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Backyard Patio Ideas – The Color Scheme

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I am in the process of trying to create a mini retreat in our backyard and I’ve been pinning backyard patio ideas. I’m finding it quite challenging to even get started. Why? For starters, we live in a rental home and only plan on being here for another year. So obviously I don’t want to invest in anything permanent.

Another issue is we have a tiny, and I mean tiny, patio area. It’s not large enough for our table, so we have to put the table in the grass. Annoying, but it’s what works right now.

I decided that maybe if I write about it and organize my thoughts, it will actually motivate me to get it done.

Backyard Patio Ideas – The Color Scheme

I’m starting with my color scheme, which I have decided I want to go with green, yellow and blue. It’s bright and cheerful and I just love it. It’s completely opposite of the inside of my home which is much darker.

Here are a few pillows that I am working on the decor from.

Purchase at Amazon.com

I already have a pair of blue lanterns I purchased last year from Pier 1 Imports and they will fit nicely into the color scheme. 

Purchase at Pier 1 Imports

I also need a new rug and want to add some color with one. I would love a rug with blue and greens like this one pictured below. The actual picture doesn’t do the rug justice and you really need to see it up close to really see the colors and pattern.

Purchase at Pier 1 Imports

Here is the same rug featured in a Pier 1 Imports ad.

Related outdoor decorating articles on Mom Fabulous:

I need 2 new umbrellas. One for our patio table and one to go over the actual patio as we have no shade in our backyard. I have my heart set on yellow. Yellow is so happy! I want one just like the umbrellas pictured below from, yes, Pier 1 Imports. Can you tell I love Pier 1? 🙂

So now that I have the color scheme picked out and a few accessories were chosen, it’s time to compare prices and go shopping! I am on a budget due to the fact that summer camps for 3 kids and summer vacations and well, summer, in general, is pricey! My husband and I about fainted after writing all those checks. Phew! But so worth it.

Are you doing some outdoor decorating and looking for backyard patio ideas? If so, I hope these ideas helped you as much as they did me.

My Sister-in-Law Jenn Bonner, Featured in “O” Magazine & The Insider for Her Weight Loss Story

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To say I am proud of my sister-in-law Jenn Bonner would be an understatement. Her weight loss journey, where she went from over 300 pounds to 140 pounds without surgery, has been featured in the May 2012 issue of O Magazine as well as The Insider.

Jenn’s weightloss began when she decided to join her husband Trey Bonner on the Medifast program he was on. Here’s what she told O Magazine about her first week on the plan: “I lost 13 pounds the first week, and by the second week I was hooked.”

Jenn also just returned home from Los Angeles where she taped a segment for The Insider. Watch her episode below. Her segment beings at the 9:30 mark.

I’ve known Jenn for over ten years when I first met her while up in Washington visiting my husband’s family. Her personality and bright blue eyes draw you in immediately. She’s witty, hilarious, and just a lot of fun to be around. Watching her transformation and seeing a “glow” I’ve never seen in her before makes me want to cry. She is an inspiration and she has a passion for helping and guiding people to transform their own lives. Healthy living and a life full of joy is what it’s all about.

You can read more about the program Jenn and her husband Trey are on at their website www.halfthecouple.com. Great name for a website isn’t it? And if you would like me to connect you with her and make an introduction, shoot me an email at julieabonner@gmail.com.

4 Tips For Getting Teens to Read

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With iPods, cell phones, tablets, laptops and TV trying to use up every second of our teen‘s day, it can be hard to encourage them to read. You know – a book! It’s fun to tease our kids about reading and reminding them what a B-O-O-K is, but really, it’s no laughing matter. We have to encourage our kids to read. It’s important!

Check out these scary statistics: more than 60 percent of middle and high school students scored below “proficient” in reading achievement, according to a December 2011 report by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Rhiannon Paille, 27, an advocate for teen literacy whose new fantasy novel, Flame of Surrender (www.yafantasyauthor.com) targets young adults, has offered up these tips to help encourage 12- to 18-year-olds’ to read – well anything!

Buy them comic books. Boys persistently lag behind girls in reading, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Paille says. If your son isn’t a reader, try getting him hooked on comic books. “Stephen King started off reading comics, ‘Tales from the Crypt.’ Hey, if it was good enough for him …!’’ From comic books, they may move into graphic novels, a popular young adult genre. As long as they’re reading, they’re building comprehension skills and vocabulary, so it needn’t be “War and Peace.”

