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January 30, 2016

Orders with Gift Cards Ship for Free This Weekend!

Orders with Gift Cards Ship for Free This Weekend!
My Boxed Gift Cards are updated for Valentine's Day with a papaya ribbon and a Floral Border tag : )   
All orders with a Gift Card Ship for Free this weekend!  
Use code : GiftCardShip at checkout
They are available in $25, $50, $75 & $100.  
The presentation of the box really does make it a special gift. Thanks for sharing Everyday Occasions with your favorite people!

For an emailed gift card options, visit here.  

January 28, 2016

Marshmallow Pops | Simple Kid-Friendly Valentine's Day Treat

Easy Homemade Valentine's Treats : Marshmallow Pops

Aren't these cute?!  The same darling look of a cakepop, but so (so!) much easier.  They are fun to eat on their own, but also work great as Hot Chocolate Stirrers.  The best part was that the entire process took 10 minutes with minimal prep and clean-up... and Emma looovvved it.


Homemade treats for holidays are my favorite thing - I love creating something pretty with my hands, it feeds my inner creative artist, and I love encouraging Emma to do the same.  Sometimes I'm in the mood to get the kitchen messy with her, get our hands dirty and make a day of it.  However, most of the time we need something simple and quick but still cute.  Yes, I could go out and buy something, but I just like to make things.  You might feel the same way - or you might think I'm crazy : )   

I've learned that these little quick projects are just as much fun for Emma (and me) and sort of an instant gratification project.  There is no prep, no pre-heating, no getting out the mixer, no flour or sugar on the floor.  There is pink food coloring, melted chocolate, dipping, sprinkles and complete 100% 4-year-old hands-on creating experience of making something cute.  It was the perfect after-school project to help us recover from a hectic day.  I'm trying to incorporate more of realistic and simple activities into our schedule, as part of my goals discussed on Monday.

Emma put these together while I melted the chocolate in the microwave.  She really liked the ones she did on the side - like a hammer... which, might be a fun way to "spin" this for a boy project.

Kids love to have complete control over a project - Emma especially loves anything she can do all by herself.  She shows tremendous pride and sense of accomplishment when she is able to have the reigns.  

More importantly, she experiences competence and ability - she learns she is capable of making something beautiful/delicious and it doesn't have to be purchased.

In this photo, she explaining how to do this - to me.  Confidence meter is very high...

Ingredients : 

Cute Straws (can find these in my store, here)
1/2 cup White Chocolate (we used Ghiradelli melting disks)
2 tablespoons of Heavy Cream
Red Food Coloing

Step 1 : Stick Marsmallows on Straws (you can also cut straws in half to create shorter sticks).

Step 2 : Melt the chocolate with cream in a glass container for 30 seconds, then stir.  Repeat 15 more seconds until melted.  Do not over heat - it will glob up!

Step 3 : Add a tiny drop of red coloring.  Stir.

Step 4 : Dip marshmallows in, place in glass and top with sprinkles.

I'm going to share some more "real life" easy projects for Valentine's Day overt the next week.  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Tiny hands came sneaking in while I was taking this photo...
And it was returned like this about 20 seconds later : )

Pink Stripe Party Straws available here.

If you are looking for something not quite so feminine, these Gold Star Party Straws are perfect for any and every occasion.

January 26, 2016

Weekends & Weekly Planning | Making it all work

This same week last year, we were at Disney World.  I haven't shared the photos yet, so I thought I would include some in this post along with some other favorite trips this past year... it is also reminding me that I still need to make our disney photo book.  A perfect segway...

Weekends & Weekly Intentional Planning

Last week, I had coffee with a friend and we talked about what we're trying to do different in the new year.  During our conversation, I think I used "flailing" 35 times.

"I feel like I'm flailing at work, then I fly to pick up Emma at school, and we're flailing at the grocery store, rushing through errands and throwing together dinner."

