Life Love Larson: 2011


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Review: The Money Saving Mom’s Budget

A few months ago I submitted my name to read and review Money Saving Mom’s new book, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget.  I was one of many chosen (excitedly) and a few days later a pre-release copy was at my doorstep!  With the out-of-state move and the holidays behind me, I was finally able to sneak a few quiet hours to read, take notes, and highlight my way through this book. 

I must preface this review by saying that I have been an avid (daily) follower of Money Saving Mom's (Crystal Paine) blog for over 2 years.  The deals, coupons, recipes, craft ideas, DIY, tips, freebies she posts about all appeal to me as a stay at home mom of two toddlers.  I use coupons, I love a good deal, and I will always do everything in my power to pass good financial management on to our children.  Money Saving Mom’s genuine and positive attitude regarding life, managing your finances, setting goals, and giving will speak to you too.  Go get yourself a copy!

“The best way to jump-start yourself toward financial success is to commit to buy only what you can afford.” ~Crystal Paine


I decided to break this down into a few categories.  You can get all the real goodness and small details when you read the book! 

*When I refer to MSM, I am referring to Money Saving Mom and author, Crystal Paine.*

1.  Easy Read:  This book has good information, without it being too wordy or full of fancy financial jargon.  MSM provides strategies, real-life stories, easy tips, and resources in a very relatable way.  I think financial planning or strategy books can steer people away if they come across to serious and overwhelming.  This book is positive with an easy to understand message for everyday people needing a little boost with their finances.  I would suggest reading front to back, and then going back through each chapter with a fine tooth comb and highlighting ideas and strategies that speak to you.

2.  Relatable Examples:  This book provides several real-life examples of how implementing different financial strategies and making small changes helped MSM’s blog readers.  The book credits different resources including websites, books, stores, etc.  I think it is easier to get motivated and to set yourself up for financial success if you can relate to real people and real examples.  MSM also provides her own real-life experience going from beans and rice meals to paying 100% down on their first home.  It can be done!

3.  You Don’t Have to Do Everything, Just Try Something:  You will find all over this book that MSM stresses not to try everything all at the same time.  You might feel really motivated after reading this book, but if you try to do too many things all at once, you will get burned out.  I think it is wise of her to suggest that you must start slow to get where you want to be.  Once you start doing a little something to move your finances in the right direction, you will feel good about it, and do a little something more to build on this success.  If you try something you learned from this book, you will start to see small results that will be rewarding! 

4.  There is Something for Everyone:  My husband and I were both blessed to grow up in homes where we were taught the value of a dollar and how to manage our money.  It is a top priority of ours to continue to have good money management skills and to pass this along to our children.  That being said, I do not think that this book is only for people who need to turn around their finances.  Of course, this book is for people who need step by step instruction and assistance with how to get back and track, but this is also for those of us who want to learn how to get the best deals when grocery shopping, how to coupon without it taking up a lot of your time, how to give more, how to keep a decluttered home, and how to be grateful for what you have.  Everyone (even if you have a lot) has to deal with money in an uncertain economy , so this book is essentially for everyone!

5.  Get Talking:  I think this is the perfect book for all family members who are involved in the family finances to read together.  It is an easy read and there are small things that can be done immediately.  I think it is a good way to jumpstart a money conversation in a family where finances are not discussed.  Why not be on the same page, help each other out, and pass along good habits to your kids?!

This book provides information on:  not spending what you don’t have, tips for saving money, goal setting, what to do about those credit cards, budgeting, using cash, couponing, how to shop for deals, giving, and much more.  This book is motivational and realistic about how to get things done.  MSM is a mom, wife, business woman, and real person just like everyone who will be reading her book, which makes it so refreshing!

Click the link below to pre-order your copy!  The book will be released on January 10th, 2012. 

All proceeds from the sales of this book are being donated to Compassion.  How amazing is that??!!

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a safe, happy, and joyous holiday! From our house to yours, Merry Christmas!

Here is our 2011 Christmas Card, and a few outtakes from my attempt at a photo shoot!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Texas Shaped Sugar Cookies

One last project to share from before we moved…

I wanted to make a little something for the each of the kids to give their preschool classmates on their last day.  I came across a TX cookie cutter in my stash and thought it would be cute to make TX shaped sugar cookies!


