caramel apple bar
DIY

DIY Caramel Apple Bar

DIY Caramel Apple Bar

Perfect for a fall party buffet!

Disclosure- Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission on purchase.

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This past weekend, we had a fall party with lots of friends and family.  I wanted to have a simple, yet, custom sweets area.  I decided to construct a DIY Caramel Apple Bar.  I had accumulated tons of yummy apples from my Fall CSA and this would be the perfect time to use them.

I purchased two bags of Kraft caramel bits and a super small food warmer (images link to the products on amazon!):



I then rummaged through my cabinets and found everything else that I needed.  That included kaboob sticks for poking the apples and toppings to sprinkle on the caramel after dipping.  I chose crushed peanuts, mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, almond slivers, toffee bits, and coconut flakes.  The possibilities for topping options are practically endless.

Check out the rest of my set up below!  YUMMMYYYY!

apple slice about to enter melted caramel2EEB27AC-FB36-49B0-8D25-B340B7B498ADtoppings for caramel apple bar37C5E5AE-A0A5-459D-BBF1-BA6113C2CDFB

My only complaint is that after letting the caramel in the warmer for a few hours, it began to taste a bit burnt.  I would suggest not melting and warming the caramel until the dessert portion of your party.

DIY

Fall Photo Set up

Fall Photo Set up

Happy Fall

For our end of the Fall party, we wanted a cute area to capture memories.  I decided to put together a fall-themed set up for pictures.  With the chilly weather on the forecast, we decided to set up indoors.

Disclosure- Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission on purchase.

 

photo of fall photo set up

I chose a plain wall in our mudroom.  We already had the bench in place.  Then surround the bench with all things fall!  We purchased bundles of corn stalks, small gourds, decorative field corn, pumpkins, and mums from our local plant farm and country store.  I strategically chose to host my fall party after Halloween.  This meant that all of the pumpkins, mums, and other decor at my local store were discounted by at least 50%.

 I purchased the banners from amazon.

Happy Fall Banner can be found here!

Chevron banner can be found here!

The photo area was a big hit at our party.  We now have tons of great photos to look back on as our kids grow up.  I plan to set something up at our future parties as well.

 

**Now that the party is over, it is time to tear my photo area down.  The mums will get planted somewhere in our garden for fall color for years to come.  As the gourds and pumpkins begin to rot, they will get taken down to our compost pile.  The decorative corn and cornstalks will get put in the compost pile as well.  Please don’t throw these types of things away.  The will decompose much better in a compost pile than they would in a land fill.**

 

Happy Fall Y’all

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Simple Living

6 months of buying nothing new

 

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6 Months of Buying Nothing New-

STARTS TODAY!

Our society seems to glamorize stuff.  Material goods are a status symbol to show other people how wealthy they are.  It is not just the rich that get caught up in buying things.  For me, when I take a look around our home, I am overwhelmed by how much we have accumulated.  We have only lived in our home for 5 years and we have multiple sets of living room furniture, dressers, rugs, plates, etc.  Most of these items we bought brand new, used for a few months, then saw something that we liked better….something that we just had to have!  I don’t even dare to think about how much money has been wasted on all of our purchases.  I’m not in the mood to cry tonight!

As I started a journey to live a more simple and content life, I realized that I needed to make some changes.  I decided to challenge myself to go 6 months without buying anything new.  ZERO shopping malls this holiday season for me!!

I have everything that I need (and more!) at this very moment to live comfortably.  In fact, most purchases that I have made in the past year have not been out of necessity, but instead, out of want.  I am able to look back on my purchases in the past year from various online stores.  It saddens me to see all of the ‘things’ that I have ordered, received, and then maybe used once before it ended up in a closet or cabinet.

This link from becomingminimalist.com does a great job of expressing many of the benefits of reducing consumerism, but I will summarize some of the reasons for you!

  1. Less debt
  2. Less time spent caring for possessions (fixing things, dusting tons of plastic items on a shelf)
  3. Less desire to upscale lifestyle norms
  4. Less environmental impact
  5. Less need to keep up with evolving trends
  6. Less pressure to impress with material possessions
  7. More generosity
  8. More contentment
  9. Greater ability to see through empty claims
  10. Greater realization that this world is not just material.

‘Excessive consumption promises happiness, but never delivers.’

My husband and I have gone on ‘spend freezes’ before to help reduce expenses, but we have never sustained this as a lifestyle.  My hope is that by trying this for 6 months, it will just become a normal way of life!

