Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer Sweet Treat: S'mores Recipes You'll Love

Today is National Toasted Marshmallow Day.  In a couple of weeks we'll be on our way to our last camping trip of the season, and I plan to be well-prepared with marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate!  As I was reading about the origin of National Toasted Marshmallow Day, I came up empty, but did manage to find a variety of S'mores recipes that piqued my interest.

S'mores are a staple for our camping menus, but I've always kept my recipe simple and traditional:  top a graham cracker with a mini Hershey chocolate bar and a freshly toasted marshmallow (I like mine charred).  Top with another graham cracker and smash.  Bon Appetit!

After reviewing quite a few variations, I'm convinced I must venture out into the great unknown of s'mores, and try one of these gourmet alternates:

  • Use a Reese's peanut butter cup instead of Hershey's chocolate and add banana slices
  • Replace the graham crackers with ginger snap cookies, and use a caramel filled chocolate instead of the Hershey's.
  • Add coconut flavor by replacing the Hershey's chocolate with a mounds bar.
  • Add sliced strawberries to the traditional chocolate and marshmallow mix. 
  • Spread graham crackers with Nutella instead of a chocolate bar and add banana slices.

If you have other ideas or recipes you've made, let us know with a comment.

Have a happy day!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top 5 Party Ideas For Your Labor Day Weekend

The weekend is almost here -yea! And it's the ever-welcome, yet sometimes melancholic, end-of-summer Labor Day Weekend!  Don't let it get you down if you're the summer-loving-can't-let-it-go-summer type! Think of this holiday weekend as yet another great reason to celebrate with family and friends!  Start planning some nature-loving outdoor fall activities and it's never too soon to start thinking about your Christmas gift list.  There, now that should keep you busy!

But before you get busy with fall and Christmas planning, celebrate this Labor Day weekend by hosting a BBQ and take advantage of these great ideas from a few of my favorite go-to websites for menu and party planning.  These are my top 5 BBQ ideas for your Labor Day weekend:

Fried pickles - Try this simple recipe from Food Network, and if you're not a fan of frying, you can bake them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Keep them lightly breaded and bake at 375 degrees until crisp.

Photo taken from
Sangria! Depending on if you have a preference for red or white, you can find many versions simply by searching online for Sangria recipes.  This one from Allrecipes is exceptional!

Photo taken from
PB&J ice cream sandwiches - This can be as simple as buying store bought peanut butter cookies, stuffing them with vanilla ice cream and a smear of your favorite flavored jelly and freezing.  Or you can following the official BHG recipe and bake simple peanut butter cookies from a pre-made dough. 
Photo taken from

For table décor, use a combination of orange, yellow, and green décor to celebrate both summer's end and the onset of autumn. 

For your centerpiece, use cut sunflowers in a glass vase filled with lemons and limes for the ultimate seasonal look! 

Have a happy day!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Healthy Recipe of the Week - Tomato Braised Tilapia

If you're trying to go healthier and want to add more fish to your diet, tilapia is a light, white fish that is easy-to-buy and easy on the wallet!  The one issue I have with tilapia is it tends to lack flavor on its own.  I've tried various rubs and seasoning combinations, but came across this dish in Taste of Home magazine, and we just loved it!

The flavor of seasonings with tomatoes and onions permeates the fish very well, and serving it in the sauce gives added flavor to each forkful.  Serve it with a rice dish or couscous, and a side of fresh seasoned veggies. Fabulous!

Savory Tomato Braised Tilapia

  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt (I just used sea salt)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice 
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 can (10 oz.) diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained (I used chopped fresh tomatoes instead, which I highly recommend)                   
  • 3/4 cup roasted sweet red peppers (these can be skipped if you're in a pinch and don't have them on hand)                   
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano

1. Sprinkle fillet with salt; drizzle with lemon juice. 

2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook and stir until tender. Add the next six ingredients; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes longer.

3. Place fillets over the tomato mixture; cook, covered, 6-8 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Have a happy day!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The World Travel Gift Basket - A Unique Gift for Any Occasion

One of the core concepts that make our gift baskets different than most others is the idea of using functional and decorative products rather than food.  That idea goes into the container as well.  Our World Travel gift basket is a unique collection of travel themed gifts in a uniquely designed decorative box that is fashioned like an old suitcase or travel trunk.  These boxes come from Punch Studio which offers a wonderful collection of elegant decorative boxes and stationery products.  I was crazy for them as soon as I discovered them!

The World Travel gift basket is a great gift for the frequent or occasional traveler for any occasion.  Retirement, graduation, congratulations, bon voyage, name it!  It works!

The World Travel Gift Basket includes a photo album to hold 200 photos, 1000 Places to See Before You Die journal, a soy scented travel candle, travel room spray, luggage tags and a Jimeale travel wallet! 

Love the box! Use it later to hold and display all of those travel keepsakes!

Finished product all wrapped and ready for delivery! 

Have a happy day!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

10 Fun Healthy Snacks for Kids

With back-to-school in full swing, you may well be challenged with the planning and preparation of fun snacks for kids. Don't grab every box of cupcakes, cookies, Doritos and Cheetos you can find. Opt instead for delicious and healthy snacks that are so easy to prepare, the kids will have fun helping, or may even do it themselves!  Try this top 10 list of fun healthy snacks for kids of all ages!  Toddler, tween, teen, and young adults alike will enjoy preparing and indulging in these after school or anytime snacks.  In fact, even us middle-aged grown-ups enjoy all of these mouth-watering snacks!

