Month: November 2017

Putting Together a Christmas Tree – the Effortless Way


Hi there!  I hope you and your loved ones had a bountiful Thanksgiving with great company, delicious food, and plenty to be thankful for.

Today I’m ready to talk Christmas trees.  I am by no means a tree expert, but I have picked up some tips over the years that I feel have really helped me to put up a beautiful tree each year, so I want to share my process with those who may struggle in this department.

1. The tree

First things first….the Christmas tree.  Faux trees have really come a long way over the years, but to be honest, even before they were as fabulous as they are now, I’ve always preferred a fake one over a real tree.  I never liked the thought of having to keep the tree watered and never mind worrying that it could catch on fire if it got too dry.  Ain’t nobody got no time for that!  Ha!  And I always felt like real trees make a constant mess with the pine needles falling off everywhere.  With my fake tree, I vacuum the floor immediately after putting the tree up, but I don’t really notice a ton of needles falling out every day after that.  So for me, fake tree for the win!

Another important topic when it comes to your Christmas tree is the price.  I have no clue what the going rate is on a real tree seeing as though I’ve never purchased one, but I can tell you that a really elaborate fake one can cost you a pretty penny.

But don’t fret my friends, as they make trees that go along with every budget.  I personally don’t care to spend a ton of money on my tree, but I like to embellish it in such a way that it looks expensive, you know what I mean?

We’ve had a our current living room tree for about three years now, purchased at the end of a holiday season, but I don’t really love the tree.  Hubby brought it home because he found it for a really great price, I’m talking dirt cheap you guys, so I’ve just made it work over the years.  The thing I don’t like about it is that it’s not quite full enough for me.  But I remedy that by adding lots of picks and stems to it, so in the end, it works.  Bottom line, find a tree that you love at a price you’re willing to pay.  And remember it pays to shop off season too.

2. The tree skirt

I’m all about using neutral tree skirts.  The sheepskin skirt you see pictured above is from HomeGoods, but for two years before I found it, I always used the sheep skin rugs I had bought at Ikea.  No one knew except for me that it wasn’t a traditional tree skirt, and honestly, no one really cares.  I think the reoccurring theme you’re going to see in this post is that it’s okay to use unconventional items.  Think rugs, throw blankets, fabric, even sheets of burlap; all of these items work as a tree skirt and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.  And sometimes these items will end up being the design inspiration behind your entire tree.


3. Picks and stems

In case you’ve been living under a rock and have no idea what I mean by picks and stems, here are a couple of visuals for you:

Image courtesy of Southern Hospitality

Image courtesy of the Krazy Coupon Lady

You can find these in abundance at Michaels and Joan’s over the holidays.  Buy them.  Lots of them.  I use these bad boys to fill in my tree in the areas that seem bare.  I weave them through tablescapes on my dining table.  Last year, I even used them along with some garland to frame my stairwells.  As you can see, I like the more natural looking ones, usually with pine cones and a bit of flocked snow on them, but these things come in all different sizes and colors and add so much interest to your tree. Don’t be afraid to add pops of color.

4. Ribbon or Deco Mesh

Once my tree is nice and full and I’ve added whimsical items like glitter flowers or poinsettias, I like to add the next element, either ribbon or deco mesh.  I never use both, always one or the other.  Again, in case you’re not familiar with deco mesh, here it is:

And generally when I select ribbon, I tend to go with a thicker width, something like this:

though the one I used on this year’s tree is a bit slimmer than this but it still worked out well.

Deco mesh looks beautiful on a tree, but it can be a bit more difficult to work with, as compared to ribbon.  I’ve used both and generally decide which one I’m going to use based on how much effort I plan on putting in that day. Ha!

5. Ornaments

There really isn’t much to say about ornaments.  Pick ones you love and that coordinate with the feel and theme of your tree.  The deer head ornaments mounted on the wood plaques are the stars of this tree.  I found these at Big Lots the week after Christmas last year and immediately fell in love with them. I was able to score 4 boxes of them for something like $5.00.

