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10.28.2014

Easy Children's Despicable Me Minion Craft

It has been all about minions and Despicable Me at our house.  Not only are the boys dressing up as minions for Halloween (see this post about our DIY Despicable Me costumes), but we are also planning Grayson's 5th birthday party with a minion theme. 

As a prep for Grayson's party, we tested out this very simple craft for one of the kid's activities at the party.  It was very easy - certainly a craft that even young children can handle.  Even better is that it uses craft items you most likely have around the house, or can get without spending much.


Toilet Paper Roll Children's Minion Craft

 
What You Need:
  • Empty toilet paper roll
  • Yellow construction paper (cut to an approximately 4.5" x 6.25" rectangle)
  • Blue construction paper (cut to an approximately 2" x 6.5" rectangle)
  • Black construction paper (cut into a thin strip approximately 6.5" long)
  • Gru logo printed onto a piece of paper and cut out (approximately 1" diameter; click here for the printable for the one I used)
  • Wiggly eyes (either two smaller eyes, or one larger eye if you want to make a one-eyed minion)
  • Glue
  • Black marker
How to Assemble the Minion (see what I did there?):
  1. Put glue on one side of the yellow constriction paper, and wrap it around the toilet paper tube.  Hold for a minute while the glue adheres the paper to the tube.
  2. Repeat with the piece of blue construction paper, lining it up on one end of the tube.
  3. Glue the black construction paper strip approximately 1/3 of the way down the top of the yellow section.
  4. Glue the eyeball(s) on the black strip to make the minion's goggles.
  5. Glue the Gru logo circle on the blue construction paper.
  6. Using the black marker, customize your minion with hair and a mouth.
 

Voila! A simple craft that children of all ages can handle.  My boy's love playing with it too!

10.21.2014

DIY Fall Centerpiece

 
I was looking to update some of my home décor for the new fall season, and a fall-inspired centerpiece seemed like a perfect way to do this. Here's how I put it together.

 
 
Supplies required: a large pillar vase, three small pillar vases, small orange pumpkins (enough to fill the large vase), small white decorative pumpkins, burlap fabric, rubber bands, metallic gold spray paint, a glue gun, and a few hydrangea flowers (real or fake).


 
I was inspired by this pin I saw on Pinterest of metallic painted mason jars from The Country Chic Cottage, as well as an image of a Home Goods centerpiece posted on @ohsoglamblog's Instagram.  Per the tutorial in The Country Chic Cottage, I wrapped rubber bands around the small vases (as you can see in the photo above, I did some vertically and some horizontally).

 
Then, I applied a few coasts of Krylon metallic gold spray paint to the small vases (with rubber bands on) and the small orange pumpkins.  Can you believe how luminous the pumpkins look with a few coats of the spray paint? 
 
After the paint thoroughly dried (I waited 24 hours), I carefully removed the rubber bands to reveal a really cool pattern.
 
 
Using a hot glue gun to secure it, I wrapped some thin strips of burlap around the tops of the small vases and a thicker strip around the top of the large vase.
 
I filled the large pillar vase with the small gold pumpkins, then put candles inside the smaller vases.  When lit, the light from the candle glows through the pattern on the spray painted vases in a really pretty way.  An especially nice touch would be to use fall pumpkin, cinnamon or apple scented candles to add to the seasonal ambiance.
 
To top it all off I added four hydrangea flowers (I used fakes from Michael's) to the vase.  I then surrounded the vases with the small, white decorative pumpkins. 
 
Overall a pretty quick and easy DIY!

10.17.2014

Casual Friday Fashion: Fall 2014 Outfits

I love fall fashion.  Especially fall fashion this season.  Summer lingers for a long time in Central Texas, so I had to wait a month longer than most to start breaking out the chunky knit sweater, scarves, boots and booties.  But the time is finally here!  So, for today's Casual Friday fashion post, I am featuring four of my recent Casual Friday work #OOTD fall looks.
 
