Monday, December 1, 2014

Exclusive holiday designs

We've been busy little elves here at Love and Life working on exciting things to come for 2015. But don't worry, we haven't forgotten about the 2014 Holiday season. We are in full holiday swing over here and there is still time to get your card order in! Order by December 12th to guarantee Christmas delivery.

We are sharing a few of our favorite new designs not yet available on the web site.

Colorful Holiday:

Insta Year:

Joyful Glitter:

Tri Color Merry:

Stars of Joy:

If any of these new designs strike your fancy, simply email sona@loveandlifecards with your photo(s) and reference the card name you would like. 

You can also go directly to our web site to customize your 2014 holiday card and see an online preview as you go. 

Wishing you a joyful December!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The best (and easiest) granola

Photo from Martha Stewart Living

In these back to school days, I am trying not to stress about silly things like lunches but that is easier said than done. I will be packing two lunches starting this week which is a big jump from packing only one lunch one day a week last year. That said, I'm trying to get organized. I've been packing lunches the night before for starters. And I'm also trying to have lots of easy, healthy breakfast choices on hand. This yummy granola recipe is super easy and my kids (two out of three anyway) love it. I got a similar recipe from my friend Alyce a few years ago and have adapted it here and there. Mine still doesn't taste quite as good as hers does, but I think that credit is due more to the baker than the recipe. 

Homemade Granola

3 cups Old Fashion Rolled Oats
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ * optional
1 cup slivered almonds (you can use any combination of nuts)
1 cup dried cranberries (you can use any combination of dried fruit)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pure maple syrup (1/2-3/4 cup is plenty)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Step 1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
Step 2. Stir in the maple syrup and mix until everything is coated.
Step 3. Spread out on baking sheet.
Step 4. Bake at 325 for 20-30 minutes stirring the granola halfway through.

My girls eat it with yogurt, milk, or just by the handful for a quick bite on the go. Now the only problem is that I might love it a little too much...

Monday, August 25, 2014

S'more summer please

I really cannot believe summer is over. My oldest goes back to school on Wednesday - two days from now! What better way to close out summer than with a back yard camp-out and s'mores party? We actually designed this invitation for a birthday party and thought it was such a super cute idea. 

The tent under the stars on the back just might be my favorite of this s'mores party design.

We hope you enjoy these last moments of summer. Happy roasting!

Monday, August 18, 2014

September resolutions

As much as I hate to see the summer coming to an end, I always feel like September is a good time for new resolutions, or mainly, refreshing my eternal quest to become more organised. The school supply list is made, the uniforms bought, and now to tackle some of the paper chaos that school brings. One thing I am terrible at is keeping kids pictures, papers and certificates organised. So this year, I am trying something new - preparing ahead with these files:
A folder per school year
I am busy catching up on Rebecca's last 2 years, including report cards, special artwork, certificates and photos.  I am also TRYING to remember to take first day last day photos like these:

First Day Year 1
Last Day Year 1

I'm keeping Finn's Reception folder and Rebecca's Year 2 folder in my filing cabinet to put things in through the school year.  The rest are going in the loft - clearly labeled so I don't have to open and close 10 different boxes every time I look for something.
One box each
I have also FINALLY set up email addresses for both the kids. It's been on my "to do" list for about 5 years. My intention is to email them photos of days out, send them a soppy love note, or tell them what they are into at the minute, like Finn's recent fondness for photo bombing.
Finn the Photo Bomber 
Please, please send us your organising ideas…we will share them, try them and hopefully use them to make our lives just a little easier.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A treasure hunt birthday party

Our little Eva Bean turned four last week and we celebrated the occasion with a treasure hunt among family and friends! The birthday girl had requested a treasure hunt themed party back in June and has not wavered from the theme all summer. 

This is the invitation we sent out to friends and family a few weeks before the big event. 

And what Love and Life invitation would be complete without a snapshot of our little treasure hunter on the flip side?

We kept things simple with snacks like Pirate's Booty

and watermelon on a stick. Because everything tastes better on a stick, right?

Once everyone had a chance to make a pair of custom treasure hunt binoculars (more on that soon) and decorate a bag for collecting the loot, we were off. Four silly, rhyming clues around the yard led us to this hidden treasure (or kiddie pool filled with sand and toy necklaces, rings, jewels and gold coins).

Here is one of Eva's best buds showing off a favorite find.

