Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Indoors

By Lisa VanWilliams

Since we can't get out in the garden just yet, we found these cute little flowers that can brighten up and bring some cheer to any window in your home. We found these cute mini Kalanchoe flowers at Trader Joe's for $1.99 each, but any small planted flowers will work (African violets etc).

You can find these cute mini wall baskets (one side is flat) at most craft shops for a few dollars.

I cut a sandwich bag to fit the basket, and add some dirt.

Insert flower and add more dirt if needed to top off. I triple tied some fishing wire and hung these in my kitchen windows.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Holy Guacamole

By Lisa VanWilliams

Avocados are a Super Food when it comes health benefits. This is a Mexican recipe favorite for chip dipping. It can also be added to tacos, salads, nachos, wraps, or used as a hamburger topping. It's super quick and super easy, and Holy Guacamole! It's good.  

Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and they can actually help lower your LDL cholesterol. Some other benefits of this fruit include:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • promotes blood sugar regulation
  • preliminary tests show it helps prevent certain cancers - it kills the bad cells. Medical Journals show it can even reverse memory loss in Alzheimer's patients
  • fiber packed
  • it's said to have 35% more potassium than a banana

2 ripe avocado's pitted and mashed with fork
salt&pepper to taste
¼ small onion finely diced
1 small garlic cloves pressed
1 jalapeno diced
1 plum tomato finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped
½ fresh squeezed lime
dash of garlic and onion powder

If you want to spice it up, feel free to add in some cayenne and a hot pepper.

In a small bowl mash up the avocado's and add salt & pepper. Add the garlic, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, & lime. Mix it all up and level the top. Cover with plastic wrap and tightly seal (to prevent from turning brown) and refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Micro Fashion

By Lisa VanWilliams

Have your kids rock these organic graphic print spandex from Popupshop just like North West. Popupshop is a popular Danish brand that strives to minimize environmental impact and one way they do this is by growing their own chemical and pesticide free cotton in Turkey.

Most of the items on Popupshop are sold out. We found some leggings still available at Sophias Style for around $35 (sign up to get the additional 20% off of $43.99).


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Seed Starters

By Lisa VanWilliams
If you live in New England, now is a great time to start your seedlings indoors. We picked up a starter kit for under $5, and we were able to get all organic seeds on sale for 40% off. My daughter has been asking me for dayyyyssss when we could do this project. Today she was home sick, and it kept us occupied while her brother napped.  We used a pencil to make holes in the soil and then dropped the seeds into them.

We put the seeds in a little cup so she could pick them easily.

We did not cover up the holes until we were done with the whole tray, so we knew which squares we had done already. Label them, water them, and wait! My daughter loves to check on their progress daily even though it will take a few weeks for any sprouts. It's a great way to get them involved and show them how the whole process works.  When the plants are big enough, and it's warm enough, we will transfer these to our outdoor garden.

It's also a great time to start a herb garden. I like to keep some basic herbs on my back porch in the Summer and use them whenever I can when cooking.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Whimsical Balloons & Planes

By Lisa VanWilliams

We love the look of these whimsical hot air balloon models hung on fishing wire from the ceiling. You can do a Wizard of Oz theme for a girls room or model planes and hot air balloons for a boys room. Cluster them together at different lengths and sizes to make it look like a balloon festival! We found the hot air balloon models at One Kings Lane ranging in price from $22-$99 depending on the size.

You can view the options here:

Pottery Barn kids has some cute hanging airplanes:||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules

Pilot Mall also has some cute models here:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Coconut - The Good Junk Food

By Lisa VanWilliams

We love the tropical sweetness that coconut can add to many dishes. We recently read an article in Men's Health written by Jeff Volek Ph.D., R.D. in which he discusses the benefits of coconut. Dr. Jeff Volek is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology (human kenetics) at UCONN where he teaches and leads a research team. He has published over 250 scientific manuscripts, written a few books, and was co-author on a New York Times Best Seller.*

Even though coconut is packed with saturated fat, it is also packed with lauric acid. The article goes on to state,
"A recent analysis of 60 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that even though lauric acid raises LDL (bad) cholesterol, it boosts HDL (good) cholesterol even more. Overall, this means it decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease. "*
Since it's high in calories, a handful as a snack is ideal. We have been using Bob's Red Mill fine macaroon coconut. It's unsweetened and low in carbs and it's a great condiment to sneak in on a few dishes. It offers a natural sweetness, but it's rich in flavor at the same time.

