How to Start a Blog: Picking a Name

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Name.Kitchen sponsored today’s post but all opinions and experiences are my own.

When people find out I’m a blogger they usually have a lot of questions for me.  How do you start a blog?  How did you decide on the name for your blog?  Which is then usually quickly followed up with: can you help me make one too?

I love blogging- what started as a hobby has turned to a business, and as it has grown so has my knowledge of photography, SEO, coding, etc.  The exciting thing is that there is always (always) more to learn!  That lesson reigned especially true six months ago when I decided to rebrand my blog.  …

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My Go-To Snacks

Winter is winding down, and warm weather is right around the corner.  I’m so ready to move on from comfort foods and on to some lighter flavors (like the Creamy Havarti and Apricot Grilled Cheese I posted yesterday!).  I may be looking to lighten up on calories, but not on flavor. I’m sharing my five favorites that I’m currently snacking on:


1. Fresh fruit.  My kids are addicted to berries, I can barely keep them stocked.  I love to toss mine with some Kozy Shack® Simply Well® pudding or low-cal whipped cream.  We also use them for smoothies!

2. Nuts.  A few weeks ago I bought a huge jar of glazed pecans from Costco and they’ve been my new favorite thing.  Nuts are really good for you, and so easy to grab and go.  I also love making a big batch of these Sweet & Spicy Almonds.

3. Dark chocolate.  Sometimes I just really need a little nibble of something sweet.  Studies have shown the health benefits of dark chocolate, and I’ve found that usually I just want a little piece.  I don’t keep full-size candy bars or anything like that in the house, so I’m not tempted to have more than just a little bite to satisfy my sweet tooth.

4. Kozy Shack® Simply Well® pudding– available in 90-calorie servings with no sugar added, with 1.5 grams of fat, and is gluten free.  Because Kozy Shack® Simply Well® contains 90-calories, it is the perfect guilt-free snack to satisfy your cravings.  I love that I can get the rich taste of pudding under 100 calories.

5. Frozen fruit bars.  My kids love them, and I love that they don’t have artificial colors and added sugar.  Make sure to look for ones that are made from fruit!

Want to try Kozy Shack® Simply Well® pudding for yourself?

To enter for  a chance to win two (2) VIP product coupons good for one (1) free package of Kozy Shack® Simply Well, up to a $4.99 value, all you have to do is:

Visit the Kozy Shack® Simply Well® page here. Then, leave a comment below letting me know a fun fact that you learned from the Kozy Shack® Simply Well® site.


Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Sticks

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The International Housewares Association. All opinions are 100% mine.

Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Sticks- perfect for a hot cocoa bar or to stir in your coffee 

I’m a big fan of hot cocoa on a cold winter day.  My kiddos love it when I setup a hot cocoa bar for us to enjoy while snuggled up under a blanket by the fire or watching a movie.  Sometimes I whip up these chocolate dipped peppermint sticks for an extra special treat.  They take no time at all to put together! …

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Decorating the Perfect Gingerbread House

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The International Housewares Association . All opinions are 100% mine.

Today I’m sharing a post on the Inspired Home site.

With my oldest daughter we started the tradition of decorating a gingerbread house every year around Christmas time. She loves to help me in the kitchen- especially when it involves frosting and candy! I’m really excited this year for my two-year-old to join us in all the fun.


Over the years I’ve found a few tricks to help make this event go a little more smoothly. I like to do some prep ahead of time that way I get to spend more time in the moment. Read more of my tips and get a yummy gingerbread recipe on the Inspired Home site.


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My Wish This Season #WishesDelivered

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of UPS for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

If you follow me on Instagram you might have noticed that we added a new puppy to our family a few months ago.  She is the cutest little sable sheltie and we named her Emme.   She has seriously been the BEST puppy.  She sleeps at my feet, goes everywhere with me in the car, and is amazing with Sophia (2 years old).  I’ll be honest, I’ve never considered myself a “sleep in the bed with me” dog person before now, but she was definitely meant for our family! emme1

One of my friends had a sheltie when we were younger, and I’ve wanted one ever since.  I saw an online posting for a 7 week old sheltie puppy that the owner couldn’t take with them on a cross-country move.  I immediately reached out to them and we went to pick her up the next day a few hours away from us. …

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Tips for Hosting the Perfect Holiday Party

This post contains sponsored content.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. #SmellsClean

Every year we host an annual white elephant party with all of our friends.  Each person brings a gift and we all take turns drawing a number and picking a gift to trade or keep.  We serve small bites (and adult beverages) and play Christmas music.  It’s nice to have an adult-only evening every once and a while!  Hosting usually stresses me out, but these last few years I’ve tried to focus more on having fun and not worrying so much about the details.

Here are my top 3 tips to hosting the perfect holiday party:

1. Plan for early arrivals.  I mention this first because it always trips me up!  I am always running late- even to my own events- so it always shocks me when people are early.  My husband has even gone so far as to change the clocks in an attempt to have me ready on time.  If you have some early guests, meet them at the door with a glass of bubbly and explain that you have a few things to finish up.

