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Holiday Gift Guide #1 // Books + Paper Products

November 21, 2017

In the last year I’ve re-committed myself to reading books. I’ve always been an avid reader, but once Ainsley was born, reading got pushed to the back burner, something I felt sad and a little guilty about. So this year I’ve made a conscious effort to read, even if just a few pages of a book each day, and my life is undoubtedly richer because of it. Personal development, fiction, non-fiction, even books for kids. The list goes on and on.

I’ll be posting a series of holiday gift guides in the weeks to come for those of you who are doing your Christmas shopping in hopes that I can share with you items I genuinely love and products that have made my life richer, starting with books!

  1. A Simplified Life by Emily Ley (pictured above)
    I put this one first because my dear friend Emily’s second book launches TODAY. I’ll be honest and say that my pre-order hasn’t arrived yet, but it’s due to get here tomorrow and I already know I’m going to love it. Tactical tools for intentional living? Yes, please. Emily is a fellow business-owner, wife, mom and very busy woman and I have a feeling any mom in your life would be blessed by this book.
  2. Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
    Another good one for busy moms who are trying to sort out and prioritize what matters (do you sense a theme here?) this book has been such a wonderful read! It’s a beautifully designed book and Erin’s words always thoughtful and compelling. I’ve been reading it slowly, chapter by chapter, savoring and thinking about each section before moving on to the next.
  3. Write the Word Journals
    A dear friend gifted me one of these journals that has been on my wish list for quite some time. Each journal is topical (joy, gratefulness, etc.) with scripture prompts on each page, encouraging you to write out each prompted verse and other thoughts you may have in the process. They are beautiful little journals and the perfect stocking stuffer.
  4. Kids Legacy Prayer Journals by Val Marie Paper
    I just bought two of these – one for each of our girls – and they are beautifully designed and made. I’ve been wanting to be more intentional about praying for our girls and these journals leave a beautiful legacy for keeping those prayers in one place. I’m so excited to see how God answers the prayers written in these journals over time and imagine they will be special keepsakes for the girls as they get older.
  5. 2018 Power Sheets – Intentional Goal Planner
    I don’t personally own these but I have friends that do and RAVE about them as a way to goal set intentionally and mindfully in the new year. What a great gift to give someone to start 2018 off on a focused, thoughtful note.
  6. Emily Ley’s Baby Book 
    We have two of these and I can’t tell you how much I love them. As someone who isn’t very crafty and doesn’t really enjoy that aspect of motherhood, these books made me feel craftier than I actually am. There are plenty of prompts to help guide what you write down and spaces for you to put photos with suggestions on what type of photos to include. I also love that it’s a binder so you can 3-hole punch important documents and paperwork from each child.
  7. Chatbooks
    We love these little photo books to archive our family memories. I wish that I was even better about organizing and archiving things like this, but having our favorite photos at least printed and in our house makes me feel like I am taking a step forward. Bonus? They are currently offering 20% off photo books and prints and have some really cute gift-able covers and designs!

 

*Affiliate links used as appropriate. 

Family, Food & Recipes

Holiday Snack Mix & Travel with Kids

November 15, 2017

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img_6588This post is sponsored by SC Johnson. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make the content on Espresso and Cream possible. #ZiplockHolidayUAI

Back before I had kids, my visions of weekend baking projects were pretty idyllic and, I now realize, unrealistic. I imagined my child happily cutting out cookie dough and decorating cookies, mess-free. Of course now that I have two kids of my own I know better than to tackle elaborate or time-intensive baking projects. Because Ainsley is bound to lose patience and I’m bound to be picking up a giant mess long after the project has lost it’s novelty. So these days, we keep our holiday baking projects on the simple side and everyone in the family is a lot happier because of it.

We have a few holiday road trips coming up in the next few weeks, including some air travel to visit family in Florida, so I’ve been planning and strategizing on how I’m going to keep not one but TWO kids happy in the car and in the air. My solution: busy bags filled with all sorts of goodies, activities and fun new and inexpensive toys. Because we all know that an entertained child is a happy child.

I headed to our local Walmart last week before music class to pick up a bunch of goodies for our trip, along with the supplies to make this Holiday Snack Mix recipe. Ainsley and I made the snack mix together, then portioned it into Ziploc® Brand Storage Snack bags for our travels. We also tied some of the bags with ribbon for gifting to friends and family.

