Pumpkin Spice Syrup

September 24, 2016

Make your own Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup! (via laurelandfern.com)
I LOVE fall. And I love all things pumpkin. But many store bought pumpkin products are very sugary and full of chemicals. I still wanted to enjoy pumpkin flavored drinks, so I decided to make my own syrup. Homemade latte and coffee syrups are SO easy to make! In about 10 minutes, you can  make your own pumpkin spice syrup!

I think the best part of pumpkin spice lattes is the warm, fuzzy feelings I get when drinking them. They taste like fall and the holidays. My moms pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving is one of my desserts ever, so I used her recipe to help create my pumpkin spice syrup. She adds nutmeg to her pumpkin pie, but not all recipes do. Feel free to find your favorite pumpkin recipe and adapt the spices, so your latte can taste all warm and fuzzy too!
Make your own Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup! (via laurelandfern.com)
Pumpkin Spice Syrup (makes a jar full, doubles easy for gifts)

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (a couple cinnamon sticks would work, if that's what you have)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (make it fancy with a piece of fresh ginger, if you have it)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
6 heaping tablespoons pumpkin puree (use less if you don't want a strong pumpkin flavor)
1 cup water
Make your own Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup! (via laurelandfern.com)
Make your own Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup! (via laurelandfern.com)
Add all the ingredients into a pot and warm over medium heat. Whisk ingredients together and heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Don't let the pot boil, just warm long enough to dissolve the sugar. When it's all mixing together, pour over mesh strainer or slotted spoon into your container. The amount of pumpkin in this recipe makes the syrup a little thick. It was hard to use a strainer, so I just used a slotted spoon for catching the cloves. Once you've removed the cloves (and fresh ginger or cinnamon sticks, if you used them), your syrup is ready! Store your syrup in the refrigerator for a couple weeks. It will separate between uses, so give it a good shake before each drink.
Make your own Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup! (via laurelandfern.com)
This syrup is warm and spicy with rich pumpkin flavor. It tastes great in lattes and coffee drinks. If you're not ready to switch to hot drinks just yet, this blends well in iced coffee too. Not a coffee fan? Try adding to black or chai tea!

How do you feel about pumpkin spice? And what's your favorite fall treat? Enjoy! xo. Laura

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Discussion)

September 13, 2016

I want to start off by saying, I LOVE THIS BOOK and this method! I started reading the book, but decided to listen to the audiobook version free through my library. It was easier to listen to it in the car. And the book is a little repetitive, so it kept me focused. But the motivation from this book is seriously life-changing. It has been helping me get my house in order. Here are my thoughts on the books, but please join in with comments on how it's helped you or what is holding you back from tidying up your space!

First, I have to admit that I'm not totally done with my tidying process. I've finished a couple categories, but I still have a lot of work to do. Part of my problem is that nothing in my house has a home yet. We are still working on getting things organized and figuring out what is best where. I wanted to use the KonMari method to help get the amount of stuff under control, so organizing and putting things in their place is possible.

What I love about this book and the KonMari method is that it tells you to hold every item in your hand and ask yourself if that item sparks joy. I like this, because it doesn't tell you to get rid of the shirt because you already have three like it. If you like plain grey t shirts and they make you happy to wear them all, by all means keep those shirts and wear them proudly (anyone else have a gray shirt collection??). I like that it doesn't ask you to keep all your clothes on hangers and turn the hangers around and in a year, get rid of the ones facing backwards. If you don't love that piece of clothing, get rid of it now! Not in a year. I like that it's an effective program to make dramatic change all in one go. It doesn't stretch the process out over a year. It helps you make change to your life now and to only be around items that make you happy.

I've successfully finished sorting and discarding books that I no longer want. I've gotten rid of most of the clothes in my closet and I'm now only buying things that make me happy to wear. And I've shredded and recycled more papers than I'm proud to admit. The amount of old paycheck stubs and school papers I had was insane. I had paycheck stubs from 6 years ago! There is no reason to store those. A really helpful tip from the book was to get rid of the warranties and manual for things. They come in so many products and I still has ALL of them. Kondo points in the book that by the time you'll probably need the warranty for an item, it will probably be expired and all the manuals for almost all products can now be found online. I know how to work my iron and I'm probably never going to need to read the instruction manual. Throw it out. I threw boxes, manuals, and papers in the recycle. I shredded anything with personal information and recycled that properly. If you're going through papers, please recycle! Look up the proper way to recycle shred in your area and recycle that as well. Some places might even have free ways to get rid of your shred. In Phoenix, you have to put all the shred in a clear plastic bag in your recycle bin. If you have questions about recycling, call you local city departments to find the correct way.

