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Fight Back Against the Winter Blues

Now that the winter has officially settled in, so will the winter-time blues for a lot of people. It’s understandable: most can’t stand being cold to begin with, now add shorter, cloudy days and you’re guaranteed to have a lot of morose faces. Don’t let yourself become victim to the usual winter weariness this year, though. Here are a couple easy suggestions that can help you turn your winter outlook around.

This was one of my absolute favorite ideas (and it’s basically how I got myself through college slumps without even realizing it: set goals for yourself to help you look forward to the coming spring and sashay your way where, proactively. Rather than sitting around an wallowing in your cold weather blues, grab yourself a bright and cheerful 2014 calendar. Mark off in bright colors the change of the seasons, and then add a bunch of fun warmer weather activities that you’d like to participate in their after. Say for a weekend in May you’d like to head out to Montauk Point to walk the beach, or some weekend in June you’d love to take the family camping. Once you have your calendar full, then it’s time to set a daily goal for yourself to get you there: walking a mile a day, spending 45 minutes a day at the gym, doing laps at work on your lunch break, etc.

Why not give this winter stuff a chance?! One of the only ways to enjoy your winter, rather than dreading it, is by taking up a winter activity that you can look forward to. You never know what you’re going to love until you give it a chance. There’s snow-shoeing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowboarding, ice skating, winter hiking, and so much more. Give a couple of activities a really try and see if it doesn’t help you have at least a minor change of heart.

This may sound insane, but it will help simulate sunlight: buy a timer and set up a couple of your lights to turn on a ½ hour before your alarm is set to go off. One of the main causes of the “winter blues” is difficulty waking up in the morning, even after a full nights rest. The lights turning on around you help to simulate artificial sunlight, and help to turn off your morning drowsiness.

Lastly, get in as much sun as possible, and as early as possible! When you’re up and moving in the morning, get those blinds open to let the light in. Better yet, throw your coat on and get out the door for a little before-work activity. The more sunlight you can actually absorb during this short-day season, the better your outlook. 

Posted on Dec 26 2013 9:43AM
By LIFamilies

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Alcohol and Sleep

Are you a culprit of utilizing alcohol once and a while to help you get a better night’s sleep (I know that I have been on occasion)? I found this an needed to share. If turns out that this naughty habit not only are you increasing your likelihood of alcohol dependency, but may also be robbing yourself of a good night’s rest. Though you’re falling asleep much faster, you may be disrupting the rest of your sleep cycle.

Although it assists in falling asleep much more quickly, alcohol actually prohibits and reduces the amount of REM sleep that an individual is getting in their sleep cycle. Usually REM sleep (or rapid eye movement sleep) happens within the first 90 minutes of falling asleep, and it is thought to be an important part of the restorative process. When you don’t have the adequate amount of REM sleep at night, it causes daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and overall fatigue.

Using alcohol as a sleep aid is known to cause other sleeping-disrupting symptoms, such as sleep apnea (suppressing your breathing), sleep walking, sleep talking, and memory impairing. These symptoms cause you to have a restless second half of your sleep cycle, completely counter-acting your fast coming first half. Due to the addictive qualities of alcohol, it may actually cause you to feel as though you’re getting a better night’s rest, causing you to crave repeating the process. Hopefully you will find early on that this is a false craving, and you’re actually experiencing the negative effects of not getting enough restful-REM sleep.

If you are having difficulty sleeping, you should first speak with your physician. He or she will hopefully be able to rule out underlying sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, and help you find a better, healthier sleep assistance solution. 

Posted on Dec 17 2013 4:01PM
By LIFamilies

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Battling PMS

Okay, ladies, once and a while we need to talk about the less fun topics in life. One such unpleasantry is PMS. Those three simple letters not only make us cringe, and also tend to make our loved ones (especially our SOs) want to run and hide.  There’s nothing enjoyable about the cramps and coursing hormones associated with premenstrual syndrome, but there are a couple simple ways that we can fight back.

Okay, this may sound contradictory (considering how many cravings you have during PMS), but try to keep you sugar intake to a minimum. It may calm that sweet tooth, but it can actually worsen the symptoms that are driving you nuts. Simple sugars increase inflammation, making those cramps feel even worse.

Cut down on your salt and caffeine consumption, as well. Salt makes you bloat by causing you to retain water…when you’re PMSing you’re already retaining water, so salt it making it even worse. Caffeine can make your more irritable and your breasts tenderer. Cutting it out makes you naturally feel that much better.

Make sure to rest up and de-stress. When you’re relaxed and refreshed, you’re more adequately prepared to deal with the waves of hormones that course through your body this time of the month. That way they won’t have quite so much power over your day.

Keep yourself moving and exercise. When you keep going, you fight the cramps and PMS day blues with the endorphin rush that you create.

Don’t be afraid to supplement. I know you likely try to stay away from pills as much as possible, but sometimes a supplement or two goes a long way to help. Calcium supplements help reduce many of your symptoms. Magnesium and B complex vitamins also help to relieve some of the hormonal effects, as well. 

Posted on Dec 12 2013 11:15AM
By LIFamilies

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Snow Safety Tips!!!

I know it sounds crazy (you know, because we're all intelligent adults) but this lovely winter weather made me feel the need to try to keep everyone safe. I know that we've had lots of snow in the past, but it never hurts to have safety tip reminders! (Just like the fire and bus drills we all went through hundreds of times as children.)


First off, remember to be safe even when you’re just walking!

-Make sure to leave yourself extra time so that you’re not in a rush. Rushing is one of the main causes behind snow/ice related slips and falls.

-Stick to designated walkways and sidewalks. It’s so much easier to take our usual shortcut across the grass, but remember that ice can easily be hidden below that fresh fallen snow. When it’s not being maintained, your usual path is likely treacherous this time of year!

-Wear proper foot attire, and bring your work/gym/etc. shoes along with you in a bag. I’m guilty of wearing my work shoes in the snow rather than changing them when I get inside, but that’s a fast way to slip and hurt myself! Be sure to wear snowshoes with a good grip.

-Make sure that you’re easily visible. Whether it’s whiteout conditions or getting dark out, make sure to wear a bright, colorful snow coat if possible so that you’re visible to all around you.


Then, if you need to be on them, be sure to be careful on the roads!

-Be sure to leave plenty of space between you and the vehicles around you. In the snow and ice it takes twice as long to carefully and properly come to a full stop. Give yourself the time and space needed. Also, accidents happen very quickly. This gives you time to maneuver carefully. Never make sudden changes in direction or speed.

-Remove all ice and snow from your vehicle before you even start moving. It may seem solid in place at the moment, but it can quickly become a hazard to your driving or the drivers behind you.

-Don’t use your cruise control, even if the roads seem clear enough. This even goes for in the rain: your car can’t tell when to stop accelerating (especially not mid-puddle or ice patch) and can cause your car to spin out. Maintain your own speed carefully.

-Take extra precaution when going over bridges, overpasses, and ramps. All tend to ice-up first, and unexpectedly.

-Stay off of the roads whenever possible. If your stop on the way home (or the reason you’re going out at all) can wait until tomorrow, then you should let it wait. Your safety is more important. 

Posted on Dec 10 2013 11:44AM
By LIFamilies

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Homemade Exfoliating Products

When you are always looking for ways to make your home and body green, sometimes it’s all of the little things that count. How about your facial and body products; many of us have already turned to organic and natural options to cut out a lot of the chemicals that are added to typical face and body washes and scrubs, but those natural products can really add up in price! Here are a couple examples of natural body and facial scrubs that you can enjoy and make at home for a third of the cost of their store-bought equivalents.

Make your own, very simple sugar scrub to exfoliate your skin this spring! Wash away the dead skin cells and moisturize the fresh cells underneath! Here is a quick and simple example for when you don’t feel like anything fancy!

All you need is ½ cup sugar and enough cold-pressed oil (olive, wheat germ, peanut, corn, or sunflower) to dampen the mixture.

Gently massage this exfoliating scrub everywhere to buff your skin clean. It is even safe for a facial exfoliant. Repeat the process, ideally, only once or twice monthly.

Looking for a refreshing, summery exfoliant that cools and calms as it also removes dead skin cells? Try this cool summertime tomato mask.

All you’ll need for this scrub is ¼ cup granulated sugar chopped fresh tomato, and 2 tablespoons yogurt or sour cream.

Place your sugar in a small bowl, and then add just enough chopped tomato to moisten the sugar granules. Lastly, mix in the yogurt or sour cream. Apply to a clean, dry face and gently massage into your skin. Allow the mixture to set on your face for at least 10 minutes afterwards. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.

For one final sweet body treat we’ll utilize those ripening bananas that are left over and you know no one will get to. Bananas are naturally moisturizing and nutritional for your skin. Create a sweet body scrub with your extra bananas for a refreshing treat.

Take one ripe banana, 3 tbsp. of granulated sugar, and ¼ tsp. natural vanilla extract; mash the banana, sugar, and extract together leaving a mushy, lump texture. Don’t mash and mix too well or your consistency will become too watery. If you want a facial scrub, set a portion of the banana aside by itself; mashed banana works well as a moisturizing facial mask/wash. When ready for a shower, gently rub mixture over your body. Rinse off with warm water. 

Posted on Dec 5 2013 4:04PM
By LIFamilies

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Keeping Away the Extra Holiday Pounds

I don’t know about you, but I'm already feeling the burned of unwelcomed extra calories that come along with the holiday season. We get together with family and friends to celebrate, and what do we do? We eat! With so many goodies close at hand, it’s easy to throw your diet way off track and pack on extra holiday pounds. If you’re looking to keep your holidays on the slimmer side, here are a couple of helpful hints to think about during your celebrating!

-Save the majority of your calories for your main course! It’s so easy to go overboard with snacking when there are tons of hors d'oeuvres available. Focus on fruit and vegetable platters beforehand if your body tells you it’s time to indulge, but saving the majority of your calories for the actual meal (and a sensible dessert afterwards) will help you feel better and keep the calories at bay.

-“Don't let today’s mistakes be tomorrow’s excuses!” That’s my absolute favorite quote! Simply plan on having a splurge day for your holiday event or party: this will eliminate a lot of the guilt you may feel while “over indulging.” Just eat a normal, healthy breakfast and lunch beforehand, and then get right back on track the next day. If you limit your splurging to just your holiday events you should be able to stay on track.