Try these in late summer or early spring:
  1. Pretzels and hummus - As simple as having a bag of pretzels and a container of hummus on hand.  Pull them out of the pantry and fridge and dip away!
  2. Frozen juice pops - An extension of summer: either buy ready made all natural juice pops or pick up your own ice pop mold and plan to make these often in the future.  Simply pour in fresh juice and freeze. 
  3. Smoothies - In a smoothie maker or blender, mix together yogurt, a small bit of milk, fresh fruit of your choice, half a banana, and a handful of ice cubes. Blend and serve.
  4. Yogurt parfait - Mix together a cup of yogurt with chopped fresh fruit of choice and sprinkle with granola.
  5. Flavored popcorn - Make fresh or microwave popcorn and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and an herb seasoning.  Mix in a handful of goldfish crackers if desired.

Save these for fall or winter:
  1. Trail mix - Buy already prepared or mix your own: peanuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, dried apricots, and chocolate chips.  Feel free to substitute any of the above for an equally healthy option!
  2. Sliced apples with peanut butter and honey - Mix a teaspoon of honey with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter in a cup.  Dip apple slices and enjoy.  Tastes just like a taffy apple!
  3. Toasted English muffin topped with peanut butter, banana slices, honey, and chopped walnuts.
  4. Berry oatmeal muffins - Okay, this one takes a recipe, but still simple to mix together.  Find my favorite recipe here.
  5. Mini baked sandwiches - Start with a small dinner roll.  Spread both sides with margarine and Dijon mustard. Top with sliced turkey and cheddar cheese (or ham and Swiss cheese).  Wrap in foil and bake for 5-8 minutes at 350 degrees.
Okay, really, you can eat these anytime of year, but some do feel very seasonal, don't they? Enjoy!

Have a happy day!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Back to School Gifts for Kids: 7 Gifts for 7 Days

After coming across a wonderful blog post at The Thinking Closet, 30 Gifts for 30 Years, I've been filled with inspiration on how to use this gift concept for my own personal occasions.

With back-to-school right around the corner, I'm thinking 7 Gifts for 7 Days for all those little ones who will be starting kindergarten or first grade.  You can either do this the week before school starts or during the first week of school.  Surprise them with a big, bright, colorful gift, wrapped and tied with a big matching bow.  Make it feel as festive and exciting as their birthday! 

Inside this big, bright, colorful gift, package 7 small gifts, one for each day of the week.  Each one should be individually wrapped with a little note of daily inspiration attached to it. Make each small gift something useful for school or fun for play.  Personalized gifts are especially nice for school and for giving them a feeling of importance.  The anticipation of each gift each day will ease their anxiety and make them super excited for the start of school! 

Here are some fun examples of what your 7 little gifts might be:

1. Personalized pencil case

These two cases were found at Lillian Vernon, and there are many designs from which to choose.

2. Happy stickers

Check out for a great variety of stickers. And you'll find useful coupons at their coupon site.

3. Personalized notepad

You can find an awesome collection of stationery and other kid products at the Stationery Studio.

4. Personalized water bottle

These were also found at Lillian Vernon.

5. Set of pencils with fun toppers  


6. Favorite character watch

All kinds of favorite character and classic kids watches can be found at Toys r Us


7. A favorite snack

You must have a sweet treat, and I found these super cute smiley cookies at I especially like the stars, the apples and the pirates, but they have many different designs.  They also offer customization, so star shaped smileys in your child's school colors could be really fun!


There are great sources online for unique and really fun gifts to include.  You might even find everything you need at Lillian Vernon, except the cookies of course.  Or you can pick up similar items at local stores.  If you love the idea, but don't have time to shop around and put it together, we would love to do it for you!  We do custom gift baskets and collections all the time, and this one would be especially fun to create! Just let us know.

Have a happy day!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Butterflies, Phlox, and the Dog Days of Summer

This year we planted phlox, known for attracting butterflies, in our front garden.  We've yet to see butterflies fluttering around them, but I'm sure it's because the plants are young, and I am hopeful that next year, they will be fuller and most attractive to butterflies! Either way they are beautiful pink flowers and we've enjoyed them so much, we plan to add more next year - certain, then, to attract more butterflies!

As we've moved into the month of August, with our full gardens, cicadas, bumblebees, and the occasional butterfly, I began thinking of things I'd like to do before the end of summer. A bike ride along a new trail, a local art festival, an outdoor concert, and making a butterfly feeder.  (Can you tell I'm determined to lure those butterflies?)

I actually had never thought of making a butterfly feeder, but flipping through my favorite summer book, I came across instructions and found it quite simple. So consider this wonderful activity as you enjoy your dog days...

Butterfly on Phlox
Photo credit: DrPhotoMoto via Photopin
Butterfly feeder

Materials needed:

Silk flowers
Small glass jar with lid
Strong adhesive glue or glue gun
Awl and hammer
Length of string or twine

  1. Make the butterfly nectar by combining 1 part sugar and 9 parts water.
  2. Glue silk flowers onto the outside of the jar and to the lid to attract butterflies.
  3. Poke a small hole in the lid of the jar with an awl and hammer. Fill the jar with butterfly nectar, then screw the lid tightly onto the jar and poke a small piece of cotton into the hole.
  4. Invert the jar, tape the length of string to the bottom, and hang it in a sunny corner of your garden.
Summer: A User's Guide is a wonderful book by Suzanne Brown, filled with everything summer, from recipes to activities to seasonal trivia.  We love it in our summer gift basket, and it makes a great summer gift all on its own!

Have a happy day!