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Poinsettia Care Tips for Beautiful Flowers All Season

These five poinsettia care instructions for growing poinsettias indoors will help you keep your lovely Christmas flowers looking beautiful all season long. 

5 Must Know Tips for Growing Poinsettias Indoors

Poinsettia Care Tips for Beautiful Flowers

I love poinsettias during Christmas time, but I have had a horrible track record of keeping them alive. If you’re wondering how to keep your own poinsettias beautiful during the whole Christmas season, you need these tips too!

Poinsettia Care Instructions – Buy a healthy plant

You can probably tell if the plant is healthy just by looking at it. Choose a plant that has vibrant green leaves with no brown spots. You’ll want to get a plant with open flowers as poinsettias bloom very slowly. You’ll also want to make sure the flowers are bright and pretty looking.

Keep Your Poinsettias Beautiful with these 5 Must Know Tips

Do not let it get cold during transport from store to house

Poinsettias are very susceptible to cold. If you buy a plant during cold weather, make sure you cover it with a bag before you take it outside to keep it from getting shocked. Also, it’s important that you don’t leave it in an unheated car. If you have a lot of errands to run, make sure you pick up the poinsettia last and take it straight home. It’s better for the plant to take the bag off as soon as possible.

How to water a poinsettia

Over-watering is often the number one killer of poinsettias so make sure you let the soil dry to the touch between watering. Don’t forget to check to the bottom of the dish they’re in to make sure they’re not sitting in water for days on end. Poinsettias also like humidity, so if your house is dry, you might want to give them frequent mists of water.

5 Must Know Tips for Growing Poinsettias Indoors

Poinsettias need bright light

Growing poinsettias indoors is not hard, but they need a lot of light. The best place to keep them is near a south facing window. If you notice your poinsettia turning light green, you’ll want to find it a spot that gets more light. It should also be kept relatively warm, with ideal temperatures in the 60-70 degree range.

Protect poinsettias from drafts in your home

Poinsettias are tropical plants and as such are very susceptible to cold drafts.  Make sure that no part of it touches a cold window. You’ll also want to keep it away from a furnace vent or a fireplace as well.

And that’s it! Follow these steps and you should have beautiful poinsettias until Valentine’s Day and maybe even beyond.

Grow Beautiful Poinsettias with these 5 Must Know Tips

If you follow these poinsettia care instructions each year, your flowers will shine at home! Now the big question is, what do you do with your beautiful flowers after the holidays?

If you liked this post on growing poinsettias indoors, you might like these posts too:

Start a Family Tradition by Cutting Down Christmas Tree at these Iowa Tree Farms

10 Healthier Christmas Cookie Recipes – Refined Sugar Free

Homemade Christmas Decorations made with Natural Items

DIY Christmas Gifts for the Entire Family


A Surprising Culinary & Art Scene Awaits in Bentonville Arkansas

Bentonville, Ar might not be on your travel radar, but like so many towns I visit, it deserves to be. Not only does a surprisingly culinary scene await you in the many Bentonville restaurants, but Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art is a museum not to be missed. Keep reading to learn why this small Arkansas town is worthy of a visit!crystal bridges in bentonville ar

This post is sponsored by Visit Bentonville. All opinions are mine.

A Surprising Culinary & Art Scene Awaits in Bentonville Arkansas

The city of Bentonville on the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas is such a hidden gem! Located just over three hours south of Kansas City, five hours from St. Louis, and under two hours from Branson, it’s the perfect weekend getaway from many cities. My grandparents were from Northeast Arkansas and I spent a lot of time in Arkansas when I was younger. I considered it a place I had to go, not necessarily a state I wanted to visit.

Since I started blogging, however, I have been to Arkansas several times and have really come to enjoy the state. This was my second visit to Bentonville, but the first time I really got to get out and explore. I was also in the Little Rock area a couple years ago when I toured P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm. As an adult, I have come to appreciate Arkansas in a new way!field house bentonville

Bentonville has really come to life over the last 12 years with the addition of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and is now a mecca of art, music, recreation, and food. Visionary thinkers and city planners have created an open and welcoming city – diverse in people and experiences and so much fun.

grass roots farmers' cooperative bentonville ar

I almost always love the places I visit on blog trips, but rarely do I think “that’s a place I could actually live.” I could honestly picture myself in the Bentonville area. I so appreciate the welcoming attitude, the diversity, the emphasis on art, outdoors, and locally produced food!! Here are just a few of the reasons you need to visit Bentonville to try all the fantastic food and see what the city has to offer first hand.

food and Restaurants in Bentonville Ar

Some of My Favorite Restaurants in Bentonville Ar

You might be as surprised as I was to hear about the emphasis on local eating in Bentonville. During panel discussions we were part of on our press trip we learned all about how many local chefs work with local farmers. Not only do many local restaurants source as much food as possible from local growers, Bentonville also boasts an amazing culinary school called Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the American Culinary Federation.

brightwater bentonville ar

Here, food is looked at as art and students can learn about animal butchery, cheese making, coffee barista, wine and beer making, bread baking, and so much more. I would love to take a few classes at Brightwater myself! With a school like that, it’s no wonder that Bentonville is home to so many delicious restaurants.

Preacher’s Son Bentonville

One of the only entirely gluten-free restaurants in the country, Preacher’s Son Bentonville is a must stop. It’s located in a beautifully restored church and the decor is fabulous! There’s also a hidden speakeasy in the basement that you need to see! If you go, I  highly recommend that you go in a group and try lots of the starters. We tried with Burrata with shaved beets, roasted cauliflower with chimichurri, and the mushrooms with house made ricotta and grilled gluten-free bread. If no one had told me that Preacher’s Son Bentonville was entirely gluten-free before we showed up, I would have had no idea. Everything was wonderful!

