Monday, December 30, 2013

The 52 Week Savings Plan

I'm still cleaning up boxes and vacuuming Christmas tree needles, which is hindering my creative flow.  I've been struggling with sitting and blogging about anything truly helpful, because my mind can't keep a continuous string of thoughts.

I'm thinking this may also be because my munchkins are on Christmas break.  They have a knack for preoccupying  my time and my thoughts and my energy. 

I did, however, find a very interesting saving plan on Pinterest that was right up my alley.  With the New Year approaching, and resolutions around the bend, this plan screamed "Share me! Share me!"

And so I'm sharing.

This savings plan claims that if you save $1 week one, $2 week two, $3 week three and continue like this for 52 weeks, you will have saved over $1000 by the end of the year.  I haven't sat down to actually figure this out, but the chart is pretty official.
I would love to credit this plan to its owner but there is no actual site linked to the pin. 

I'm thinking this kind of plan is great to save for holiday shopping, vacations, braces for the kids, updates on the house...or maybe you just want to actually SAVE.

Interesting concept, but I hear it works and gives you piece of mind.  *wink*

Have a fabulous Monday, stay warm and enjoy the lazy days with all the kiddos home driving you mad.  They days are long but man the years fly by.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Santa, Christmas and all that Magic

Lately I've been thinking about my kids and Christmas.  Oh, Merry Christmas by the way.  Hope yours was as wonderful and blessed as ours.

Growing up in my house, Christmas was magic.  Six kids in one family means if each kid gets ten gifts, there are sixty gifts under the tree.  We usually were blessed enough to receive more than ten each, and the result was a great room Christmas morning that looked as if Santa dumped his sleigh rather than made one stop.

Add in plenty of family to share everything with, and a huge Christmas morning brunch, and the day was pure magic.

I try to make Christmas Day the same for my kids, within reason.  Money is tight, but this is the one time of year they can ask for an iPad or an air hockey table and it actually MIGHT appear.  Every other month of the year if you don't need it you're not getting it.

But Christmas?  Let the wishing begin.

Let me pause here and share that we believe in Christ, and our kids know the true meaning of Christmas.  Every one of them can recite the Christmas story.  I'm also proud to share that my munchkins love to give as much as they love to receive.  They may even love it more.  This adds to the Christmas wonder and makes the season all the more special.

This year, I started thinking about how long parents have before their kids don't believe in Santa.  Some parents don't play the Santa card, but I've long believed that kids should be able to believe in magic.  There is no other time in your life you can believe in a plump, jolly man in a red suit who runs a toy workshop in the North Pole.  The idea of it makes me smile.

Kids don't really start to understand or believe in Santa until they are three.  Which means if your child believes until he or she is nine, you only have SEVEN Christmas mornings for your child to wake up and see that "Santa" has stopped at your house.


Enjoy your years while the babies are young, because with one child who knows the deal, and two who are majorly on the fence, I'll be the first to say the time goes very fast. 

And this Christmas was definitely my last with two on the fence.

Which leaves me the Moopa.  Precious little thing.

Merry Christmas to all, and wishing you all a blessed 2014.  Enjoy these slow, house is a wreck, stay-up-late days.  They are as magical as Santa himself.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Something happens to me at Christmastime (is that a word?).  I get inspired, unfocused, scattered and I just want to listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies, read Christmas books the kids, eat and shop.  I want to do nothing but soak in the season and pluck little names off the trees in the mall and GIVE.


My floors need to be vacuumed, my blog needs to be tended to and every tiny trash can in every bathroom is FULL.  There are crumbs on my floors and gifts still to be wrapped.  I will inevitably find myself up well past midnight Christmas Eve wondering what the heck I've been up to these last few weeks.

I always sit there, next to my pile of crumbs and unwrapped gifts, dumbfounded.  I know I was busy, but why isn't anything done? And didn't I start Christmas prep in early November?

Or maybe there is enough to do that all the extras like crumb removal and wrapping can wait.  I fall into my "only what is necessary" habits, leaving what can wait for last.  Christmas movies become necessary.  Dinner with the family jumps to the front of the line.  I bask in all the Christmas glory and wish for more than just a few weeks of this glorious holiday season.

Tonight, I baked up Rudolph Cupcakes for my daughter's class.  I packaged up little gifts for teachers and I watched the Grinch.  It was heavenly.

And yet the crumbs remain.  I guess they'll have to wait.  Maybe I can brush them onto the deck for Santa's Reindeer.  By then there should be plenty.

