Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Great Outdoors

By Lisa VanWilliams

We recently read a great article by Dr.Bill Sears, M.D., whom is a father of eight and the author of 42 books on family health. He is a practicing pediatrician for over 40 years and he is an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine.

He encourages families to get their children outside to play and not let your child have "a green-grass deficiency". Too much television, iPads, iPhones, computers, games, and constant screens for entertainment, can cause some issues down the road like weakened immune systems, mood problems, and childhood obesity.

When the temps are above 30 degrees, bundle them up and get them outside to play. Dr. Sears goes on to list a few health effects neuroscientists have shown from what a simple walk outside can do:

  • decreases heart rate
  • more relaxed blood pressure
  • increased happy hormones
  • decreased stress hormones
  • mellower moods
  • stronger immune system
  • fewer fearful thoughts

Studies also showed children displaying signs of ADD that received an extra 20 minutes of day of vigorous exercise showed signs of improvement -especially in their ability to sit still and focus.  


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pesto Chicken Artichoke Pizza

By Lisa VanWilliams

This is fairly easy to throw together for a tasty dinner the whole family will enjoy. You can switch up your ingredients and use whatever items you prefer, but this combo goes well together and you will not be disappointed if you like these flavors. This makes two small pies.

1 tablespoon olive oil
garlic powder
2-3 chicken breasts diced
2 garlic cloves
15 oz fresh pizza dough
4 tablespoons pesto
1/2 cup artichoke hearts
1 cup fresh mozzarella (deli section at store -small balls)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 450. Dice up your chicken into small pieces and and toss into hot oil in pan, add fresh garlic, salt&pepper, garlic powder, and cook.

Stretch out your dough and put into pan. Cover the dough liberally with your pesto. The add your cooked chicken pieces, break up the pieces of artichoke and spread out evenly.

I cut the mini mozzarella balls in half and spread them out across the pie and then sprinkle with the Parmesan and toss in oven for 15 minutes until it starts to brown. I turn the broiler on at the end to crisp up the top. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dream Cream

By Lisa VanWilliams

If you suffer from eczema, psoriasis, sensitive skin, cracking, or red bumps, you might want to try this product. My niece has terrible looking hands from eczema that she has struggled with for years. Copays and expensive prescriptions later, she says this works the best and fastest she has seen. It's only been two days that she's been using it and her hands are already healing. The lotion is calming and soothing with a blend of oat milk, lavender, chamomile, rose oil, olive oil, tea tree oil, and cocoa butter.

It you look on the Lush website, it has over 550 reviews and it scores an average rating of 4.6 stars out of 5 stars. That's pretty good. The users state it's best to use after the shower or at bedtime, and it's great for dry chapped skin, winter dryness, and deep moisturizing. The cream is very lightly scented and it is not overly greasy. It costs $26.95 for 8.4 oz but a little goes a long way and it can actually cost less than some prescriptions. Plus, being made from natural ingredients and safe synthetics makes it a lot more appealing.

Lush LOVES to give out samples and you should ALWAYS ask for a sample. If you have dry hands, dry lips, you need a salt scrub to go, tell the employee, and they will hook you up. The products are expensive, so they do not mind letting you try them out before you commit to the larger purchase. You can buy a cheap bath bomb for $3.95 and ask for a sample. Chances are, you will back to buy the full size.

For locations or to purchase online, you can check them out here:,en_US,pd.html

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mini Shepherd's Pie

By Lisa VanWilliams

We have done a couple variations on this recipe and you can adjust it to your tastes. It's one of my husbands faves and I am making it allll the time, so I try some different things with it just to keep it interesting. Depending on whether you prefer sweet potatoes over gold, ground turkey meat over ground beef, or you could replace the peas with edamame or lima beans instead. The possibilities are endless and the result will be a tasty filling dish that tastes even better reheated the next day..should there be any leftovers. You can make it healthy or more comfort food style as you like, but it will warm you up from the inside out. Make this in a 13X9 family style or put them in mini crocks like this.

6 Yukon Gold potatoes peeled, cooked, & mashed (with milk, butter, salt&pepper)
1 pound ground beef 80/20
1 medium onion diced
1/2 red pepper diced
1/2 green pepper diced
2 cloves garlic diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon Montreal Steak seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
salt & pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1 can cream of corn
1 can whole kernel corn
1/2 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
couple dashes of Paprika on top

Start by peeling, cooking and mashing the potatoes. Put to side. Preheat oven to 350. Then in a pan add olive oil, peppers, garlic, and onions and sauté them until they are soft.

