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mason jars

Christmas/ DIY/Crafts/ FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ Homemade Gifts

DIY Wine & Snack Gift Basket


I love showing up to a holiday party with a little hostess gift. Usually I keep it small and simple, like a homemade snack in a mason jar. During the holidays, it is fun to get a bit more generous and creative, so I did! I made this this festive DIY Wine & Snack Gift Basket. Wine is the perfect simple, sparkly & sophisticated hostess gift.

2 bottles of Gloria Ferrer Wine & a sparkly gold ornament

Gloria Ferrer wines is the star of this DIY Wine & Snack Gift Basket. Gloria Ferrer caves and vineyards opened in 1986, is Carneros’ original sparkling wine house, owned and founded by the Ferrer family of Spain. Exuberant and fruit-forward, Gloria Ferrer wines go perfectly with today’s diverse and flavorful cuisine, and have earned over 400 gold medals and 50 90+ scores in the last 5 years. Needless to say, they are the perfect wine choice for my gift basket.

I chose the Sonoma Brut & the Royal Cuvée:

Sonoma Brut –91% Pinot Noir, 9% Chardonnay

Winemaker Notes: Delicate pear and floral notes backed by toasty almond.  On the palate, one finds lively citrus, toast and apple flavors overlaid with persistent effervescence, a creamy mid-palate and toasty finish.

Royal Cuvée Brut –67% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay

Winemaker Notes: The wine opens with green apple, citrus and honey on the nose.  This continues into the mouth adding black cherry and brioche with Asian pear.  The mousse is fine textured and creamy.  Light mineral character and Meyer lemon continue into a long crisp finish.

After typing that, I am tempted to keep the basket for myself! They sounds so delicious!

Glittery feather, reindeer candle and wine for a gift basket

I wanted a few fun things in the basket along with the wine. I wanted the basket to have a simple, classy and elegant feeling, to compliment the Gloria Ferrer Wine. I wanted a touch of glitz without being overdone.

Continue Reading…

Drinks/ Healthy Eating/ HOME/ RECIPES/ Simplifying

Easy Iced Tea Concentrate Made In A Mason Jar!

Easy iced tea concentrate in a mason jar

I have a super easy way to make Iced Tea that does not include boiling water or sitting it in the sun all day, and uses a mason jar — which we all know I love!

Just take a jar, put in 4 tea bags, fill it to the top, screw on the lid and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, take the bags out and give them a little squeeze over the jar.  Voila’…you now have iced tea concentrate! 

 When you want a glass of tea, pour about 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water into a glass of ice and stir. I adjust the amount of concentrate depending on how weak or strong that particular brand of tea is.

Here is the blog that I got the idea from, there are a bunch of comments regarding specific measurements if you are someone who likes more details.

*the picture above was taken before the jar sat overnight.  The concentrate gets much more, well, concentrated:)

I plan on adding some fresh mint leaves or lemon balm from my garden for even more flavor.  Herbs are incredibly good for you so this is a great way to take advantage of their health benefits.

Healthy Eating/ HOME/ How-Tos/ Organizing/ RECIPES

A Peek Inside Our Refrigerator & Using Mason Jars To Make It Pretty & Organized

glass bowls and mason jars holding fruit and vegetables inside a refrigerator

I posted this picture on New Nostalgia’s Facebook & Instagram, and it got quite a bit of attention! Who knew that an organized refrigerator using mason jars would be so interesting?!  promised a post that talked more about the picture and instead of ONE post, I will be writing TWO!

In this first post, I will talk about: 

1. How a pretty & organized refrigerator helps keep waste to a minimal
2. How I keep the refrigerator looking this way on a weekly basis
3. How glass is the key, so you can SEE!
4. How Mason jars are a great alternative to plastic
5. How I cut my veggies for successful consumption
6. How jars keep fruits and veggies fresher, longer
7. How jars keep my kids munching on veggies

In the second post  I will share:
A. What else is in the refrigerator that you may not be able to see.
B. What we eat. How foods in the pantry and freezer are key to creating well-rounded meals.
C. How only buying what you need for the week is key to an organized refrigerator.
D. Meals we ate that week
E. Snacks we ate that week
F. Lunches we ate that week
G. Breakfasts we ate that week
glass bowls and mason jars holding fruit and vegetables inside a refrigerator

So, on to points 1-7:

1. First, this is a new goal of mine…to have a pretty & organized refrigerator.  It has been well worth the extra thought and effort. Since I started using glass bowls and mason jars, it has been so much easier to see what is in there & find what we need.  We do not waste food like we used to, and I don’t buy things that I already have! Most importantly, I know my family is eating nourishing plant foods!