Happy weekend everyone.  Get that shopping done!



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

No Bake Christmas Desserts in 30 Minutes or Less

Christmas is a time of peace, love and joy.  We see loved ones and go to parties.  We spend time shopping and buying gifts.  There is a magic in the air that is missing the other eleven months of the year.  Usually December is gone in the blink of an eye because of all the activities and events that go along with the holiday season.

All the running, wrapping and shopping leaves little left in the engine for elaborate desserts.  I'm sharing a few of my favorite no bake desserts for classes and parties.  When you are short on time or just short on energy, these desserts still offer plenty of "wow" and not as much time in the kitchen.

"Bake" away!

Chocolate Dipped Anythings

The easiest, quickest "wow" dessert is anything dipped in chocolate.  Think pretzels, crackers, twizzlers, gummy bears and oreos. 
What you need:

2 bags milk chocolate chips
anything "dippable"
wax paper
festive sprinkles

In a glass bowl, microwave two bags of chocolate (minus approx 1/4 cup chips).  Heat on high in 30-45 second intervals, stirring after each interval.  When chocolate stirs smooth, toss in 1/4 cup chips and stir until melted.  This will lower the temperature of the chocolate making it perfect for dipping.

Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  Dip your pretzels, oreos or whatever and place on wax paper.  If you're using pretzels, and feeling crafty make a wreath.  Sprinkle on some festive sugars and sprinkles and chill in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.  The chocolate will set, and you have a tray full of goodies in less than thirty minutes.

Christmas Krispy Treats

Everyone loves Krispy Treats.  Or at least everyone I know loves Krispy Treats.  They are easier on the hips and a cinch to make.

What you need:

5 cups rice cereal
1 bag mini marshmallows
3 tablespoons butter/margarine
red and green chocolate candies or sprinkles
greased 9x13 baking dish

Melt butter over low heat in heavy saucepan.  Add marshmallows and stir until smooth.  Remove from heat, add rice cereal.  Stir in candies or sprinkles.  Spread in greased 9x13 baking dish and place in fridge to set.  In twenty minutes, cut into squares and you're ready to rock.

Reindeer Oreos
I saw these on Pinterest, and they are adorable and simple.  Perfect for class parties or holiday gathering where there will be kids.

What you need:

1 package oreos
1 bag mini marshmallows
mini chocolate chips
broken mini pretzels
red chocolate candies
vanilla frosting

Using vanilla frosting, attach two mini marshmallows and two mini chocolate chips for eyes.  Attach reindeer antlers.  Add chocolate candies for nose.

Viola! Adorable edible reindeer!

If you have any links to other easy and fun dessert, please share!

Monday, December 16, 2013


This weekend, due to the snowstorm that descended upon much of the eastern United States, I had to make some important decisions about how I was getting my daughter to her gymnastics meet.  The meet was two hours away, and she had to be there 11am Saturday.  The snow was supposed to start early in the morning Saturday.

I have serious agita driving in bad weather.  There was no way I was about to drive two hours in snow.

My friend Beth, who also has a daughter on team agreed.  We decided to split a room for the weekend and leave Friday.  I only booked a room for a gymnastics meet once in our four year competitive experience.  We had to arrive at 8am and the meet was three hours away.

I drew the line at that one.  But this weekend, I was totally and completely excited and sad at the same time.  I wanted to be home, in my jammies, snuggling with my babies all weekend.  When the weather limits what you're able to do I find it much easier to do nothing.

At the same time, I was excited for a girl weekend.  I was ready for peace and quiet and hotel beds.

Our weekend was a huge success, the snow limited just about nothing since we stayed so close to the meet.  We were able to eat out (Waffle House!) and chill with no worries about how the roads were.  I also tried a Sheetz milkshake for the first time ever.  Worth all 23 grams of fat, but I won't be doing that again soon!

The highlight of the weekend?  Qualifying for states in May.  Another highlight?  Watching my girl swim as the snow fell outside the windows.

Happy Monday all!  Hope everyone is dug out from the storm and back on schedule for the holidays!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Freezing, Shopping and Unsubscribing

This week winter has crashed upon us.  The temperatures are frigid, and every time I walk outside the bitter cold punches me in the face.  In the mornings the car is covered in ice and requires a 15 minute warm up.  On mornings that I don't give the car ample warm up time, I'm grabbing anything within reach (today a postcard from the mail) to scrape the windshield just enough for me to see and get the kids to school on time.

