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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Holiday Break Fun

How do you stay busy after the holiday parties are over? When the Christmas Break begins it can be a mixed blessing for some of us. I love having my kids around, and not waking up at first light, but then there's me (aka Cruise Director) that feels like she should be "doing" something with them, not only because they won't be around here forever, but because mostly I genuinely like my children and want them to remember how awesome their childhood was.

Seriously...they have an awesome childhood despite the look on one or two faces this picture. So what to do....with 14 days of fun.....yeah. Is it holiday or helliday? I'm Kidding! This year it's holiday--that's my goal. I'm going to keep the screaming, yelling, fighting and eye rolling to a minimum, and remind myself that someday they will be off living their own lives under another roof. I will take time to love them and teach them, even it if feels like a huge amount of responsibility that I am nowhere near old enough to be ready for.

So here's some ideas that will help all of us survive the break!

1. Go to the Dollar Movie
2. Have Movie night at home ( often has discount codes)
3. Bake cookies (yes, you can cheat and use a box mix, or pre-made dough. No judgement!)
4. Go to a library and read! I know it sounds lame, but they need to keep their skills sharp!
5. Play cards or a board game.

6. Play "Would You Rather." There is an actual board game, but it's just as easy to do your own. Take turns asking crazy questions like: "Would you rather walk across hot coals or jump out of a burning building?" Or "Would you rather eat Brussels Sprouts or creamed spinach?" The questions are limitless, and it allows for kids (and adults) to use creative thinking skills. If you want to make it interesting you can keep "score" or give points for the most creative questions--it's limitless! This is a great car game to play on the way to Grandma's.

7. The Story Telling Game- taking turns one person starts a story and when ready says "pass" and then next person takes the story from there. Rotations continue until the story ends. This is another great car game to play on the way to Grandma's too.

8. Build a fort (you remember-- card tables, end tables and blankets) and have a paper or marshmallow snowball fight. The older kids will protest and think it's lame until they realize they can have a legit reason to throw things at their siblings. Remove all breakable items before snowballs start to fly. Take it from me, marshmallows can be destructive in the right hands.

9. Have a Scavenger Hunt-around the house or in the neighborhood this is a great way to kill some time. Here's a great link to get you started!

10. Make an Obstacle or Relay course--again inside or outside, you're creating a great memory!
11. Build a snowman. Marshmallows or snow (if you're lucky enough to have some), inside or outside, this is a fun way to hang out--TAKE PICS!
12. Fingerprint stamp art. Use a stamp pad and the kid's sweet little fingertips to create treasured works of art. Here's a link to get started!

13. Make "I Spy" bottles from old, clear water bottles and white rice. Find "treasures" from your junk drawer (yes, we all have them, even I) and put them in the bottle. Fill the bottle 3/4 of the way with uncooked rice, glue the lid on, and shake. Kids will spend hours searching for the treasures, and it's great in the car. We used simple things like buttons, pennies, beads, pins and foam shapes for ours.

14. Make New Year's Poppers. Directions Here!
15. Play driving or walking bingo.  You can print cards for FREE HERE and select from a plethora of word and/or picture cards with varying themes. Once printed, take a walk or a drive crossing off what you find.

Bonus Idea: Teach them something you are good at--how to take a good picture, how to draw stick figures, how to change a tire--it really doesn't matter what it is, they will remember that YOU taught them something awesome!

Enjoy the holidays! And in case I don't make it back to blogging before Dec. 31- HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Where have I been? Don't ask. For the last 3 weeks I have had the pleasure of being a maid, doctor and nurse to my children and husband as the flu and sinus colds have hit us time and time again. I will spare you the details, but let's just say 2 bottles of Lysol, and a bottle of Clorox wipes are just the tip of the iceberg that I have been dealing with. Not that I am so narcissistic to think that you live and die by my posts, but I don't want those of you who do read this to know I have not given up, just busy mopping up.

So now, onto better things!
We have started (or revived) an old neighborhood tradition. I call it "Good Neighbor Night" where I invite the entire neighborhood to our house for treats and hot chocolate, and the opportunity to give back to our community. This year we collected warm coats, blankets, towels and hygiene items for local charities. This tradition is what we do instead of neighbor gifts, although if you want to do both go for it. Besides helping those in our community that need a bit of cheer, we also have time to really get to know each other, talk and become better neighbors and friends. We got a good turn out for a new event, and the weather was beautiful, and not too cold. Our daughter, D. brought out Christmas books and read to the little kids on the porch--dang that I didn't get a picture! I had a great time, and I hope all my neighbors will look forward to coming again next year.

This is a new tradition, but I have lots of old ones that I look forward to each year. Why are traditions important? Why do we do them? Are they just a rut we run into, or is there a purpose? We each have a different answer to these, but here's my Two Cents Worth. Traditions are important; they create special memories for us that we can glean from during the year. Creating joy and happiness can sound a bit cheesy, but really creating positive emotions makes us better people. Happy people are needed by everyone--even grouches and grinches. You may not always remember what you ate during a certain event, or what the entertainment was, but you will always remember the feeling of what happenend.