Pressroom Bentonville

Pressroom Bentonville is located near the Bentoville Square and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has a full bar as well as delicious coffee and was packed every time I walked by – it looks to be quite a local hangout. From the modern decor to the food, this stop was one of my favorites. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast there. If you need a pick-me-up in the morning, I highly recommend the gingerslap 2 oz remedy shot. With ginger, lemon, apple, and raw honey, it will give you a boost in the morning! I also had the egg sammie with egg, cheese, bacon, avocado, mayo, seeded bread, served with fresh greens. Sooo good!

The Hive Bentonville

Located inside the amazing 21c Hotel in Bentonville, the Hive is a super cute bar and restaurant. I love the beehive decor made from recycled materials and the food and drinks are quite tasty too. Like many of the restaurants we ate at in Bentonville, the Hive’s cuisine pays homage to the High South.The Hive is directed by an award winning executive chef originally from Arkansas. I had the Berkshire Hog Chop with butternut squash, roasted broccoli, and rosemary. It was absolutely delicious!

Eleven at Crystal Bridges

I don’t normally think of museum restaurants as places I’d like to eat, but like so many other things in Bentonville, Eleven at Crystal Bridges defies my preconceived ideas. The cuisine at Eleven focuses on the menu of the High South, comfort food like bean soup and corn bread. My grandparents always had a big pot of bean soup on the stove when we arrived at their house in NE Arkansas – something I didn’t appreciate when I was younger, but really enjoy now. If you’re not a fan of beans, they also have trout, chicken, soups, and lovely salads.

Fun things to do in Bentonville AR

Fun things to do in Bentonville, Ar

After all that eating, you’re going to need to get active in Bentonville too. Luckily, amazing museums, lots of colorful murals, a fun town square with locally owned shops, miles of bicycle trails, and more are just some of the fun things that will keep you active on your stay in Bentonville. Here were a few of my favorite stops on our stay.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Opened in 2011 by the Walton Family Foundation, this beautiful museum is a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy. In fact, during our panel discussions we learned that this museum really set off a reinvention of the town. The culinary scene really began after Crystal Bridges opened. Crystal Bridges is free for everyone and houses lovely works of art including Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter, and Andy Warhol’s Coca-Cola, pieces by Georgia O’Keeffe, John Baldessari, and James Turrell.

Frank Lloyd Wright House Crystal Bridges

In addition to the inside collection, Crystal Bridges also features more than 3.5 miles of outdoor walking trails with art along the way and a Frank Lloyd Wright house that was moved to the area from New Jersey after being repeatedly flooded in its original location. 45,000 school children visit the museum each year!

Peel Mansion

Built in 1875, the Italianate Villa Style Peel Mansion is fun step back in history. I love touring restored buildings to see how people used to live, and this free tour does not disappoint. From fun stairwells to period furniture and a lovely garden, I really enjoyed walking around the Peel Mansion and learning about the family that built the house. The Peel Mansion is home to many special events and is available for rent as well.

Museum of Native American History

The Museum of Native American History (MONAH) currently houses over 10,000 of the finest Native American artifacts. I am so glad we stopped by for a visit. This musuem is another free place to visit in Bentonville and will be a big hit with anyone who is fascinated by Native American history. I know my kids would love to hunt for arrowheads in the rock garden out front. I saw so many artifacts that I have never seen before. the Museum of Native American History is a must on your trip to Bentonville!

Bentonville Square

Full of cute shops, coffee shops and the Walmart Museum, the Bentonville Square is a fun place to spend a few hours. I loved browsing through the shops and searching for murals. You could spend the whole day here, eating, drinking, and browsing your way down the cute streets!

With so many good things to eat, such rich educational opportunities and a lot of free things to do as well, Bentonville has just the right mix for families looking for a fun weekend getaway or cuoples needing a romantic getaway. What are you waiting? Head on out to Bentonville and prepare to be wowed!

Many thanks to Visit Bentonville for this fun trip. I learned so much about the area and even think I could live in this beautiful town. It has just the right mix of culture, arts, and food! To learn more about Bentonville, please visit here.

Have you been to Bentonville? What was your favorite part?

Amazing Solstice Rituals – the Waldorf Solstice Spiral

Looking for amazing winter solstice rituals for your family or homeschool? Here’s how to host a Waldorf Solstice Spiral with your homeschool or family to celebrate the return of light.Waldorf-Winter-Solstice-Spiral-featured_

*This post is republished from 2015. We no longer homeschool, but the amazing solstice rituals like this Waldorf Solstice Sprial remain one of my favorite homeschool activities ever.

Celebrate Winter with a Waldorf Solstice Spiral

The Waldorf Solstice Spiral is an annual tradition in our homeschool. It’s a wonderful way to teach kids about the longest day of the year and it’s a fun activity everyone enjoys as we welcome the return of light back into our dreary, short winter days. Here’s how we celebrate the winter solstice Waldorf style.

I first learned about Waldorf Homeschooling activities from my good friend Melanie from Many Hands House. She used to host amazing Waldorf Homeschool Days and the Solstice Spiral was one of my favorite activities. I was excited to take over the Solstice Spiral this year and host it myself for the first time. Since we moved out of the barn and into the Passive House, we have the perfect place to host this fun annual event – the barn where we used to live.

Winter Solstice Spiral 2015 - ring in the light from SimplifyLiveLove.comHere’s how to host your own Waldorf Solstice Spiral

If you’re interested in solemn winter solstice rituals, you’ll enjoy this one. The trickiest part about it is finding a safe place to house the spiral. Lit candles are involved, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t burn the house down if you host it inside. You could host it outside, if the weather cooperates. Or, you could set it up in a garage or barn like we did, if you don’t want to bring it indoors.

Once you decide on the location, you’ll need a few supplies:

  • Pine boughs – I bought roughly 100 ft from Menards. The skinnier ones were half the price of the longer boughs so that’s what I bought. We ended up doubling them to make them look nice.
  • Yellow felt stars – one per child
  • Apples – one per child, hollowed out to hold a candle
  • Candles – one per child to put in each apple, plus a larger candle to light the apple lights from.
  • Animal figures, rocks, pine cones – to represent the animal, mineral, natural worlds placed around the spiral

How to Host the Most Amazing Solstice Rituals

Set the spiral ring up before hand. Place felt stars (one per child) along the path so children have a place to put their lit apple. Also place the figurines, rocks, and other items in the spiral. Darken the room by covering windows and turn out the lights. Explain to the children that they will light their candles and place them on a star in silence. Discuss the solstice and and the significance of starting (and ending) the spiral in darkness.

waiting in line for the solstice spiral

The room should be as dark as possible and the children line up first outside the room, littlest to biggest. The littlest children need to go first because there will be fewer lit candles for them to have to avoid.

