November 19, 2014

Warm Up with Mighty Leaf Tea {Giveaway}

Across much of the country, Mother Nature has given us a bitter taste of winter.  Here in Pennsylvania, it has been painfully cold, and living in an old house makes the change in weather more acutely felt.

It seems like all day, every day over the past week, I'm heating the kettle for tea. My hands crave something warm to hold and my mind and body are fighting the chill with the delicious comforts of tea.
One brand of tea I splurge on is Mighty Leaf.  They have such yummy brews, both caffeinated and decaf, made from whole-leaf teas and packaged in a compostable silken tea pouch.
Mighty Leaf sent me one of their three box samplers, the World Flavors gift sampler, which includes Ginger Twist, White Orchard, and Organic Detox Infusion, all of which have been making my cold days at home more enjoyable.
This tea is no joke--check out the plump size of that spent tea bag!
It's all whole leaf tea in there, and I've been known to actually brew a second cup with it.  The White Orchard tea is smooth and fruity, containing the flavors of peach and melon and with just the slightest amount of caffeine (nice for evening sipping).  The Ginger Twist is perfect for generating some internal heat this time of year; the spicy ginger is nicely complemented by the lemongrass and mint.  Out of the sampler, the Organic Detox Infusion was personally my least favorite--good but I could do without the licorice.

I'd say of all the Mighty Leaf teas I've sampled, the Green Tea Tropical is my pick--its fruity, fresh flavor is so uplifting.  It's awesome iced in summertime.  My husband is a big fan of their Vanilla Bean black tea--there might just be a box in his stocking this Christmas.  Speaking of holidays, the Mighty Leaf Holiday Gift Guide is a great place to start looking for something special for someone special. 

Along with tea, Mighty Leaf's innovative Tea Top Brew Mug would make a unique gift, especially for a commuter.
You simply heat your water, slip the tea bag through the slit on the top with the tag hanging out, and after the tea is brewed you pull the bag slightly through the slit which doesn't allow your tea bag to stew in the tea and make it bitter.  Brilliant!
Mighty Leaf offers so many more varieties of tea pouches, loose tea, tea gifts and teaware.  You'd be hard pressed not to find the perfect gift for a tea drinker.

WIN IT!
One lucky reader will win a World Flavors Gift sampler and Tea Top Brew Mug!  Please enter via Rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a sample package and Tea Top Brew mug from Mighty Leaf.  All opinions are my own.

October 14, 2014

Make a Personalized Trick or Treat Bucket

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Halloween.  I love to cover my house in pumpkins, skulls and all other things spooky.  The fall tends to reignite my desire to craft, so naturally I make a few new things for Halloween each year.

This weekend I decorated buckets for my sons for Halloween.  Over the years, we've most used bags, but I love the look and durability of a bucket.
When Jam Paper contacted me recently about partnering with them on a fall-themed craft, I knew just what I wanted to make.  Fortunately, they sell reasonably priced and beautiful colored buckets (along with a huge variety of paper supplies, of course) which are perfect not just for trick or treating, but for so many other things.
I started with two of their large colored buckets, one green, one black, as well as a few packages of colored gift label stickers.  I also chose a sheet of letter stickers to personalize the buckets with my sons' names.
I needed a pair of scissors and some yellow grosgrain ribbon for extra decoration too.

This was an easy craft to make, especially that you're essentially just creating a collage with the colored stickers.  I started on the Frankenstein bucket and made some jagged purple hair for my monster using the purple Jam Gift Label Stickers.
I determined that I'd need 4 to go across the front of the bucket horizontally, and then I make a jagged "hair line" along the bottom edge of the stickers.
It was as simple as peeling off the back of the sticker and lining the stickers up along the bucket rim to create Frank's hair.
You actually don't notice the seam in person; it's just noticeable here due to where the light was hitting it.