-If you’re the one doing the holiday hosting (and cooking), make sure to cut corners wherever your recipes permit. Use low or non-fat substitutions. Healthy fats in the place of butter or sweeteners in the place of sugar. No one else will know, but you'll feel better for it! Also, it may sound crazy, but why not add a couple of dishes into the mix that you DON'T like! If you're not a fan of creamed onions or scalloped potatoes, now would be the perfect time to add them into the mix (as long as others do like them). You won't be tempted to over eat and you can always send leftovers home with your guests!

-If you're going to indulge, watch your drinking habits. It’s very easy to accidentally drink all of your calories away. If you want to keep your holiday lighter, skip out on a couple of the alcoholic beverages and seasonal treats (such as eggnog) when you know you're going to be eating a calorie dense meal, as well. Stick with your coffee, tea, and water instead. 

Posted on Dec 4 2013 12:06PM
By LIFamilies

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Nature Remedies for Thanksgiving-Induced Heartburn!

Tomorrow is the big day people and (if you’re anything like me) that means not only that there is turkey fun on the horizon, but also the promise of horrible heartburn from overeating foods too many rich foods. Well, never fear, I found two sure fire heartburn remedies that I’I've found really work! That way you don’t need to worry about the effects of chugging a bottle of pink stuff or popping Tums.

First, and most simply, head to the fridge for a glass of cold milk. I know this sounds too simple, but man does it work. I’m too used to stress indigestion. When I can barely breathe because I have acid reflux a glass of milk always does the trick. I've used skim and whole, and both seem to work perfectly (most of the time).

If you need something with a little more punch, or you just hate/don’t drink milk, than here’s another simple remedy: mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with ¼ cup of water and chug! If it’s just too sour for you to handle, you can also add a tablespoon of honey (which has its own soothing properties). You can repeat this every 10 minutes or so as needed. The elixir should kick-in in about 3 minutes, but you can repeat for the really bad cases. 

Posted on Nov 27 2013 12:41PM
By LIFamilies

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Apple Cranberry Stuffing!

Keeping with Thanksgiving food fun, I was looking for a new stuffing recipe for me to make. I wanted to try something a little more tangy and “fruity” than my usual store bough herb stuffing. I came across this recipe for Apple Cranberry stuffing and thought that it would be perfect!

You'll need the following ingredients to start:

-1 stick of butter

-2 medium apples, cored and chopped

-1 (6 ounce) bag of dried cranberries

-2 cups of chopped celery

-1 cup of chopped onion

-6 cups of unseasoned bread cubes

-14.5 ounces chicken broth

-1 cup of apple juice

-1 teaspoon of parsley flakes

-1 teaspoon of rosemary leaves

-1 teaspoon of thyme leaves

Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees. In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook celery and onions in the butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Then stir in your apples, cranberries and herbs.

Place your bread cubes in a large bowl. Pour your broth, apple juice, and cooked mixture over the top. Toss gently until they’re completely mixed. Spoon into your favorite, lightly greased baking dish, and then cover with tin foil.

Baked your stuffing for 15 minutes. Remove the tin foil and continue baking for an additional 20 minutes. It should be lightly browned on top when complete. Enjoy!

Posted on Nov 20 2013 11:59AM
By LIFamilies

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Tips for a "Lighter" Holiday Feast

Although most of us look forward to thanksgiving and the holidays as a time to spend with family and loved ones, many of us also dread the mass quantities of food we're going to consume, at the same time. It’s hard to have all of your family/childhood favorites offered up on a platter (literally) and to say, “no.”  If you’re cooking your own Thanksgiving feast at least you have some say in what ends up on the table. Here are a couple tips to help you lighten the holiday caloric load!

-For that beautiful turkey, be sure to add to the flavor and not the fat. I’m definitely guilty of this one: if your turkey is cooked properly, there’s no need to put butter under the skin or rub it on the skin. You can mix your favorite rub or herbs with some of your favorite cooking oil and rub that under the skin instead. Salt, pepper, and spray the skin with cooking spray. If you start your turkey at 425 degrees for the first 10-15 minutes, you’ll lock in that moisture and guarantee super crispy and delicious skin without the extra fat of the butter.

-Don’t stuff the turkey to keep your stuffing from becoming overloaded with fat. Oh, I totally get it…the stuffing that comes out of the bird is just so much better than what comes from the stovetop! That’s because it has roasted in and absorbed all of the drippings from your turkey. Instead, put your stuffing in a casserole dish and roast it separately. You’ll still get a lot of the flavor without a lot of the fat.

-Save some of the sugar. With sweet potato casserole, a very healthy starch quickly turns into a dessert with all of the brown sugar and marshmallows that we add. Instead, just add a little bit of honey or maple syrup. The potatoes are naturally sweet, cut out some of the sugar by enhancing them a little more naturally.

-Use reduced fat, sodium, or fat free wherever possible. We all have those picky eaters in our families who won’t go near “Reduced” anything if we paid them to (I have a SO and father who will look at you crazy if you even try), but they have no say in your recipe and cooking. Take cuts and substitutions wherever you can to keep your family favorites without all of the calorie-ridden guilt attached.

-Have a steamed option for like-minded family members, if at all possible. We know that you already have an entire feast to prepare already, but if you can replace one side option (the creamed corn, creamed spinach, or broccoli and cheese, maybe) with a steamed substitute, you may be able to lighten everyone’s load. Maybe some steamed broccoli or even some beautiful tri-colored carrots. Without the extra cream and butter it’ll be a refreshing reprieve from the rest. 

Posted on Nov 19 2013 10:42AM
By LIFamilies

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Tips to Get Kids Eating Vegetables

Ever have those moments when you're convinced that your child will never eat a vegetable for you again? I know a couple of my friends are having difficulties with their toddlers, so I wanted to check out some options for them, and you too! It’s hard to remember back that far, but I can almost guarantee that we all went through the, “but it’s yucky” phase. Here are a couple of great tips that I've found or that my friends and family members have given me!


-First is the old standby – Just hide them! Parents have been using this trick for generations to get their children to eat vegetables. I even have clear memories of my neighbor promising bodily harm if I told her kids how many veggies she snuck into their meatloaf! When all else fails, a veggie puree can be added to just about any recipe. Chopped up veggies can make their way into ground meats, and some of their favorite meals can handle some awesome healthy substitutions!

-Another great idea that a friend told me is to make sure to get them at their hungriest! Set out a tray of “appetizers” for them when they’re starving for dinner or just get in from school. Veggies and dip or hummus seem to disappear a lot more quickly that way!

-How about the “one bite” rule? Once implemented, this is an agreement in your house that everything must be tried (just one bite) before it can be turned down. This will work especially well with new foods. Once the one bite rule is a habit, they may even forget that they had the ability to veto the food at all!

-Turn everything into a yummy smoothie! If you have a house full of smoothie fans, don’t hesitate to try different combos for their breakfast or snack time smoothies! Spinach, kale, carrots, and even broccoli blend in really well with fruits and yogurt to make a delicious and nutritious smoothie!

-Let your little ones help you pick out the fruit and vegetables for the week. Sometimes it’s as simple as them having and making the choices when it comes to food to inspire them to try something new. Maybe it’s the bright colors or sweet scents: whatever it takes to create interest. 

Posted on Nov 18 2013 11:35AM
By LIFamilies

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Mini Apple Pies

For this week’s Thanksgiving recipe, I found a fun twist on a traditional holiday favorite. I love making the old standbys for thanksgiving (even if just to prove to myself that I can) but these mini apple pies seem like they’ll just bring a little more life to the table than the typical, long-time favorite! With this recipe, it even includes a hand-made crust (although you can likely get away with the store made, too).

For your crust you'll need:

-2 cups flour

-2/3 cup butter

-1 teaspoon salt

-4 tablespoons water

And your filling:

-5 medium apples (peeled and chopped into small pieces)

-¾ cup sugar

-2 teaspoons cinnamon

-6 tablespoons flour

-2 tablespoons butter

Start by preheating the oven to 425 degrees. To make your crust, blend your flour, butter and salt in a food processor until it balls up. Add your water and then blend until sticky. Take out and kneed together with your hand until well combined. Roll it out on a floured surface until its about ¼ thick. Cut out 12 four-inch circles with a cup. Press each circle into your muffin tins until they create a cup within.

Mix your apples, sugar, cinnamon and flour together in a bowl. Spoon the apple mixture into each cup. Cut butter up into 12 small pieces, placing one on top of the apples in each cup. With remaining crust dough, decorate cups with strips or shapes of your choice (or you can leave them plain).

Bake your apple pies at 425* for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is light brown and apples are bubbling. Let them cool in the tin, and then loosen with a spoon to pop them out. 

Posted on Nov 14 2013 11:23AM
By LIFamilies

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Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Holidays are all about celebrating with family and loved ones, remembering the sentiments of the day while enjoying the gift of being together. The last thing you would want is to tarnish the holiday by fearing for the safety of your loved ones. Thanksgiving, like every other holiday, has its own hazards that can quickly turn a joyous occasion into a bad memory. Here are a couple tips to keep in mind to help you enjoy your day while keeping you and your loved ones safe.

One of the biggest safety hazards on thanksgiving is one of its main keepsakes, the turkey. The holiday can be ruined quickly is the turkey makes your guests queasy due to improper thawing. A turkey should never be thawed to over 40 degrees Fahrenheit before it is put in the oven. Once a raw turkey heads towards room temperature, dangerous bacteria, like salmonella, start to grow. If the bacteria grows before your start prepping it for cooking, any cuts or punctures that you make for flavoring or infusing will spread the bacteria into the meat of the turkey. To be safe, always keep the thawed turkey below 40 degrees, rinse it well before preparing it, and then make sure that the meat is cooked to at least 175 degrees. If you stuff your turkey before cooking it, test the temperature of the stuffing, as well.