2. I have been trying to do my grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday.  Even before I leave to grocery shop, I do a quick clean out of our refrigerator, taking note of what we have and what we need.  This way the refrigerator gets cleaned out once a week and never gets too bad.  It really only takes minutes, and is so well worth it!  It also only takes minutes to take fruit out of their bags once you get back from the store and put them into bowls.  The kids can do this for you!  Yes, slicing veggies and putting them in the jars takes more time, but not as much as you would think.

3. The glass bowls you see in there stay in there.  Most weeks they contain the same fruit, but the mango bowl sometimes has grapefruit instead.  The apple bowl sometimes has pears instead.  It all depends on the seasons, and what is on sale.  Glass is the key.  It allows the fruit to look like the art that it is and be on display!  I find what is on display gets eaten, so it works well.

4. Mason jars are a long time favorite of mine.  We do not have any disposable plastic storage containers, and my goal is to use all glass for food storage. I have a cabinet shelf that holds all 3 sizes of mason jars, and I keep their lids and rims all in a big bowl in a place that is easy to grab and reach.  We use them for dry food storage too, so I have quite a few of them.  They are so much better than stained plastic, and I love that they can go straight from the refrigerator to freezer, and from the freezer to the microwave (lid removed) to defrost if needed. The small 4oz jars are great for single servings of soup or chili.

Organized refrigerator

5. As you can see in the picture, I chop most of the veggies up ahead of time, at the beginning of the week. I am known for taking my big bamboo cutting board and sitting on the floor in front of the TV to do my chopping.  Oh yes!  The floor!! My cutting board is big enough to keep all food on it, so it works for me!  Most weeks I get to this.

If it is an extra busy week, I still make sure to take fruits out of their bags and display in bowls. Then the next time I make a salad (we eat them daily),  I take an extra few minutes to slice the veggies we use on the salad to store in the jars.  I use a mandolin for cucumbers, peppers, and carrots. It is one of my most used kitchen tools. It makes great thin slices for topping salads.

I also like to have carrot sticks and red pepper sticks to dip in hummus or put into lunch boxes, so I will save some to cut into sticks and put in a separate jar.  If I buy a bunch of onions, I will use my food processor to cut them into a dice size, store them in 1 cup jars, keep one out for the week to use in recipes and freeze the rest.  There are certain veggies I do not slice up.  These are usually ones I am planning on using in recipes, like squash.  I buy bags of broccoli already cut up into florets, and keep them in the bag, but if you buy it whole, mason jars are great for storing these, too.

6. I have been very surprised at how long our veggies stay fresh in mason jars. Even up to a week they do not get slimy. I do sometimes add a splash of water to sit at the bottom of the jars if the veggies start looking dried out at all. I will give it a little shimmy shake after adding the water, and they are good to go all week.

7. There is nothing better than finding an empty jar and knowing one of my girls were busy munching on cucumbers or carrot sticks.  Oh, how that makes this Mama happy! Now, the key to my girls munching on vegetables is not having a bunch of junk food snacks sitting around.

If healthy vegetables, fruits, and snacks are all you have in the house, they will eventually eat them. But if you have cakes, cookies and cupcakes, they will be much less likely to grab plant food snacks.

Make sure you look at part 2.
Do you have any tips for me?
What thoughts did this post spur on in your head?
I would love to know if you care to share!
Drinks/ Featured/ FUN/DIY/ RECIPES/ Seasonal

Homemade Gifts-Peppermint Stick Cocoa

I have seen SO many great homemade gift ideas this year.   I really want to write a post featuring them all, but they are all disorganized and saved in my bookmarks, or starred somewhere on my reader. You would think I would would take the time (2 clicks!) to clip and annotate them to my Circus Ponies Notebook, but….no.  Gotta work on that!