And here are a few more of the crew enjoying their loot and a little pizza.

The forecast was for rain all day with the highest chance being from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. which of course was the exact same time as the party. We set up a little tent just in case, but luckily for us the rain stayed away!

Our little chocolate loving birthday girl could not wait for cake and this treasure hunt themed cake from a local bakery — Henry's — did not disappoint

I just love this cake faced shot of me and my birthday girl.

And a little sister love to end the day. 

Phew... as much as I love a good party, it sure was nice to put my feet up at the end of the day. What about you? Do you love to host a party and feed on the excitement or does being the hostess with the mostest simply wear you out? I think I'm some kind of hybrid of the two. I always feel exhausted after hosting a big gathering, but I love doing it and every time I think "that was the last party I'll host for a while," I seem to decide it's time to plan another. Speaking of which... what are y'all doing next weekend? Want to come over? :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Mini-vacation

As much as I adore home, sometimes it is nice to just get away. Last week we went on a mini-vacation to Maine. In theory, I would love to rent a house on the water somewhere for the entire week or even two, but because of other commitments we knew that just wasn't in the cards this summer. 

Our first stop was in Freeport where we made the obligatory LL Bean stop. We didn't take advantage of the 24/7 hours. Yup, they are open all. night. long. But we did take a moment to snap a few shots on (and next to) the giant boot.

We checked out a few light houses...

saw some of the beautiful, rugged coastline...

and spent more than one afternoon on the beach.

Despite the fact that I never really felt "oh, this is so relaxing" while we were there, I do think we were relaxed. Things that might normally annoy me (clutter) or Ben (traffic) didn't seem to bother us. We laughed. A lot. The girls had fun on our excursions, but also just loved exploring the house. I wish I'd taken a picture of them in their "secret hideout" which was basically a teeny walk in closet under the eaves of the barn-like house we were renting. 

So in the end maybe a mini-vacation was just what we needed. Not too much time off of work for Ben to stress about being away and just the right amount of time away from it all. It was good just to get away from the every day routine and be together. Just the five of us. 

What do you think about a mini-vacation vs. a longer one or even two-week trip? We'd love to hear your vacation experiences both with and without kids! 

And what vacation is complete without a family cliffhanger?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fruity fun

Photo from Martha Stewart Living

Nothing says summer like a little backyard entertaining. And what better way to start a party right than with a yummy cocktail? We made these Blackberry-Plum Mojitos over the weekend and they were delicious! 

The Recipe (adapted from Martha Stewart Living):

1 1/4 cups sugar
juice from 3 lemons
2 lbs plums (pitted and cut)
1/2 pint fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh basil leaves
3 cups vodka
sparkling water

Bring sugar and water to a boil stirring consistently until sugar is dissolved (about 3 min). Let cool 15 minutes. 

Combine lemon juice, fruit, basil and syrup in a bowl. Refrigerate 1-4 days. (I was lucky to get in marinating for just under 24 hours)

Add vodka and sparkling water to fruit mixture in a pitcher. Serve over ice. Garnish with basil and mint.

I was just a little bit intimidated about making the simple syrup for some reason, but the whole thing was so easy peasy and it was such a fun cocktail to serve and drink. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

Schedule shmedule

I started the summer off very excited about lazy summer mornings not having to get out the door for the bus, pre-school, swimming lessons, etc. Then I started to worry. Did I really only sign my 6-year-old up for a total of 2 weeks of morning camp all summer long? And my almost 4-year-old for one week of 2 hours a day? Lazy days are great and all, but I began to worry that instead of the dreamy summer I imagined, my days would be filled with whining asking for "just one show" and proclamations of "I'm hungry, can I have a snack?" (minutes after finishing a meal). I figured we would be at the beach or field tripping it to a museum at least once or twice a week, but I wanted a fall back for the days that we were sticking closer to home. I created the one above and we followed it (mostly) the first full week of vacation. I started this blog post way back then (two weeks ago) and wanted to be able to share it and tell you how smoothly it went. But truthfully, it was a little bit over-scheduled and instead of having the calming effect I wanted it to have, it kind of stressed me out. 

The following week was a week of vacation in the woods of Upstate New York in a place where there are definitely no schedules. Days on end where the toughest decision was choosing between the pool, the lake, a trip for ice cream, or laying in a hammock (not as relaxing as you'd think with a one-year-old jumping on you). 

