Thursday, April 21, 2016

Earth Day Baking - Great for Kids!

To celebrate Earth Day, here is an easy cookie project that comes together very quickly. This baking idea comes to us courtesy of Christina Banner Cakes. Christina is an amazing professional baker and makes exquisite creations of all kinds!  All ages can join in the fun of creating this “Love the Earth” cookie!  Using one roll of store-bought sugar cookie dough and handful of easy to find ingredients, you can create a tray of sweet cookies that celebrate our planet!

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Love the Earth Cookie!
To celebrate Earth Day, here is an easy cookie project that comes together very quickly.  All ages can join in the fun of creating this “Love the Earth” cookie!  Using one roll of store-bought sugar cookie dough and handful of easy to find ingredients, you can create a tray of sweet cookies that celebrate our planet!

For approximately 12 cookies:

1 roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough, approximately 16 oz.
A pinch of cocoa powder
6 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
A drop of yellow liquid food color
¼ teaspoon blue liquid food color
⅛ teaspoon green liquid food color
Approximately ¼ cup of white chocolate chips or white candy disks (Candy Melts)
½ to 1 cup red chocolate candy disks (Candy Melts); the amount needed depends on the size heart you cut out in your cookies (a smaller heart will use less, and larger heart will use more)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Unwrap the roll of cookie dough.  Divide the dough into three sections: one piece approximately ½ an inch, one piece 7 to 8 inches long, and one piece approximately 4 inches long.  

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Cut the Dough


Knead 1 teaspoon of flour and a pinch of cocoa powder into the ½” section of dough.  Once the flour is incorporated, knead in a drop of yellow food color until combined.  Set this dough aside.


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Knead Cocoa and Food Coloring


Knead 4 tablespoons of flour into the 7” long section of dough.  When all of the flour is incorporated, knead in ¼ teaspoon of blue food color (disposable gloves strongly recommended).  Set this dough aside.


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Knead in Flour


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Add Food Coloring

Knead 2 tablespoons of flour into the remaining 4” section of dough.  When all of the flour is incorporated, knead in ⅛ teaspoon green food color.  Set the dough aside.


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The "earth" takes begins!
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Working with one color at a time, roll the dough section into a log shape, and then divide the log into 12 equal pieces.  Repeat with the other two colored dough sections.

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Colored Dough

To make a cookie, take one piece of each color in your hand and gently work the colors together to marble them (be careful not to mix the colors too much or you will not see the swirls of the three colors in the finished cookie).

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Mix the dough colors
Roll into a ball and flatten it slightly with your palms.  Place the cookies on the parchment lined baking sheets,  placing six cookies on each sheet.

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Roll into a cookie ball

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Ready To Bake!

Bake the cookies for 9 to 12 minutes, until firm but not yet beginning to brown.  Remove the tray from the oven and set it aside to allow the cookies to cool just a little, about 5 minutes.  While the cookies are still warm, use a metal heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out a heart shape in each cookie.  Remove the cut out and allow the cookies to cool completely on the trays.

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Cut a Heart

Put the red chocolate in a zip-top freezer bag, seal the top of the bag and place the bag in a bowl of hot tap water.  It will take about 5 minutes to melt completely.

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Melt Red Chocolate

Meanwhile, put the white chocolate in a small bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring every 15 seconds, until fully melted.

Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the white chocolate in wispy swirls over each cookie.

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Brush White Chocolate 
Remove the bag of melted red chocolate from the bowl of hot water, and dry off the outside of the bag.  Knead the bag a bit to ensure that all of the chocolate is fully melted.  Use scissors to snip a small opening from one corner of the bag.

Carefully fill the cut-out heart on each cookie with the melted red chocolate.  Allow the cookies to sit until the chocolate sets.  Once the chocolate is set, remove the cookies from the tray.
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Fill the Heart

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Love the Earth Cookie!

Visit Christina on Instagram and Facebook - Thanks Christina!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bar Method - Day 1 of My Fitness Quest!

