Inside Out Chocolate Strawberry

We eat a lot of strawberries when they go on sale!  We eat them all day for snacks, sides to meals and even dessert.  I dip them in chocolate for an extra special dessert treat.

Chocolate Strawberries

My kids make a huge mess with chocolate dipped strawberries- they hold onto them too long making the chocolate melt in their hot little hands.  I thought of filling the strawberries with the chocolate in an attempt to avoid the outrageous chocolately mess.

First I cut the top off my strawberries and then I used a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon to scoop out the middle of the top.

Strawberries and Chocolate

I washed the strawberries and let them dry.  While they were drying I took some chocolate chips and melted them in the microwave.

I took the same spoon and filled the holes with melted chocolate.  I wasn’t sure how to keep them upright and then I had a light bulb moment!  I used a mini muffin tin (a regular muffin tin will work; just put two in each and prop them up).  They stayed upright and kept the chocolate in place!

Strawberry Recipe

These present well, too, and would be great for a party. You can even top them with coconut, almonds, chocolate sprinkles or whatever you can come up with!

Vegan Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vegan Cookie Recipe

My teenager recently became vegan.  While the rest of our home remains omnivores (with a love for meat), I still make sure she’s able to enjoy dessert and special treats as much as possible.  My husband called me the other night while I was at a meeting at the kids’ school and asked what, if anything, was for dessert?  I had pudding ready to go for the boys, but was stumped at what to offer our little vegan.  I joked with my husband, “Name a dessert without dairy?  I dare you!”.  It is tougher than you think!  With a bit of playing around, I came up with this recipe using substitutes for the dairy, sugar and eggs in most cookie recipes.

Healthy Cookies

 

 

 

What You Will Need:Avocado Cookie Recipe

1 avocado, peeled and mashed well

1/2- 1 cup agave nectar (or honey) depending on taste and how sweet you want these

1 tsp baking soda mixed with 1 tbsp of white vinegar  (this is an egg substitute)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup (or MORE!) vegan chocolate chips

1/2 tsp baking soda

 

 

 

 

 

Vegan Cookies

Preheat over to 350.

Mix mashed avocado, agave nectar (these won’t be very sweet unless you add the full cup and even then they are still semi-sweet) and egg substitute (1 tsp baking soda and 1 tbsp vinegar).

Add cocoa powder and baking soda.

Lastly, add those chocolate chips.

Spoon dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Healthy Vegan Chocolate Cookie Recipe

‘Un-Pie’ Apple Pie a la Mode

Gluten Free Apple Pie

All the goodness of apple pie without the crust! Don’t get me wrong, I love pie crust.  But if you don’t have time to make a home made crust or you are out of store bought…or maybe you are looking for a gluten free option?  This is the way to go.  I call it ‘Un Pie” because of the lack of crust.  But the flavor of this dessert deserves the title pie.  It is confusing, I know.  Bare with me.  Try this simple recipe and you’ll understand.

Apple Pie

What You Will Need

2 Large Apples (peeled and cute bite sized)

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Vanilla Ice Cream!

 Apple Pie Filling

Once your apples are peeled and cut, toss them in the lemon juice and vanilla extract.  Mix the sugar and cinnamon and set aside for later. Melt butter and add apples to a skillet on medium heat.  Once apples are cooked down, but not soft (approx 5-7 minutes), add the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Continue stirring to make sure the apples do not burn, approx 3-5 minutes.  The apples should be soft with a light brown coating (the sugar caramelizing).

Gluten Free Apple Pie

Let the mixture cool, but only a little.  You want the heat to melt that ice cream into a delicious melt-y gooey mess.  Serve in ramekins, mason jars, a bowl, whatever, and top with a scoop of ice cream.  Serve warm and enjoy!

Gluten Free Apple Pie

Back Yard Update; Outdoor Living Space Decor

I am so excited!  Hubs and I decided to update our pool area and add a patio and we are almost done!  This wasn’t a DIY project, except when it comes to decor and furniture.  The budget for the actual renovation ended up going over a bit so the decor and furniture budget got a bit smaller.  No problem! If there is one thing I am good at, it’s finding deals on stuff I want!  Check out what we have purchased so far to make our pool area inviting and an extra living space, just outdoors.

Backyard Update

We added a concrete space to make the pool deck and living space bigger.  A wall was added, as well, to hide a dirt/rock area and add a place for drinks and even seating.  The pool pump was hidden by a tall wall and the last step was to redo the deck.  After much debate, we picked the color ‘suede’ and had a ‘flagstone’ pattern done.  The budget didn’t allow for pool repairs; we’ll need to fix the tiles at a later date and get the pool light working (it’s not just a new bulb, a whole new instillation is needed).  I think we may attempt a DIY pool tile fix.  We shall see! Basically, the actual pool was ignored (other than having it drained and cleaned).

 

patiogazebo

The main goal was to add space AND get some shade.  So a gazebo was a must.  The grand plan was having a custom gazebo for space.  It is a weird shape so a custom one would be idea to get more shade.  Of course, that wasn’t in the cards, the budget just didn’t allow for it.  We got a great, highly rated, budget friendly gazebo online.