Winter Solstice Spiral 2015 lighting a candle from SimplifyLiveLove.comThen, one by one, the children weave through the spiral with their apples and candles, light their candle, and then turn around and weave back through. At some point on their exit from the spiral, each child will find a star to place his or her candle on. Talking is not allowed, but soft music can play. Melanie always had someone playing a flute, but we did our spiral in silence.
Winter Solstice Spiral 2015 setting the lit candle down from SimplifyLiveLove.comObviously, younger children may need some help, and all children should be careful not to burn themselves. In all the years that we’ve been doing a solstice spiral, we’ve never had any issues.

Winter Solstice Spiral 2015 - silenting waiting for everyone to finish from SimplifyLiveLove.com

After each child lights his or her candle, they wait for everyone to finish. Then the children leave the room, still in silence. I’m always amazed at the reverence the children exhibit during the solstice spiral. They take it quite seriously and seem to enjoy it a lot.

The winter solstice spiral is one of my favorite homeschooling activities. I love that it represents the return of light – after the solstice the days start to get longer and the promise of spring is real. I look forward to the beauty of solemness of the winter solstice spiral all year.

If you’d like to see other Waldorf homeschooling posts, read these:

Dying play silks with kool-aid

Spring Wheat Baskets

How to host a Waldorf Solstice Spiral to Celebrate the Winter Solstice


Perfect Iowa Gifts from the Made in Iowa Holiday Gift Guide

If you’re looking for the perfect Iowa gifts – here you go! Look no further than this Made in Iowa Holiday Gift Guide with the perfect local made gifts for everyone on your list!

Iowa gifts made in Iowa


Perfect Iowa Gifts from the Made in Iowa Holiday Gift Guide

Let’s talk gift giving. When it comes to gift giving especially to the adults in my family, we have a couple criteria – locally made whenever possible and consumable gifts get bonus points. My family decided years ago that we didn’t really need more stuff or things so we decided we would buy local wherever we happened to live and then enjoy the consumable items together!

My husband and I moved our little family to Iowa in 2006 and I have lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. I don’t have the Iowa Native sticker on the back of my car, but I have birthed two babies in this state and we’re not going anywhere else for a while.

Still, it’s always an interesting answer when someone asks me where I’m from. My dad was in the Army Corps of Engineers and my husband was in the Air Force, so it’s safe to say I’ve lived pretty much all over the world: on three different continents and in seven different states. I started life on the West Coast, then moved to the South, then to Germany, to the Midwest, back to the West Coast, to Japan, to the West… and finally to Iowa. After living here almost 13 years, is it safe to say that I am from Iowa? Beats me. 😉

isabel bloom gnomes made in iowa gift guide

Made in Iowa Holiday Gift Guide Favorites

I guess it doesn’t really matter. I’m in Iowa now, and love it. So I’m thrilled to share an amazing holiday gift guide, just full of gifts that are locally made in Iowa! If you’re from Iowa originally, currently live in Iowa, or just happen to love 2018’s #1 state in the USA (ranked by the US News and World Report!), you need to check out a few of my favorite Iowa gift ideas and have them delivered straight to your house!


Here are my favorite Iowa Gifts in 5 Different Categories

iowa toy rattleBabies and Kids – I don’t have babies anymore, but I think this wooden Iowa rattle is just adorable! Wooden toys seem so much more special to me than plastic toys. I think I’ve purged almost all the plastic toys we bought our kids over the years, but we’re saving many of the wooden toys for later.

isabel-bloom-snowman giftHome Goods – Funny story. When Dan and I first got married over TWENTY years ago, we were gifted several Isabel Bloom concrete sculptures. Iowans love to gift them because they’re locally made in Davenport and they’re unique. Well, I have to tell you, I thought they were the ugliest things. Twenty years later, and I’m singing a different tune. How cute is this little snowman? And the gnomes. I could wax on about the gnomes pictured above for a long time. Named Gnora and Gned, they are my favorite things!!

great river maple bourbon aged maple syrup

Food and Cooking – So I mentioned earlier that we often give consumable gifts to our family. Every year my husband and my brother-in-law give each other some type of locally made whiskey and my mother and sister and I usually give wine or chocolates or something totally decadent. This year I’m loving the chocolates and the Bourbon Aged Maple Syrup from Great River Maple.

reclaim Iowa made in iowa t-shirtNature Lovers – I’m totally a nature lover and we have the best nature. Amazing sunrises and sunsets, bald eagles, foxes, raccoons, and skunks! So pretty. As a nature lover, I love this Reclaim Iowa t-shirt. If someone wants to send it to me, I wear a size large. 😉

Madame Mary Bloody Mary MixFinally, Stocking Stuffers – Everyone needs stocking stuffers and Iowa has great items to fill all the stockings in your house. My favorites are the Madame Mary’s Bloody Mary Mix for the grown-ups and the all natural Pretty Balms by Root for the girls in your life! Can’t go wrong with either of those items.

To see all of these amazing Made in Iowa Holiday Gifts and so many more, head over to the list on Travel Iowa.

If you liked this post on the best Iowa gifts, you might like these too:

10 Easy & Frugal Homemade Gift Ideas

5 Minute Upcycled Succulent Garden Gift Idea

Fun Travel Experience Gift Your Family will Love


Simple Last Minute Holiday Tablescape + Thankful printable

If you’re looking for a simple last minute Thanksgiving tablescape, I have just the idea for you. Combine it with my free printable, and your Thanksgiving table is set! Thank you to Halos for sponsoring this post. All opinions are mine.