I'm on a journey to getting in better shape, because right now I'm not so much.  I'm at the point where for my health it has to happen.  I taught aerobics in college, lifted weights, and obsessively practiced yoga so I've been there before - but life happens and work happens and other things slowly took precedence over fitness.  Sigh.  For the sake of my wellness and overcoming my disease, I'm doing this.  

Day one was at Charlotte's Bar Method Studio.  Autumn, the owner, is a really sweet lady that opened the South Park location.   I decided I needed a group fitness setting because I don't know about my solo motivation at this point.  I was scared and sweaty before the class since I really wasn't sure if I could even do it.  My friend Angie went with me for moral support (she's in awesome shape).  I'll just say this - Bar Method is completely amazing. (no joke)

Bar Method
I took ballet lessons as a kid so I had the slightest idea of what a class would be like (without the skin tight leotard of course).  The studio was great from the entrance.  Everyone was warm and welcoming and the facility is beautiful.  There are two rooms for classes, we were in the larger of the two and really plush carpet.  It can't be that hard with carpet, right?


The Bar
The setting immediately puts you at ease.  It has lots of natural light and floor to ceiling windows and all neutral colors.   There is no pulsing music or people in inappropriately tight clothing.  My class had all different fitness levels among the participants so I wasn't freaking out about my first class.

The studio
The Bar Method exercise targets the muscles that play the greatest role in body change, then keeps these muscles working intensely and safely long enough for them to change.  It then intensely stretches each muscle worked to make it look and feel more longer and more graceful.  You use a series of weights and mats during the class.

The equipment
As the class began, our instructor gave everyone gentle correction but also loads of praise.  I was grateful for the adjustments so I didn't hurt myself and my form improved during the class.  We began with warm ups and then light weights.  I started to really feel my muscles twitch and I wasn't convinced I would make it through the class.  (I had very bad anxiety as a fitness newbie).

The Bar Method workout is a fast-paced form of interval training that maximizes caloric burn during every class.  This format gives students slimmer, leaner bodies after a few months of regular attendance.  It really is for all sizes and fitness ranges.

The Mats
The class moved quickly so we weren't stuck doing one exercise or move for a long time.  There are modifications for each set of movements - if you're stronger in one area you can up the intensity or cool it with another move.  We moved from the floor to the bar.  I learned quickly that form was more important than trying to over-do a move.  I got really sweaty.  I could do some and couldn't completely do others.  The last half of the class was on the floor on mats.  The ab work is amazing.  It's like crunches that hurt, but they're so gentle on the body you don't know it.....It's hard to explain

I felt great after the class and I'm going back for more.  I think Bar Method tricks you into fitness because the moves aren't so hard that you feel like dying but you are SORE the next day in a good way.
After the class
Okay, so you've got to try this method.  I would definitely recommend it for those especially like me that are returning to the fitness game.  The studio is amazing, the instructors and staff are super encouraging, and to be honest I was so happy when I left.  I left the studio feeling really proud of myself for doing it and it was a major confidence booster for me.  This was an excellent choice for my first class back and you will see me at The Bar Method studio again. 

Thanks to Autumn and staff at South Park for being awesome.  Visit them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.











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Friday, April 15, 2016

Cookie Giveaway - It's Too Sweet!

I love cookies, duh.  I love trying new kinds of cookies, but I'm normally loyal to chocolate.  I'm pretty much a cookie monster, but that's not good for me (I get it).  So when a new cookie company opened near me, I needed to check it out and share it with you.  This cookie company is pretty cool because they're open and they deliver until 3 am!  Whoa! I give you Insomnia Cookies.   Insomnia Cookies started in 2003 and has over 85 stores.  You probably have one near you!  Their selling point is delivering warm cookies and cold milk (plus other goodies) way late.  They're giving 3 lucky Effortless Girl readers a free box of cookies from the Boone, NC location just for being an Effortless Girl!!!!  Who's in?


Insomnia Cookies
So the giveaway works like this, it's free to enter but you do have to sign up.  Go to the Effortless Girl homepage and enter your email address in the top left corner box that says "Follow by Email."  The winners will be selected at random from all registered followers - sign up today, there are cookies on the line!  The drawing ends 4/21 so hurry!