 

patiofire

I have been wanting a fire pit for a while now.  I have visions of s’mores with the kids and curling up next to my husband.  The fire pit was actually one of the first purchases I made once we started this process.  It was less than $60 and a good size for occasional use.

What are some must have items for your outdoor space? Tell me below and be sure to check back for the big reveal and part 2 of this backyard update!

 

Anniversary Weekend at Westin Kierland Reort and Spa in Scottsdale

My husband and I just celebrated another year of marriage (yay!) and as a present to ourselves we wanted to ‘get away’ for a bit.  Can you relate?  We have 5 kiddos, so getting away anywhere can be problematic but we worked it out with family and friends and figured out a weekend that worked for everyone.  The time frame we had was limited so we didn’t want to waste hours in the car or at the airport (plus flights aren’t cheap!). A local staycation was certainly our best option and I knew exactly where to go; Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona.

westinhotelcollage

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you might remember our amazing family staycation a couple years ago at Westin Kierland.  I remembered how wonderful the staff was, the gorgeous view and how it was the perfect place for families AND couples.

westinexplorerelaxplay

My expectations were, of course, met (and exceeded).  The experience was perfection.  We relaxed, played, drank and explored.  The ideal weekend away, for us.  The view was phenomenal (as it was last time) and beds comfortable.  A comfortable bed is a top priority for us, especially on a rare weekend without kids, where sleep and rest are actually attainable.

Scottsdale, AZ

We booked the Mojito Madness class at the deseo bar just before the restaurant opened.  It was fun to see how they make on of my favorite drinks with fresh ingredients.  The class came with an appetizer and the bartender was wonderful and made suggestions (which were spot on, we loved the shrimp and kobe choices).  We had dinner at deseo, one of the restaurants in the resort.  I’d consider it ‘fancy’ and perfect for an anniversary, whether you are staying on the property or not.

westindeseocollage

This time around I did not make it to Agave Spa but I did see the amazing treatments being offered and might have to make a special trip one day in the near future for a Salted Lime & Tequila Body Glow or The Tequila Lime Refresh Facial.  Or maybe both?! Right now, you can grab a great deal on spa treatments!

westingoodbye

This summer Westin Kierland has some really affordable offers.  You can opt for dinning credit or FlowRider sessions on top of a great nightly rate with the Say Aloha Summer deal.

If you are looking locally or if you are traveling to Scottsdale, I highly recommend Westin Kierland Resort and Spa for families and couples. What amenities do you look for when booking a romantic weekend away?

 

 

Must Have Toys to Keep Kids Active This Summer (Under $20)

I am always looking for ideas and products to help keep my kids busy during summer break.  Here are inexpensive toy ideas to help keep our kids healthy and and active during the summer.  Each product is currently priced at less than $20 on Amazon (Amazon prices are subject to change).

Summer Toys

1. Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Blossom Bright Sprinkler

2. Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Grub Scouts Sprinkler

3. Toysmith Magnifying Bug Viewer

4. Water Bomb Factory

5. Spot it! Splash Card Game

6. My First Flybar – Pogo Jumper

7. Champion Sports Ring Toss Set

8. Melissa & Doug 8 Activity Cones

9. Crayola Washable Sidewalk Neon Paint

10. Ultra Stomp Rocket

 

What toys and activities do you use to avoid boredom during the summer?

 

 

 

Lizard Thicket Boutique

This post and giveaway are sponsored.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.lizardthicket

Have you heard of Lizard Thicket Boutique?  I am so glad I was recently introduced to this charming shop with the opening of a store in Mesa, Arizona at Dana Park Shopping Center.

lizardthicketsign

I got treated to a VIP experience (and truly, it was VIP. More on that later) at the newest Lizard Thicket Boutique and the first to open in Arizona.  The prices were reasonable, the quality great and the clothing adorable! Nothing I tried on was over $40 and everything was really cute.  I saw some amazing fashion and home accessories, too.

lizardthicketaccessories

Remember I mentioned a VIP treatment? The owner was a doll and helped me find items that would look good on me and I loved everything she pulled. No exaggeration.  EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.  I feel like each time I walked around I found new pieces to love and try on. I left the store with a basic but beautiful t-shirt, a sweet ‘hippie’ tunic and a Lizard Thicket Basic cami.  I have decided I need more of these super affordable and super comfortable LTBasics.  The one I now own is my new favorite.

lizardthicketclothes

The store only gets a certain number of items and when they are gone, they’re gone.  So I highly recommend coming in prepared to fall in love and ready to buy!  Window shopping is fun but remember, it won’t be restocked (though the designer could put out something similar in the future).

lizardthickettunic

I will definitely be making my way back to Lizard Thicket Boutique and plan to bring some friends who have complimented me on my cute new tunic (truly, a friend called me after I posted a photo on Instagram asking to go shopping together at ‘the place you got the tunic’).

**Hint Hint: You may want to check out Lizard Thicket Boutique on social media (links below) to get prepared for a giveaway coming soon!