It's wonderful.  NOT.

Today I ran up to Kohls to return three things.  I was thrilled to have a credit on my card after Black Friday shopping.  The credit lasted about 10 minutes; I walked out of the store with a new top for my daughter for her holiday concert and two more Christmas gifts.  That is precisely what happens every time I walk into Kohls with a 30% off your purchase coupon.

They get me every time.

I came home this afternoon to about 1,000 emails from every store I ever ordered from, since it's Christmastime and they love to try and make me shop.  I'm so sick of scrolling through 100 emails every three hours to find the three I need to actually read.  I decided it was time to unsubscribe to as many mailing lists as I could stand in five minutes.  I managed four until I was bored of clicking to unsubscribe and entering my email for "verification."

I swear some sites make unsubscribing difficult on purpose.

Have a happy Thursday, Christmas is creeping closer and closer...and I still need ONE major item.  How about all of you??

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Christmas List Amendment

My kids make their Christmas lists in late November.  They sit, look through "wishbooks" (catalogs) and write their little wishes for Santa.  We leave our letters with our elf as soon as he arrives, and he whisks the letters to Santa December 1st.

After looking through dozens of toy catalogs and seeing dozens of commercials, the letters are ready for the toy workshop.  The kids know everything that is most desired and what they want to see under that tree Christmas morn.

Until now.

Every year, mid December, some or one of my kids feels the need to make amendments to their Christmas list.  They do this by leaving our elf, Stanley, some notes or an all out letter to Santa.  It's usually something along the lines of, "Dear Santa, I forgot to add ______.  Thanks soooooooo much...."  This inevitably happens after they are out running errands with me and they see something that they simply *must* have.

This year, I'm a little behind the eight ball getting the letters to the North Pole.  I grabbed them yesterday, and slid them next to our elf.  I told the kids the letters are headed to the North Pole, and if they're good the elves will be making their toys.

I figured we were doing well; since the lists had been made I have heard no further wishes.  But as soon as the lists were waiting with the our elf to head North to Santa, my kids felt some panic. My eight year old slid his list from the pack to make an amendment.  He added slippers.  My four year old spent the morning with me in Toys R' Us running errands. 

Her list had a major overhaul.

Her list grew to long enough that we had to sit and go over it, line by line.  The first time we removed nothing because my question was "Do you still want....____?"

The answer was yes to everything.

The second time around we went with "How much do you want _______?  A LOT or a LITTLE?"  We were able to shave off some items that weren't quite as wished for as other items.  Every "a whittle" was met with a line straight through it.

This morning, I'm doing as I do every year mid-December.  Returning and buying the amended items.  Here's to a Starbucks coffee and an Auntie Annie's Pretzel as I cruise the mall.

Cheers!  15 days until Christmas!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dollar Store Christmas

*This is one of my most cherished Christmas traditions with my kids.  A re-post that I wanted to share again because I love it so much!  Many great memories from this tradition!*

Every year, I take my munchkins to the Dollar Store to do their Christmas Shopping.  While I realize a dollar store is no place to find quality gifts, it is a place they can shop without me constantly over their shoulder checking prices.  They have the freedom to choose what they like, for who they like.

If they want to buy something for the mailman, they have my blessing.  I do not, if at all possible, sway them in any which direction on what to buy.

I silently follow them, always amused, as they peruse each aisle in search of that "most perfect" Christmas gift.  They fill their little shopping baskets with goodies for just about every person they know.

Luckily for me my kids don't know too many people.

Once all gifts have been thoughtfully and carefully selected, we set aside an hour for them to wrap their own gifts.  I set out cheap wrapping paper and stick on bows.  We play Christmas music.  They cut and tape until their tiny little hearts are content.

Every gift they give is completely from them.

If Hubby is to receive a pen that reads "#1 Uncle", wrapped almost entirely in Scotch Tape, then that is what he will receive.

This method of gift giving makes for a very interesting Christmas Eve.  Before bed, the munchkins set their gifts under the tree and walk every self-wrapped present to its recipient. Over the years we have unwrapped rocks, plastic flowers, whistles, stuffed animals, keychains, notepads, pens, hair clips and several gifts of the homemade variety.

And they are some of the most cherished gifts ever given in our home.

Christmas is about giving.  And about remembering those you love. 

Our "Dollar Store Christmas" allows my munchkins to do just that.  On their own terms.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tide Pods (+$100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway!)