As I start this journey, I realize that I need to set some ground rules….and some exceptions to those rules.

  1. There will be no clothes or shoe shopping at retail stores.  I have plenty of clothes, so I really don’t need more.  If I find that I need something, I will plan to search consignment or thrift shops.
  2. Grocery store purchases will include groceries, medications, basic toiletries, and some of the very basic makeup that I wear.
  3. Since the holidays are almost here, gifts will be handmade or purchased from a small local business.  I may have to buy some supplies in order to make some of the gift ideas that I have.  Preferably, I will find some good experience gifts (like tickets to a show or a day at the zoo)!
  4. Any medical costs for family or pets will be taken care of normally.

I’m sure that there will be more rules as certain circumstances come up, but that is all I can think of for now!

Let me know your thoughts!  Would you consider going 6 months, 3 months, or even a week without buying anything new.

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Simple Living

Simple Living- 7 ways get your spouse on the same page

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SIMPLE LIVING-

7 ways get your spouse on the same page

Tell me if this sounds familiar?  You’re overwhelmed with work, bills, house work.  You have no time to enjoy your family or friends.  You stumble across the simple living movement.  A community of people that are starting to say ‘no’ to consumerism.  You already know that stuff doesn’t equal happiness.  In fact, you probably have so much ‘stuff’ in your home that it is overwhelming you, yet you continue to buy more stuff.

You have decided it is time to make a change.  It is time begin living a more simple and meaningful life.

You excitedly run up to your spouse.  You begin rambling about how you want to get rid of all of the clutter, stopping buying so much stuff, and aim for a simple life.  If your significant other is anything like my husband, instead of getting an excited response, he will look at you like you are crazy.

You need to realize that it has taken you your entire life to come to the realization that simple living is better.  How can you expect your loved one to come to the same conclusion at the same time?  Take it easy.

Below are 7 ways that I helped my husband to get on board with my simple living changes.

 

1. Have an open conversation about your goals-  Don’t expect your significant other to start making a big life change for no reason.  Make sure that they know your ‘why’.  For me, I explained to my husband that I was pursuing a more simple life in hopes of being able to reduce some of my stress and to be able to spend more quality time with my family.  At this point, he was still apprehensive, but he was receptive to me starting to make some changes.

2. Make it a game-  Let’s face it, cleaning out the closet to reduce clutter or going a month without eating out isn’t exactly the definition of fun.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t be.  I try my best to make things into a game when I get my spouse involved.  He is super competitive, so this always peaks his interest.

**Example- See who can get rid of the most articles of clothing from the closet.  See who can go longer without stopping at a drive-thru on the way home from work.  Loser will usually get stuck doing the dishes all week.  Winner usually gets to pick the tv show when we sit down to relax.  In the end though, I feel like we both win…even if I am the one stuck doing dishes.

3. Do the heavy lifting- figuratively-  Picture this.  You decide to start living a more simple and frugal lifestyle.  You come home and announce that you are going to start this new lifestyle by cleaning out the boxes in the basement.  You then order your perfectly content husband to get up and start helping you go through boxes.  Yeah…that’s not going to get your spouse exciting about simple living.  You will have to take the initiative and get things started on your own.  This brings me to my next tip.

4. Lead by example-  People are naturally wired to oppose change.  If you want a more simple life, do it.  Start doing things that help you to simplify.  With time, your spouse will notice that you are serious about this new way of life.

5. Start small-  Do not come home one day and just change EVERYTHING.  Your spouse will likely retreat to a corner and cry….hopefully not, but still.  He/she may not be ready for a huge life change.  Start small and work together towards a common goal.

6. Accept that nobody is perfect-  We do not change our ways overnight.  Celebrate the small victories, but understand that there may be set backs.  Don’t give up all of your simple living goals just because you went a little overboard and impulse bought a giant inflatable snowman for the front yard.  Did you need it?…no.  Is it kind of fun?…yes.  Enjoy it and simply vow to get back on track with your goals.

7. Celebrate the small wins- Has your junk drawer stayed de-cluttered for over a month now?  Did your spouse up on buying new shoes because they were on sale?  These are wins!  Celebrate!  This will help keep everyone excited about working towards a goal together.

 

Simply Family

Life with a toddler- Beating toy boredom

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Beating toy boredom with a toddler

My simple swap method

Bonus** it cuts down on clutter too!

I know that I am not the only mom who has accumulated an over abundance of toys overflowing out of bins and shoved into corners.  Where did all of this stuff come from anyway??