One other thing I would like to add about ornaments is, again, don’t be afraid to use unconventional items. The Let it Snow pieces you see hanging from the tree are not ornaments at all, but just a box of gift tags that I found in my holiday stash.  They added the perfect pop of silver to the tree.

6. Tree Topper

I have no fast or hard rules concerning tree toppers.  In years past, I’ve used a traditional star, an angel, even a bouquet of peacock feathers.  This year, I saved two of my picks from the body of the tree and stuck those in the top and called it a day.

7. Vignettes

The final thing I like to do once my tree is all put together is to create a mini scene or vignette under the tree.  This can be a series of wrapped presents under the tree with coordinating wrapping papers, a plate of cookies and milk for Santa, holiday stockings laid out, a spool of ribbon with wrapping paper, the sky is the limit. For this tree, I just placed a metal bucket with leaves and pine cones in it from HomeGoods off to the side of the tree and placed a large Merry sign underneath it with ribbon and pinecones.  The wood of the sign coordinated well with the wood of my deer head ornaments.  Easy peasy.

*Please note: you will notice there is no mention here of any tips or tricks to help you string lights onto your tree.  Not only am I a fan of fake trees, but I’m all about fake trees with pre-strung lights!!  Please search elsewhere if you’re looking for tips for stringing lights, cause’ this ain’t the place!

So there you have it folks.  I hope you found a few of these tips helpful and that your tree decorating process will be just a little bit simpler because of it. Happy decorating!


Creamed Brussels Sprouts – a Delicious Thanksgiving Side Dish

Image courtesy of Feisty Chef

As many are beginning to plan and shop for Thanksgiving, I wanted to share this delicious recipe that makes a wonderful accompaniment to a holiday meal….Creamed Brussels Sprouts.

This recipe was given to me last year by a friend of mine that clipped the recipe out of the local newspaper from a Publix ad.  She made the dish for her family and they all raved about.  The Monday morning after Thanksgiving, she managed to get her hands on another copy of the newspaper and she found the recipe to give to me.  Boy, am I glad she did.

I think most people are usually split on whether or not they like Brussels sprouts.  I eat them as a side dish occasionally, but I never really cared for them, you know what I mean?   I typically would buy a frozen bag of them, throw them in the microwave, and season them with salt and pepper.  I ate them because they are low in calories and nutrient-rich, but I would NEVER call them tasty.

This recipe is not only tasty, it’s downright delicious.  I made it a few times last year; for Christmas and Easter and a few other random dinners as well.  Needless to say, this recipe has been added to my recipe box cause’ it’s a keeper!  I have even made a few substitutions to the ingredient list from time to time and it still turns out great every….single…time.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:


1 lb fresh Brussels Sprouts (NOTE: you can buy these in a bag pre-shredded to save on time)
3 oz Shallots, finely chopped (I have also used a regular onion)
4 slices Bacon, coarsely chopped
1 tsp Fresh Thyme, leaves only ( I have used ground thyme)
2 oz Deli Gruyere Cheese, shredded (I have substituted Parmesan Cheese)
1/2 cup Alfredo sauce


Remove the ends from the sprouts, cut in half, and slice.

Chop shallots and bacon.

Preheat a large sauté pan on medium heat for 2–3 minutes. Place bacon in the pan; cook and stir 4–5 minutes or until bacon is browned and crispy. Remove bacon from the pan (reserve 2 tablespoons bacon fat in pan).

Add sprouts and shallots to bacon fat; cook and stir 4–5 minutes or until sprouts are tender.

Remove leaves from thyme stems.

Stir in Alfredo sauce, bacon, thyme, and cheese until cheese melts and mixture is hot.  ENJOY!


How to Put Together a Thanksgiving Table for Young Children

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. I look forward to the great food, cooler weather, and spending time with our extended family and friends if we’re able to do so. And as I mentioned in another post, Thanksgiving night also marks the beginning of my Christmas decorating, so I look forward to it each year.