Continue making Frankenstein's face in the same manner, cutting some zigzag black pieces for the eyebrows and mouth, maybe orange and black for the eyes.
Then I stuck on the face.  In the case of this monster, I think the simpler the better when it comes to designing the face.
I did put a few spooky words like "boo!" and "eek!" along the sides of the head, and some letter "t's" made nice Frankenstein bolts.
I added my son's name on the back too, by cutting out a tombstone shaped sticker and adding RIP plus his name under it.
For the black bucket, I wanted to make it resemble one of those vintage black cat designs.  I used the same technique of cutting out pieces to create a cat face.
Green eyes,
an orange nose and a jagged orange mouth (made from two long strips of sticker pieced together)
and some purple ears and whiskers.  I added some white accents around the eyes, ears, and between the nose and mouth with white label stickers.
To add a bit more flair, I tied some strands of grosgrain ribbon on the bucket handles at each side.
I think they look adorable!  They'll be a great way to hold treats on Halloween night.
I happened to have some extra large glow-in-the-dark stickers lying around, so I used them to add my younger son's name on the back of his bucket.
The possibilities are endless for decorating these buckets, and because you can peel/wash off the stickers (they're sturdy, but still are removable) you could use this bucket throughout the year or change out the design each Halloween.

You can find more craft ideas on Jam Paper's blog, as well as on their Facebook and Pinterest pages.
Disclosure: I received sample products from Jam Paper and Envelope to facilitate the making of this project.  All opinions and ideas here are my own.

September 4, 2014

Hippo Haven at Adventure Aquarium

A few weeks back, the boys and I met some friends at Adventure Aquarium, where they've just reopened the Hippo Haven exhibition.

We've been to Adventure Aquarium a few other times, and have always been impressed with the hands-on, family-friendly exhibits, and Hippo Haven was no exception.
When you walk in, you're greeted by a dramatic vista of the exhibit.  The use of contrast in shadow and light makes for a memorable entrance, almost like waiting for a performance on stage.  The atmosphere is enhanced by low-playing music as well, kind of a low hum that adds to the drama of the exhibit.
 There's so much to take in and see as you enter the space.  You have the option of going upstairs to Hippo Lookout for a wider view
or meandering along the path to see the two female hippos, Button and Genny, close up.
Genny was born 13 years ago in Disney's Animal Kingdom, while Button was born 17 years ago in Parque Zoological de Leon in Mexico.
They're amazing creatures that seem to tiptoe-dance along the bottom of their water habitat.  It's so cool how graceful they appear, considering what large animals they are--they can actually outrun humans!
There are a few vantage points from which you can view the hippos, even being able to see them under water in the lower level.
The fish swimming about are an added bonus, making the hippo habitat a bit more authentic to their natural living conditions in an African river.
The kids were amused by the hippo gals' "toy", a torn up tractor tire.

As you make your way to the lower level of the exhibit, you can sit and watch Genny and Button or watch a video about hippos.
Sprinkled throughout the exhibit are interesting facts about these beautiful animals.
Having worked in museums, I'm impressed with the way this exhibition has been reworked.  It entices visitors to enjoy and learn about these amazing animals in a unforgettable environment.

Of course we had to stop and see Lizzie before we left, along with the other amazing displays of aquatic life throughout Adventure Aquarium.
Adventure Aquarium is open year-round, and I'd imagine this time of year is a great one to take preschoolers and toddlers because school is back in session and field-trip season hasn't yet begun.  And of course weekends are a great time to visit with older children.   We've been to Adventure Aquarium multiple times over the last few years and always learn and see something new.
Disclosure: I received tickets to Adventure Aquarium to facilitate this post.  All opinions are my own.

August 26, 2014

Begin Again

It's been a quiet summer--at least here on my blog.  I'm sure many of you can relate, trying to keep that marathon of long summer days under control, not burning out too quickly.  School has begun again for my first grader (what??? I know, I can't believe I'm typing that) so I thought I'd try to begin again with this old blog here.
Emotions were strong yesterday for S.  Like his mother, he has trouble acclimating to new situations.  A few tears were shed as he trudged up those bus steps, but I'm confident he'll settle in over the next week or so.

I've been busying myself (I know, it's only the second day) with canning and freezing stuff from our garden.  The tomatoes were fabulous this year, so I want to be able to enjoy them in December, if they last.
Crock pot tomato sauce--freezer or canner?  Haven't decided yet.
I messed up my pickles though; I forgot to add water to the brine so these will induce extra puckering of our mouths!
There's also been a lot of yarn on my knitting needles, which is so uncharacteristic of me in summertime.
This slouchy hat above was a lot of fun to knit.  You can find the pattern, called "Minty" on Knitty (it's also on my Ravelry page).
This shawl got me through a long plane ride to and from San Francisco; I knit practically the entire trip.  Soren and I flew to see my brother in July and had a blast.  I miss that foggy city.

So that's what's been going on around here--boys getting bigger, seasons dissolving into the next.  We're embracing beginnings here!
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