Easy, Adorable Valentine’s Day Crafts

It’s February—the month dedicated to all things red, pink, and covered in hearts! As we count down the days until Valentine’s Day, we’re also in the mood to do some crafting! In order to accomplish this goal, we thought we’d share some really great Valentine’s Day craft ideas that we found that are perfect for showing some love to someone special in your life.

wheres the love blg ag Easy, Adorable Valentine’s Day Crafts

1. DIY Chalkboard Valentine Candy Box from Skip to my Lou

2. Heart Shaped Bird Feeder from No Time For Flash Cards

3. Heart Handprint Valentine Craft from The Shirleys

4. Yarn Hearts from Family Chic

5. Marbled Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies from The Novice Chef

6. Mini Heart Garland from Honey We’re Home

7. Valentine Craft: Tic Tac Toe Hearts from Alpha Mom

If you have any other heart-themed ideas or creative crafts for Valentine’s Day, feel free to leave a note in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

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Summer Series – Recipes

07222013 summer vacation series recipes american greetings Summer Series   Recipes

It’s summertime and the cooking is easy!  With so many delicious foods in season, the only hard thing about serving up the perfect meal is narrowing down the choices.

Simple Summer Meals

Nobody wants to spend a warm day over a hot stove, which is why summer salads are excellent options for lunch and dinner—especially if you add chicken, steak or seafood.   If you’re packing a picnic, it’s fun to combine classic favorites with interesting updates such as a BLT dip and pinwheel sandwiches, along with low-maintenance desserts that stay fresh all day long.

Great Grilling Recipes

Although burgers and hotdogs tend to be the most common grill foods, it might be time for a new spin on some old favorites, like barbeque hot dogs and stuffed burgers.  Or, serve all the flavors of the season on one skewer with easy kabobs.  If you prefer steak or seafood but worry that your grilling skills might not make the cut, a mouth-watering marinade is your key to success.  And don’t forget to grill your side dishes, too! Grilled vegetables complement any summer meal perfectly…and keep all the cooking out of kitchen.

The Coolest Cocktails

While water is certainly the best way to stay hydrated in the sunshine, it’s so much more fun to cool off with a creative summer drink.  For many people, iced tea is the official taste of summertime, but there are also plenty of occasions to keep the cocktails  flowing.  Non-alcoholic treats such as Watermelon Lemonade or an Orange Creamsicle Smoothie are refreshing options for kids—and a fun way to keep everyone in the summertime spirit!

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Top 10 Picnic Tips

06172013 summer picnic american greetings Top 10 Picnic Tips

It’s time to stock up the cooler, spread out the blanket and bask in the sunshine…because tomorrow is International Picnic Day!  And with the official start of summer occurring on June 21, a whole season of picnicking is about to begin.  So here are ten tips to get you perfectly prepared:

1.    Keep it simple. Stick to a menu of summertime favorites that you can serve all at the same time.  Guests can leisurely help themselves while you kick back and relax.

2.     Make things interesting. Even classics like fried chicken, watermelon and potato salad can be updated with a new recipe.  Or visit your local deli or gourmet market for a picnic made by pros.

3.     Cool it. Freeze bottles of water or juice to use as ice packs until they’re ready to drink.  Ice the cooler several hours beforehand to keep it colder longer, but be sure to keep some ice separate to put in drinks.

4.     Pack wisely. Use lidded plastic containers to keep things fresh and prevent spills.  Pack dressings separately to avoid soggy salads.  For condiments, many brands now offer convenient “picnic packs.”  But you still can’t beat individual fast food packets, so save your extras!

5.     Keep it light. Once you consolidate your supplies, make sure they’re simple to carry and not too heavy.  Some picnic spots are quite a hike. 

6.     Set the table or blanket. Bring extra plates or platters for serving, large spoons for salads, at least one sharp knife, and an opener for wine or bottles.  To keep things organized, put food and drinks in separate coolers.

7.     Be prepared. Sunscreen, bug spray, a waterproof picnic blanket, umbrellas and a first aid kit should protect you from most of the elements.

8.     Avoid these. Foods that don’t transport well (ice cream, puddings, frosted cakes) should stay off the menu.  And keep in mind that sweet and sticky tends to attract wasps and bees.

9.     Clean up. You can never have enough hand wipes—especially if you opt for barbeque.  And be sure to bring extra bags for leftover food and trash.

10.    Stay flexible. Even the best laid plans—and picnics—are weather dependent, but no one ever said you can’t picnic indoors.  If the skies turn stormy, move the meal inside, lay the blanket on the floor and stay in the summertime spirit!

