DIY “Thankful” Centerpieces for less than $4 each!

I was getting ready for our Thanksgiving Day Dinner plans today, and I realized I hadn’t really thought of table centerpieces. While out on errands today, I decided to stop in at Trader Joe’s for their amazing flower selection. After picking my fall-inspired flowers, I went home and put the centerpieces together using items I already had at home. I was so happy when it all came together so pretty, so cheap, so simple!

What You’ll Need:  mason jars ($1 each at The Dollar Tree), baker’s twine ($1 per spool at Target and Michael’s), handwritten “thankful” word tags ($1.00 for 20 Target and Michael’s), sunflowers ($4.99 for 5 at Trader Joe’s), 2-3 variety of flower sprigs ($1.99-2.99 per bunch at Trader Joe’s), pine tree branches (FREE from my backyard landscape!)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our Home Sweet Mama Mia Blog followers… I hope we inspire you to be creative, adventurous and organized!

2018 Holiday Gift Idea List for Women

2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Women 
It’s November, and if you have been to the mall or stores over the last week, you will have seen Christmas decorations and Holiday sales that have already started popping up. As much as I want to avoid it, planning ahead helps make my holidays less stressful. I usually keep a gift ideas list throughout the year, especially before Thanksgiving arrives.  If you are struggling for gift ideas this year for those special women (including tweens and teens too!) in your life, check out the list of ideas I have shared with you. I have included a variety of ideas at different price points. The ideas came from gifts I have given and/or received over the past year. All of the opinions are my own and I was not compensated for the items or to write this blog. Enjoy and Happy Shopping!
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The Winter Street Series by Elin Hilderbrand
Uncommon Goods  Shades of Blue/Green Sea Glass Necklace
Bed of Roses Snoozies Slippers
I’ve Been Thinking by Maria Shriver
Red Envelope Inspire Cross Bracelet
Succulent Potted Plant
Stitch Fix Gift Certificate
L’Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Cream
Gift Ideas for Tweens and Teens
Ivory Ella Tshirts and Hoodies
FujiFilm Instax Mini
Pura Vida Bracelets
Firefly Photo Clips
Bath Bombs
For other gift ideas, visit my blog posts from the past couple of years: A 2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Women and Holiday Gift Guide: For Women

Just What the Doctor Ordered… A Lentil Soup Recipe

Growing up, my Mom made us eat Lentil Soup, often, especially on New Year’s Day, it was a good luck tradition! It has been years that I have brought my Mom’s recipe into my own home and family… until recently. At my annual physical, my doctor shared that I needed to increase my iron intake. What did he recommend… Lentil Soup! So, for those looking to increase their vitamins or looking for a warm comfort food recipe as the colder weather arrives!

Lentil Soup

Ingredients: 1/2 lb dry lentil beans, 2 chopped carrots, 3 chopped celery stalks , 2 tbsp chopped yellow onion, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp minced garlic, 4 cups of water, salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse 1 cup of dry lentil beans in a colander.
  2. Add olive oil to sauce pan and heat.
  3. Saute chopped carrots, celery, onions and garlic until tender (about 5-7 minutes.)
  4. Add lentils and 4 cups of water.
  5. Cover and let simmer until lentils are tender and soup gets thicker (about 20-25 minutes).

No-Bake Energy Bites

Ok, I’ll admit it… they sound too nutritious… even I was hesitant to to try these No-Bake Energy Bites! My husband picked them up while on a coffee run this summer. But… I actually loved them! Ironically, the local cafe had the recipe displayed on their counter and I took a picture. I decided to make them last week and they came out pretty good! I thought I would share on my blog for anyone else looking for a little energy boost… we could all use one these days, huh? Enjoy… and be energized!

NoBake Energy Bites (Recipe compliments of The Nook Coffee House in RI)

Ingredients: 1 cup dry old fashioned oats, 1/2 cup peanut butter (I substituted Nuts ‘n More Chocolate Peanut Butter for extra protein!), 1/3 cup honey, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 cup flax seeds, 2/3 cup shredded toasted coconut, 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. First, toast the shredded coconut: preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread shredded coconut in a thin layer in a cookie sheet. Toast for 5-10 minutes in preheated oven until becomes a golden color. Let cool.
  2. Stir all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Cover and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Once chilled, shape into 1 inch balls.
  5. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

THANKS to The Nook Coffee House for sharing this recipe!