Another holiday hazard to be very wary of is fire. The U. S. Fire Administration reports that more than 4,000 house fires occur every year on Thanksgiving. With all of the baking, grilling, and frying it is easy to understand why and how it can happen. To make sure that you keep your home and family safe this holiday season, be sure to be extra vigilant in the kitchen (not that you weren't to begin with)! When you have you meal grilling or frying be sure to never leave the kitchen. Have another family member be the look out in case any emergency should arise that would pull you away. If you're baking, simmering, or broiling, check your meal as often as possible. If you’re anything like me, it may be best to set yourself a timer for every 10 minutes just so that you don’t get involved with another task that steals your attention. If you are going to deep fry your turkey ALWAYS keep it outside, away from all fences and structures. Don’t every fry it inside of your home or garage.

An important family member to keep in mind during the festivities (who often gets overlooked) is the family pet, especially a cat or dog. With all of the excitement and commotion, animals tend to feed of the excited energy as well, which can lead to them getting hurt if they're not managed. Be sure to keep all candies and harmful treats well out of reach; with all of the excitement, no one may notice Fido stealing the bowl of chocolate kisses off of the coffee table. If you prepare now you won't have to worry later. Also, be sure that all guests (mostly meaning the little ones) know how dangerous turkey bones can be for animals. Once they are cooked they shatter when chewed upon, just like chicken bones. Also make sure all discarded bones are well out of reach for if a nosy friend checks the kitchen once everyone is gone from it. Try to feed your four-legged friend before guests arrive, to keep them from scarfing food down and becoming bloated, and try to keep the fatty-Thanksgiving treats to a minimum.

Lastly, make sure to keep yourself safe by properly storing your leftovers. All of your leftovers, including your pies for dessert, should be wrapped up and put away within an hour or so of them being served. Once the food starts to cool down (or warm up if the side was served cold) bacteria can start to grow and cause food poising. If you aren't planning on getting to the leftovers within 3 days they should be put in the freezer immediately. All leftovers should be reheated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit and gravy should be brought back up to a vigorous boil.  

Posted on Nov 13 2013 10:33AM
By LIFamilies

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Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Okay, I decided that I want to do a couple recipes/tips a week up until Thanksgiving. You know, kind of like a cheat sheet, with a bunch of what you'll need all in one place. I wanted to start with cranberry sauce, searching for a good recipe to share, because I wanted to make it myself this weekend. (I'm roasting my practice turkey this Saturday. Yes, practice turkey. That way I know my thanksgiving one will turn out perfect.) Well, when I found the recipe, with multiple sources all sharing the same, I felt really silly for never trying it before. It couldn't be more simple! Here's how it goes. 

All you need are:

-12oz bag of cranberries, rinsed, de-stemmed and picked through.

-1 cup sugar

-1 cup water

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Carefully stir in your cranberries, and then bring it back up to a boil. Once you've reached a boil, turn it down to simmer and let if sit for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. That's it. Transfer to a bowl and let completely cool: as it does the mixture will thicken. 

I don't think I'll ever buy the canned stuff again!

Posted on Nov 7 2013 11:14AM
By LIFamilies

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Simple Cinnamon Votive Holders

A friend recently told me about this simple project (she's making them for her own Thanksgiving table) and I had to share! If you're like me, and have candles added to everything for ambiance, then you'll love these simple cinnamon stick votive candle holders. All you need to make them are a bunch of cinnamon sticks, clear glass votive holders, rubber bands and raffia (twine or ribbon will work, too). 

Start by putting a rubber band around your first glass votive holder. This is going to hold your cinnamon sticks together around the glass holder as you go. One by one, go around the votive holder with cinnamon sticks (putting them under said rubber band). Once you're all the way around, wrap around the whole holder with your raffia. Wrap to whatever thickness you like and then tie it up with a bow. 

These candle holders will add a rustic appeal to your table, while also acting as a wonderful air freshener. 

Posted on Nov 7 2013 11:11AM
By LIFamilies

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More Uses for Witches Hazel

I have always kept witch hazel on hand; knowing it helped clean out cuts and scrapes without hurting, cleaning earrings and piercings; but I never knew how useful it could really be! An inexpensive household must, it’s good to know all of its beauty and health uses!

-It’s perfect for helping sooth razor burn. Apply with a cotton swab over the irritated area. It will calm and sooth, as well as help clean out the pores.

-Say goodbye to baggy eyes. Chill your witch hazel in the freezer or refrigerator. Apply cotton or cloth soaked in the hazel to your eyes and allow it sit for 5 to10 minutes. It will reduce the puffiness from tired eyes.

-It helps your skin heal quicker from a sunburn (and sooths it). Pour witch hazel into a spray bottle, and then spray it onto your affected skin.

-Create witch hazel ice cubes and then apply them to bruises and swollen injuries. It helps reduce the swelling and start the healing process.

-Use as a toner to help fight acne. Simple swab across your skin before applying your moisturizer in the morning.

-Help heal diaper rash more quickly. Apply to affected area with a cotton swap. It will sooth some of the irritation while also helping it heal.

Posted on Nov 5 2013 10:28AM
By LIFamilies

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Soften Your Butter Fast! (Without the Microwave)

I saw this in another blog that I read, and though I had to share! We're officially in November, so now comes the time of cooking! Whether you're cooking your own Thanksgiving meal, or just preparing for the holidays, hopefully this tip will make your lives simpler, too! I, for one, am an impulsive cooker/baker. I usually decide on a whim, without even the proper ingredients for the job. Obviously, with that said, I never have the foresight to set my butter out early to come to room temperature. 

I'm that microwave person, because of this. I have it almost down pat: I start off at 8 seconds, then rotate the butter and cook 5 more seconds at a time. The problem with this method is that some parts of your butter melt entirely, while other parts haven't even started to soften. Here are two awesome ideas that I just found to properly expedite the process!

The first is a fun way to also release a little frustration. Take the amount of butter that you need to soften and place it between two sheets of wax paper, or even in a ziplock bag. With a rolling pin, roll your butter out to about 1/4 thick. You can also use a meat hammer to flatten your butter out. Allow it to sit for just a couple minutes, and it should be ready for your baking purposes. 

Another option is to set up your own double boiler, of sorts. Get a couple of cups of water ready to go in a saucepan (very hot, but not boiling), and then set a bowl with your butter over the top of it. This should make short work of getting your butter soft enough to bake with! Just make sure to keep an eye on it, as this can cause your butter to soften too much, too, if you walk away from it. 

Posted on Nov 4 2013 11:08AM
By LIFamilies

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Happy Halloween!

Whether going out with your little ones, enjoying a party, or staying in with the hubs, be sure to have a happy and safe Halloween this year! Also be sure to be extra careful on the roads, keeping an eye open for pedestrians. Parents are very careful with their little ones, but Halloween is enjoyed by all ages: sometimes the more mature Halloween revellers don't take as many safety precautions! ;-)

Posted on Oct 31 2013 11:18AM
By LIFamilies

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Baby Nautique Contest!

Hey Mommies and Daddies, it’s time to try for another amazing prize! Baby Nautique, one of the newest members of our LIF community, is giving away an adorable out to the winning parents!  All you need to do to participate is like and share Baby Nautique’s facebook page, and then come back to the contest post, replying that you did and which outfit you would love! These adorable selections will be perfect for the busy upcoming holiday season: get a hand and a head start on your sweet baby’s wardrobe! 

Note: The only sizes available now for the boy’s top are 6-12 months, 12-18 months and 18-24 months. The sizes for the pants are 3-6 months, 6-12 months and 12-18 months. The girl’s dress is available in sizes 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months. The hat is available in corresponding sizes

Here's your choice of prize:

This delicious ensemble for your little girl by Le Top: Fairisle Heart Sweater Dress and matching knit hat (a value of $65). This dress is just PERFECT for the holidays or Valentine’s Day.


This darling outfit for your little boy by JoJo Maman Bebe: Stripe Rugby Top (with small sailboat on chest) and matching navy blue corduroy pants, lined with red and white stripes, which can be rolled up for added cuteness (a value of $72).

Posted on Oct 30 2013 4:06PM
By LIFamilies

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Halloween Treats for Adults

I love the post on here that reminds us that Halloween is for everyone. No one should ever be left out, no matter their state or age. This rings true for mom and dad, though, too. After you have performed your amazing parenting duties of making sure your little ones have had a night to remember, it’s your turn to sit back with a silly, scary movie and a treat all your own! Not a parent? So what! You should be celebrating Halloween, too! Kick back and get a little bit festive with one of these scrumptious, adult treats!

How about a Spiked Apple Cider Float?

This sinfully delicious treat will make it fun to curl up on the couch under a blanket while watching your flick. Start by making cinnamon simple syrup (and I promise it’s the most work that you’ll do for the recipe):

For the syrup you’ll need: ¼ cup water, ¼ cup granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1 cinnamon stick. Combine them all in a small saucepan, place over a medium-high heat, and cook/stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once it has, turn off the heat and let your syrup cool… not too difficult!

Now for your float! You’ll need:

-2 cups apple cider

-¼ cup cinnamon syrup that you just made

-¼ cup apple schnapps

-2 tablespoons bourbon

-5-6 scoops vanilla ice cream

First, if you want, chill your mugs in the freezer for about an hour. Then put 2 to 3 scoops of ice cream per mug. In a pitch, combine your apple cider, syrup, apple schnapps, and bourbon. Stir/shake it together well. Pour over your ice cream and enjoy!

(Image Source)

Apple cider not doing it for you? How about a Bourbon Pumpkin Pie Milkshake, instead?!

First, grab your blender and your ingredients:

-2 cups vanilla ice cream

-1/2 cup milk

-1/4 cream or half and half

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-2/3 cup pumpkin puree

-1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

-½ graham cracker crumbs

-3 ounces Bourbon

-Frosting and sprinkles to rim your glasses (optional)

Simple combine all ingredients (except frosting and sprinkles) in blender and mix until smooth. Rim your glasses in frosting and then dip them in festive sprinkles. Pour and enjoy!

(Image source)

Posted on Oct 29 2013 11:40AM
By LIFamilies

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Tips For Carving Your Pumpkins Like A Pro!

We’re almost to there! I still love getting ready for and celebrating Halloween, like a little kid (even if I inevitably never get any trick-or-treaters).  I spend hours cleaning out and carving the pumpkins for both my own and my parent’s home. I thought now would be a great time to find and share some carving tips, that way we can be ready ahead of time (figuring that more people will be getting ready to carve this weekend or the beginning of next).