Look for book-to-film novels. Chances are if it was a great movie, they saw it, and that’s often enough to get a non-reader curious. This is another especially good hook for boys, Paille says.

Tune into what they’re interested in. What kinds of video games do they play? Some popular games have spawned novels, including Halo, EverQuest, ElfQuest and Gears of War. Even gaming guides, which players read to unlock new clues to advancing in the game, can motivate a teen to crack a book.

Read the same book your teen is reading. Book clubs are popular because people like talking to others who’ve read the same book. Your teen may not be ready for an evening of petit fours and grape juice while discussing the pacing of “Hunger Games,” but it can make for some interesting conversation on the way to soccer practice. And you can always nudge them along with comments like, “Oh, you haven’t gotten to that part yet? It’s really good!”

These are great tips. I am a known YA novel junkie, so reading what my teen is reading isn’t a problem for me. Both of our older kids love it when I can discuss a book with them and I actually know what they’re talking about. And then if the book is turned into a movie, well – we end up reading the book(s) again. i.e. The Hunger Games 🙂

Do you have an issue with getting your teens to read? If so, what tricks and tips can you share?

What Being a Mother Means to Me

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Mother’s Day is right around the corner and this holiday has more meaning to me these days than ever. Let me explain.

My Family – Todd, Josiah, Aaron and Hannah

Not only am I a mother to three amazing kids (pictured above), but I myself actually have two moms. You see, 35 years ago I was adopted at 8 months old and 6 years ago I met my birth mom. So, for the past 6 years, I’ve been getting to know a whole new family I knew I had out there somewhere, but was never brave enough or quite sure enough to find them.

The Search

I didn’t go searching for my birth mom because of a strained relationship with my own mom or because I was trying to prove something to someone. I went searching because of two words:“What if?’.

You see, late one night when my husband was out of town and I couldn’t sleep, I found my way onto this adoption forum as I was treating my insomnia with some online randomness. I honestly, to this day, have no idea why or how I ended up on this forum. But I ended up reading this forum post by a lady who said she waited too long to finally decide to find her birth mom and it was too late. After she did her research and tracked down her birth mom’s information, she found out she had passed away. The regret and the sadness she felt were overwhelming.

So I asked myself that night “What if the same thing happens to me? What if I decide to search someday and it ends up being too late?” That’s when I took the plunge and found her. Long story short- she’s amazing. Her kids are amazing. Her husband is amazing. I am truly one blessed individual to be surrounded by so much love from my two families.

My Moms

One of the greatest moments in my life came this past November when we were celebrating my daughter’s 14th birthday. I invited my parents, my brother, plus my birth mom and her family over to celebrate. I looked over at the dining room table at one point during the evening and there it was. My mom and my birth mom chatting it up, laughing and just enjoying each other’s company. Could a daughter ask for anything more? No.

My Parents with Hannah

My 3 Kids

I’m sitting here writing this as two of my kids are sick with one unfortunate head cold. They’re in the other room watching The Muppets Blu-ray while mom “gets some much needed work done”. I’m thankful that I have a job which allows me to stay home and work. Sure, sick days like this can be a little stressful when they’re home and I’m trying to concentrate, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Not having to ask a boss off for work is a dream come true to me.

Me and My Daughter Hannah

I know us moms can nonchalantly throw around the phrase that we have “great kids”. But seriously, I have great kids. People are constantly asking my husband Todd and I what we did and are doing to have such awesome kids. I usually respond with “I have no idea”.

Maybe it’s because we have very open and honest relationships with them. Maybe it’s because my husband and I always try to admit when we’ve messed up and when we’re wrong. Maybe it’s because we’re not afraid to laugh at ourselves. Maybe it’s because we just hit the “awesome kid jackpot” and there is no explanation.

Who knows. But I do know that I am incredibly thankful for Hannah (14), Josiah (12) and Aaron (8). They make being a mom more fun than I could have ever imagined.

Mother’s Day 2011 – Trampoline fun in the backyard

What Being a Mother Means to Me

What does being a mother mean to me? Here are a few phrases and words that describe the greatest thing on earth: being a mom.

