Hosting, Lifestyle

Favorite Quick Dinner Recipe

With the holidays right around the corner, I am always looking for quick recipes for week night dinners. Here is one of our favorites Rigatoni with Sausage and Escarole.

First, here is everything you will need:

1 bunch of escarole chopped up

1 onion diced

1 red pepper diced (not too small)

2-3 cloves of garlic minced

2 lbs of rigatoni (I like to always make enough for leftovers. This recipe tastes even better the next day)

2 lbs bulk sweet Italian sausage

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 cup reserved pasta water (after pasta has cooked)

Olive oil, salt, and pepper

A nice loaf of bread to serve with!! Of course!!

Preparation steps:

1) In a large pot add rigatoni to heavily salted, boiling water. I use about a palmful of salt. Boil for about 12 minutes. Remember to reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

2) While the pasta is boiling, in a large sauté pan heat a large drizzle of olive oil and add the onions and red peppers, salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are soft. About 4 minutes

3) Next add the sausage to the veggies break up with a wooden spoon until browned. About 8 minutes.

4) Add garlic to the sausage and veggies. Stir for 1 minite

5) Add the escarole to the sausage and veggies an let wilt down mixing into mixture. About 5 minutes.

6) Take the sausage mixture and mix in with pasta. Add the reserved pasta water and Parmesan cheese. Mix everything together.

Serve with extra cheese on the side and a nice loaf of bread!!

Holiday, Holiday, Kids, Lifestyle, Shop Our Instagram, Style

Coordinated Outfits for Family Photos

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season doesn’t involve the gifts, food, and all the craziness. What I look forward to, is keeping in touch with family and friends. And one way we do this is by sharing holiday cards! I love sending pics showing how much my kiddos have grown. And I really enjoy seeing all of the other family’s in our life- how much their kids have grown, the new additions since last year, and even the family animals that make it into the photos.

We have started a regular tradition of having a professional photographer (and now friend) take our photos each Fall. I love being able to look over the photos every year and look back on the different stages the kids were in. You don’t have spend a lot of money to capture wonderful images and have the keepsake of the different places you are in each year. A friend or family member might be willing to help or even set up a tripod to capture the moments!

To capture great photos (both classic and silly), no matter who the photographer is, I think it comes down to a great location, and a coordinated look. For a location, I have found that being outside in natural light, captures the best photographs. Over the years we have picked a range of places from parks in the country to historic sights in the city. My favorites have been the locations with rustic structures and interesting backgrounds like old buildings or water sources. This year, we chose the historic Valley Forge Park in Valley Forge, PA. What a place! Beautiful fields, rustic buildings, old stone walls, a wooden bridge over a stream- so many great photo ops.

Once I think of a location, I work on coordinating outfits. I usually don’t look for exactly the same item or print for us to wear. But rather colors or prints that compliment each other and pop in the photos. This year I was focused on a color scheme and was deciding between navy and green, red and black, and white and black. My go-to store/online retailer for family outfits has been the Gap Brands year after year. I find that they have so many trendy and classic styles and colors to choose from, that I have lots of options to work with between the brands to find the perfect look.

I always look for the kid’s outfits first. I find they are the hardest to land on for style and price. So by focusing on them first, I find it much easier to pair back the grown up outfits since ours are usually more classic items (hopefully that we already own or mostly own!) After looking at all of the options online, I selected the navy and green color theme. We are a very casual family so I like our outfits to reflect that. We are always in jeans for the most part. But I love having my daughter dress up in a pretty dress (while she will still wear one) to make the photos look a little more special than our day-to-day. I found this adorable navy dress with bright colored embroidery from Gap. It has a nice pop of color but still neutral being grounded in navy. When I saw the green and navy plaid shirt from Old Navy, I envisioned that they could work really well together.