I'm thankful thanksgiving tablescape

Simple Last Minute Thanksgiving Tablescape + printable

Let’s get real. I am not one of those people who sets her table hours before events. In fact, I’m lucky if the table is set before the food is done. I’m also pretty frugal and don’t like to spend a lot of money things we don’t really need. However, the kids really like fancy meals sometimes so I’m excited to share this fun Thanksgiving Tablescape made with fresh materials and lots of items that can serve many purposes.

halos holiday centerpiece

If you need a last minute Thanksgiving Tablescape idea, I think you’ll like this one. Using all natural materials like fresh eucalyptus, Wonderful Halos, candles, burlap, and cheese cloth, you can set your table in no time! These ideas are perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even just a fancy dinner with the family!

Materials Needed for this Simple Thanksgiving Tablescape

To make this gorgeous holiday tablescape, all you need to do is put down the cheesecloth and then top with the wide burlap ribbon. Then place Wonderful Halos, fresh eucalyptus, and candles in the middle of the table. You can use a serving tray if you like, or simply put the items directly on the table.

thanksgiving table printable

After you set the table, make sure to include the Thanksgiving Thankful Printable at each place setting so everyone can reflect on their blessings this year!

Wonderful Halos Tower Table Centerpiece 3 (1)

To If you have some extra time, go for the wow factor with a fun Halos Tower Table Centerpiece! You can find the easy tutorial here. Isn’t it cute?? And the best part is, the kids can grab Halos mandarin for quick snack too.

About Wonderful Halos

We love Wonderful Halos at our house and they were recently named the number one most-loved healthy snack among both parents and kids in a 2018 Brand Love™ study. We love Halos mandarins because they are sweet, seedless and easy to peel – the perfect on the go quick snack. Wonderful Halos are available in produce aisles nationwide at grocery, mass and club retailers from November to May to grab some today!

Simple Last Minute Thanksgiving Tablescape

Now that you have a simple Thanksgiving Tablescape, you’ll need these recipes too!

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Parmesan, & Pinenuts

Pear and Pecan Salad with Parmesan Crisps

The Best Turkey – forget everything you knew about cooking a turkey!

How to Make a Turkey Pot Pie From Scratch

What do you think of this great tablescape idea? I hope you like it!

You’ll Find the Best Christmas Trees at these Iowa Tree Farms

Cutting down our own Christmas tree at Kelly Tree Farm is one of our favorite family activities during the holiday season, but finding the perfect tree can take some work. If you’re wondering where to go this year, here are ten Iowa tree farms where you’ll find the best Christmas trees!

cutting down a christmas tree at up north pines in davenport iowa
You’ll Find the Best Christmas Trees at these Iowa Tree Farms

We like to support our local farmers who understand that a tree helps provide Christmas memories for families. They make the trip to the Christmas tree farm an experience our kids will remember for years. There are dozens of Christmas tree farms in Iowa, with lots of opportunities for creating memories. One of the best things about the holiday season is finding the perfect Christmas tree, taking it home and decorating it.

In our family, that means I have to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies and remember to put up the fragile ornaments. I have a hard time doing both, but somehow we still manage to have a good time hunting for the perfect tree each year. Here are some of the Iowa Christmas Tree farms we’ve been to, plus a few more across the state!

Kelly Tree Farm - one of many iowa tree farms where you'll find the best Christmas trees

Kelly Tree Farm – Tipton

My kids adore Kelly Tree Farm. From the barn, to the rabbits, to the search and cutting, we always have a great time there. The only problem for us as late Christmas decorators, is that we sometimes don’t make it there in time. Christmas tree hunters will likely have only two weekends to search for that perfect fir at the Kelly Tree Farm outside Clarence (near Tipton). With almost five decades of raising trees, the Kelly plans to open for the season Nov. 23-24 (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) and anticipates trees will be sold out by the following weekend, Nov. 30-Dec. 2. While most people enjoy finding and cutting their own tree for the holiday season, the farm will have plenty of precut trees ready for purchase.

While at the farm, don’t forget to visit the Kelly Tree Farm’s rabbits. They’re eagerly awaiting your arrival. Kelly Tree Farm’s Clarence location will have evergreen available for holiday decorating too. So, while you grab your coat, gloves and saw, remember that Kelly Tree Farm accepts cash and checks only. Credit and debit cards cannot be used for purchases. And make sure to get there early in the season. Kelly Tree Farm often runs out of trees!

kids hugging a tree at up north pines

Up North Pines – Quad Cities

Quad Cities-area residents can bundle up the kids, grab a thermos of hot chocolate, and head off to Up North Pines in search of the season’s Christmas tree. With 10 acres of pine trees available, Up North Pines has a lot of trees available to cut fresh from the ground. As they march through the rows of trees, it’s common to see cattle! We have found fun trees at Up North Pines too, and my kids love the animals there as well.

Opening Black Friday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) for their 20th season, Up North Pines will be open 1-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends until Dec. 15. In addition to Christmas trees, the farm sells wreaths.

Barnes Tree Farm – Iowa City

Selling pines and firs in the Iowa City area since 1991, Barnes Tree Farm offers visitors a charming view of the countryside. With about 10 acres of trees available, visitors can enjoy a walk while they search for the perfect tree. They open Thanksgiving Friday (9am-4:30 pm) and then Saturdays (9 am.-4:30 pm) and Sundays (10 am-4:30 pm). Barnes Tree Farm’s dates will be Nov. 23-25, Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 8-9. You may want to check their Facebook page for any changes.

With Iowa having dozens of options for you to find THE tree for your holiday, make it a fun outing by taking advantage of the activities and attractions offered by area Christmas tree farms. The experience you have today will create a holiday memory for years. So, stay warm, have fun and good luck in finding the perfect Christmas tree.

Strautman Tree Farm – Cambridge

With thousands of trees to choose from over 90 acres, finding the perfect fir or pine to decorate for the holiday season may be the most challenging part of a visit to Strautman Tree Farm in Cambridge, about 30 minutes north of Des Moines. The family farm ranks among the most popular Christmas tree farms in Iowa. Strautman Tree Farm opens for business Saturday, Nov. 17 and will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Dec. 23. Precut trees are available in a heated shed for people who don’t want to cut their own.

