Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Co-Hosting Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop

Hello, everyone! Thanks for stopping by the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop! It has been so much fun co-hosting with Sinea this past month! Can't wait to see all the good things you guys bring to the party this week!!

Welcome to Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop #32

{Healthy} Banana Streusel Bread

Banana Bread, made healthier with the addition of whole wheat flour and flax seed.
But you'd never even know it....because with streusel topping, it's quite possibly the best banana bread you've ever tasted!

Banana bread is one of those things I grew up on. Like strawberry pie or cinnamon-sugar toast or Dad's frosting crackers, every time I make banana bread I am reminded of my childhood. I guess that means my mom must have made a lot of it....and now that I'm a mom, I understand why! Not only do I ALWAYS have an abundance of overripe bananas in my freezer, but I also LOVE knowing that I have breakfast covered. So when my kids ask what they can have for breakfast in the morning, all I have to do is slice a piece of bread and call it a day! (And then slice another for myself, of course.....)

Monday, July 29, 2013

M&M Cookie Brittle

Thin and crispy M&M Cookie Brittle - the taste of a cookie, with the crunch of a brittle!
Beware: disappears quickly!!

One thing that is definitely true about me is that, left to my own devices, I'm a nibbler. Especially when it comes to desserts! A nibble here, a nibble there....and before I know it, I've made a serious dent in the plate or pan of whatever it is I'm nibbling! When I was a kid, I used to think no one would notice - that the ever-shrinking pan of brownies would somehow never look any different to anyone else. I'm quite certain I was wrong...(when half the pan is suddenly gone, people notice! Even if it happened one nibble at a time!)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Flavored Simple Syrup

A simple recipe for simple syrup in any flavor - 
a delicious addition to lemonade, iced tea, or any of your favorite summer beverages!

If I'm being honest, one of my FAVORITE parts of summer is the drinks! I know that might sound silly....but I'm actually serious! All winter long we exist on coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and (if we're lucky) a little bit of water....and then summer comes around, and it's like a whole new world opens up! Smoothies and sparkling sodas and iced teas and lemonades....all cold and sweet and deliciously refreshing. And the best part of all? You can make them whatever flavor you want - naturally - with the addition of flavored simple syrup!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pesto Tortellini Salad

Tortellini pasta with pesto, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and fresh-shaved Parmesan cheese. 
It's all about great flavors!

For the longest time, I have been known among my friends as the "hostess with the mostess". I'm not sure why, exactly....but I can tell you that I love having people over to my house and I love going all out to make sure they enjoy themselves! One of the BEST ways I know of to make sure people enjoy themselves? Serve them great food! And by great I don't necessarily mean fancy, or difficult, or time-consuming....I mean SIMPLE food with GREAT flavors.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Best Birthday Cupcakes!

Moist, rich, delicious cupcakes with cream cheese frosting - hands down, the BEST birthday cupcakes ever!

As you may know by now, we had a BIG birthday party this past weekend! We celebrated our girls' 7th, 5th, and 2nd birthdays....which feels so different than 6, 4, and 1! I'm not sure why, exactly....but I think it has something to do with the number 7. For the longest time it was just clear: we were the parents of little kids. But now....now it's all different! Because if there's one thing 7 is NOT....it's little!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Co-Hosting Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop

Hey, Everyone! It's Tuesday night....and once again, I am co-hosting the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop with Sinea from Ducks 'n a Row! Thanks for stopping by....hope you stay to link up your latest and take a look around!

Message from Sinea (our host)...This feels a little bit weird but the most viewed post from last week's blog hop was my own!
It is a topic I think that we are all interested in...getting more blog traffic via Facebook!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Garden Birthday Party

Here's a little peek at our Red, White & Blue Garden Party
a birthday party to celebrate our sweet girls turning 7, 5 and 2! I hope you will take a look around and enjoy what you see....and maybe even find some inspiration for YOUR next summer birthday party!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Banana Split Dump Cake

Banana Split Dump Cake - with all the flavors of a Banana Split - 
is the perfect no-melt alternative to the real thing!

