Homemade Holiday Treats: Pie Crust Shapes

I am so thrilled to be a part of the Homemade Holiday Treats Blog event. I hope you take the time to check out everyone on the list, there are some amazing goodies! Today I am sharing with you how to make these cute pie crust shapes to dress up any pie this holiday season.


 Sometimes during the holidays, I need to go semi-homemade when I'm making goodies. The good thing about this idea is that you can dress up a homemade pie or store bought. You could use store bought pie crust, or made from scratch. Either way, I can guarantee you will get lots of "oohs and ahhhs" over these cute pies.

Mrs. Smith's Deep Dish Pies and Giveaway

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mrs. Smith's for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
I like to think that I am pretty confidant in the kitchen. However when it comes to pies, I prefer the store bought route. Especially during the holidays when I am being pulled a million different directions. I just don't have the time to make a pie from scratch. Mrs. Smith's to the rescue.
MrsSmith.jpg
I recently had the opportunity to try out the new Mrs. Smith's Signature Deep Dish pies. They are available in four different varieties:
-Signature Deep Dish Dutch Apple Pie with Caramel Sauce
- Signature Deep Dish Cherry Pie with Butter Fudge Sauce
-Signature Deep Dish Peach Pie with Cream Cheese Icing
-Signature Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie with Cream Cheese Icing
I wasn't able to find the Peach Pie in stores in my area but I did try the Dutch Apple, Cherry, and Pumpkin Pie. They were the perfect addition to our two different Thanksgiving feasts.
I really enjoyed how you can customize your pie with the different sauces. For the Cherry pie, we served the butter fudge sauce on the side, and anyone that wanted it could add it to their piece of pie.

Duck® The Halls

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Duck Brand® for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Have you seen all the really cute prints on Duck Tape® these days? I have seen neon colors, animal print, and just about everything else in between. Well Duck® Brand is at it again for the holidays. They have come out with a fun new line of holiday prints.

My favorite print is the polka dots or the candy cane stripes(not pictured). I am throwing a dinner party in a few days and I am using a lot of items that have polka dots in those same colors. It would have been perfect for the party!

I think I would make up some Christmas poppers. It would make a great up-cycle craft too. Take some empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls and wrap them in the candy cane strip print tape. Leave some over hang on the ends of the roll, so you can wrap some ribbon around it. That would make a great stocking stuffer.

The possibilities for this Duck Tape® go way beyond just wrapping up your boxes. Some of the ideas, I thought of include:

  • make a bow for your packages
  • wreath
  • make gift tags
  • a utensil holder
  • place cards
  • stockings
  • holiday decorations
  • picture frame
  • decorate your tissue box

If you head over to the Duck® brand website, they have a whole section called 'Ducktivities' which is full of really great project ideas for Duck Tape®.

You can also check out Duck Tape® on Facebook for more information about their products.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Shutterfly: CardWorthy $50 Giveaway

Have you ordered your Christmas cards yet? My family has not even taken our picture yet. I will definitely be cutting it close this year! I was so excited when I was invited to a Shutterfly.com event to talk about the new Shutterfly Family Photo Site. It has tons of great tips and unique concepts for getting family pictures.
My favorite tip is how to deal with a difficult child. Let them take a time-out on the sidelines and keep snapping away with the rest of the family. Pretty soon they will want to be right in there with everyone else. I might have to try that with my stubborn one!
Back to the event. A group of 10 local bloggers met up at Phoenix City Grille for a delicious dinner and to talk about the Shutterfly Family Photo Site and Cardworthy moments. According to Shutterfly, every photo is a Cardworthy one when it best reflects your family and who you are. Here was our Cardworthy moment from the night.
I'm in the red top with the white sweater.