The photo below is the Boone, NC location.  This one is great for the students because it is literally a stone's throw from the Appalachian State campus and you could stop in between classes and get a snack.  Just saying.

Boone, NC
One of my favorites is chocolate chunk.  I don't need to tell you why - check out the photo.

Chocolate Chunk
Eating oatmeal raisin cookies always makes me feel like I've chosen the healthier option.  I'm getting whole grains from the oatmeal and fruit from the raisins.  

Oatmeal Raisin
Or perhaps you need a splash of color in your day.... the M & M's would hit the spot!

M&M
Be sure to check out Insomnia Cookies on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!  


Insomnia Cookies



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Monday, April 11, 2016

Fight Hunger. Spark Change. #FightHunger

I grew up in an area that wasn't a stranger to poverty.  There are people living in the Appalachian Mountains that the struggle to feed themselves and their families is very real - like daily.  They're hard working, precious people that have to worry where and when the next time they will be able to eat and feed their children.  They are our neighbors, not in some far away, third world country - but right here at home.  Hunger is a close topic to my heart and one that I hope you'll think about and JOIN ME IN DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.


#FightHunger Spark Change
The USDA reports one in seven Americans are currently struggling with hunger.  The USDA also reports that 48 MILLION people in America, including more than 15 million children struggle with hunger.  This breaks my heart.

But there is something really, really easy you can do today (and it's at Walmart - how convenient is that?).

Walmart’s “Fight Hunger. Spark Change” campaign calls on customers and suppliers to join in the fight against hunger.  Through the “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” campaign, Walmart is working with five suppliers — Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, Kellogg Company, the Kraft Heinz Company, and PepsiCo — to give millions of customers an opportunity to fight hunger in their local communities.  The campaign has a goal of helping Feeding America secure 75 million meals on behalf of its member food banks. As the nation’s leading hunger-relief organization, the Feeding America network provides food to more than 46 million people in communities across America.

“Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” will run in all U.S. Walmart stores from March 28 to April 25, and offers three easy ways to participate:

o   PURCHASING: Purchase participating products in Walmart stores to help provide meals for families who struggle with hunger in your local community. For every participating product purchased at Walmart between March 28th and April 25th, 2016, the manufacturer will donate $0.09 to Feeding America - enough to secure one meal on behalf of local food banks - up to each manufacturer’s maximum donation, which is provided on the participating packages. See package or Walmart.com/FightHunger for details.

    • DONATING: Donate to a local Feeding America food bank at the register.
    • ONLINE: Generate donations for Feeding America food banks through online acts of support!
      Use #FightHunger on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
      Share and like campaign posts on Facebook
      Show your support on Walmart.com/­fighthunger
      Use unique Snapchat fi­lters in select stores

For each online act of support, Walmart will donate enough to help Feeding America secure 10 meals (an equivalent of $0.90) on behalf of its member food banks, up to $1.5 million. To kick off the campaign, Walmart will make an initial donation of $1.5 million to Feeding America. Based on the public’s social engagement, they aim to reach a total donation of $3 million.  So you have to get involved, NOW!

I went to my local Walmart and being a part of the campaign is easy.  Signs are everywhere to show you where the participating products are located.  Just follow the signs.....

#Fight Hunger
My store had a dedicated aisle for some of the products so I naturally loaded up on products that I would normally buy anyway. That's the greatest thing about this campaign, buy products that you would use and either use them yourself or donate them.  Either way, Walmart is still making a donation based on your product purchase so you have everything to gain by joining in!

#Fight Hunger
The store even had special TV screens set up to inform customers about what and how to help out.

#FightHunger
So to recap, there are 3 ways to fight against hunger and be part of the campaign.  Buy participating products, donate at any Walmart register, and share and share again on social media.  A big kudos to Walmart for being so committed to fighting hunger - now it's up to us to spark the change.  Let's get started!

#FightHunger










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Monday, April 4, 2016

Effortless Deal of the Week (Free Stuff Included)!

