Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Personalized Prints on Wood by Cut Out Art- Review and Giveaway!

i recently had the opportunity to order a custom wooden print from Cut Out Art. is a company based out of Lake Forest, California that allows you to upload your photos and have them printed onto wood.  Their unique printing procedure ingrains your pictures straight onto a ready- to-hang Wood Panel.  They offer a variety of sizes and styles, as well as different options for customizing your print to make it extra special. They take pride in every piece they print!

Creating a custom print is very easy. You can upload your photo from your PC,  Facebook or Instagram. There are different options for customizing: you can add text, a background, different images and symbols.  i created an 8 x 12 custom print.  This style was really intended to be a landscape, but i really liked this photo and it didn't fit as a landscape so i used it sideways and it still came out great!  There is a little (?) symbol at the bottom and if you click that it will give you a tour of the page and show you what the different features are and how to use them. 

The ordering process was very quick and easy! After submitting my order, i received an email letting me know my order had been received and then another when it shipped out. Shipping was quick and i'm super pleased with it. i love how you can see the wood grain through the print. 

All wood prints include a simple keyhole slotted hanging system and two mounting screws on back for hassle free hanging. The prints are heat and water resistant, and simple to clean with just a damp cloth. Every wooden print has it's own unique wood grain which shows through the print very subtly. 

i really like the wooden print that i received and i love that the company uses environmentally friendly inks, and wood that has been harvested in a sustainable way. Each piece is handcrafted in the USA and a portion of each purchase is donated to Charity Water.

The generous folks at Cut Out Art were kind enough to offer a custom 8 x 12 wooden print to one of my lucky readers!  Please enter below using the rafflecopter form, you may have to wait a minutes for it to load! This giveaway is open to US only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

i received a product in exchange for my honest review. i was not compensated, my opinions are my own. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Morel season!

Spring is my absolute favorite season. There are so many things waking up, and if you blink you'll miss it. Every year when Spring Break comes around, Kenan starts making plans for different places we can go. It always bums me out a bit, as there in no place i would rather be in the spring then here. 

With the kids in school, we have to take advantage of their vacations and breaks if we want to go anywhere...which means every spring, i feel like i miss so much.

This year was no different. Everything was just starting to open up and bloom and we were making plans to head to Florida. 

My morels usually start popping the second week of April, which is of course when we were going to be gone.  Our weather had been unseasonable warm, so i had a feeling morel season might be a bit early this year. So a few days before spring break i was out hunting morels.

i found these brand new tiny morels just starting to emerge. The largest one in this photo is only about an inch tall. They were all super tiny, so i covered them with leaves marked the spot and left them until we returned.

When we got back from our trip, i went out to check the morel spot before i even unpacked. As i was searching for my marked spot, i found this one. i was so excited that i hadn't missed them entirely. When i found my marked spot i was disappointed to see that they were all gone. It looked like they had just dried up from the lack of rain. 

i started hunting for more in the area, and was excited to find several that were a good size. They were just starting to dry in places and if i'd waited a day or two they would have been too old and unusable. 

i picked all of these in just a matter of minutes. They had all come up in the same small area that i've found morels in before, so i already knew where to look. They are not usually so easy to find. 

i went back out hunting a few more times that week and found 4 more, still in this same area. i hiked out all through the woods hoping to find another patch, but didn't find even one.  In years passed, i have found random morels in the strangest of places. We had a couple come up next to our mail box, a few in the flowerbed, a couple on our trail down to the creek and a couple more under the apple tree that is next to the creek. Many of our old reliable patches have since dried up.  They are so unpredictable, but always a joy to find.

With spring comes real food! My leafy greens are finally ready to harvest. The asparagus has just started coming up, my hens are laying like crazy and i have fresh herbs to incorporate into my meals. i get into such a food rut over the winter, and although i can purchase fresh vegetables at the local grocery store, it's just not the same as harvesting your own from seeds that you grew, nurtured or foraged yourself. Spring is truly the time of hope and new beginnings.

It was such a pleasure to sink one's hands into the warm earth, to feel at one's fingertips the possibilities of the new season. ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bouchard Chocolate Cheesecake Bites- Product Review

 i was invited to review some Belgium chocolate cheesecakes bites, so how could i say no? :) The whole family helped to test and review these and they got a unanimous double thumbs up. They are seriously delicious!!

