, personal gift ideas for the crafty people in your life, here are two!  My mom gave me the first one as a Mother's Day present last year, and it was one of my absolute all-time favorite gifts.  I took my son and we had a great time.


Color Me Mine - The Art Of Having Fun
Idea #1 - A gift card to Color Me Mine (or any paint-your-own-pottery studio).  These places are not cheap, but they often have coupons for discounted painting time in the Entertainment Book.  A gift card is just a thoughtful way to get them started.  It would be even better if they take you with them! 




Idea #2 - A gift card to Painting with a Twist.  This is a new franchise that sounds awesome.  Paint, canvas, and brushes are provided, as is an experienced local artist who leads you step by step through the process of recreating the featured artwork. At the end of the evening, you'll have a finished painting that YOU made.  Again, this would be a great experience for the recipient to share with a friend or family member!

How great are presents that you can look forward to enjoying later, after the holidays are over?  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Coming Soon - Our First Giveaway!

Coming soon is our first giveaway! It's only open to subscribers, so make sure to subscribe to the City of Motherly Love today.  Stay tuned for more information =)

Design on a Dime - How to Change the Changing Table

If your house is like ours, the toys are slowly taking over.  It's a great problem to have, but it's easy for kids to suffer from the "out of sight, out of mind" problem and only play with the toys that they can readily see.  But, efficient storage can be expensive.  So, try this idea on for size.  One of our favorite toy organizers is this lovely set of light blue shelves.  Can you guess what this used to be?

























That's right, it used to be our son's changing table!  It was sitting unused in our basement, and came to the rescue when we needed more storage. It used to be a light colored wood, which didn't go in our family room, but that's easy to fix.  

Change the Changing Table Project Supplies:
  • Changing table 
  • Small can of house paint (latex wall paint is perfect)
  • Drop cloth
  • Paint brushes

If you don't have house paint that you like, go to your local Home Depot or Ace.  They have a section with "OOPs paint" in their paint department where they sell cans of paint for $2 - $10.  Often times, these are beautiful colors that customers didn't want for some reason after the store custom-mixed them.  We got this gorgeous pale blue shade for $2 at Ace. 

Set up the drop cloth, and make sure the paint can't bleed through it.  If you think it can, put a layer of cardboard or newspapers underneath.  Make sure you stir the paint well, and get to work.  It you hate to sand like I do, it will take several coats to cover the shiny varnish.  

Here's a trick so you don't have to wash out the brushes between each coat.... Wrap the brushes in layers of wet paper towels when not in useThe brushes won't dry out, and you won't need to keep washing them! 

This is a quick and easy project that yields great results!  Just make sure to the let the paint dry thoroughly before you load it up with toys!

WOW - Wooden Train Table with 45 Piece Train Set | Just $45 Shipped!

Now this is great deal!!!  If we didn't already have a train table, I wouldn't be able to click fast enough!




From one of my favorite savings site, Moms Need to Know....  Right now you can get a Wooden Activity Table with 45-piece Train Set & Storage Bin for just $45 at Walmart (including free shipping!).  It can be used for trains or LEGOs!

Wood Train Table

Saturday, November 24, 2012

BEST PIE RECIPE EVER (For the Holidays or ANY day!)

Thanksgiving is just the kick-off to the eating extravaganza that is the holiday season.  I'm about to share my mom's amazing recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie.  It is the BEST....PIE...EVER!   "Sure", you say, "but what makes it different?"  WELL, unlike other pies I've sampled, the chocolate is dense and rich, instead of light and fluffy. It is our absolute family favorite, and I guarantee it will be yours!