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Spring Recipes to Awaken Your Taste Buds…

With the first day of Spring just around the corner, it’s time to stop simmering comfort food in crock pots and start serving up those healthy, delicious in-season fruits and vegetables from the produce aisle.  Or, better yet, browse your local Farmer’s Market!

Here’s a rainbow of recipes that truly capture the essence of spring.  And best of all, with a variety of dishes from breakfast through dinner, your Easter menu is nearly complete–just be sure to include your favorite dessert!

american greetings blueberry cream cheese1 Spring Recipes to Awaken Your Taste Buds...

Blueberry Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole

This is a soon-to-be family favorite that can be prepared the night before your Easter brunch or simply for Sunday morning…with leftovers you’ll love on Monday.

Tomato Basil Skewersamerican greetings tomato basil skewers1 Spring Recipes to Awaken Your Taste Buds...

For a quick, colorful appetizer or just a healthy snack, you can’t beat this 10-minute treat that’s easy to make and fun to eat.

americangreetins strawberry and spinach salad Spring Recipes to Awaken Your Taste Buds...Strawberry and Spinach Salad

This five-star salad will instantly get you in the spirit of spring…and carry you right through summer because you’ll crave it again and again.

Roasted Asparagusamericangreetings roasted asparagus Spring Recipes to Awaken Your Taste Buds...

No spring dinner is complete without the season’s star vegetable and ultra-healthy superfood—with whole body benefits that range from anti-aging to pain relief!

american greetings tangerine glazed ham1 Spring Recipes to Awaken Your Taste Buds...Tangerine-Glazed Easter Ham with Baby Carrots

In an effort to bring you the best Easter ham ever, this recipe has been hailed “beyond delicious” and the one that may finally convert your non-ham fan.

 

Bon Appetit…and bring on the sunshine!

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Superbowl Recipe – Go Cajun this Sunday!

02032013 cajun pasta Superbowl Recipe   Go Cajun this Sunday!

Ok, are you ready for some football?  The big game is today and it will be played in New Orleans for the tenth time, which ties it with Miami for the most times a city has hosted this popular event.  Since New Orleans is famous for its spicy cuisine and most of us will be overindulging during the game, we thought it would be fun to feature a yummy recipe with some cajun flair. Ree Drummond has shared this recipe for Cajun Chicken Pasta on her blog site, The Pioneer Woman, and it has received great reviews.

The key to making this recipe worth tasting is all in the spices. Make sure you have plenty of cayenne pepper on hand and Ree suggests improvising with some bona fide bayou ingredients like crawfish, shrimp and andouille sausage.

This dish is sure to fulfill, so now let’s hope the game does too. Go teams!

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How To Brighten Someone’s Day…

01142013 cheer1 How To Brighten Someones Day...

The holidays are over, and winter is in full force, with cold weather and short days.

Many people experience “the blues” after all the festivities are over, and still others might be down because of stress, work, poor health and other factors. This is a wonderful time to reach out—and in the process, it will lift your spirits, too! Here are some ideas:

Plan a Get-Together: If you are nearby, it’s a nice idea to make plans to get together for coffee or dinner. Offer to do the driving, but if they don’t want to go out, you can at least visit. Arrive with flowers or a plant, and perhaps something yummy to eat, like fresh-baked cookies. If you’re far away, you can still send a lovely arrangement to boost their spirits. Bright colors and springtime fragrances are always mood enhancers. Or, simply pick up the phone and call. Nothing warms the heart like hearing the voice of someone who cares.

Make it Personal: A card is always welcome, and be sure to give thought to what the receiver would like, whether it’s a funny, sweet or heartfelt card. Pictures or even a photo card that shows people they love or favorite pets can also bring an extra measure of cheer. A handwritten note or personalized message is important, too. Be supportive, but also include a positive message: bring up happy memories shared, or fun times that are coming up.

Get Smart: In this world of iPads, iPhones and in general, smart technology, you can lift someone’s spirits with a simple touch of a key. Send them links to apps or websites they might like, such as a joke for the day to make them laugh, a daily message of inspiration, or even a game site to add some fun.

So make a difference in someone’s life and remember: “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” ~ Sir James Barrie

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Thanksgiving Preparation Tips…

11192012 thanksgiving tips1 Thanksgiving Preparation Tips...

Holidays are filled with food and fun, but when you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, it can be overwhelming.  We’d like to share some ideas for Thanksgiving to make the occasion less stressful, and give you more time to enjoy the day.  And we also included some helpful hints for your guests:

Create a countdown calendar to stay organized.   Make a list of what you need to do each day. Include things such as shopping, cleaning and decorating—as well as taking a little time for yourself.

