Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why I love New Year's Day

I love writing down my New Year's resolutions, mostly because I really enjoy documenting things. Hello, I am a blogger. But even before blogging I've always been this way. I like to be able to look back. I sometimes wish I were born in the future, because then I feel like the first quarter of my life would have been preserved better via social media and digital photography. Sometimes just seeing a photograph from the past can trigger a memory that might have otherwise been forgotten. Even if it's not directly in the photo. At least for me that's how it works. J and I became engaged 14 years ago and would you believe there is not one single photo taken from that night. If it had happened 5 years ago we'd probably have 100 photos or at the very least a phone selfie and a snapshot of the ring. Which reminds me, I actually lost my original wedding ring and I have no photos of it! It's a long story. So documentation is one big reason I love writing down goals for the year.

Another reason is because I am a list person. It's funny how there are so many ways I am just a laid back, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, hippie. But there's a tiny little structured personality deep down inside me that causes me to get downright anal about some things. Planning and lists are some of those things. I make a list almost every single day and when it comes to planning trips, parties, births,  Christmas cards etc.  I am the queen of detail!

So you take my love for documenting, lists, and planning and that adds up to New Year's day being one of my favorite days of the entire year. It's right up there with Christmas and Chick-fil-A cow day for me. I know that is strange, but aren't new things always exciting?! That's why some people just cut to the chase and ask "what's new?" Because whether it's new shoes, new car, or a new baby, sometimes we just crave something NEW! We'll be bringing in the New Year at my in laws undoubtedly playing cards. They LOVE games, especially Hand and Foot. We have played it hundreds of times through the years. And probably a dozen times so far over Christmas break. There are three rounds for each game so even if you tank the first round you can still catch up in the second or third. Then let's say you still loose the game. There is a good chance with this family that you'll get a second chance because they'll play the game again. There is that feeling comes when you start a new game that is the best part because it's a clean slate. You've been given another chance to start all over. That's the feeling I get at the beginning of year. It's like a fresh start after loosing a game, or better yet getting another chance when you were already on top of your game!

I didn't do that awesome with this year's resolutions, but out of the three things I wanted to focus on (blogging, cleaning, and reading) I definitely achieved my reading goal. The cool thing about looking back is that this time last year I was reviewing my goals for 2013 and I had failed to visit Michigan or have an updated family photo. At the time that was discouraging, but I did manage to make it to Michigan in 2014

and we had our family portrait made too.

So it might have been a year late, but we did accomplish those goals and that makes me so happy!

I know that was a lot of rambling, but when I started reviewing some of my old New Year's posts and began thinking about this one it just made me realize how much I love this underrated holiday. Next I will share what my goals are for this year. Let the countdown begin.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Card 2014

Every year we do a Christmas card. Even if they seem thrown together or unprofessional don't let that fool you! I put a ton of thought and effort into every single card. I usually have the card idea planned a year in advance, and if you were to ask me there would be a story behind why I chose that particular theme for each year. Here are the ones that I have done since this blog started in 2008.

2008- Converse Sneakers
2009- Maternity Christmas Present
2010- The Regift  
2011- The Outdoor Couch (scroll down to #4)
2012- Sunglasses
2013- Jingle Bells Batman Smells 

This year I wanted to have a nice family photo because the last time we had one was 3 years ago before Ezie had arrived. I couldn't simply have a sweet photo printed on photo cards at Costco. It was too predictable. So I decided to go old school and actually make my own photo cards rather than design a digital one. Repurposed is probably the best way to describe them. My mom had a collection of old cards that had never been signed or mailed so I just glued the pictures and scraps of Christmas papers, tape, and stickers on top.
Although it was a bit tedious I didn't mind. I found the whole project to be therapeutic. The thing I hated was signing them. Some of them were even blank on the inside so that was just a huge pain.

The worst part is I HATE my hand writing. I get it from my mom. No offense mom, but one day she wrote me a note giving permission for me to ride home with a friend from school. The school denied my request because they thought it looked like I wrote the note and forged my mom's signature. They had no reason to doubt my honesty. I was an honor student who was never ever in trouble, but even then I guess they thought there was no way an adult could have written that note. Anyway, all that to say that my handwriting is bad. Not sloppy in a cute way that would make a fun font. Just plain ugly. So, I will never do cards this way again as far as I'm concerned, but it's over now. Here is how they turned out!