Here are a few dishes you can add this to:

  • thai or curry dishes
  • add it to jasmine rice
  • add it to cool whip with some pineapple yogurt for a tropical fruit dip
  • coconut chicken or shrimp
  • granola
  • smoothies
  • oatmeal
  • cake & cupcakes
  • mounds home made candies
  • coconut macaroons
  • sprinkle on your magic cookie bars


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fresh Squeezed OJ

By Lisa VanWilliams
Here's a great way to get the kids involved on the weekend or any day of the week you have a few extra minutes. We are very happy with this $4.99 purchase from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. I remember my mom having one of these as a child too. Nothing tastes better than fresh squeezed orange juice to start the day!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Nautical Nonsense

By Lisa VanWilliams

Whether you grew up by the ocean, have a love for the ocean, or like to visit the sea, here's a great way to incorporate some items into your home to remind you the deep blue sea is never far away.
John F. Kennedy spoke at the Dinner for the America's Cup Crews in September of 1962, and he stated, "I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and the ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea - whether it is to sail or to watch it - we are going back from whence we came."
Sometimes it can feel like coming home when you hit the shore, and here's a great way to showcase your finds in your own home - bring the ocean to you when you can't be at the ocean.  Above we used an old wooden bowl with some driftwood then you can add things like shells, ocean rocks, or sea glass to the bowl for a great display or center piece.

Here's a little shell tray I use for rings, earings, and other small pieces so they don't roll away. 

Light switch covers for my daughters mermaid room that I found at a local festival. 

Cast iron mermaid, and I will use Christmas ornaments to hang in small nooks or to decorate. Glass bottles with corks, look like messages in a bottle.

Pictures and canvas paintings I found at stores like Burlington, Marshall's, and Home Goods. 

Jewelry Box

Craft Market find

Boutique find in Cape Cod

Ships Ahoy!

Wood burning from Provincetown, MA  Pier

Fish and sailboat collection from travels

Mermaid and her pirate. I found this card in a Cape Cod Boutique and put it in a rustic frame.

Wood burning from local Craft Market

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Costume Jewelry Organization

By Lisa VanWilliams
Back before children (B.C.), I used to spend lots of time in NYC with my girlfriends and nieces shopping. We would hit up the cosmetic jewelry wholesale district on Broadway (between 29th &30th) and stock up for the coming season. There are a few cool stores in there with some nice looking cheap jewelry, usually about half the price you would pay at the mall. There are some stores by there as well that sell some nice sterling silver pieces.

After doing these trips for many years, I had an accumulation of pieces getting tangled up in a drawer. Then one day, I saw an expandable coat rack in the store and got the idea to hang my pieces on the wall. That way I could see what pieces I had, so when I was wearing an outfit I could just pick and go without spending 10 minutes untangling it. Problem solved. Cheap way to display and get organized.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Water Bottles

By Lisa VanWilliams

After carrying around plastic water bottles for well over 20 years, I have finally made the switch to glass and I am really liking it. We have a water dispenser (stainless steel reservoir), and we are ordering some 5 gallon glass dispensers that we can fill at a local spring in Connecticut for 25¢ a gallon. If we can't make it to the spring, we are having some water delivered to hold us over. The water being delivered does not come in glass but it is higher grade plastic (7). If you ever turn anything plastic upside down, you will notice a symbol on the plastic telling you the grade of the plastic. 1 being the worst, and 7 being the highest quality.  

