Friday, March 28, 2014

Chocolate Cake in a Cup

Ever been in the mood for a chocolatey treat but have NOTHING in the cupboards? Or you want something quick and don't feel like going through the hour long hassle of baking? This is the perfect solution! A little too perfect actually. It's too easy to do, which can be a little dangerous :) But if you are really wanting a quick treat, this is awesome.

I've tried quite a few of these mug cake recipes and this is by far the easiest, not to mention the best tasting and the best texture. Many of them turn out very spongey, but this one is perfect.

Here's what you need:

1 egg
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar

And....that's it! You can add a splash of vanilla and any extra bits if you desire. We often drop in a handful of chocolate chips and/or marshmallows to kick it up a notch.

Mix them all together (the egg is beneath the sugar and cocoa in this pic).

Pop in the microwave for 30-50 seconds. My daughter likes her very dry so we go for 50 seconds for her. For a moister cake, go for 30-40.

You end up with a crazy looking lump of a cake, but it's delicious!! You can top with powdered sugar, ice cream, or whipped cream, but this cake is plenty sweet enough to not need anything extra.

(I don't remember where I found this recipe, it's been quite awhile, but similar recipes can be found at Babble, and Chocolate Chocolate and More

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Trailers

Have you ever seen a book trailer? I love them. Like movie trailers, but for novels :) I also love to make them. It's a lot of fun and I love adding some visual and musical spice to the blurbs for my books :) Here are the trailers for a few of my books. (A Bandit's Stolen Heart has a gorgeous new cover so the one you see in the trailer isn't what you'll see if you look for it. All info on my books can be found up in the book tab) :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Collage It!

I absolutely love art and pictures and one of my favorite things to do is create collages, both for my own home and as gifts. has a photo section where you can create all sorts of collages, at any size. One of my favorite pieces of collage art in my house is a huge, poster-size picture of my kids. I picked several of my favorite pictures of them, arranged them in a collage, and blew them up. I think the total was about $18 - and that included having it shipped right to my house :)

I've also done this type of thing for gifts. My parents have received these collages for holidays and a couple years ago, we did one for my husband for Father's Day. I found a bunch of pics of him and the kids fishing and let the kids decorate the mat with their own messages for him and fishing stickers.

Another fun way to use photos and pictures is to trim them down and glue them to a mat, using them to create a border for a larger picture.

These are a really fun and inexpensive way to display a ton of pictures all at once, without using every available inch of wall space :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

10 DIY Spider Repellents

I love spring. One of my favorite times of year. One thing I do not love....SPIDERS *shudder* Can't stand the little buggers and since I am out in the country, those little buggers get pretty big.

But, I also have two kids, three cats, and one dog in my house, so I'm not a huge fan of spraying poison willy-nilly about the place. So this year, I've been researching some natural repellents that supposedly work really well that I will try out.

1. Plant mint and lavender around the house
This one I am looking forward to. Both plants are lovely and smell wonderful, so even if they don't keep the spiders at bay, they'll improve the look of the place.

2. Essential Oils
You can make your own spider spray using essential oils. I've found several different recipes:

  • 5 drops of essential oils, 5 drops of liquid dish washing soap, and a quart of water. 
  • 10-15 drops of two scents in a spray bottle full of water
  • 20-30 drops in a quart
When it comes to spiders, I tend to go with the "more is better" mentality, so I will probably try the third option :)

The oils that I've read work best are:

  • citrus
  • peppermint
  • lavender
  • cinnamon
  • tea tree
  • citronella
  • eucalyptus 
  • neem
  • rose
Citrus and peppermint seem to be the ones most people swear by. Again, it'll make the house smell amazing even if the spiders don't disappear, so it can't hurt, right?

3. Citrus juice
Spiders supposedly hate this, so you can mix any sort of natural or sugarless citrus juice with water and spray where necessary. I hesitate to use this one because I don't know if it will attract other bugs and, having children, I know how sticky citrus juice can be. However, you can also use this to spray on your outdoor plants to keep spiders away, so it made the list. You can also leave citrus peels around your garden to deter spiders there.

4. Vinegar
This stuff seems to be a super ingredient. From cleaning to bug repellent, it can apparently do it all which means I'll be hitting Sam's Club soon to stock up :) For spider repellent, you just combine equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle and go to town. You can also add this to your essential oil spray from #2, and is needed for numbers 8 and 10.