I read so many blogs a day thanks to my Google Reader –I’ll post about this soon for those who don’t know what it is– so I come across many, many great ideas.  My head started to feel spinny whenever I would think about what I wanted to do.  I finally had to just pick one, so Peppermint Stick Cocoa it is.  I thought the layers were pretty, especially the mini-chocolate chips and the crushed peppermint candies.  Plus, I got to use a mason jar!  I like that I can do smaller jars for 1-2 people and larger jars for families.  (if you click on the link, you will see that they put it in a very cool square-ish jar.  I love it and you can buy them at wal-mart, but at almost 3 times the cost of a mason jar.  They are very cool but not THAT cool!:)

Peppermint Stick Cocoa
Layer the ingredients for homemade cocoa in a jar, add a ribbon, embellishment, and a tag, and you have a simple but cute gift.  This mix will fill a 1 quart jar (12 servings), but if your containers are different sizes, just keep the ratio of ingredients constant.  On the back of the tag, write: “Mix contents in a bowl.  For each serving, place 1/3 cup cocoa mix in a mug and stir in one cup boiling water.  Store remaining mix in airtight container.

1 cup powdered milk
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

Layer powdered milk, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, chocolate chips, and peppermint candy.
Yeild: Makes 1 quart mix or 12 servings hot cocoa.

I used a 16 oz jar (1 pint) and halved the recipe, this serves 6.  I also made 8 oz jars (1/2 pint) and adjusted the measurements, this serves 3.

16 oz jar measurements (1 pint) serves 6
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/4 cup crushed peppermint candy

8 oz jar measurements (1/2 pint) serves 3
1/4 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/8 cup crushed peppermint candies

I like giving away homemade gifts to people like co-workers, school teachers, mailman, neighbors, piano teacher, pastor, and friends.  Just a little something to let them know I am thinking of them during the Christmas season.

My oldest daughter and I made these together today, while the younger 2 watched a Christmas movie.  It was the perfect thing to do on a “school’s- out -snow- day!”  It went pretty smoothly, I do wish peppermint candies came pre-crushed!  Beating them with the rolling pin did not work, banging them with the bottom of a mason jar did not work, finally we got out the hammer and with some muscle–it worked!  Those were some hard- headed peppermints!  Once we had the candy crushed and a fun little math lesson with the measurements, we were good to go.  We made an assembly line, and got busy!

We found that with the small 8 oz jar size, we needed to change up the order so that the peppermints would show.  We did sugar, cocoa powder, mini chocolate chips, crushed peppermints, salt and powdered milk.  Much prettier that way.  In the 16 oz jars, we kept the order as stated in the recipe.

After my girls had some igloo fun in the snow, they came in and sipped on some Peppermint Stick Cocoa.  It was very chocolate-y and very good;  so good that I got impatient when I had to say no at least 9 times when they asked for more. (3 times per girl, 3 girls).  I will blame their persistence on the addictive nature of the cocoa drink, because of course, my girls would respect their mothers “no” the first time, so they must have been on a chocolate high. Ha! Um, yea–guess we gotta work on that one!

Ask Anna



At Home Salad Bar

I love salad bars.  REALLY, I do!  There is just nothing like a good salad full of fresh veggies and lots of yummy toppings.  I love the variety and all the bright beautiful colors.
Salads are really a great way to get those servings of vegetables in each day.  I try hard to have a salad with every family dinner, and I often make one for myself at lunchtime.  If I have some soup on hand, I will make a smaller salad, but if not, I load up the entire plate and top with pasta or chicken to make it more filling.

One of my favorite things in my kitchen is my Salad Spinner.  It is so much more economical to buy a head of green leafy lettuce or romaine, than buying the pre-packaged stuff.  It takes no time at all to give it a rinse and a spin…in fact, it is so easy that my 6 year old is the official salad spinner in this house.  She begs me to be the one to wash the lettuce, break it into pieces and pack it into the spinner.  She has so much fun watching the lettuce twirl, and has become quite the salad- eater since owning the job as the “Bowman family salad spinner.”  She even asks for seconds now, which is a miracle since not too long ago she spent a nice chunk of our dinners fussing about having to eat her salad.  I have found that if we pass the toppings around the dinner table and let the girls help themselves, (I put out a plate with a variety of chopped vegetables and fruit) they are much more likely to eat it.  I tell them they have to have at least 3 different colors on their salads, and since they are artistically minded, it often turns into make a “pretty salad” time.  I am proud to say (after much doubt that I ever would) that they are all 3 salad eaters.  Yippee!