Work on your grocery list early.  There’s no way to avoid crowds at the grocery store this week, but if you make a detailed list first that focuses on your recipes, shopping will be a snap!  Also consider purchasing a few gourmet-prepared foods to make cooking easier.

Plan out your cleaning time.  Family members can be a big help here, or if a close guest asks how they can help, why not suggest a pre-holiday “cleaning and coffee” get-together?

Simplify your decorating.   Make nature’s bounty the perfect accent by creating your own version of a cornucopia in a basket filled with luscious fruit, dried flowers and colorful leaves. Or spray leaves and pinecones with glitter shellac and arrange them around deep red and orange candles. Check out sites like pinterest for amazing inspiration, too.

Make a detailed schedule for food preparation.  Counting backwards for your Thanksgiving feast will let you know just how much time each item needs for preparation and cooking, and you’ll be able to devote the time in between to socializing with your guests.

Remember guest etiquette.   If you’re the guest this year, definitely find out what you can bring, but also remember not to crowd in the kitchen, and always help with cleanup.  Be sure to send a thoughtful thank you note afterwards, too.

Give thanks!  Finally, no matter what your beliefs, it’s nice to say a few words of gratitude before the meal.  After all, this day is about being thankful for life’s gifts.

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Back to School

ag blog artwork 082020122 Back to School

Backpacks, binders and buses—oh yeah, it’s back-to-school time! Whether your child starts tomorrow or still has a couple more weeks, here are some important reminders to make life a little easier.

  • Get super organized by using stylish, colorful folders to send all that required paperwork to the school office.
  • Lunches: to pack or buy? If packing, check out these great sandwich ideas; if not, don’t forget the lunch money.
  • Avoid a first day fashion crisis!  Whether uniforms or regular clothes, review the dress code and get the first week’s wardrobe lined up and hung in the closet.
  • When it comes to school supplies, most schools hand out lists, so shop around for prices and deals.
  • Label, label, label! You can use a permanent marker or order fun, personalized labels to last throughout the school year.
  • Gym clothes, sports uniforms, change of clothes—make sure it’s all labeled and packed. Tuck in an extra plastic bag for the dirty clothes and shoes.
  • Summer reading is standard at most schools, so check that the assignment is completed and set to go!
  • Backpack ready? Make sure you know the school requirements as well as the latest fashion trends for this essential item.
  • Get the kids to bed! Summer is great for staying up late, but now is the time to start getting to sleep—and waking up—earlier.
  • Finally, create a printable card at home and tuck it in your child’s lunch or backpack just to let them know you’re thinking of them on their first day.  It will make them smile!
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Keeping Busy in the Summer

ag blog artwork 07092012 Keeping Busy in the Summer

It’s summertime, and the living is easy! Fortunately, there are also lots of easy ways to have summer fun.

Stuck at work all day and feel like you’re missing out? No problem! Since it stays light later, make it a point to enjoy summer activities in the evening. Go swimming, take a hike, or ride your bike. If you don’t have the time to take a long destination vacation, try a “staycation” this year.

It doesn’t have to be a challenge to keep kids occupied during summer vacation. Most libraries offer programs that are both interesting and keep kids reading during their break. Give your kids something fun and tasty to do at lunch when they make their own crazy and creative sandwiches, then have them spend the hot afternoon enjoying crafts. Don’t forget to check out your local recreation department for day camps and sports clinics, or arrange your own group activities—such as trips to the zoo or amusement parks—with other parents.

“Free” is a great word, and it’s easy to find no-cost things to do in your city when you simply search on that phrase and add your location. You’ll be amazed at what’s offered for both kids and adults. These warm, sunny days won’t last forever, though, so get out there and take advantage of all the great things summer has to offer. And don’t forget to take as many photos as possible to document your summer fun – you can use them in scrapbooks or personalized cards!

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Celebrating Summer!

summer Celebrating Summer!

Long sunny days, warm starry nights…Who doesn’t love summer? Summertime = fun time—and one of the best ways to have fun is with a party – so get those summer party invitations ready!

There are so many choices when it comes to summer parties and they’re such a breeze to plan. All you need is the right setting and the perfect summer recipes.  A beach or pool party is a great way to cool off on a hot day, especially when you serve tall glasses of gourmet iced teas. Thinking of having a relaxing get-together? A woodsy site is another wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors. Bring along a portable grill, throw on some perfectly seasoned burgers, and you’re off to a great time!