I used this recipe to make the dough (credit to my Mom):
2 sticks butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar

*blend on medium speed


1 egg
1/4 t baking powder
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt

*stir in:

2 1/3 c. flour

Divide the dough in half.  Roll in ball and wrap in wax paper.  Refrigerate until cold.  Roll out of floured surface.  Bake 350 for 6 - 9 min.

I used a little help from store bought icing (my mom is gasping right now!) and added a little heart over San Antonio with red icing.


While those were baking, I made up some little notes to add to the cookie bag.




A cute little memory from our adventures in Texas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Yarn Letters

I made Kate’s teachers personalized chalkboard doors as a gift before we moved, and I decided to make Drew’s teachers personalized yarn letters – a holiday version.  These are my favorite yarn letters to date!  Festive, without being too over the top.  The possibilities are endless on what you could embellish these letters with!


I purchased everything at Hobby Lobby – yarn, felt, white sticks, and letters.  I choose heather grey yarn as it looks like a cozy sweater.  I used every last inch of this yarn to complete the K & F (teacher’s last names).


One of these days I will get around to making a tutorial on how to wrap the letters.  I have not tried every letter, and some letters are certainly harder than others.  If your last name starts with an “O”, this shouldn’t take you very long!  If you have an “M” or “H”, it will take you a bit longer.  I first tried one about a year ago and basically taught myself.  You will get better and better with practice.  Just go for it!  If you mess it up, just unravel and start again!

It really does not take that long once you get started.  I do not cut the yarn until I am finished with the letter.  Just continue to wrap and wrap and wrap until all edges look the same and put a dab of hot glue to finish it off at the end.


Once the letter was wrapped, I made a few felt flowers.  Cut a circle in the felt, cut a spiral shape, wrap the spiral back together, and secure with hot glue.


I then cut the stems off the white embellishments and hot glued them to the letter, placed the flowers on top, again securing with hot glue.  I felt that it still needed a little something so I cut a few green leaves that I slid underneath the flowers. 


Here is how the “F” turned out…


What a great homemade gift for someone who likes to decorate for the holidays.  I made both letters for under $10!

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats

Kate recently turned 3, and she celebrated at her preschool before we moved.  I decided to make her class some fun rice crispy treats that I "pinned".  Super easy, and super festive!  Much like the regular rice crispy treats, with a twist - just add some yellow cake mix and sprinkles!

I cut into squares and individually wrapped for easy distribution.  A homemade treat that takes about 10 minutes to prep!

The original pin and recipe and can be found at

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

DIY Personalized Chalkboard Doors

As we prepared to leave San Antonio, I knew I wanted to make something for all four of the kid's preschool teachers.  My kids were blessed to attend a wonderful preschool with loving teachers and we will miss them greatly.

For Kate's teachers (whom Drew also had last year), I decided to make chalkboard cabinet doors.  Perfect for a teacher, functional, and something to always remember us by!

I wanted to keep things neutral.  I used paints from my stash, including a mocha brown and a charcoal grey.  I trimmed them out in a stark white to coordinate with the monogrammed knob (Hobby Lobby). 

I then tied a piece of dustless chalk to the knob (with twine) and wrapped with a bow (meant to be a going away gift/Christmas gift).

I found the knobs on clearance for $0.81 and the doors cost me $3.  Adding the chalk, paint, and bow, and you are looking at just under $5 each!  More to come on Drew's teacher gifts in a future post!
Thursday, November 10, 2011

Move Update

Good news...our house in SA went under contract in just 3 short weeks!  Woo hoo!  Because of this, we are moving to Kansas City a bit faster than we thought.  The movers come next week, so I have been busy decluttering, organizing, spackling, touching up paint, etc.  One good thing about moving as much as we do is that our clutter and excess is at a minimum.  I find it so much easier to have a clear mind when my home isn't full of "stuff". 

We did not find a home in KC on our first house hunting trip.  We don't like to rush into buying anything, so we will be moving into a hotel for the hoiday season.  Doesn't that sound cozy and inviting??  Not! 