**Look at all that water!
I love this salad spinner because it spins and stores.  There is alway lettuce washed and ready to go for sandwiches or to break up for tacos.  It is amazing how long the lettuce will stay fresh in the spinner, ours never gets wilted before we eat it.  I buy a head of lettuce every week so we always have it on hand.
I am much more likely to eat a salad if I know it is in my refrigerator ready for me to throw it together.  I have put my lovely mason jars to good use, and fill them up with chopped vegetables, which has made my refrigerator transform into my very own at home salad bar.  It also makes throwing together a plate of toppings at dinner time a breeze.
**please excuse the green tinge of these pictures.  I’ve got to remember to turn off my under the cabinet lighting before snapping photos!!

As far as dry toppings, sunflower seeds are very healthful and give good crunch.  I also love a sprinkling dried cranberries.  I often make my own croutons by keeping the ends of homemade bread (throw them into freezer in a ziplock until read to use), cube them, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt or what ever seasoning you like.  Toast in oven just a few minutes until golden.
As a substitute for croutons, I will take crackers (like Wheat-Thins) and break up a handful and sprinkle it on my salad.  I learned that little trick by watching my bro-in-law.  (the same bro-in-law that taught me to put Baked Lays Potato Chips in my Subway sandwich:))  I guess we both like an added little crunch! We almost always have a box of crackers on hand, so I do this often.

Other toppings I like to add are grated cheese, hard boiled eggs, (these make great snacks- I try to always have some in the refrigerator, my girls love them and are now even making their own egg salad for sandwiches!) whole wheat pasta, (another thing I try to have on hand in the refrigerator, which we use up especially on the weekends, my girls help themselves to it for lunch and sprinkle with parm. cheese) and fresh fruit–chopped apples, clementines, grapes, strawberries, etc.

I try to keep dressings simple.  Todd and I just drizzle ours with a good quality olive oil and a good quality balsamic vinegar.  It really is delicious AS LONG as you buy the good stuff.
My girls love the spray dressings that are out by Wish-Bone, Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers, particularly the Red Wine Mist.  It is full of red wine vinegar and they love that tang.  I have tried to make my own homemade, but have bombed twice.  I even tried filling the Wish-Bone bottle up with my homemade dressing, but it didn’t fool them!
Oh well.

I love seeing my family eat their salad! I have found between drinking our green smoothies and eating salads, that it is very easy to get our fruits and vegetables in.  It takes a little rinsing and chopping up front, but the health benefits for my family make it very worth it!

**make sure you buy the green stuff!  Romaine lettuce and Green Leafy lettuce have seven to eight times as much beta-carotene, and two to four times the calcium, and twice the amount of potassium as iceberg lettuce.  Spinach is another green that is amazingly good for you, so throw some of that in, too.  As a general rule, the darker green the leaves, the more nutritious the salad green.

***This post is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.
                                        The Inspired Room

FUN/DIY/ Seasonal

Mason Jars- Glowing Monster Jars

**Thought I would re-post this now that it is getting close to Halloween!  This is actually one of my most popular posts on the blog, it does really well with search engines for some reason.  Let me know if you end up making these little monsters with your little monsters!

In this previous post, I told you about my love affair with mason jars.  Well, I’m still having the affair, and I said I would post about all the great things a mason jar can do, so here we go!
Here is a super cute idea for a Halloween craft using mason jars.  I have not made them yet, but I know the minute my daughters see them they will beg me to make them.  I found them here at Not So Idle Hands and they make me love my jars even more!

Crafts…I wouldn’t say I am a person who likes making crafts.  I think it is my impatience.  I like the idea of the craft, but I just want it to be done and do not really enjoy the process.  Still, I buckle down occasionally and just do it, mostly because I have 3 very crafty girls so it is a way to spend time with them, and I have found that being crafty is a frugal way to decorate my home, so that is also motivating.

These little light up monster jars get me a bit excited because I love anything that creates atmosphere, and I know these will. Maybe I can just start simple and make three of them representing my own three lovely, little monsters.  I think these would be fun in my sunroom at night, creating a spooky fun glow!

*update:  We made them today!  I used tissue paper that we had on hand which happened to be a goldish, coppery color.  They were really fun, my girls got really into it.  They look cute lit up with a tealight!