Bouchard chocolates has been perfecting the art of chocolate making from the historical city Ghent, Belgium since 1931. The box contains three different flavors. Dulce de Leche, Strawberry and chocolate fudge. These are perfect for those moments when you just want to indulge.  

The chocolate is crisp when you first bite in, and then super smooth, melt in your mouth goodness.
They would make a wonderful Mother's day gift. (hint, hint) They are all so good, i can't even pick a favorite.

 You can find Cheesecake Bites this spring at your local Walgreens. they retail for around $10 a box.  Visit the website for more information about Bouchard chocolates.

i received this product at no cost in exchange for my honest review, i was not compensated.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spring Break- Frida Kahlo at The Dali, St. Pete

One of the best and unplanned parts of our Spring break, was getting to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at The Dali museum.  Kenan mentioned wanting to take the boy to the Dali, and having been there before many years ago i said i didn't need to go. i had no idea that they had a new building, and i was picturing the little museum i had visited probably 20 years ago. 

On the morning they planned to go, i decided completely last minute that i might as well go too. My girl was planning to stay home with Nana, but she too decided to come along.

So you can imagine my surprise when we walked up and i saw this gigantic museum! To add to the excitement, i comepltely freaked out when i saw that there was a Frida Kahlo exhibit on disply. i absolutely love Frida Kahlo and would have been so disappointed if i had stayed home and then found out her work was on exhibit! 

The new building is a work of art in itself. *The Dali’s stunning new building was designed by architect Yann Weymouth of HOK, it combines the rational with the fantastical: a simple rectangle with 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls out of which erupts a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the “enigma”. The Enigma, which is made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass, stands 75 feet at its tallest point, a twenty-first century homage to the dome that adorns Dali’s museum in Spain.

Inside, the Museum houses another unique architectural feature – a helical staircase – recalling Dali’s obsession with spirals and the double helical shape of the DNA molecule.

The museum offers self guided, audio tours. they provide an ipod and headset, and as you move from piece to piece, you click on the picture on the ipod and it narrates the corresponding story.  It was interesting, but i honestly found it a little distracting. i would have rather just read the info myself. i suppose it's helpful for when the museum is very busy, you don't have to wait for your chance to get close enough to read the info about each painting.

As we were getting our headsets from the front counter i asked the woman working if we were allowed to take pictures. Often times cameras are not aloud in museums. She told me that no pictures were aloowed inside the Frida Kahlo exhibit, and you could take photos (no flash) in the Salvador Dali exhibit.  So we snapped pictures on the outside before entering the exhibit.

Once inside the Frida exhibit, i immediately noticed that EVERYONE was taking pictures. There were museum staff standing right there, and smiling and seemed to have no problem with it. Several people were even using their flash and the museum staff, standing right there,  didn't say a thing. There were also no signs anywhere saying not to take photos.

So after we finished the Frida Exhibit, i went back and took one photo. :) 

The Salvador Dali exhibit was amazing. i was surprised how small some of the paintings were, and how large others were. He detail work on the small painting is just unbelievable. 

The audio tour does provide a lot of information about the Dali's life and work. It was a very enjoyable museum to visit for the entire family. For kids, there is the Mustache tour treasure hunt.  It's the family friendly version of the audio tour, and they win a prize for completing the treasure hunt. The only downside of it, is that the mustache tour didn't include all the paintings, and my daughter wanted to rush through the treasure hunt to get her prize, so i ended up missing some of the information from the regular tour trying to keep up with her.

After we finished up in the museum, we went outside to the gardens. There is a tree with ropes hanging down that are covered in admission bracelets. So we took ours off and added them to the tree. There is also a hedge maze and there was a tribute garden for Frida Kahlo.

They also have a nice gift shop, with souvenirs in all price ranges. The Dali Museum was a really neat experience. i'm so glad i decided to tag along last minute. i would have been devastated to miss the Frida exhibit, and see the new museum. Definitely add it to your to do list next time you visit the St. Pete area! 

*See more at:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Spring Break 2017- Bradenton/Anna Marie Island

Spring break in Florida!  This year we decided to take a quick trip down to Florida to visit with my parents over the kids spring break. They ony get 2 days off for spring break, the Friday before and the Monday after Easter. We took them out of school Thursday and Tues, so we had a little more time to enjoy the break. It still ended up being a very quick trip.

