Hot Caramel Apple Cider

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by Angela

I enjoy a pumpkin spice latte throughout the Fall months, but I think the forgotten hot drink of the season is a Hot Caramel Apple Cider. Fall comfort in a cup! My hubby makes them for us often October through the first part of December and they are the perfect reason to stop for a bit in the afternoon and enjoy. And with no caffeine they don’t keep me awake at night. Here is how we make them:

 

Start with an apple cider (not just apple juice). Most grocery stores have some local cider brands that are full of some extra cider-y (I made up that word) spices! I often find it in the produce section of the store.

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Then heat up the cider quickly by using your expresso steamer. Makes the cider nice and smooth and the perfect consistency. For large groups we heat up the cider in a crock pot and add in a few cinnamon sticks for flavor, smell and a decorative look.

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Now my favorite part before you pour the cider into your mug. Line it with caramel…LOTS of it.

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And then top it with some whip and more caramel for taste and a fancy look!

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And then please, sit down for a few minutes and just enjoy this delightful treat.

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Happy Fall, Y’ All!

 

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Family Pictures: 10 Steps to the Perfect Outfits

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by Laura

You don’t want to admit it and neither do I, but it is time to get those pictures taken for the Christmas cards!  Family pictures can put fear and trembling into a lot of moms, and I know a few husbands who would rather have a cavity filled without novocain than take pictures. 

There’s the outfit picking, the photographer prices, and then the ordeal of getting just.one.nice.picture.  You know this gold standard? The picture where everyone is looking at the camera, no tears in the eyes, and everyone is super happy about the clothes they get to wear?  HA!  

Growing up as a photographer’s daughter and doing some very basic photography myself I can see how the outfit really does help pull the entire look together, so I’ve come up with 10 things to consider when planning outfits for your family portrait.  

1. Location

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If you are taking pictures in a grass field, an urban setting, or inside with a backdrop, you are going to want your outfits to contrast and compliment the background instead of blend in.  If you are wanting some outside nature photos, you might want to steer away from wearing the exact color of the grass you are sitting in.  If you want to take pictures on the steps of a museum, kaki colored clothing might not be your best choice.  This doesn’t mean you have to have a super bright or opposite color, but just enough different that you aren’t all blending in.  

2. Formality

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Think about how formal you want your picture to look.  Are you going for casual t-shirts and shorts, all out with dresses and heels, somewhere in the middle?  Our Easter picture above was pretty formal, and this was, believe it or not, the best picture of all of us together.   

3. First Piece 

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Next step is to pick one piece that you want to build the families outfits around.  Maybe it’s a shirt of your husband’s, a skirt of your daughter’s, or even a bow tie for your son.  Start with one piece and work from there. For our family pictures coming up I loved a new checkered shirt of Eric’s, and so I decided to start with this.  

4. Color Story

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 Now you’ll need to decide what you are going to do with the other members of the family, so let’s create a color story.  Do you want a more neutral look with whites, browns, creams? Do you want soft colors, bright colors, or statement pieces? Once you have thought through a color story, walk into each person’s closet and choose a few different items that go with that story.  Think compliment, not match.

For me, I found Eva and Malachi’s complimenting pieces easily, but I had a hard time choosing a top for me.  I found four that I liked and each one brought a different feel to the picture. 

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See what I mean?  The navy makes the outfits cool and would look great in an urban setting.  The teal softens my look up a little but still adds a color pop.  The Grey sweater softens up the picture but won’t look great in the background we are going to, (state capital), and the Tan is also a nice soft color but again, will not be a good fit for our location.  I’m torn between the navy and the teal.  Which would you choose?  

5. Fashion Formula 

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Apply Angela’s Fashion Formula to creating each person’s outfit.  1.  Neutral.  2.  Color/Pattern/Texture 3.  Completer.  You can read more about it here.  Especially if you are going with a more neutral feel to your family pictures like we did in California picture above, the fashion formula is going to take your look from blah to wow!  

If you love neutrals or even gravitate to one color, each person’s outfit needs to have texture, (think knits, lace, overlays) or patterns, and slightly different colors so that you are not the amoeba family.  You can add sweet neutral accessories that keep your look soft, but give an individual look to each person.  

6. Lay it out

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Bring all the options together into one place. At this point in the process begin to lay out the items or hang them up to see how they look all together.  Does anything clash?  Are their competing pieces?  Is it too loud, too blah?  

7. Pop not blend

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Here is where I look at each piece next to the others and make sure no two people are going to blend together.  See me and my cute friends together? Because we are wearing jean jackets we meld into each other.  

In a family picture if I am wearing a navy shirt and my daughter has on a navy dress we will blend into one big blob, but if we choose complimentary outfits we will each have our own shape to our own body lines and each outfit stands apart from the others.  I especially do this with the pant/skirt choices.  Again, If I have on olive green pants and my son is hugging my leg in the picture with an olive shirt, we blend instead of pop.  

8. Take a Picture  

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Now on your bed, or the floor, or your curtain rod, lay out all the clothes with pants, skirts etc, and take a picture. You might be surprised how things look in the picture vs. how they look in real life.  That awesome detail you love in your shirt doesn’t show up in the picture, do you want to keep it or change it for something else.  Notice your husband and son’s pants are the same color and don’t pop, think about what you can do to change it up.  

9. Try on clothes

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At this point in the process you should be pretty settled on what everyone is wearing, but try on any clothes that haven’t been worn before to determine if someone needs an undershirt, a different size, tights, or is completely uncomfortable with your choice.  Better to have knowledge and tears before picture day!  