As you stroll around the farm, you may want to warm up with hot cider and cookies at the gift shop. You can also purchase ornaments and wreaths at the holiday gift shop, which is open daily until 5 p.m.

Aldrich Christmas Tree Farm – Belmond

Visitors to the Aldrich Christmas Tree Farm in Belmond can expect a “hassle-free” tree cutting experience. The farm’s owners encourage visitors to drive their vehicle through the tree plantation, so they can stay warm as they browse the 15,000 fir and pine trees for that perfect tree to decorate and display for the holidays. Visitors can bring the tree back to the processing center or have farm employees do it. Then, customers can enjoy  hot cider and popcorn as they browse vendors’ holiday wares, while their tree is prepped with netting and tied to their vehicle. You may want to watch as they drill the tree for the Answer Stand.

Located about 40 minutes southwest of Clear Lake, the Christmas tree farm is open noon until dark daily, from Friday, Nov. 23, until Christmas Eve.

THE Christmas Tree Farm – Maxwell

You can leave the saw at home, as customers are given a handsaw to use during their visit to THE Christmas Tree Farm in Maxwell. With about 4,000 trees, featuring Fraser and Concolor firs, THE Christmas Tree Farm has opened its land to customers annually since 1998. The first trees were planted in 1992. Precut trees are also available.

THE Christmas Tree Farm opens its 2018 season 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 23. Then, it will be open 3-5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends through Dec. 18. Kids can get an early start on their wish lists, as Santa Claus will be at the farm Thanksgiving weekend and Dec. 1-2. Families enjoy making a trip to the Christmas tree farm a daylong treat. With games and treats, including free hot cider and lemonade, families can relax before heading home after they’ve found THE tree for the holiday season.

Miller Tree Farm – Runnells

For more than 60 years, Miller Tree Farm has greeted visitors seeking the perfect tree for the holiday season. With three fields used to raise a variety of trees, the Runnells farm actually opens two of them – Home Farm and the larger Deer Ridge –  for customers to cut down their own Christmas tree. The East Field is used to harvest precut trees and isn’t open to visitors.

Open noon-5 p.m. Sunday-Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Miller Tree Farm opens for the season Nov. 23, and plans to close Dec. 24. However, in recent years, they have sold out of trees and closed around Dec. 15. So, you will want to check before planning your trip.

In the holiday spirit, the farm gives children candy canes and a gift bag with each tree purchase. The farm also sells wreaths, ribbons and other swag items.

Walnut Ridge Farm – Indianola

Hop aboard a miniature train (weather permitting on weekends) and enjoy a ride around the Walnut Ridge Farm before looking for your dream Christmas tree. Located near Indianola, Walnut Ridge has been selling trees since 1983. With more than 40,000 trees available – from White Pine to Blue Spruce – you’ll be hard-pressed not to find the perfect tree.

Opening on Thanksgiving Friday (8 a.m.-6 p.m.), Walnut Ridge Farm is open weekdays (3-6 p.m.), 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 18. After that date, you’ll want to give the farmers a call to see if they’re available for sales. If you prefer a precut tree, they have plenty available in a heated building featuring a holiday light display. Wreaths and greenery are also available.

Deal’s Orchard – Jefferson

Apple cider. Take a family picture at Santa’s sleigh. Gift shopping. These are some of the things you can do in addition to finding and cutting down your Christmas tree at Deal’s Orchard. The Jefferson tree farm invites visitors to stick around and enjoy the area before heading home to decorate the tree. Check out the model train as you sample apple cider and popcorn inside the Apple Barn.

Located about an hour west of Ames along the famous Lincoln Highway – aka US Highway 30 – the Christmas tree farm opens for the 2018 season mid-November and will close Christmas Eve. The tree farm will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-6 p.m. Sunday. You can cut your own tree or buy precut trees.

Howell Tree Farm – Cumming

Planting their first grove of trees 55 years ago, Howell Tree Farm started selling Christmas trees in 1970. Since then, the Howells have added thousands and thousands of evergreens to their 50 acres of Christmas trees. The Howell Tree farm uses a unique approach to Christmas tree hunting, as they will cut the tree once customer decides which one they want. Remove one of the tree tags and take it back to the gift shop. For an added charge, they will also place it in a stand for you – nicknamed the “Marriage Saver” – so all you have to do when you get home is remove the netting and decide how to decorate it (adding water is something you’ll want to do).

Howell Tree Farm opens Nov. 17 and will be open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Dec. 23. The farm will be closed Thanksgiving Day.

Whether you head to Kelly Tree Farm, Up North Pines, Howell Tree Farm or another Iowa Christmas tree farm, I hope you’ll consider making fun family memories cutting down a tree this year! Do you know more Iowa tree farms that I didn’t mention? Do share!

If you liked this post on Iowa Tree Farms, you might like these posts too:

Healthier Christmas Cookie Recipes (refined sugar free)

An Iowa Christmas Tree 

Homemade Christmas Decorations made with natural items

Homemade Gifts to Make from Photographs


Striving for Zero Waste Living on America Recycles Day

Wondering how you can reduce, reuse and recycle on America Recycles Day? Here are tips for recycling food and beverage cartons and zero waste living as well! This post was sponsored by the Carton Council as part of an Ambassador Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

garbage dumpster - 15 ways to reduce your trash on the path to zero waste living

Striving for Zero Waste Living on American Recycles Day

My family has a long way to go to achieve zero waste living. I doubt we will ever make it there, but we have one important aspect of zero waste living down pat: recycling. Recycling is essential for zero waste living. Luckily, it’s becoming easier and easier all over the country. Often times, it doesn’t even require sorting. If you don’t currently recycle, please, please, please seek out your local recycling center and learn how truly easy the process most likely is.

food and beverage cartons

 Recycling Facts from the Carton Council of North America:

  • About 75% of our trash is recyclable, yet most of it ends up in landfills. Did you know landfills release harmful methane gas that speeds up global warming?
  • When Americans recycle just 30% of all municipal waste, we save the energy equivalent of 11.9 billion gallons of gasoline. That’s the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road!!
  • A ton of paper made from recycled fibers instead of virgin fibers conserves 7,000 gallons of water, 17-31 trees, 4,000 KWh of electricity, and 60 pounds of air pollutants.
  • Every time you recycle, you’re helping to make the earth a greener place.