2. Set the atmosphere.  The first things your guests will notice when they walk in are the sights and SMELLS.  I like to have a variety of holiday scents going throughout the house.  (Hit up the air care aisle at Walmart and choose a few products that are complimentary to each other, not overpowering!)  I love the Glade 2 in 1 Candles; Sparkling Spruce and Apple Cinnamon Cheer is perfect for the holidays!  I usually also put a warming tray with wax melts in the entryway and Febreze NOTICEables in the bathrooms. The firefighter wife in me has to say: keep the candles out of high traffic areas, opt for the fragrance oils like Air Wick for the outlets instead.


3. Plan for hungry and thirsty guests.  Nothing is worse than running out of food or beverages, and you don’t want to stop the party to prepare more or run to the store!  There are a lot of great online calculators to help figure out how many cocktails to plan for based on the number of guests you anticipate.  This Caramelized Pecan Brie is one of my very favorite things to serve at our gatherings- it’s a hit every time!

Caramelized Pecan Brie- the perfect appetizer and sweet alternative to a traditional cheeseball #recipe #appetizer #sweet

What are your favorite tips for hosting during the holidays? 


What is your wish? #WishesDelivered

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of UPS. All opinions are 100% mine.

Can you believe it’s already the holiday season and this year will soon be coming to a close??  I am so ready for all of the delicious eats that will be happening soon!  This year, I’m really trying to be done with all of my shopping before December so that I can just sit back and enjoy the time with my family. Last year I cut it way too close, with my last few remaining gifts being delivered just in the nick of time.

Every year, UPSers work long hours to deliver everyday wishes throughout the holiday season. They work overtime to ensure that every package is delivered on your doorstop just in time to make someone else smile! This holiday season, UPS wants to help spread those special stories and also have you help to make them even more magical through the #WishesDelivered campaign!  From now though December 31st, UPS wants you to share wishes for their 2014 #WishesDelivered program which will spread holiday cheer and help raise money for charity.  For every wish submitted using the hashtag #WishesDelivered, UPS will donated $1 (up to $100K) to one of the charities they partner with.


How to Submit a Wish: Post your wish to Twitter or Instagram with the campaign hashtag #WishesDelivered and it will automatically be submitted. Another option is to go direct to the #WishesDelivered site and manually submit here.  Submissions should be selfless and meaningful and made on behalf of another person.  (No one needs a new iPhone 6.)

I think it’s great that UPS that delivers wishes everyday on our doorsteps and is going above and beyond this season to give back in a big way! 



What’s your wish? Be sure to submit your wish through Twitter or Instagram with the campaign hashtag #WishesDelivered!


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My Weekend with the Chrysler 200

A few weeks ago I was given an opportunity to test drive the new 2015 Chrysler 200 for a few days.  It’s always fun to switch it up from what I usually drive and try something new, and the 200 did not disappoint! 


This sedan definitely had all the bells and whistles- leather, heated/cooled seats, navigation, etc.  When I picked Isabella up from school in this, she immediately wanted to keep it.  She’s a sucker for a nice sunroof!  I’m a sucker for keyless entry and push-button start.  I LOVE that I didn’t have to dig for my keys in my purse with my hands full of groceries and a toddler on my hip to unlock the car. …

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Visiting the ALDI Test Kitchen

This week I have an amazing opportunity to visit the ALDI Test Kitchen in Chicago.  Eeek!  I’ve only been to Chicago once before when we took a trip to see the tulip festival for Mother’s Day a few years ago.  It was so beautiful!  This visit will definitely be a little colder- temps are supposed to be in the thirties and forties. 


I recently shared how I like to Switch & Save at ALDI and a few of my favorite items that I make sure to pick up while I’m shopping.  I am so excited to visit and learn more about ALDI.  I will get an opportunity to take part in Q&A sessions and informative presentations, preview ALDI seasonal products, enjoy a rare look at the ALDI Test Kitchen and taste exclusive holiday recipes from our Test Kitchen Chefs. 

I can’t wait to hear about the seasonal products!  I will also get a chance to meet with Sensory Expert Gail Vance Civille and Master Sommelier Leslee Miller.  I’m really excited to learn more about ALDI’s processes for providing quality private label brands.  I’ve mentioned previously how impressed I am with ALDI’s Double Guarantee, and I can’t wait to hear more about their business practices.  I’m also hoping to pick up some tips on what to serve during the upcoming holiday season. 

Any questions you would love for me to find out while I am visting ALDI?  What would you ask a Sensory Expert or Master Sommelier?

Be sure to follow me on Instagram to follow along with me on my trip! :)


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in partnership with ALDI’s Holiday Blogger Ambassador Program. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

How to Switch & Save at ALDI

When we moved into our new neighborhood last year, one of the first things I did was scope out where all of my local grocery stores are.  We are lucky to live a few blocks away from a big store, but we also have several other options nearby.  It wasn’t until I became a stay-at-home mom that I really began to watch our grocery bill and start shopping around for the best deals.  When I was working full-time outside of the home, I felt like I didn’t have the time or energy to shop multiple stores, but now that I’ve seen the savings, I would highly recommend it. 


One way that I do that is by shopping at ALDI.  There are a lot of things I like about the way ALDI does business.  They are not your super big, one-stop-shop type of store; in fact, they are proud minimalist.  Minimal overhead, advertising, staffing, operating hours, and inventory are the very reasons that you can find such great deals at ALDI.  When you are used to the big box stores, it does take some getting used when you shop there for the first time.  Like, why do I need to pay for my shopping cart and what do you mean I have to bag my own groceries? …

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