10.  Accessorize  

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My favorite part of pictures is deciding on the accessories which is the “completer” part of the Fashion Formula.  Shoes, belts, scarves, jewelry, hats, cardigans, jackets, ALL these things pull the looks together.  Here’s my friend’s family who used a coral necklace to continue the color story of her son’s shirt throughout the picture and it looks ADORABLE!

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Ok!  You guys are ready for family photo season!  Best of luck friends!     

 

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Visit a Pumpkin Patch

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by Laura

All over the nation pumpkin patches are filled up with cute round pumpkins, cute kids, and cute kids holding cute pumpkins.  IS that enough CUTE for you???  

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This weekend, our local garden center had a Fall Festival. While we were there, I watched my kids grinning their faces off on their way down the bouncy slide, I smelled fresh hay, and I ate 2.00 hot dogs.  It was the simple moment I needed in an overwhelming world.  

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I’m not sure if you guys are overwhelmed with kids and activities in full swing, presidential election posts on social media, responsibilities and pressure to make good life choices, but I am.  So some prayer and pumpkin patches helped calm my weekend, and brought much thankfulness.  

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I am thankful for fall and cider.  I am thankful for round cute pumpkins that bring all the nostalgic feels.  I am thankful for sweater weather.  I am thankful that I live in America where we bounce on houses and not Aleppo where we would experience houses with bomb attacks.  

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We are turning down the overwhelming knob in our family, and we are turning up the peace, prayer, and thankfulness, and this weekend at the Pumpkin Patch we experienced some relief.  

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So, get yourself to a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard soon!  Make some family memories, find smiles on hayrides, and let’s all agree to turn down the noise of the world this week, and turn up the peace.  

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Pumpkin Patch Pudding

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by Laura

The leaves are changing colors up here in Midwest land while my Vegas friends are experiencing their new season, Wind.  No matter what kind of weather you are in, these little pumpkin patches are a very sweet treat for you to whip up with the kids this weekend.  

What do you need to make these?  15 minutes and a few ingredients.  

  • 2 boxes instant pudding
  • 1 package oreos
  • candy pumpkins
  • green frosting
  • plastic cocktail cups

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Directions:

Whip up 2 boxes of instant pudding and let it set in the fridge for five minutes.  I told you guys this was easy.  I didn’t even know you could make pudding in five minutes, but who am I to question these things.  

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Crush up 1 package of Oreos in a food processor, blender, or a ziplock bag and some agression.  

Layer the pudding and crushed Oreos in a small cup.  You can tap the cup as you go to disperse the pudding and Oreos.  On the top use some green frosting to create a vine and then place your pumpkins on the vine.

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This recipe makes about 14 pudding cups.  You can eat them immediately, but if you have to wait keep them in the fridge. 

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They are so fun for a pumpkin carving party, classroom treats, or a surprise neighborhood drop off.  Have a happy fall with this totally adorable treat!  

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Butternut Soup Recipe

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by Angela

My family and I experienced a trip of a life-time a year ago to visit some special friends in New Zealand. One of those friends had us to stay for a few days and made us some wonderful Pumpkin Soup. I loved it, my family loved it and I came home needing to find a way to duplicate it!! Pumpkin is a bit different in a NZ, than America, so I substituted with Butternut Squash and couldn’t be happier with the results. We had it almost every week last Fall and can’t wait to begin enjoying it on the Dinner Meal Planning again this Fall. Scroll all the way down for Recipe Card 🙂

Start with the Butternut Squash (obviously!) Cut the skin off and cube it up.

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Heat up some olive oil so you can start cooking that squash up.

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And while its heating up, start slicing your onion and potatoes to add to your squash

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At this point I am tired of peeling and chopping, so I substitute peeling and dicing carrots for baby carrots.

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Add those easy carrots into the colorful delightful-ness and listen to that pot sizzle!!!

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Give a few stirs every so often as veggies get tender. I love stirring a full pot.

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Once tender, transfer to crock pot…look at those roasted veggies.

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Add Chicken Bouillon over top.  This is my favorite brand to use…better-than-bouillon

Poor boiling water over and let that crock pot do its thing. Warning you will enjoy delicious smells from the kitchen.

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Now you can sit back and relax all afternoon knowing that dinner is cooking. Ok, maybe not. Maybe you should work on the things you’ve been putting off on your to do list instead.

Ok, once you are about ready to eat. Use an Immersion Blender to blend the soup together.

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Add in some salt and pepper to season and continue blending until smooth. It is so smooth and creamy and sweet we don’t ever add in half and half cream. You just don’t need it, I tell you!

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Serve the soup up and enjoy. It’s like a Harvest in your Bowl!

 

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Helpful Tip:

When I first made this soup, I was not sure how to even cut into an uncooked Butternut Squash to cut it into cubes. So I did what all 2016 women do, I YouTubed it. Here is the link, incase you don’t know how to either.

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Butternut Squash Soup
Delicious Fall Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  2. 1 medium- large Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed
  3. 1 medium onion, sliced
  4. 1-2 carrots, peeled and diced
  5. 2-3 potatoes, peeled and diced
  6. 8 cups of boiling water
  7. 3 tsp Better than Bouillon Chicken Base, or 3 tsp chicken granules
  8. Salt/ pepper
  9. Ground Cardamom (optional)
  10. 1/2 cup half and half (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large sauce pan, heat oil and saute squash, carrot and potato until they begin to soften. Transfer to a crock pot. Add the chicken stock over top of veggies and pour over boiling water. Stir. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. (Modify to your crock pot for cooking time). Use a immersion blender to liquefy soup. Season with salt, pepper, and ground Cardamom, (opt) to taste. Can add cream if desired.
Notes
  1. Gluten, soy and dairy free, (if you don't add cream).
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