Thursday, December 18, 2014

21 Before 22 Update // December

1. Workout on a Regular Basis
I keep meaning to.......

2. Be Craftier
I did get to be fairly crafty with Christmas presents. Most of the craftiness included baking but that's how I'm crafty I guess. 

3. Take a Few Cooking Classes
I just had the genius idea of planning a girls' night with the other ladies in my small group sometime in the New Year.

4. Go Away for a Night Without the Baby
Summer 2015 here we come!

5. Take a Family Vacation
I think sometime at the beginning of the New Year we are going to try to do a little weekend family trip.

6. Work on Cake Baking Skills
I'm making a Christmas cake for a little Christmas gathering with my girlfriends tomorrow.

7. Work on Brownie Baking Skills
I DID THIS! I made these brownies and added in Andes mints baking pieces and they were delicious. 

8. Read at least One Book Per Month
Favorite reads are highlighted in yellow.
October - Taboo by Casey Hill, This Doesn't Happen In The Movies by Renee PawlishKiller Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs, Out of the Past by Renee Pawlish, Murder In The South of France by Susan Kiernan-Lewis, Last Call by Rib CornellDeadly Aim by Patricia H. Rushford, Likely Suspects by G.K. Parks
November - In Between by Jenny B. JonesMurder She Floats by Stephen Kaminski, Louisiana Longshot by Jana DeLeon 
December -  Without a Trace by Colleen Coble

9. Work on Food Styling Skills
Now that I have a nice little set up I want to work on styling that set up with props.

10. Participate in an E-course
I need to save money so I can take one, I'm thinking about one from A Beautiful Mess.

11. Pursue Christ
Not only am I serving more at church but I am reading my Bible more often and being intentional about praying with William every night.

12. Fill the House with a Few More Plants
I have poinsettias for Christmas! They're pink!

13. Create an E-something
Ideas are in the works. My goal is to have an e-book out by March and an e-course sometime in the summer. But those are goals, so don't hold me to 'em. ha

14. Watch Less TV
I have not been doing a great job at the less tv thing the past few weeks. I should try doing one day a week without the tv at all.

15. Try Riding Bike Again
This summer you better watch out. I better watch out.

16. Be More Confident
I'm starting to feel a little bit better in this area. I am definitely getting out of my box more which helps.

17. Make Photo Books of William
I'm waiting until after Christmas to make the first photo book so that I can do a zero to six months photo book.

18. Make Homemade Baby Food
Started! In the freezer I have bananas, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and applesauce. And I have green beans, more bananas, more squash, and avocados to turn into food for William. So far William has tried sweet potatoes and applesauce. He isn't a huge fan of the potatoes but loves the applesauce.

19. Work on Photography Skills
I shot a casual wedding in October and I'm working on my food photography and practice makes perfect, so I'm trying!

20. Take More Outfit Photos
I did take a few photos of the outfit that I wore to Seth's work Christmas party. I met him there so I didn't have anyone to take my photos before we got there and by the time we got home it was dark, dark, dark outside. So I shared the iPhone photos on Facebook.

21. Make My Home a Creative and Inspiring Place
Well I have a to do list for decorating the house, I just need to actually complete it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recipe // Chocolate Cheesecake Cups with Strawberry Sauce

A little while back I shared a recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake Layer Cups, which are super easy to make and no bake. And they look awesome. Easy and awesome looking. It doesn't get better. In the comments, my friend Britt said that she loved the idea for them but doesn't like pumpkin. So I suggested a chocolate version with some sort of yummy berry sauce. And so Britt, here is your chocolate version. 

This is a rich, decedent tasting cheesecake, which like the pumpkin, is no bake (minus the strawberry sauce). It looks like you spent hours putting together dessert but you didn't. It's just that awesome. It's also the perfect dessert for a small dinner party because you can give everyone individual desserts.

Yields: 4 servings          Prep Time: 15 mins          Cook Time: 30 mins          Total Time: 45 mins

1/2 sleeve of graham crackers, broken into pieces (about 4 whole crackers)
3 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar

cheesecake layers
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
8oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tub cool whip, thawed (you may want to use a little more)

2 cups frozen strawberries, thawed
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (depends on your preference)
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon or orange juice
1 Tbsp cornstarch

1. Prepare the crust. In a food processor, pulse crushed graham crackers into fine crumbs. Add melted butter and brown sugar until combined.

