5 Refreshing Ramadan Drinks

The month of Ramadan is officially here and I am so excited to share something that I’ve been working on with my friend Amanda from Amanda’s Plate. We both know all too well how tough it can be to fast during the heat of the summer months so we got together to shoot some of our favorite drinks for an often overlooked aspect of fasting: staying hydrated. The importance of getting in plenty of fluids cannot be overstated but let’s face it, sometimes that’s hard to do. Chugging water can feel like a chore and store-bought drinks filled with artificial flavors, colors and excessive sugars are just not a health-conscious option. To make it fun and easy to stay hydrated, we’ve created five refreshingly delicious and simple to make Ramadan mocktails (obviously non-alcoholic) that are sure to impress your iftar guests and quench your thirst as the days get hotter. Behold, our Rocktails (Ramadan+Mocktails)!

IMG_2807

The wonderful thing about these drinks is that you can customize them to your taste (substitute your favorite fruit and herbs) and dietary preferences (even less sugar). The best part, however, is getting creative with the presentation.

IMG_2812

Watermelon Basil Bliss

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Watermelon Basil Bliss
Serves 6

  • 8 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup sugar, optional

Using your blender, combine watermelon, basil, lime and sugar (if using). Blend until smooth. You may wish to strain the drink but that is optional. Garnish with fresh basil and lime wedge. Enjoy!

IMG_2786

Recipe via Amanda’s Plate

Sparkling Lavender Lemonade

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Sparkling Lavender Lemonade
Serves 6

  • 1 tablespoon culinary grade dried lavender
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups cold sparkling water

In a small saucepan, combine granulated sugar with one cup of water and lavender. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat. Stir until sugar has completely dissolved about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain out the lavender and pour the simple syrup into a pitcher. Stir in the fresh lemon juice and sparkling water. Garnish with lavender sprig and lemon wedge. Enjoy!

IMG_2790

Recipe via Amanda’s Plate

Blackberry Honey Lime Spritzer

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Blackberry Honey Lime Spritzer
Serves 1

  • ¼ cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 12oz sparkling lime water

At the bottom of a glass, mash the blackberries and honey with a fork. Layer with ice cubes and pour over the sparkling lime water. Garnish with lime wedges, blackberries, and mint. Enjoy!

IMG_2792

Guava Pina Colada

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Guava Piña Colada
Serves 1

  • ½ cup of frozen pineapple chunks
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup guava nectar

Blend pineapple, coconut milk, and guava nectar until smooth and frosty. Garnish with edible flowers and pineapple wedges. Enjoy!

IMG_2788

Tangy Tamarind Mojito

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Tangy Tamarind Mojito
Serves 1

  • 1-2 tablespoons tamarind simple syrup
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed sweet lemon
  • ½ cup sparkling water or plain water

Tamarind Simple syrup

  • ½ cup wet seedless tamarind paste (approximately ½ a block)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 cups water


In a small pot, bring the water, sugar, and tamarind paste to a boil. Mash the mixture with a fork and let simmer until well dissolved (about 10 minutes) then let cool and strain the syrup into a mason jar for storage. To make one serving, combine 1-2 tablespoons of tamarind simple syrup (more if you like it sweeter), sweet lemon, and sparkling water in a sugar-rimmed glass. Serve over ice. Enjoy!

IMG_2810

Let’s see what fun and refreshing concoctions you come up with! If you make any of these drinks or create your own, use the hashtag #ramadanmocktails and tag us @Amandasplate and @Thecozyhomechronicles. We will also be sharing more healthy and nourishing food and drink ideas on our page so be sure to follow along!

signature3


Our DIY Home Journey + The Upskill Project

This probably should have been the first post on our blog but I figured it’s never too late to share our rather interesting DIY home backstory. You see, the idea of renovating our home ourselves never even crossed our mind. I mean don’t get me wrong, we are pretty handy and creative (heck, we DIYed our wedding) but we just assumed that home repairs were way out of our league. So like every clueless new homeowner, we called contractors to help us with the very basics and then some. Things went pretty smoothly until one day the contractor working on our basement announced that he had a family emergency overseas that he needed to attend to. I think he saw the panic in our eyes because he calmly responded, “Look, I first learned this trade by watching others in a very short amount of time. You don’t have to be a genius to do this line of work, anyone can do this.” He then spent the next few days before his departure demonstrating and explaining how to put up studs, mud drywall, and lay tile. He even left us with his tools! Those simple words of encouragement and instruction were enough to spark something within us. Although, it took us some time to finish our basement, the internal transformation happened immediately.

That’s how we got a taste for home DIYing. Every year since, we have tackled a major home project and we even started this blog as a way to share our home journey because we are passionate about DIYing and home life. When we experienced the joy of confidently working together on our home, we wanted to share that with YOU because we truly believe that ANYONE can do these things. We are living proof. Just take a look at the pictures of our home from our first showing compared to what it is today. Doesn’t it make your DIY senses tingle?

That’s why we are super excited to share that we are partnering with Lowe’s for The Upskill Project contest running in Detroit from May 7th-21st. So if you have a home project that you’ve been wanting to undertake but are reluctant because of the costs or because your skills leave much to be desired, then this contest is for you! Lowe’s is offering up to five lucky people the chance to win a $2,000 Lowe’s gift card for their project along with expert help to guide and teach the skills needed to complete your project. We know from experience just how crucial a little bit of guidance is and that is why this movement resonates with us so much. It’s all about empowering homeowners and giving them the skills, confidence, and inspiration they need to tackle any home project.

UpSkill_Horzntl_endorsed_k

To enter, all you need to do is submit a video answering the following questions:

  1. What is your project?
  2. What skills do you need to complete your project?
  3. What would having those skills mean to you?