Each week, my family sends more items to the recycling center than we do to the transfer station. I would love to be a zero waste family, the reality is just not practical for us. But given that each day every American produces about four pounds of trash, I know we can do a better job! Here are several easy ways we can all take baby-steps toward zero waste living, starting right now.

Choose Food & Beverage Cartons 

There are lots of reasons for choosing food and beverages packaged in cartons over plastic. Not only are food and beverage cartons recyclable, but they take a lot fewer resources to make in the first place. According to the Carton Council of North America, food and beverage cartons are approximately 93% product and only 7% material which means there’s a lot less left over.

To check if carton recycling is available in your area, you can use the zip code locator at recyclecartons.com. Not only are food and beverage cartons recyclable, but they often go on to become other paper products or chemical free environmentally friendly building materials. My husband even uses some of these recycled products in our home building business, Oak Tree Homes.

garbage dumpster for America Recycles Day

How to Recycle Food & Beverage Cartons

You might remember my first post on food and beverage cartons a couple of months ago. In it, I explained that all types of food and beverages are packaged in cartons, including tomatoes, soup, broth, milk, juice, beans, coconut and other waters, and even wine.

There are two types of food and beverage cartons. Shelf-stable cartons are called Aseptic. They are made of up about 74% paper, 22% plastic and 4% aluminum. The other kind of cartons are for refrigerated foods and they are found in the chilled section of the grocery store. Milk and juice cartons are very common example. They are 80% paper and 20% plastic. So you can really reduce your plastic consumption by choosing food and beverages packaged in cartons instead of plastic. And if you then also recycle those cartons, you are reducing the amount of waste you send to the landfill.

I also explained in that post how easy it is to recycle food and beverage cartons as many recycling centers now accept them. To recycle food and beverage cartons, all you have to do is put the empty cartons in your recycling bin. You don’t have to take off lids, and recyclers would prefer that you do not crush them as they recycle more efficiently in their original shape. You can also leave the caps ON! Easy peasy. Buy cartons. Empty food. Throw cartons in recycling bin. DONE!

12 More Ways to Reduce Waste on American Recycles Day

bento lunch - zero waste living

Now that you understand the benefits of switching to (and recycling) food and beverages packed in cartons instead of plastic, here are 12 more things you can do to minimize the waste you product and strive toward zero waste living.

  1. Get out those cloth bags and use them
  2. Stop using straws in restaurants
  3. Stop buying water bottles – guys, water is free from the tap! Drink it.
  4. Take your own refillable water bottles to restaurants to avoid take-out cups, lids, and straws
  5. Take reusable containers to restaurants for leftovers
  6. Buy in bulk whenever possible
  7. Compost food waste
  8. Eat your leftovers!
  9. Switch to cloth napkins and cloth paper towels. (I quit using paper napkins and towels cold turkey about ten years ago. It is doable!)
  10. Use cloth diapers if you have babies. (I did this with four kids, you guys.)
  11. Buy fruit and veggies directly from local farmers (and grow whatever you can yourself!)
  12. Buy meat from the meat counter or from local farmers
  13. Use reusable containers for school lunches
  14. Donate unwanted items instead of throwing them away

On America Recycles Day, I hope you will think a little harder about the trash you produce, start recycling if you don’t already, and think about steps you can take to move toward zero waste living! Let’s make the world a better place for everyone!

To learn more about the Carton Council of North America, visit them on facebook, instagram, twitter, and youtube.

What tips for Zero Waste Living do you have that I didn’t share? Please comment with your best tip below.

Delicious and Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Instant Pot & Slow Cooker

Here’s an easy and flavorful Indian dish two ways! Enjoy great flavor with a slow cooker chicken tikka masala recipe, or if you’re short on time, here’s also a chicken tikka masala instant pot version. This recipe is mom tested and kid approved. Make it tonight!!

easy chicken instant pot chicken tikka masala

*This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission from your purchase.*

Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Instant Pot Recipe {+ Slow Cooker Directions too}

I’ve been making this easy chicken tikka masala recipe for quite some time and my family agrees that it is a keeper. We serve it with rice and a salad. Add Naan if you have it (cornbread works in a pinch too LOL). However you eat it, tikka masala is a family favorite at my house. slow cooker chicken tikka masala on a white plate

While I generally make the chicken tikka masala Instant Pot version, it’s also a great recipe to make in the slow cooker. So I’m telling you how to make it in both appliances. There are no excuses to make this recipe! Add it to your menu plan this week.

To make this flavorful tikka masala recipe, you’ll need fresh ginger, garlic, cumin, tumeric, chicken, tomatoes, chicken broth, cream and a few other ingredients. Making it in the pressure cooker is very easy and results in the least amount of dirty dishes. Just saute onions, garlic, and ginger, add the other spices, tomatoes, broth, and chicken, cook on high pressure for only 7 minutes.

Do a quick pressure release and add heavy cream (half and half works fine too, in my opinion) and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Serve over rice and enjoy!

Tips for Making this Chicken Tikka Masala Instant Pot Recipe

If you’re scared of using fresh ginger, don’t be. I buy organic fresh ginger and then store it in the freezer. Whenever I make a recipe that calls for it, I just pull a piece out of the freezer and great it on my favorite microplane. Seriously, if you don’t have this microplane, I highly recommend getting one! If there’s left over ginger, I just put it back in the freezer. It’s easy peasy.