Dinner was wonderful it was nice to get some Christmas card inspiration from the other ladies. I was especially relieved that I am not the only one that has not taken their photos yet. Here's another fun photo from the night. Chocolate makes everything more inspirational. ;)


Right now Shutterfly.com is running a CardWorthy Photo contest on Facebook. All you have to do is upload your 2012 holiday card. The contest runs for four weeks and each week there is a different theme. The grand prize winner will win a dream trip for 4 to the destination of their choice! Woohoo! The first place winner will win $500 in Shutterfly.com credit. Second place gets  $250  in Shutterfly.com credit and third place gets $150 in Shutterfly.com credit. You can find more information and the contest here: http://on.fb.me/SXfDVI


You may have seen in the title, I mentioned something about a giveaway. Well it is time! I am giving away a $50 credit to Shutterfly.com. Yippee! I want to make sure everyone sees the terms of the giveaway so here they are:

Offer expires 3/14/13 (11:59 pm PST).  Offer is good off total order at Shutterfly.com.  Order total must be greater than credit before taxes and other charges in order for discount to apply.  Offer valid for one time redemption per billing address.  Taxes, shipping and handling apply. 

Good luck to everyone! Enter below in the rafflecopter form. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway was sponsored by Shutterfly.com. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.  
Ashley

Art Party: Invitations

It is almost time for my kids big birthday bash. My daughter's birthday is two weeks before Christmas, and my sons birthday is two weeks after. It is pretty difficult to throw them each a separate birthday party, so for the past few years I have thrown them a big combined birthday party. I love it because I can go all out for one big bash instead of having to scale back for two smaller parties. For the time being, the kids like it too.
Years past I have had a Carnival Party and  a Winter themed party.

This year I am putting together an Art/Color themed party. Today I thought I would share with you the invitations that I made for the party. Art parties are not a new idea, so I was really pleased to find a ready made template over at Makoodle for the invitations. I had to change a few things to accommodate a double birthday, but I love them!

You can find the template for the crayon box over on Makoodle at the link above. The font I used to add my kids name is called Pastel Crayon and it available for free download at dafont.com.
 I will tell you what I did differently on the inside. The original invitations had each crayon wrapped in a label that had some of the party details on it. I was concerned that once the invitations were opened, the crayons and therefore the party details, would get lost. I decided to hot glue the crayons together and just put a label over the whole thing.


I have a big fun activity planned for their party that I can't wait to share with you. I will probably wait until after the party so I can have some pictures. I will have more posts up as I put elements of the party together, so stay tuned!

Ashley

Artistry Holiday Beauty Set Giveaway

Have you been checking out the gift guide? Lots of great ideas on there. Today I'm excited to share a giveaway for one of the items on the gift guide. I am giving away a Holiday Glamour Gift set by Artistry.
Each set features the award-winning Light Up Lip Gloss with built-in mirror and light, plus Magnetic Nail Color.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Truvia® Natural Sweetener for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Baking season is in full swing! I'm not going to lie, it has made my mission to lead a healthier lifestyle pretty difficult. It seems that I have so many food memories associated with this time of year and it is not a lot of fun to watch everyone else partake in sweet treats while I sit on the sidelines.

Today I am going to share with you a recipe for Cranberry Orange Muffins that use Truvia® Baking Blend instead of sugar. In case you haven't heard of Truvia® Baking Blend before here are a few facts:

  • Truvia® Baking Blend is a mix of Truvia® natural sweetner and sugar
  • It will give a sugar-like taste and texture but has 75% fewer calories
  • One 1.5 lb bag of Truvia® Baking Blend has the equivalent sweetness of 3 lbs of sugar!

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 12 tsp baking powder
12 tsp salt
12 tsp baking soda
12 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
⅓ cup Truvia® Baking Blend
1 Tbsp orange zest
12 cup orange juice
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 cup skim milk
1 12 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen), chopped

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Prepare muffin tin by greasing cups or use paper liners.
3. In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Mix together with a fork.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, Truvia® Baking Blend, orange zest and juice, eggs, vanilla and milk.
5. Stir the wet mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.
6. Fold in chopped cranberries.
7. Fill each muffin cup about 34 full.
8. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean (20–25 minutes).
9. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

Now is the perfect time of year to buy cranberries. I have seen some great deals.

What is your favorite holiday recipe that you could recreate with Truvia® Baking Blend? Leave it in the comments, I would love to check it out!