Simple enough, right?! We’ll be there to help and document one winner’s project progress along the way.  And if you’re not a lucky winner, you’ll still have the opportunity to learn the skills you need at a free workshop hosted at a local Lowe’s on August 25th. This workshop is an invaluable opportunity to learn important homeowner skills such as painting, tiling, plumbing, and general tool use. Did I mention we will also be there too? So mark your calendars and get ready for a date with your new DIY BFFs.

IMG_6067If you’re not in the Detroit area and want to enter the contest, don’t fret because The UpSkill Project is coming to a number of cities across the country throughout the year. You can click here and scroll down for a full list.

All right, what are you waiting for?! Want to enter this contest? Start brainstorming and share this contest with your friends! We want to see what cool projects you have envisioned for your home! Maybe you want to build a rain garden? Or renovate your peach 1950’s bathroom? Whatever it is, may the odds be ever in your favor.

signature3

Disclaimer: NO PURCH NECESSARY.  Homeowners and renters (with property owner’s permission) in eligible ZIPs only.  Rules/Entry details here: http://bit.ly/2Gvud8k. Ends 5/21/18. 

This post is sponsored by Lowes. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 


Our DIY Ramadan: Ramadan Banner & Tablescape Inspiration

Hello lovely readers! If you are coming here from Mint Candy Designs, hello and welcome to our blog. It’s always wonderful to have new faces around here 🙂 With Ramadan just around the corner, we are excited to share with you some simple ways to decorate your home and make the spirit of Ramadan manifest in your heart and home. Last year, we shared different ways to add festive and colorful touches to the dining table, where you gather to break bread after a long day of fasting. This year, we teamed up with some talented home bloggers to bring you creative DIYs that you can do to welcome this beautiful month into your home.

“There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.”-Rumi

IMG_3035
The feature of this post is a minimalist Ramadan banner and backdrop that I created near the front entrance of our home. I think it’s a beautiful welcoming statement for family and iftar guests and it makes the perfect backdrop for any family photos. It’s also super easy to make!

IMG_3238 wwm

For the Ramadan banner, here’s what you’ll need:
galvanized letters
natural cord
scissors
measuring tape

You can actually use any type of materials for the letters. I chose galvanized tin because they were on clearance at Jo-Anns and I wanted something more sustainable and long-lasting. I was tempted to spray paint the letters gold but in the end decided I liked the rustic, industrial look. To make the sign, all you need to do is arrange your letters spelling RAMADAN MUBARAK. Measure equal spaces between each letter (I did 5 inches) and secure each letter to the cord with a double knot. When you’re finished, create a loop at each end of the cord so you can hang the banner easily on a hook.

IMG_3105

To complete the backdrop simply cut out stars from glittered card stock and stick them to the wall using washi tape. You can also tie ribbon or yarn to cover up the command hooks and add a touch of green with any stems of your choice (eucalyptus, myrtle, grevillea, huckleberry).

IMG_3160

I also spruced up the dining area by hanging up garland and faux greenery. On our open shelving I created a simple display with a lantern and a gold foil Ramadan Mubarak print.

IMG_3054

I hung up our Ramadan advent calendar from Handmade Beginnings  where I’ll put something fun for the kiddos throughout the month. For the table I pulled out the turquoise glasses and purple linens I purchased from IKEA on clearance last year. Unfortunately they no longer offer those specific products (or if they do the colors are different) so I’ll link what alternatives they have below. For the napkins, my source link takes you to a conscious minimalist cotton napkin from H&M.

IMG_3033

 The only new things I purchased for this look were the gold placemats, the craft paper for the table-runner, and the glitter card stock to make the stars for the embellishments. I got the idea for the craft paper table runner from a Pinterest tablescape for Thanksgiving. I think it’s a nice screen-free way to keep children occupied with coloring and you can even write down your own reflections throughout the month. For an extra pop of color, never underestimate the power of fresh flowers. If you’re blessed with a beautiful flower garden then make it a family tradition and go flower picking right before iftar. If not, a local market or a Trader Joe’s would be a good option for gorgeous and reasonably-priced florals.

 

 

 

Sources:

Gold Placemat $1.99 | Craft Roll  $4.79 |Glitter Cardstock  $1.99| Ramadan Print $5.00 | Kitchen Towel $8.00 | Cotton Napkins $3.99 | Turquoise Glass $0.99 | Lantern $3.99

You can also find my sources of inspiration for these looks here on our Pinterest boards:

What did you think of the final result? Would you make this Ramadan banner? If you’re looking for more Ramadan decor inspiration then you’ll definitely want to head on over to my friend at Nimistyle and see her DIY Doily Table Runner and Gratitude Wall. Also don’t forget to check out the rest of the lovely DIYs in the Blog Hop linked below!

IMG_3677

Nimi Style | Amna B Interiors | Simply in Control | Mint Candy Designs | Zair Zabr Play

Last but not least, my friend Amanda and I put together our first Ramadan Ebook. It’s an idea that we’ve been sitting on for a while but this year we took a leap and tried to make it a reality. It’s nothing fancy but it’s a helpful resource filled with meal ideas and recipe links, decor tips, a checklist to help get you organized and even a few simple, mindful challenges for you to try. The best part is it’s available for free download right here:

Ramadan Ready Ebook

Amanda's Plate & The Cozy Home Chronicles

As always if you loved this post, please follow us and share. And for those who celebrate,  Ramadan Mubarak!

signature3

 

 

 


DIY Anthropologie-Inspired Fringe Wall Art

Earlier last month, I shared a DIY upcycling project that I created for a four week creative challenge that I participated in back in January. In this post, I’ll be showing you how to make my decor for week two’s challenge “On the Wall.” First let me start by saying that while I love my own creative process, one thing I really enjoy is the challenge of recreating products that already exist for much cheaper. Seriously, if you’ve ever wanted something that was way out of your price range but thought maybe you could make it at home then I’m your person! Like, if there was a career path or job title for Expert Home Decor Replicator, I’d be the first in line but until such a day here I am making copycat Anthropologie wall art for my own home and blog.