 
The first look includes a black, chunky knit sweater from Old Navy, jeans from Express, and point-toed classic black pumps.  The necklace (from Express) and bracelet (from Forever 21) I have had for a few years.

 
The second look features a cream-colored, chunky knit sweater and jeans from Express, suede fringe booties from American Eagle Outfitters, and an infinity scarf and cuff bracelet that I picked up at Le Garage Sale in Austin recently. 

 
This outfit features an oversized, asymmetrical hem sweater and black, high-waisted skinny jeans from Express.  The black, chunky-heel shoeties were another Le Garage Sale find.
 
 
The final outfit includes a gray sweater I have had from Express for a few years (huge and chunky, I love it!), black high-waisted skinny jeans (also from Express), and black chunky-heeled shoots from JustFab.  If you're not a member of JustFab yet, click here to join (disclosure: this is an affiliate link, which means I receive commission from JustFab if you sign-up using the link)!
 

Don't forget to follow @fabeverydayblog on Instagram to see my Casual Friday #OOTD looks each week along with other fashion inspiration. 

10.14.2014

DIY Despicable Me 2 Halloween Costumes

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday.  It has gotten even more fun since having children, as (at least at this age) they are all about it!  We have had fun the last few years doing themed costumes as a family (pirates two years ago and Avengers characters last year).  This year, the kids are all about Despicable Me.  The little ones voted that our family would be characters from Despicable Me 2. The kids will be minions (naturally), my husband will be Gru, and I will be Anti-Villain League agent Lucy Wilde.
 
These costumes were pretty easy to DIY, so DIY I did!  Here are the components for each of our costumes.  Don't forget to share and pin, and comment if you have any questions!
 
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a commission.  This does not cost you anything additional, and helps me to keep the rest of my content free, so thank you!
 
 
DIY Despicable Me 2 Minion Costume:
  1. Goggles (got these ones from Amazon)
  2. Yellow hoodies (got mine from Kohls, but any yellow hoodie will do) with pipe cleaners on top for hair
  3. Black gloves (can get these just about anywhere, but I got these ones from Amazon)
  4. Black shoes or boots (I found them at our local Wal-Mart)
  5. Blue denim overalls (got these ones from Amazon)
  6. Gru symbol, printed on iron-on photo sheets and ironed on.  You can easily fine the Gru symbol on Google images.
Look how cute the boys (oops, I mean minions) look for their costume trial run:
 
  

DIY Despicable Me 2 Lucy Wilde Costume:
  1. Red wig with bangs (I got this doll wig on Amazon)
  2. Pink and white polka dot scarf (I got this one from Amazon)
  3. Turquoise sunglasses (I got this one from Amazon)
  4. Turquoise trench coat (the one I got is no longer available, but is very similar to this adorable one from Amazon
Here is how the costume came together (without the wig):


DIY Despicable Me 2 Gru Costume:
  1. Bald cap (purchased from our local Halloween costume pop-up store)
  2. Black and gray striped scarf (got this one from Amazon)
  3. Black shirt. A black zip-up shirt is ideal, but we went for a simple Gru costume here.
  4. Optional: pointy nose (also from your local Halloween store)
Follow @fabeverydayblog on social media (links in the right side-bar) to see how these costumes turn out for us on Halloween!

{Edited to add}
Here's how the whole family's looks came together (the little one decided not to wear his goggles for the picture):
 
 


10.10.2014

Healthier Baking with Truvia Baking Blend and Brown Sugar Blend



Disclosure: I received a sample of Truvia Baking Blend and Truvia Brown Sugar Blend for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience using the product.  I was not financially compensated for this post.

My family has been living a healthy lifestyle this year.  It has actually been pretty easy, as there are many great, healthier options that still taste delicious when it comes to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  With desserts and baked goods, it has been a little more difficult.  As a result, I really haven't done much baking this past year. 

Things changed for me a few weeks ago when I learned that Truvia had come out with a Brown Sugar Blend in addition to their Baking Blend, that would allow me to replace both regular and brown sugar in my baking recipes for a natural, lower calorie, low sugar alternative!  75% fewer calories (you heard me) than regular sugar and brown sugar!  See my full review below, along with some great recipes.