Shopping on the web these days can be really overwhelming.  Type in a keyword for soap for example and you get millions of hits for different brands, sizes, and prices.  Even if you know your brand....are you ordering one bottle (what size) or in bulk, or which site to choose with the best prices.  The choices are many and some of the sites are less than reputable (I once ordered a pair of shoes from a major site and they'd been worn), sigh.  Why can't there be a one stop shop for the products I use that also has reasonable prices and sometimes gives you something for free, just because?  There is!  Enter Grove Collaborative.  I've tried several other one stop shop sites and they simply don't compare.  Believe me.

Free Mrs. Meyers + $10 order credit!

I happened across this website looking for good-for-you products.  I try to eliminate chemicals as much as possible so I mostly use the expensive, all natural products now that I have MS - but I hate paying the extra costs.  I'm still a couponer at heart so I'm constantly on the hunt for a deal.  The folks at Grove Collaborative reached out with a stellar deal for me and for all Effortless Girl readers too.  The site is amazing and the prices are excellent; and remember this is coming from a coupon freak.  Using the deal, I purchased items from the site for very little cost and love, love them.  In all honesty I'd used two of them before and that's why I chose them.  The order also came with 2 free items which I also love so I'm 100% sold on this site.  Plus there is no fee to join this site (unlike some other sites, ahem).

The deal is this - all Effortless Girl readers get a $10 order credit and one free Mrs. Meyers Hand Soap with your purchase!  Ten bucks goes a long way on this site.  I love it most because it's a good company.  They're committed to health and environmental excellence and most of all the people that help you are nice.  There's a 100% happiness guarantee so if you don't like a product - return if for a full refund and they pay the shipping. Why aren't you checking out this site right now?  I almost forgot to mention that the liquids and lotions come sealed with the tops taped so they don't leak.  This is a big point for me because a very reputable site that I once ordered liquid laundry detergent from sent me a big, dripping box to my office once.  Laundry detergent makes suds for days - shipping is hugely important.

Now onto my product selections.   The photo below is what came in the package.  All of these items were $25.87.  If you use the Effortless Girl offer, you could get the entire group below for $15.87 (whoa!).

Awesome Products!
Grove threw this free organic mint and chia lip balm into my order box.  Seriously it is one of the best balms I've ever tried.  The balm is minty and thick on the lips and lasts very well.  It comes in a heavy duty tube that is thicker than the average chap stick.  I love that.  It feels great on and is really quality made.

Mint Chia Lip Balm
The next product was a blood orange soy candle.  I like it because the packaging is adorable and the scent is fresh but not overbearing.  Sometimes orange can smell fake, but this scent is citrusy without being too strong.

Blood Orange Soy Candle
I love Mrs. Meyers brand everything.  I love that the quality of the products is superb and the chemical burden is low.  Mrs. Meyers is effective without being chemical laden.  They get an A plus in my book - you get one bottle of hand soap  for free with the offer!!!

Mrs. Meyers Hand Soap
I love me some Yes To Carrots.  I use this lotion daily.  It is really moisturizing without parabens or petroleum.  Yes to Carrots has a full line of skin care products that if you haven't tried them yet, check them out!

Yes to Carrots
And finally....Dr. Bronners.  I love Dr. Bronners soap.  The bottles take like an hour to read but the product inside is good.  I needed some coconut oil and chose this bottle.  It's unrefined and expeller-pressed and coconut oil has a million uses.  

Dr. Bronner's Coconut Oil
Okay to recap, click this link and check out Grove Collaborative.  You'll get a $10 order credit and one bottle of free Mrs. Meyers Hand Soap.  So off you go -- get shopping!





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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Effortless Easter on WCCB Rising Friday Morning!

Easter is almost here! We're gonna throw an Effortless Girl Easter party Friday morning on Charlotte's WCCB Rising!  From easy Easter snacks to simple decor for less - Effortless Girl has your Easter covered.  Tune in Friday morning around 8:30ish to Rising.  If WCCB isn't part of your channel lineup, watch the broadcast streaming online here.  Hippity Hoppity Easter's on its way!!! See you Friday!