One of my favorites is this one with the Christmas trees because it was a invitation to SJ's Christmas program at school. I just taped the pretty blue design to a card (I think it was actually a thanksgiving card) and then I glued our photo and snowflakes on top. 

This is another favorite because SJ was helping and she cut these mittens out, but they were from a gift bag and I didn't really want her to cut up the gift bag. In the end though it looks cute and she has great precision for a 4 year old so I ended up really liking his card. 

This red card stock was the backing for some gift tags so I ended up using it too! 

This polka dot one is funny to me. It's actually Valentine paper, but add the words Merry Christmas and a little Elf sticker and it looks pretty Christmasy. The funny part is that I didn't realize the preexisting message on the inside of the card said "What a glorious time to renew our faith and refresh our souls in the Savior's love." Which is great, but it doesn't quite fit with the happy sledding elf I put on the front. 

That's just a fraction of the 40 cards I made, which didn't nearly cover my list. I think I covered most of the family and as for everyone else this digital version will have to suffice. 

Merry Christmas everybody! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Vacation

Slight change of plans. No more pinnable days of Christmas. I posted 8 crafts/recipes and it has been such a hit. I love that stuff. And even though I have already written some drafts and taken photos for the final days of the series, it still takes a lot of work to get the whole thing up and finalized. I planned on having the series concluded by this time, but I just bit off more than I could chew and I am in vacation mode now (not to mention way sicker than I wanted to be for Christmas). I will still finish what I started and I even want to add some to it, but it’s going to have to be put on hold until next year.

As for this year, the Holidays have been wonderful so far. Right now we are in Texas enjoying Christmas break with my in laws and we already celebrated with my family last weekend. Here are some photos of the recent activities.

We went to the Cincinnati Union Terminal museum with some friends and saw their spectacular Holiday train display. 


The kids rode on a train and we even bumped into Santa. 

 We also spent the night at my parents house to celebrate with my side of the family.

I as grinning from ear to ear the whole time we unwrapped presents.

We completely trashed the living room, but it was just a beautiful time of sharing, laughter, and surprises. 

I love Christmas more than ever now that I have children that get to experience it all with fresh wonder and excitement.   

That night we had a simple meal together followed by the kids "vegging" out on Veggie Tales Christmas specials. 

While they did that the adults played a game called "Wits and Wagers". If you like Balderdash, Apples to Apples, or party games like that, then I recommend it. We had were just cracking up. It was a blast. 

We also made gingerbread houses with the kids. Full credit to my sister in law (shown below in the red scarf). All of my attempts literally crumbled, but she threw these together like a boss. 

That’s just a glimpse at what has been happening. I hope to check in with more updates soon! I hope everyone else is having a blessed season. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Melted Snowman Cookies

I've seen several variations of this recipe floating around on pinterest. The one I used was from Somewhat Simple and she gives a wonderful tutorial.

The idea behind it is that you make a sugar cookie shaped like a puddle, covered with icing, and then topped off with a  marshmallow that has been warmed a few seconds in the microwave. What makes the blobs turn into snowmen is the decorations and this is where you can really get creative!

We changed it up a bit by using mini chocolate sprinkles for the faces, and some candies for buttons (and some of the noses). I have seen so many variations including the addition of the marshmallow snowball which I incorporated.

 I have also seen resees cups for top hats or edible markers to draw the faces on. The possibilities are endless once you've got the basics.

My sister in law had a great time decorating these and of course they are a hit with children.

I think Holiday cookie's are one of my favorite things. By the way I have been loving the feedback on the Andes Mint cookie recipe I posted last week.

           "These cookies are awesome and so easy! Thanks for the recipe. Seeing that I accidentally bought a box of brownies instead of cake mix, I went ahead and used that instead. I cut the vegetable oil down to 1/4 cup, added 3/4 c   flour plus 3 Tbs water. Then I added 2 eggs just like the recipe called for! These turned out perfect:)."