But first, I want to let you know that you have a few more days to enter the Truvia Baking Star Contest (click here for complete details on how to enter). Simply upload a short video (2 minutes max) of you baking your best original recipes using Truvia Brown Sugar Blend and/or Truvia Baking Blend. You could be one of three people, along with a guest of your choice, who win a trip to New York City to compete for the title of Truvia Baking Star!  You have by midnight ET October 14, 2014 to enter!

If you are a baking star, get your Truvia and get baking!

 
A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to test the new Truvia Brown Sugar Blend and Truvia Baking Blend for some of my recipes.  What really appealed to me about this sweetener is that is has significantly less calories than a serving of regular white or brown sugar.  Given that sugar is one of the primary components of a lot of baked dessert recipes, a substitute like this has the ability to make a big dent in the amount of calories in the dessert overall.
 
When I was ready to get baking, my husband requested oatmeal raisin cookies (his favorite). If we were going to indulge, we wanted to do it with something we really wanted!  I found a recipe for some supposedly amazing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies on Food.com, and got to work.
 
The recipe called for 1 cup each of brown sugar and regular sugar (translation: a LOT of sugar).  Per the substitution instructions for Truvia, I substituted these for 1/2 cup each of Truvia Brown Sugar Blend and Truvia Baking Blend.  Man oh man, these cookies were DELICIOUS!  Addictively delicious.  The sweetness and the flavor was just right... you wouldn't know offhand that it was not made with real brown sugar (which is such a key flavor in good oatmeal cookies). I did notice a slight hint of an aftertaste that reminded me of when I drink my coffee or tea with Sweet N' Low, but it wasn't a strong or bad taste.  I only noticed it in the aftertaste, and not while eating the cookies.

Here is a picture of a finished batch of these cookies, chock full of raisins.  As you can see, consistency turned out perfectly. Substituting the sugar and brown sugar did not have a negative affect on the consistency or the way the cookies baked.


Tonight, I decided to really put Truvia to the test. As it is the fall, and in the fall I inevitably crave anything pumpkin, I have been itching to bake GG's Pumpkin Bread.  This is an old family recipe on my husband's side.  GG was his great-grandmother, and had a famous recipe for pumpkin bread (long before it was cool to make everything pumpkin-flavored).

 
I made a batch of the bread tonight, with the only change being that I swapped the white sugar out for Truvia Baking Blend.  As you can see in the photo above, it baked perfectly. The consistency was not changed, the color remained beautiful.  As for taste, I can't notice a difference.  I didn't even detect the aftertaste this recipe that I did with the cookies.  I indulged in a delicious piece, and don't even feel guilty about it knowing that it has far less calories than it would have with regular sugar.

Here's the recipe!

GG's Pumpkin Bread
Yield: 3 Bread Loaves (Great for Gifts!)



Ingredients:
3 Cups Sugar (or 1.5 cups of Truvia Baking Blend)
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
4 Eggs
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
2/3 Cups Water
2 Cups Canned Pumpkin
3 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Finely Chopped Nuts (Optional)

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together, then distribute evenly into 3 greased bread-sized baking pans (pans shouldn't be much more than half full).

Bake for 45 - 60 minutes until toothpick stuck in the middle of the loaves comes out clean.

Don't forget to enter the Truvia Baking Star contest, and to pick up some Truvia Brown Sugar Blend and Baking Blend of your own to take some of the guilt out of your sweets baking!