I filled the Ziploc® Brand Storage Gallon bags with coloring books, crayons, stickers, inexpensive figurines (Ainsley’s favorite!), our homemade snack mix, a few new movies, and more. Hopefully these bags provide hours of entertainment and delight while we are doing our holiday travels!

Partnering with SC Johnson on this post was a total no-brainer for me, because as a mom of littles, I use Ziploc® Brand bags for pretty much everything. I always have at least a few Ziploc® Brand Storage Gallon bags in the car as makeshift trash cans on road trips to keep the car clean and organized and to keep figurines and toys grouped together and keep a bunch in my purse for air travel to contain trash and dirty diapers. Mom hacks all around!

Check out the full (easy!) recipe below. And if you’re a frequent Walmart shopper like me, there are also some great coupons available here.

Holiday Snack Mix
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 10 oz. white almond bark
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 6 cups square-shaped rice cereal
  • 2 cups pretzel sticks
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup red and white candy-coated chocolate pieces
  • Red and green sprinkles
Instructions
  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave the almond bark, peanut butter and butter on HIGH 30 seconds. Stir; continue to microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring between intervals, until almond bark, peanut butter and butter are melted. Continue to stir until mixture is well combined. Stir in the peppermint extract.
  2. Combine cereal and pretzel sticks in a large mixing bowl. Pour almond bark mixture over cereal and stir until well combined and cereal is evenly coated. Transfer mixture to a Ziploc® Brand Gallon Bag and add in powdered sugar. Seal back and gently shake to coat cereal with the powdered sugar.
  3. Transfer mixture to a flat surface covered with parchment, waxed paper or aluminum foil. Spread in an even layer and add in the candy-coated chocolate pieces. Sprinkle with the red and green sprinkles. Let cool completely.
  4. Divide the mixture into Ziploc® Brand Snack Bags. Tie with ribbon, as desired.

This post is not sponsored or affiliated with Walmart.

Family, Uncategorized

Cute & Crafty Christmas Gifts

November 13, 2017

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This post is sponsored by InComm s as part of the #SaveMoneyGiveBetter2017 campaign. All opinions are my own and I so appreciate you supporting the brands that make Espresso and Cream possible! 

Since it’s only November it may seem like I’m jumping the gun a little bit on Christmas, but for some reason this year I’ve felt especially festive. Maybe it’s the fact that my toddler is finally old enough to understand the concept of Christmas, or because it’s Collins’s first Christmas or a combination of both, but I’ve been humming Christmas carols since Halloween.

I fully believe the point of Christmas is not material things or gifts, but for me gift giving is such a joyful process. To me, the holidays are the perfect time to make sure that those in our lives are recognized and appreciated for what they do and how much they mean through gifts and words of affirmation. It’s probably because I’m such a words of affirmation and quality time person, but it’s always less about the gift and more about the fact that someone took the time to write a sweet note and purchase the gift that means the most.

Also, as someone who is a habitual procrastinator, I’m bound and determined to make this year the year I get my cards out on time, my gifts wrapped in a leisurely fashion and don’t forget a single person on my list – from music teachers to childcare providers to friends and family.

While grocery shopping at Walmart last week, Ainsley and I took a detour through the Christmas section. She got all excited about seeing “Olaf!” (aka a giant blow up snow man) and I got sucked into the giant gift card display. Since we live in a small town, our local shopping options are pretty limited and most of my Christmas shopping is done online, so I was excited to see how many different gift card options there were to choose from. Some may say gift cards are impersonal, but I LOVE receiving a gift card. It feels like forced shopping, in the best possible way.

Ainsley is just getting to the age where she has a few more teachers, so we picked up a 3-pack of $20 Vanilla Mastercard Gift Cards to dress up and gift to people on our list. While there were a lot of options to choose from, I opted for a gift card that could be used for practically anything, since, like I said, we don’t live near a lot of stores and most of the people I know do plenty of online shopping.

To make our gift-giving a little more special, we also snagged some of the cutest gold glitter gift bags, gift tags, mini snowflake ornaments and some candy to fill the bags with in addition to the gift card. Seriously, I’m not a crafty person by nature but I think these little handmade gifts turned out pretty cute. Hopefully Ainsley’s teachers feel the same!