Lizard Thicket Boutique on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Red Ranger Power Ranger Birthday Party

Oriental Trading provided products for review.  As always, my opinions are my own.

My oldest (birth) child turned 6 recently.  Yes, SIX (insert hyperventilating here).  Birthdays are a big deal around here.  We have five kids currently in our home, so birthdays are each kiddos’ special day.  Now, that doesn’t mean I shell out tons of money and I have learned throughout the years that I don’t have to stress about every detail.

kaden6bday

The kids and I discuss the kind of party they want and the theme.  If I am being honest, the kids have ‘plans’ for years worth of future birthdays…it is fun to think of themes with them.  The boys love Power Rangers and K’s favorite is always the Red Ranger (red is his favorite color, of course).  A party at a local karate dojo was the perfect venue for this birthday party theme!  I plan in advance and because of that, I was able to get an amazing deal for a party on Groupon.  The expiration could have presented a problem (I seriously plan THAT far in advance sometimes) but a quick call to the company confirms the party just had to be BOOKED by the expiration.  Easy enough!redrangerimage

 

I was a bit concerned, because, I worried there would be a lack of Red Ranger/Power Ranger items in the market; and getting crafty was wasn’t in the cards.  Luckily, my old friend, Oriental Trading, came to the rescue.  There were more than enough specific themed items and some of the suggestions the site showed worked perfectly, too.  For example, the ninja warriors and red lollipops worked as great additions to the goody bags.

redrangerfavors

The biggest hit was, by far, the Red Power Ranger Stand Up.  It didn’t hurt that, at the end of the party, the Red Ranger visited the birthday group, either (included in the party package!).  Yes, the ‘Power Ranger’ visit was a bit hokey and could have been way better executed (the female instructors painted nails were a dead giveaway), but the kids seems to like it, regardless.  Later, in the car, K told me he knew the ‘Power Ranger’ was the main instructor.  When I asked him how he knew, he responded with a huge smile, “Well, Mom, she left for a long time.  Then the Red Ranger showed up while she was gone.  I think we both know what happened”.  So this is six…

redranger1

Happy Birthday to me smart, sweet, amazing boy!

Save the Undies with 3D Capture Core #UnderWarrior

This post is sponsored by U by Kotex but my love for their 3D Capture Core pads is all my own!

I still remember the day I leaked through my pants in junior high.  It might be something everyone else eventually forgot, but it has stayed with me.  Now that Jelly Bean is old enough and in 7th grade, I want to ensure she NEVER goes through that.  Enter 3D Capture Core U by Kotex.  Save the undies (and in my case, even the pants…) and become an #UnderWarrior.

kotex

The 3D Capture Core creates a pad that’s different from any other out there because it’s got a one-of-a-kind center that locks away wetness to help stop leaks.  You can grab your FREE SAMPLE and Save The Undies, too!

West Inn and Suites + Bistro West in Carlsbad, CA

It is rare to find a hotel that is perfect for both families and/or a romantic get-away.  I found that elusive unicorn of a place on our last trip to Southern California at West Inn and Suites in Carlsbad, CA.

Hotel near Legoland

The hotel was beautiful inside and out and when I checked in while my husband and antsy children waited in the car I had a moment of dread.  This place was far to pretty and sophisticated to understand by ‘crew’.  I had quick and scary visions of my children barreling into the lobby and up the stairs like wild animals disturbing everyone.  Here’s the truth, though, my kids are *usually* pretty good and the hotel, while beautiful, has activities and services geared towards those of us with little people who travel with us.  Need an example?  Milk and cookies offered (free) in the evening to guests.  If milk and cookies don’t scream child-friendly, I don’t know what does.  Also, while checking in, I was given a chance to borrow movies for our room.  Many of which were children’s titles.  Complementary breakfast may seem like a business men/women perk, but for me?  It screams load up and fill up before heading out to LEGOLAND California, which is just a 5 min drive for the property.

Kid Friendly Hotel near San Diego

 

West Inn and Suites, as I mentioned, is gorgeous.  The rooms are beautiful and classic while still being comfortable.  I could snuggle up all night with my husband watching borrowed movies under the warm comforters.  Our trip included a 3 year old nestled in between us, but without that blonde baby, it would have been extremely romantic.

Carlsbad, CA hotel

 

West Inn and Suites has a couple restaurants on the property (but separate from the hotel, which I appreciate.  I am not local, but know that a great restaurant that I have to go through a hotel that I am not a guest at feels kind of weird) and we were lucky enough to try West Bistro, we were told the more casual of the two spots, but it was nicer than our usual ‘casual’ meal, which I loved for our ‘date’.  West Bistro has a farm to table approach and the taste and quality is apparent.  The food was, no exaggeration, magical.  The staff knowledgeable and friendly (the chef even came over to chat for a bit).  We left googly eyes and full of amazing, fresh, delicious food.

Hotel and Food near Legoland

Carlsbad is a wonderful option for spring break, family trips or a romantic get away and West Inn and Suites is perfect for all occasions.  The ambiance, staff, location and services all make it idea for families, business persons or couples.

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