Is it just me, or do kids seem to have no end to their desire or love for ice cream?? Seriously! I feel like not a day goes by when my kids DON'T ask for ice cream....especially when it's hot outside and their favorite thing to do is open the freezer to stand in the doorway. (Remember doing that as a kid?) And while they're standing there, of course, they just happen to see the ice cream sitting there....and suddenly they just HAVE to have it! Every time! Of course, my job as a parent is to say NO at least half the time, and I do....although I have to admit the other day they had ice cream for breakfast!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Co-Hosting Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop

Hello, Friends!! I'm co-hosting the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop with Sinea from Ducks 'n a Row again this week! So glad you stopped by to join in the fun! Here goes......!

Last week you were busy....very busy, busy, busy clicking on links! We were so pleased to see multiple views on many posts from you, our dear friends...over 20 views on our most viewed post alone ...shared by our co-host Cathy of Lemon Tree Dwelling! 

Strawberry Lemon Sangria

Strawberry Lemon Sangria - all the best flavors of summer in a refreshing glass -
the perfect way to beat the heat!

Well.....summer is officially half over, and I have officially come to the conclusion that whoever decided to call it "summer break" was DEFINITELY not a mom! Ever since the very first day of "break" we have had at least one scheduled activity daily...and sometimes two or three! I know, I know....it's my fault for trying to fit so much in....but I just couldn't pass up all the awesome summer park & rec opportunities! We have taken tennis and gymnastics lessons, day camp and sports camp, and just this week the girls started an art class. And the best part of all? The amazingly low prices! How could I NOT sign them up for everything!?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pesto Avocado Melt

Grilled Cheese just got a makeover....with basil pesto, sliced tomato, and mashed avocado!
So good you'll almost forget it was ever "just" a grilled cheese...!

It's right around this point in the summer that I lose all interest in ever cooking dinner for my family again. I can't really explain it, but if I had to guess, it probably has something to do with the fact that it's summer....and I'm home with three kids (and often a few extra) all day, every day....and they expect me to feed them (all day, every day). So every day I make everyone breakfast, and I make everyone lunch, and I feed them in between, and by the time dinner rolls around, the last thing I want to do is make everyone dinner! Especially my kids! (Ha!)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Balsam Hill - Christmas in July {Giveaway}

Thank you to Balsam Hill for sponsoring this Christmas in July giveaway!

I know this might sound crazy, but one of the things I love MOST about summer is that there are no big holidays! Aside from the 4th of July, which is just pure fun.....and the fact that summertime = birthday time around here, I love that summer is free from the pressures of baking, hosting, shopping, wrapping, cooking, decorating, and celebrating the major holidays! Don't get me wrong - I love Thanksgiving and Christmas as much as the next person.....but can we agree that sometimes there is SO MUCH going on in November and December that it's hard to even enjoy it??

Since having 3 kids, I've really been working on NOT being the kind of mom who turns special days into stressful days. Even though we all clearly love summer....there's no reason we need to dread the holidays! I love to decorate and I love to host, but I have to do it differently now (or else we'll all lose our minds!) Here are a few simple tips that have worked for me - tried and true ways I've found to be able to enjoy myself in the holiday season....but still make things feel special!

1. Get inspired. Inspiration is everywhere! I recently shared that I started planning for this year's summer birthday party LAST summer....and it was all because I got inspired by a package of napkins I found at the store! When it comes to decorating and planning for the holidays, why wait until November to get inspired? Open up your eyes NOW....you never know what you might find!

2. Do a little bit at a time. Everything feels easier when you tackle it in pieces! I'm a big fan of doing a little bit at a time - picking up a few gifts here or there, collecting new holiday decorations as I see them, gathering cookie recipes and fudge recipes that will be perfect for Christmas...regardless of the fact that it's only July....! There's no better feeling than knowing you already have a start....no matter how early it is!

3. Use what you have. I'm a firm believer in using what's available to you! Especially when it comes to decorating. Now that we live in a woodsy area with lots and lots of trees, I have lots and lots of sticks and twigs and pine cones available to me....and you better believe that I make use of them! In fact, when I looked back at some of my posts from this past Christmas, I had to laugh at what I found! Yep, I definitely used what was available to me.....