As I shared here, my babies recently turned 3 years old and these days, they are Mr. and Ms. Independent. In Thanksgivings’ past, hubby and I have either spoon-fed them their Thanksgiving dinner or sat them in their high chairs so they could feed themselves, but this year, I decided they should have their very own Thanksgiving table.

This table was super easy to put together so I thought I would share 5 quick tips in case others are looking for ideas to put together a table for their little ones too.

1. Select an appropriately sized table.

I like this one from Ikea:

Or this one from Amazon:

2. Pick a tablecloth.

This doesn’t need to be anything fancy and in fact, unconventional items work best since most traditional tablecloths are made for large tables.  I like to use pre-cut fabric, wrapping paper, or even kraft paper works well.

3. Add pops of color using colorful plates and kid-friendly centerpieces.

For this table, my kids and I made a DIY turkey by painting a pumpkin and attaching eyes, a beak, and feathers to it.

4. Create a custom place card with your child’s name on it

There are so many options for this.  I like this edible style made from cookies:

Image from sweetcreationsv Etsy shop

Or this traditional one:

Image from

5. Put an age-appropriate craft on the table.

This can be any type of craft, though I would keep it simple and holiday-themed (think pumpkins or turkeys). For our table, I chose coloring sheets that I made on our computer using free printables.

We are now officially T minus 9 days away from Thanksgiving and I can’t wait!  Here’s to hoping my little ones enjoy their table and Mr. Effortless and I aren’t wishing we had strapped them in to their high chairs!

Restaurant-Quality Fried Rice made using Leftover Cubed Deli Meat

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw my post yesterday regarding Mr. Effortless retiring from the United States Air Force after 20 years of dedicated service.  My family and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

At the conclusion of his retirement ceremony, we had the typical fare of deli meat and cheese platters, pastry and fruit platters, and of course, cake.  My hubby’s supervisor insisted that we take home what was left of the meat and cheese trays and we did.  I knew that there was no way we would finish it all as is, so I racked my brain trying to figure out a dish I could make to put the meat in because I really hate food going to waste.

After a quick inventory of what I already had in the fridge, I decided I would use the cubed turkey to make a pot of turkey fried rice.  I’ve made fried rice in the past with varied proteins; from chicken to pork, to shrimp, and even spam.  I grew up on the island of Guam and my stepmom always made THE best fried rice.  Over the years, I’ve perfected my take on fried rice influenced by my stepmom’s version and those from my favorite Chinese food restaurants and I’ve gotta say, I make a pretty mean bowl of fried rice!  But I’ve never made it with turkey before, let alone deli meat turkey, so this was going to be a first.

Another reason that fried rice was the perfect dish to make is because we currently have family in town staying with us and one pot of fried rice usually feeds a crowd, so it’s perfect to serve when you have a full house. And bonus: it’s a great meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

NOTE: I usually make fried rice when I have day-old, leftover rice but I didn’t have any today, so I just made a quick pot in my rice cooker this afternoon to make this dish.  Also note, peas are great in this, however I’m leaving them out because Mr. Effortless is not a fan.

*Ingredients not pictured, but used: vegetable oil and sugar.*


6 Eggs, scrambled and seasoned with salt and pepper

3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

2 Tbsp Sesame Oil

2 Tbsp Minced Garlic

1 Cup Green Onions, chopped

2 Cups Shredded Carrots

2-3 Cups of your Protein of Choice (pork, chicken, shrimp, spam, OR turkey) (if using pork, chicken, spam, or turkey, chop it up)

3 1/2 Cups Cooked Rice

1 Tbsp Sugar

Soy Sauce, to taste


In a skillet, scramble your eggs and season them with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a pot on medium heat, combine both oils and heat.  Add minced garlic, green onions, and carrots to the pot.  Sauté until tender, about 5-6 minutes.

Stir in your meat and continue sautéing until heated through.

Add your cooked rice to the pot and using a sturdy spoon, mix thoroughly.

Stir in the scrambled eggs and sugar and continue to mix.