-First, the larger the pumpkin, the easier it is going to be to carve. Try to choose pumpkins that are not cut/dinged/or chipped, as well as pumpkins without bruising. All of the above will cause your pumpkin to rot faster.

-Consider cutting out the bottom, as well as the top of your pumpkin. This will not only make it easier to clean and carve, it will also make the pumpkin and candle more stable when you’re complete.

-When you’re scooping out and preparing your pumpkin for carving, it will also benefit you to thin out the pumpkin wall that you will put the carving into. This will make your carving more precise and clean.

-Don’t think it’s cheating it you utilize patterns! There are some absolutely amazing print out, cut out, and trace onto your pumpkin for you to have your ideal carving. If you’d rather go it your own, without professional patterns, you should still make your tracers first on paper and then transfer them onto your pumpkin. Trust me, once it’s cut into the pumpkin, there’s not going back if you don’t like it!

-Keep toothpicks around in case of mistakes. We've all accidentally taken off that tooth we left in the smiley for a toothy grin, or the curve to the eye’s pupil. With a toothpick you can quickly get it reattached. (I wish I’d thought of this trick before!)

-Once your pumpkin is cleaned and carved, soak it for about an hour in a 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water solution. When you bring it out, rub all of the inside and outside of your pumpkin, especially the cut edges, in petroleum jelly or vegetable oil. This will create a protective barrier to help prolong the life of your pumpkins. When it starts to shrivel, you can repeat the process to bring it back and prolong it again.  

Posted on Oct 23 2013 11:28AM
By LIFamilies

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Banana Boo Pops!

I was looking for a cute and healthy Halloween treat to make (and of course to share) when I came across these simple beauties: Banana Boo pops! Now, I’m a huge fan of banana anything, so this was an instant go for me. If you’re not, than this is definitely not a snack for you. Now, when looking through different recipes I actually found two different variations of this pop. So that you don’t have to search, I figured that I would just share them both!

The first, and more simple, is the banana-coconut boo pop. All you will need are bananas (each pop is half of a banana, so decide however many you would like to make), popsicle sticks, dried coconut shavings, mini chocolate chips, raisins, and either orange juice or your preferred low-fat yogurt.

First, cut your bananas in half, push Popsicle sticks into their flat ends, and put them in the freezer to freeze (about 4 hours). Now either dip them in orange juice or roll them in yogurt. Coat them thoroughly with coconut; add 2 chocolate chips for eyes and a raisin for a mouth. Place your pops back in the freezer for an additional hour or so to let them harden (to keep their decorations), and then enjoy!

The second variation is a little less healthy, but even more yummy. We’re going to keep the bananas and popsicle sticks, but we’re going to get rid of the rest and replace it with white and milk chocolate chips.

This recipe starts the same: cut your bananas in half, skewer them with popsicle sticks, and let them freeze. When they’re just about frozen, melt about a cup of white chocolate (more depending on the amount of pops you’re going to make) in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between intervals. Once melted, dip your bananas one at a time, allowing all excess chocolate to drip off. Set them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Add chocolate chips for eyes, place them back in the freezer to re-freeze, and then enjoy!

(Image source)

Posted on Oct 22 2013 10:23AM
By LIFamilies

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Growing Your Amaryllis

I know that we're still getting into the swing of fall, but sometimes you need to look a little further ahead to be properly prepared. I mean, I don't know many people that wait until the last weeks before to do their holiday shopping. That doesn't give you enough time, or at least leaves you so little that you feel rushed! Not all things can be rushed, though, and that includes your holiday flowers.

Now, when I think of holiday flowers, it’s not the poinsettia that comes to mind. In my house there were always at least two pots of amaryllis bulbs going at any given time (there still are). Amaryllises are my absolute favorite flower, with their large blooms and vibrant colors. If you want one of these blooming beauties in your home this season, believe it or not, you'll want to start preparing one sooner rather than later!

(My first bloom from last season)

You always see amaryllis kits as soon as Christmas decorations start coming out, but if you wait until you decorate for Christmas you probably won't have your flowers in time! Amaryllises generally take at least 6 – 8 weeks to bloom, and can continue to bloom long after those initial buds finally open! (I started late last year, the middle of November, and my blooms lasted from late December to the beginning of February!)

To start, you’ll want to find a healthy bud and a planting system that works for you! When looking for a bulb, you’ll either want to look through boxes you’re able to open or head to a local nursery. The local nursery will actually have open boxes of bulbs for you to choose from. You’ll want to make sure that your bulb looks healthy for the best chance at success. Look for a bulb that has green showing or a stem that’s already starting to grow. If your amaryllis doesn't come with a kit, you’ll also need a clay pot and a rich, well drained potting soil.

Many kits come as just glass vases with river stones, on which the amaryllis bulb sits atop. Care for these kits is simple: fill the vase so that the water just touches the bottom of the bulb and then place your vase in the window. Fill as needed, and change water as needed if it starts to smell foul. This is how I usually grow my bulbs: it gives you a better sense of how much water your bulb needs to stay healthy, and the walls of the vase also provide stability as your stalks start to grow.

If your bulb is going into potting soil, fill your contain of choice a little more than half way with soil, place your bulb on top, and then fill the rest of the way so that at least half of the bulb is sticking out of the top. Keep a saucer at the bottom of the pot to retain excess water. You don’t need to water your new bulbs too much, even in the soil: just make sure to water it 1 to 2 times a week while it’s growing, then maybe 2 to 3 times a week while it’s blooming.

Keep your bulbs in a sunny, warm windowsill and you'll be rewarded with weeks’ worth of beautiful, holiday blooms! 

(My second, super tall bloom from last season)

(My short, third bloom from last season)

Posted on Oct 17 2013 11:20AM
By LIFamilies

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Fall-Time Simmer Pots

One of my favorite aspects of the fall season is not only the sights, but the smells that accompany.  When you think of fall, the scent of apples and spices come to mind: whether through the perfect apple pie, mulled cider, or your favorite scented candle. I also love being able to keep that sweet nostalgic scent permeating through the house for as long as possible. That’s why I love simmer pots.

My earliest memories are of sweet smelling simmer pots on the stove of my favorite next door neighbor. They take a little bit of conscious effort, but your home and guests will thank you for it. I found a couple wonderful fall simmer pot recipes that I thought I’d share! To get your simmer pot going, fill up a small sauce pan with water and your favorite recipe from below. Bring it to a boil and let it stay there for a minute or two. Bring it back down to a simmer, and enjoy! Add more water every half hour or so as needed. WARNING: never leave pots unattended or going when not at home. 

First recipe: Cinnamon sticks, Apple peels, Orange rinds, and Whole cloves

Second recipe: A few drops vanilla and Orange peels

Third recipe: 1 cup dried lavender, 1 Teaspoon anise, 1 Tablespoon nutmeg, 1 Tablespoon whole cloves, and 1 Cinnamon stick

Fourth recipe: 1/8 cup cloves, 1/8 cup allspice, and 2 cinnamon sticks

Fifth recipe: 5 bay leaves, 1 Tablespoons whole cloves, and 2 cinnamon sticks.

All recipes can be done with your crockpot, as well! Just try your hand at adding and subtracting different ingredients until you get your perfect mix!

Posted on Oct 16 2013 10:11AM
By LIFamilies

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A Fall Time Spa Mask

It’s been one of those weeks: it finally feels a bit like fall again, but I’m just in an uninspired stupor. I was all amped up and seasonal ready, and then the heat came back. Wuh-wuh. Any who, I’m was looking for a little festive inspiration to get me feeling healthy and back on track…and I came upon this pumpkin face mask recipe. It sounds perfect, and I plan on trying it this weekend. I’m including it here so that you can, too!

First off, this mask is awesome because it’s high in vitamin A (great for skin healing and acne issues) and vitamin C (great for skin brightening). It also helps hydrate your skin while also helping to remove dead skin cells.

All you will need is: ¼ cup organic pumpkin puree, ½ teaspoon raw honey, and ½ tablespoon of your preferred non-dairy milk. (i.e. soy, almond, coconut.) If you are ache prone, add a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar to the mix.

Simply mix all of your ingredients together thoroughly. Apply the mask to your face (avoiding your eyes, of course), and let it set for 15 minutes or so. Gently wash away with warm water, and then moisturize as you would usually. 

Posted on Oct 10 2013 11:10AM
By LIFamilies

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Salted Pretzel Caramel Brownies

I just found this yumminess and had to share! Thanks to Miss Lulu's Sweet Treats I will now be craving these all day long. I will no give in, though! (Or I will probably eat the whole darn tray on my own!)

Salted Pretzel Caramel Brownies


• 1 box Betty Crocker fudge brownies (for 9x13 pan)
• 2 eggs
• 1/4 c. water
• 2/3 c. vegetable oil
• 3 cups pretzels
• 1 jar caramel sauce
• coarse sea salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, or grease with cooking spray.

Prepare brownie batter according to package instructions. Pour about 1/3 of the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan. Spread until the bottom of the pan is evenly coated. Then add two even layers of pretzels, covering the entire surface. Carefully spoon the remaining brownie batter on top to cover the pretzels.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the brownies comes out clean. Remove and set on a cooling rack to cool. Spoon the caramel sauce onto the top of the brownies in an even layer. (If it is too thick, spoon the sauce into a small bowl first and microwave for 30 seconds to thin.) Sprinkle the caramel with a few pinches of sea salt.

Serve warm, or let cool to room temperature then serve.

Posted on Oct 8 2013 9:10AM
By LIFamilies

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Sensitive Ear Solution

I just found this on another awesome blog and needed to share! I know so many people who can't wear a lot of earrings because they're made of metal they're sensitive or allergic to (i.e. not gold or sterling silver).

Well, I just found out that if you add a little bit of vaseline on the earring hoop, or an all natural alternative that doesn't use petroleum or hydrogenated oil, you can create a protective barrier. This will let you wear those pretty dangles without suffering for it! 