5. Tumeric
This seems to be another super ingredient. I've read several uses for this stuff, but a spider and bug repellent is another one. It's a spice you can find in most grocery stores and all you do is combine it with some water to make a paste and smear it wherever you have a problem area. It's supposed to work particularly well for insects like ants. However, this will leave yellow stains so I wouldn't use this on anything but tile and I'd test a small area first.

6. Garlic
Just add a few cloves to a spray bottle of water and start spritzing. I think I'd prefer the essential oil scents though...

7. Tomato Leaves
Blend tomato leaves with 4 pints of water and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and use in a spray bottle.

8. Coconut Oil
Yet another use for this awesome stuff! Use 1/2 oz in 1 quart of white vinegar in a spray bottle. STAIN ALERT - this one supposedly stains as well so use with caution.

9. Catnip Oil
This one is supposedly very effective. You can buy a catnip plant, bruise the leaves, and rub them on problem areas or on baseboards/windowsills/corners, etc. I do wonder how it would effect the cats in the house though...they are already pretty crazy...

10. Spicy Spray
Use 1/2 vinegar and 2 tablespoons chili powder or hot chili sauce, shake, and spray. This is supposedly very effective but I think the smell would kill me.

Now I know spiders are good (theoretically) and they help keep other nasty bugs away. So I do try to leave them alone when they are outside. (Except for my porch kids won't go out on the porch if the spiders are there and we've had them get big enough that my husband was able to shoot one with an air gun instead of using a fly swatter which means the sucker was REALLY BIG. So, I keep the porch as spider free as possible.) Other than that, I use a "I'll stay out of your way if you stay out of mine" approach to spiders.

However, one got into my husband's shower poofy last year and chomped him when he went to use it. It was huge and nasty and the bite felt like a bee sting and was fairly horrible looking for several days. So this house will be awash in the aroma of lavender, mint, and citrus and I'll keep you updated as to whether or not the spiders make an appearance :)

Do you have any tried and true spider or insect repellents? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Dinner!

Usually for St. Patrick's Day my husband makes corned beef and cabbage, carrying on a tradition my mom always did for my family while we were growing up. But, today he won't be home for dinner so I'm left to my own devices *dun dun dunnnn* My hubs is definitely the gourmet cook in the family. I'm usually in charge of all things baking related :)

But for today, since I didn't want to attempt the corned beef thing on my own for the first time, I thought I'd do something fun for the kids. So this is what's on our menu for tonight :)

Mini meatloaves - found on

My son has been asking for meatloaf for weeks and I'm hoping the fact that these cute little things look like muffins will entice my uber-picky daughter to try it out :)

Sweet Irish Soda Bread - found on

I love this stuff. LOVE LOVE LOVE it :D Though I usually make it without raisins because no one in my house will eat them lol

And for dessert.....

St. Patrick's Day cupcakes - found on

These look sooo yummy, and the kids will love them! :)

Do you have any St. Patrick's Day traditions or yummy treats in store for today?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Birthday Giveaway Winner!

And the winner of the birthday giveaway is.....

Tina Myers!!

Thanks so much to everyone for stopping by and participating. I hope you keep coming back :)

Tina, look for an email from me.

Thanks again everyone!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Star Wars Birthday Party

For my son's 8th birthday, he wanted a Star Wars party. And we had a blast with it :D

I downloaded a bunch of Star Wars music and had it playing while the kids arrived and had one of the movies going for the kiddos to watch until everyone got there.

Upon Arrival

When each child entered, he/she got a padawan training badge. I can't find a close up picture but you can kind of see it here. I printed it out on paper with a cloud background.

Each child got to choose a sticker of a Star Wars character for their ID photo and we entered their Star Wars name (their real name spelled backwards - my son Connor became Ronnoc). Their species (human) and planet of origin (Earth) were also listed. These were quickly covered with clear contact paper to laminate them, and strung on a string to hang around their neck.

Below their picture and info were their training tasks (the party games) - when each task was completed, they received a star sticker to place next to the task. And on the back were fun Star Wars trivia questions with multiple choice answers.