My goal is to do less flailing.  Too often I feel like I am short on work time, so I am rushing through my day responding to emails, ordering product, writing posts, jumping on calls, forgetting things, "multitasking" to the max and generally flailing about.  I'm sure many of you can relate.

The funny thing is, is that I love my work day.  I love sitting down to the buzz of an active business (I use that term loosely!) - I find it exhilarating.  So much so, that my brain seems to work extra fast and I put my blinders on for 5 hours and work at an intense clip... and then my afternoon alarm goes off.  I stumble out to my car in sort of a haze as I re-enter the real world again.  It is a good sign - it means I love what I do.  But, it also exhausts (!!!) me.  Majorly.

As I drive to pick up Emma, I take that 5 whole minutes to decompress and re-center.  It is always my goal to be in complete Mom-mode by the time I get there (a lot to ask in a short 5 minutes) - and then I'm on to thinking about dinner, running errands, playdates, house work, etc.

The problem with this scenario, is that I don't have much creative energy left at the end of the day/week.   I always envisioned my after school time with Emma spent baking chocolate chip cookies, or creating forts and playing.  Yes, it does happen, but just not as often as I'd like.  A majority of the time we crash on the sofa for an hour to decompress (honesty!).

Instead of weekends filled with cooking, organizing (which I consider fun...), working on projects or exploring, we just lounge.  Lounging is totally fine and healing, but after a bit I would rather be doing something fun, than nothing at all... just the way I'm wired.

While I love my job and consider it a privilege to spend my days working creatively, sometimes I feel like (honesty here!) our family life and home life doesn't get the same amount of thoughtful, creative energy.  I just don't want to give my family what's left over at the end of the day/week, I want to make sure I'm conserving enough brain space to give them my best self after school and on the weekends.

At this point, you all might be thinking, "Um, Jenny, we see a lot of photos of quality family time on this blog."  And yes, we do have quite a bit, just not as much as I'd like.  And maybe more than that,  I'd like to have more energy to be 100% present in those moments.  That is something that I think I'm not as good at managing.

So... I'm making an effort to plan time for the down time and make it creative time and relaxed, pressure-free time with activities that I love to do (with and without family help!) - things that fuel my creativity and get me excited.  In order for that to happen, not only do I need to plan for managing a realistic workload during the week (so I don't get too burned out), but also scheduling time that is just for fun and errands, so fun doesn't take a back seat.

Here are some ways I've been thinking about prioritizing.
  • I need to plan for a work week that I can realistically manage in the time I have allotted for work... which means, getting someone to help and staying organized!
  • I need to plan for fun free time with Emma.  This means planning to have time for crafting, building, impromptu picnics, playdates, ice cream stops, exploring, etc.  
  • I need to plan for more fun and creative projects for myself - gardening, workouts, art, antiquing, decorating, cooking.  Me Time to clear my head and lighten my load is a priority.
  • I need to use my weekend free time more wisely to lessen the flailing that happens during the week, including meal planning, grocery shopping, etc.  
  • I need to allow myself to time to decompress without feeling guilty.
  • I need to walk every morning to clear my head - it makes my entire day better.
Here is the time table I made that gives me a visual of how my time is spent.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
6am - 8am Walk & Coffee Yoga Walk & Coffee Tennis Walk & Coffee Walk & Coffee Walk & Coffee
8am - Noon Work Work Work Work Emma Ballet & Lunch with Girls Emma & Me Time = Mike Golf Church & Brunch
Noon - 2pm Work Work Work Lunch Date with Emma Emma & Me Time Emma & Mike Time Errands
2pm - 6pm Emma & Me Time Emma & Me Time Emma & Me Time Emma & Me Fun Time Emma & Me Time Fun Project Time House Keeping, Laundry
6pm - 8pm Dinner at Home Dinner at Home My Free Night Mike’s Free Night Dinner Out - Date Night Easy Dinner at Home Dinner at Home
8pm - 10pm Jenny & Mike Time Jenny & Mike Time Dinner & Drinks with Girls Jenny & Mike Time Jenny & Mike Time Jenny & Mike Time Jenny & Mike Time

Feel Good Time Emma & Me Time Emma & Mike Time = My Free Time Work Time Family Time at Home Family Out & About Jenny & Mike Time

By the way, I already missed my yoga class this morning... so, don't think I'm a pro at this, at all.