When we returned from vacation a week ago I decided that the schedule was probably not going to work out so well for us. We filled this past week instead with some great summer activities including a beach day, time with family, exploring nearby towns, a musical performance of The Little Mermaid at The North Shore Music Theatre, and more trips out for ice cream than I'd like to admit. 

For us, the trick seems to be to have something to get us out of the house by mid-morning, even just a trip down the street to the library. And then when we get home, the girls seem more content to make their own play. We usually need to get out again for a quick errand or bike ride in the afternoon if we don't already have something else planned. 

So in the end, even though my crazy organizational mind was craving a serious schedule, we seem to operate better with a much looser plan on how to fill each of our days. 

Now, if I could only find the time to fold the giant piles of laundry lurking in practically every corner of my house.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

There is something extra special about being an Ex-Pat on Independence Day that is hard to put into words.  So just by way of spreading some July 4th love, here are my top 10 favorite things about the 4th of July this year:

1)  My auto correct is screaming at me to change favorite to favourite and I'm ignoring it completely!

2)  Having an excuse to be a bit more obnoxious than normal.  For some reason, I feel today it is acceptable for me to be the stereotypical loud American (which most of my British friends would say I am anyway). 

3)  Knowing the Spiedies are marinating away - nothing says home like a Spiedie!

4)  All the lovely text messages I get from my British friends wishing me a Happy 4th of July.  I don't think I exchange messages with my American friends, so to my friends in Boston in particular, Happy 4th of July! 

5)  This hilarious Steven Merchant Newcastle Brown advertisement about if the Brits had won (warning - it's a bit rude).  

6)  My American Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes - enough said!
Thanks Pinterest!
7)  This quote "I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.  -  Abraham Lincoln

8)  The forecast for tomorrow - 6 years in a row that its been sunny for Rebecca's family friends party.

9)  The fact I'm still riding high on the USA's performance in the World Cup.   This team's performance against Belgium on Tuesday exemplified spirit, work ethic, commitment, and pride.  As heartbroken as I was at their loss, it was a perfect example of what I hope to instil in my kids, and makes me so proud to be an American.  
10)  As it is every year, my favorite thing is that I had Rebecca today...

Wishing you all a Happy Independence Day!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kindness week

Maybe it is the hot summer air or maybe just the transition from school schedule to summer, but my girls have been arguing with each other A LOT. So I decided to make our first week at home all about being kind. We're starting off today making these warm fuzzy jars from Hands Free Mama. I hope this simple tool will help L & E to think before they yell at each other or ignore me when I ask then to do something. And I think it will help us all focus more on the good. 

We also checked out some books from the library, each about kindness. We'll start our day today with Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham. For the rest of the week we have lined up: 
The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
The Lion and The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

My big girls are very into dramatic play right now.  They are constantly putting on "shows" of all varieties for anyone who will watch so I'm planning to have them put on their own little play at the end of the week focusing on being kind.

Do you ever have themed weeks at home for your children? What do you do to encourage peace and quiet kindness at your house? Do you have any additional book suggestions or activities to add to our Kindness Week? Any wisdom you can pass along would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer bucket list (free printable)

With the last day of school fast approaching this Thursday, we are all looking forward to the lazy days of summer. OK, as lazy as a day can be with three children including a very busy one-year-old. I think just not having to get everyone up and out the door at a certain time each day will be refreshing. The big girls and I have been working on a summer bucket list. We're still gathering more specifics, adding ideas, and putting events on the calendar, but we are excited about what we have planned so far!

You can download our Summer Bucket List free printable here. We use a white pen like this one to write down ideas as we think of them on our chalkboard style bucket list. 

What do you plan to do with your kids this summer? Do you like to keep a tight schedule? Do you send the kids to camp? Or are you thinking, enough planning lady, just wing it. We'd love to hear how you plan to survive enjoy summer with your kids! 

On a side note, we have decided to try all three girls sleeping in the same room for the summer (another story for another day). This means moving all toys out of the big girl's bedroom and turning what was the nursery into a little play room. So after the girls went to bed last night I added the last thing to the list "organize the play room" which really means decorate and organize. In my mind, what could be more fun? So this morning when I went through the list over breakfast with the girls I got a rousing cheer after I read each entry. That is, until I got to my final add on "organize the play room." This was met with a loud chorus of "UGGHH." Hmm... maybe (hopefully) these girls have not inherited my crazy organizing gene.