39685805_004_b1

Image via Anthropologie

Do you want to take a guess how much these Solar System Wall Art pieces are going for? Do you even want to know? Try $78-$198. Yep, you read that correctly. How about making one for less than $20? If that’s a yes and you want to know just how, keep on reading for the full scoop. Here’s what you’ll need:

Materials
Gold Floral Hoops or Macrame Rings
Natural cord
Wooden or stone beads
Premier Jazz Yarn

 

 

Note: For this specific design, I used 2 floral hoops: a 6in and an 8in. I also used the jazzy yarn in the color “mushroom.” You can use any color or even a variety of colors to create a custom piece for your space. 

Directions

  1. Hold the two gold rings parallel so they’re touching (small ring inside the large) and tie them together using the natural cord. Wind the cord around the rings until the rings are secure and then double knot the cord leaving at least 7 inches for the beads and loop. For extra security, you can add a dab of hot glue to the knot.
  2. String the wood beads on the cord, secure with a knot, and create a small loop for hanging.
  3. Cut out 6-10 strands of the premier jazz yarn, keeping in mind that you want each strand to be twice as long as the final fringe since you’ll be folding it over. I wanted a staggered look so I cut out different sizes ranging from 20-35 inches (actually between 10-17inches).
  4. On the bottom end of the larger ring, secure the yarn by folding the strands in half and pulling the strands of the yarn over the ring and through the loop (see images below).
  5. Pull to tighten and trim the strands to your liking. Now hang and enjoy the view 🙂

 

 

anthropologiewallart

This was such a simple DIY wall decor and it really added a nice touch to our eclectic space. Would you make something like this for your home? Let us know in the comments below and as always, if you found this inspiring we would love it if you shared.

IMG_9856

signature3


15 Tips for Stress-free Traveling with Little Children

If you’ve been following along on our blog, you’ll know that we just went on vacation in January and that it wasn’t our first time traveling with kids. In our two and a half years as parents, we have been on plenty of family excursions (Traverse City, Mackinac Island, Hocking Hills, Seattle, Vancouver, Kansas City, Washington D.C, and Florida/Bahamas) and while we are no travel experts, we have learned so much along the way (some of it the hard way). This post initially began as an overview of our Disney cruise trip but as we began hashing things out and as some of our new parent friends began asking us for travel advice, we realized it would be a good idea to write a separate post on general traveling advice.  Don’t worry, we are still working on our Disney Cruise post but until then, here are some general tips for traveling with little ones.

IMG_9274.jpg

 1. Plan, Plan, Plan. No advice we give will replace good old research and common sense. Basic things like weather, flight time, length of stay, etc… should be accounted for when packing and preparing. Whether it’s how much weight you can check in or whether you have to purchase a seat for your child, make sure you’re up to date on all the rules and regulations. We also recommend you write a general itinerary so you’re not guessing where to eat or go when you arrive. Once upon a time it was exciting to travel without any plans but as a parent there is nothing worse than listening to your child cry as you scroll through Yelp trying to decide whether to brave sitting in a restaurant or get takeout and scarf down your food in the car. Nothing.

2. Be mindful of your little one’s routine. Whether your travel destination involves flying, road tripping, theme parks or swimming at the beach, make sure your itinerary accommodates nap times and offers plenty of opportunities to be active. “Fussy, restless kids are real charmers,” said no one ever. Here are just some examples of how we choose to work around our children’s routines: 1) We plan departures early in the morning when they are well rested and happy 2) We don’t plan major activities during their nap time, 3) If we are driving, we make sure to stop and let them run around, 4) We are aware of their bathroom routines and make sure they have a comfortable place to go.

IMG_1369.jpg

3. Be completely packed early the day before and get a good night’s rest. Unfortunately coffee cannot fix everything. A good night’s sleep is gold for you and your little one(s) and can mean the difference between you losing your cool or not. We like to have all of our outfits picked out and laying on the dresser the night before so that getting ready in the morning is a breeze. We also find that having our carry-ons packed with our passports, cards, chargers, snacks, etc… the night before means no scrambling and guesswork in the morning. The morning of your trip should run as smoothly as possible because let’s be real: leaving is the easiest part.

4. Take your car seat and rear view mirror with you. There’s really no need to buy any fancy gear for traveling. Simply grab your car seat and base after you’ve arrived at the airport and check it in with your luggage. Not only does it save you money but you also get the peace of mind knowing that your child is sitting in something clean and safe, considering that you don’t know where car seats from rentals have been or how outdated they are.

5. Take your stroller and don’t check it in until you get to the gate. The last kind of stress you need while you’re traveling is having to chase after your little one(s) while checking in or going through security. Keep your kid(s) and any small items contained in a stroller all the way until you get to the gate. I repeat: Do not check your stroller in with your luggage (unless you don’t mind your arms falling off). One major bonus to hanging onto the stroller is that parents with small children and strollers are among the first priority when the plane gets boarded so take advantage while you can.

IMG_7836

6. Take backpacks for carry-ons. One backpack for each parent. This is pretty self-explanatory but you want to be as hands-free as possible and as unrestricted as possible. You need to be as swift as a ninja should the need arise and you certainly won’t be able to do that if you’re wheeling your stuff along or if you have a bag hanging off your shoulder.

7. Dress comfortably. Yeah we know every parent wants to be that cool mom and dad. But you know what’s not cool? Chasing after toddlers when you’re not dressed for the part. We like to keep it casual on the road with sneakers, jogger pants, and a light hoodie/cardigan. Don’t be a hero. If you nurse, wear something comfortable for nursing. If you want your experience with security to be as smooth as possible just skip the pants and belt and anything metallic for that matter.