Visit the Truvia® website for more tips and information on Truvia® Baking Blend

Visit Sponsor's Site

Imagine Babyz by Ubisoft

I'm so excited to share my first review for the 2012 gift guide. Today I'm sharing with you a review of a game for the Nintendo 3DS called Imagine Babyz.
The premise of the game is that you are a nanny for an agency and you get sent out on jobs to care for babies all around the world. You can customize your avatar and use your own name or one of the preselected options. My one suggestion for the game would be the option to have a boy avatar. My son actually enjoyed playing the game quite a lot, but I wished he didn't have to be a girl nanny.

You can see my kids were both very engaged in the game. They both have a 3DS, but more often than not, one will stop playing so they can watch their sibling play.

 My favorite part of the game is that there were clearly defined objectives for each baby. One baby might need a bath, a bottle, and practice walking. The next baby might need a diaper change, a nap, and learn to play the xylophone. There was a wide variety of tasks to complete and I can see this game having a long play life. The objectives insure that the kids don't get bored or that they don't know 'what to do' with their babies.

One of the favorite activities to do with the baby was peek-a-boo. You start by covering the camera on the front of the 3DS, then when the baby calls you, you remove your hand and say 'Boo' into the microphone. I really felt like the game utilizes all the features of the 3DS, which is much appreciated in a game.

Another thing I liked about the game is that the tasks were all very realistic. To give a bath, first you had to set the water to the correct temperature. Changing a diaper involved multiple steps like opening the diaper, cleaning the baby, throwing away the old diaper, applying diaper cream if necessary, and putting a new diaper on. I felt like the kids were getting a better understanding of what it takes to care for a baby.

Interacting with Baby Lucie

There is a fair amount of reading required for the game, so I would recommend this game for children with reading skills. My 4, almost 5 year old liked to play the game but she needed someone with her to explain what to do. There is also a section where you teach the baby some words, so you need to be able to read the words and say them into the microphone.

Overall we liked the game very much and I would recommend it for your reading children. Any little girls that love to play mommy, should really love Imagine Babyz 3D. The game is available for purchase from Amazon: Imagine Babyz 3D.

Thank you to Ubisoft for sponsoring this blog post.  I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own.


Ashley

2012 Holiday Gift Guide

I am really excited to share with you today my 2012 Holiday Gift Guide. I am trying something new this year and I hope you enjoy it! I have put together a list of great holiday gifts for everyone in your life. These are all items that I either have, want, or have been personally recommended to me by close friends and family.

There are some really great ideas on it. The most exciting part is that for select items in the guide, I will be doing some reviews and  giveaways too! I'm trying to help you out with your shopping this year! 


You can find the gift guide by clicking on the button above. I will also have this button in my sidebar, so you can get to the Gift Guide anytime you want.

Later today, I will have my first gift guide review up. Make sure you stop back by and check it out!

Ashley

Connecting Flights

I bet more than a few of you are going to be hitting the airport this holiday season. Today I am going to tell you about my little brush with celebrity which just so happened to be in the Vancouver airport. It is pretty much my favorite story to tell ever, I'm surprised I haven't worked it into a blog post before.

Back in May 2004, I was headed back from my honeymoon with my new husband. We went on an Alaskan cruise and had to fly from Vancouver back home to Arizona. As we made our way through customs I noticed there was a lot of buzz among people. Everyone was whispering excitedly about something. I am as curious as they come, so I made a great effort to find out what was going on. It was then, that I saw him. It was Michael Vartan, the hunk from Alias and former beau of Jennifer Garner. The show Alias was still on, and he was a big celebrity. No one seemed to be approaching him, just lots of buzz about him.
Well, I am not ashamed to say that I followed him at a respectful distance until he went into a little gift shop. The gift shop was empty and so I took my chance to pounce and get a picture with him.
 I was in heaven, and he is a little more, "I better take the picture, so this broad will quit following me." Right after the picture he ducked into a VIP lounge of some sort. I was so happy I plucked up the courage to ask for a picture. Do you have any awesome airport/flight stories?

 I saw this awesome trailer for a movie "Connecting Flights." It made me laugh pretty hard, I highly recommend you watch it. I love the tagline, "Sometimes you fall in love and sometimes you run into it." #connectingflights


Seriously, how funny is that Sears commercial.I totally wish it was a movie, they had me going the first time I watched it.