Family Vacation Ideas: Seeing Stars…in Los Angeles!

We recently had an opportunity to travel out to Los Angeles, CA and turned it into a mini-family vacation. I tried to incorporate destinations and activities that both my 10- and 14-year-olds would both enjoy. It was a hard task, but I think everyone left California with a smile on their face! I hope you all enjoy our tips for traveling to Los Angeles!

A List of To-Do’s while visiting the Los Angeles area:

  •  See the Views of Los Angeles at Griffith Park Observatory. A friend gave us the recommendation of visiting the Griffith Park Observatory on a Monday (because it is closed and there is less car and pedestrian traffic) to see an amazing panoramic view of Los Angeles, along with a distant view of the infamous Hollywood Sign! Other ways of seeing the sign closer, is to take a guided tour or to visit Lake Hollywood Park @ 3160 N. Canyon Drive. This is how I was planning on originally visiting the sign. I found this information on YouTube.com called “Forget Google Maps, Here’s The Best Way To Get The Best View of The Hollywood Sign” @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYOwV1CI9_g  .  Fortunately for us, we had some local friends who were so kind to take us in their local neighborhood and see the sign closer.

  • Take a Behind the Scenes Tour of Warner Brother Studio Lot. Do you want to see how and where many popular TV and movies are filmed? The WB Studio tour was very informative, organized, fun, and great for my kids’ ages. We took a guided, golf cart tour of the many studios and sets where entertainment is filmed! This was my favorite stop on our vacation, especially the sets of Friends, Ellen and The Gilmore Girls. My son loved the DC Comics exhibits, and my daughter loved to see how the sets were transformed and used in so many different TV shows and movies that she has watched.
  • Soak in the sun, sand and surf at Malibu Beach. Take a ride to Zuma Beach in Malibu for the day. This is a public beach which offers restrooms, concession stands and parking for a small fee. An added bonus on our visit was a pod of dolphins swam by, but no celebrity sightings!

  • Seek Thrills and Be Amazed at Universal Studios Hollywood. Universal Studios offers many simulation rides, an amazing Back Lots Studio Tour (which is included in your ticket admission price), shows, and a magical land of Harry Potter. This day will not disappoint any age!

  • Dine, Shop and Be Entertained at City Walk. Located outside of Universal Studios (City Walk does not require a ticket to enter), City Walk offers many restaurants including Hard Rock Cafe, shops, and entertainment located throughout the area, including filming of Extra TV with Mario Lopez.
  • Shop at the Original Los Angeles Farmer’s Market. This is a hidden gem to most tourists, but our friends brought us here for lunch one day. I was amazed how authentic it was! We all picked a different option for lunch (including sushi, tacos, crepes, pizza, salads and ice cream!) and then we met up at the common area tables to enjoy our meals together. We then walked over to The Grove for some shopping! Another amazing outdoor shopping venue is The Americana at Brand in Glendale, a great place to grab dinner, ice cream and some evening entertainment!  Visit https://www.farmersmarketla.com for hours and dining options and https://thegrovela.com or  https://americanaatbrand.com for stores, events  and dining options.

  • Ride the Infamous Ferris Wheel at Santa Monica Pier. Talk a ride on the Pacific Coast Highway and then walk on the pier’s boardwalk for classic food, games and rides, all while enjoying a beautiful sunset on the ocean.
  • When in Hollywood, You Have to See the Famous and Historical Hollywood Walk of Fame, Dolby Theater and TCL Chinese Theater. Make it a pit stop after another activity, we just parked our car and walked on the Stars and towards the theaters, stopping to take photos near their favorite celebrity’s stars. This is big tourist area, so expect crowds and traffic. We did not take an official tour, but got to walk up the stairs at the Dolby Theater (where the Academy Awards are held) but, at the TCL Chinese Theater, a premiere event was being set up, so it was roped off and we could not enter. Check the theater’s website for a schedule of upcoming premieres before your vacation. This day, we also drive by the Beverly Hilton Hotel, which is where the Golden Globe Awards Show is held.
  • Other fun Los Angeles area destinations that we enjoyed when my kids were younger… Disneyland, California Adventureland and The Los Angeles Zoo! Visit https://www.lazoo.org and https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disneyland/?CMP=OKC-dlr_themeparks_gmap_38 for ticket, hours and event information.

There is so much more to see while vacationing in Los Angeles, this is just a snip it of ideas from our spontaneous vacation! Enjoy! 