I also read that you can do the same with a coat for clear nail polish on the earring post: paint it, let it dry, and then wear it: but that's for a little bit braver soul. (Graphic borrowed from

Posted on Oct 7 2013 10:56AM
By LIFamilies

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Natural Breath Freshening Options

Everyone has been there before; you’re with a group of friends or coworkers and are paranoid to speak or breathe too closely to anyone. Are you far from home and any means of brushing your teeth? Freshen up your breath while also fighting the food and bacteria that cause bad breath odors in the first place. Although gum is always a simple go to choice, there are other natural means that you can use, as well. 

One of your best, simple defenses against those offensive odors is drinking plenty of water. It keeps your lips, mouth and throat properly hydrated while washing away the nasty bacteria and food particles that are mostly the cause of your bad breath throughout the day. Food being stuck between your teeth isn't just annoying; it also feeds the bacteria that grow in your mouth, helping them live and reproduce more successfully. Washing it away with swigs of water will keep you feeling fresh longer.

An apple a day will not only keep the doctor away, it’ll also keep the odors and dentist away. When you munch on an apple, the fibrous flesh helps to scrub the plaque particles off of your teeth. The growing plaque not only damages your teeth, but is another contributing factor in bad breath. On top of that, crunch, fresh fruits and vegetables high in fiber also cause your mouth to generate extra saliva. Saliva, being rich in oxygen, is a natural deterrent against the odor causing bacteria in your mouth.

Boost your immune system while also fighting the bacteria growing in your mouth by feasting on your favorite citrus fruits. Vitamin C doesn't help all immune systems equally, apparently, because the vitamin can effectively stop the bacteria in your mouth from growing and thriving. Citrus fruits are also a triple talent in that they have neutralizing powers against “smelly foods” that are known to cause bad breath, such as onions and garlic.

Another multi-talented food is the ever popular cinnamon. Not only does this tasty spice help you control your blood sugar levels and sweet tooth, it also helps you battle the bad-breath bacteria living in your mouth. Cinnamon essential oil kills the odorous bacteria outright, which probably explains why there are so many brand of “cinnamon flavored” gum out there!

Green tea will also help wash away those bacteria, just like water will, while also helping to keep them away permanently. Flavonoids, the antioxidants that make green tea and vegetables so good for us, are also helpful to control the plaque and bacteria growth in your mouth; they prevent them from sticking to your teeth. Green tea is also effective at lowering the levels of the sulfur compounds expelled from the bacteria (the actual cause of bacterial bad-breath odors).

Posted on Oct 3 2013 12:16PM
By LIFamilies

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Spirit Jugs

I figured we should start our Tuesday with a little bit of fun! We've already established that this is my favorite time of the year, but we've yet to establish how much I love Halloween…to the point that it’s a little disturbing. I've had a system for my holidays since I hit college: Halloween decorations went up September 16 (the day after my birthday) and Christmas went up November 1 (preferable with little Pilgrims under the Christmas tree). I’m not quite as crazed now that I’m out of my dorm room, but I still get that excitement for the holidays as soon as the fall chill enters the air! Now that we’re officially in October, I thought it was time to bust out a Halloween DIY!

You may have made them when you were a kid; I remember seeing them but never had the pleasure: I’m talking about Spirit jugs! You know, those cool ghosts made out of milk jugs? Now, I am the only person in my house that drinks milk, so I’m still scheming how I will get the jugs to make these, but anyone who has a couple in their recycling bin is ready to go! All you need for materials are: a couple white plastic milk jugs, permanent markers, and glow sticks or strands of white Christmas lights.

Now, this project is as easy as you would guess it to be from the materials! All you need to do is grab your milk cartons, make funny or creepy faces on them with you marker, and then add your glowing element to the inside to give your ghost life! If you’re using Christmas lights, you may want to keep your spirit jugs right on your front porch, close to the outlet. If you’re using glow sticks, your spirit can “float” around anywhere! If you’re putting your jugs out in the yard, you may want to add a hand full of rocks to your materials list to weigh it down a bit more.

The project may sound simple, but they certainly have an inspiring effect once they’re complete!

Posted on Oct 2 2013 10:19AM
By LIFamilies

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Fall Day Dates

I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely rejoicing in this cooler, dry fall weather that we’re already enjoying. It’s not that I’m anti-summer, but there’s just something magical about “sweatshirt” weather. On top of that, now is also when I can get my SO out and roaming with me again. Now he is anti-summer, and we go 3—4 whole months without any fun outdoor traipsing. If you or your beau is the same way, here is a fun fall checklist for you two to complete together now that the season of colors has returned. You don't need a beau, either, to enjoy the fall: grab a friend or head out for some “me” time, instead.

First and foremost, whether you’re a huge fan or not, there’s just something inspiring about fall football; especial in person! Take advantage of this awesome weather and head to a live game. NFL tickets can be a little out of your price range, but that’s not your only option! Head over to the local high school or your own to cheer on your team under the Friday night lights. Head to your local or, again, own college and cheer on the higher level. You’ll be surprised how exhilarating it can be, even if it’s the first game you've ever sat through.

This sounds dumb and redundant, but this is me not caring! Head out and hike. I love my local nature preserve, and love the arboretum even more when I have a little bit more time. Grab your scarf, your boots, and your guy and go find some wildlife. Grab your dog and hit the trails. Collect leaves with your little ones or the little one’s you've borrowed (nieces and nephews, hopefully). It’s a cheap way to fall in love with one another and/or the season, again.

We have the best on the east coast (at least in my opinion) so you might as well take advantage of them: hit a real pumpkin patch and grab a couple winners. I may be a little prejudice because I spent about 8 fall seasons of my life in a pumpkin patch, but there’s nothing better than twisting your own off the vines. Once you have them, make a second date night out of carving them! Carved pumpkins aren't just for children. It’s amazing how pumpkins can cover the spectrum of wicked to chic: find a little inspiration and make your own “awesome.”

Lastly, find an Oktoberfest and a DD. There are so many wineries and amazing local beer breweries on the island. Let loose for at least one day this season to truly enjoy their spoils. There are some great Oktoberfests out east, as well as rocking fall festivities all season long. Grab your best friend, your guy, or your sibling and enjoy the flavors of fall. 

Posted on Oct 1 2013 10:05AM
By LIFamilies

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Lemons - The Super Citrus

If you've picked up anything about me from my writing so far (obviously more through my articles than this shiny new blog) it should be that I am fascinated with home remedies and the holistic properties of items we already keep in our kitchen. One of my all-time favorites, though, who barely gets an honorable mention, the lemon! I just love the scent of a fresh cut or zested lemon; I've even read that they work great as aroma therapy because they do act as a mood enhancer. These zippy citrus fruits have major properties beyond their uplifting scent, though. Here are a couple of my favorite properties that I've found!

Lemon juice helps to get rid of black heads. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice and apply to blackheads nightly before bed. Rinse away with cool water in the morning. The lemon juice should make the blackheads complete disappear (diminishing more and more along the way.

The same fresh squeezed lemon juice can also help make your dark, age spots disappear. Add a ½ cup of lemon juice to your bath at night for a full body treatment. If you want to focus on spots on your face, treat them the same as black heads: apply fresh lemon juice to the spots and leave overnight. Wash away in the morning with cool water. Over a week or two, the lemon will brighten your skin and lighten the discoloration.

Lemon juice will go beyond blackhead and dark spots, though, to brighten and soften regular skin, as well. You can apply and massage lemon juice over any area of your body to create a soft and succulent glow. Apply to your arms, legs, elbow and knee; it will help keep you just as smooth as your usual lotion.

To exfoliate dry and dead skin, why not try dry lemonade! Slice your lemon in half and then dip the cut end into granulated sugar. Rub over your face gently in a circular motion. Not only will this clear away the dead skin, but the lemon juice will also brighten and rejuvenate the fresh skin below. 

Posted on Sep 26 2013 11:05AM
By LIFamilies

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The Lighter Side of Pumpkin Spice!

I don't know about you, but it's official for me: I am a proud member of the PSA - Pumpkin Spice Anonymous. I absolutely adore everything pumpkin flavored, and will destroy all of my healthy eating habits to appease the unbearable craving this time of year! A million trips to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts for their PSL yummies. Coffee creamers full of sugar for when I make my coffee at home...and lets not even mention the cookies, cakes, and M&M's that also work their way into my grocery cart.

Well, I'm trying to reform my calorie ridden ways, and I thought I'd share my current two favorite new recipes with you. One for a new lighter Pumpkin Spice latte that you can make right at home, and one for pumpkin muffins that I'm sure you've used before, but hey, sometimes a reminder makes you say, "Oh yeah!"

Now for the "Lighter PSL" (this recipe is for 2 lattes: so you can share or go back for seconds)

Brew your favorite "strong coffee" however you prefer. I'm still a vintage farberware percolator girl (my coffee pot is about 30 years older than me and going strong!), but a good k-cup would work just as well!

While that's perking, grab your other ingredients! 

2 cups non-fat milk (or unsweetened almond, soy, rice, coconut milk, etc)

2+ tablespoons of your favorite pumpkin puree (I say 2+ because you may like it more "pumpkiny" like I do!)

1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

3 packets of splenda (or your preferred sweetener to taste)

Whisk all ingredients (but your coffee) together in a sauce pan, over a medium-low heat, until your mixture is warm. Pour about 4 ounces of coffee into two coffee cups, and then fill up the rest with your pumpkin-milk mixture!

On to our super-simple, super-scrumptious pumpkin muffins!

All you need are three ingredients: a box of yellow cake mix, a cup of water, and a 15oz can of pumpkin puree.

Preheat your oven to 350*. Grab your muffin pan and line with your paper muffin cups. Mix your ingredients together, thoroughly, with an electric mixer. Fill up the cups 2/3 with batter, and then bake for 20-25 minutes. 

And if you take them out a little too soon (like me), and the center is a littler "puddingy," enjoy it! Remember, there isn't anything raw in your cupcake, so a soft center is enjoyable without being dangerous. 

Posted on Sep 25 2013 9:53AM
By LIFamilies

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Starry Night Jars

I am absolutely loving the weather this week! The nights are coming on a little bit sooner, the skies are clear and beautiful, and the crisp, cooler air has me waiting on baited breath for fall! If you’re looking for a little bit of outdoor loving, too, here’s a simple, starry night project to get the little ones outside on the deck/patio/porch for just a little bit longer! (Or you can be a cool kid, like me, and do it for yourself and SO: no kids needed to enjoy!)