Unfortunately, the day I was going to tackle the kitchen, our basement flooded. Tidying up has temporarily been postponed while we get that mess cleaned up. Surprisingly, the flood helped for two reasons. It showed me how important keeping things tidying are. And it helped us clear out A LOT of stuff. Had things been tidied up, we would have had an easier time figuring out what was down in the basement and would have made cleaning up easier. It also helped by forcing us clear out A LOT of stuff. It might not have been the way we wanted it to happened, but we were forced to make a decision on what we want to replace and we want to get rid of.

I'm excited to continue tidying both the upstairs and basement. I feel like for someone my age, I have accumulated way too many things. I don't want to be surrounded by stuff. I don't have to live in a storage unit. I don't want my life to be about things. I only want to have items that I love and use and create a happy, comfortable space.

Have you used the KonMari method to tidy your home? What are you thoughts? How long ago did you tidy and have you kept it that way? How did you get others in the home to participate in tidying? If you haven't, is it something you want to do? If so, what is holding you back? I'd love to hear what you thought of the book and the method it describes.

Thanks for joining in this month's discussion (sorry it was late!) xo. Laura

4 Favorite Cruelty-Free Products You Can Find at Target

August 29, 2016

Since I wrote a research paper in 9th grade about animal testing, using only cruelty-free products has been extremely important to me. There are so many products that support my beliefs, but they can be a little tricky to find in local stores. It seems many others also enjoy cruelty-free and clean living products, so I've noticed a big increase in products easily available that do not test on animals. As a bonus, products that have no animal testing usually have better ingredients and less chemicals. Win-win!

I know there are really great brands out there! But there have been many times that I've ran into Target to get a birthday card or something and also needed to pick up more hair products or toothpaste. I've spent so much time reading the back of packaging in the aisles at Target. I thought it would be fun to start a new series where I show you great products I love and use regularly from a variety of stores. I'm sure we all know that cruelty-free is better, but sometimes it's not easy to know which is the better product to buy.

Here are four beauty related items I found at Target that are cruelty-free and I love!
Hello Toothpaste
To be honest, I never thought I would be writing about how much I love a brand of toothpaste. But I LOVE THIS TOOTHPASTE! I fell in love with the packaging at the store and wanted to try it immediately. My teeth have never felt cleaner and it feels amazing to use a product that is VEGAN, made in the USA, packaged in boxed made of recycled materials, and there are no dyes or microbeads. The list could go on for this products. You can read more about the company here. And purchase at Target here!

Kenra Finishing Hair Spray
My hair is super thin and light. If I don't use hair spray, it's in my face all the time and lifeless. I was so excited when I found this hair spray at Target. It was the only one I could find at my local Target! This finishing spray works great and doesn't cost a fortune. It costs about $17 and is salon quality. It might cost a little more than our brands, but it's important to vote with your dollars and buy brands you believe in. This is one of those brands for me. Find it online or at your local store here.
Pixi Eye Brightener
I just recently realize that the Pixi brand at my Target doesn't test on animals! I'm so excited to have another line of products to shop from. I've never used eye bright liner, so I thought I would give it a try. I really like it! I don't use it every day, but if I'm going out or just want to feel a little brighter I will put it on. I'm going to try the foundation next! Find it at your local Target here.

Babyganics Sunscreen
Being in Phoenix, Arizona, it's important to wear sunscreen daily, not just at the pool. The sun is so intense, I often get tan and sun burnt just through the car windows while driving. I really wanted a great sunscreen that I could wear daily that didn't test on animal, didn't have a strong smell, and was a good price. After reading nearly every label at Target, I found this Babyganics Sunscreen! While it's designed for babies, it works for every one! It's free of fragrances, contains organic ingredients, made in the USA, and never tested on animals! Plus it's only $12 for a big bottle! I highly recommend this brand. I've used it several times and I'm really happy with it. You can see which Target stores carry it or order online here.

I feel so many better to put on products that you know were made without cruelty. My goal is to find even more products that are vegan and cruelty-free. If you have any questions or have a product that you love and want to share, let me know in the comments! xo. Laura

My New Ninja Coffee Bar

August 25, 2016

Ninja Coffee Bar (laurelandfern.com)
For a gift a few years ago, I received a Ninja Blender and instantly loved it! It works so great and is easy to clean. When Ninja released their Ninja Coffee Bar, I knew I wanted to try it. I didn't have a coffee maker yet and wanted an easy way to save money by making my coffee drinks at home. I reached out to Ninja about reviewing their Ninja Coffee Bar and I'm so thankful they agreed!