10.07.2014

Meal Planning Like a Boss

 
I have been getting a lot of questions lately about how I meal plan. It's actually a pretty simple system, but a little planning does go a long way in saving time and money when grocery shopping and cooking.  If you follow Fab Everyday on Facebook you see my #DinnerTonight posts where I share what I am cooking for dinner each night, which can be a great source of inspiration for your own meal planning.  Now, here are my simple steps to meal planning (like a boss):

 
 
1. The first step is to get out a pen and paper along with your calendar.  Start making your list by counting meals that you will need to make between now and your next grocery shopping trip.  I like to count them out by labeling them as "B," "L," or "D" (breakfast, lunch and dinner).  Be sure to exclude meals for any days you know you will be eating out, or will otherwise not need a homemade meal.  As you can see in the example above, I needed two breakfasts (for the weekend days), one lunch (for a weekend day), and six dinners for the week.  I personally don't count weekday breakfasts or lunches, since those are essentially the same everyday, and don't need advanced planning.

 
2. The second step is to go through your recipe collection to choose recipes.  As you can see in my Friday Faves: Key Ingredient Digital Recipe Reader post, I like to organize my recipes in my account on Key Ingredient so that I can access them on my digital recipe reader, the Key Ingredient website, or the Key Ingredient mobile app.  Other ways to collect and store recipes are Pinterest and in your email box. I get regular emails from AllRecipes.com, Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, and BHG. When I get an email with a recipe I want to try, I will flag the email and save it in an email folder called "Recipes" until I have a chance to try it or add it to my Key Ingredient account.
 
3. When selecting recipes, immediately add the needed ingredients to your grocery shopping list (which I keep in the same notepad for ease) before moving on to the next meal so that you don't have to go back to each recipe later when making your shopping list.
 
4. It is also helpful to choose additional recipes that contain some of the same ingredients.  For example, since I know the bag of frozen breakfast potatoes I get is good for more than one meal, I included it in both breakfasts this week.  Similarly, I know I get about four meals' worth out of the club-pack size chicken breasts I get, so I know that I can plan four chicken meals. Additionally, if a meal calls for a unique (or pricy) item like white wine, a particular herb, etc. try to include more than one recipe that calls for this ingredient. This will not only save you money, but it will also prevent wasted food since you would otherwise likely just have to toss the rest of the ingredient later.  On the meal plan for this week I was able to use two recipes that included pesto, two recipes that included jack cheese, two recipes that included butter round crackers, and (as mentioned previously), two meals that included breakfast potatoes.  Talk about making an efficient and cost-effective shopping list!  Since I keep my recipes in Key Ingredient, this is particularly easy for me to plan because you can search your account by both recipe name and by ingredients.

 
5. After choosing the main entrée recipes for each meal, I like to go back and add the side-dishes to the menu plan (as you can see above I added asparagus, broccoli, or green beans to the meals I felt they would complement), and then add them to your shopping list.  I didn't list a starch side since my starch side is always rice unless the meal specifically needs something else.

6. Go shopping for your ingredients.  I take an extra step for grocery shopping efficiency by organizing my shopping list by aisle.  After I am done writing the list I go back through and label each by aisle ("V" for produce, "M" for meat, "D" for dairy, "Br" for bread, "F" for frozen, "Bak" for baking, "C" for canned, etc.).

7. As you may have noticed by my final menu plan, I didn't determine the exact day for each recipe.  This is because my family and I find it fun to choose off our "menu" for the week each night.  Occasionally I will plan a specific meal for a certain night.  For example, if I know I have an after-work errand, I will plan a slow cooker meal for that night so that I can prep it the night before or morning of, and it will be ready when I get home.  Another example would be if I know I am having company and need to plan a larger quantity meal for a certain night.

That's it!  For me, this system works really well.  I don't have to waste time and energy standing in my fridge or pantry each night wondering what I can make based on what ingredients I have.  Plus my grocery trips tend to be pretty cost-effective as I am only buying items that I know I will be using, and not a lot of extra things that would go to waste.  Mind you, there are certain things I always keep in stock (baking ingredients, frequently used seasonings, milk, bread, etc.), but otherwise, I am only purchasing the meats, veggies, and specific ingredients for meals that I am going to make that week.

I hope this helps inspire you to try meal planning!  Don't forget to follow Fab Everyday on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for recipe inspiration!