This is a sponsored post, I am a Sears blogger, though all opinions are my own.
Ashley

Yo Gabba Gabba: Foofa Party Hats

This post it long overdue! Last year I posted directions on how to make Brobee Hats and Muno pretzels for a Yo Gabba Gabba party. I also hinted that I would be sharing a template for these cute Foofa party hats.



Well the time has come! I have three different things to share with you. The first is a template that will work for any party hat. I deconstructed a store bought hat and created it digitally. You can download a PDF version or an SVG version for those with digital cutting machines.
Download: Party Hat PDF Template
Download: Party Hat SVG
The hats are very simple to put together, you simply cut them out and make the hat into a cone. The pattern has a way to secure itself with a tab, so you don't even need to tape or glue the hat together.
Once you have made all your party hats you can cut out some pink Foofa flowers from this Foofa Flower Template that I have made available.
Here is a preview of what the flower template looks like. The real Foofa Flower Template does not have the big watermark.

 Here is what the whole table looked like. Foofa and Brobee hats, plus DJ Lance glasses and fun Yo Gabba Gabba favor bags for all the guests.


Ashley

Mega LeapFrog Prize Pack giveaway

Last week, you might remember I posted a really great video interview with Dr LeVos about holiday shopping for kids. Well I hope you were paying attention, because today I am giving away a monster prize pack of Leapfrog products! That's right, one winner for $275 worth of amazing LeapFrog products.

All of these toys would be great for the kids in your life. They are fun and educational. You will definitely earn cool points with your kids if they found these in their stocking this year!
One winner will take home:
Let's get to the giveaway. In case you missed the interview with Dr. LeVos, I will post it again now. Viewing the video is a requirement for entry into the giveaway.

If you have any problems with the embedded video, you can also find the video here: Dr. LeVos interview

Good luck everyone!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Ashley

Lalaloopsy - Sugar Cookie - Tote bag template

On my Agent P/Perry the Platypus post, I showed a picture of my daughter's Lalaloopsy tote bag. You can find her cute Lalaloopsy costume on Amazon.  I used it as her trick or treat bag, but these would be a great party favor or gift bag for any little girl. Today I am sharing the template with you that I created to make the tote bag.



Supplies needed: 
  • Lalaloopsy Sugar Cookie Template - Click the link to download from Google. 
  • Tote Bag: I made one out of yellow felt using this tutorial as a rough guide
  • Bright Pink felt - hair
  • Light pink felt - cheeks
  • Peach/skin tone felt
  • Black felt
  • 1" - 1 1/4" black buttons
  • 1/8" black ribbon - eyelashes
  • Black Permanent marker or fabric marker
  • Fabric glue such as Fabri-tac. You could also use hot glue, but I don't know if you would be able to launder it then.

Directions:
  1. Print the Lalaloopsy Sugar Cookie Template and trace and cut out all the pieces on the correct color felt
  2. Using the black marker trace all the way around the outside of the hair piece. Using the template as a guide, draw on the curl marks as well. I drew the curl lines on with white chalk the first time, to give myself a guide. Depending on your confidence level, you could do it either way.
  3. Construct the hair bow by wrapping the thin strip of black felt around the center of the rounded rectangle. The ribbon should scrunch up in the center to give the bow shape. Secure with glue.
  4. Take the button eyes and glue some ribbon in the holes. You could sew them onto the felt, but I felt like glue was an easier option. Cut some short pieces of the 1/8" ribbon and glue to the back of the buttons for eye lashes. 
  5. Starting with the face, assemble the face on the tote bag. Glue each piece down with fabri-tac. 
  6. Draw the mouth on with a black marker. 

My daughter really loved her tote bag! At first I was worried it was too big, but she did a pretty good job of filling it up with candy on Halloween!
I also have to share another picture of my daughter in her costume, just because it's cute!  For most of her Halloween festivities, we ditched the wig and hair sprayed her hair pink instead. That wig was a major league pain.