Here are the outfit details for the kids (affiliate links):

My Son- Navy and Green Plaid Shirt / Slim Jeans (similar style) / Navy Hi-Top Sneakers (similar style)

My daughter- Navy Dress with Embroidery / Navy Cable Knit Tights / Silver Boots

Once I have the kids all taken care of, then it’s easier to decide on the outfits for the grownups. Since I grounded the looks in navy, I knew both my husband and I would wear navy tops or sweaters. Keeping the casual look, we both paired them with jeans. Then to keep overall look of being more casual with our outdoor setting, we picked tan/light brown shoes so they wouldn’t stand out too much.

Here are the outfit details for the grown ups (affiliate links):

Mom’s Outfit: Open Front Duster Cardigan (similar style) / Grey Peplum Tank (similar ss style) / Dark Indigo Jeggings / Tan Booties (similar style)

Dad’s Outfit: Marled Navy Crewneck Sweater / Straight Jeans (similar style) / Light Brown Loafers

I usually do a quick lay down as a double check that all the items will go together like this:

Once I feel good about the options then I just let the rest go and trust our photographer! When the kids were little, I stressed so much about getting the perfect shot, if they would smile, and if we would all look good in the same photo! But now over the years I’ve learned to just enjoy the moment! Like so many other moments and stages, you can’t control it all. And if you try to (at least for me), the fun is all gone. Documenting these family moments isn’t just about a good looking holiday card, but also about enjoying having fun and being silly all together. The amazing photos are just the extra bonus!

I hope you enjoy capturing the photos with your family- whatever that looks like to you. Just enjoy being together!

Here is the final product! And of course our other favorite family member had to join in the pic:)

xo,

Liz

Travel

The Deserts of Disney & Universal (I had no idea!!)

When in Disney I was going to write a blog about what I wore on vacation or what I packed, but what we ate seemed so much more interesting! Also, it’s a PSA!!

Have you been or are going to Disney/Universal in the near future? Well, if you are you need to pay special attention to the deserts!! Listen, taking my kids when they were 3 & 5 was wonderful, to see their little faces light up the first time they met a character or saw the castle was something I will never forget. However, I was so consumed with watching after them I completely missed so much!!!

Taking them now that they are 11 & 13 was a completely different experience. We all were able to really enjoy the parks, rides, entertainment, food and the DESERTS!! I had no idea!!!

The desert eating started in EPCOT. We were entering the World Showcase and thee is was….the most amazing donut cart we had ever seen (for the moment)! So many to choose from but Bella choose the the vanilla donut with chocolate icing and mini m&m’s. It was so gooey and so good!!

Next we went over to Universal and our first night there we came across this shop called Voo Doo Donuts. Ummmm……..when you walk into this store you are greeted with a carousel of all the amazing donuts to choose from. We choose a vanilla one with marshmallow topping and captain crunch cereal and another vanilla donut with caramel, chocolate, and nuts. Totally worth the extra calories!!

Voo Doo Donuts
Check out their other locations here! If you are near one, you NEED to try them!

On our 2nd day in Universal as we were leaving the park we came across these Lard Lad Donuts! This donut was bigger than my daughters (and my) face!! Again this did not disappoint and fed the 4 of us for 2 days.

Lard Lad Donuts
As good as it looks for sure!!

Lastly, a friend had recommended we eat at the Chocolate Emporium at the City Walk in Universal. So we did! Dinner was good, but it was all about the milkshakes. I have never seen anything like this before ever in my life!! These milkshakes are served in a super mason jar and each flavor has an amazing treat on top. Bella had the chocolate brownie milkshake, which had a chocolate chocolate chip brownie on top with the straw going right through it! Sandro had a double chocolate milkshakes with whipped cream, chocolate chunks and strawberries on top!!

That’s all I remember from this amazing trip to Disney and Universal!! If you have gone with your babies, it is totally worth going again once they are old enough for you all as a family to enjoy everything these parks have to offer!! Especially the deserts!!

Please leave a comment if have tried any of these places or if you know of any other amazing deserts there to try!!

Holiday, Lifestyle

Party Season Is Fast Approaching!