When all of the ingredients are combined thoroughly, drizzle soy sauce throughout the pot.  I do not measure the amount of soy sauce I use, but I am very conservative with my first drizzle.  Stir the pot and make sure the soy sauce is mixed in well, then take a bite to taste it and determine if you need to add more.

Once everything is combined and seasoned well, turn the heat off and ENJOY!!

This tastes so good you guys!  And with the holidays fast approaching, you’ll want to have this recipe in your stash when you’re trying to figure out what to do with your leftover turkey or ham.  And if you’re not a meat fan, no worries, you can omit the meat and this dish still packs a ton of flavor.  The rice can also be substituted with riced cauliflower if you’re following a low carb diet and it still tastes delicious. I’ve made it this way many times.

Buon Appetit!






Kids’ Playroom Inspiration and Design

Design Inspiration

1. Color Palette: Navy, Gold, Teal, Black, and White

2. Accent Walls: Polka Dot Wall Decals (available at Amazon) and Black and White Striped Wall

3. Artwork (purchased at Target)

4. Play Tent (inspiration from Land of Nod but actual tent pictured in playroom purchased at Sam’s Club)






Design Execution



What to do with all that Halloween Candy?!

I know many parents are ready to throw out all the leftover candy a few days post Halloween.  You don’t want your children consuming all that excess sugar, and you definitely don’t want any of it to make its way into your mouth.  But I wanted to share this idea with you before you toss it all out.

One of the holiday activities I like to do with my kids is to put together and decorate a gingerbread house.  We usually buy the ready to make kits that come with everything, but let’s be honest….there’s never nearly enough candy in those kits.  In years past, I’ve gone to the store to buy more candy to supplement what comes in the kit.  But this year, I realized that if I just bag up the leftover Halloween candy and store it out of reach in the back of my pantry, when it comes time to work on the gingerbread house:  (1) I’ve already got a great variety of candies at my disposal, (2) I don’t end up spending more money to buy additional candy, and (3) bonus for me, I don’t inhale pounds and pounds of the sweet stuff!

Image source: Cooking with My Kid


I used to have a love/hate relationship with gingerbread houses.


I loved the thought of making one, but no matter how much of the icing glue I used, I could never get the house to stay together for long, so I would end up frustrated and agitated.  And it doesn’t help that I like instant gratification either.  Who wants to start building a house, stop for several hours so that the “glue” can dry, then come back some time later to begin putting on the candies?  Not me, and especially not when my kids are working on it with me.  I needed a one session and we’re done with this type of gingerbread project.  So last year, I started using my trusty ol’ glue gun to piece the house together and it worked like a charm.  I was able to assemble the house in about 10 minutes flat and then we were able to get right to the fun part….decorating!

Image source: Tailrace Centre

We never eat the gingerbread house.  I use this as a memory-making activity for the kids and I, so while using real glue makes the house inedible, that’s not a concern for us at all.

This year, Mr. Effortless picked up this fun Trolls-themed gingerbread house kit for the kids and I to work on, cause’ he’s thoughtful like that.  The kids are really excited about it, and with my glue gun handy, it should be a stress-fee event.

So if you haven’t already tossed (or eaten) your leftover candy, consider putting it away and saving it for a fun project to do with your loved ones.



DIY Marbled Christmas Ornaments

Here at Casa De Effortless, we don’t begin pulling out the Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving night. In fact, we’ve made it our family tradition to start setting up the first tree after we’ve enjoyed a scrumptious holiday dinner. Then, the rest of the house is decorated in the days that follow. And yes, you read right. I said first tree. We put one tree downstairs in the main living room and a second one upstairs in the kids’ playroom. I’m contemplating adding a third tree to the kids’ room now that they’re older and won’t be trying to take everything off of it.  And that’s not counting the trees I setup in the entryway.  Or the mini trees sprinkled throughout the kitchen.  I like Christmas trees. A lot.

Here are some photos from a couple of our most recent Christmas trees.

2016 Living Room Tree

2016 Playroom Tree

2015 Playroom Tree

Whether you wait to decorate until after Thanksgiving, or if your tree is up now, you’ll want to try your hand at these amazingly simple DIY painted ornaments. The materials needed to make them are inexpensive, the process is as easy as 1-2-3, you can customize the color combinations, and the finished product is spectacular.