Mom Travel Tips: I would recommend renting a car and booking a hotel that is centrally located in order to visit all of the spots listed above. We stayed in Glendale, CA which is approximately 5 miles from Burbank, CA. Based on where you are flying from, LAX (Los Angeles) or BUR (Burbank) Airport would be the most convenient airports.

Back to School Recipes: Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches

Do you kids have the after-school munchies and friends coming over? Surprise them with these quick and easy Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches, using ingredients you already have at home!

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ingredients: vanilla or chocolate ice cream, mini chocolate chips, chocolate chip cookies (store bought or homemade…the recipe I use: Chocolate Chip Cookies – Back to School Treats

Directions: Simply scoop ice cream in between two chocolate chip cookies and roll ice cream sandwich into mini chocolate chips. Wrap sandwiches in plastic wrap or sealed-tight container and freeze until ready to serve.

To all parents and kids…Have a great school year!

Vacation Ideas : Take a Road Trip to a New Country…Montreal, CA

My daughter has been wanting to travel to Paris for the last couple of years. My husband and I have both been, but have not brought our kids yet…so for one of our summer vacations this year, we decided to venture on a 3-day road trip across the border to Montreal, Canada! This trip did not disappoint my daughter, from the French speaking natives to every sign and menu being in French, she definitely felt the European flare everywhere!

A To-Do List in Montreal

Spend the Day in Old Montreal. Travel to a miniature “Paris” with cobblestone roads, window flower boxes, small boutiques, creperies, cafes, and bistros. Indulge in crepes filled with Nutella, pick up some Canadian souvenirs, or shop for some trendy French fashions. Explore different restaurants for lunch and snacks, everyone will enjoy the different cultures and tastes offered. Take a short walk to Notre Dame Basilica.

Find Adventure in Old Port. Located in Old Montreal, Old Port offer a wide variety of family-fun activities including zip lining, ropes courses, paddle boards, site-seeing cruises, vendor tents with unique gifts,a ferris wheel, an IMAX theater and The Science Centre. Visit http://www.oldportofmontreal.com for more information.

Travel Back to the 1976 Olympics! Take a drive or metro ride out to the actual Olympic Park location of the 1976 Summer Olympics. Walk the grounds on your own and then take a guided tour of the original and newly remodeled sports facilities, stadium and pool, which are still used by athletes and locals today (we caught the US Water Polo Team practicing while we were there!). It is amazing to see the planning that goes into a host city preparing to host an Olympics. Visitors can also ride up The Montreal Tower (requires additional fee) for amazing 360-degree views of the city from the Tower’s Observatory. Olympic Park is also the home for Montreal’s Biodome, Planetarium, Botanical Garden, and Insectarium (all require additional entry fees). Visit parcolympique.qc.ca for tour, venue and museum information.

Seek the Thrills at Six Flags La Ronde. Ride on both classic and thrilling amusement rides, and enjoy carnival-themed games and food. Visit http://www.laronde.com for ticket and hour information.

Be Amazed at the Fireworks Display. If you plan on traveling to Montreal in the summer, the city hosts the L’International des Feux Loto-Quebec, which is an international fireworks competition set to music. Suggestions for viewing the fireworks are from the Jacques-Carter Bridge (it is completely closed to traffic on the scheduled dates), from Six Flags La Ronde, or we were lucky and our hotel (Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville) had a rooftop pool and deck and we were able to watch the fireworks right on the rooftop! For firework dates, visit http://www.parcjeandrapeau.com/en/international-des-feux-loto-quebec-montreal/

Shop and Dine in The Underground City.  A unique shopping center includes restaurants, hotels, and clothing stores all underground. Visit montrealundergroundcity.com for more information.

Travel to Little Italy! Indulge in the finest Italian delis, restaurants and desserts on Boulevard Saint-Laurent. We enjoyed a traditional Italian meal al fresco at Risorante Corneli and saved room for nocciola (hazelnut) gelato at Gelateria Pierino, which was right next door to the restaurant we dined at.