- Mels @bloglikeadog

"I made these over the weekend and they were a huge hit! Everyone loved them and they are so easy, moist and delicious! Thank you :)"

"I've made the mint ones twice now! They're my new go-to cookie! Thanks for sharing!!"

That's what makes me happy about this little pinnable Christmas series. It's simple little things that I have tried as a busy mom with three kids and not a ton resources. I would like to think that the crafts and recipes I am showcasing are for regular messy families just like mine. Although, clean and tidy families are welcome to try them too. Wink. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Pancakes

Last year I saw this adorable snowman pancake idea from a Kroger ad. My kids went bananas over it.

This year as my 7 year old begged me to make them again, I thought why not take it up a notch? Then as I was in the kitchen stressing over everything getting cold and kicking the children out of the kitchen because they were going to ruin it, that is when I realized WHY I should probably NOT have taken it up a notch. It worked out in the end and that night while tucking in my oldest son he said "Thank you for the pancakes" and it made it all worth while. Still, I would probably not attempt a pancake trio again, but I am totally up for one simple theme pancake every now and then. 

Here is what they are made of:

Junk. Ahem. It's a Holiday splurge!


Twizler licorice hook 
Kiwi and strawberry stripes, on blueberry syrup for the bulb design. 


Strawberry and marshmallow hat
Banana eyes and nose 
Chocolate chip pupils
Twizler mouth
Whipped cream beard


Marshmellow for the hat and snow
Strawberry hat and nose
Bacon scarf
Whipped Cream body 
Chocolate chip eyes, mouth, buttons (or blueberries if available)
Pretzel arms

I love breakfast. I love Christmas. There it is. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Getting Crafty With Gift Wrap

Another Christmas craft that I keep going back to is using Trader Joe's bags for wrapping paper. 

Trader Joe's is great because at least for the past 3 years they have seasonal brown paper bags with different Christmasy patterns on them. 

Although, you can still achieve a similar look using the plain side of any paper grocery bag or kraft paper. A lot of wrapping paper uses rolled up kraft paper instead of a tube when you reach the end of a roll. This year I even used that for wrapping a couple presents. No waste whatsoever!

One thing I should warn is that the paper is really stiff so it doesn't work well in all situations. If your gift is an odd shape I would recommend using a gift box. Or in my case, given that my gift recipients know me and know how frugal I am, I do not shy away from using everything from a cereal box, to a Pringles container to put the present in before I wrap it. It actually brings back childhood memories for me because my parents did this with our difficult-to-wrap-presents. Mom and dad would always jokingly exclaim "It's a toaster!" or "We thought you'd want a box of diapers! Ha ha" and we'd all laugh as we hurriedly opened the box to find what was really inside. 

Anyway, once you have your box wrapped you are going to want to dress it up a bit. 

I have already shown these Trader Joe's wrapped presents adorned with twine, greenery, and photo gift tags.

This year I changed it up with my first ever attempt at crafting with duct tape. I must admit, I think I'm hooked. 

I used this tutorial for the bow and just modified it by adding ribbons at the end. 

I also used the photo gift tags again. The ones that I shared about last week

Side note. I was thrilled to get see this message on Facebook today that said "Thanks for the great gift tag idea! Love your blog :) " 

That just made my day. I am sure their teachers are going to be thrilled to see who these gifts are from. 

Gifts are like people, it's what's on the inside that counts. Then again, I think we all like to get dressed up from time to time.

 Tis the season! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reindeer Donuts

I am at my parent's house doing Christmas with my family so I'll keep this tutorial brief, which should be easy since it's SO simple. 

All you need to make this cute little reindeer is:

Chocolate Mini Donuts
A tube of white frosting
Red M&M's (which you can pull out of a bag of assorted M&Ms)

I don't have pictures of the process, but you just put three drops of white frosting. Two for the eyes and one in the donut hole to keep Rudolph's nose in place. Then you break the pretzels up into the shape of antlers and stick them in the sides of the donut. Easy right? 

The kid's had so much fun with this project. Although it was hard to keep Rudolph's nose on since the M&M's are so appealing. 