  • Being a mom means responsibility
  • Being a mom means sacrifice
  • Being a mom means finding something great in the little things
  • Being a mom means being creative
  • Being a mom means learning how to juggle
  • Being a mom means being an example
  • Being a mom means learning to love unconditionally
  • Being a mom means looking good even with baby food stains or spit up on your shirt
  • Being a mom means looking good while driving a mini-van
  • Being a mom means tough love
  • Being a mom means making hard decisions
  • Being a mom means laughing at your kids until you almost pee your pants
  • Being a mom means creating a three course meal out of peanut butter and jelly
  • Being a mom means learning to let-go
  • Being a mom means preparing your kids for adulthood the best you can
  • Being a mom…is truly the greatest thing in the world

What does being a mom mean to you? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Cooking with Beer – Tips & Recipes from Betty Crocker and Mario Lopez

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I’m not really much of a beer drinker. I prefer a glass of wine or a rum and coke. But, I do love cooking with beer and these recipes and tips from Betty Crocker have me quite excited to steal a bottle from my husband’s little stash. 🙂

Betty Crocker sent me these amazing party food recipes that are all beer-infused. In all, they have 16 recipes and you can even vote for your favorites to win the second annual “Betty Bracket” presented by Betty Crocker and sports-loving actor and popular TV personality Mario Lopez. Be sure and go vote for your favorite!

Mario with his favorite cooking assistant – Julio Cesar Chavez Lopez!

Cooking with Beer

Here are a few party food beer-infused recipes:

Beer Queso Nachos

Mario’s favorite – Beer Queso Nachos

8 cups tortilla chips

1/2 cup lager beer, such as a Boston lager

2 cups shredded American cheese (8 oz)

1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese (4 oz)

1 can (4.5 oz) Old El Paso® chopped green chiles, drained

1 can (15 oz) Progresso® black beans, drained, rinsed

1/2 cup Old El Paso® Thick ‘n Chunky salsa

1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped

1 medium tomato, seeded, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1.Heat oven to 350°F.

2.Line large cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Arrange tortilla chips on cookie sheet. Bake 5 minutes to warm chips.

3.Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, heat beer over medium heat until just starting to simmer. Slowly add the cheeses in small amounts, stirring constantly with a whisk, until melted. Stir in chiles.

4.In a medium bowl, mix beans and salsa. Microwave uncovered on High 2 to 3 minutes or until hot.

5.To serve, pour half of the cheese sauce over warm chips; top with half of the bean mixture. Top with remaining cheese mixture and remaining bean mixture. Serve with remaining ingredients.

Makes 12 servings

Beer Battered Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

6 slices hickory-smoked bacon

4 slices rustic white bread

2 slices provolone cheese (3/4 oz each)

2 slices Cheddar cheese (3/4 oz each)

1 egg

3/4 cup pale ale beer

1/4 cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1 tablespoon butter

1.In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook bacon until crisp; drain on paper towel.

2.On 2 of the bread slices, place 1 slice provolone cheese, 3 slices bacon, and 1 slice Cheddar cheese on each. Top with remaining bread slices.

3.Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat or to 375°F. In a shallow bowl, beat egg, beer, flour and chili powder with fork until smooth. Dip each sandwich into batter, giving it a few seconds on each side to absorb the batter; drain excess batter back into the bowl.

4.Melt butter on hot griddle. Place sandwiches on griddle. Cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Makes 2 sandwiches

Beer BBQ Chicken Sliders

Sauce

1 cup barbecue sauce

1 1/2 cups lager beer, such as a pilsner

2 tablespoons whiskey

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1 to 2 teaspoons Buffalo wing sauce or other hot sauce

Sandwiches

1 deli rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed, shredded (about 4 cups)

12 slider buns, split

12 pimiento-stuffed green olives, if desired

1.In 2-quart saucepan, heat sauce ingredients to boiling over medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

2.In medium microwavable bowl, place chicken; cover. Microwave on High 4 to 5 minutes or until hot. Add shredded chicken to sauce in a saucepan, stir to coat.

3.Place about 1/3 cup chicken mixture on bottom of each slider bun; top with bun top. Garnish each sandwich with a green olive.

Makes 12 sandwiches

Double Meat Dudewich

1 boneless pork shoulder roast (about 2 1/2 lb), trimmed

2 cups barbecue sauce

1/2 cup lager beer, such as a Boston Lager

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1 package (14 to 16 oz) beef smoked sausage rings, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 package (14 oz) coleslaw mix

1/2 cup coleslaw dressing

Dill pickle chips

6 onion buns, split

1.Place pork in 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of the barbecue sauce, the beer, seasoned salt, garlic-pepper blend and ground mustard. Pour over roast. Cover; cook on High setting 4 to 5 hours or Low setting 8 to 10 hours until pork is very tender. Remove pork from slow cooker, and discard liquid.