4. Celebrate in the off-season. Okay....so we haven't gone as far as having Christmas in July....(yet!) but we have gotten good at stretching our holiday celebrations out and away from THE day. We've celebrated Thanksgiving in December and Christmas in January, and it's been okay! Actually, it's been more than okay...because when you celebrate a little bit "off-season" you appreciate it more! I can only imagine how much we'd LOVE a Christmas in July party....maybe for next year's summer birthday party?!? (See...I told you....inspiration is everywhere! And it's NEVER too early to start planning.)

So what's inspiring me right now? This gorgeous potted tree from Balsam Hill!! And you know what? There are SO MANY to choose from! If you've never heard of Balsam Hill, you HAVE to go check it out! It's a wonderful site with wreaths, garland, Christmas decorations and home decor......and lots and lots of trees! This tree (the Mountain Meadow Potted Tree) spoke to me, in particular, though....because of the beautiful pot it comes in, because of the compact size, because of the gorgeous sage green, and because of the fact that it picks up my natural, woodsy motif (can't you see it fitting in beautifully with everything from last year!?) It was so easy to put together - just 3 pieces - and I absolutely LOVE IT! I must say....it feels great to already have a head start on Christmas....inspiration and all!

But the best part of all?? I want to give YOU the same gorgeous tree....to help you enjoy yourself a little bit more this holiday season!

AND, since Balsam Hill is having a huge Christmas in July Sale, I want to share a coupon code with you, good for an additional 10% off anything on the website! Just enter  LEMONTREEDWELLING10 at checkout!

Good luck, everyone.....and happy shopping!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tropical Spinach Salad

Fresh spinach, tropical fruits, chopped pecans, and homemade sweet lime vinaigrette -
SUMMER.... in a salad!!

As you probably know by now, one of my favorite summer foods is SALAD!! Not only is it deliciously light and refreshing, but I love the variety of fresh produce that is available in the summertime. It's like a whole new ballgame! I don't know about you, but I am a HUGE fan of combining fruits and vegetables in salads....and I love using different nuts and cheeses as toppings. The more different flavors and textures I can pack in, the better! (Can you hear how excited I'm getting just thinking about it?)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

DIY Garden Party Invitations

These DIY Garden Party Invitations - made with simple seed packets - are the perfect starting point for a 
Red, White & Blue Summer Garden party!

Birthday parties have always been my thing. Ever since Ellia turned 1, I've been doing my best to do 'em up! We've had all kinds of different themes - polka dots, zoo animals, honeybees, butterflies, princesses, a backyard picnic party, and this year, a red/white/blue garden party (next weekend)! The parties have varied in their extravagance, depending on life circumstances (2 years ago, when Nora was a newborn, it was all I could do to throw a party, period!) And when I say extravagance, I'm not talking ponies and bounce houses, but the small stuff! The decorations, the party favors, and all the little details that make a birthday party feel special. Those are the things that make parties so fun for me!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Co-Hosting Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop

Welcome to Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop #29!
Last week you shared so many great links!

Our most viewed posts were:

How To Make and Refill Foam Hand Soap by Make It Or Fix It


Dark Chocolate Madeleines by Mess Makes Food

Basil Pesto Panzanella

Basil Pesto Panzanella - chock full of fresh veggies, grilled bread, Italian sausage, and Parmesan cheese, and dressed in a flavor-filled pesto vinaigrette - the perfect tribute to summer!

One of my absolute favorite parts of summer is planting a garden. We first planted one about 4 years ago, when we lived in our first home, in a tiny space on the edge of our tiny yard. And somehow, magically, it grew like crazy!! We had more tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, basil, and even lettuce than we knew what to do with....all without doing much of anything! Ever since that year, I am smitten with the idea of a garden and can't wait to watch it grow.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup

Delightfully sweet and refreshing, this chilled Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup is the perfect starting point for a delicious lunch with the ladies! Sure to be a new summer favorite!

In my mind, I'm someone who hosts weekly brunches, lunches, and dinner parties....not for my kids and their friends, but for my friends and me!! And at these weekly gatherings, we enjoy hours of relaxation and adult conversation, free from whining and negotiation, free from worries about naptime and timeouts. I serve only the most delicious foods - fresh fruits and vegetables, crusty loaves of bread, different types of cheese, soups and salads....and every part of the experience is stress-free and wonderful. (Just as I had imagined it!)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Birthday Thank You's with Cardstore!