Ashley

Quick kid friendly meals on the go with Kidfresh

I am sure a lot of people will be able to relate with my school pick-up woes. Every Friday my daughter gets out of preschool at noon and my son has early release and gets out of elementary school at 1pm. There isn't enough time to go home and feed my preschooler lunch before we get brother from school. Normally, we hit up the drive-thru for lunch or we'll stop at a quick restaurant to pick up lunch. It works for the time, but I would really prefer a healthier option.
Kidfresh, Safeway, frozen kid’s meals, healthy kid’s meals, easy kid’s meals

 That is why I was so excited to give Kidfresh frozen meals #KFHealthyKids a try. They are all natural with no artificial flavors or preservatives. There are several different varieties for kid with all different preferences.  The best news for me is that they also have some hidden vegetable purees hidden in there. My first grader is very opposed to anything vegetable related but he really liked the Wagon Wheels Mac and Cheese. You can see my whole shopping experience at Safeway in my Google + album.

Back to the school pick-up situation. I picked up the Muy Cheesy Quesadillas so they would be easy to eat in the car. I took them home and was happy to find them individually wrapped. That makes it perfect for smaller appetites or for a snack instead of a meal. My busy preschooler ate both of them with no problem for her lunch.


I snuck a bite of the quesadillas from her and I was very pleased with the taste. I was specifically trying to detect the carrot puree inside and I didn't taste it. I think next time I'll have my son give it a try. I think carrot puree in the quesadillas might have to be my newest 'mom trick.'


I snapped a quick picture before we went to get brother from school. I was trying to get some smiles, but I should have known better. It is not a good idea to get in the way of a hungry preschooler after she has spent the morning playing and learning. Ha, ha, ha. She just devoured those things.

I will be keeping some Kidfresh meals on hand to have for a quick meal or snack. They are great go-to meal when you are in a hurry. I have some more great news! If you go and visit the Kidfresh page on Facebook, you can get a coupon for $1/off an entree.  It is really easy to do and the coupon gets emailed to you. Kidfresh meals are available in the freezer section at Safeway stores.



I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Kidfresh #CBias #SocialFabric #KFHealthyKids
Ashley

Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispies Treats

I always get really excited when stores put up their holiday baking sections. One of the biggest reasons is because I love the Jello Pumpkin Spice pudding mix. This is not a sponsored post, I just love the stuff. Well technically, I've never made the pudding. I use it to flavor Rice Krispies treats and they are heavenly! You can only buy the pumpkin spice Jello during the holidays, so make sure you stock up.




 Jell-O Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispies Treats

6 cups Rice Krispies
1.5 Tbsp margarine(not diet margarine)
4 cups Pumpkin Spice marshmallows. - In the holiday baking section at Walmart Regular marshmallows would be fine too.
1/2 cup Pumpkin Spice Jello pudding mix - also in the holiday baking section. You can use the whole package of the pudding if you want some extra pumpkin flavor.

Directions: Melt the margarine in a large saucepan. Add the marshmallows and stir occasionally until completely melted. Stir-in the jello pudding powder after the marshmallows have melted completely. Incorporate the Rice Krispies cereal. Turn out into a well greased pan.



Have you ever tried the pumpkin spice Jell-o? What do you make with it?

Ashley

Holiday Gift Buying with an expert

Happy November! Now that Halloween is over, its time to head straight into the holidays. My motto when it comes to holiday gift shopping is to shop early and often! Ha! Seriously though, I do love shopping for Christmas presents and I spend a lot of time thinking about and planning gifts for my family, especially my children.

That is why I jumped at the chance to interview a child development expert on giving developmentally appropriate gifts. Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos. She had some really great information on why it's important to buy developmentally appropriate gifts as well as some great gift recommendations. She works on product development for LeapFrog and she really knows her stuff.
The video is only about 3 minutes, and I highly recommend you watch it. I really learned a lot!

If you have any problems with the embedded video, you can also find the video here: Dr. LeVos interview
What gifts are your kids asking for this year?  Mine are all over that LeapFrog LeapsterGS Explorer. They both want them!


Disclaimer: This interview opportunity was sponsored by LeapFrog. However, both of my kids really do want the LeapsterGS Explorer.
Ashley