Yes it is!! Can’t believe it is November! I just love this time of year! All the festive happenings like songs, holiday shows, perfect time of year for glitzy outfits, and gatherings. I love to bring a special gift for all the hostesses I will be visiting and I like to stock up on those gifts just in case I need one quick! Here are a few of my favorite items to give!

The gift of Warmth!

Buffalo Plaid here
Plaid here
2 solid colors here
Nordic prints here
Sounthwest prints here

I love giving cozy blankets. Everyone loves them and can always use one more! This blanket I found by accident at, of all places, Dicks Sporting Goods. It comes in a TON of colors and patterns. One side is a beautiful velvety soft plush and the other is a super soft Sherpa fleece. The best part is that it is only $25 each or BUY 1 GET 1 FREE!!!!! Can’t you believe it?! Pick up 2 for the perfect just in case gift!

The gift of Light!

Pictured Above
The Whole Selection here

In this world of switch on candles (I have them in every room of my house), it is nice to actually light a beautiful candle and experience the flicker of the flame. If you have ever walked into an Anthropologie store then you have experienced the beautiful scent that envelopes you as you stroll through. It is this candle I love to give as gifts. It is always packaged beautifully and the scent is light, pretty, and not overwhelming. They range in price from $12- $98. I like to give the smaller sized candles for a pretty little hostess gift!

The gift of Moisturized Skin!

Josie Maran Body Butter

The winter can be really tough on your skin. I know mine gets really dry throughout the season. The only moisturizer I feel comfortable giving as a gift, because I know how amazing it is, is Josie Maran’s Body Butter. I use it everywhere including my face as my day cream. It light, non greasy, and absorbs right into your skin. I have been using it for years and don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. It makes a perfect personal gift for anyone.

The gift of a Special Message!

Actually, I Can
Get After It
See The Good

I love a great mug with a great message! It is the perfect way to start your day with your cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate! I found these lovely mugs for $4.99!! They are perfect on their own or paired with a great bag of coffee!

What are some of your gifting ideas that you like to give or have received? We would love to hear!

(Commission links)

Holiday, Holiday, Kids

Halloween Treat Bags

I love doing all the little things around the holidays which make it extra fun with the kiddos. They love giving their friends some treats for Halloween, but we are no longer allowed to bring in food treats due to allergies. If your kids like doing the same thing, here is a quick idea that you still have time for that will be fun to do and fun to give out. (These are also great for other holidays or celebrating bdays in the classroom).

The last few years we have created treat bags for their school friends filled with non-food treats like boucy balls, spider rings, pencils, notepads, bubbles etc. With multiple kids, making treat bags for over 40 kids can get expensive. But by going to a store where they sell these items in bulk like Target and the Dollar Store, you can give out cute treats without blowing your budget!

This year we chose Target and I let the kids pick out what they wanted to fill their bags with. I find that this activity allows the kids to feel part of the process and make the decisions, but I know it won’t end up costing me an arm and a leg!

I usually find these deals in the Target dollar section up in the front of the store or in the back corner where they set up their Halloween destination with candy, decor, etc. Here are the treats they picked out for this year as well as stickers to decorate the name tags (see below).

What’s also great about this project, is that the kids can basically do all the steps themselves. So they are empowered to figure things out but also feel a sense of accomplishment when they are done and pride when they hand out the bags to their friends.

First step is we start with making the name tags for each friend. We use a paper cutter to cut card stock into squares or rectangles. Then we use a single hole punch to punch a hole in the top corner. This is where we will attach the name tag to the gift bag.

Next comes decorating the name tags. This is by far my kid’s favorite step since I let them have free reign over however they want to decorate them. They use stickers, markers- whatever they think will look the best! My son can now write so he labels each tag with a friend’s name and then puts his name on the other side. My daughter isn’t able to fully write yet so I let her decorate one side and then I write From V on the other side.

Then comes the fun step of stuffing the bags! We separate each treat into a pile and the kids make sure there is one of each thing in each bag.