Putting this together really help my visualize how I spend my time.  It helped me "see" times that were available for being more productive and recovery/down time.  It also allowed me to officially schedule "My Free Night" which had happened more like every two weeks, or once a month.  Now that I'm scheduling it weekly, I can more proactively look forward to planning it - a manicure, dinner with friends, a j.crew stop, or working at Starbucks (sometimes a little more time to work is the only thing I need... especially when I'm doing fun things like looking for new products!).  Putting it on the calendar makes it more likely to happen.

Also scheduling "Emma and Me" time helps me to visualize that time and plan for some activities, instead of just down time.  Of course, we all need down time and I make a big effort not to over schedule Emma - at all.  Most of our time together is spent at home piddling and playing - which is great and has helped her become an independent player.  Now, I'm making an effort to do some of the fun things with her (like build a lemonade stand, or market checkout...) that I've always thought, "we'll do that when we have more time."

**Update : A couple of you noticed that I didn't have Mike & Jenny Time scheduled - so, I updated the Friday night from Dinner Out to "Date Night."  We try to do date nights once a week.  The evenings are ours, too.  We are actually going away together this weekend - which, we don't do often enough!

In the past 5 years since Mike and I were married, my life has multiplied threefold... becoming a parent, busier job, bigger house to manage, but I haven't taken any real steps to help organize it and manage it.  I just always thought "if I had a little more time..."  Now, I'm actively making more time to make it all work better.  Of course, I'm hoping the result of all of this thinking and planning will help us to feel like we have more quality time together.  That's all we really want, right?  Less exhaustion and more time and energy for enjoying each other.

I'm also going to give myself some permission to not get it all done.  However, I'm hoping that I'll be better at prioritizing what doesn't get done without sacrificing special family time... or my sanity.  If something doesn't get done, I hope it is the house being spotless or the laundry being folded that gets the shaft : )

Are any of you feeling the same way?   I have to tell you - just giving myself time to think about it has helped tremendously.  How are you all making it all work?

January 25, 2016

Weekly Menu | Shrimp & Portabella Pasta, Beef Drip Sandwiches with Twice Baked Sour Cream Potatoes, Chicken Stew, and Homemade Pizzas

Happy Monday!

Last week I skipped the Weekly Menu since it was a holiday week, and starting on Tuesday always throws me off a bit.  But, here we are on a fresh new week!

We had a very recharging weekend - house is clean, fresh sheets on the beds and a cleaned out refrigerator.  Whew - feels good to start Mondays like that.  It doesn't always happen, but I'm so grateful when it does.

I indulged in some more $5 flowers over the weekend.

I find that these little touches of life really bring a brightness to my day.  Seriously, the smallest things... why don't we do them more often?!  I've been working on spending (and planning for and scheduling!) my time more intentionally... instead of flailing about, which is what I do too often.  Tomorrow I'll share what my weekly calendar looks like and how I'm planning for me time, work time and family time.  I also have a new helper to introduce to you this week... which should help tremendously with work time!  Exciting things happening around here : )

1 x $5 spray roses from TJs = 2 pretty spots in our house

I loved how ruffly and pale pink these spray roses were.  I'm resolving to keep a small fresh bunch on my bedside this year.  The other bunch is beside my favorite chair in our hearth room.  I also stole a few from these to put a single bloom in our powder room and by my computer in the office.  

The hyacinth have come and gone on the mantle, so I put this little mini rose (actually pale pink, but looks white) in the planter.  I love that the 4" pot from the grocery store (with flower and all) fits right into this planter.  