I'd also planned on making padawan robes out of cheap brown sheets (just cutting a large square with a neck hole, secured around the waist with twine) for each child, but ran out of time. The kids loved their badges though.

Task 1 - Learn how to build a light saber

I bought several foam pool noodles, cut them into light saber size sections, and bought several rolls of different colored duck tape for the kids to decorate with.

Task 2 - Light saber training

This mostly consisted of roping off an area with streamers and letting the kids go at it (with Daddy as referee calling the winner, who would fight the next padawan). I think this was the most popular game of the day :)

Task 3 - Locate the enemy fleet

I found a fun "Pin the Laser Blast on the Spaceship" game at Party City for about $5. I'd been looking for a poster with all the Star Wars figures to play Pin the Light Saber on the Jedi, but couldn't find one, so finding this game was perfect.

The lanterns above the poster are regular tea party lights that I painted gray to look like mini Death Stars. My son still has these hanging over his bed two years later lol They make perfect night lights!

Task 4 - Destroy the Death Star

For the Death Star pinata, I bought a soccer ball pinata and painted the white areas gray. I've seen some more elaborate versions of these, but this really worked great. We wrapped a bat with duck tape to look like a light saber :)
(my stepson wearing the defeated Death Star on his head) :-D

The Food

Along with pizza, we had:

Padme Pineapples, Greedo Grapes, Organa Oranges, and Skywalker Strawberries

Wookie Cookies

I really lucked out with the Pringles - these were on sale at WalMart (I think a Star Wars anniversary had just happened so Pringles had all these Star Wars character themed chips). We also served Yoda Soda and Vader Juice :)

There was also Jedi Jello squares (black cherry for the awesome color), and light sabers (a bowl of Twizzlers and pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate). You can also sort of see the padawan badge here around Little Man's neck...I printed them out on cloud paper.

The Cake

My son wanted a cake depicting the Battle on Mustafar between Obi Wan and Anakin. So I found some figurines for the top, made a black bottom layer covered in black sugar, a top layer with brown fondant breaking apart with oozing red lava, and the red light sabers along the bottom layer are made with Twizzlers and Tootsie Rolls. I also made a couple T-fighters out of cookies, a large marshmallow and pretzels with details piped on in icing, but they ended up being too heavy to suspend from the cake :) We found the cool Star Wars candle at Party City also.

This was a really fun, and fairly inexpensive, party. For party favors, Party City had a ton of fun stuff. Each child got a little bag with Star Wars tattoos, pencils, pencil sharpeners, notepads, and pinata candy. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Downsized Desk Dilemma

It's finally getting a bit warmer out...well, maybe not warmer, but at least the sun is shining! And with that comes the urge to clean all the crap out of my house :) Everywhere I look there are piles. Every available surface is covered with junk. And I'm going trash bag happy ;-)

Case in point - the family computer desk. The kids and the hubs use the computer for playing their games and the occasional school project. The rest of the desk is mostly used to collect junk...and lots of it.

I've cleaned and organized this thing more times than I can count and it always ends up looking like this:

(and this is fairly clean actually - I'd already cleaned off the abandoned dishes 
and moved a few pictures that had been on top of the desk).

In order to solve this problem, I decided to downsize - drastically. I'd thought of doing this before, but I really loved the desk. I loved all the cubbies and all the shelves that I could hang Post Its from, and it had a bookshelf on the left side, so getting rid of the desk meant finding spots for those books (or getting rid of a few more). So I'd always decided against getting rid of the desk in the past.

But...the time had come. So I put on my big-girl britches and bought a MUCH smaller desk. And I love it!!

Now, I still have piles of stuff that I can't throw away that I'll need to find spots for. And I'm going to add a shelf or two on the wall above the desk to hold the phone and speakers so there is a little more space at the desk.

But for now, the room feels bigger and cleaner, and best of all, there is NO available surface area for my family to dump their stuff. :-D

Now....on to the rest of the house! :-)

Are you spring cleaning yet? What are you tackling first? And don't forget to enter the giveaway! 3 days left to enter!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Birthday Giveaway!!