Final step is closing the bags. This is where the grownup may need to help a little. I use the twist tie to close the bag as well as attach the name tag. Loop the twish tie through the hole on the name tag. Then bunch the top of the goodie bag together, wrap the twist tie around the bag, and twist a few times. The bag should be secure and you should still be able to see the name on the tag. Voila! Here is the final product!

Hope you found this helpful and enjoy making treat bags with your own kiddos.

Happy Halloween!! xo, Liz

Holiday, Holiday, Kids

Group Candy T-Shirts- Perfect Family Halloween Outfit

The finished product!

Once I had my kiddos, I became much more excited about Halloween! I love all the prep- picking out pumpkins, making gift bags for friends at school, making sure we have the right amount of candy for the big night, and of course picking out the costumes! But when I have to find outfits for us all to wear as a family, that is where I struggle to think of something creative!

Last Halloween, we were invited to a Halloween party at my son’s friend’s house from daycare. I originally thought it was just a costume party for the kids, so I figured I was all set and they would wear their regular Halloween costumes that they were planning on wearing on Halloween night. But I was in for a big surprise two days before the party when I found out the adults had to dress up too!!! Ugh!

With very little time, I had to come up with outfits that I could buy or make in one day! I had seen someone post m&m shirts being sold online and figured- I could make those! So I headed over to AC Moore to figure out my game plan. By the way, I have been loving AC Moore. It has become by go-to for so many projects which I will continue to showcase here on the blog. Lot’s of great stuff and they are always having sales or coupons which make the projects very affordable.

I had never made these shirts before so I wasn’t sure of all the supplies I would need. But I made a list of what I thought and figured I would make it up as I went along! The kids loved being able to pick out their own colors. My only goal was to have 4 different colors so we could represent an m&m pack as much as we could.

Besides the actual t-shirts, here are the main supplies I needed:

  • Felt for the letter m. Black is shown here but used the same brand and size in white for the project
  • Glue gun and extra glue refills
  • Wooden letter m to use as an outline. I chose the lower case m to match the m&m logo

First step was I laid out the white felt into one big piece. Then I used the wooden m and traced it on the white felt 4x, 1 for each tee I was making. I then cut out each m using fabric scissors. You can use regular scissors, but I already owned the fabric ones and felt they cut a little faster and the cuts were cleaner.

Next step, I laid each tee shirt flat and measured where I wanted the m to sit. Once I decided on placement, I cut out a piece of felt to use for all of the other tees so that the placement was the same on each shirt. I measured from the neckline down so that the placement could be consistent even though the t-shirts were all different sizes.

When I was happy with the placement and ready to use the glue gun, I needed a hard surface to lay the shirts on and provide stability when gluing. I used a hard place mat which also kept the glue gun steady while warming up and not in use.

It was finally time to start gluing. Once the glue gun was warmed up, I applied the glue on the underneath part of the m, ensuring I kept the original placement on the t-shirt so they would all be centered. Once I did one pass of glue, I went back and glued again around the edges to make sure the felt stayed flat and secured.

Ta-da! And here is how they looked finished! I needed to give them a little while to cool down and dry. I also re-checked to make sure all the edges were sticking and laying flat. Then all we needed to do was pick out neutral colored clothes to layer underneath so the shirts would be the pop of color. And we were ready for the party!

All in all, it was a super easy project once I had the supplies. The most time consuming part was cutting out the m’s so that they were straight and neat. Gluing them down went pretty fast. I think the total project at home took me about 2 hours.

Hope you enjoyed reading about this project and that it inspires your own m&m group costume! Happy Halloween!!

Fitness, Shop Our Instagram, Style

Athleta Skort is Amazing!!

My first Athleta purchase has been a winner! This Momentum Skort has checked all the boxes for me and is beyond my expectations!

Key wins- amazing fit (close fit but not super tight), allows for great movement while working out, fabric is light and whisks away sweat, shorts underneath stay in place, AND it looks adorable!

Snag one before they are sold out at this amazing price! Black is in stock in a full size run. Fits tts. I wear a size 4 and the small fits like a dream!!

Shop the skort here (affiliate links)