Add your hamburger meat, salt & pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Montreal Steak seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and cook until meat is no longer pink. Add in the frozen peas once the meat is almost cooked and stir together. Put your meat mix into the bottom of the crock.

Now you layer it up. Add your whole kernel corn and then add the cream corn over that and spread it out evenly.  

Dollop your mashed potatoes across the meat mixture and then spread them out. Sprinkle top with grated cheese, then shredded cheese, and finish with Paprika on top.  

Bake in oven 1/2 hour on 350 until it starts to brown. Enjoy !

Monday, February 23, 2015

Plastic vs Glass

By Lisa VanWilliams

We are trying to move away from plastics in our household and go more with glass options. Plastic cups, plastic water bottles, and plastic storage containers are just a few of the things that you may utilize on a daily basis. It is a small step we can make towards a healthier lifestyle by trying to eliminate some toxins and live a more eco-friendly greener way. We found a great site called Wild Mint which was started out by a mom looking out for the safety of her family. They list 7 reasons why families should switch from plastic to glass.

  1. Glass containers won't absorb food and color or smells. Plastic is a porous material that will absorb and retain food colors and odors. Glass, on the other hand, is non-permeable and won't absorb color and odor from food.
  2. Food Safety. Studies have shown that chemicals in plastic break down and leach into the food or drink they are storing (esp when heated). In turn, we consume the food and drink, allowing the chemicals to enter our bodies.
  3. Taste. From a personal perspective, Wild Mint thinks food and drink from a glass container simply taste better.
  4. Better for the Environment.
  5. Saves you $$ over time.
  6. Multi-functional. Food Storage. Food preparation. Serveware. From the freezer to the fridge to the oven to the table.
  7. Gorgeous. From a simply aesthetic (and again personal) point of view, glass is gorgeous and food has much more of an appeal when presented in a glass container over a plastic one.

You can find out about more products on their web page here:

One thing we are doing is keeping some refreshing cold water options available.  You can find a glass beverage dispenser at any store like Walmart, Target, Marshalls, Home Goods, Bed, Bath, & Beyond Pottery Barn, Crate&Barrel, etc. 

Then add the magic. Sliced cucumbers, lemons, limes, apples, & frozen melon balls. Not only will it smell great, be healthy, and taste good, it will look gorgeous!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Everyday Coconut Body Lotion By Alaffia

By Lisa VanWilliams

We love products like this. If you have perpetually dry skin like myself, I am always on the hunt for a remedy. I recently tried this Everyday Coconut Body Hydrating Lotion. The lotion has no synthetic fragrance, it's paraben free, vegan, no animal testing, gluten free, handcrafted & unrefined. It's a very light cream but it leaves a silky finish. So if you like a heavy, thicker substantial cream, this would not be for you. The scent is nice and soft and it does not smell like you just packed up at the beach and you have leftover suntan lotion all over. Not at all.  

This company was started by a Togolese native in West Africa, "as a way to generate funds to conduct community enhancement projects in his home country and other West African nations in order to reduce poverty and gender inequality." They are using their indigenous coconut oil to raise money for these projects. So, what kinds of things have they done with these proceeds? Amazing things.

  • They reduced the maternal death rate in Togo by providing comprehensive prenatal care to 1,000 women every year
  • Bicycle for Education Project - 5,300 bikes were distributed
  • Reforestation Project - 25,000 trees planted
  • School for Supplies Project - 8,000 students were recipents

I picked this up at Whole Foods for $10.99 for a whopping 32 FL OZ. It's a large cool looking bottle with a big dispenser pump. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blackened Salmon

By Lisa VanWilliams
If you like some spice and lots of flavor, blackened is the way to go. This works best for me in a cast iron skillet and it gets nice and crusty with a nice brown color, then I toss the pan right in the oven to finish baking it all the way through. Add some rice and veggies and this a is a quick healthy meal that will leave everyone satisfied.

Blackening became popular in the 1980's because of New Orleans Chef Paul Prudhomme. His famous specialty was blackened redfish cooked in a red hot skillet. This is also the same chef that is credited with creating the turducken (deboned chicken, stuffed into a deboned duck, which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey).

4 pieces of salmon
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
sprinkle of garlic powder
olive oil - cover bottom of pan

In a small bowl combine the paprika, cayenne, thyme, oregano, salt, garlic powder, and mix together. Coat your fish and cover both sides with the spice mix. Let the olive oil get hot in the cast iron and then add in your salmon. Sear and cook each side 3-4 minutes and then flip.