However, despite the massive amounts of toys, my toddler seemed to be bored with almost every single one.  I was fed up with seeing all of the clutter, and I was not about to go buy more toys just to keep my child occupied.

That’s when I started to rotate my daughter’s toys.

I keep one basket full of small toys and one larger toy out.  The bin has things like shaker toys, plush toys, puzzles, and cars.  The larger toy is usually a ride on or walk behind toy.  EVERYTHING else gets put away in a closet or moved to our basement.

Then, when our toddler seems to be bored with her toys, we swap the toys.  I move her current bin of toys to the basement and bring a new bin of toys up.  It’s like Christmas morning everytime that we do it!  Her eyes get wide when she discovers that there are new toys out.

This method also helps us to get more creative with play.  It has taught us that we don’t always need toys out to have fun.  We sing, dance, play peakaboo, and get outside whenever we can.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for your little ones!

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Simply Family

What I used during my first 3 months at home with a newborn…and what didn’t I use

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10 Things that I used during my first 3 months at home with a newborn…and 5 things I didn’t.

Every baby is different, but these are the items that I feel like added the most (and least) value to my home in the early months with a baby.

*Disclosure- Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission on purchase.

 

Must haves:

1. Velco swaddles- If you have been preparing to bring home baby you have probably read that swaddling babies can help keep them feeling snug and secure.  You are probably also aware of all of the safe sleep recommendations (alone, on their back, in a crib), so this means no cozy blankets.  Velco swaddles solve both of these issues.  They make swaddling (arms in or out) super easy, and they also act as a wearable blanket.

This is a must have in my book, but don’t go overboard.  Get one (maybe two) in a small infant size…your baby will grow out of it so quickly.  My little one is about to turn 1 year old and she has graduated out of swaddles, but still sleeps in a sleep sack.

Halo SleepSack Swaddle

2. Boppy lounger-  This little pillow was a life saver.  It allowed me to have a soft, clean, supported place to set my newborn down wherever we were at.  It is not practical to have a bouncy seat or swing in every room of your house, but let’s face it, you are going to want that baby sitting right next to you at all times.  That includes places like the kitchen and the bathroom (or even when you travel to visit family for the day).  Just be sure not to put the pillow up on a high surface since even little babies can wiggle and roll.  Honestly, I plopped this pillow right on the floor in my kitchen when I was making lunches or in the bathroom while I snuck a quick shower.

3. Bassinet-  Like a lot of new moms, I was determined to do everything just right!  This included following safe sleep guidelines.  This encourages that baby share your room, but not your bed.  Room sharing is also nice in those early months when you are waking up 2-3 times through the night for feedings.

There are so many great bassinets on the market that you will be able to find one that fits your needs.  Again, don’t go overboard with cost.  If your baby is anything like mine, she will be outgrown the bassinet in just a few short months and graduate to a crib.

One of my big concerns with room sharing was that we have curious cats that also sleep in our room and love to cuddle close to people.  I searched until I found a safe bassinet that would prevent our animals from climbing in to be with the baby.

4. Baby Carrier–  I was the mom that wanted to be able to do things around the house, but also never set my child down.  A baby carrier was an absolute must.  I would give up all the other things on this list just for my baby carrier.  It made my life that easy, and still does.  I use the baby carrier as I did simply chores around the house.    I use the baby carrier to prevent tired arms as I soothe a fussy baby who wants to be held and walked around.  I use the baby carrier if we are going out in a crowded public place.

That’s right, I use my baby carrier instead of a big bulky over-loaded stroller.  We put everything that we need in a back pack that my husband carriers and I put the baby in her carrier.  It is so much easier to navigate crowds this way.  It also prevents strangers from coming up to her and touching her. Plus, now that she is 22+ pounds; I can consider it my work out for the day 😊

5. Car seat/ nursing cover- When our little one was a newborn, I used this anytime we were in public with her in her car seat (grocery shopping, docs office, etc).  You would be surprised how many strangers think it is okay to walk up and touch your baby’s toes or pinch their little cheeks.  I was not okay with this.  The car seat cover was a physical barrier.  People didn’t even try.  Plus, it helped keep the bright overhead lights in stores from shining right in her eyes, which meant she was more likely to enjoy a nice little slumber while we shopped.

