Sweet Maple – Book Review

Maple Syrup Canned

A photo of our homemade maple syrup from spring 2019. The color intensifies throughout the tapping season.

We have tapped the silver maple tree in our backyard for the last three or four years now. Each year we learn a bit more about the process of making syrup. The 2019 tapping season exceeded all of our expectations, leaving us with more syrup then we’d use in an entire year. That’s why when I connected with Michelle Visser on Instagram, and learned about her recently released book Sweet Maple, I was eager to get my hands on it to see which delicious recipes she included. To my surprise, this book is so much more than just recipes, this book is your complete resource for everything maple-tapping. It’s filled with detailed directions and helpful tips. And lots of personal details about her family, farmhouse and acreage, which are endearing and enjoyable to read about.

sweet maple
Now, I’m off to order a hydrometer (I never knew there was such a thing for syrup-making before reading this book). And I’m hoping that when my daughter gets home from school, she’ll bake up Gina’s Maple Snickerdoodles, included on page 105!

Other delicious recipes I can’t wait to try:

  • Maple-Infused Butter
  • Maple Cream (I have tried before, and failed miserably – so I hope this recipe teaches me the proper way because it sounds heavenly!)
  • Jill’s Maple BBQ Sauce
  • Maple Popcorn
  • Maple Cinnamon Rolls
Thanks for reading,

Happy Earth Day! Exclusive Promo: Join MightyFix For Just $1!

Earth day is Saturday, April 22nd – Make a change for the better! 

Long before MightyNest was around, I wished for a store that offered all-safe products, free of BPA, PVC and other harsh chemicals and toxins. I had a newborn baby at the time and I found myself spending endless hours searching the internet to find the safest products available. I wanted a place to take the worry out of my shopping experience and that is EXACTLY what MightyNest has done. Everything sold at their shop is safe and toxin-free. Truly a dream come true!

Now MightyNest has deployed an awesome program called MightyFix. It’s a subscription program where each month, you are shipped one amazing product that is eco-friendly and promotes more sustainable living. Each item sent monthly is valued more than the monthly subscription fee (which is only $8.25-$10/depending on plan) and it ships for free! Not only does your MightyFix item ship free, but you can purchase any products from the MightyNest website and that will ship for free with your MightyFix order! Who doesn’t love FREE shipping?

This month I was sent 5 Reusable Produce Bags as part of the MightyFix subscription. These reusable bags are perfect for bagging produce at the grocery store but also work wonderful for bagging bulk items such as: beans, nuts, and dried fruit. They also serve as washable bags to toss small items in when traveling or going to the beach. They also can be used to protect your delicates in the washing machine!

Here are some jaw-dropping facts about plastic from theworldcounts.com:

  • 160,000 plastic bags are used globally EVERY SECOND.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a floating landfill of garbage in the Pacific, is twice the size of Texas and is mostly composed of plastic.
  • Whales and other sea life are dying because they mistake plastic for food and eat it.
  • Plastic bags are produced using petroleum, natural gas and other chemicals. Its production is toxic to the environment.
  • Plastic remains toxic even after it breaks down. It doesn’t biodegrade, it photo-degrades, which means that after it degrades, it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits of itself and bleeds contaminates into the environment.

Now why are we using plastic bags again? MightyNest is making it really easy for you to take the first step in your personal life to making better choices.

MightyNest is offering Minnesota from Scratch readers a special promotional rate of just $1 for the first month of a new subscription! Just use the promo code: MINNESOTAPRODUCE at checkout or click hereYou will be sent these awesome Reusable Produce Bags for just $1. Such a crazy great deal!   You can cancel your subscription at anytime, so what have you got to lose?

Happy Earth Day!

FramedArt.com Review and $75 Credit Giveaway!


Last month we took a vacation to Nassau, Bahamas. It was our first time there and it was quite a beautiful place. The ocean was SO clear and had the most amazing shades of blue and green that I’d ever seen. Flowers were blooming on many trees and bushes and would fall in our path as if they were intentionally placed there. We saw jelly fish, sharks, colorful fish, crabs, sea shells, iguanas and even fed sting rays! Despite all of the fun daily excursions we went on, the most fun we had may have been right on the beach where we were stayed. I snapped this picture with my cell phone one evening, on Cable beach, right outside of our resort.


I adore this photo because it was a candid moment. My daughter was playing on the shore, splashing in the waves, the ocean and sky shows multiple colors of blue and it was simply stunning, so I decided to capture this moment in time. I snapped a quick pic and didn’t even realize at the time, that I had a seagull in the upper right portion of the photo. I couldn’t have staged a better photo. I love this picture.

Once back home, I decided to print the photo on canvas. I chose to use FramedArt.com for this task as they are great resource for prints & framed art. You can buy art of all kinds on the website and it’s very easy to search for what you are looking for, the site is broken up by, Rooms, Styles and Artists, or you can create your own art, which is what I did. It’s just three quick steps to create: 1. Upload photo, 2. Select the size you want and 3. Pick out a frame or canvas.

FramedArt Steps

There are multiple canvas sizes (10″x8″ all the way up to 42″x32″) and canvas options: print, museum wrap, gallery wrap or framed. Each option changes the price and the price is immediately updated so you can decide which best fits your budget.

FramedArt Order Step 2

I decided to go with the 24″x18″, gallery wrapped canvas with 1.5″ bars.

Shipping was quick and the packaging was stellar. But the best part was my canvas! I took it out of the box and looked at it and I literally got chills. The vibrant colors of the ocean matched exactly to the way the ocean looked in the Bahamas. I was stunned. I couldn’t stop looking at it and was completely blown away. It totally exceeded all of my expectations. When I look at the print, it is as if I’m looking into a window of my exact view that day. It brings me and my family right back to our Bahamian vacation. I can’t say enough good things about my overall experience with FramedArt.com and I will absolutely order from them again in the future.

Here’s my canvas, isn’t it great? I keep moving it around the house, trying to find the perfect location for it.


Now, as for my readers… I wanted to give you all the same mind-blowing experience that I had. I spoke to a Rep. over at FramedArt.com and they have been generous enough to extend a $75 credit to their website for one lucky reader. You can use this credit towards creating your own art as I did, or you can buy one of their many pieces of beautiful art. They have styles to fit everyone’s taste, I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a great site. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook as well.

ENTER TO WIN A $75 CREDIT TO FramedArt.com:

I’ll make this giveaway easy, all you have to do is visit FramedArt.com and tell me in the comments section of my blog post, the name of the painting you’d buy with your credit, or which photo you’d turn into a canvas. NO repeat answers please. One entry per person.

Giveaway: ends 614/15 at 11:59pm Central Time Zone. United States Residents Only May Enter. Sorry International Readers – I’ll have another one for you soon.


BooksTo.Me: Instagram Photobook { Review and 75% off Promo Code + Giveaway! }



I began using Instagram just over a year ago and it has quickly become one of my favorite social media networks. It has proven to be a great way to meet other people around the world that have similar interests to me and it’s far more interactive than any of the other popular social media sites that I’m apart of. The only downside for me was that I had all these neat photos that I never did anything with. Of course I always had good intentions of making creative albums with my IG (Instagram) pics, but I never got around to it. So when I stumbled upon BooksTo.Me a few months ago, I got very excited because I knew it was exactly what I was looking for but didn’t know existed.


Here’s how it works…

BooksTo.Me automatically generates photo books using your Instagram pictures. If there is a photo you do not want included in your book, just simply write #noBTM on the photo in your IG account and it will be emitted from the book.

You subscribe to the service on either a monthly basis (one book per month) or a quarterly basis (one book every three months). Once you subscribe, you can cancel at anytime without any fees. There is no additional fee for shipping either! It’s very straight forward and so hands-free.

I have received books for the last three months now and I cannot tell you how much my daughter and I look forward to our delivery. We love showing off our books to family and friends that stop by, whom of most are not on Instagram and would not otherwise ever see the pictures.

The books are 8″x8″,  hardcover and in full color. BooksTo.Me adds a little highlights page on the front of the book with your most “liked” photos. Shipping is super quick too. It says on the website that shipping takes 7-10 days, but we have continually received our books two business days after my month’s end. Very impressive!

This is a family-run business out of Denver, Co. Unfortunately this is only a product available for residents of the USA at this time but it is something they hope to offer internationally very soon.

BooksTo.Me has been SO generous to host a GIVEAWAY and also an AWESOME PROMO CODE! One lucky winner will win two months free of the monthly plan! For everyone else, BooksTo.Me is offering 75% off of your first book! When signing up, enter: mfs75 to receive 75% off of your first order. The promo code will expire February 8th, 2015. Don’t wait to see if you won the giveaway… if you sign up and do happen to be my winner, you’ll be comp’d for the two following months! 🙂

TO SIGN UP FOR THE GIVEAWAY, please follow the Rafflecopter link below:

——->a Rafflecopter giveaway<——-

Good luck!

Giveaway ends 1/18/15 at 11:59pm Central time/US residents only

Beautiful Views – Hanging Indoor Window Garden {Review}

Beautiful Views

Beautiful Views Indoor Window Garden

Kristin and I recently had the opportunity to review these wonderful, handmade, Beautiful Views window shelves.  My first thought was, “WOW, this is what I have always needed but didn’t know existed.” I really only have one sunny, south-facing window in my house and so most of my plants are situated on top of the desk, shelf or table nearby just to catch some of the sunlight that shines through. Since hanging this shelf, I have been able to de-clutter those surfaces and give my plants the sunlight they need!


We really enjoy seeing so many colors in the window vs. the typical grey we see most of the winter! The plants and flowers also look pretty from outside the house looking in!

The shelves can be purchased in a standard size from Amazon, or if you have a unique size window, you can have them custom made to fit!  Jim, the owner, makes each shelf personally and is incredibly friendly and helpful to work with!


My daughter likes to display her beautifully painted creations on the shelf as well.

The shelf comes completely assembled and ready to hang. Installation only takes a few minutes as there is just one nail they hang from. The light-weight shelves are made of clear acrylic which makes them nearly invisible. The entire unit easily attaches to the molding on top of your window. If you don’t have molding or have blinds in the way – no problem – Jim makes a mounting kit that eliminates any issues!


Here is Kristin’s  shelf and thoughts:

Kris' beautiful views shelf

I placed a decorative pottery piece above mine to hide the nail.


The herbs are loving this window!

Making a useful, beautiful space out of an otherwise empty window is an excellent idea.  Especially for those that enjoy house plants or would like to grow fresh herbs year round. They are also great to display treasures, trinkets or even photos.  My son and I have been enjoying our window shelves for about a month and my advice to anyone that thinks they might like one… don’t hesitate!

These particular shelves were made to fit my window and are quick and easy to install. They are completely adjustable as you can space them exactly as you desire.  If you want to take out a shelf for larger spacing between shelves, a shelf can easily be removed. Or you can just hang the shelves in the top half of your window, it’s easy to adjust with just a simple allen wrench.


Beautiful Views


Jim and his wife have developed a genius design for these shelves!  I’m pretty good at finding room for improvement on most things, and I can’t come up with anything on these, I’m totally impressed – 5 STAR rating! – Kristin

I can’t wait to get my seedlings going. I’ll post pictures with an update in a few weeks when we GIVE ONE AWAY! Jim is generously giving away ONE BEAUTIFUL VIEW INDOOR WINDOW GARDEN later this month! Check out this gallery of other happy customer’s shelves and how they use them. Learn more about Beautiful Views on Facebook.

Thanks for reading,
Stephanie and Kristin

Vino Backyard Designs: Monogrammed Address Stamp {Review and Giveaway!}

Vino Backyard Designs -logo

Vino Backyard Designs Stamp  (2)

I continually tell my friends how I always end up falling in love with my review items and today is no exception. I am so excited to share one of my favorite Etsy stores with you called Vino Backyard Designs! Victoria is the owner and mastermind behind the shop and she creates beautiful custom monogrammed pieces that are perfect for a variety of occasions. Her shop includes leather hand-bound engraved journals, custom signs, wedding tags, ornaments and even scarves. But what I have to share with you today is my favorite custom product that she makes, which is the monogrammed return address stamp.

These stamps make perfect wedding gifts, they are wonderful for engaged couples (save the dates!), newlyweds (thank you cards), new parents and for the people who “have it all”.  I work for a Real Estate agent and I told him that this would be a great client gift for all of his new home owners! Wouldn’t you love to receive this? So thoughtful!

What I really like about this particular business is that Victoria is a nurse by day and about a year ago, with encouragement from her boyfriend, decided to make her dream a reality. She puts a lot of heart into each piece and she is completely flexible with your vision. Also, she is very prompt! The process of ordering my stamp to receiving it in the mail literally took a few days.

Here is my stamp… with address blurred out. It measures 2″x 2″.

Vino Backyard Designs Stamp

Here’s how it looks stamped:

Vino Backyard Designs - www.minnesotafromscratch.wordpress.com

Aren’t they great? Victoria has been generous enough to extend a GIVEAWAY to ONE lucky MinnesotaFromScratch reader, so please follow the Rafflecopter link below and enter!

——>a Rafflecopter giveaway<——

Each entrant has a chance to gain up to 25 entries into the contest by completing various tasks listed on the Rafflecopter entry form.


Flannel: Functional, Comfy, Affordable and Versatile

Have you seen the Top 10 Flannel Cities list that Duluth Trading Co. put together? It’s pretty funny and Minneapolis/St. Paul is #4 on the list. Here’s why:

Flannel report - americas-top-flannel-cities-number-four-minneapolis-st-paul

This is my new favorite shirt/jacket. It’s the Women’s Flapjack Flannel Shirt Jac from Dulth Trading Company.

flannel 4

The jacket is perfect for working outside but is also fashionable enough to wear out and about as well. I asked my favorite fashion blogger Alison, owner of Get Your Pretty On, for her two cents on flannel and she said, “Plaid flannel shirts aren’t just for lumberjacks.  They’re proving to be a versatile and fashionable staple to add to your winter basics.  Wear one layered under a sweater, mix it up with other prints like stripes or polka dots in complementary colors or dress it up with a pencil skirt and statement necklace.  It’s guaranteed to be a workhorse in your winter wardrobe.” Alison put together this great set to show you how the Flapjack flannel can be worn when you aren’t wearing it to work in:

flannel 2

This flannel jacket is great because it’s soft, comfortable and warm. It’s really durable and not restrictive, which makes it perfect for working in.

flannel 3

I love the snaps on the cuffs and especially on the back of the coat. I think they are a flattering detail that make the jacket more feminine and are also functional because I can make the waist line larger or smaller, depending on what I’m wearing underneath. The cut of the coat is great for all different body types and long enough to cover the hips.

Check out the other flannel styles and colors here.

What are your thoughts on flannel?

Be sure to check the blog later, I will be posting a great new giveaway from Duluth Trading Co!

Handmade Jewelry Review: Nectar Jewelry + Special Discount Code!

Nectar Jewelry logo

Given that the holiday season is upon us (ALREADY?!), I figured now would be a great time to share with you one of my favorite jewelry designers. Rachel Vanatta is the owner of Nectar Jewelry. I thought she would be a perfect fit for you, a Minnesota From Scratch reader. Rachel’s art is “influenced by re-occurring natural elements found in nature.” Rachel wants to communicate the beauty she finds in nature, through her jewelry. I LOVE THAT.

This is my new Branch necklace.


This specific necklace stood out to me because I absolutely love the fall in Minnesota and this bare branch immediately reminded me of just that. This necklace is a newer addition to Nectar Jewelry and includes a very feminine, single Swarovski crystal. To me, the crystal signifies new growth, continual change and hope. But I’m sure the significance of the twig and crystal varies from person to person.


Another beautiful detail of the Branch Necklace is the clasp.

Rachel states, “The bee is a perfect example of this magic in our world. It’s movement from one flower to another, collecting nectar, has represented throughout the ages the interconnections between all living things. Bees teach us to engage fully in our endeavors, work as a team, and are a symbol of accomplishing the impossible since, aerodynamically, their body is far too large for their wings to carry and should not be able to fly.”

The chain of the necklace is a waxed cotton so it is completely animal-friendly and repels water/sweat.

Here are a few of my other favorite pieces from Nectar Jewelry:

Nectar Jewelry - Coin Pearl Necklace

Coin Pearl and Cotton Necklace

Nectar Jewelry - Knotted Bracelet

The Knotted Bangle Bracelet

Nectar Jewelry - Bubble Bee Dangle Earrings

Bubble Bee Dangle Earrings

If you are looking for a beautiful gift for someone you love, any of these unique and timeless pieces are sure to become a prized possession.  To help you start your collection, Rachel from Nectar Jewelry has been so kind to offer a special discount for Minnesota From Scratch readers. Enter the coupon code: MINNESOTAFROMSCRATCH at checkout, now through December 31st, 2013 to receive 20% off ONE item $100 and under!

Thanks for reading!

Eco-Friendly Review and Giveaway: Woolzies Dryer Balls

As part of my mission to become more eco-friendly, I began washing our clothes with cold water.  Not only does washing with cold water save energy, but it also saves money; a savings of $0.50 or more per load!  Once I learned about fragrance, the unnatural scented chemical additive that has been linked to all sorts of health issues, I began to avoid it at all costs. According to Klaus Ferlow, a Master Herbalist, 95% of the chemicals in fragrances are synthetic compounds of petroleum and are the same ones found in cigarette smoke. The chemicals are absorbed by your skin and the vapors are inhaled. Many skin allergies are directly linked to products using fragrance, specifically eczema, psoriasis and contact dermatitis. But it doesn’t stop there, fragrance chemicals can also effect the brain, respiratory system and endocrine system. Not to mention the harm it is causing on our indoor and outdoor air quality. For more detailed information on the harms of fragrance, check out this article.

MinnesotaFromScratch - Woolzies Review and giveaway

So why am I talking about fragrance? Well because most fabric softeners includes fragrance (as well as many other toxic chemicals) and once I realized that, I started to get unscented stuff. Recently I learned about Woolzies Dryer Balls and now I’m pretty much a lifer.

Woolzies Dryer Balls are made of 100% pure wool and are an all-natural fabric softener. They are handmade in New Zealand and soften laundry without any chemicals, they also cut down drying time by an average of 25% per load!  These dryer balls also help reduce wrinkles and static!  They are hypo-allergenic and do not shed into the laundry, therefore they are safe for people with wool sensitivities. These dryer balls will last for 1,000 loads (money back guarantee), which make them super eco-friendly!

Each box of Woolzies contain six dryer balls. You use all six balls in every load that you dry. Since my daughter’s bedroom is right above the laundry room, I was concerned that the balls might knock around in the dryer, causing loud banging noises against the dryer barrel.  Fortunately, I did not notice any additional noise coming from the dryer and neither did my daughter. I was skeptical that they would actually reduce dry time, but they sure enough did. I used to dry all of my clothes on a medium heat for 50-55 minutes, depending what I was drying and now they are done around the 35-40 minute marker.  If you are a fan of scented fabric softener, then you can just add a couple drops of your favorite organic essential oil to a couple of the balls and fluff them up for about ten minutes. You will be delighted by the gentle scent that your clothes have throughout the day.

I’d definitely recommend the dryer balls and I’m excited for one lucky Minnesota From Scratch reader to win their very own set! To learn more about me and my eco-friendly lifestyle, read my interview over at EcoGrrl!


For this giveaway, just click the Rafflecopter link below and follow the entry options listed.

———>a Rafflecopter giveaway<———

Each person can receive up to 30 entries by following us on Facebook, Twitter, commenting on our blog post and following our blog by e-mail or BlogLovin.


What are some things you do around your home to keep it “eco-friendly”?

Take care, Stephanie

EvaOlivia Organics: Review and Giveaway! Luxury Skincare Products


Over the last five years or so, I have transitioned from conventional foods and drugstore beauty products to a mostly organic lifestyle. The first change I made was in my diet. Once my daughter was born and especially when she began eating, it was easy to commit to an organic diet. Sorry, GMO’s and pesticides are not meant for my child! But once I got eating organic down pat, I realized that many other parts of my daily life were also harmful to myself and my family. Over time I moved from my drugstore lotion (which I found out is not actually safe for me) and found other organic lotions that did not include harmful chemicals. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times on the blog, my daughter has eczema and my husband has psoriasis and I’m always eager to find natural remedies that help soothe their skin issues. Since I started using all-natural alternatives on my daughter’s skin, her symptoms have completely gone away.

I’m always on the lookout for safe and organic skin care products so when I tried EvaOlivia Organics first hand, I knew it was something I needed to share on the blog.  But first I will tell you a bit of background about EvaOlivia Organics… it is a family owned company, devoted to creating organic, high-quality bath products, while causing as little of a negative impact on the planet as possible. Inspiration for soap making first came with the birth of their daughter who was born prematurely whom had very sensitive skin. All soaps are made completely from scratch with raw ingredients and recipes that have been passed down through the generations. These luxurious products are made in small batches, with love and care and ingredients that you can trust are safe for the entire family.

No animal testing
No detergents
No sulfates
No petroleum
No synthetic preservatives
No parabens
No artificial colors
No synthetic fragrances
No harsh chemicals
No animal fats

EvaOliviaOrganics - MinnesotaFromScratch.wordpress.com

I was sent a basket full of beautiful bath products and here is what I found inside: Skinfully Sweet Body Butter, Bath Salts, Body Polishing Cubes, Sweet Shea Bath and Shower Gel and Lemongrass Bath and Shower Gel.

EvaOliviaOrganics Review and Giveaway -- MinnesotaFromScratch.wordpress.com

The Body Polishing Cubes are so great! I tried the peppermint scent which was perfect for perking me up in the mornings, they have a very refreshing smell. They were gentle, yet exfoliating and left my skin feeling very smooth. I used the polishing cubes every other shower and one cube was more than enough for my entire body and my hands were extra soft after using them.

EvaOlivia Organic Bath Prodcuts - MinnesotaFromScratch.wordpress.com

I alternated between the two shower gels, the scents I received were Sweet Shea and Lemongrass.  Sweet Shea smells of honey and citrus and Lemongrass smells as you’d imagine, but also has hints of rosemary and lime to make it a uniquely pleasurable scent. The gel was thin and a little went a long way which I really liked. Both shower gels lathered up great and rinsed off the skin, leaving it feeling revitalized and healthy.

EvaOliviaOrganics Review and Giveaway- MinnesotaFromScratch.wordpress.com

The Bath Salts were a nice treat for when I wanted a relaxing bath instead of a shower.

EvaOliviaOrganics Review and Giveaway - MinnesotaFromScratch.wordpress.com


The Body Butter is hands down, ahhhh-maz-ing. I can’t exactly pin point the essential oils used to make the scent, but the smell is very calming and I’m pretty certain there are hints of citrus in there. It looks so good that I literally felt an urge to lick it; it looks just like whipped cream or the frosting on a cinnamon roll. It is a treat to cover my body in such a nourishing concoction after the shower. It moisturized my skin throughout the day and left me smelling great.  I like that it doesn’t leave my skin feeling greasy or wet, just hydrated. My feet are pretty dry in the summertime because I live in my flip-flops, so I found that smothering my feet with this body butter before bed resulted soft feet by morning! I love, love, love it!

My daughter and husband both really enjoyed using these soaps and lotions as well. I would say that all of bath products had a nice gender-neutral scent to them. The scents were not over powering either, just a nice faint reminder of my luxurious shower. If you are looking for high-quality, organic bath products, I would definitely recommend trying EvaOlivia Organics!

EvaOlivia Organics is generously giving away one gift basket to ONE lucky MinnesotaFromScratch reader! Due to the warm temperature during the summertime, the body butter would melt if shipped so the winner’s basket will include the following: Sweet  Shea and Lemongrass shower gels and Peppermint & Eucalyptus, Shea & Honey, and Ruby Red handcrafted soaps. Prize scents are subject to change depending on stock availability at the time the winner’s name is drawn. 

————->a Rafflecopter giveaway<————–

Thank you to all that entered!

This giveaway has ended and the winner is…

EvaOlivia Winner

CONGRATULATIONS, MARLA! Your acceptance e-mail has been sent. Please respond within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.

EvaOliviaOrganics Prize

Good luck!

Take care, Stephanie

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