This post is sponsored by Cardstore
All opinions are 100% my own.

As you may know by now, summertime means birthday time around our Lemon Tree Dwelling! As someone who used to work in a school, having summer babies was something that was really important to me...and I was lucky enough to have all three of my girls in the summer months! So, along with sprinklers and sunscreen, our summers are filled with birthday cake, balloons, and....of course....presents! SO MANY presents!! Between grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and neighbors and friends, my kids make a serious haul! By the time we reach the end of birthday season, we have a houseful of new toys and a week's worth of thank you cards to write. And if there's one thing that can stress this mom of three out more than anything, it's thank you cards!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Google+ Blog Hop!

I'm thrilled to be co-hosting this month's Google+ Blog Hop, hosted by The NY Melrose Family! Read on and join in!!

Welcome to the Google+ Blog Hop for July!  
G+ Blog Hop Button july
Are you ready to expand your circles and find some amazingly talented crafters, foodies, techies, and diyers.  I know I am!  If you’re new to G+ and need some quick tips, make sure to check out my 8 Tips to Maximize your Google+ Presence.  Make the most of what you’re doing!  You can also find the perfect tips for the beginner to the advanced G+ user in my Conquering Google+ article.
If you’re more of a visual learner check out the Google+ Series for DIYers, which include setting up your G+ profileand Growing your G+ Circles.
To join this G+ blog hop, link up your Google+ profile page URL (NOT your blog’s homepage).  For the “name” section, use your name or your blog’s/website’s name.  Use your personal photo or your blog’s/website’s button/logo for the thumbnail picture.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

{No Bake} Key Lime Meltaways

Sweet and tart key lime bars on a crumbled sugar cookie crust - these Key Lime Meltaways literally melt in your mouth...and are sure to leave you wanting more!

I'm not sure I've ever met someone who loves key lime as much as I do. And not just because it's the perfect sweet-tart combination, or because it's most often eaten in the form of a pie, but because, for me, it brings back instant memories of my honeymoon. It's hard to believe my honeymoon was nearly 9 years ago now....in some ways, it feels just like yesterday! I remember so much of it - riding bikes around Sanibel Island, lying on the beach for an entire afternoon, eating endless baskets of crab legs, playing cards late at night by the pool, collecting seashells at Captiva beach......

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Co-Hosting Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop!

This week's Wonderful Wednesday blog hop is more wonderful than other Wednesdays because it is our first to include co-hosts!  Yes, our blog hop is growing up.

Please welcome our three lovely co-hosts for July:

Lisa from Sweet 2 Eat Baking
Katie & Margaret from Sugar Me Pretty
Cathy from Lemon Tree Dwelling

Meet the Host

Meet Sinea!

Ducks 'n a Row is the brainchild of Sinea Pies (pronounced SEENA) where she writes about everything she loves...organizing, time management, saving money, cooking & recipes, family fun, faith and dogs!

Ducks 'n a Row is 3 years old this week!

Nutella S'mores Cheesecake Cups

All the best of the s'mores you've loved since childhood.....with the delicious additions of cheesecake and Nutella!
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

One of my only memories of camping as a child was when I was around 5 years old and my parents took our family of 6 on a camping trip around the state. Since I was so young, my memories are vague, but the 3 things I remember for sure are whistles, grapes, and Oreos. Whistles because that's what my parents got each of us for the trip....and grapes & Oreos because that's what got us through the night!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Root Beer Float Pops

 Just when you thought Root Beer Floats couldn't get any better - Root Beer Float Pops! 
All the flavors of the floats you love, just better!

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you are having a great start to your 4th of July week....ours is off to an oh so busy (but oh so fun) start! We celebrated Ellia's 7th birthday yesterday and are having a "pajama party" for her with some school friends tonight. She is so excited!! We spent the weekend getting ready - planning, shopping, cleaning, and, of course, making treats! I'm not sure how many of them we'll actually be able to use for the party (we've already made a pretty big dent in most of them)...but either way, I'm excited to share them with you! First up: these tasty Root Beer Float Pops!
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