11.24.2014

Cash for Christmas Giveaway!

Looking for a little extra Cash for Christmas??? I've teamed up with some friends for a $400 Giveaway of a Visa or Mastercard gift card (practically cash) where you can buy anything your heart desires!

Cash for Christmas Mastercard Visa Giveaway

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11.21.2014

5 Secrets for a Stress-Free Holiday

stress-free-christmas

Hello there! Isn't Alexa just the greatest? I came across this blog a few years ago and have been in love ever since. It is a dream to be here today! My name is Melissa, but you can call me Mel. I blog over at So Festive! , the place to find simple ways to celebrate! I started So Festive! in honor of my mom. She was the most festive person ever--making everyday a celebration. She passed away from cancer when I was 15, but I determined to keep her festiveness alive. I share easy holiday traditions, party ideas, and other simple ways to celebrate life! So, the Christmas season can be a hectic one. And super stressful, right? Today, I'm sharing 5 secrets that I've found to help keep stress out of the holidays. You ready for them? Here we go!

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 1. Shop early. I remember so many Christmases as a child when we were scrambling around on Christmas Eve to do last minute shopping. The stores would literally have to kick us out at closing. Of course, then we didn't eat our fancy Christmas Eve Dinner until 8 pm or later. Moral of the story: shop early! Chances are you already know 80% of the items you'll need to buy. Do you have traditional stocking stuffers like toothbrushes and candy canes? Buy them now. Do you always have beignets on Christmas morning? Buy the mix now. This fun Holiday Planning Guide will help you make your shopping lists and check them twice. Shopping early will greatly reduce your stress this Christmas season!  

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2. Stop thinking about yourself. One of the best ways to forget our own problems or stress is by serving someone else. The Christmas season has so many opportunities to serve in small and big ways. Serve at a local soup kitchen, take some socks to a homeless person, go caroling at an old-folks home, leave some cookies on a doorstep, or drop some spare change into the Salvation Army tins--to name just a few. Some of my favorite Christmas memories come from when I was helping someone else. So this Christmas, go out and serve! It will take the stress of trying to find the "perfect" gift away--all because of the new perspective you will gain from helping someone else.

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 3. Wrap your gifts early. Waiting to the last minute to wrap gifts can cause a lot of unnecessary stress. Who wants to be staying up until 5 am on Christmas morning to wrap gifts? Not me. I'd rather be sleeping. So, set aside one night to wrap gifts. Turn on a Christmas movie and make a party out of it. Tip: Growing up, our Santa gifts were never wrapped. And we never knew anything different. If wrapping adds extra stress, don't feel like you have to wrap them all! Also, believe it or not, tape prices increase during the Christmas season. So buy wrapping supplies like tape, gift wrap, ribbon and scissors now!

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 4. Keep a stash of paper goods on hand. It seems like the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving and doesn't end until New Years. Between that time, you will likely have multiple gatherings of some sort or another. Whether it's a spontaneous dinner party or just an extra busy night, using paper products will eliminate one item from your to-do list. When the party is over, just throw them away. You'll get to enjoy the party rather than being on kitchen duty the entire night.

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 5. Simplify. In this day of Pinterest and lists, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that we have to do all "157 things to make your holiday special". Now, don't get me wrong because I am a list person through and through. Ha! Even this post is a list. But...we have to be careful that we don't think we have to do it ALL to have a fun holiday season. It's hard letting go and I'm the first to admit that I want to do every fun and festive thing there is to do. But, I'm learning (slowly!) that it isn't always worth it. And by trying to cram in just one more thing may be the difference of agreat holiday to a stressful holiday! This year, I'm going to be more deliberate in what we do and I think it will make all the difference. Instead of just choosing what to do this Christmas, think of what you can take out. Simplify! ... How do you keep your holiday season stress-free?

Thanks for having me!

Come say hello on my blog or connect with me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram! xo, Mel

I think you'll really love these posts, too!

Simple Holiday Ideas

 The easiest 12 Days of Christmas you'll ever do + Printables // Party Planning Made Easy // Advent Sundays: My Favorite Christmas Tradition

11.20.2014

Mini Caramel Apple Pies

mini caramel apple pies recipe

I buy large quantities of apples in the fall. Caramel apples, I say! Apple crisp, it’s calling my name! And then, life gets busy and apples get mushy. I was determined not to let our apples get bruised and soft after rolling around in the bottom drawer of the fridge. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I decided to whip out a pie. Well, a mini pie, but a pie nonetheless! I “forgot” that Brian doesn’t like apple pie, so more for me, right? Wrong! My apple pie despising husband actually liked this stuff! Time to make more, I guess. ;) These little babies are super easy to make and they’ll make your sweet tooth VERY happy.

You will need:
2 apples, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Vanilla, a few drops
Dash of salt

1 cup flour
1/3 heaping cup of Crisco
2 1/2 tbs cold water
1 tsp (ish) of salt
3 soft, caramels, cubed
(makes 6 muffin tin sized pies)

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First, peel and cube two apples. In a bowl, mix together sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Combine well, then mix in apples. Coat apples evenly and well. Set aside. Cube caramels, set aside also. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, Crisco, salt, and water with a fork. The Crisco in this recipe will make your crust extra flaky, yum! Roll out thinly onto a floured surface, then use a cup or cookie cutter to cut into circles. Press into ungreased cupcake tin. Fill with apple, sugar mixture then top with caramels. Use remaining dough to cover the top. Be sure to work quickly while using your dough, otherwise it will dry out (like mine did!) and become harder to work with. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes, the tops should be golden brown! (And your house, it should smell heavenly!) I love how the caramel seeps through the top and leaves the crust slightly candy coated. Mmm!