6. Waterproof changing pad liners-  These were the perfect thing in my diaper bag and also baby care stations around the house.  Even when you are quick during diaper changes, messes still happen.  Putting one of these down before diaper changes makes it so that you don’t have to worry.  It also acts as a clean surface to plop the baby on for diaper changes no matter where you’re at.  We only have one actual changing table in the house and it is in the nursery at the top of the stairs.  I was not (and still don’t) going to walk up the stairs for every diaper change (thinking back though…maybe the baby weight would have come off quicker if I did….oh well!).  The water proof pads turned my living room rug or couch into a changing table instantly.

I also used these pads for our diaper free time during the day.  Take the diaper off and lay baby on the pad.  If she pees, which she will, just pop it in the wash.

**NOTE: I would do this right after cleaning out a poopy diaper, which meant less of a risk of poop without a diaper on.  I tried to give my little one some fresh air on her bum for at least a few minutes a day to help keep diaper rash away (she’s almost 1 and hasn’t had a rash yet!).  This gets a lot harder to do once baby is on the move, so enjoy the contained mess on a water proof pad while you can!

7. White noise machine (or some kind of noise/ music player)-  Our house is NOT quiet.  At first, that was not a problem.  Our little one could sleep through just about anything, but as she approached the 1-2 month mark, our sleep routine took a bit more work.  A white noise machine is something that we added in.  We used it mostly for night time sleep, but it was the perfect soothing sound to keep the baby asleep.

This is the one that we were given at our baby shower.  It was portable and held a nice long charge.  That meant we could easily take it with us when we needed to have nap time out of the house.

The next 3 ideas are must have if you are planning to breastfeed

8. Reusable nursing pads- When I started breast feeding, I was blessed (kind of a curse) with an oversupply.  I felt like I was leaking all of the time and constantly tossing my disposible pads and putting new on.  Plus, the sticky backing seems to stick to everything except the inside of your nursing bra.  *Mom fail alert–I even accidently shoved one of the disposible ones back into my bra after a sleep deprived nighttime feeding; only to find at the next feeding that the sticky side was adhered to my tender cracked nipple. OUCHHH. After that, I ordered a few reusable pads and I am glad that I did.  They have lasted me an entire year of breast feeding, and no more worrying about the sticky side getting stuck where it is not supposed to stick.

9. A supportive nursing bra (or two)-  Do this before you have your baby!  Chances are, your pre-pregnancy bras are already too small and uncomfortable.  Do your self a favor and head to your nearest maternity store (we have a Motherhood Maternity near us).  When you get there, let the ladies measure you for the best size and fit.  I started wearing my ‘nursing’ bras way before I went into labor because they were the only thing that fit me properly.

I know that there are lots of DIY hacks to make your own nursing bras, but to me, this one was worth the splurge.  Breastfeeding is hard enough at the beginning and you will have your boobs out 10-15 times a day depending on your baby.  Make things easier on yourself…get the bra!

10. Nursing pillow- A nursing pillow serves so many purposes.  First, they are a great support to help you get into a good nursing position without killing your back.  Second, they can be used as a place to prop baby for a rest.  It also works as a way to give your baby a whole new elevated view during tummy time.

Don’t bother!

1. Fancy baby body wash and lotions-  We did not use any of our ‘baby’ body washes and lotions.  Our baby had such sensitive skin (especially as a newborn).  Our peds doc suggested aquaphor and that is what we have been using.  We use aquaphor body wash and aquaphor protectant ointment.  The ointment works on dry patches, red eczema patches, and even as a diaper area protectant.

2. Lots of newborn diapers and outfits-  We spent 1-2 weeks in newborn sized diapers and less than a month in newborn clothing.  We spent a bit more time in size 1 diapers and 3 month sized clothing, but we quickly outgrew that as well.  Babies grow so fast at the beginning.  Our little one started to slow growth down around 6 months so feel free to stock up with 6 month and larger items and diapers.

  • For example- My little one is 11 months old and we have been in size 3 diapers for almost 4 months now.  We still have room to go until they are too small.

3. Special seats to help baby sit-  There is such a small time frame when these seats can be used.  You can’t use them when the baby is super little because they need to be able to support their head before placing them in these seats.  A month or so after babies gain good head control, they begin to work on sitting up independently.  Why waste the money.  Prop baby up with some pillows if you want to have them sit before they are big enough.  Just watch that your little one doesn’t slouch down into the pillows and block the mouth and nose.

4. Shoes- Your infant does not need shoes.  There are plenty of cute socks out there.  Plus socks are way cheaper than shoes.