If you’d like to keep the festivities at home, why not throw a tropical soiree and light up the night with strings of colored lights and tiki torches. For athletic sorts, a backyard sports extravaganza is a winner when you set up games like horseshoes, badminton, and croquet. And whether you’re cooling off those competitive spirits, or just looking for a refreshing treat for any summertime party, serve quick and easy desserts like frozen fruit slush. If you’re concerned about decorations, the best idea is to take a hint from Mother Nature and use bright, floral colors and lush, vibrant greens. Those summer-inspired hues will work great no matter what type of get-together you’re having.

Even though the air is causal, be sure to remember your manners! Thank you notes are always in season, so if you’re a guest, send a personalized thank you card saying “thanks for inviting me!” Your host will be thrilled—and you’ll be guaranteed a future invite. Likewise, if you are the one throwing the party and receive any gifts or treats, be sure to send out your thank-yous, too. It’s the perfect way to wrap up every wonderful, fun-filled celebration of summer!

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Spring Salads We Love!

So Easter has come and gone, and maybe you’re getting a little tired of all the sweets (hard to believe, I know, but everyone has their limit). We thought we’d share some Spring-inspired salads today from some of our favorite bloggers! These dishes all utilize fresh ingredients that remind us of this wonderful season. Enjoy, and let us know how everything turns out!

img 02041 Spring Salads We Love!

Seared Asparagus Salad - from Forgiving Martha

beet pistachio avocado salad Spring Salads We Love!

Beets, Avocado & Citrus Salad – from Camille Styles

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Heathy Snacking

hummus Heathy Snacking

February is almost over and we’ve all had sufficient time to crash our New Year resolutions of eating a little bit healthier. So let’s get back on track today with a little help from one of our favorite bloggers, Jess, of Forgiving Martha. Jess has some tasty and healthy snack ideas that are full of flavor, but not on fat – what’s not to love! Try them today and let us know what you think!

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Winter Milkshake!

 

white russian milkshake Winter Milkshake!

Sometimes you just have to have a little ice cream – even if it’s the middle of winter! And because it’s the middle of winter and chances are you will be eating your ice cream next to a crackling fire so you don’t get too cold, why not make it a fun spiked concoction! We came across the perfect recipe from Michelle – better known as the Brown-Eyed Baker! Michelle invented the White Russian Winter Milkshake – and the world is a better place because of it. This is the perfect creamy treat to enjoy with a group of girlfriends while watching a movie or catching up on some good gossip. Enjoy!

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Super Sunday Recipe!

macandcheese1 Super Sunday Recipe!

It’s time for the big game! Whether you’re a football nut, or you just like a good excuse to eat some yummy food – this is a great day for all. You know the typical recipes for a day like today – Chili, Chicken Wings, Nachos… But why not step it up a notch and make something that’s super satisfying but also super decadent.

Another one of our favorite bloggers – Rachel, of Elephantine – has shared this amazing recipe for baked mac & cheese with us and we’re salivating just thinking about it! So put on some comfy clothes, invite some game-watchers over and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

What are some of you favorite game-day recipes?

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Vegan Pasta Alfredo? Yes, it’s possible!

vegan pasta Vegan Pasta Alfredo? Yes, its possible!

Thanks to one of our favorite bloggers – Jess Simpson, of Forgiving Martha, for sharing a yummy recipe that is absolutely perfect for a Sunday night dinner – especially during the end of January! Nothing much says comfort better than a big bowl of pasta with a rich and creamy sauce – oh and did we mention it’s vegan?

Pasta is also a great idea for dinner parties because it’s super simple to make in large quantities, and what goes better with pasta than wine!?! We recommend getting a group of friends and family together, making this recipe and catching up on life for a while. Heck, throw a couple logs on the fire and it couldn’t get much better!

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Movie Night Done Right!

012112 movie Movie Night Done Right!

Need something fun to do? Try pulling together a movie night. Who needs the theater when you have the comfort of your own living room? Whether it’s two people or 20, movie nights make a great weekend party and the ideas are pretty much endless. Figuring out details like movie themes, recipes, décor and party favors are all part of the fun. It doesn’t matter if you go low-key or extravagant, spending time with people who make you smile, laugh and feel good is time well spent!

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What’s for dinner?

010812 cooking Whats for dinner?If you’re among the many of us who threw our diets out the window over the holidays, you might be trying to get back on track so we’re here with a lighter recipe to help get you started. One tip when you’re cooking lighter – don’t sacrifice flavor! Another idea we love is bringing back Sunday dinners with family – what a great time to try and get everyone around the same table for a little bit of quality time together!

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