Well, it is almost time fur us to go to the grocery store, so here is what is we'll be having for dinner this week :

Beef Drip Sandwiches with Twice Baked Sour Cream & Chive Potatoes

This is not diet food - but oh, my gosh is it good food.  We were invited over to a friend's last week for Beef Drip Sandwiches, then the snow cancelled the evening... and I can't stop thinking about them!

Roast Beef Recipe

I'll use this Roast Beef Recipe for the meat, then use deli rolls and provolone cheese to make the sandwiches.  Can. Not. Wait.

Twice Baked Sour Cream & Chive Potatoes

Freezer Cooking :   I'm going to make 10 baked potatoes tonight and turn them into twice baked, which will give me 20 (less the 3 we eat tonight) to go in the freezer.   I'll also buy an extra bag of rolls and put them in the freezer with leftover meat.

I've been in the mood for Chive Biscuits.  I'm going to make a batch for this recipe, then (you guessed it...) put some in the freezer for the weekend to make breakfast sandwiches.

Wednesday : My Free Night!  I'll talk more about this tomorrow when I share my new weekly schedule.  Basically, gifting myself 1 night off a week when Mike and Emma can hang out and I can do whatever I want.    It might be dinner with friends, j.crew run, playing golf/tennis, or working at Starbucks - all by myself.

Thursday : Shrimp, Portabella & Spinach with Angel Hair and a Light Creamy Lemon Sauce

Pasta with Shrimp is a go-to around here.  I keep a big bag of frozen shrimp from Costco in the freezer.  It takes just minutes to defrost in cool water, then 2 minutes to cook... along with angel hair pasta that also cooks in 2 minutes.  This entire meal literally takes 10 minutes to put together.  Because I keep the shrimp in the freezer and always have pasta in the pantry, this is one of those "what can I make without going to the store" dinners.  We all need some of those.  Sometimes I improvise with olives instead of mushrooms, or even cherry tomatoes.  

Friday or Saturday Night Pizza

Sometimes we order in, and sometimes we make!  These are all of my favorite combinations... photo taken at our temporary apartment in Cambridge, Ma. 5 years ago.  I love trip down the memory lane that digging up old posts brings.

Hope your Monday is off to a great start!  Now, we're off to the grocery store : )

January 22, 2016

Valentine's Products Restocked | Pillows, Heart Sprinkles, Ribbon, Platters, Planters & Hanging Baskets

Some of the most popular Valentines products are restocked today!  I've also restocked some essentials that were depleted during the rush of the Holidays - details below.

Shop the entire Valentine's Collection, here.

I love a velvet accent pillow.  They are great almost anywhere - the middle of a sofa, the middle of a bed, or on a cozy chair.  This neutral coral color is a great way to soften your home during these bleak winter months.  It would love fabulous with the Red Heart pillow, too.
20 x 13"
*Cover only, does not include insert.
This pillow is made by a company in Denmark.  They will be available to ship early next week.  
A delightful bouquet gives this pillow a sweet touch, but the design is classic and clean.  I can't wait to add this to either our bed or our sofa to soften it a bit for a brighter season.
Size : 23" x 16"
Cover Only, Insert not included.
This pillow is made by a company in Denmark.  They will be available to ship early next week.  

Giant Heart Sprinkles,

For the past two years, these these over-sized heart sprinkles have been my most popular item... or was it the Milk Chocolate Glazed Cupcakes that motivated you all?  Won't they look great in a Pink Bakery Box, too?!  They come packaged in a large glass jar.

Red & Pink Cupcake Kit, $5.50
How simple, to whip up a batch of cupcakes (from a cake mix!) in these papers and you have a knockout, darling Valentine's Day treat... looking even better with a Red Heart Sprinkle, of course.

Pink Bakery Boxes

These were a favorite from last year and still a favorite this year!  Fill them with store-bought donuts, homemade cupcakes or... actual gifts.  They are a great size and the most festive color of pink.

On sale, $6.50 for set of 10.