8. Pack spare clothes for your little ones AND YOU. Out of the four flights we’ve been on, we’ve had 2 episodes of diaper blowout and one puke fest. The puke fest happened on us and guess who didn’t have a change of clothes? Us. Even if it’s just an extra top, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Trust us on this one.

9. Milk them during takeoff. If you’re flying and your little one(s) still nurses or takes formula then let them feast as the plane is taking off. Not only is it the perfect comfort and distraction but you may get an hour or more sleep time out of them. I’m speaking here as someone who successfully nursed my children to sleep during takeoff and found how much more bearable the flight was when they were asleep for half of it.

10. Prepare many forms of entertainment. Think like a bag of tricks or a busy box with age-appropriate distractions. In the past we’ve taken play dough, coloring and sticker books, stories, and new and favorite toys (nothing too noisy). More recently, and now that our son is over 2 years of age, we have made screen-time exceptions for him because, quite frankly, a miserable flight is not worth ruining our trip over. If you have a Netflix account, the majority of content available can be downloaded on a device for offline viewing (it expires after 48 hours but you can renew as long as you have wifi access).  We made sure to get our son the perfect sized headphones and we downloaded plenty of Curious George to get us through the 2.5 hour flight to Florida.

IMG_1494

11. Take lots of snacks. There’s no such thing as too many snacks. It’s worth mentioning that young children under 3 are the exceptions to the TSA liquid restrictions so pouches, pumped breast milk, formula, baby food…all those things you can take with you and you should. For us, food is one of those things that gets our kids to quiet down especially when they know they’re about to try something new so we suggest you pack a variety of snacks and pack something they haven’t tried. We guarantee that it will get you some good fuss-free mileage. Here are some of the non-perishable snacks we’ve been taking on our latest trips: Mango pouches, dried fruit or fruit leather, crackers, lara bars, apple sauce, and rice cakes. Be sure that if you’re traveling with perishable food that you pack it appropriately.

12. Pack an empty sippy cup and/or baby bottles. Staying hydrated is important and we find that it’s much easier to do that on the go when we travel with the right supplies. When we fly, we pack an empty sippy cup (we also take a canteen for ourselves) in our carry on and once we pass through security we fill it up at a water fountain. It’s an easy way for us to make sure we are drinking water while being environmentally friendly. The same goes for milk or formula. Pack an empty bottle in your carry-on and you can fill it up when the need arises.

13. Pack some baby-proofing essentials. Apparently baby-proofed hotel rooms are like unicorns. They don’t exist. From sharp-cornered furniture to unsecured TV stands to heavy lamps and messy cords ( I can go on), every hotel we’ve been in has been the stuff of parent nightmares. If you want some extra peace of mind, we suggest taking just a few baby proofing essentials: outlet covers, cabinet locks, and some cut up pool noodles for edge guards.IMG_9060

14. Rent an SUV or Mini-Van. There are plenty of ways to cut costs while traveling but this is one area we don’t recommend cutting. You want a vehicle that’s comfortable for your carseat(s), has plenty of room for all your luggage and stroller(s), and gives you the ability to hop in the back and soothe your baby during a meltdown should the need arise. A sedan or smaller vehicle will not give your family that comfort. Plus, you can get a taste for how things will be a few years down the line when you’re the uncool minivan parents (kidding).

15. Be kind to yourself. Repeat after me: “I am not the first to travel with kids and I  won’t be the last. And I am certainly not the first or last to travel with noisy or crying kids. I will not feel guilty over things that are beyond my control. I will be kind to myself. Enemies of fairness and equality, hear my parent-ly roar (optional).” Look, no matter how much you plan and prepare, you will inevitably find yourself  in uncharted territory (we got stuck in the airport for 10 hours on our way back from Florida with two toddlers and it sucked big time). None of us have this all figured out and that’s okay; we learn as we go. If you’re traveling with your spouse and you sense him or her stressing out, try sharing words of encouragement or give them a compliment on something they’re doing well. At the end of the day, all this preparation you’re doing is so that YOU can also enjoy the trip so don’t let it get to you if things don’t go your way.

IMG_7703

That’s all folks. We initially had in mind to share 10 tips but as we started recalling what we wish we knew before our first trip, we couldn’t stop. We could have probably written much more too but we decided to keep it general and share more specific travel tips in separate posts. We also realize these are much more applicable if you’re flying rather than driving to a destination but we hope you’ll find it helpful either way. One day, we will get to publishing the Disney post and maybe one day we’ll write about Seattle and Vancouver and Washington D.C and Kansas City. One day. In the meantime, if you liked this post and found it helpful we would love if it you would like it and share it. For more related content, you can find us on Instagram where we share more of our day-to-day and Pinterest where we share our ideas and inspiration. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about this post, feel free to leave a comment below. And as always…

signature3


Soy Chorizo Vegan Chili

We are so behind on our post schedule it’s not even funny but I figured as long as I’m not posting this recipe in June, we’re cool (your standards change when you’re a parent of two). So March is less than a week away but that means NOTHING here in Michigan because our weather is a wild card of unpredictability (sigh). I’m not totally complaining though because for those really chilly spring days, we have just the recipe to warm up our bones and souls. If you’re in graduate school like us or lead generally busy lives, this is another easy and delicious recipe to add to your meal plan during those really hectic weeks.

IMG_7650

As I’m sure I mentioned before on here, we are always looking for ways to cut down on our meat consumption and a few years ago I stumbled across this pretty stellar soy chorizo at Trader Joe’s for just $1.99. I know, right?! At first we used it in our egg scrambles but one day it hit me that it would make a great meat substitute base for a vegan chili. Spoiler alert: It does! Not only does it have that perfect ground beef texture but it’s so spicy you may find you don’t even need to season your chili at all. You can also cut the preparation time for this recipe by opting for canned beans instead of dried beans but either way, your watch, wallet, and tummy will be satisfied with this hearty bowl of goodness.