I’ve seen these called starry night jars, star jars, and fairy jar. I just call them awesome. And they’re so simple that it will only take you a couple of minutes to complete. There are two different methods, so I’ll mention both. For either you’ll need your jars of choice (I love large mason jars). You will then need either glow sticks (the big ones from the camping section) or glow in the dark paint. For a finishing touch you can also include silver glitter.

For a glow stick jar, simply crack your glow stick as usual and shake the contents together. Once it’s glowing, though, carefully cut off the tip of the stick and empty it into your jar. Add a pinch or two of glitter, close the lid on top, and shake to your heart’s content! You now have your bright, starry night jar! ((The plus of this version – the jar glows brighter and immediately. The down side – it is only a temporary project, through it can possibly be prolonged for a second night by putting it in the freezer when you’re done using it the first night))

Another version of the glowing jar utilizes glow in the dark paint. Just like the jar above, just add a squirt/glob or two of glow paint to your jar with a pinch of glitter, Add the lid and shake it up good. Let your paint dry and then get it under a good light source. Once it’s “fully charged” head outside with your new glowing lantern. ((Plus side – these jars are a permanent project that can be used night after night. Down side – they need to be charged under a light source and then recharged when their glow starts to fade.))

No matter which jar you choose to make, just be sure to take them outside and enjoy awesomeness of early fall nights!

Posted on Sep 20 2013 1:49PM
By LIFamilies

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10 Worst Fall Allergy Cities for 2013

I always find this interesting, and thank goodness we didn't make the list! Yesterday the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America released their "Top 10 Worst Cities" for people with Fall allergies to live in. Obviously, if you have severe Fall allergies, not living in one of these cities isn't going to save you. These 10, however, were ranked the most challenging based on number of pollen spores, multiple medication using patients, and the number of board-certified allergists per patient. The "lucky" 10 cities were:

1. Wichita

2. Jackson, Miss.

3. Knoxville, Tenn.

4. Louisville

5. Memphis

6. McAllen, Texas

7. Baton Rouge

8. Dayton, Ohio

9. Chattanooga, Tenn.

10. Oklahoma City

If you're one of the unlucky allergy sufferers, they do remind you to make sure to take care of yourself and your allergies this season. If you don't use any medications or the wrong medications, regular seasonal allergies can have serious repercussions if left unchecked. 

Posted on Sep 18 2013 9:44AM
By LIFamilies

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E-Cigarettes and Your Teens

They may be helping you kick your smoking habit, but are those same electronic cigarettes creating a new allure to an old bad habit for teens and children? We are all more than aware of the horrible side effects of smoking; we've seen the ads, we've heard the horror stories, but quitting is always easier said than done. To make it easier, we try to come up with new and enticing products to encourage us to quit. I mean, what could be better than a cherry flavored “cigarette,” with the nicotine fix and none of the smoke and tar?

Unfortunately these same enticing products are also just as much so to middle and high school students who have never smoked before, possibly creating a new bad habit all its own. The percentage of students from 6 to 12 grade who have ever used e-cigarettes more than doubled last year in comparison to the previous. 6.8% of students admitted to trying the devices, from 3.3% in 2011. 2.1% even admin to using them regularly, compared to 1.1% in 2011. With a wide variety of flavors and colors, it's not hard to see why they've been more appealing to the younger crowd. 

The larger issues with child use of these devices are: 1) we don’t know about any long term side effects that may become associated with this form of nicotine intake and 2) these may be as addicting as regular cigarettes and act as a gateway drug to a lifelong cigarette addition. We don’t want to steer our teens back towards cigarettes, especially with teen smoking habits falling.

As of now, only 11 states have age-restrictions on e-cigarettes, making them easily accessible. Make sure to talk with your teens/children and let them know that they can be harmful, too. They should only be used as a tool to help friends and family members quit smoking: not as a recreational habit for teens who never have.  

Posted on Sep 13 2013 10:44AM
By LIFamilies

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Motrin Infant Drops Recalled

I saw this and wanted to make sure that everyone else did, too. (Especially all of our new mommies on here!) 

Motrin manufacturers have voluntarily recalled about 200,000 bottles of concentrated drops for infants because there is potential contamination from plastic particles

Johnson & Johnson also asked retailers to remove the affected products from their shelves and asked customers to stop using the possibly tainted product: Berry Flavor "Concentrated Motrin Infant Drops." 

The recalled half-ounce bottles can be identified by their lot numbers: DCB3T01, DDB4R01 and DDB4S01.

Posted on Sep 10 2013 12:50PM
By LIFamilies

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A Chocolatey Spa Mask

For you hard working ladies and gents, it’s important to take a little me time once in awhile. I am obsessed with organic, handmade beauty products: they just make you feel a little more special and relaxed than their mass produced equivalents! Sometimes their prices can be a little out of bounds, though, and then you tend to hoard the products, saving them for “special occasions” rather than whenever you feel like it (at least I’m this way, keeping my favorite bathtub pretties for another day, instead of enjoying them today).

Here is one yummy alternative that will keep you feeling pampered without needing to hoard the good, miserly. Simple and sweet, here is a groovy face mask for the end of those long work days that will only take you seconds to make. *I apologize ahead of time for all of those who ‘hate’ chocolate…*

1 tablespoon melted Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (yes, extra virgin coconut oil exists. Most health food stores will carry it. I get mine at GNC. You can also use “organic coconut oil” instead; we just don’t want any additives)

2-3 tablespoons Dark Cocoa Powder

Stir your melted coconut oil and cocoa powder together. They should create a very creamy texture. Feel free to add a little bit more of each as necessary to create a consistency that you love.  Apply to your face with a brush or your fingers and then let is chill out for 15-20 minutes (preferably with your feet up, a couple candles lit, and your favorite movie playing in the background. When you’re done, wash the mask off with a warm wet cloth.

This is a great mask because both have such awesome properties. The dark cocoa has high level antioxidants that promote cell repair and help firm your skin; preventing wrinkles. It also increases your skins hydration and defense against UV ray damage. And…it smells fabulous! (If you’re a chocolate fan)

As for the coconut oil, as long as it’s quality oil without additives, it has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.  It also provides a long lasting moisturizer that doesn't leave your skin oily or greasy. 

Posted on Sep 4 2013 9:51AM
By LIFamilies

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Kid-Friendly Raspberry Cheesecake Recipe

I'm always looking for great, easy recipes to try on the weekends. I like to try my hand at fast new foods to add to my everyday arsenal; unfortunately, I end up finding more baking recipes than cooking recipes and we certainly don't need too many of those in this house. ;-) I did find one fun family recipe that I thought I'd share, especially for the upcoming holiday weekend! Gluten-free Raspberry Cheesecake Cupcakes: not only fast and yummy, but also a great recipe to let your little ones help with!

You’ll need about 45 minutes prep time.


1 ½ cups sugar

24 oz. light cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs

1 ½ cups raspberries (blueberries or strawberries work great, too, if you prefer them!)

For a topping:

An additional 8 oz. light cream cheese

Additional ¼ cup sugar

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Next, in a large bowl, mix your sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla together. Add your eggs to the mixture one at a time until thoroughly blended.

Line and fill your cupcake trays about ¾ of the way full with the mixture. Sprinkle your berries on top, evenly among the cupcakes. Put them in the oven and let them bake for 25 minutes.

Take your cupcakes back out and let stand for 5 minutes: a well should form in the middle of each cupcake.

Turn your oven up to 450 degrees now. In a small bowl, blend your cream cheese and sugar for your topping. Drop a dollop of topping into each cupcake, and put back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Remove them, let them cool down, and then put them in the fridge for an hour.

Then enjoy easy cheesecake deliciousness! I haven’t gotten a chance to try this recipe yet, but I plan to this weekend! Let me know what you think when you do, too. 

Posted on Aug 30 2013 9:48AM
By LIFamilies

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Mums the Word

I know not everyone is on the same page about the upcoming Fall season, but this girl is more than ready! The bug has hit me: I have apple candles burning, pumpkin spice coffee brewing, and a harvest desktop theme having me darn-near giddy for the weather to cool off and fall colors to pop up! One aspect I'm especially stocked about it the fact I get to plant my own Chrysanthemums this year! We're in a whole house with a real front garden this fall, and I plan on taking full advantage of it! If you are, too, here are a couple awesome facts about our beloved mums that I came across when checking out the possibilities.

I had no clue that there are actually two types of mums: the florist mums and the hardy mums. Although it may seem like a no brainer to pick the “hearty” mums, I can see why I'D get confused about which to pick at the store! Florists utilize a lot of mums in their bouquets because they have great longevity on top of their quintessential fall-time colors. When picking mums for your yard, though, these long lasting blooms aren't the best because they have a harder time as the cold weather hits. Hardy mums put out stolons, which help them become more sturdy and sustainable, whereas Florist mums only put out few to none.

Another awesome fact I found is that you want to be careful where you plant your mums because they’re "photoperiodic." This means that they cycle and bloom in direct response to the daylight patterns associated with shortening fall/winter days. If you plant your mums under any landscape lighting or street lights the artificial lighting will actually throw your mums for a loop and mess up the whole cycle (also messing up your plans for fall time hearty blooms).

One last important point, if you do love mums too, but don’t have the room to plant them, chrysanthemums actually do really good in a pot, as well! Make sure that they’re still someplace sunny (they need at least half a day’s light for a good bloom) and that they get a good watering 3x a week if you’re having a dry season. 

Posted on Aug 28 2013 11:38AM
By LIFamilies

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Stifle the Snacking

At the end of the day, I think we all have one life goal that just about everyone can agree on; we all want to live as healthy of a lifestyle as possible, and we are all always striving to make ourselves healthier.  One major roadblock for many people (myself especially) is a constant desire to overeat. I mean, come on, we have entire television shows, channels and networks devoted to nothing but food: we're a food crazed culture and it’s easy to crave and become obsessed.  If you're like me and spend your days fighting the good fight against incessant eating, here are a couple tips that I've found to keep us both moving along.