At least my sister is only 3 hours away, so the kids and I will probably be moving in with them before long!  When we moved to San Antonio 16 months ago, we lived in a hotel for 30 days.  It was 110 degrees, living in about 300 sq. ft. with an 18 month old, a 2.5 year old, two Great Danes, and one cat.  It was not a joyous time in my life.  I loathe hotel living.  My kids couldn't be more excited.  My husband cannot understand why I wouldn't be happy about not cooking or cleaning for 2 months.  Um, did I fail to mention that I still have two toddlers, now one dog :(, still one cat, and now it will be the dead of winter?? 

Finding a home when we officially move next week is our #1 priority, and I am confident we will find something soon!!  This little family is getting excited about our new adventure. . .


As long as we have each other, we can get through any transition...except maybe the transition to the cold weather.  I am absolutely dreading it!  :)
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Three More Jewelry Holders

The old window frame jewelry holder that I blogged about has been one of my most viewed projects.  Something about the chippy window and the chicken wire...

In the past few months, I decided to make a few more jewelry/earring holders to sell in the booth.

#1-Goodwill frame ($1), turquoise paint, distressing, staining, chicken wire, gold knob from Anthropologie.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We're Moving!

I might be a little more absent from blogging for the next few months because for those of you who read this that don't already know, my husband has been offered a relocation to Kansas City!  And we said yes!  Our house has been on the market for a few weeks and aside from cleaning and decluttering, I have not started any new projects to share with you.
Friday, October 14, 2011

Hot Corn Dip

I have really been enjoying trying new recipes and appetizers I have "pinned". Last weekend, I made a hot corn dip for football Sunday.  It was fantastic!  A must try if you like dips!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Coffee Table Makeover

I posted about the transformation of my $15 coffee table several months ago and I absolutely love it in my space.  I picked up another coffee table at Goodwill for $20, and am finally getting around to posting about it.  I received a lot of positive feedback about the dark stain and white base of my coffee table and kitchen table, so I decided to do the same for this one.  I hated to see this one go, I'm glad she went to a nice home!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Apple Cupcakes

Kate was due to bring snack to preschool last week, so I decided to make her class some apple cupcakes.  They are so eye catching, adorable, and so appropriate for this time of year.

All of the pictures below are mine, but the original post can be found at

Hawaii: Part 2-Oahu

After five glorious days in Kauai, we took a short plane ride back to Oahu (Honolulu, Waikiki Beach).  Where Kauai was sleepy and quiet, Honolulu was bustling and busy and every bit a big city.

It was nice to experience two different sides on our trip.  We stayed right on the beach and spent most of our time soaking up the sun, swimming, shopping, and eating!  Waikiki is known for their gorgeous sunsets and it was fun to see all the surfers out every morning.

A view from a rooftop bar

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Toddler Paint Activity

I found this simple and cute idea via Pinterest.  We were just hanging out in our pj's yesterday morning, so we decided to give this paint project a try!  Our letters did not turn out quite so pronounced, but you get the idea!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hawaii: Part 1-Kauai

I am finally getting around to posting pictures of the first half of our Hawaii trip.  It truly was the trip of a lifetime!  A second honeymoon of sorts.  We were like giddy school children again.  We lived in the moment and were so grateful to be in such a beautiful place.

What an wonderful break from our kids and a wonderful time to remove all stressors from life and relax and enjoy each other.  My parents and my grandmother came to SA to watch the kids.  They did so many things and were constantly on the go, they didn't even miss us!  I hated to break it to them, but the feeling was mutual  :). 

Honestly, we are so thankful to have people in our lives who will fly to come watch two toddlers for eight days and not bat an eye.  It made our trip so easy and managable knowing our kids were happy and being well taken care of!

Steve was asked to stand up in a wedding for a close friend who is from Hawaii, which was the catalyst for this trip.  Most of the trip we were on the island of Kauai, which we fell in love with.  We were so fortunate to have both the bride and groom show us around the island for a few days before the wedding.  We definitely had a local experience, which made the trip that much more special. 

These pics are all from the Kauai/wedding portion of the trip.


1.  There are SO many pictures.  You won't hurt my feelings if you scroll right through them!  I originally started this blog thinking that my parents, sister, and 4 friends would read it.  Now, I know a lot more people read (thank you) so sorry if this post is too much Larson for you!