IMG_7628

Soy Chorizo Vegan Chili

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup of finely chopped carrots
1 cup black beans, cooked
1 cup kidney beans, cooked
1 12 oz. package of Soy Chorizo, casing removed and crumbled
1 15 oz. can  of tomato sauce
4 cups water or vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, minced
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Note: *If you prefer your chili to be less thick, you can add more liquid to water it down. *You can also tweak this recipe to your liking and include more vegetables such as bell peppers, tomatoes, and corn. *I find the soy chorizo makes the chili spicy and flavorful enough for our taste, especially with the kids in mind, but if you find the flavor isn’t cutting it for you, you can add the following: 1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional).

Directions
1. In a deep pot, drizzle a bit of olive oil and sauté your onion, and garlic on medium heat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Next add in the carrots and soy chorizo. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until the ingredients are well incorporated.
3. Finally, add in the water/stock, beans, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil then let simmer on low until reduced and thickened, about 20-30 minutes.
4. Taste the chili and season to your liking or adjust the thickness.
5. Ladle your chili into bowls and serve with vegan cheese, non-dairy sour cream, and crispy tortilla chips.

IMG_7632

IMG_7652

If you liked this recipe and tried it, we would love it if you would share or leave a comment below. For more related content, you can find us on Instagram where we share more of our day-to-day and Pinterest where we share our ideas and inspiration. And as  always…

signature3

.


DIY Upcycled Tea Tin Planter

 

February is coming to an end and we are a tad bit in disbelief. I know, this seems like a reoccurring theme over here but during this busy season of our life it’s difficult to fully grasp how quickly the time is flying. We did take some time off for a family vacation (there’s a post in the works) in January and it was just what we needed to reset for this new year but when we came back we dove head first into our semesters and it took some time to get back on our feet. We are now back in the groove of things and excited to share what we have been working on. Last month I was lucky to be a part of Salvage Dior’s January Creative Team on Instagram where each week I, along with my four teammates, were responsible for creating something new for our homes that fit within the following themes: 1) Upcycle, 2) On the Wall, 3) Child’s Play, 4) Coffee Table Decor. In this post I’ll be sharing the project I completed for the first week, an upcycled tea tin turned planter.

IMG_8994

Loose leaf tea is something we drink quite a bit of in our home and I’m always left wondering what to do with the tins once they’re through. In the past I’ve used them as storage for spices and knick knacks but this time I wanted something a bit more creative. At the time we were also revamping our plant corner so I thought it would be nice to make some new planters for the Pothos and Sedum I was growing hydroponically. I was inspired by the recent trend in natural fiber textiles and wanted to create that woven look to contrast with the industrial shelving we chose for the plant’s display. If I wanted to buy what I was looking for, I could have easily spent anywhere from $6-25 a pot depending on the size. Instead, I was able to make this tea tin planter and some tin can planters for $0 because I had everything already on hand. The only thing that you would probably need to buy if you’re not DIY nerds like us is the bundling twine but that itself is very inexpensive ($3.98 for 525 feet). Alright, let’s make a planter!

 

 

If you are an avid DIYer, you most likely have a glue gun in your arsenal of crafting tools.

eb_loose_2

DIY Upcycled Tea Tin Planter

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Materials
Tea tins or tin cans, washed and dried
Bundling twine
Hot glue-sticks
Milk Paint (optional)

Tools
Glue Gun
Scissors
Drill (or a hammer and nail)

Directions

  1. Heat your glue gun and in the meantime use your drill to place drainage holes in the bottom of your tin. You can also use a hammer and a nail to do this or you can skip this step and just make sure to include a layer of small rocks beneath your soil for water drainage.
  2.  Glue the end of the bundling twine to the side of your tin at the very bottom and begin wrapping the twine around, making sure to glue the first 3 coils to the tin and to each other. As you wrap the twine, be sure to push the coils down tightly to close any gaps and give your planter a neat, elegant look.
  3. Continue wrapping the twine around, stopping midway to glue the coils down. Wind the twine around the tin until you reach the top and then cut the twine to length.
  4. Uncoil the twine a couple turns, then rewind it tightly against the tin using hot glue to secure the top two coils to the tin and to the adjoining coils.
  5. Take your scissors and trim off any noticeable twine hairs sticking out (see the time-lapse video below). At this point you can paint the planter and let it dry or go straight to planting and styling it!

IMG_8984

IMG_8998

If you liked this post and found it inspiring, we would love if you shared it. For more related content, you can find us on Instagram where we share more of our day-to-day and Pinterest where we share our ideas and inspiration. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about this DIY project, feel free to leave a comment below. And as always…

signature3


Family Finance: Why Amazon Prime?

Hello friends. It’s me again, here with your second dose of family finance for the new year. In the first post, I covered the very basics of budgeting and how to go about calculating a realistic budget based on your expenses. In the next few posts, I  will be discussing how we save money shopping by using subscription services like Amazon Prime and Costco’s Executive Membership. Today’s post will be specifically about Amazon Prime, a service that we have used for years and are well acquainted with. I am aware that there are pros and cons to each service that we recommend and I will try my best to address these today and in the upcoming posts.