I also like to use homemade chicken stock. I have started cooking a whole (frozen!) chicken in my instant pot about once a week. After I have picked the meat off the bones, I put the carcass back in the instant pot and make stock. Here’s my recipe for homemade stock, and it works just fine in the instant pot too. Homemade stock is so easy, flavorful, and good for you!

easy chicken tikka masala

Flavorful Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Don’t have an electric pressure cooker?? Why not??? Well,  you can also make slow cooker chicken tikka masala too. To cook it in a slow cooker you’ll have to get an extra pan dirty to saute the onions, garlic, and fresh ginger. Then put all ingredients except cream and lemon juice in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4-5. One time’s up, shred or chop the chicken and add it back to the pot. Add in the cream and lemon juice and enjoy.

Yields 4 servings

Delicious and Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Instant Pot & Slow Cooker

Easy and flavorful Indian Chicken Tikka Masala made easy in the instant pot or slow cooker.

10 minPrep Time

7 minCook Time

17 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe
Recipe Image


  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • Big pinch of cayenne
  • 1 tbs honey to cut the acidity
  • 28 ounces crushed or diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 4 medium chicken breasts or thighs (~1 1/2 to 2 lbs)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp REAL salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (half and half works just fine too)
  • juice of 1 lemon


    Using the Instant Pot
  1. Preheat the Saute feature on the Instant Pot and add butter. After it's melted and nice and sizzly, add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is translucent.
  2. Select Cancel, and add the cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir well, then add honey, tomatoes, chicken, and broth.
  3. Select Manual and cook on high heat for 7 minutes.
  4. Once cooking is complete, quickly release the pressure. Remove chicken and chop or shred.
  5. Select Saute and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add cream and chicken.
  6. Add lemon juice and stir. Add more salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Using a Slow Cooker
  8. Heat butter in a small pan over medium high heat. Saute garlic, onion, and ginger for 4-5 minutes until the onion is translucent.
  9. Put all ingredients except cream and lemon juice in a slow cooker.
  10. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8 hours.
  11. Season as needed and enjoy.


Cooking time changes if you make this in the slow cooker.


egg free
soy free
wheat free
seafood free
treenut free
sesame free
mustard free

If you liked this easy chicken tikka masala recipe, you’ll like these recipes too:

Slow Cooker Sausage and Cabbage

Homemade Stock

Instant Pot Rotisserie Chicken

Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

Immune Boosting Creamy Creamy Chicken Stew

Here's an easy and flavorful Indian dish two ways! Enjoy great flavor with a slow cooker chicken tikka masala recipe, or if you're short on time, here's also a chicken tikka masala instant pot version. This recipe is mom tested and kid approved. Make it tonight!!

7 Tips to Create an Inviting and Eco-Friendly Bedroom + Organic Cotton Sheets Giveaway

 Social and ecological responsibility are two of our goals here at SimplifyLiveLove and today we’re excited to share two big changes we’ve made in the master bedroom at the Passive-Aggressive House to help us achieve those goals. If you want to create an inviting and eco-friendly bedroom, here are the most amazing organic cotton sheets and the best mattress in a box to help you do that. Enter the giveaway from Grund America to help you go green in the bedroom!eco friendly bedroom - best mattress in a box and organic cotton sheets

“This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission from your purchase. I was also provided with free products to facilitate this post. All opinions are mine.”

7 Tips to Create an Inviting and Eco-Friendly Bedroom + Organic Cotton Sheets Giveaway

Earlier this summer I received a set of organic cotton sheets from Grund America. It’s always nice to get sheets in the mail because it’s difficult to find California King sheets in the stores. We cheered when the Grund America sheets arrived and have been sleeping on them ever since. I’m excited to share my seven easy tips to help you create an eco-friendly bedroom today! (Plus – enter the giveaway at the end!! It’s a great one!)

organic cotton sheets giveaway

1. Organic Cotton Sheets from Grund America

We love the Grund America organic cotton sheets because they are very soft and comfortable. They also clean very well with eco-friendly laundry soap. (Important for white sheets!) Grund American products are made in GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified factories that prohibit the use of heavy metals, formaldehyde and aromatic solvents during processing. We love that they are made from organic cotton grown by organic farmers. Since they contain zero chemicals you don’t have to worry about allergenic, carcinogenic, or toxic chemicals leaching into your home.

If you’ve made the switch to organic food but haven’t thought about other ways toxic chemicals enter your home, now’s the time to learn. Not only does Grund America make the best organic cotton sheets, but they also have lovely organic bath towels, rugs, and blankets as well. Learn more about Grund America by visiting their website.

best mattress in a box REAL Sleep by Real Simple

2. Best Mattress in a Box from Real Sleep

The other big change we made in our bedroom was getting a a new mattress. Dan and I have had the same mattress since 2001 so when Real Sleep by Real Simple offered up their touted best mattress in a box, we decided to give it a try! I knew I wanted an eco-friendly mattress – one with NO formaldehyde, phthalates, toxic flame retardants, ozone depleters, or volatile organic compounds and the Real Sleep mattress fits the bill.

What I wasn’t sure about was a memory foam mattress. However, we updated our kids to memory foam a couple years ago so I knew they were comfortable. We like memory foam because it’s naturally resistant to dust mites and is also naturally anti-microbial. That means it’s also great for allergy sufferers.

We did have to get used to the mattress being a lot less thick than our previous super thick pillow top mattress. But the thinness does not mean the quality is inferior. The memory foam mattress is soft and comfortable, and it seems to help my joints. I don’t toss and turn as much at night or wake up with sore hips or shoulders.

We’ve been sleeping on the Real Sleep memory foam mattress since July and are very pleased. It’s CERTIPUR-US certified and is made with a 100% organic cotton mattress cover that breathes naturally and is easy to remove and wash. Shipped in a box directly to your house, it comes with a 10-year promise guarantee and a 100 day money back guarantee! We’ve been sleeping on it now for over 100 days and are completely satisfied. Dan and I agree that the Real Simple mattress is a great mattress! Learn more about eco-friendly Real Simple Bed in a Box Mattresses here.

Besides switching to amazing and soft organic cotton sheets for the best eco-friendly mattress in a box, here are five more things you can do to create an inviting eco-friendly bedroom.