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Pretty sure I’ll be making these again soon! (And working on perfecting my lattice top) I was a little impatient while removing one of the pies from the pan, so it crumbled a bit. Are you impatient too? No need to worry! Simply crumble the broken pie into a fancy glass, top with vanilla ice cream and a dash of cinnamon. I can’t decide which I like more!

11.19.2014

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas! (and a giveaway!)

Free christmas printables, free holiday prints


I’ve been in a Christmas-y mood lately and just had to share these free Christmas printables with you. :) I always reserve the weekend right after Thanksgiving for holiday decorating, but this year I couldn’t resist putting a few decorations up early! November is a totally acceptable time to blast Christmas tunes and get tangled up in lights and garland, right? Ha! Ready to spruce up your holiday d├ęcor? Deck your halls with these free Christmas printables. You can download the PDF and JPEG versions here. I recommend printing on thick, matte cardstock. Tag me in your photo on instagram (@lexzurcher), I’d love to feature your photos on the blog!  Also…tis the season for holiday shopping! Check out the awesome holiday gift card giveaway below.


Free Christmas Printables, Peace on Earth printableFree Christmas Printables, Oh Holy Night PrintableFree Christmas Printables, Joy to the World Printable


These lovely ladies and I have teamed up to bring you SEVEN $25 gift cards from our favorite stores, just in time for some holiday shopping! Get everyone on your list their favorites from Target, Anthropologie, Etsy, Amazon, H&M, Sephora, and Gap. You can enter below. Giveaway ends on November 27th. All entries will be verified. Good luck!

Giveaway brought to you by:
Deidre Emme | Notes from Nessa | Life Through A Lens | My New Lines
So Festive | My Year in the Making | He & I

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11.18.2014

Life Lately…as told by Ellie

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Dear world,

Hey! It’s Ellie here again. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken over the blog. Remember the last time? I only had one tooth! My mom’s been really busy lately getting ready for all her holiday boutiques, and I’ve been a big help. Those price tags on the back? All me, guys. I’m really good at recycling her unused paper too. I like to draw cars, babies, snakes, and minions. Anyways, here’s what’s been going on around here lately.

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Daddy made banana pancakes for breakfast on Saturday. I totally caught onto his trick, puh-lease dad, bananas in pancakes? I’ll take some waffles with a side of sugar please.

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Mom and Dad have been soooo lame lately. Every time we go to buy a berry smoothie at Costco, we order, have the smoothie in our hands, and then they realize they have NO CASH ON THEM. Um, do you know how embarrassing that is, for me? And seriously guys, carry some cash. Good thing Gramma and Grace were in town. They treated me to my long awaited smoothie.

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Speaking of Gramma, she’s really quite fun. She likes to kiss my elbow. My elbow!

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Grandpa came into town too! We got all bundled up and played outside for hours! He’s super grandpa, mama is pretty wimpy when it comes to the cold.

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Mom still takes way too many pictures of me, but it’s ok as long as she gives me a turn with that giant, black thing. She gets really nervous when I pick it up, but I can tell she secretly likes it when I show her that I know how to click the button and tell her to say “CHEESE!”

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Baby dolls. All day, every day.

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And shhhh! I secretly convinced my parents to get a mini Christmas tree, just my size, AND set it up BEFORE Thanksgiving. ;) And it’s complete with kid friendly ornaments. Oooh, how I’ve got them wrapped around my little finger.

Until next time world!
xo, Ellie

11.17.2014

Everything You Need to Know about Food Photography

Everything you need to know about food photography


I love photographing food, but I’m definitely no expert! I love learning and improving, so I have been researching tips and tricks for photography food. With so many fabulous blogs out there, I’ve found a variety of different resources with the best ideas. If you’ve ever wondered about food styling, photography props, editing your food photos, or just simple tips and tricks of the trade, I’ve put together a huge list of all my favorite articles. I love having them all in one place, so I can refer back to them often. I loved them all so much, I just had to share them with you! Enjoy!

Everything you need to know about syling your food for food blogs

Food Styling


I love these Food Styling Tips from Simply Delicious
Learn how to Stage Food from Click It Up a Notch
Composition Ideas from Digital Photography School
Tips on styling all types of food from Gourmande in the Kitchen

Tips and tricks for food photography

 

Tips & Tricks


Hilarious Food Photography Tips Gone Wrong from Chocolate Covered Katie
You can take awesome photos with a point and shoot camera using these tips from Mom Advice.
Ten Household Items that will improve your food photography from Pinch of Yum
Food Photography Tricks for your Iphone from Oh My Veggies 

Tips and tricks for editing food photography 

Editing

Fabulous Photoshop Tips for improving your food photos from Soup Belly
How to take photos of white items on a white backdrop from Simone’s Kitchen
Using free editing programs for your food photography from The Simple Sweet Life
Make the “whites” in your photo actually look white from Gimme some Oven 

Where to find the best food photography props

 

Props

The Best Food Props from Nicolesy
Stay on budget with these tips and props from Family Spice
Fantastic resource on cameras, lens, and where to buy props from Cookie+Kate
How to Style Your Props from Gourmande in the Kitchen

What tips and tricks do you have for aspiring food photographers?

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