IMG_9550

What is Amazon Prime in a nutshell?
Amazon Prime is an online shopping subscription service for $99/year that gives you access to 2-day delivery guarantee on Prime items. On top of the free 2-day delivery (nothing is free, I am sure the accountants have it all calculated in your prime pricing) it also gives you access to Amazon Photo, Amazon Video, Twitch and other Amazon owned subsidiary services. What Amazon does is that it spares you (both time and money) from having to hop in your car and drive to a number of different stores to purchase the goods that you need; everything from clothing to food to office supplies to home tools and appliances. You name it and it’s most likely on Amazon.

prime pantry

Although we don’t have Amazon Fresh where we live in Michigan, I am hopeful that with their acquisition of Whole Foods it will soon become a reality. Amazon Fresh is a service that has a contractor buy groceries per your request and deliver it straight to your door in a matter of hours. Yes, we are moving towards the future we saw in WALL-E (if you haven’t seen WALL-E, do me a favor and watch it. It’s one of Pixar’s masterpieces). My wife is adamant that even with Amazon Fresh she will still prefer going to the local grocer or farmer’s market, I guess we will just have to see about that. Until we get Amazon Fresh, we are currently making the most of the Subscribe & Save feature of our membership.

Subscribe & Save
As homeowners and parents, we take advantage of Amazon’s Subscribe and Save feature to receive items that we use regularly at home on a monthly basis at a discounted rate. The way it works is that there are items on Amazon you can subscribe to (these could be anything from cleaning products to personal care products to snacks). If you subscribe to less than 5 items you get 5% off the price of those items at checkout and if you subscribe to 5 or more items, you get 15-20% off those items.

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 6.57.17 AMAlthough you only get one subscription box a month, you have the option of changing the delivery date and the contents of your box to fit your needs. On top of the discounts received, you can get an additional 5% off in the form of Amazon points to use towards future purchases if you pay with an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card. Below is an example of what our Subscribe & Save looks like. Notice how on the left there are 5 bars highlighted in orange. This means that since we have 5 or more items in our subscription box, we are eligible for the extra 15-20% off.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 11.54.02 PMSample list:
Tom’s of Maine Toothpaste
Mrs. Meyers Hand Soap
ECOS Natural Dishwashing Liquid 
Peter Rabbit Organics Puree
Larabar Fruit and Nut Bar

IMG_9441

Amazon Prime Video
We don’t have cable because we don’t watch TV that often and we also HATE commercials with a passion. Amazon Video is a wonderful feature of our Amazon Prime membership (think like Netflix) with an extensive library that includes plenty of educational and family-friendly content for our Friday movie nights. If you decide on a Prime membership, Prime Video is automatically included but you can also sign up for Prime Video as a standalone service.

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 7.14.53 AM.pngAmazon Prime Pantry
The introduction of Prime Pantry allowed Amazon to expand its selection and offer thousands of items to Prime members that are cost prohibitive to ship for free individually. Since the items are smaller, individually shipping them isn’t an option, but if you fill a box worth of all your needs you can save substantially and also get Prime Pantry credit to use towards future Prime Pantry purchases. We don’t currently use this feature as we do most of our shopping at local grocery stores and Costco but it’s definitely something we are exploring because the pricing is competitive, it’s a real time saver once set up, and we can save an extra 5% by using our Amazon Prime Rewards credit card.

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 7.34.10 AM.png

Now you have an idea of what Amazon Prime is and how it works but the real question is: is it really worth it? What I have discussed up until this point, is just the surface of Amazon’s services. I haven’t even mentioned perks like your choice of a free kindle book every month or access to ad-free listening via Amazon Music or unlimited media storage through Amazon Photo. If I truly wanted to dissect each feature, this would turn into a VERY lengthy post so for the purposes of sticking to the topic, I will next address how a Prime membership can be an asset to managing your family’s finances and keeping to a budget.

Amazon Prime Memberships
In terms of types of Amazon Prime memberships, there are three different options: 1) Standard, 2) Family, and 3) Student. Below I’ve listed the three memberships along with links to their 30-day Free Trial if you’re interested in giving them a try. We currently have a standard membership but we suggest that if you’re a parent and you don’t cloth diaper that you sign up with Amazon Family as they offer discounts on many baby-related products including up to 20% off on  disposable diapers.

  1. Standard: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial
  2. Family: Try Amazon Family 30-Day Free Trial 
  3. Student: Try Amazon Prime 50% Off For Students 

If you want to experience Amazon before diving into a membership or free trial and you’re either getting married or having a baby, I highly recommend you do your gift registry through Amazon. You get all the benefits of their customer service, everything delivered to your home,  and on top of it you get a coupon to purchase any remaining items off your list. If you have your baby registry with Amazon and you are a Prime member, however, you get additional perks including a $35 welcome box.

  1. Create a Amazon Wedding Registry
  2. Create a Amazon Baby Registry

Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 12.10.38 AM

Why Amazon?
Okay, so Amazon Prime is awesome.  It saves you money by saving you time with its 2-day shipping, competitive pricing, and diverse selection of products. But you’re probably asking how does this translate in terms of numbers? To illustrate how the membership pays for itself, I’m going to share a few ways we save big using Amazon Prime.

Gifts.
Between holidays, birthdays, and just because, we do most of our gift shopping via Amazon Prime. I’m talking 50 gifts a year, at least (yeah, we are blessed with family and friends). If we were to pay 2-day shipping for even just 10 of those gifts, we would easily spend the $100 that our membership costs. Assuming shipping is around $10 (depending on box size and location this can vary from $7-$20+) on average (I just sent a small box to a city 30 minutes away and it was $8 for standard shipping), we save at least $400 a year not paying for shipping when we gift.

School books.
If you’re a student like us, you know that the cost of books can add up FAST. Not only are Amazon’s book prices consistently low compared to other retailers but on shipping alone, we definitely save big with a Prime membership. Since we first started using Amazon we’ve had over 100 book orders, and while it would take entirely too much time to calculate how much we saved going with Amazon as opposed to our university’s Barnes and Nobles, we definitely saved at least $500 on just shipping alone. On top of that we were able to sell our books back via Amazon Marketplace for much more than we would have received from our university bookstore. The bottom line is if you’re a student then you should seriously consider getting Amazon Prime (the membership is only $50/year for students).

