Category Archives: Family

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Spring Fun with the Family

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

IMG_0454We moved to Utah last year, and one of the most wonderful experiences of living in this state is the Spring weather. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and makes it perfect for family outings and activities.

Here are 3 ideas to help your family spring into Summer!

1.  Zoo!

The zoo is a wonderful place to head in the spring and early summer. It’s warm enough for the animals to be out, without it being too hot. The Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake recently opened the first portion of the new African Savannah; it is a magnificent sight to walk through the gates and see the lions. This time of year is the perfect time to see new babies at the zoo, too.

2.  Explore the Outdoors

Whether it’s a walk on a trail or a drive up to the mountains, the roads are clear and the snow is gone. It’s a perfect time to explore your area – maybe even time for a staycation!

3.  Grill, Baby, Grill!

While we tend to use our grill all year long (even when it’s freezing cold and there’s snow on the ground) there is just something about being able to be out on the porch without being in a parka that makes it a lot more fun. Our favorites: Dave’s “famous” burgers or salmon steaks.

Do you have a favorite Spring family fun ideas to share? Stop by our Facebook page and let us know!

 

 

 

tweeties

A-Tisket, A-Tasket: How to Make a Bargain Basket

We’re always looking for frugal ways to enjoy the holidays, so we asked Ashley McCann, PushPenny’s expert on running a home on a budget, to give us some ideas we can put into action for Easter. Enjoy!

MomsGetReal Contributor Ashley McCann

Spring is here and that means Easter is on the way. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting until the last minute and being forced to choose from overpriced, picked-through items in the specialty aisle of a convenience store the night before the big day. The Easter bunny can be on a budget and still put together a bountiful basket without breaking the bank, with a few practical and heartfelt homemade ideas to help celebrate the holiday.

The foundation

Get creative with container choices and enjoy long-term use with something like a beach bucket, a hard-sided lunch box, a decorative storage container, a flower pot, a popcorn bucket, or a small wicker laundry hamper. Your Easter basket certainly doesn’t have to be a basket, and doing something different can set the stage for a fun theme or more interesting presentation. Consider containers that may make life easier and see if you can incorporate those ideas.

The filler

Don’t waste your money on that annoying plastic grass; you’ll regret it when you’re vacuuming. Trust me, I know. Use inexpensive tissue or crumpled solid colored paper to prop Easter basket items up. This is more about eliminating a mess than about cost, but they are equally important in creating an enjoyable holiday. I’m just trying to help you out here, from one mom to another! But if you don’t mind the potential mess, you could run some colored paper through a shredder for do-it-yourself Easter grass.

The fun

Of course, the real cost and effort usually comes from what fills the basket, but you can save money and still make it fun by going homemade. Don’t be so quick to dismiss the thought if you’re not so crafty.

Here are a few easy ideas for the Easter bunny to bring, and you can always fill in the blank spots with items found in the dollar aisle:

playdohPlay Dough: Let kids use their imagination with this safe-to-ingest clay that’s so inexpensive that you won’t even mind when your child mashes all of the colors into one big brownish glob. It will be colorful and pretty in the basket, though. Mix together ½ cup of salt, ½ cup of water, and 1 cup of flour. Knead in food coloring until you reach the desired hue and store in plastic eggs, baby food jars or small plastic food storage containers with decorative labels.

Sidewalk chalk: Spring means more sunshine and time spent outdoors so let your kids make a more colorful world with egg-shaped sidewalk chalk. Mix 1 cup Plaster of Paris (available at craft stores), ¾ cup of water, and Tempera paint for color, and mix. Wipe inside of plastic egg halves with petroleum jelly and pour mixture inside. Allow it to dry halfway before reattaching egg halves, and then set aside to dry fully. Once you remove the chalk from the mold, let it harden for 24 hours before use. Wrap in cellophane and tie it with a ribbon or put the chalk in a small egg carton.