Now, these aren't tips to help you lose weight or keep you from eating, all together: these tips are to help you eat smarter so that you stay full and won't be looking to pick throughout the day.

1.Avoid sugar wherever you can. Not because sugar isn't necessarily great for you health wise, but because it causes your blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Once you start to crash from a sugar high your body goes back into “hungry” mode. It thinks that your sugars are dropping too fast and is trying to replace them (even if they're only dropping from an unusually high amount.)

2.Fill yourself up on vegetable with and in-between meals. Vegetables are nutrition and fiber dense. When you have your fill of a rainbow of vegetables your body stays fuller for longer for those two reasons: they take longer to digest, due to the fiber, so you stay full longer, and your body doesn't crave food because it’s loaded with the nutrients that you took in.

3.When you’re eating focus on only that. Eating isn't just about filling your system; it is an activity that needs to be experienced to reach a satisfied state. When you’re reading, emailing, or working you're removing most of your senses from the task. You really don’t experience your meal so your body will send out signals that it’s not satisfied. Slow down and enjoy!

4.Make sure to get as much sleep as is healthy for you. When you’re tired and feeling run down your body craves energy in the form of food. When you get enough rest your body stops mixing up the signals that cause you to want those extra snacks.

5.Lastly, drink lots and lots of water! I know this one has been hammered in, but I’m guilty of ignoring or forgetting it, too! When you're thirsty it’s usually too late, you're already on your way to dehydrated. When you’re hungry, though, that’s often a mixed signal that you should really be taking in more water. Not only will if clear up those mixed signals, water also tends to help ward off and keep random cravings at bay. The next time you’re having random cravings in the middle of the day, grab a glass of cold water and see if that doesn't help elevate the situation!

Posted on Aug 26 2013 12:19PM
By LIFamilies

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Maternity Model Casting Call!

Calling out Mommies-to-be! If you were thinking about getting a maternity shoot done to commemorate this special time in your life, but just weren't quite sure, then this little casting call may be for you!

Amanda Saldarelli of Amanda Saldarelli Photography is looking for 3 to 4 mommy-to-be’s who are currently between 27 and 30 weeks along to model for her stunning maternity photo-shoots. Here is what your casting call will involve (if you’re so inclined):

-Mommy must be able and willing to travel to Merrick for the session

-Mom must be comfortable with artful posing (may include dramatic lighting, implied nudity or underwear shots)

-Mom must sign a model release allowing Amanda Saldarelli Photography to use the images in her portfolio

-Mom will receive 10 high resolution files via electronic download

If you’re interested, or even just a little bit intrigued, contact Amanda directly at [email protected]. She’ll be able to answer any questions and make sure you’re the perfect fit for one another.


Posted on Aug 21 2013 3:45PM
By LIFamilies

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Future BioSensor Phone

With our phones constantly by our side (and in our hands, more often than not) why not put these smart devices to good use. What if you could detect whether or not that snack in your hand has tree nuts or other allergens in it by simply taking a picture of it? Even better, what if you could detect contamination, bacteria, or toxins long before they can ever enter your system? Well, we’re getting closer to being able to do exactly that with our favorite phones! (Smart, right?!)

Researchers at the University of Illinois have created a handheld biosensor that can do exactly that. They created a cradle to set your smart phone into and an app to run it all. What does this mean for us? It means that hopefully in the not too distant future you’ll be able to use that smartphone that’s always in your hand to help keep your body and peace of mind intact!

Would it be worth it to you? Do you think it would help make you feel safer when dining out or buying the unknown?

(Photo: Michael Conroy, AP)

Posted on Aug 21 2013 11:36AM
By LIFamilies

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Happy Baby-Day!

There are very few things that make me melt. Amazing family photography is one of them, ESPECIALLY newborn shoots! Who doesn't melt at the site of a cuddly little smoosh! So when I’m having a glum day I make sure to peruse my Facebook for some of the photographers I have friended, and boy does it do the trick. I mean, how can you even handle all of this cuteness?!

(I'm only including a couple, check all of the cuteness out in the photographer section!)

(Photos by White Ink Photography)

(Photos by Janelle Brooke Photography)

(Photos by Natasha Beccaria Photography)

(Photos by Amanda Saldarelli Photography)

Posted on Aug 20 2013 11:36AM
By LIFamilies

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An Ointment Alternative

I found and wanted to share this little antibiotic ointment alternative! I haven't had the chance to make it yet, but will be soon! My SO is not one for using medical anything, and I'm lucky when I can get him to wash an abrasion off with some peroxide. He can't stand anything commercial or synthetic. Hopefully this will keep an infection or two out of my home, and yours too!

This is a quick and simple recipe for an antiseptic ointment that you can keep on hand for all of the scraps and cuts that come with life. All of your ingredients are:

1 ½ ounces of grated beeswax

1 cup of coconut oil

¼ teaspoon of vitamin E oil

½ teaspoon tea tree oil (antibacterial, antiviral, and antibiotic)

10 drops lemon essential oil (again; antibacterial, antiviral, and antibiotic)

20 drops of lavender essential oil (ditto plus pain relief)

In a double boiler or small pot, melt your coconut and beeswax together. Once it is fully melted, remove it from the heat source and add your vitamin E and other oils to the mix. Stir well. Pour your mixture into sterilized containers (2 oz mason jars work perfectly) and leave them someplace safe to cool and harden.

When you store your antibiotic balm in a cool, dark place it keeps for up to 5 years!

Posted on Aug 19 2013 2:40PM
By LIFamilies

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Nutley: the Nut-Free Squirrel

I have to share another book find, but on the opposite end of the spectrum! After sharing this children’s book recently with the LIF family, I thought I should share it with you guys, too! My new favorite is an adorable story named, “Nutley: the Nut-Free Squirrel” by Stephanie Sorkin. First off, I love absolutely any children’s books about squirrels (yes, I'm a huge “Scaredy Squirrel” fan) so from the start this book was a win. Then I actually read the story and understood the perspective it was taking, which I loved even more!

Nutley is an adorable squirrel who finds out he’s allergic to nuts: A scary reality that a lot of parents and their children (or aunts and uncles with their nieces and nephews) need to face every day. I loved that this book was not only fun and brightly illustrated, but also an outlet for children to understand a little more and to remember they’re not alone.

Best part of said lovable story? The author is donating 100% of her proceeds to FARE, an organization devoted to food allergy research and education. Check it out!

Posted on Aug 15 2013 9:47AM
By LIFamilies

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iPad Mini Contest!

So I'm incredibly jealous because one of our awesome vendors is hosting another amazing contest that we're not allowed to enter! Head on over to this post to enter to win an iPad mini from Long Island Tech. How great are they: all the built in awesomeness of a full feature iPad in an adorably miniature shell. If I had known that they were going to exist I'd have waited before I got mine! Go head over and enter for me. ;-)

Posted on Aug 13 2013 4:35PM
By LIFamilies

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Book Suggestion!

So here is where I absolutely love getting to have my own blog: I get to share all of my favorite topics and items with you guys! One of my absolute favorite pastimes is to read a good book, and I'm one of those people who will not just read a book once, but over and over if it’s an absolute favorite. That’s what I want to share today: a relative “oldy” but goody. I've shared it once before on the StoryBoard years ago, but I'm rereading it now and wanted to share it again: Brom’s “Child Thief.”

I fell head first into this novel, not really knowing initially what to expect other than “another Peter Pan adaption.”  It is exactly that and so much more. It is very dark and far from the children’s story and movie that we’ve grown to love…but that’s exactly why I loved it. Peter Pan was NOT written for children. I love the original, too, and feel sorry that the author’s original intent was altered so drastically. When J. M. Barrie wrote the original Peter Pan, it was meant as a play and learning experience for adults.

Brom brought the adult aspect back to Peter Pan, but made him into a much less than endearing character (to say the least). The “hero” of lost and emotionally distraught youths; pulling them into a world just as dark as their own.

The "Child Thief" is not your typical weekend hammock or beach read, but is definitely worth your time if you’re willing to dig into it. 

Posted on Aug 13 2013 8:58AM
By LIFamilies

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Pebble Plaques

So, apparently, Fridays are going to be my awesome craft days! I’m more than okay with that. This was another super simple craft I found that made me just think, “Wow, that’s so cool and even I can do it!” It’s always great to have an extra idea or two in your arsenal to keep your children (or nieces and nephews or neighbors!) occupied and exploring outdoors. So what are this week’s antics?! Pebble Plaques!

For your decorations and designs on these mosaic-esque plaques first you'll need to collect as many shells, stones and pebbles as you can stand. The more pebbles the better. You're going to want to have plenty to not only create patterns with, but also to keep with whatever theme you may have going when decorating.

With all of your “shinies” collected, you’re now ready to make your super easy plaques. All you'll need from your kitchen is:

3 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 ¼ cups water (plus a little additional, as needed)

In an electric mixer, combine all ingredients at a medium speed until a ball of dough forms. If your mixture is going for a little while and still seems clumpy, not is when you should add a little extra water, ¼ cup at a time as needed.

Take your dough ball out and kneed it until it’s smooth. Divide it into three equal pieces and ball each section. Place each ball on foil and flatten it into a disk (not too thin, you’ll want it about ½ - 2/3 inch thick). Press your stones into the disks however you’d like.

When you’re done, just transfer your disks onto a cookie sheet and throw it in the oven at 275 degrees for about 2 hours. When you take them out, let them cool completely, and then check the pebble/stones/shells. If any seem loose, remove them and add a drop of sturdy glue beneath, before replacing them.

Craft idea and photo borrowed from Parents

Posted on Aug 9 2013 10:31AM
By LIFamilies

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Some Smart Substitutions

I don't know about you, but I’m always trying to find the “healthier” side of yum. I know that baked goods and sweet treats are bad for my waistline, but I just can’t find it in me to give them up 100%. So instead of feeling grumpy and deprived, I decided to search for a couple ingredient substitutions that I can utilize to minimize the calories, fat, and guilt associated with the occasional sinful snack. (I also only cut my baking back to once every month or so. That helps, too!)