10.03.2014

Friday Faves: Beachbody Workouts

For today's Friday Faves post I have to pay an homage to something that has helped me to transform myself over the last four months: Beachbody home DVD workouts and challenge groups.

Image source: Beachbody.com

Some of you know that at the beginning of this year I decided to take control over the slow and steady weight gain I have had over the last decade by controlling my portion sizes when eating.  This was incredibly effective for my family, allowing us to eat what we enjoy, but in more reasonable (and "normal") amounts.  With just the food change, I lost 25 pounds between January and May. It was at the end of May that a college friend of mine (and Beachbody Coach) Samantha Dorf suggested I join a Beachbody challenge group after hearing me lament over the changes in my body after having kids. I felt great having lost 25 pounds, but could have been happier about the shape of everything.  So, I decided to incorporate fitness into my new healthy lifestyle.  This friend is also a mom of two and could relate to my situation because she had been through it herself too. 

You may already know of some of the Beachbody workouts (they are the ones who have P90X, Insanity, Hip Hop Abs, and more).  My friend recommended I start with Beachbody's 21 Day Fix.  The theory behind 21 Day Fix is that since it takes 21 days to make something a habit, the program is designed to kick-start a new fitness habit for you in just 21 days, while also promising great results.  It is 21 straight days of working out (all done through DVDs you can watch at home and designed for people of multiple fitness levels to do), but what helped convince me is that the workouts are only 30 minutes each.  Surely I could squeeze in 30 minutes of working out into my busy life.  21 Day Fix also involves a portion-control eating plan, but I stayed with my own eating plan since that had been effective and sustainable for me for the five months prior to beginning.  There are different workouts for each of the 7 days of a week, all designed to burn a lot of calories while also strength training.

In addition to just working out, my friend recommended I participate in a 60-day challenge group.  This really was key for me.  Our group was online through Facebook. We kept each other accountable and encouraged, celebrated successes and shared frustrations together, shared healthy recipes, and added some overall fun and camaraderie to the fitness journeys we are all on individually.

 

One of the fun parts of the challenge group is that we always share sweaty, post-workout pics as a way to encourage each other.  The photo above was taken after a particularly tough workout!

21 Day Fix and the challenge group certainly did the trick and got me in gear!  I did 21 Day Fix for 28 days. Not only did I feel stronger and more in-shape each week, but also after 21 days I knew that fitness was no longer an occasional chore, but was now something that was a part of my life.  I looked forward to working out and felt much better afterwards.  Oh, and did I mention the results? The pounds kept coming off, and I saw noticeable improvement (we are talking inches) in my tummy during this short amount of time.

After 21 Day Fix I decided (again at the recommendation of my friend and Beachbody Coach) to try Beachbody's new PiYo workout. PiYo is a Pilates/yoga fusion workout (I LOVE yoga) that is low-impact (therefore great for someone like me who has had two previous knee surgeries).  PiYo uses your own body weight as resistance instead of weights and jumps. PiYo kind of surprised me. Since it is so low-impact, I was shocked at the results.  It has carved my stomach, arms and legs while still being gentle on my joints, and fitting into my lifestyle (the workouts also average about 30 minutes each, give or take).  PiYo is now my jam; my soul-mate workout.  Even my husband loves it and has completely sculpted his body in our last two plus months of doing it. Our flexibility is also off the charts now.

 
In the pic above you can see me doing a sumo squat (my least favorite move) and a PiYo flip (my favorite move) as part of an additional weekly challenge in my current challenge group.
 
Fast-forward to now, the beginning of October: I am in my second consecutive Beachbody challenge group (I won the first challenge!) and still doing PiYo. I have now lost over 40 pounds and can say for the first time in years and years that I am in shape. Fitness is a sustainable part of my already busy lifestyle, and my kids see a healthy example from mommy and daddy (see the pic below of them doing a plank with me). Thanks to Beachbody, my coach Samantha (if you are interested in seeing these workout package options for purchase and more, check out her page here), my challenge group, and to the fabulous Chalene Johnson for creating the amazing PiYo workout!