Effortless Easter on Rising

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Easy Easter Napkin Rings

Easter is coming.  It is such a celebratory day.  Spring is here and everything is beginning and new again.  I love Easter and all that it represents.  I also love that it's the first big holiday following Christmas to gather loved ones together for a big meal (cause everybody knows I love to eat!).  For the special day you need special table decor.  If you're an Effortless Girl, you already know that you don't have to spend lots of money on an amazing Easter-scape.  Let's make Easter Bunny Napkin Rings!  This project takes about an hour for 10 rings.  You'll spend less than $5 for the entire table and nobody will know they're basically free!

Bunny Napkin Rings
You'll need glue, a piece of cardboard or card stock paper, toilet paper or paper towel tubes, and a small piece of burlap or fabric you already have at home in whatever color or pattern matches your table.  Purchase your burlap/fabric at a discount store.  I used cardboard that came as packaging in the mail.  If you choose to purchase card stock paper, you'll need one piece for the ears - it costs 29-39 cents per piece at most art stores.  I already had the materials so my napkin rings were free.  You may purchase all materials for $3-5 for 10 napkin rings. 

Materials
Cut the toilet paper/paper towel tubes into napkin ring size.  One toilet paper tube will make 2 napkin rings for reference.  A paper towel tube will make 4 rings.  Next cut a strip of burlap or fabric just long enough to go around the ring.  There are two options for the width of the fabric (and I did both and think both ways look good).  You may cut the fabric wider than the tube to tuck the edges into the tube for a more finished look OR you may cut the fabric just the width of the tube.  This method works well if you use burlap.  The edges of the burlap hang over the edge of the tube for a more rustic look (and this method is far easier and faster also).  

Once the fabric is cut, glue the tube to the fabric and allow to dry.  If you're tucking your fabric edges into the tube on both ends, tuck the fabric and glue the edges to the inside of the tube once the outside fabric has already dried.  

Repeat the above process to make the bunny ears.  I didn't have a template, I just cut paper into the shape of bunny ears.  Cut small pieces of fabric and cover both sides of the paper ears with it.  These don't have to be perfect.  None of my ears were the same size and the imperfection made the rings look better.  (I'll be honest, I made these after work on a Friday night and I was so tired I wanted them to be done in a hurry.  These really are quick if you cut the paper and fabric first and then glue everything at one time).

Cut and glue fabric to the tube
Allow the rings to dry overnight before attaching the ears.  I put everything on my counter top to dry.  Using wax or parchment paper will keep glue from getting on the counters....

Allow pieces to dry before assembling rings
To assemble the rings, cut a small hole in the top of the tube.  It needs to be about 1/2" long.

Cut hole in ring for ears
Place one ear at at time in the ring.  I had to open up the hole just a little more to get both ears into the ring.  However, make the hole small at first and you can always make it larger - you want the ears to be very snug in the napkin ring.

Place one ear in the ring
Once both ears are in the ring, slide them apart to resemble bunny ears.

Slide the ears
And your ring is complete!

Completed bunny ears

Happy Easter!

#easter #easterbunny #hipptyhoppity #happyeaster #easter2016

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Easter Fun - Peeps Tic Tac Toe

I'm a sucker for an easy game.  With Easter coming up you just might need a fast dual task to tide over hungry and antsy kids (or adults) that's a snack and a game - bring on the Post-It and Peeps Tic Tac Toe.  This is a super easy game that everyone will like.

Peeps Tic Tac Toe
I call this Post-it and Peeps Tic Tac Toe because it is.  Place a stack of Post-its (or small squares of colored paper), construction paper or card stock paper, and boxes of Peeps.  I like to mix Peeps bunnies and chicks and all different colors of paper for fun.  

Materials
Everyone playing the game gets one piece of large paper for their "board" and nine Post-its or small squares.  You could get super fancy and cut Easter egg shapes for the squares, but this is meant to be easy on you - so just give the stacks of paper to your guests or kids and let them be creative.  Players will make a tic tac toe board from the squares and use the Peeps as the chips to play the game. Easy Peepsy!

Tic Tac Toe Board
Encourage everyone to mix up the colors for fun.  You can play bunnies versus chicks or mix up the colors to play against each other.  In any case, everyone gets to eat their Peeps at the end so there's very little clean-up!

Happy Easter!


#peeps #postit #easter #Easterbunny #kids #diy


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