So, here's the recipe (complete with pictures)

Chocolate Cream Pie
Ingredients:
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 4 eggs, separated (save both yolks and whites)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 carton of heavy whipping cream

Bake pie crust in 8 or 9 inch glass pie plate (either one can work).  Put a small amount of flour in pie plate to lightly coat it (this is very important).  Then, put pie crust in pie plate.  Prick sides and bottom of crust with fork.  Follow directions on crust package, but don't bake more than 9 minutes.  When crust is cool, begin to make the filling.  With a hand mixer, whip yolks and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the vanilla by hand.  Melt chocolate chips in a saucepan over medium heat, then add that by hand to yolks/sugar mixture.  Beat egg whites until stiff (with hand mixer), then add that to other mixture (and mix with hand mixer).  Pour into cooked pie crust.  Cool on table.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Beat cream into whipped cream with mixer (add 1 tsp vanilla extract).  Spread on top of pie.  If desired, add chocolate shavings to the top.  This year, I used the grating attachment on my food processor and dumped in the chocolate chips.  It turned out great!


And now... for the pictures (I'm sorry there's no taste-o-vision on this blog).....


Here's the pie crust after I took it out of the oven.  It make it easier to handle, I baked it on a baking pan.

And, here's the pie after the chocolate filling is added (and the bowls have been licked by any willing kids (or adults) in the house!)


While you're mixing the whipped cream, make sure to wait until it gets nice and stiff!


And here's the finished product!!  Good for the holidays, or ANYTIME!  :)  Let me know how it turns out!

Crazy Good Deal: K'Nex Value 400 Piece Tub $10.98!

Hi all - Here is a crazy good deal on a giant K'Nex tub via the Queen of Free (another great blog).  We are already solidly Lego people in this house, but it could be a great gift!  If you're interested, snap it up quickly because Amazon can change prices on a whim!
 http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-5OxIVdW0NUM/ULEHDfEqPeI/AAAAAAAAFtM/GO0qqJmadGw/s1600/51X4Ark3r6L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Queen of Free: K'Nex Value 400 Piece Tub $10.98!

Friday, November 23, 2012

AMAZING Deal-finding Website to Check Throughout Black Friday

Hi shoppers!  Even though I am pretty much all done with my holiday shopping this year, I still loves me a great deal!  As you head out today or, even better, stay home and shop in your extra-roomy PJs after a delicious meal yesterday, here is a GREAT site to check throughout the day today.  This is one of my absolute favorite deal websites, and Crystal updates it throughout the day on Black Friday with serious online deals. 

Tell her that you hail from the City of Motherly Love (and let me know what amazing deals you find!)

Money Saving Mom

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Free Holiday Gift Deal - Shutterfly Wall Calendar

The frenzy of Black Friday is upon us!!!! But, deals can be had from the coziness of your own home. Shutterfly is offering a free 12 month photo wall calendar until tomorrow (Friday, November 23rd) at midnight. All you need to do is pay shipping!  Photo calendars are a great gift for family and are presents that keep giving the whole year round.

Shutterfly Wall Calendar 
Make sure to enter promo code: CALENDAR2013

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looking for cheap books?

We are big readers in this house, and we love the library.  But, I also like to have a big, rainy-day stash in my cabinet.  What is a book stash?  Those are the books you keep around for whenever the new book that you're reading is simply unreadable and you have to bail!  A friend once told me that if a book doesn't get good by 50 pages in, it's time to abandon ship!  Life is too short to read bad books.

If you're looking for a cheap way to build up your stash, head to your local library's used book sales.  Not only do they have great books for adults at anywhere from $0.50 - $2.00 a book, they are perfect for kids' books, too.  When my son was younger, we would buy Clifford, George, and Bob books by the boatload.  Now that he's older, we pick up the Calendar Mysteries, Cam Jansen, and Magic Tree House for a song.  

To be honest, we are nearing the end of book sale season.  They are usually most prevalent in fall and spring, but there is a great, free e-newsletter you can sign up for that notifies you of upcoming book sales in your town.  

Book Sale Finder

Check it our here:  Book Sale Finder

But, please don't blame me when you need a second house for all of your "new" books! :)  

Fun, easy Thanksgiving centerpiece kids can make!

Happy early Thanksgiving!!!!!  If you're looking for a quick, cute craft that incorporates thankfulness, check out this Thanksgiving centerpiece we printed out and made yesterday.  It works best if you have cardstock to print it out on.  If not, you could mount them on thin cardboard from a cereal box or something like that!



Thanksgiving Centerpiece Printable

Have a happy, safe, and delicious Thanksgiving!