2. Divide the graham cracker mixture evenly into four glasses. Press the mixture firmly into the bottoms of the glasses to make a crust. Place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

3. Prepare the chocolate cheesecake. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and cook in microwave in one minute increments, stirring in between each one until smooth and melted.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add in melted chocolate, vanilla, and sugar and beat until combined and creamy.

5. Fold in half the container of cool whip until no streaks remain.

6. Remove the glasses from the fridge to assemble. Spoon a layer of the chocolate mixture on top of the crust followed by a layer of cool whip. Repeat until glasses are full, ending on a chocolate layer. Top with a dollop of cool whip.

7. Place the glasses in the fridge to chill. Chill for at least one hour, uncovered. If chilling for more than an hour, loosely cover with plastic wrap. They may be prepared up to 12 hours prior to serving. 

8. Prepare the strawberry sauce. Towards the end of chill time, prepare the strawberry sauce. In a small saucepan, place all ingredients and cook on medium-high heat until you reach a boil. Let boil for 20-30 minutes until sauce is thickened and is strawberry-y. 

9. Before serving, put a bit of the strawberry sauce on top of each cheesecake cup.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Our Christmas Cards + FREE Card Template

I've been excited to send out a family Christmas card for as long as I can remember. Like even before I met Seth, I was excited for the day when I got to send out my own family Christmas cards. And now that the time has finally come tons end out our family Christmas cards, I am so happy with the results. 

I spent a few weeks compiling a list of possible Christmas cards from various websites along with their prices. And the prices were just killing me. It's insane how much Christmas cards cost. We only needed 60 some cards but most cards only come in packs of 25 so to shell out all of that money and have way too many cards was just not worth it to us. So I decided to go semi-diy and design the cards myself.

I wanted a simple design that wouldn't take away from our gorgeous family photo so I played around with different font combinations and layouts and I ended up using the font Notera paired with Times New Roman. I got our cards printed from Nations Photo Lab. I just googled "doubled sided photo postcard" to find this site so this was the first time ordering from them. I was a little nervous since it was the first time I used them but their examples online looked fantastic and I am so pleased with the print quality and how quickly they shipped. I ordered 3 packs (25 cards/pack) of their 5x5" postcards on linen paper and chose a fun pattern for the back. All I had to do was upload the .jpg file with our photo and design and put that on the front side with the pattern on the back. NPL even threw in free envelopes for me. And all orders $50+ get free shipping so since I ordered 5 packs it was about $60+ and I got free shipping. I am seriously pleased with not just the quality but the pricing as well. Oh, and as soon as they finished printing them (which did take a few days), they did overnight shipping so they got to me practically as soon as they finished printing.

It's not too late for you to send out Christmas cards as well! And I'm even going to help you out by giving you a free card template! You could either print you card(s) out at home or choose a quick shipping option from a place like Nations Photo Lab. The 5x5" template is available for download in two different formats, .png and .psd. If you download the .png file you will receive a 5x5" template with a transparent background and just the design/text in white and the text is not editable. You can then place this image on top of your chosen photo in a program like Microsoft Word. The .psd (Photoshop document) is a 5x5" template with a transparent background and white design/text and the "from our family to yours" text is omitted so you can add your own signature in Photoshop if you'd like. The layers are locked so all you need to do is place your photo in the document, behind the design/text. Below are some examples for you.

If you download the .png file, this is what your design will look like. None of the text is editable.

If you choose the .psd file, the signature (the text in Times New Roman) is completely omitted, leaving you space for an optional customized signature.
clicking a link will redirect you to to download the file
.png     |     .psd

Using the free card template for you Christmas cards? Share it using #littlecitycrafts

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review // Babyganics Cleaning

During my weekly trips to Target I always see Babyganics products and have been meaning to try them out for quite some time. The packaging has always drawn me in and the fact that the word "baby" is mashed with the word "organic" always appealed to me. But with only one of us working, I never got the chance to "splurge" and try something new, not knowing whether it would work or not. Well last week, Babyganics sent me a plethora of products to try out and review for you guys and so far...I have loved every single product. I mentioned two of the products in yesterday's post, Updated Diaper Bag Essentials, and today I wanted to do a straight up review of the cleaning products I received. Rather than trying to work the cleaning products into a "normal" post, I thought a simple review post would be the most helpful for you, my lovely reader.