Our Christmas Traditions include 1- Since Jesus is the reason for the season, we start with Him by putting out our Nativity scene one character at a time, beginning 12 days before Christmas. There is an accompanying scripture, song or story that goes along with each piece. Here's an idea link for the 12 Days Nativity. 2- Doing a Service Project as a family. This has ranged from making blankets for the hospital, coat drives, food drives, sending cards to military members, making welcome bags for women's shelters, sending random notes to neighbors who need some cheering, or donating to Toys for Tots and Angel Tree. There are lots of options, make a great memory by choosing a charity and getting involved. 3- Cocoa and Lite night is my favorite. We drive around the neighborhoods and check out others creative decor. There is a fun "I Spy Christmas" game or Bingo that you can play in the car. Print off your own cards HERE and see what you can find. 4- Movie Night and treats. What would any holiday be with food? Boring! We make our favorite treats like marshmallow popcorn, (recipe here) Chex mix, cookies and Spinach Artichoke dip (recipe here) and watch our favorite Christmas movies which always include "Charlie Brown's Christmas," "Elf," and if our teens allow it "A Christmas Story." We also watch "Mr. Kruger's Christmas" and if you haven't seen it you can find it HERE. 5- Reading "The Polar Express" and the story of Jesus' birth from Luke on Christmas Eve. I guess we have a good balance between the temporal and spiritual here, but we want to remember WHY we celebrate and have fun too.

Whatever you choose to do, remember WHY you doing it, and that the MEMORIES made are more important than anything under the tree.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Marshmallow Popcorn

This is the best, easiest, yummiest treat you will ever have. My friends Vicki and Tiffany are always whipping up awesomeness and this is from them! Thanks girls!

8 cups of popped corn (I like Kettle Corn)
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups cashews or peanuts (optional)
2 cups M&Ms or other small candy
3-4 squares of chocolate or white candy coating, melted

Mix the popcorn, marshmallows, nuts and candy together and pour onto wax paper. Drizzle melted chocolate over mix and let cool. Break into pieces and enjoy!

Use your imagination and mix in any small candy and nuts of your choosing for your own custom mix.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Almond Artichoke Cheese Dip

Almond Artichoke Cheese Dip - This came from Rennly Williams

1 lg. can artichoke hearts chopped

1- 7oz. can diced green chilies

8 oz. cream cheese (soft)

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1-1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese (fresh)

1 cup sliced almonds

Mix together and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.  Serve with cubed bread or crackers. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanks for Giving

FYI This year's "Thankful Door" project turned out to be an amazing work of art. In fact, our door is so crowded that the sticky notes full of our blessings fly off the door. It's a new tradition for sure.

  It has been so fun to watch the kids run to the door each day to put their blessing sticky note up. They also have been reading each others notes to make sure they aren't duplicating any. So maybe this experiment really is making an impact.

Now that Christmas is right around the corner, we wanted to create some new memories, and carry on our family tradition of an annual service project. I've created "Good Neighbors Night," a new spin on an old neighborhood tradition of coming together to help others, and get to know each other better. This is one day during the holiday season that we gather (in my driveway) and share stories, treats, hot chocolate and bring donations for local charities. We are getting to know our "good neighbors" as well as "being a good neighbor" by sharing and donating, but most of all creating new memories. It's a full-on family affair- literally the entire neighborhood is invited. Each person is asked to bring a treat to share, and a donation of a winter clothing item and/or new hygiene items. We are donating them to a few places including the Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the winter homeless shelter, the food bank and possibly a few other places if we get enough donations.

We've had a lot of awesome new people move into the area, and I am not very good at getting out there and getting to know people. So here's my chance, and for those of you who live close, your chance, to widen your circle and hang out with great people.

I think neighbor gifts are super fun, but can be super stressful and expensive too. This event is an opportunity for those who chose to fore-go the neighbor gifts, and make a very helpful donation instead. It also creates the opportunity for us to really have a minute or two to chat around a warm fire (in a totally safe pit to keep the kids out of the ER), and get to know each other, rather than dropping a gift off on the porch and having no contact, besides the gift tag, to share our appreciation for each other.

Blizzards withstanding, this will be a fun night of casually gathering to share a thought, make an impact, and create a memory or two. I am really hoping my kids realize these Christmas memories can't be bought, and really are more important than anything that could be.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thanksgiving Collection No. 1

Wouldn't it be awesome to have one place to go for great Thanksgiving recipes each year? Well here you go! I am scouring cookbooks, websites, tv and more to find some great ideas to help keep your holiday meal prep easy, fast and efficient, and most importantly...delish!

Sweet Potatoes 
from All Free Slow Cooker Recipes

Cheesy Cauliflower
from All Free Slow Cooker Recipes

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
from Six Sisters Stuff

Slow Cooker Turkey
from Six Sisters Stuff

Individual 7 Layered Salad
from Time Over Things

Strawberry Jell-O Pie
from Our Best Bites

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding
from Our Best Bites

Enjoy Making New Memories this Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Simple Gratitude

This time of year is so busy, it's easy to get lost in the day to day "To-Do" list. Like every family, we are in the middle of lots of activities and sometimes I feel like there's too much to do to even think about slowing down. It's such a fun time of year too! I don't want to lose the joy and excitement of the season to the "To-Do" list this year.

I had this simple idea to help keep us grounded during the holidays, so as the season's activities keep us going, we will (hopefully) remember what's important. Enjoy!

Our Thankful Door
Everyone uses this door daily. Hopefully it will act as a simple reminder of what's really important.

Each day we are encouraged to write one blessing/thing/experience down that we are thankful for and stick it to the door. We are all thankful for clothing, food, shelter and each other, so I encouraged my family to think outside the box. So far we have the Internet, electricity, indoor plumbing and SpongeBob, but it's only the second here's hoping.

I love this project because each time we leave the house we see our blessings, and it reminds us to think about a new blessing for that day to add to the door. Hopefully, by the end of the month our door will be full, and we will be more cognizant of what is really important. Maybe that will keep us grounded for a bit longer.

Making Memories one sticky note at a time.....