Madison

Uncategorized

A Little About Sponsored Posts

November 6, 2017

Hi friends! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and are feeling ready to tackle whatever your week has in store. I wanted to hop on today and talk with you all about sponsored posts. In the coming weeks/months, the way the editorial calendar and brand calendars aligned, you’ll be seeing a handful of sponsored posts and I wanted to take a minute to talk through my sponsored post selection process.

First, sponsored content is what keeps the lights on over here. Blogging is part of my “wears many hats” career, and while it’s certainly not going to make me rich any time soon, I continue to blog because I LOVE writing, sharing, and being creative. That said, as my blog has grown it costs money to house the site on an adequate server, buy equipment for taking photos, props for recipes, etc. There are a lot of hidden costs that go into blogging and sponsored posts cover that for me throughout the year.

I think there is an assumption that sponsored posts require the blogger to “sell out” and compromise themselves, watering down their opinions and voice in the process. And I understand that! Opportunities pop into my inbox frequently – I work with various influencer marketing agencies who send opportunities my way, brands sometimes reach out directly, and other times I reach out to the brand myself if I really love and use a product and think it would make sense to work together.

Sometimes the opportunities that are presented to me are financially lucrative but I say yes to very few projects in the name of being authentic to the way my family lives, the products we actually use, and what I think you, my readers, would be interested in hearing about. Just recently a clothing company reached out and offered to pay me in $750 worth of high-end clothing in exchange for a shout-out. But when I looked at their website most of the blouses were more than $250, a price I knew most of you wouldn’t or couldn’t afford, so I declined the offer. Sometimes it’s hard to say no to opportunities like that, because who doesn’t want expensive clothes for free? But ultimately accepting sponsored posts that aren’t a good fit for Espresso and Cream would undercut my credibility with YOU. And you all are the most important part of this whole thing.

I tend to gravitate toward sponsored posts that incorporate places I regularly grocery shop (Walmart, in our area) or that allow me to use my expertise and experience as a recipe developer by giving you a new recipe to try. I try to always ask myself, “Would I buy this product in my daily life outside of this sponsored post?” or “Would I normally shop at this retailer?” If the answer is “no” then I pass every. single. time.

So, with that said, I just wanted to lay the groundwork for the upcoming sponsored posts that you’ll be seeing on Espresso and Cream!

Madison

Family, Infertility and Miscarriage

Losing Them, Loving You

October 30, 2017

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I’ve been thinking all month about what (if anything) to write this month, seeing that it’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Sometimes, in the thick of parenting two little kids, our losses seem to fade into the background, a sad and heartbreaking circumstance that paved the way for both our girls. Sometimes, when cleaning up messes and disciplining toddlers and trying to grocery shop with both and maintain my sanity it’s hard to think about much else besides just getting through the day alive with everyone fed and unscathed.

But because of our losses, I’ve “met” so many of you I know your stories through emails, blog and Instagram comments and real-life coffee dates. Some of you have found my posts about miscarriage years later and are still writing me to share your stories – a fact that humbles me and makes me so very aware of the three babies we ourselves lost in the process of growing our family.

Sometimes I don’t think about our losses, until I do. When Ainsley puts together a puzzle in the blink of an eye or plays make believe with her Paw Patrol figurines. When Collins looks at me with her big, sparkly eyes and giggles the sweetest, softest giggle. When I notice that our girls both have the same set of amazing eyelashes or when Collins looks at her sister like she hung the moon, it hits me.

I wonder what their brother would have been like.

I wonder if their other siblings were boys or girls. I so wish I knew.

Like any (most?) types of loss, it never gets totally easy, life just continues on and time eases some of the raw edges. Losing three babies and now having two little ones makes me so aware of who they could or would have been. Joe is quick to remind me that the timing of our losses makes it such that we couldn’t have had the babies we lost AND our girls, and I wouldn’t trade our girls for the world. But when I look at Ainsley and Collins, a part of me will always wonder what our babies would have looked like. It shapes how you parent your earthly children, the thankfulness you have for the more mundane and challenging parts of parenting, the everyday moments that are somehow a little more special.

Madison