Here is a site that you can learn more about the different types of plastics and classifications:

Mountain Valley offers a top of the line glass delivery service but they are expensive. You can view more about them here:

The Los Angeles Times did an article in which they stated, "There's a reason wine and spirits are stored in glass: purity of taste. Plastic (and, to a lesser degree, metal) can impart various "flavors" into the liquids it comes into contact with. But that's just one reason that glass is an increasingly popular alternative to plastics and aluminum or stainless steel sport-style bottles."*

Don't forget about harmful BPA's. Make sure your kids aren't drinking out of plastic "Disney" cups made out of China. If they are, try to make it a once in a while thing and not the regular. We received some as gifts, but we try to limit the use on those. 

We went with the Lifefactory brand which was started in 2007 by two founders with a vision, and they ended up creating an extensive health-minded product line. They originally started out with glass baby bottles, but now offer all kinds of products like drinking glasses, and glass food storage. It is a great product for babies as well as because you can start your baby on a nipple bottle and convert the bottle to a sippy cup when they are ready. I picked the 16 ounce glass bottle with straw cap and silicone sleeve for myself. On Amazon these have an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 for reviews, and I agree.

I am drinking way more water than normal. I think it's the ease of using the straw that makes it disappear, and I am refilling this 5-6 times a day. Which is good, it's probably the amount of water I should be drinking. The top is easy to open and if you don't want the straw top, there are a few other options like the flip top or just a cap. They also have a large variety of nice color options. We picked this up at our local Whole Foods. 

Our local Recreational Department recently installed this machine so you can refill  your own bottles and help eliminate our dependency on plastic. I think it's great and I look forward to using these in Public places one day.  


Friday, March 6, 2015

Succotash Chowder

By Lisa VanWilliams

Several years back I used to go to place called The Birches at Mohegan Sun Casino, which has since been closed as of 2012, and replaced with a Hash House a go go. They use to serve the MOST incredible succotash and they would serve it to you when you sat down with a basket of bread sticks and crackers. My mom would sit there and eat it with a spoon. In 2005, Mohegan Sun put out a book called, "Under the Mohegan Sun: A Celebration of Cuisine & Culture", and in this book they go into detail about the Mohegan Tribe cuisines and their century old recipes and they include this recipe. The Executive Chefs at the casino try to incorporate these recipes into dishes that can be served at their restaurants. We tried our first batch of this, and here is my experience making it, and my recipe review.

The book can still be found on Amazon for roughly $5:

The Native Americans of the Northeast were the first to make this dish, and it's traditionally made with sweet corn and lima beans but other items may be added like peppers or tomatoes. This is a savory, rich, warming, creamy dish that is packed with flavor. It's not very hard to make, but timing is key because you do not want to over boil. Since it's so rich, it's not something I would make all the time, but it's so delicious I wanted to share. I would make it as a soup dish or serve it as an appetizer with crackers/bread as a dip if I was planning on having dinner guests.  Lima beans are packed with fiber and it's a great way to sneak some of these nutty flavored beans in without anyone noticing.

4 tablespoons butter
3 slices thick cut bacon diced
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups corn stock (saved from boil)
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups Trader Joe's sweet yellow corn
1 cup Trader Joe's white corn
1 cup lima beans
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Meat Magic
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Make the corn stock first: 6 cups cold water, 2 cups yellow corn, 1 cup white corn, sugar, & salt. Simmer for 20-30 minutes on a medium boil until reduced by half.  Strain the corn over a bowl, and SAVE all the corn stock.

Melt the butter and add the bacon. Cook for a few minutes then add in the onions.

Stir this on medium high heat until the bacon and onions turn a golden brown.

When brown, add in the flour and lower the heat to medium low and stir the flour for about 10 minutes. It will be a think roux.

Slowly whisk in the corn stock and bring back to a boil. Add the corn, beans, salt, Meat Magic, white pepper, and simmer it for 15 minutes.

Lower the heat and add the heavy cream and cook for 15 minutes more. If you feel it's overly salty or too thick, you can always add a little water in small increments until it's the consistency you would like.

Serve as a chowder soup or with some bread/crackers as a dip. Enjoy!