2.  There are several bikini shots. I apologize for this.  ;) I usually wear a tankini, but I thought, heck it is Hawaii, so I have to wear a two-piece!   You will notice the color difference between my normal body and my stomach, which hasn't seen the light of day since I have had Drew!

3.  I think I have a beer with 2 limes in almost every picture.  I am such a cheap date!  I don't do the fruity drinks.  I'm so lame, I know!

Away we go!  We watched 2 movies and played a lot of Angry Birds on the long trip!
Monday, September 19, 2011

End Table Makeover

I found a large, chunky, pine end table at Goodwill awhile back.  I bought it not knowing what I would do with it, but it was in great shape for $12.  I have since painted and stained it and it now resides in the vendor booth.  It fits perfectly and it provides great storage and a great pop of color!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ice Cream Party Invitations

My neighbor and friend recently hosted a birthday party for her four year old daughter, who happens to be one of Drew's little buddies.  After a pool party, we went back to their home and the kids made ice cream sundaes.

The invitations were so cute and creative!  Lucky for me, she took pictures so I could blog about it! 

Supplies:  foam balls, glue, paint, riboon, mini cups and spoons, "You're Invited" tags, and stickers with the party details

Her girls helped her make these, which I love.  The foam balls drying outside.

Of course, you would have to drop off these invitations, but they are so cute, they are worth the drive!

Thanks to my friend Liza for sharing!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

And, He's 4!

We just knew he was going to be a boy.  We didn't find out the gender with either of our kids, but we just knew our first was going to be a boy.  It was barely a surprise then, at 40 weeks and 1 day, the doctor said (after 3 hours of pushing)"It's A Boy!"

I can't believe I am posting this pic, but here goes.  We called my belly "the bullet"!  I was all belly, and um, face!  I look so swollen-yikes!  Oh, and I didn't highlight my hair with this baby.  That all changed for the second  :)...

Fast forward 4 years, and Drew continues to amaze us with his sweet personality, confidence, desire to learn, and enthusiasm for life.  I could not have picked a better big brother for Kate and we are truly proud of the little person he has become.  I can't wait to see what is in store for this guy!

He woke up yesterday wondering why he wasn't any taller.  He also started asking questions about how he got out of my belly and how he got in there!  Not ready for those questions quite yet!

Of course, the last thing Drew said to me before going to bed last night was "How many days until I am 5?"  Oh boy, this is going to be a long year!

We went to the doctor today, and the poor guy endured 5 shots!  Yes, 5!  And Kate had to get 2, so there were some tears this morning.  He measured 90% for height, and 65% for weight.  We know he is going to be tall like his Daddy!  I know he is growing because he is still napping like a champ, eating me out of house and home, and his new shoes are size 11's!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Drewski!
Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shark Party

Drew turns 4 on Tuesday, but we had his pool and pizza party a little early so visiting cousins could get in on the action!  Unfortunately, Drew got sick during the pool portion of the party!  He had a fever and chills and was in bed halfway through the party.  Poor guy-I am going to have to make his actual birthday extra special for him!

Despite the sickness, everyone had a good time and we carried on while he was in sleeping.  Here are some pics of the invites, cupcakes, and party favors in case you need some ideas for your own shark party!  I like to keep things simple and a little homemade.

I decided I wanted to make his invitations by hand this year.  I went in seach of some ideas and came across this post at Polkadots and Pirates blog.  She threw a shark party and made her own invites for her son and I copied her idea!  These didn't take long to make and I love the way they turned out!

Made entirely out of cardstock and printed on Word.  Cut your pieces and assemble!  I used plain white envelopes purchased at Hobby Lobby (with a coupon, of course!).  I made my template on Word based on the 5 x 7 size of the envelope.

I also decided I wanted to make homemade cupcakes.  My sister was in town and she took the reigns on this (thank you!).  We used store bought cupcake mix and my sister made her own frosting.  She dyed it blue to make it look like waves, and I added gray shark fins for a little added touch.

We gave each child Swedish Fish and a shark pool ball to go along with the theme.  Cheap cellophane bags and a little ribbon and that's it!

Here is the sweet guy before he fell ill!  I will gush about him on his actual birthday blog post!

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