I also used them as a decorative treat in the teacher baskets I gave out a couple years ago. 

The bag of cookies behind Rudolph is actually Ande's mint cookies

These photos are from previous Christmases, but I do plan on making the reindeer donuts again this year. Maybe, for the school's winter program, or the Santa pajama party, or just for fun at home. I am not sure yet, but Christmas has been so great so far and we still have so much more to come! It's the most wonderful time of the year... 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cookie Cutter Whipped Topping

I love whipped cream. I would go as far as to say that I am notorious for my love of whipped cream. I am the kind of girl that will send a drink a drink back if it is lacking this garnish. I am timid and apologetic when I do so, but I will step out of my comfort zone and take action in every instance that this topping is missing. It embarrasses my husband, but I am that passionate about it.

A few years ago when I first started Pinterest I saw this idea to freeze cool whip and then use cookie cutters to create shapes to plop on top of your hot cocoa. I thought it was a fabulous way to add a little flare to something I already adored. It's really easy to do and kids love it! My only complaint is that it takes up a lot of freezer space so be prepared for that if you want to give this thing a shot.

All you need is a tub of cool whip and some cookie cutters that are the desired shaped AND small enough to fit in a coffee mug.

First off you will spread the cool whip about 2 inches thick along a cookie sheet. Then cover it with saran wrap and place it in the freezer until completely frozen solid (preferably over night).
Once that's done you just cut the shapes out like cookies and place it in your hot chocolate or drink of choice.

Take a photo because that's the only thing that is going to last with this little embellishment. Much like the snow cream recipe I shared yesterday, the cool whip melts fast so you have to be ready to complete the whole process quickly once you get going.

Lastly, I recommended adding a candy cane as a stir stick because it's cute and it adds nice flavor to the beverage.

That's all there is to it. It doesn't have to be a Christmas treat, but it is nice to try around this time of year because it is so festive. If you are looking to show off to friends at a party, entertain kids over Christmas break, or even just treat yourself to a cup of cheer, this cookie cutter whipped topping is sure to do the trick.

Snow Cream

Snow days rank VERY high as one of my favorite moments of childhood. I didn't even discover snow cream until middle school when I lived in Atlanta. My best friend's grandmother made it for us on one of those rare Georgia snow days. It was love at first taste for me! I had kind of forgotten about the tradition after spending many of the following years in Texas where snow was even more rare. However since moving to Ohio I get to experience the joy of snow days again . Only now I watch my children light up at the idea of an impromptu day off of school due to the fun weather conditions. That's when it hit me that I had to introduce them to the magic of ice cream made of snow!

I know some of you are thinking. Uh, snow? Like from the outside world? That's gross. I am not eating that? Well, the idea is to get fresh fallen snow inches off of the ground, not some stuff that's been around all day and starting to get the muddy grey hue. If you still can't handle that, fine. No snow cream for you!

Anyway, here is the recipe.

You will need:
8 cups of snow
1 cup of milk
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Gather approximately 8 cups of freshly fallen snow.

Add milk, sugar, vanilla extract (or any other flavor from mint, to almond, to orange), and snow to a large bowl. 

Mix gently until the flavors are blended.

Work swiftly, but gently, and do not over mix because it will melt or turn to slush! In fact if you are more concerned with consistency over flavor pack on more snow. That's how I was able to achieve the double scoop. Ta Da!

 Finally, garnish with the toppings of choice and enjoy! 


We've made it in bowls with sprinkles

or put it into little ice cream cones.

We've used vanilla, or almond extract and there has definitely been whipped topping involved on occasion. I know it's just sugary ice mixture, but it's SNOW! It's magical. Seriously, what could be more fun than eating an limited edition ice cream delivered from the sky? It makes me think of that scene from cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

Maybe my children will someday look back on the memory of their mom going out in her clunky boots with a measuring cup and a giant mixing bowl to gather freshly fallen snow in front of the whole neighborhood. Maybe they'll think that I was crazy, but either way I hope they'll think of snow days with same kind of nostalgia I do. I hope it always makes them smile.