One that I absolutely love, but never would have thought of, is to replace the butter or margarine in a recipe with the equal amount of mashed banana! Bananas have the perfect consistency and fat content to make your baked good just as decedent, but they don’t have the added saturated fats to weigh you down. If your recipe calls for ½ cup of softened butter simply replace it with a ½ cup of mashed banana, that simple. Just be sure to keep an eye on your oven as the substitution may decrease your baking time.

Another substitution that is just as mystifying (yet seems to work perfectly) is swapping out that baking staple, flour, for an equal substation of black bean puree. Yup, black beans. Not only will you reduce the calories in your backed good, but you’ll also add on some fiber. This will work especially well with your brownies and cookies.

Cut a large amount of the fat right out by replacing your oil with Greek yogurt. Although you’ll barely notice a change in the flavor of your baked good, you should notice that the end product is considerably moister with the yogurt replacement. For ever cup of oil you remove from your recipe, replace it with ¾ cup of Greek yogurt. This works perfect with cookies, breads and, especially, cakes.

My fellow chocolate buffs, another simple substation is replacing your usual chocolate chips with cocoa nibs! With no sugar and very little fat, cocoa nibs are a no-brainer. Just don’t try eating them by the handful…it may not be the chocolate sensation you were looking for.

Not so hip on replacing your sugar in baking with apple sauce or stevia? How about just reducing it, with the help of vanilla extract? I have to say, vanilla extract is probably my favorite secret weapon in the kitchen; add a little to any recipe to up the flavor. For a substation, however, you’ll be amazed how many calories you can cut out with a little vanilla! Cut the sugar in your recipe in half and add an extra teaspoon of vanilla. This cuts out tons of extra calories, without completely cutting the sugar out of your treats!

Posted on Aug 8 2013 11:04AM
By LIFamilies

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The Great Fridge Clean-Up!

If there is one thing that I really need, it’s help with my “organization” skills in the kitchen (or lack thereof).  My refrigerator is overflowing without any particular order or arrangement, almost guaranteeing that half of the food will end up lost and then thrown away. My freezer is covered in half empty boxes and cartons, random bags of veggies, and meat from…well, sometime this year. We could move on and discuss my cabinets, too, but everyone needs to start somewhere! I’m going to start with our perishable goods to see if I can start organizing that section of my life.

Here are a couple steps I’m starting to take, and you can take with me.

-First absolute necessity is to take an inventory of your fridge and freezer. Pull everything out, pill up what can stay and get rid of what has long needed to go! We might as well start with a fresh start, so more emptier equals more better.

-Now that we have a sleek, empty refrigerator (which is now hopefully clean as well); take this opportunity to move your shelves around to fit your foods best. If you've noticed that you can’t quite fit what you need on the top shelf, or never use your second shelf because it’s just too small to be functional, more them around. Move each shelf down or up a couple notches until you have a more desirable layout.

-Now it’s time to get your foods organized, this is especially important for your freezer. Create sections just for vegetable, for meat, and/or frozen pre-made foods. When you’re reaching for tonight’s protein, you don’t want to come up with random, left-over mixed veggies. A place for everything and everything in its place. Back in the refrigerator you may even want to organize by size. This will make everything visible, and stop the waste from smaller items getting lost from falling behind.

-Now you just need to make a pact with yourself to keep your fridge and freezer looking this good. I've read elsewhere that they recommend a “once a month” clean up, but you know what? If you don’t work on it in the meantime, you could be back where you started in a months’ time! Be sure to keep your organize system up every time you go grocery shopping. At the end of each week take an extra peek to see if anything is expiring or still around that isn't good anymore. Working on it pieces at a time will be quicker and turn it into habit. 

Posted on Aug 7 2013 10:37AM
By LIFamilies

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DIY Terrariums

Looking to add a little bit of love and life to your home or office? You really can’t ever go wrong with a good terrarium. Unlike a typical house plant, terrariums have a lot of character and environmental inspiration housed in their coffee table or desk worthy containers. There are two styles that you can DIY that I absolutely love: one for your little ones at home and one just for you.

For a project for your little one and you, there are two options available: you can choose to make their terrarium a living environment that they will be in charge of or a whimsical show stopper just to ignite their imaginations and not their responsibilities.

Choose a jar that will work well for your space. A large, clear canister or cookie jar gives you ample space to work with, as well as a lid to keep a cover on it all if you so choose. Then you will need to make the decision of whether you want to go with a living indoor plant or a variety of plastic aquarium/terrarium look-alikes. For living plants, you should then choose a potting soil that will work well for them (and maybe some living moss to lie around the plant, as well). For imitation plants you can choose any stone or crystal bedding that you’d like. For finishing touches you can either allow your little ones to choose favorite creatures to dwell amongst the plants or you can go with a theme (such as a fairy or gnome forest).

Here is where mom or dad is going to really need to help: you’re going to start by laying down the ground work for your terrarium. Fill up as much of the canister as you would like with your soil or stones, and then situate your plants so that they are centered and secure.

Now is the fun part! It’s time to set up your Jurassic park, fairy kingdom, or gnome forest. Bring your little one in to situate all of his/her new friends and companions wherever they see fit. Once complete it’s either time for your terrarium to get its first watering or just to find its new home.  This makes a great centerpiece for a children’s play table or your coffee table, inviting them to interact with their little environment and respect/care for it.

Image and partial inspiration from National Geographic Kids.

Our second terrarium idea, my favorite, is much more simple and mesmerizing for you. All you'll need for your adult terrarium is a smaller container (mason jars, clear vases, etc), gravel or stones of choice, water, and, of course, your terrarium companion; a Marimo moss ball.  (In addition: you may also decide to add shells, beach glass, or other focal points that you’d like to add for additional decoration.)

Marimo moss balls are a fascinating work space (or living space) companion. They're ancient Japanese moss balls that start as small as a pebble, but can grow to the size of your fist! All they need for care is a weekly/bi weekly water change to keep their water temperature cool. Marimo balls can be found easily online: mine came from EclecticZen on Esty!

Set up your terrarium by simply filling your container with as much gravel and decoration as esthetically pleases you. Fill it up with slow-running, cold tap water (so that your decorations don't get stirred up), and then add your Marimo ball companion. It’s really that simple. Your companion may float for the first day or so, but will sink to the bottom as it saturates with water. If properly cared for your Marimo should grow about 5mm a year and live up to 100! 

Posted on Aug 2 2013 10:35AM
By LIFamilies

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A Bleach-Free Clean

I am one of those bleach freaks. To me, if it smells like bleach that means it’s clean. That’s all fine and good when it’s just you and your partner (if your partner isn't highly sensitive to the fumes bleach gives off…which mine is), but when you bring children or animals into the mix then the risks start outweighing the benefits. I think back to how burnt my nose and lungs used to get; after bleaching my kitchen and bathroom I couldn't smell anything but for 2 days, not to mention the bleach spots that use to burn straight through the clothing I cleaned in! I can just imagine how healthy it was for me. That’s why I’m always looking for a safer alternative that provides that same sense of clean without the harm to me and my loved ones.

One great bleach alternative that I found, that also seems to work great, can be made with ingredients probably already in your home! All you need to try a bleach-free life is hydrogen peroxide, water and lemon juice…that’s it! Oh, besides containers to hold your solution in!

You'll want to start with a large container/bucket. This recipe seems like a large amount, but if you’re going to use it in your wash, then it’s really only enough for about 4 loads (if you choose to also fill up a spray bottle for household cleaning purposes).

The recipe is: 12 cups of Water, ¼ cup of Lemon Juice, and 1 cup of Hydrogen Peroxide. That’s it.  

Use 2 cups per load of laundry, or fill up your spray bottle for kitchen and bathroom cleaning.


Posted on Aug 1 2013 9:07AM
By LIFamilies

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Ice Chalk Fun!

There is nothing that I love better than a good, happy, intentional mess! I love art projects with a little too much hands-on and a little too much paint/markers/dye to be an indoor job. My current obsession is ice chalk. I've found awesome experiments to make your own sidewalk chalk with your little one, but compared to ice chalk…that was just a stroll in the park, wearing your Sunday best! If you're looking for a lot of fun with just as much mess…here is the general idea for you!

Ice chalk is the perfect combination of art and science; giving your children (and self) a cold, melty version of your childhood favorite! This helps children wonder about the phases of water, as well as provides chilly sensory stimulation for the little ones who aren't quite there yet, developmentally.

All you need for this hot afternoon science – color explosion is water, cornstarch, your coloring of choice (food coloring, washable paint, or Kool-Aid all work well), and freezing molds! My favorite freezing molds are the different shaped ice cube holders: they create small ice chalk pieces in fun shapes, easily held by little hands.

Mix equal parts corn starch and water. Add your coloring of choice (to the degree of color that you prefer), pour your mixture into your trays, and pop them into your freezer to solidify.

Once solid, head outside with your melty treasures! Be sure that you and your children are all in “mess-friendly” clothing, because there will be a mess! You can draw with your chalk or you can leave them in spot to watch them melt into rivers of color, and everything in between!


Posted on Jul 30 2013 10:39AM
By LIFamilies

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August Events are UP!

Can you believe that August starts this week already? I know that I can’t! Only one more real month of summer left for the season! (Some of you, I know, are very glad about that fact, too. This season has been brutal.) If you’re looking to make sure that you do make the most of the summer’s activities, before the warm weather fades and the little ones head back to school, be sure to check out our events page. I try to make sure we have at least a month’s worth of event for you to put on your schedule. I try to upload everything I can find, but I know that there are a lot of local events that I miss! Share any events that you don't already see! It’s a lot easier to hear about what’s going on when you live in the community; be sure to share so that we can all enjoy!


Have fun and keep cool!

Posted on Jul 29 2013 1:04PM
By LIFamilies

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Welcome to our Blog!

Welcome to our new blog! We're always looking for new and different avenues to share our favorite ideas and updates with you, our faithful users. Here we’ll include everything from important facts we've found, favorite recipes we loved, new projects to try out and everything in between. What has always been the best part of LIFamilies is that we are exactly that, all about family in every sense of the word; we are always trying to help make our family and yours safer, happier, and healthier. As always, we appreciate and hope for any tips and ideas you may have that can be shared with the community! 

Posted on Jul 22 2013 2:33PM
By LIFamilies

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