Household.
From dishwasher detergent to a router, we have saved a great deal over the years going with Amazon for our household needs. We have purchased a rug for the nursery, a projector for our home theater system, and even our bikes from Amazon. For all of these items we were able to do extensive comparisons of pricing, customer reviews, and warranties to ensure that we were getting the most bang for our buck. Just to give you an idea, one of the rugs we ordered was $100 more at places like Walmart  and Home Depot and the projector we purchased was $200 more at Best Buy.

Baby.
Amazon has a diverse selection of products that we would not have had access to if we went to our local baby stores, especially with our choice to cloth diaper. We were able to get a variety of quality cloth diapers for a fraction of the cost ($26 for 6 as opposed to $15-20 each) as well as significant discounts on products such as strollers, baby proofing essentials and bilingual toys and books.

IMG_9554

Is Amazon Prime guaranteed to save you money and lower your bills? Not necessarily  but it certainly can if you play your cards right. I like to think of Amazon as a tool or technology that can be used either for good or bad. Amazon Prime often gets a bad rap as an enabler of mismanagement because of its effortless accessibility and it’s not hard to see why. I do think, however, that if you have a busy lifestyle and if you spend regularly on some of the things I listed then you can definitely use Amazon Prime to your advantage when budgeting and saving money. If you took the steps I suggested in the first post to create a budget, the best way to know if Amazon is right for you is to do some research on your expenses and determine whether you can cut costs with a Prime membership. In the next post we will introduce the other players that compete with Amazon and why we use a combination of services instead of solely using Amazon Prime.

If you found this post helpful, we would appreciate it if you like and share it.  If you  are an Amazon Prime member and have something to add to the conversation or you’re considering Prime and have more specific questions about their services and pricing, feel free to comment/ask below. We always love hearing from our readers 🙂 And as always… signature3

 

 


Ashta-Inspired Overnight Oatmeal with Orange Blossom and Rose Water

My son, who will be turning three later this summer, recently started this weird picky eating phase some time in November. Where before he would eat EVERYTHING, he is now much more cautious and often downright rejective. One thing he has not lost, however, is his love for oats. Hot oatmeal, granola, overnight oatmeal, muesli….anything with oats (even with nuts and dried fruit), he will eat. For the sake of variety, I’ve been experimenting with different ways of preparing them and I’m happy to share today one of my successful creations that I’ve been meaning to post for quite some time now.

IMG_8038
This specific overnight oatmeal recipe was inspired by the flavor profile of Middle Eastern sweets, specifically that of Ashta; a Lebanese clotted cream used as a filling in phyllo pastries and other desserts. From the creaminess of the milk, the fragrant sweetness of orange blossom and rose water, to the nutty bite of the pistachios, this nutritious breakfast will feel like an utter treat. The best part is that it’s naturally sweetened and there is no cooking required; the oats soften overnight as they soak in the milk. You can make them in a bowl if you’re eating breakfast at home or you can pack them in little mason jars for a quick breakfast on the go. According to the Minimalist Baker, one of my favorite food bloggers, overnight oats keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but are best eaten within the first 12-24 hours so you might not want to make them too far ahead of time. As long as you have your ingredients on hand, you can whip one up every night in well under 10 minutes. Alright, let’s make some Middle Eastern dessert for breakfast!

IMG_8011

Ashta Overnight Oatmeal

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients
1/2 cup of Old Fashion Rolled Oats (We prefer Bob’s Red Mill Regular or Organic)
1 cup of unsweetened milk of choice
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 teaspoon rose water
1 tablespoon honey (more if you like it sweeter)

Toppings
Quality Honey
Ground pistachio, unsalted
Dried rose petal

Notes:
*Serving size: 1.

*If you want your overnight oats to have a thicker, slightly gelatinous texture like pudding then add 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds. My husband isn’t a fan so I leave them out.
*If you’re not a vegan and would like some extra richness and creaminess, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of ashta or greek yogurt.
* I purchase my pistachios whole  from Trader Joe’s and grind them myself in a small food processor.

Directions
1. In a bowl or mason jar, add milk, honey, orange blossom water, and rose water. Stir to combine.
2. Add in the oats and stir until all the oats are fully immersed in the liquid.
3. Cover securely and place in the fridge overnight.
4. The next morning, take your container out of the fridge and stir the mixture. . Drizzle with quality honey and top generously with crushed pistachios and rose petals. Enjoy

IMG_8022

IMG_8057

IMG_8049

What are your favorite ways to eat oats? We would love to hear from you in the comments below and if you try this recipe, share your thoughts  and tag us on Instagram so we can see. And as always if you enjoyed this post, please follow us and share.

signature3


5 Strategies and Resources for Keeping Toddlers Screen-Free

Happy New Year friends! We hope all of you had a blessed holiday with your loved ones and we wish everyone peace, success, and happiness in 2018. Things are crazy busy here as we are preparing for a family vacation to Florida this weekend. I’ll be honest, between the kids being sick early last month and the holidays, they have seen far more screen time in December alone than they have in a year (we used to be strict about this but that’s for another post). And boy are we ready to detox and resume our screen-free daily routines once we get back. If reducing your child/children’s screen-time is one of your new year resolutions then you’re in luck because I have 5 simple strategies and a handful of fun resources to help get you on track for just that.

“Play is the beginning of knowledge.” -George Dorsey.