Here's the dirt (ha) on the floor cleaner: it has no paragons, sulfates, ammonia, bleach, phosphates, fragrances, or dyes. It is rinse free and leaves no residue and is perfect for tile, vinyl, porcelain, sealed hardwood, carpet (compatible with carpet cleaners), and laminate. And like their other products, it is never tested on animals. This product is ideal if you mop your floors, which I do not. But I did use a rag and scrubbed the grouting between the tiles in our kitchen. Let me say that I do use a Swiffer Steamer on our kitchen floors at least once per week and I had just cleaned the floors the night prior to scrubbing them with the floor cleaner. Despite what I thought was good cleaning, the rag was literally black when I started scrubbed the grouting. The floor cleaner did a fantastic job, it got up spots on the tile that I thought were just going to be there forever but the cleaner got them up! Seriously, I thought that some of those spots were just stuck there forever because they had been there before we moved in. The cleaner made the water nice and soapy, perfect for cleaning up the grime without too much effort. Overall, I was quite pleased with the cleaner. I just wish that I had gotten this a month ago when we were borrowing my parents' carpet cleaner so I could try out that aspect of the product.

Babyganics' multi surface cleaner cleans glass (it's streak free!) and hard surfaces without any harsh chemicals. It's non-toxic and non-allergenic and is Pediatrician and Dermatologist tested. Basically, it can't get any better than that. I've found that some surface cleaners leave a visible sort of film on my dark laminate counters but this surface cleaner left no film and had no icky smells. I felt like my counters were clean and safe after using this product. A win win.

The dish and bottle soap is non-toxic, non-irritating, and non-allergenic. And like the surface cleaner it is Pediatrician and Dermatologist tested. This is an excellent bottle cleaner for sure, the fragrance free aspect and its gentle suds are perfect for bottles. For everyday dish washing it's not quite ideal for me because it doesn't feel "strong" like it can get the tough grease up off of pans. It does get the gross dishes clean but I felt like I had to use a little extra effort to get the really stuck foods up. But I do plan on using it as a bottle cleaner because it doesn't leave any kind of residue on the bottle nipples or plastic bottles, an issue I've had with other dish soaps.

How many of you have one or more Bath & Body Works hand sanitizers floating around your purse and diaper bag? I currently have two in my purse, one full and one practically empty. They are great, I mean I guess that they do the sanitizing job pretty well (I don't actually know the facts for those) and sometimes the fragrance is obnoxious, but overall they are pretty great. But I would never use one of those hand sanitizers on William. It just feels like too strong of a sanitizer. In comes Babyganics' alcohol-free foaming hand sanitizer. This bad boy is made with plant-based ingredients and kills 99.9% off germs. It's also non-allergenic and Pediatrician and Dermatologist tested. That's pretty legit for a hand sanitizer, right? Sign me up! The only con is that it felt drying on my skin despite the claim that it has a moisturizing formula.

Before I get into the awesome information about these wipes, I just want to start off by saying that I absolutely love them. Seriously. Besides their awesome cleaning power, they are made with no harsh chemicals and is made with a plant-based cleaning power without ammonia, bleach, phosphates, phthalates, sulfates, fragrances, or dyes. I have been on the search for some sort of wipe or spray cleaner that I would feel comfortable using on William's toys and I have finally found it. These wipes are super strong and get the job done without a ton of scrubbing and scratching. I used a wipe on his highchair because I forget to clean up applesauce from the previous night on the tray and it easily wiped it up like it was fresh applesauce not dried on gunk. I even used a wipe to clean off my Kitchen Aid mixer and it got all of the dried flour/butter stuff that was stuck to it and left it nice and shiny. Without a doubt, these wipes are my favorite cleaning product from Babyganics.