We have just a handful of the Heart Pans left, pictured here with The Dripping Milk Chocolate Heart Cake.  I'd love to hear about what you are planning to make.  I've also thought about doing a layered strawberry shortcake with the heart - that would be right up Emma's alley... or a fruit filled jello "cake."

Heart Pan, $12

Creamware Platters Set

Finding pretty, simple platters can be a challenge.  Many times platters are too bright white, or a little too modern - or adorned with something distracting.  These creamware platters are perfect. 
The smaller ones are perfect for side dishes or appetizers.  The medium sizes are great to make displays of desserts or for a cheese tray.  The large work great for the main course of a dinner party.  When we're entertaining, my favorite way to serve the main course is all on one platter with the beef, pork or chicken in the center, then piles of vegetables on each side - easy and beautiful.
Hanging Willow Baskets

Another favorite is back!   You might remember last year when it was filled with hydrangeas for a Shower we hosted.  It looks great with branches of Cherry Blossoms, big bunches of leaves or wheat in the Fall, branches of berries for the Holidays... endless.  
The secret to using fresh branches and blooms in the basket is using floral tubes to keep them fresh.  I've included 10 large clear tubes with each basket.  Please note, it was a little too large to hang on our old front door, as we had a storm door in front of it, but looks great hanging off of a door knob inside, too.  

Transferware Planters
We have just a few of these Square Planters (and some of the round!) that we found after the rush.  I have mine with potted spring bulbs in my new Indoor Garden that I'm really enjoying.  

Finally, I've restocked most of the Color Collection products - all of the colors of ribbons, candles and tags that coordinate.

This entire Collection of coordinated colors was the starting place for this store 2 1/2 years ago and I still love combining, mixing and matching these elements when I'm planning a party of my own.  As you saw in my office, I love to keep these essentials around to make easy gifting/wrapping and last minute entertaining within reach.

These colors to the left (Red, Emma Pink, Papaya Pashmina and Seaside Blue are all of my favorites for Valentines.  

Shop the entire Valentine's Day Collection, here >

January 20, 2016

Emma Quality Time | Love Bug Cupcakes | Easy Valentines with Emma

Love Bugs!

This is more of a photo essay instead of a step-by-step guide to making these Love Bug Cupcakes... sorry!  I can tell you that they are sooo simple.  I made Chocolate Cake Mix cupcakes in various sizes (Brown Jumbo, Gold Striped & Petite Tart Pans), then a simple butter, milk and powdered sugar icing.

I tinted it red, pink and left some white.  Then, I iced the wing shapes on the back of the cupcakes (when cooled) and then Emma applied the heart sprinkles.

Products Used :

Paper Tart Pans
Disposable Pastry Bags
Pink Bakery Boxes

I always try to have our holiday activities be a true, quality time experience for us.  I want her to look back on these moments and remember what it felt like to be in the kitchen together.  I don't want it to be about the mess, or about the result, but about her having the freedom (and my full trust in her) to make something all by herself that is beautiful.

I think a lot about what "quality time" means... something you both enjoy doing together.  For Emma and me, crafting and baking in the kitchen is our favorite "quality time."  She gets the reins to create and lick all she wants, and I get to do my favorite thing... watch her have a great time while I mix icing faster than she can pipe.  Yes, there is clean-up, but icing is easier than glitter : )

Don't they look great in the Pink Bakery Boxes.  Four cupcakes fit perfectly... so, one boxed mix and about 1 hour will make you 5 Love Bug Boxes of 4 cupcakes to give, and 4 cupcakes to eat : )

Emma had to get in on some of the icing, too... these were the ones we ate!

I really love the bigger "Mama" ones in the Petite Tart Pans with the babies in the cupcakes.

They work great in a Largo Cello Bag.  Cute for teacher's gifts or school treats.

Products Used :

Paper Tart Pans
Disposable Pastry Bags
Pink Bakery Boxes

Shop the entire Valentine's Collection, here >

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