If your tree isn’t up yet, you can make these now to coordinate with your planned color palette. If your tree is already up, you can make a set (or two) to add to the décor already on your tree – I mean come on, you can never really have too many things on a Christmas tree……….right??!! Actually, you can. So if your tree is done, you can make these and place several of them together in a basket or bowl to place on your coffee table or on a shelf.  Picture them in a setup similar to this:

If you decorate your dining table, you can sprinkle them throughout your tablescape with a mix of greenery and other accessories. You can also make a set to attach to a wreath. Or, if you have absolutely no need for them, (though I would find this very hard to believe!) you can make them to give as a gift to someone else. Imagine these beauties all packaged up in a clear gift box with a coordinating bow wrapped around it. The possibilities are endless!

But enough jibber jabber.  Here’s what you need to make these bad boys:

The ornaments are from the Dollar Tree and you can purchase these 2-packs for $1, or they sell a large, single ornament for $1.  The two bottles of acrylic paint pictured are from Michaels and they’re a part of a 16-count variety pack.  It regularly retails for around $8.00, but I caught it on clearance last year for around $3.00.  And that’s it.  All you need are ornaments and paint.  Shortest DIY project supply list ever.


1. Remove the ornament cap.

2. Pick your paint colors. You can choose multiple colors to create a marbled look, you can use one solid color, or you can make a combination of these.

3. To begin, squeeze a generous dollop of paint inside the ornament and gently swirl (do not shake) the ornament to ensure complete coverage. If you’re using two or more colors, alternate the colors side by side before you swirl so you get a nice mix of both colors.

4. Allow the ornament to dry on a paper towel overnight and while the ornament cap is still off.

5. Once the paint has completely dried, put the cap back on.

And that’s it.  You’re done.

Gorgeous, right?!

2017 Fall Bucket List – Update no. 2

Hi there!  Now that Halloween is all said and done, it’s time for another update on our 2017 Fall Bucket List. I posted the first update here.

1. Paint pumpkins – CHECK!

Me and my kiddos and their auntie painted these cute pumpkins to match my kids’ Halloween costumes.  Aren’t they adorable?!

As you can see, my baby girl worked on the cookie pumpkin, but I realized that the shade of paint I chose was much too dark, so I gave it one more quick coat after she finished and it was perfect!

2. Attend a fall festival – CHECK!

Get ready for cuteness overload!!!


Man, I love these kids!!!

9. Make a homemade pie – CHECK!

In case you missed it, I posted a delicious no-bake double-layer pumpkin pie recipe here, and it was sooooo good!

When I initially added this item to the bucket list, I envisioned making some sort of fruit pie….apple or berry topped with a thick and flaky crust.  But in the spirit of #allpumpkineverything, I decided to make this pumpkin pie and it did not disappoint. As I pointed out in the initial post, I much prefer sweet potato pie over pumpkin, but this was insanely good!!  And BONUS: one batch of filling makes 2 pies, so you have an extra one for sharing if you so choose.

Here’s what’s left on the bucket list:

3. Take photos in a pumpkin patch – EPIC FAIL!

My hubby and I took our kids to two different fall festivals and a Family Monster Ball (this is where they won the 5 and Under Halloween Costume Contest) and none of these events had a pumpkin patch!  There were pumpkins, but not a full on patch.  In fact, we picked up the pumpkins that we ended up painting at one of these festivals, so after that, going to a pumpkin patch sort of fell to the bottom of my to-do list.  But in my defense, we were pretty busy this month with our kids’ third birthday party plus all of the fall events that we attended, so I kind of didn’t mind not going this year.  We’ll try again next year I suppose.

6. Bake pumpkin bread

7. Attend a football game

I’m still planning on knocking these two items off the list this month, so I should have one final update to give to complete my 2017 Fall Bucket List.

Do you make a Fall Bucket List?  Have you checked off all the boxes on your list yet?