 The first day we drove around 6 hours, and stayed the night in Savannah. The next morning we headed to Leesburg to visit my 79 year old Grandma.

Since we were just stopping for a few hours we brought pizza and pie, so she didn't have to worry about cooking. After eating we went down to the pool house and the kids spent an hour enjoying the pool while we sat around a visited. It was great to see my grandma and a nice break from all the driving. After leaving my grandmother's we headed on to Bradenton, where my parents live 6 months of the year.  It's only about 2 hours from my grandma, so we arrived Thursday evening.

The next morning we got up early and headed to the beach! Anna Marie Island is just across the bridge from Bradenton. We like to go to Coquina beach.  If you get there in the morning, it's really not that busy. 

The water is crystal clear and quite shallow, so i could let the kids play in the water without worrying too much. While they were swimming, a school of fish came close to them and then pelicans began diving all around them scooping up the fish.  It was a pretty neat thing to observe.

We spent a few hours on the beach with my mom, then headed back to their house for lunch. The kids enjoyed the pool at the clubhouse, while Kenan and i tried to recover from the drive. After dinner, we headed back to Anna Marie Island to enjoy the sunset.

This was taken at Bradenton beach. There are beaches all down this strip and fun little shell shops and touristy stuff. We were looking for a relaxing low key vacation, and the beach was just what we needed. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spring at Panther Creek

Ever spring we visit Panther Creek, which is just a few miles from us in Dugspur, VA.  

The creek here is actually Big Reed Island Creek, and the road is called Panther Creek rd. Panther Creek is a smaller creek, that parallels the road for a while then connects up with the Greasy creek, which then connects to Big Reed Island.  The 'thinking rock' is a popular spot among locals. It's easy to climb up on it, it's relatively flat on top and the views of the creek are amazing. 

The area is always pretty, but in early spring Wild Phlox blooms on the rock faces. It's a pretty spectacular drive.  

It's hard to capture it in a photo, but the phlox is different shades of pink and sometimes white and covers the rocks. 

There is a place to pull over and trails that follow another small creek and cascading falls up into the mountain.  It's a really wonderful place to hike, but it's not uncommon to come across rattlesnakes here.  There are lots of native wildflowers that come up in this area, which is why it is one of my favorite places to hike.  This is wild columbine.

Wild Bleeding heart is a favorite that i rarely come across. So it's always a pleasure to see it growing here wild. 

Photographed my first Eastern Tiger Swallowtail of the season here. They were loving the wild Phlox. This is such an beautiful area to drive and hike, but when the phlox is blooming it's truly spectacular. We make point of coming here every spring to see it.

We have lived in Virginia for 17 years now, and we still feel so blessed to be here. i'm still completely fascinated by all the different fauna and flora of the area and never take any of it for granted.  In my humble opinion, there is just no place better than the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Spring hiking and Staying Hydrated- Sunshack Hydration Backpack Review

Yesterday, the boy and i went on an afternoon hike. It's so hard to stay out of the woods when it's this pretty out! i love exploring and looking for new wildflowers and mushroom spots. We Hiked down to the creek with the dogs and visited a couple of my favorite morel spots.

Blood root and bluets are blooming. Trillium is up, but not flowering yet.

i found these brand new morels coming up in one of our spots. They are brand new, the largest one is less than an inch tall. SO i covered them up with leaves, marked the spot and am going to go back and check them again in a few days.  The soil temperatures have been warm all week, but it's pretty dry.  i think if we were to get a rain shower the morels will start popping up everywhere!

Sequoia wanted to try out his new #Hydrationbackpack by #SunShack. i actually got this for him to use during band camp, as he had mentioned how hot it is and they don't get a lot of water breaks.  This one is really lightweight and comfortable. It holds 2L of water, and also has a zippered pocket to hold some small personal items. This will come in really handy during our summer hikes on the AT and also good for bike riding. i always have the kids bring water bottles, and somehow i always end up carrying them all!  Now, he'll have no excuses for not carrying his own water.

My boy is very pleased with this SunShack Hydration Backpack available here. 