Crazy Crayons: Gather up all of the hopelessly dull and broken crayons you have lurking in the corners of the craft box, remove the paper labels, grate or chop them into pea-sized pieces, combine different colors and bake in a mini muffin tin or candy mold at 150 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool before popping the crayons from the mold and packaging them together prettily for your petite Picasso.

tweetiesCandy Krispie nest: For a sweet treat that also looks lovely, use Rice Krispie treats, candy Peeps and M&Ms or jelly beans to create a cute little love nest. Melt one 10-ounce bag of marshmallows and 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for about a minute and a half and then stir in 6 cups of Rise Krispies cereal. Push the warm mixture into small, pre-greased bowls or a muffin tin to create a nest shape and add candy Peep chicks and eggs to complete this adorable tasty treat.

The Finishing Touches
Go the extra mile by letting the Easter Bunny make his or her own simple traditions. I always knew my mother was not the bunny because my baskets were shrink-wrapped (and I didn’t know she had the capability to do that with just a blow dryer and a basket bag). Whether it’s a fancy bow or scavenger hunt clues leading to the basket, doing something small but special can help create memories that last a life time.

Easter doesn’t have to be expensive! With a little time, effort, and planning you can create a beautiful basket on a budget that any bunny would be proud to present. So hop to it!

 

green wedding ideas - recycled flowers

Planning a “Green” Eco-Friendly Wedding

Are you planning a green wedding? Green weddings are becoming a huge trend, allowing couples to maintain their commitment to the environment by having an ecologically responsible wedding. Green weddings are planning in consideration of how each factor – invitations, beverages, food, location, and flowers – will impact the environment.

With the average wedding costing more than $25,000, going “green” for your wedding can save you plenty of green along the way. Here are some ways to green up your wedding.

Wedding Food

One of the best ways to go green at your wedding with food is to choose locally grown, organic products to serve. From organic greens to range-fed chicken, you can offer food choices that make a difference. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that organic food tends to be pricier than non-organic, so shop CSAs and Farmer’s markets to save extra money, or limit your menu choices to make it feasible.

The Wedding Cake

If you have ideas about how to make a wedding cake that tastes good while still being good for the environment, you’ll have to let me know. But you can choose to support a local bakery or chef rather than a chain store, and you can opt for a smaller cake (a lot of it ends up going to waste anyway).

The Wedding Invitations

Your wedding invitations provide an easy area to save money and be good to the environment. Printing your invitations at home on recycled paper allows you to minimize the impact, and if you skip the response cards and ask people to RSVP electronically, you eliminate much of the paper. Alternatively, you can create your invitation online and send out virtual invitations.

The Wedding Dress

While we may have grown up thinking that we have to spend $1,000 or more on an heirloom dress that we then carefully store for 30 years in the hopes that our daughters will wear the dress, it just doesn’t happen. Rent a dress or buy a used one to save money, or choose a dress made of hemp, cotton or silk with no synthetic materials or dyes used.

Wedding Favors

There are a number of different wedding favor options that are environmentally friendly while still creating a lasting memory for your guests. From organic jellies to handmade jewelry to beeswax candles, you can choose wonderful

Wedding Flowers

green wedding ideas - recycled flowersWhen choosing wedding flowers, you can save money and be environmentally friendly by choosing to work with a florist who uses recycled flowers and foliage for bouquets. You can create inexpensive and memorable centerpieces with live plants that your guests can take home.

The Wedding Transportation

There can be a huge environmental impact to destination weddings or even having a large number of out-of-town guests, so arranging to provide group transportation using hybrid vehicles can be helpful. Arrange to have your guests stay near the wedding location to reduce the impact, too. Instead of departing your wedding in a limo, consider a horse-drawn carriage instead.

Wedding Location

Green weddings are often held in natural environments, such as botanical gardens or nature preserves, or even in their own back yards. This reduces how many decorations you need. Hosting the wedding and reception at the same location can also minimize transportation requirements for everyone and allow your guests to spend more time with you. Choose a venue that already embraces eco-friendly practices, such as solar energy and recycled water and trash, or even offer to connect you with other green-friendly vendors. Some eco-friendly venues even donate a portion of your fee to supporting environmental causes.