3. Ditch carpet if at all possible. Carpet is just a little gross, don’t you think? It’s so easy to hide all the crap in and so difficult to clean well. When we built the passive-aggressive house, we used zero carpet. Instead, we opted for tile, concrete, and wood floors. Some people are worried about tile being cold out here in the midwest, but that’s what cute little house slippers are for, right?! 🙂

4. Make your bedroom a shoe-free zone. In fact, I highly recommend that you make the whole house shoe-free, but if you can’t, at least insist that no one wears shoes into your bedroom. Leave the foot stank, the harmful chemicals, and the dirt at the door by instituting a no-shoe policy.

succulents in upcycled milk glass

5. Add live plants to your decor! Not only are plants pretty, they also help purify the air by removing carbon dioxide and adding humidity to your home too! If you think you can’t keep plants alive, I recommend succulents. I’ve found them to be very easy to keep alive and very pretty as well.

6. Use an environmentally friendly and nontoxic laundry detergent. If you make the switch to organic linens and the best organic mattress in a box, you definitely don’t want to wash them in toxin-free detergent. I’ve used lots of nontoxic laundry detergent and even made my own. Some of my favorite brands include Ecos, Seventh Generation, Grab Green. Read my tips for “greening” your laundry here.

7. Use essential oils in a diffuser instead of artificial fragrances or candles.

Essential oils are a much healthier way to add pleasing scents to your home than using pug-ins with artificial fragrances or candles. Synthetic scents are toxic to our reproductive systems and can also cause cancer. You can read more about their toxicity in this Huffington Post article if you’re curious, but it’s safe to say that we try to avoid artificial scents as much as possible.

organic cotton sheets from Grund

Enter to Win a Set of Organic Cotton Sheets from Grund America!

These are my seven tips for creating an eco-friendly bedroom. What tips can you share?

Now, create your own eco-friendly bedroom with a set of organic cotton sheets from Grund America! One lucky winner gets a set of WHITE organic cotton sheets (size to be determined by winner). To enter, just fill out the rafflecopter giveaway form below! Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on November 6th and is open to US residents 18 years of age and older!

If you’re ready to order your own organic cotton sheets now, head over here and use code Spooky20 at checkout! Discount code is valid through Oct 31, 2018.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Free Pumpkin Carving Patterns + Hotel Transylvania 3 Fun!

 Do you have Hotel Transylvania fans at your house? If so, you’ll want these free pumpkin carving patterns and more Hotel Transylvania 3 Halloween fun ideas! From a cute Mavis Hotel Transylvania Costume,  monster singalongs and even snack ideas, we’ve got you covered! Hotel Transylvania 3 releases on Oct 9, you’ll want to grab these fun resources to celebrate!Hotel Transylvania 3 Free Pumpkin Carving Patterns

I received free product to facilitate this post. All opinions are mine.

Free Pumpkin Carving Patterns + Hotel Transylvania 3 Fun!

Hotel Transylvania 3 is available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital October 9 and my youngest girl couldn’t be more excited. We don’t honestly watch movies in theaters that often, but we made a special trip to the fancy theater this summer to check out Hotel Transylvania 3. We even sat in the comfy seats and got snacks. Huge deal. For real. 😉

#hotelT3 Hotel Transylvania 3 coffin box from @jazwares

Since then, Sara has been begging for copy of the DVD to add it to our road trip and (this post contains affiliate linksfamily movie night DVD collection. So she was super pumped when a special package arrived at our house recently just full of Hotel Transylvania toys and her favorite, the Mavis Hotel Transylvania costume. If you have a Hotel Transylvania fan in your life, you have to grab this cute freebie and maybe a toy or two too. They’re super fun! Here’s everything you need for an awesome Halloween family night- Hotel Transylvania 3 style.

Free Pumpkin Carving Patterns Hotel Transylvania 3

Hotel Transylvania 3 Free Pumpkin Carving Patterns

Want to carve an Hotel Transylvania 3 inspired pumpkin? Then you need these free pumpkin carving patterns! Download them here and then carve all the fun characters including Mavis, Drac, Frank, Murray and more! Grab this Colossal Carving Kit and you’ll have super fun carved pumpkins in no time. If you don’t want to carve pumpkins, check out this post full of lots of fun ways to decorate pumpkins – no knives required.

Mavis Hotel Transylvania Costume

Cute Mavis Hotel Transylvania Costume for Girls

My daughter is so excited for this fun Mavis Hotel Transylvania costume. She put it on right away and won’t rest until get her flat black shoes to complete the ensemble. We are going to skip the Mavis wig, but I think that’s ok. I only hope that it’s not as brutally cold this year on Halloween as it sometimes is in Eastern Iowa.

Here’s quick makeup tutorial to help you complete the authentic Mavis look:

How about a Monster Singalong?

Head over to Youtube to find fun singalongs you Hotel Transylvania Fans will adore. Here’s one I think adequately sums up busy mom life.

Snack Ideas for your Hotel Transylvania 3 Family Movie Night

What movie night would be complete without popcorn and smoothies? If  told you that we sometimes have popcorn and smoothies for dinner on nights when I just can’t be bothered to cook, what would you think? Well, it’s true. Let’s keep it real folks, sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to feed the family, right?

If you need inspiration, just download the instructions for Drac’s Spooky Smoothie and then grab the kids together to make these fun straws! Pop some popcorn, throw in a few sour gummies, and dinner is served!

Hopefully these free resources will make your next family fun night extra special! Make sure to grab your copy of Hotel Transylvania 3 today, and if you carve one of the pumpkins, send me a picture or tag me on social media! I’d love to see it. 🙂

If you liked this post on Halloween Pumpkin Carving Patterns for Halloween, you might like these posts too:

Easy Ways to Decorate Pumpkins without Carving

Healthy Recipe Ideas for Fun Halloween Parties

How to Grow a Pumpkin Patch for Halloween Pumpkins

10 Amazing Pumpkin Patches to Visit in Iowa