It is my sweet husband's 47th birthday today so we definitely need to celebrate :-D I'm going to give away a $20 gift card to your favorite retailer!! Just fill out the form below (contact information is only for notification purposes only) and I'll announce the winner on the 16th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Birthday Honey!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Put Some Coconut Oil On It

This stuff is AWESOME. I can't even tell you. You can seriously use it for everything from cooking to soothing a rash. It's extremely healthy for your body, inside and out, and has a zillion practical uses as well.

It was a little pricey at our local grocery store so I stopped buying it for awhile. But I recently found it at Sam's Club for $8 for a 20 oz jar so I stocked up :-) (at the grocery store the jar was half this size for a couple dollars more). You can sometimes find good deals online as well. The good thing is a little of this stuff goes a very long way, so it lasts a while.

Currently, it is our #1 go-to as a lip balm. My son gets horribly chapped lips, but he REFUSES to put anything on them. I even bought him a super cool, Star Wars chapstick that was colorless, odorless, tasteless, and looked like a light saber (it had a light on it so it glowed red when he turned it on).

He loved a toy. Wouldn't get it anywhere near his lips. I have to sneak into his room a couple times a night to put lip balm on him. Not fun.

Then I had someone tell me they used coconut oil as a lip balm, so I tried it out. LOVE IT! It is soft, silky, and instantly soothes chapped lips. And the best part - my son will use it! I should have known he'd have no problem rubbing food on his face ;-)

And when I say a little goes a long way, I'm not kidding. To generously cover both his lips (and the chapped areas above and below his lips) I only need to scrap a tiny amount on the tip of my fingernail and it covers all the problem areas.

Here are a few of my favorite uses for this awesome stuff:

Lip balm
Body lotion
To cook with as a butter replacement
In smoothies
On mosquito bites
On my son's eczema (just found this one, we'll be trying it next time he flares up)

I googled around and here are a few other awesome uses:

As a natural SPF 4 sunscreen
Mixed with salt to remove dry skin on feet
Rub a little inside your nose to help with allergies
Anything baby related - as a diaper cream, baby lotion, to help with cradle cap, as a nipple cream for nursing moms (and it can help treat thrush)
As an eye makeup remover

And, one of my all time favorite uses and the reason I started buying the can make a healthy chocolate snack out of it :D 

Here's the recipe (which I found on this awesome blog):

I prefer to use agave as a sweetener, but you can also use liquid Stevia drops, maple syrup, honey, or any liquid sweetener. This is what I do:

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder 
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted) 
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar (this is the original recipe - I played around with the amount a bit to make it a tad sweeter as my kids don't like dark chocolate. It makes it taste a little fruity, but it's yummy!)
  • Optional - different flavored extracts or other add ins (crispy rice, nuts, etc)
Combine the coconut oil with your sweetener, then stir in the cocoa powder and stir until it's totally smooth. Then pour into any flat container and freeze until it is set (store in the freezer).

Simple, yummy, and healthy! :D

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dryer Sheets - Not Just for Laundry :)

I started using dryer sheets for more than just laundry when I found myself staring at a washer and dryer covered in dust and dribbled laundry soap one day. The only thing handy to wipe them off with was my box of dryer sheets. So I grabbed one. And have been wiping things up with them ever since :) Any brand works but I prefer Bounce with Febreze just for the fabulous smell :D

Why I love to clean with them:

  • Dust clings to them
  • They easily take off that sticky, dried-on spilled soap and the gunk that builds up under the washer lid
  • If you ever dry a crayon in your dryer, rub it with a dryer sheet - comes right off!
  • Use them to dust your baseboards - not only to they work great but your whole house will smell fabulous :)
  • I also stick them in my pockets if I'm going into a nerve-wracking situation where my hands might get a little sweaty ;) They help :D
  • And I've heard they keep mosquitoes away if you keep them in your pocket. Haven't tried that yet...
  • Because dryer sheets leave a little bit of residue (make sure you wash your lint trap screen every so often...if it's been awhile you can pour water on it and it won't go through the mesh!) it helps keep new dust from sticking to whatever you've just dusted. Which is just the icing on the cake :D

I'll grab one and wipe things down by hand or stick them onto my Swifter and get the harder to reach spots. I don't use them on glass or electronics because of the residue it leaves, but pretty much anything else that I'd use a spray cleaner/dusting solution on is game :) The house looks and smells amazing when you are done!