IMG_8856

  1. Identify what they like and stick with it. I know this may seem like common sense but living in this age of information overload, it can be difficult to filter through everything to decide what’s applicable and what’s not. Not everything that works for other children may work for yours and that’s okay. The best way to get to know your child is to try a range of different activities with them and see what keeps their short attention span occupied. Chances are you already have an idea without needing to do much investigating. My son is currently really into play dough, Mega Bloks, and dragons at the moment and is very active so if I’m going to get frustrated that he’s not sitting down for a coloring activity for more than 5 minutes, I can’t blame anyone but myself. It doesn’t mean that we don’t try other activities but for the sake of my schedule, I only do things like cooking or reading for school when my children are engaged with an activity for the long haul.
  2. Make a weekly activity plan. With all things in life, if you have an outline or plan of action then you’re more likely to follow through with it. If you are really committed to screen-free quality time then try investing 15-30 minutes on the weekend to brainstorming and arranging for activities during the week. You don’t have to be doing crazy chemistry lab experiments to make it fun. As you’ll come to see in the links I’m sharing below, it doesn’t take much to make children happy. I also want to add the disclaimer that an activity plan should be treated more like a guide rather than a strict schedule. It should be a way for you to think through your day and have activities on hand when you need them most.
  3. Talk it up. Sometimes for kids it’s less about the activity and more about the presentation. Maybe that’s just my experience with my kids but I feel they definitely pick up on my enthusiasm. I don’t have numbers to back up this claim but I find that my son is more engaged when I’ve talked about the activity beforehand. For example, if I were to ask him “prepare me something delicious to eat” while giving him his play kitchen tools, he would spend more time playing than if I were to just dump them on the floor and tell him, “here, play with this.”
  4. Limit accessibility and rotate activities to keep things interesting. In other words if you got it, don’t flaunt it. You will be surprised at what a huge difference it makes if you hide some toys away…because let’s face it, every parent is familiar with what happens when everything is accessible: toys strewn everywhere and bored, restless children. Not the funnest combination. Try taking some toys out of circulation and bringing them out in rotation when you sense boredom. Our MegaBloks, puzzles, and an array of large toy vehicles are stored way high up on a shelf and when I  bring them down, my son definitely relishes every moment.
  5. Don’t be afraid to make a mess. Okay maybe this is not what you want to hear but trust me. I’m not talking trash the house messy but more along the lines of confined chaos. There are plenty of activities that I’ll list below that allow children to really explore and be messy without you having a disaster on your hands. I don’t know what it is about messes but kids love making them and if they’re happy and occupied then you will be too 🙂

IMG_8861

With that being said, I’m sharing a list of fun activities that we have tried and enjoyed as well as some amazing resources that I turn to when planning out activities for the kids. I’m also linking our Pinterest board as I do pin fun toddler activities as I come across them for inspiration. I feel like I should state again that the point of this post isn’t that you must have scheduled activities in a curriculum sense but rather a collection of activities suitable for play. Children should be free to explore and play and the activities you choose should exemplify that philosophy.

“Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.” -Plato

Sensory and Fine Motor Activities

  1. Make homemade play dough and model/build/cut with cookie cutters
  2. Thread pipe cleaners through a colander or box with holes
  3. Freeze toys in water and do an ice excavation
  4. Make colorful squishy gel bags with glitter and beads
  5. Pom Pom Ball Color Sorting

“Messy” Activities

  1. Go dumpster diving for lost toys in a cardboard box
  2. Create a dry pasta/rice/lentil construction site
  3. Paint with shaving cream on a plastic bin lid
  4. Make a scoop and pour activity station with containers and random objects
  5. Pour flour and shredded coconut in a bin with small cars for a snowy ride

Physical Activities

  1. Set up a simple indoor obstacle course with everyday objects
  2. Have a color-themed scavenger hunt with this song
  3. Have an alphabet or number scavenger hunt
  4. Set up a bubble machine and chase after bubbles to pop them.
  5. Blow up balloons and play balloon tennis, volleyball, or soccer.

Imaginative Play

  1. Make a play boat from a cardboard box and pretend you’re fishing or escaping sharks
  2. Give children kitchen tools and utensils to play chef
  3. Play veterinarian or doctor with sick action figures and stuffed animals
  4. Build a tent from blankets and go pretend camping
  5. Host a pretend picnic or tea party for their toys

IMG_8937

These are just some of the MANY activities out there and there are plenty more waiting to be discovered or created by you to fit your child’s needs (Disclaimer: All the activities I’ve listed are intended to be done with adult supervision even if they don’t necessarily require your active participation). I hope this post is a good starting point for helping you feel less overwhelmed and more capable of keeping your children engaged and occupied without resorting to screens. To help me get organized and plan better (and help you do the same), I’ve created a weekly activity plan to fill out to help guide me through my days at home. The image below is just an example of how you can fill it out but you’ll want to do so according to your own daily rhythms and routines, interests and likes. I also included a column for time but I do not adhere to it strictly and you can completely ignore it all together if you want. The time column is more to remember fixed moments of the day such as snack time, lunch, and nap time. I want to also add that I think it’s very important to be flexible and not hold yourself to unreasonable and unattainable scheduling expectations because this isn’t school.

Weekly toddler planWeekly Activity Plan Free Download

IMG_8945

Once you have downloaded this blank activity guide, you can visit the links below to get started planning your days with your little one(s). While I’m no child psychologist or educator, I think that it’s good to have a balance of diverse activities; literacy, sensory/fine motor, physical activity, and imaginative play. The best part about designing your day is you get to customize activities that blend motor skills, creativity, and learning (science, math, language, etc.) in ways that are fun and appealing to your child. The last thing children need is to be lectured classroom-style. If there are specific concepts that you would like them to be learning then write them down in the “focus” section. This will help you be mindful of your learning goals so you can incorporate them up during activities and moments throughout your day. Alright, let’s get planning!

Resources for Activity Planning

  1.  Hands on As We Grow
  2. Busy Toddler
  3. Fun at Home With Kids
  4. The stay-at-home-mom survival guide
  5. Meri Cherry
  6. Toddler Approved
  7. Playtivities

If you liked this post and found it helpful, we would love it if you would share. For more related content, you can find us on Instagram where we share more of our day-to-day and Pinterest where we share our ideas and inspiration. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about this topic, feel free to leave a comment down below. And as always…

signature3