Once both sides are browned, toss it in the oven on 350 for another 10 minutes or so while you make your sides.  Drizzle with fresh lemon when you take it out of the oven and serve. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Vintage Gates -14 Ways To Get Creative

By Lisa VanWilliams

Check out what can be done with these old gates to bring that rustic charm into your home. You can look for these at flea markets, Habitat For Humanity ReStores, or side of the road tag sales, but you never know where one might pop up on your travels. When I look at these I get so many ideas that can be done with them such as:

  • being used as a headboard
  • make an indoor window look larger by adding these as shutters
  • create some character and allure on a blank wall
  • create a focal point on a large wall
  • use them to decorate in a garden, patio, or porch
  • create a fake door to no where
  • hang them over a mantel 
  • make a coat rack/bench
  • use it as a pantry door or make a mini spice cabinet

If you like the look of these but you don't want to go find your own, you can always order them online! We found these great sets at:  
They have a couple different styles and they range in price anywhere from $129-$139

Inspiring Ideas

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Burt's Bees Intense Hydration Treatment Mask

By Lisa VanWilliams

Below zero temperatures are hard on exposed skin and we have been getting a beating in New England with a harsher winter than normal. I tried Burt's Bee's Hydrating Mask and I really like the product and would recommend it if your skin is feeling a little sad about the weather. My face felt immediately moisturized and better prepared to go outside and handle the extreme weather. It would also be beneficial for sun exposure to replenish dried out skin.

It has pretty high ratings on most sites usually scoring between a 4.5 out of 5 on reviews.  I read that Clary Sage does not really help with hydration but the essential oil is useful in aromatherapy for treating anxiety and fear. It's not a product you would use everyday, only when needed.  Face masks can be rather expensive but this is reasonably priced. I picked this up at Bed, Bath, & Beyond for $14.39 (using the 20% off coupon). Cheer your skin up and moisturize with this mask fix that will leave your skin irresistibly soft.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

By Lisa VanWilliams

Spring is around the corner and now is a great time to start exploring your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms. What is CSA? The USDA defines it "as a community of individuals who pledge to support a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production."

You basically buy into a farm up front and receive weekly shares of the crops throughout the growing season. There are pro's and con's to being a member and we will go over a few of them. The items can include fruits, vegetables, cut flowers, herbs, honey, eggs, dairy products, and meat.


  • You are supporting the farm and cutting out the middle man. 
  • Reconnecting to your local land 
  • The food is as fresh as you can get, besides picking it yourself
  • It's inexpensive when you average it out
  • It's interactive with the community and farmers
  • Hierloom produce you cant get at grocery stores
  • You can find local USDA & Farmers Pledge certified farmers
  • You can teach your kids about farming and fresh food
  • Higher quality food
  • You will learn to eat and make new things that you have not tried before


  • You would be limited to the farm you choose to work with
  • The food is fresh and has a limited shelf life, so it must be cooked fairly quickly
  • You can enjoy all the seasonal produce
  • You pay upfront all at once
  • They might have requirements like volunteering
  • Unexpected items, If it comes in your weekly box, it's yours and you will need to cook it. You might not like brussel sprouts, and you could get them.  
  • Crops can be damaged by things like bugs, freezing weather, etc. 

If you live in Connecticut, you can go to CT NOFA to find out where your local farmers are in your area:

You can also look on LocalHarvest and they give locations throughout the US:


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sunburst Mirrors

By Lisa VanWilliams

Show your love for the sun with these great King Louis XIV of France inspired mirrors that emulate the suns powerful shining rays. You can search for antique ones or easy to find replications but either option will add sophistication and class to any room. If you have a wall that could use some dimension and light, try adding one of these decorative fireballs. Stand one alone or combine a few different styles to fill some blank space.

Check out some of our finds here:

$158.99 Pottery Barn

$169.00 Pier 1 imports

$47.99 Cost Plus World Market

$180.00 Etsy

$199.99 Target

$140.00 Lamps Plus

Private collection
Staircase collection

Private collection

Friday, February 13, 2015

Alluring Artist - David Delamare

By Lisa VanWilliams

Mermaids, fairies, pirates, Alice In Wonderland, and circus freaks are just few of his specialties. David Delamare is an artist & writer from Oregon and he has an incredible imagination.  Delamare creates magical fairy tale scenes and they will leaving you wondering if they could be real. I've had one of his pictures hanging in my daughters room since she was a baby, and four years later, I still love it. I bet one of his fairy murals would look great in a garden oasis. He sells paintings, prints, cards, porcelain lights, tile murals, and several books and you can check out the online catalog here:

You can also like him on Facebook to view these glorious pictures in your news feed here:  

Here are a few of our favorites: