December 29, 2011

What we got for Christmas

On the first day of Christmas winter brought to me:  2 kids with bronchitis, 1 child with the flu too, myself with bronchitis, countless sleepless nights, 18 loads of laundry, and a new puppy too.

My son said it best in the middle of one of his puke fests, "mama, this is going to be a terrible Christmas."
We didn't do any of the things we normally do for the holidays because we were all sick. (this is except for my super immune system husband who rarely gets ill). 
We had no egg nog in the house, no sugar cookies were made, no reindeer food put out for Santa to rest his sleigh when dropping off our presents, and no trips around the neighborhood to ooh and ahh at all the lights. 
We were on pure survival mode. Which included a nebulizer for my daughter that we have to do 4 times a day.  Let me tell you how fun that is to get a 2 year old to sit still for 10 minutes during each treatment.
We did however, get around to decorating our new puppy's living space under the stairwell.  We only had energy to color some pictures for her.  Hopefully, when things settle down we will be able to make her a little name sign, etc.  This helped get the kids excited and started their contribution to the dog that (after many name changes) was deemed "Holly" since we got her around the holidays. 

December 23, 2011

Relishing the Family Moment

At Christmas time, traditions begin...making sugar cookies together, going out and cutting down the Christmas tree, driving around the neighborhood and looking at lights with Christmas music playing, etc.

This was our second year decorating a ginger bread house.  This years house was a kit from the craft store and was made out of styrofoam.  I hot glued the house together and let the kids have at it with the foamy decorations. 
In the midst of decorating I found my OCD tendencies start to come out.  I was secretly correcting the kids placements of their stickers, etc.  I had to stop myself and step back.  I realized the more the ginger bread house was decorated solely by my children, the more precious it would be... no matter what it looked like in the end. 
So, this Christmas season I am reminded to live in the moment and relish these precious family times together creating traditions...not trying to make them perfect. 
Because after all, have you ever seen a more gorgeous ginger bread house?

December 19, 2011

A New Kind of Cookie For Santa

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Cookies
Families love leaving cookies and milk out for Santa.  Here is a quick and easy recipe for Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Cookies.  They are super easy and require no baking.  They take about 10 minutes and only 4 ingredients! 

Here is what you'll need:
1/2 Cup honey/Karo syrup
1/2 Cup brown sugar or white sugar
1 Cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy is your own preference)
2 Cups Rice Krispies

In a medium pot on medium/low heat, stir together honey and sugar.  Stir until mixed and it starts to boil.  As soon as you see bubbles around the edges of the pot, turn the heat off. 

Add the PB and stir until all is mixed and smooth.  Add the Rice Krispies and gently mix all ingredients together.  Place small spoon fulls of cookie mixture onto laid out wax paper and let cool to set. 
They are not pretty by any means.  But, they are a great boost of energy for Santa to finish his night delivering presents for good little boys and girls. (and a good source of protein for your kids for a sweet snack).

December 16, 2011

Baby Jesus Ornament

This month I'm blessed with doing the Christmas crafts for the kids in Sunday school at church.  Christmas Crafts-YES!!!
This past week we made super simple baby Jesus tree ornaments. 
Here's what you'll need to make one:
A small paper plate
Simple drawing of a face (resembling a baby as much as you can artistically accomplish)
Christmas Bible verse sticker, or you can write the verse on the front or back of the ornament (We used Isaiah 9:6)
Hole puncher

~Punch a hole in the top of the plate with your hole puncher.
~Fold the bottom of the paper plate about 1/3 of the way up. 
~Fold both sides in and staple the folded sides down.
~Glue the baby Jesus' face near the top of the plate so that Jesus looks tucked in swaddled clothes.
~Pull your yarn/string through the hole punched into the top of the plate and tie at the top.
~Place your Bible verse sticker on the ornament or write the Bible verse on the back of the ornament

I got to make this ornament with my son and had a blast with him and all the other children.  I was delighted when my daughter also got to make one in her class during Sunday school.  My heart melted when she came running out of the class carrying her ornament saying "Wook, Baby Jesus!"

December 13, 2011

Winter Trail Mix

This morning I woke up wanting to make my son's preschool snack for the day.  I have been trying to find an excuse to use some super cute snowmen zip lock bags I recently purchased.  So, I went to my cupboard to see what I had on hand and in my stockpile (gotta love the stockpile!).

Here are the ingredients I used:
Honey Nut Cheerios
Cheeze Itz
M & M's
Teddy Grahams
A nice mixture of salty and sweet without nuts in case anyone in his class had an allergy.  I only wished I had mini pretzels to include as well.

December 11, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Truffles

The perfect chocolaty treat for the holidays!
Homemade chocolate truffles
Here is the recipe:
2 1/2 packages (20 squares) Bakers semi-sweet chocolate
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
Decorations:  chopped peanuts, colored sugar sprinkles, cocoa powder

Melt 8 chocolate squares in pot on stove top (or microwave).  Beat cream cheese with mixer until creamy.  Blend in melted chocolate.  Refrigerate until firm.
Shape into small balls.  Place on waxed paper covered baking sheet.
Melt remaining chocolate squares.  Use a fork to dip truffles; return to baking sheet.  Decorate, then refrigerate for 1 hour. 
dipping the formed truffles into the melted chocolate
This is a recipe that I have had in my recipe box for years but have never had the gumption to try.  This year I went for it and although they have been a hit, I don't know if I'll do it again.
Here's the states that it'll make 36 balls.  I followed the directions to a T and I guess I made mine too big (slightly smaller than a golf ball each) because I only got about 20.  My main problem was the shaping of the truffles, because no one wants to eat a home made gift that looks like a hot mess.  So, this took awhile to get the shape correct without melting the chocolate truffles in my hands during the process.  It got messy!  Also, the directions say to use a fork when dipping the truffles in the melted chocolate.  It really was not functional to work this way because the truffle's chocolate on the outside was getting damaged.  So, instead I used appetizer spears and anchored them in styrofoam. 

But when all was done, they looked and tasted great.

I put the truffles in holiday tins from the dollar store and used some tissue paper and a little sticker note from scrap booking material for the inside to add to the presentation.

December 09, 2011

Garage Make Over

So, my husband had to go out of town for a week for work.  What's a gal to do?...Make over his garage (a.k.a. "men's den")
This "men's den" was not very true to it's name.  So I thought I would do my best to straighten it up without defiling it with a woman's touch.

Here is the before:

A cluttered mess

My motto was to try to organize (with a secret mission of making more space for my growing stockpile)
Rule of thumb for revamping a garage:  If it can be hung, hang it.
I scurried off to Lowe's, with my daughter in tow, and bought a few shelving units and lots of heavy duty hooks. 
After 3 days of non stop hanging, anchoring (you must anchor!), sweeping, vacuuming, etc.  Here is the end result.

(Notice my small shelf of overflowing stockpile from the laundry room stash.)

(the Christmas decoration boxes are still out so once they are put away, it'll be a little less cluttered)
I must say, I am super pleased! 

It's not perfect, but it is much better.  We have a lot more work to do, but we had to start somewhere.
On a side note, the hubby was super surprised and liked his newly refreshed "men's den".

December 05, 2011

Making Cookies Out of a Cake Mix

What do you do when you really want a cookie but do not have any of the proper ingredients? 
Go to the Internet!

I had the worst craving for cookies the other day.  Not a specific kind of cookie, but just a cookie!   I absolutely NEEDED one!

I had no chocolate chips, or any of the other needed ingredients to make a good cookie.  So, I did the next best thing-I checked my stockpile.  I had scored a great deal of 10 for $10 on these Pillsbury cake mixes.  Yeah!  I love a good deal! 
Each box of cake mix had super cute ideas for cupcakes and cookies, but I still did not have the right ingredients.  I went on the Internet and to my delight found a recipe for the perfect cookie I could make.

It's kind of like a snickerdoodle but way more moist.  Here is how it started.
(ignore the white clumps of cake mix still in the bowl.  It was rather thick to stir so I had to break it up with a fork later.  This is pre-fork).

Things You'll Need
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 pkg. golden butter cake mix
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Shortening for greasing pans
Pans for baking cookies
Bowls and spoons for mixing
Drinking glass for flattening cookies


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease one or two cookie sheets.
2.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
3.  Mix the cake mix, eggs and oil in large bowl, stirring the mixture until it is
4   Shape the dough into 1-inch balls.
5.  Roll each dough ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
6.  Place the balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Flatten the balls with the
     bottom of a glass.
7.  Bake the dough at 375 degree F for eight to nine minutes or until the cookies
     are golden brown.
8.  Cool the cookies for one minute on the cookie sheets. Then remove the cookies to a
     cooling rack to cool completely.

This is the first batch I did-correctly by smooshing them down with the bottom of a glass.  I forgot to smoosh down the cookies on the second batch and they turned out just as good, but a little more rounded on top. 

 I  had to take a picture of the bottom of these cookie because they were baked to perfection.

Not the most flattering picture of my sweet Lilly.  But at least you get the idea that the cookies were soooooo yummy!  I'll definitely make them a second time.  The 3 dozen didn't even last 48 hours.

Here is the link to the website and recipe that I used.  So delicious!

December 03, 2011

How to Make Your House Smell Like Christmas

There have been quite a few tricks to try to make a house smell yummy and get one in the Christmas spirit.  There are great air freshener sprays, scented candles and aroma melts, and even plug in room fresheners that do a great job.
There is also a trick of simmering some drops of vanilla in a small amount of water on the stove top along with a few sticks of cinnamon.
What I have found to work best is simmering a pot of water with 'Christmas' potpourri.  This fills the house quickly with the wonderful smell of pine and cinnamon (mostly cinnamon with a pinch of ginger).  It is a quick way to fill your house before guests arrive with the Christmas spirit or just to have your house begin to feel a lot like Christmas.
I've had a small pot on my stove for the past 3 days and just turn it on whenever we want that smell in the house.  We also have a live Christmas tree up in the house that smells wonderfully pine'y' but the potpourri adds that extra cinnamon in the air. 
Merry Christmas!

November 29, 2011

Top 5 Things for Easy (Easier) Mornings

As a stay at home mother, most days seem to start out the same.
However, some are hectic, some have appointments, and some are easier than others. 

Here are my top 5 ways to make your mornings a little easier.

1.  Say a small prayer before you even get out of bed.  Mine usually goes a little something like this "Dear Lord, help me to have patients, understanding, and endurance to make it gracefully through this day.  Amen."

2.  Get up 10 minutes earlier than usual.  I know, I know!  Sounds insane to rob yourself of 10 more minutes of extra beauty sleep. will be so worth it.
Some moms get up with their kids and somehow take showers while their munchkins are watching morning TV.  I like to get up before my kids so that I can be showered, fueled with coffee, and ready to go before my kids even wake up. 
Setting my alarm 10 minutes earlier than what I really need helps me to not feel rushed, let me do my hair if I feel like not being a ponytail queen for the day (like usual), have an uninterrupted cup of coffee, check my email/facebook, and or do my devotions.  Aaahhhh, love those 10 extra minutes just for myself.

The following are to be done the night before so that you can have an easier morning...

3.  Set your coffee pot on to automatically start right when you are getting up.  I personally love smelling my priceless coffee wafting upstairs while I am getting out of the shower.  Yeah!

4.  Even though you are super tired, put a load of laundry on.  This way it washes while you sleep and all you have to do is put it in the dryer after your morning coffee and you are already one step ahead of the game.

5.  This one goes hand in hand with number 4.  Because you will feel too tired at night.  However, before you go to bed load the dishwasher and turn it on.  This way you wake up to a clean (or semi clean) kitchen without a huge sink full of dirty dishes.  How many times have we come into the kitchen on a busy morning and think "shucks!" because just the dirty sink dishes alone can make a clean kitchen feel cluttered and filthy.

These are my saving graces on some mornings.  I will admit, I do not always do them all myself.  But, when I do, I feel like I can conquer the day.
Happy Brewing!

Encouraging Reading

I am not one of those individuals that makes and keeps New Year's Resolutions. But, if you are, encouraging reading with your kids is a great one!:)


This picture is a little old, but it speaks a timeless truth.  As a parent we are great instruments in opening the world of books to our children.
My son is a true lover of books.  Knowing this, I set him up in his room and created a sheet tent by his bookcase.  I also gave him a little monkey lantern from the dollar store for extra ambiance.  He loved his little reading nook.  It was a great way for me to keep him safe and close by while I was in the other room putting his little sister down for her morning nap.
Once again, tents make everything better...and a love of books was continued.

November 26, 2011

Kids and Hand Washing

Have you ever seen kids more excited about washing their hands?

Well, thanks to the Lysol No-Touch Hand Soap System, my kids fight over washing their hands first.  It's great.  My only problem was they love using it so much, that I have to closely monitor them or I'll hear the soap 'rrrrrr' of dispensing 3 or 4 times before I can stop them.  But hey, whose to complain when the kids are gleefully washing their hands clean of dirt and germs.

However, it is super expensive to purchase the soap refills for the dispensers.  When I made a comment to my hubby about the cost of the refill on this wonderful soap system we LOVE, he simply said..."why don't you just pop the top off and refill it on your own?".  WHAT?!  I knew I married him for a reason...
So, here is how my wonderful husband taught me to refill this soaps for this system.

First, you slide a spoon under the cap and just elevate the spoon by the handle to pop off the top.

Refill with your soap of choice that you have previously purchased.  Pop the top back on and you are good to go.  Just insert it back into the dispenser. 

November 21, 2011

Home Made Calendar

I got tired of looking at my calendar that seemed to take up a ton of room on our wall beside the computer.  The calendar's corners were starting to curve and it wasn't laying flat against the wall anymore. 
So, I went looking online for inspiration.  I found quite a few DIY dry erase calendars that were super cute. 

Here are two of my favorite:

DIY dry erase calendar   &   personalized erasable calendar

Inspired, I went to my local 'Dollar General' store in town and bought myself a $3 black picture frame and some $1 dry erase markers.  I went on Microsoft Word and made a month template and printed it up on light blue card stock (to match my kitchen decor where the calendar is going to hang). 
I started to print up and design monthly headers but then decided to cut some corners to complete the project before the kids woke up from nap time. (Patience is not my virtue).  Instead, I chose some coordinating card stock for a header and left it blank.  I can then write the month in dry erase marker on the header without having to change it out every month.   I may, in the future, make some cute headers for each month.
I love it and it works out great for what I need.  A few years ago my mother gave me a flat backed bucket that I hung beside my new DIY dry erase calendar to hold an appointment book and some pens.  It only cost me $4!

Love my new calendar station and it looks much more nice and neat than my regular hanging paper calendar that started to look cluttered.

November 15, 2011

The outrageous step I took for my sanity

So, today was windy and chilly outside.  Too cold to play outside with a sick little girl.  But, with an energetic 4 year old son, what is a stay at home mom to do to ensure a good nap.  (Frankly, I needed a good nap too from being up the past few nights with my sick little one).

I had previously searched for months for a good sale on small bouncy houses for kids.  I've been looking for a while. Our last winter was so harsh, that I have started to prepare a way to get energy out of my kids with a bit of (not so typical) exercise for this coming up winter.  Some friends gave us this idea when they put up a bouncy house in their garage and surrounded it by those great foam puzzle piece mats. 

November 07, 2011

Pirate Play Date

So, how do you make a playdate on a cold rainy night fun?


O.k., so this took a few minutes of prep before hand but was well worth it.  I had been saving baby wipe containers for a future kids craft...I knew they would come in handy at some point.  They worked out perfectly to transform into pirate treasure chests. 

Here is what you'll need:
Plastic baby wipes containers (one per child)
Black construction paper (you can use any color you want)
Pirate stickers for decorating
Sharpie for writing childrens names on treasure chests
Treasures to put inside the chests
Black cardstock to cut out in the shape of a pirate's eye patch
Black yarn for securing the eye patches on each child
Hole punch for the yarn and cardstock assembly of the eye patch

I cut to size and taped the black construction paper onto the wipes containers to start the treasure chest transformation.  I also wrote each child's name on the chests to complete the prep work before the playdate.  Our treasures consisted of purple feathers, Backyardigans scratch craft, and mini glow sticks (one treasure for each child.)

Each child got a treasure box that already had an eye patch inside it. (I had cut eye patch shapes out of black cardstock, punched holes on either side, and strung through black yarn). They put their eye patches on and went to town decorating their treasure chests with the pirate stickers we had on hand.

After the decorating was over, it was on to the treasure hunt. 

Before the playdate began I had put each treasure in its own plastic baggie.  I  hid them around the kitchen and dining room.  Since the boys are 4 and my daughter is 2, I didn't make it that hard.  I hid the baggies of treasure on the inside of the cubbard and under the counter and dining room chair.  I gave them simple hints to look for the treasure baggies and they found them with no problem. 
It was alot of fun to see them looking and giggeling during their hunt.  Each child got one treasure from each baggie and then the pirate play date was complete. 

We had a ton of fun and I think the pirate treasure chests turned out super cute and it passed the time since we couldn't go outside. 

AARGH Matey!

November 04, 2011

Fall Front Door Decor

(ignore that my front mat is not centered:)

Happy Fall Everyone! 
I absolutely love the crispness in the air and the undeniable urge to light my apple cinnamon candles in the house.

I recently browsed around Pinterest and found alot of inspiration for fall decorating ideas.  Last year I couldn't find my fall wreath and then we had our pumpkins stolen off our front porch for Halloween, so I lacked inspiration last year for decorating for Thanksgiving and such. 

But, ta-da!  This year I was inspired by many of my other blogger friends and pinterest. 

Wanting to save on money while decorating I visited our local 'dollar general' and 'dollar store' in town (yes, I said town...we live in the country and it takes me about 30 minutes to get to town where the main attraction is the super Walmart).  I hit up the after summer decor sale at 'dollar general' and scored on some urns.  Got them for $3 each.  Then I hit up the 'dollar store', which usually has lots more arts and craft items than 'dollar general'.  I purchased some moss (sheets and then bushels) and some super cute green wired ribbon.  All in all, I spent about $10 at both stores. I had just gotten some gourds for $5 a piece at the local grocery store that matched our house perfectly.   I filled the urns with paper grocery bags for filler and then topped with the moss. I made sure that the moss layer was a little below the top edge of the urn so that the wind would not carry away my dollar store moss.  I then placed my gorgeous gourds in the middle.  I found my fall decor box in the garage filled with my fall wreath and some scarecrows from another fall decoration a couple of years ago and vuala!
I loved how it turned out and feel super festive!
Total Cost=$20.

November 02, 2011

Activities for a scrapbooker at heart who has no time

Some weekends, before having children, would be used to document my husband and I's travels and experiences of our life.  Mostly I would scrapbook what we did while we were stationed in Japan.  We were in Northern Japan...Misawa Japan.  Misawa was about 8 hours north of Tokyo.  I loved having vibrant pages to tell our story of visiting surrounding cities for lantern parades, salmon festivals, visits to the open fish market, temples and shrines, etc.  But, as one may find when children come along...there is not too much time for scrapbooking.  And once your little one is at the age where there is a regular nap time scheduled where you may find some quiet time, then who has the space to have all your scrapbooking supplies and materials set out?  In a 1 1/2 hour nap time I would spend 20 minutes getting my supplies out, 20 minutes trying to get the page idea and layout configured and then had to make sure that I left myself enough time to put up the supplies before my little monkey would awake and get into my swiggly scissors.  With baby scrapping paper I bought still not touched from 4 years ago when I dreamed of scrapbooking all of my sons accomplishments and milestones, I have succomed to the realization that I most likely will never get those pages done. 
But, surprise!  my womens bible study at church needed a volunteer to do the small group table labels and name tags for all 60 women.  volunteer?????  hello!  I was all over that!  I went a little overboard but had so much fun breaking out my dusty old tools and paper.  There really was no theme...just for them to look cute.  It felt good to do something with all those supplies that were just sitting there and make them into something useful for these women.  I loved it!

(Sorry it's a little blurry, but I wanted to make it so that the womens names were not totally legible to the public.)

I have also enjoyed making my own cards and gift tags for presents and every day occasions.  I even made my mother a scrapbook cookbook for Christmas last year.  I filled it with favorite recipes along with pictures, old and new, of her 3 grandkids.  Lets just say, she loved it enough to make it a piece of decor on her coffee table.
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