I've been using my Ninja Coffee Bar almost daily since receiving it and I'm really happy with it. I wanted to show you some of my favorite features!
Ninja Coffee Bar (laurelandfern.com)
I'm a beginner to brewing coffee at home and if you are too, I think you'll love the Ninja Coffee Bar. Since I've never had a coffee maker, I wanted something that was easy to use. I don't want to fuss with a machine while I'm leaving for work or struggle to make the perfect cup. I love how easy it is to make a pot of coffee or iced coffee.
Ninja Coffee Bar (laurelandfern.com)
To make hot or iced coffee, all you have to do is add water to the reservoir and coffee to the reusable filter (love that for sustainability!), select the size you want to brew and press the appropriate button. If you want hot coffee, just brew into your cup or the carafe. For iced coffee, fill your cup all the way with ice and use the over ice brew button. So easy!
Ninja Coffee Bar (laurelandfern.com)
Ninja Coffee Bar (laurelandfern.com)
The next feature I love is the cup sized select option. Put of what has held me back from buying a coffee maker is that I don't want to brew a whole pot for just myself. The Ninja Coffee Bar allows you to pick between a cup, travel, half-carafe, and full carafe sized coffee brew. I love that! You can also use the single serving to make a specialty brew (concentrated coffee) to make your favorite hot or iced latte.
Ninja Coffee Bar (laurelandfern.com)
Ninja Coffee Bar (laurelandfern.com)

Another thing that I was so excited about from the Ninja Coffee Bar is the milk frother. I love chai lattes! It's my all time favorite drink, especially in fall and winter. The milk frother makes it so easy to make frothy, creamy milk in under two minutes. You just pour milk to the fill in of the milk frother and microwave it for a minute and then pump the milk a few times with the lid (don't microwave this part of the milk frother!). To make a tea latte, steep your favorite tea in 4 oz. of water for several minutes (around 10-15 or until you're happy with the strength) and then add 4 oz. of the frothy milk. I let mine steep for a couple more minutes and then enjoy!
Ninja Coffee Bar (laurelandfern.com)
There are so many recipes you can make with the Ninja Coffee Bar! It comes with a recipe book filled with a ton of ideas! If you are new to making coffee drinks at home, I highly recommend the Ninja Coffee Bar. It makes it so easy to try many different brews and recipes without spending a fortune on equipment. You can check out the Ninja website here and their YouTube channel for recipes here. Leave me a comment of a coffee recipe you'd love to see here on my blog! I have some fun ideas, but I'd love to hear what your favorite drinks are! Especially fall favorites! Enjoy! -Laura

Thank you, Ninja, for the wonderful Ninja Coffee Bar. While I did receive this product as a sponsorship, my review and opinions are my own.

2016 Scrapbook: Week Nine

August 21, 2016

2016 Scrapbook Week Nine (laurelandfern.com)
For some reason, when I first started week 9 I really struggled. It just wasn't going together the way I wanted it. I took everything except the photos out and started over. As soon as I had a fresh start, it all came together perfect. Sometimes just starting all over is the best way to go. I wouldn't have tried that stripe card other wise and this is what really brought the whole page together.
2016 Scrapbook Week Nine (laurelandfern.com)
I realized I didn't have a lot of photos for this week, so I focused more on the journaling. I enjoyed Year of Yes so much that I knew I wanted to feature it on it's own card. The Kelly Purkey Reading List stamps are the perfect stamps for documenting my favorite books!

This layout is also a great example of getting bad photos to work. I love this photo of Astro waiting for Grant to get home, but it turned out so dark. Using the white vinyl stickers and white ink made the photo pop and turned a bad photo into an artsy photo. Not sure if artsy is a word, but I'm going to go with it. It looks artsy! The other bits of black and white really tie the whole thing together. I went from not liking this layout to this being one of my favorites!
2016 Scrapbook Week Nine (laurelandfern.com)
I accidentally took the same styled photo with two different drinks this week, so I decided to roll with it and make it look like a series. Like most weeks, I added journaling to vellum and used the tiny attacher to staple it to a journaling card. The striped card and pink card are both from past Messy Box kits.
2016 Scrapbook Week Nine (laurelandfern.com)
To get the books, I just stamped a book stamp with cream ink on plain white cardstock. I love that something so simple can make plain cardstock look so good. It was so easy to make and really looks great. One of our dogs, Jack, is always barking. I stopped by my parents one day and he just kept barking at me. I thought the black washi tape and vinyl stickers were the perfect way to document this silly dog and tie together this photo with the black and white photo.

The contrast of the colors with the black and white really make this week pop! I love how it came together! -Laura