Dine at a French Steak and Frites Inspired Restaurant. I was so happy my husband happened to find L’Entrecote Saint-Jean on Yelp. One of the Yelp comments stated that it reminded them of  the infamous steak and frites restaurant in Paris, Le Relais de l’Entrecote, ironically that was my favorite restaurant on our vacation to Paris 10 years ago, they literally only serve steak and frites! We dined here one night in Montreal and the menu was exactly the same. My family loves steak and frites and this restaurant did not disappoint. Check out one of my quick and easy recipes for Steak and Frites at An Easy and Unique “Steak and Frites” Recipe

Back to School Recipes: PB Muddy Mix

PB Muddy Mix…a tasty after-school and on-the-go snack for kids’ activities and sports! A Peanut Butter Lover’s Classic Recipe with a little extra added protein…see the recipe below, compliments of Chex “Muddy Buddies Recipe” at https://www.chex.com/recipes/?muddy-buddies along with my little recipe twist! Thanks Chex!

Ingredients: 9 cups of Corn or Wheat Chex Cereal, 1/2 cup Nuts ‘n More Chocolate Peanut Butter (has 12g of protein), 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate chips and stir in vanilla. Pour over Chex cereal.
  2. Add to a large Ziploc plastic bag, add powdered sugar, seal bag and shake bag until well coated.
  3. Spread cereal out on parchment paper (or wax paper) on a cookie sheet to cool.
  4. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator.

Back to School Recipes: Burrito Bowls

Always looking for fun, easy and quick dinner options for your family? This Burrito Bowl Recipe is a great go-to recipe. My family and I enjoy eating out at Chipotle and building our own burrito bowls, so why not create the same easy meal at home? We recently went to my cousin’s house for dinner and she put out a Burrito Bowl Buffet, it was such a fun idea, I began adding it to my family’s dinner recipe rotation.

Burrito Bowls (Recipe inspired by Chipotle and my cousin!)

Ingredients: guacamole (2 avocados, 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice, 1 tsp salt), 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, 2-3 diced plum tomatoes, 1 can black beans, sour cream, romaine lettuce, corn (frozen or canned), tortilla chips, marinated grilled chicken strips (or grilled steak strips), cilantro, cooked white, jasmine or brown rice

Directions:

  1. Marinate and grill your choice of chicken or steak in your choice of marinade. When cooked, cut into strips. (Tip: I use chicken tenderloins or steak tips, and pre-marinate them in a Lite Ranch or Italian dressing, and then grilled them on a grill pan on the stove top while I am prepping the other burrito fixings.)
  2. Prepare guacamole. Check out my recipe here Easy Avocado Dips for your next Summer BBQ!
  3. Cook rice according to package.
  4. Combine corn, oil, salt and pepper. Heat small nonstick skillet and cook corn for about 10 minutes until it gets a pan roasted color.
  5. Seed and chop tomatoes. Drain and rinse black beans. Rinse, dry and chop Romaine lettuce. Wash and chop cilantro.
  6. Set up a buffet for kids to build Burrito Bowls with guacamole, rice, lettuce, roasted corn, cheese, chicken/steak, tomatoes, black beans, sour cream, cilantro, and tortilla chips.

Back to School Recipes : Breakfast Bowls

Heading back to school and back to a busy schedule of commutes, activities, sports and homework, I am always looking for new, easy and quick recipes to share with my family and followers. Breakfast Bowls are a fun twist to a traditional egg breakfast that I serve for breakfast or dinner. It is a copy cat recipe of a fabulous breakfast I enjoyed while on a ski vacation with my family this past February at Arapahoe Basin Ski Mountain in Colorado. ( For trip information, visit this blog post Vacation Ideas: A Ski Trip Out West… Colorado!)

Breakfast Burrito Bowls (Inspired by The Legends Cafe at Arapahoe Basin Ski Mountain in Colorado)

Ingredients: organic eggs and milk, pre-cooked bacon ( I currently use Boar’s Head Fully Cooked Bacon), frozen breakfast potatoes ( I currently use Ore-Ida  Diced Hash Brown Potatoes.), oil of choice, shredded organic cheddar, mozzarella, or your cheese of choice

Directions:

  1. Prepare breakfast potatoes per the packaging. (Note: This is the longest step (12 minutes) and can be made ahead of time. If I have extra time, I use peeled and chopped small yellow potatoes coated with olive oil instead and cook them in a frying pan on the stove top.)
  2. Prepare scrambled eggs with milk and eggs, and salt to taste. Set aside.
  3.  Prepare bacon in microwave per instructions. (Mom Tip: Cut up pre-cooked sausage links or grilled chicken as an alternative protein option.)
  4. In individual bowls, have kids put together their Breakfast Bowls by layering scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, crumble bacon and add shredded cheese. Serve hot.