The company is Australian owned. It's made from waterproof honeycomb ripstop fabric and the water bladder is BPA free.It also features an insulating hose cover for prevention of freezing and overheating in extreme conditions. Dynamic 360 degree, removable bite valve for hand-washing and first-aid and high visibility reflective back strips.

It's great for jogging, hiking, biking and any outside activity where you need to take water with you.

*i received this product at no cost in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.  My opinions are my own. i was not compensated.
#freeforreview #hikinggear #cyclinggear #productreviewer #stayhydrated

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Allen and the Nordic Gnome- book review

We LOVE all things gnome here. i recently had the opportunity to review this adorable children's book about a Gnome or Tomte, and am excited to tell you about it. Gnomes  are also known as a Tomte or Nisse. Not many people have seen them because they are very shy and live in the woods. 

For centuries these legendary gnomes have guarded farms and families in Scandinavia year-round, especially children and animals. This book is about Allen and his magical experience with a Nordic Gnome.

This is a sweet little children's book that introduces you to the magic of the Tomte. It is a simple story, great for young children and early readers. It is beautifully illustrated and is a tie-in to the adorable handmade gnomes that are also available for sale.

These adorable plush gnomes are  available in several different colors and styles.  Each gnome is individually handmade with wool and lots of love! 

They would be so adorable appearing in a child's stocking, or next to the tree on Yule/Christmas morning, after having read the book the night before.
The story of Allen and the Nordic Gnome is currently available for sale on amazon.  It's $5.99 for the kindle version and $12.99 for paperback.

The Gnomes can be purchased for between $16.99 and $28.99 depending on style. You can find the full selection here.

These are just so cute and a perfect decoration for the Winter Solstice.

*i received the ebook at no cost in exchange for reviewing it and sharing the link on my blog. i was not compensated.  

Creating Fairy Gardens

Creating fairy gardens is my new favorite thing! We have made them in the past, just using natural materials we found around the yard. Every spring my girl and i collect moss., bark and acorn caps, and put together some fairy gardens outside.

A few weeks ago, when it was still too cold to play outside, i stumbled upon a bunch of adorable fairy garden accessories at the local Dollar Tree.  They had little fairy and gnome houses, bridges, benches and little accessory packs that had 3 items per package.  i think i spend a whopping $10 and had enough supplies to make numerous fairy gardens.

The first one we made i just used an old pot i already had. It's actually a recycled fairy garden, that we created last year. We collected new moss and woodland plants for it. Then added our cute accessories.  i had the intention of adding some succulents and other plants once the garden centers are stocked, but haven't yet. We did add a few crystals and pretty rocks too.

i bought this pot specifically to repot my Aloe which had outgrown it's pot. However, the cats kept digging in the soil since it was so exposed, so we ended up building a fairy garden around it. The hen and chick succulents came from my garden, and the other plants and moss came from the woods. i loved how this one turned out so much that i bought another of the same pot to make another fairy garden.

i was playing around in the glass shop a few weeks ago and made this super cute gnome, who took up residence in this fairy garden. A couple days ago i decided to try making a mushroom to go with him. It didn't turn out great (the white boiled), but it was fun and i'm definitely going to try making some more!

The same day i bought this pot, i stopped at the garden center and found all these succulents on sale. So i picked up a few and created another fairy garden, this time with gnomes. :)  The moss is very to care for, it just needs to be misted every day so it stays moist. 

Last year all of my fairy gardens were created in these glass globes.  So i added one of the fairies to this one. 

Over the weekend, my daughter and i started putting together this huge fairy garden!  Right now it has a lot of moss and woodland plants that we collected from the woods, but i plan to add more flowers and low/ground cover types of plants. 

i'm super thrilled with how this one is turning out, i just need to figure out a way to keep the chickens out of it! They insist on pulling out the moss. We added a bunch of rocks, so hopefully that will deter them a little bit. We also added some dried seed pods and acorns. We are constantly adding to them.

i ended up with some neat woodland plants that were attached to some of the moss we collected. i think they look great!

If you visit Pintrest, you'll find a million different ways to create fairy gardens. There is so much neat inspiration and clever ideas. Fairy garden accessories are popping up everywhere! i've seen them at Michael's craft store, Dollar tree, Family dollar, JoAnn Fabrics and even Biglots. You can purchase your accessories of make your own. The possibilities are endless!