2.When cool enough to handle, shred pork into bite-size pieces; discard any excess fat. In a large bowl, stir together remaining 1 cup barbecue sauce and the shredded pork.

3.In 10-inch skillet over medium heat, cook sausage slices until heated through and crisp around edges.

4.In a medium bowl, stir together coleslaw mix and dressing. To make sandwiches, pile pork mixture, smoked sausage, coleslaw and pickles on buns. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 sandwiches

Tall, Dark and Stout Chocolate Layer Cake

Cake

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® devil’s food cake mix

1 1/4 cups stout beer

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

Chocolate Frosting

12 oz semisweet baking chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1/2 cup butter

Caramel Filling

6 tablespoons caramel topping

1.Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Grease bottoms only of three 9- or 8-inch round cake pans. Make cake batter as directed on box, using a cake mix, beer, the oil, and eggs. Pour about 1 1/2 cups batter into each pan.

2.Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely.

3.Meanwhile, for frosting, place chocolate in medium mixing bowl. In 2-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream and butter to just boiling over medium heat. Pour cream mixture over chocolate; stir with a whisk until melted and smooth. Cover and refrigerate about 3 to 4 hours or until spreading consistency.

4.Place 1 cake layer on serving plate. Frost top of the layer with 1 cup of the frosting. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons caramel topping. Top with another cake layer, 1 cup of the frosting and remaining 3 tablespoons caramel topping. Top with remaining cake layer and frosting. Garnish with chunks of chocolate covered caramels with sea salt, if desired. Refrigerate cake at least 2 hours before serving. Store loosely covered in the refrigerator.

Makes 16 servings

Dark Chocolate Stout Cream Pie

Crust

1 Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box

Filling

1 3/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup stout beer

1 box (6-serving size) chocolate pudding and pie filling mix (not instant)

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Topping

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1.Heat oven to 450°F. Make pie crust as directed on box for One-Crust Baked Shell, using 9-inch glass pie plate. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

2.Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, cook milk, beer, and pudding mix over medium heat 5 to 8 minutes or until mixture comes to a full boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips until melted and smooth. Pour into medium bowl; cover the surface of pudding with plastic wrap. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until cold.

3.Spoon and spread pudding mixture evenly into crust. Refrigerate at least 4 hours until set.

4.Just before serving, in chilled medium bowl, beat topping ingredients with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Spread over top of pie. Garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Makes 8 servings

Toffee Brown Ale Cheesecake Bars

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® oatmeal cookie mix

1/2 cup cold butter

2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons Gold Medal® all-purpose flour

1/3 cup brown ale beer

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup toffee bits

1/4 cup caramel topping

1 tablespoon brown ale beer

1.Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray. Place cookie mix in bowl; cut in butter using pastry blender or fork until mixture is crumbly. Reserve 1 1/2 cups mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture in bottom of the pan. Bake 10 minutes.

2.Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugars, flour, 1/3 cup beer, the vanilla and egg with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.

3.Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over partially baked cookie base. Sprinkle with reserved crumb topping, pecans, and toffee bits.

4.Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled. For bars, cut into 8 rows by 4 rows. To serve, stir together caramel topping and 1 tablespoon beer; drizzle over top of each bar. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Makes 32 bars

Over the Moon White Ale Cupcakes

Cupcakes

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® white cake mix

1 1/4 cups Belgian-style wheat ale beer

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 egg whites

1 whole egg

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Frosting

6 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1/4 cup Belgian-style wheat ale beer

1 tablespoon orange juice

Garnish

Small orange wedges

1.Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.

2.Make cake batter as directed on box, using a cake mix, 1 1/4 cups beer, the oil, egg whites and egg, coriander and ginger. Stir in 1 teaspoon orange peel. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (about two-thirds full).

3.Bake 18 to 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

4.In a large bowl, beat frosting ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Frost cupcakes. Just before serving, garnish each with an orange wedge. Store loosely covered in the refrigerator.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Don’t those recipes look and sound amazing?! Now for a few cooking with beer tips.

Some interesting tips about cooking with beer:

  • Beer has a tenderizing effect and is a perfect matchup for meat-based recipes
  • Beer helps keep baked good moist and fresh while adding a little extra puff
  • The beer flavors will be enhanced in those recipes with a longer cooking time
  • Craft beers are ideal as a cooking ingredient due to the quality and variety of flavors available

Are you inspired to whip up one of these recipes? I am definitely going to try one salty and one sweet beer-infused recipe. I’ll report my success and thoughts in another feature.

Images & Recipes courtesy of Betty Crocker

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