I am more than happy with all of the Babyganics products that they have sent me. Many of them I will be purchasing for our home once they run out and there are so many more products from them that I am excited to try, like the gel teething pods, cold relief chest rub, natural insect repellent, and more! have you tried any Babyganics products? What are your favorite all natural cleaning products?

 *all products in this post were sent to me from Babyganics for review. All opinions are my own, information about the products is from the Babyganics website.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Updated Diaper Bag Essentials

I found a few new products and items that we keep in William's diaper bag at all times and have come to really rely on these few products. Recently, Reviver clothing wipes and Babyganics sent me a few products to try and I seriously love everything that both brands sent me. But more on that later...

Before I go into details about our newest/favoritest diaper bag essentials, I thought it would be fun if I go through William's diaper bag and share everything that is currently in it, I'm not going to leave anything out no matter how gross it may be...

Currently in the diaper bag (besides the products shown above) there is a changing pad that came with the bag which has poop stains on it, extra wipes, one of these balls, a dirty burp cloth, a white polo onesie, Weleda's White Mallow body lotion, travel size Noodle & Boo lotion which is just about empty, a pair of baby socks, a small burp cloth that we took from the hospital, a pair of jeans which are a tad small for him, another pair of socks, an empty plastic bag, a dirty pacifier, a sample size diaper rash cream that the pediatrician gave me because I think she thought I wasn't treating his diaper rash, and an adorable little hat. All of this is literally thrown in the bag with no organization, it's bad. I need to organize this because I can't find anything in a pinch. What's in your diaper bag??

Newest Diaper Bag Essentials
Carter's Tee // These tops from Carter's are by far my favorite thing to dress William in. They are comfy for him to play or sleep in and they make him look like a little man.

Comfy Pants // His back up outfit always includes a pair of sweatpants because they are easy to get on and off if he's having a and if he's wearing dressier pants to church or something and we go somewhere right afterwards, I like to have something comfy to put him in so he doesn't feel restricted while playing.

Clothing Wipes* // Reviver Clothing Swipes recently sent me a few products to try out and I was so excited because I remember seeing them on one of my favorite shows, Shark Tank. Lori Greiner ended up giving them $150,000 for 15% of the company and I can see why, the wipes really do work. They are perfect for those moments when baby spits up and even if you clean it off, it still smells a little, and for when you stop in at a coffee shop and come out smelling like ground coffee (which can sometimes end up smelling like cigarette smoke to some people). These are definitely staying in the diaper bag for easy access. If you go over to their website they are offering 20% off!

Wipes Holder // This wipes holder is from Huggies and comes with wipes but those particular wipes make William's entire butt red so I took out those wipes and replaced them with ours. I love this holder because it's easy to get the wipes out in a hurry and the container is silent unlike most travel wipe packs which are all noisy when you touch them.

Up & Up Diapers // I've talked about these before but they are just grand. Not only are they affordable but they are the only non-"all-natural" diapers that don't give him diaper rash. It's a win win.

Babyganics Diapers** // I've been wanting to try out Babyganics products for awhile but never got the chance until they sent me a few (actually they were super generous and I have enough products for multiple posts, thanks guys!) products. So far everything is fantastic (like I said, more to come!) but I really enjoy their diapers. All of their products are "Baby safe" and won't irritate baby's sensitive skin. I found these diapers to not only have adorable designs on them but they felt strong, like there was no chance they would fall off even with William rolling around like a nut. And best of all, William had zero signs of diaper rash!! Here's the dirt on the diapers: they are chlorine free, made with plant-based materials, made with renewable resources, and have great leak protection. 

Sanitizing Hand Wipes** // Sometimes there are messes where regular 'ol hand sanitizer isn't going to do any good. You know what I'm saying? These are perfect for when you need to change a diaper on a go and a mess ensues. Like the diapers from Babyganics, these are also made with plant based materials. The wipes are also alcohol free, kill 99.9% of germs, non-allergenic, dermatologist tested, and never tested on animals. Basically, they are awesome. 

Have you ever tried any of these products? What are your essentials and favorite diaper bag products?

*Reviver Clothing Swipes were given to me for free to review. All opinions are my own.
**Babyganics products were given to me for free to review. All opinions are my own.
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