  • My little one wore her first pair of shoes at 9.5 months old, before that we just used socks.  She had no need for shoes before this, and we actually could have waited for her first pair of shoes until closer to 11 months when she started walking around more outside (with help).  From what I have read, babies actually learn to walk better in bare feet.  So to us, we just use shoes when her feet need to be protected or warm- like when we go outside.

5. Toys- (at least not right away)  I was so worried when we brought our little one home that she would get bored if we didn’t have any toys.  Well, newborns don’t know what toys are, they can’t see very well, and absoultely everything is new to them.  Simply showing baby a soft pillow or a cold water bottle will be just as stimulating as baby toys.  Young babies see high contrast patterns in black, white, and red best.  Find some high contrast objects and make them work as toys.

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Simple Living

8 swaps that you can make today to use less disposables

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I’m a numbers person.  Let’s take a look some numbers around disposables from Earthday.org.  Roughly half of the annual plastic production is destined to become a single-use product.  Globally, humans now buy plastic bottles at a rate of 1,000,000 per minute.  500,000 straws are used in the world every single day.  Check this link out if you are interested in more stats.

Every change makes a difference.  Below are some easy swaps that you can make to reduce the amount of waste you produce on a daily basis.  In many cases, this can also save you money since you won’t have to continue to purchase disposable items regularly.

Help the environment.  Save Money.  Win-Win in my book!

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about giving up all of our daily disposables….I like toilet paper just as much as you do, but the 8 items below are easy swaps to make!

*Disclosure- Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission on purchase.

1. Water bottle/drink cups-  Let’s be honest, most bottled waters are basically just filtered tap water.  Plus, the cheap plastic bottle can leach all sorts of chemicals into the water.  In most cases, your tap water is perfectly fine to drink.  Get yourself a good reusable bottle (preferably not plastic).

Below are two of my favorites.  I use the S’well for cold beverages and the Yeti for warm.  Both of them hold hot or cold beverages, that’s just my preference.

S’well Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle, 25 oz, Lily Wood

YETI Rambler 20 oz Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tumbler w/MagSlider Lid, Seafoam

If you are unsure if your tap water is safe, take a sample to your local environmental lab and have it tested.  You can also buy water bottles that filter as your drink.

2. Reusable snack/sandwich bags- This is a switch that I made not too long ago.  I pack my lunch every day and typically 2-3 items get put into snack bags.

These reusable bags come in various sizes and are easily rinsed out at the end of the day.

3. Packed lunch utensils-  Again, perfect for that lunch box.  Stop grabbing disposable forks and spoons in the staff breakroom.

4. Paper towels-  I made this switch back when I was trying to save more money at the grocery store.  Disposable items were making up a huge portion of my bill on a regular basis.  I started by hiding my paper towels from sight.  Out of sight= out of mind.  Now we just use more towels.  I also have a huge stack of cut up t-shirts for rags.  We only reach for the paper towels for the super yucky messes that we wouldn’t want on our kitchen towels, even if they run through a bleach cycle.

5. Coffee filter- I love my morning cup of coffee.  I try my best to save money and be eco-friendly by brewing my coffee at home and using a thermos.  This is my next change.  I am still using a daily disposable coffee filter in my mr. coffee pot.  I’m not perfect people….GASSSPP.  I have a huge stack of filters to use.  Once my supply gets low, I am ordering a reusable filter.  I currently have this one in my amazon cart ready for my next order.

6. Straws- Most of the cups around our house come with their own reusable straws.  However, sometimes they get broken or we need a straw for other cups.  Our reusable straws are plastic, but each one has lasted us for going on 4 years now.  As for when I am out and about, I simply elect not to use a straw for my drinks.  I know some people carry a spare in their purse when they are going out…that’s an option too.

7. Grocery bags- Gather up some of those cloth/ fabric bags that you have collected over the years.  Then take them out to your car and put them in your trunk.  After each use, return the bags to your car so that you always have them with you.

If you don’t have a stash of bags, these are amazing.  They hold a ton of food and they are really durable.  My favorite part is that they fold down into tiny little pouches.  I keep them all together on a carabiner that gets clipped to my grocery cart.

TIP** Put yourself a little note somewhere in your car or on your grocery list to help you remember to grab the bags out of your trunk when you get to the store.  Once you get into a habit of getting them out of your car, you won’t need the reminder to use them.

8. Produce bags- Most people make the switch to reusable grocery bags, but have you considered ditching the flimsy produce bags as well?  My guess is that most people haven’t.  I always get compliments and questions about my produce  bags when we get them out at the grocery store.