After the Wedding

Rather than throw rice, have your guests throw biodegradable options, such as freeze dried flower petals. Bird seed is also a great option.

Do you have ideas or products to help people have greener weddings? Let us know!

valentines day

How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Newly Single Friends

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Let’s face it: With all the hype around Valentine’s Day, being newly single around this time is no walk in the park. Everywhere you look, from TV commercials to Target, everything is plastered with cheesy red and pink hearts as a reminder of the big day ahead (along with a reminder for singles that they’re a party of one).

valentines dayIf you’re lucky enough to be in a loving relationship this year but you have a friend who just went through a tough breakup, you know that she may be dreading this impending holiday of love.

Be a good, supportive friend and lend her a hand. After all, she probably has done the same for you. Come up with a sensitive solution that includes your newly single friend (and maybe others!), all while embracing that special time with your sweetheart. Here are a couple of ideas.

Valentine Surprises

The joy of unlimited candy and watching as your shoe box filling to the top were among the things that made Valentine’s Day so much fun as a kid. Relive that excitement by sending Valentines and a surprise to your dearest friends. If your closest friends live nearby, create a small gift basket with the following goodies that you can make or buy in bulk:

  • homemade cookies
  • chocolate truffles
  • gourmet coffee
  • cute coffee mug

Leave the baskets on their doorsteps, either bright and early for a Valentine’s morning surprise, or in the afternoon to find as they come home from work. If you simply don’t have the time to assemble the baskets yourself, look online and check out the Valentine’s Day gifts on FTD.com.

For those who live out of town, bake your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and mail a fresh batch their way to sweeten their day from afar. Wrap them up nicely, and tie on your Valentine with a big red ribbon and bow.

Host a Party

Restaurants will be jam-packed with couples on Valentine’s Day so why not host a party at your place for couples and singles alike? Start by creating your guest list and purchase some printable invitations on Etsy, which you can personalize and print at home or take to a nearby Kinko’s. Start early so that your eager friends don’t make their dinner reservations before they hear word of your big celebration. Note on the invitation that all attendees should bring their favorite sweet treat to the party, so that there will be plenty of delectable goodies to go around. As a host, provide a selection of appetizers and finger foods, and shift your focus to the music and decorations. Select some cheesy 80s love songs to play in the background, and have a movie playing in the background such as “Lady and the Tramp.” Set out a few board game stations, and a cocktail table, and enjoy the company as everyone celebrates love and friendship together.

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The Bruce Family Fruit Salad Recipe

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHoliday traditions can involve a lot of things, but in our family, many of them center around special food dishes. I can count on being asked to make enchilada casserole any time Kira comes to visit, and Derek is a sucker for our special pigs in a blanket recipe. One of our favorite recipes that we serve at Thanksgiving is fruit salad, but when our older kids couldn’t make it home for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, we realized we’d need to make sure it hit the table at Christmas when they’d both be home.

Kira hadn’t even been off the plane for 24 hours when she asked if we’d be making her fruit salad since she missed it at Thanksgiving.

Since we all love it so much, here’s the recipe (eating fruit around the holidays will help you feel less guilty about all of your other indulgences, right?)

Bruce Family Fruit Salad

3 apples
2 bananas
seedless red grapes
one can of chunk pineapple – save the juice for the dressing
small can mandarin oranges, drained
bag of mini marshmallows
for dressing:
1 tbsp. flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 c butter or margarine, softened
2 egg yolks, beaten
juice from the pineapple

Heat pineapple juice in a double boiler. Blend flour and sugar and add to juice. Add margarine and egg yolks. Cool in fridge. While the dressing is cooling in the fridge, cut apples into bite-size chunks, slice bananas, and cut grapes in half. Mix the fruit in a large bowl, adding the well-drained oranges and pineapples. When the dressing is thoroughly cooled, gently stir into the fruit. Add two cups of mini marshmallows, mixing them in gently.

 

What’s your favorite holiday recipe?