I live under a pile of laundry.  With three out of my four kids in sports, and a husband with a serious crush on CrossFit, the laundry pile never, ever goes away.  I didn't even mention my preschooler who is constantly snacking and rubbing her sticky face with her sleeves.

See what I mean about laundry?  Several days a week I can be found lugging laundry baskets (notice the plural) down two flights of stairs to the basement.  The days I'm not lugging them down the stairs I'm either lugging them up the stairs or asking Hubby to do it for me.

I look kind of like this, but usually not as happy and poised.

It's safe to say laundry in this house has taken the place of cardio.  It's a fair trade.

For a long time, I was all about buying the cheapest laundry detergent.  With how much laundry I do, and how much clothes the kids grow out of, I wasn't finding it necessary to spend the money on more expensive detergents. 

A few months ago my stance on this changed.  I found that if I took a little more pride in my laundry pile, the clothes looked better and smelled cleaner.  Stains faded and colors stayed bright.  I was washing less because one cycle was doing the job.  My new favorite detergent to cut how much time it takes to do my laundry?

Tide Pods.

Along with being compact, Tide Pods have made my life under the laundry pile easier.  Simpler.  They offer detergent, stain remover and brightener in one little package, and I toss one in with the wash and I'm off and running.

No messy measuring cups, no stain remover, and no detergent on my hands.  They dissolve quickly in top and front loading machines, and it's safe to say these little buggers are worth every penny. 

Visit Tide Pods. online to purchase and learn more.  I love these little guys, and you will too.  Anything to make laundry a simpler process is welcome in this house.  I'm sure every mother fighting through her laundry pile feels the same.

To be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card, tell us how you deal with all the laundry in your house.  One day at a time?  One day a week?  Share and be entered to win!


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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

15 Fun Gift Ideas for $30 or Less

Tis' the season.  The shops are bustling with shoppers and the mailman is busy delivering packages.  I have a list of people I'm shopping for, and I feel extremely accomplished every time I check a name off the list.

This time of year I love to show our appreciation for everyone we are grateful for throughout the year.  This includes family, friends, teachers and coaches.  It's never easy trying to keep all my buying and gifting in budget, especially with four kids.  Over the years I've discovered quite a few fun, easy and inexpensive gift ideas.  I'm wracking my mommybrain to list fifteen under (or at) $30.00, and please feel free to share in the comments any great ideas you may have as well!

1.  If you know a coffee drinker, try a $10 Dunkin' Donuts giftcard in a funky mug.  This is a good one for teachers.

If you are related to a coffee drinker, try a giftcard in a personalized mug.

2.  Everyone loves scratch off tickets.  Buy a few and stuff them in a pair of warm, fuzzy socks.  Looks just like a mini stocking full of chances to win something bigger.

3.  Etsy has some amazing gifts for everyone on your list.  My favorite for family and friends?  The Family Birthday Calendar.
                                      Custom made Family Birthday Calendar.
How fun is this?  $30.00 and there has never been a better way to remember family birthdays.

4.  Touch Gloves.  For anyone (like myself) with poor circulation in their hands and feet these are a must have.  You can use your touch screen phone without having to take off your gloves, which would have been fabulous when I was standing in line outside Black Friday.

Below is my pick for ladies, for cost and cuteness.  There are great sleek styles for men as well.

5.  Know a friend who can use a a little "me" time?  Consider a gift card for a manicure/pedicure.  Add a box of gourmet chocolates and you have one happy recipient.

6.  I love these hand stamped personalized necklaces from JillianBDesigns on Etsy.

                                       Hand-Stamped Sterling Silver Initial Necklace
7. For kids, I don't think you can wrong with anything Melissa and Doug.  This week on Amazon you can score some great Melissa and Doug toys.

Melissa and Doug

8. Have a person on your list who needs just about nothing?  Or someone you have no idea what to buy them?  Consider a gift in the their name.  Through Samaritan's Purse, you can give towards the cost of clean water, clothes and shoes or even teaching a child to read. 

This is my favorite gift idea for teachers.  Teaching a child to read and write is only $15, and making this donation helps your child's teacher reach far beyond their classroom.  Very cool.

9.  For the active person on your gift list, try Philips ActionFit Sports Earhook Headphones.  I only suggest these because Hubby loves them, and they do stay on the ears while running.  Even better? They don't need to be jammed inside your ear to work well.  

10.  Just about anything from my blogger friend Sam's Goodnyou? Etsy shop.  My favorite is the homemade body butter.  
                                             Goodnyou? Body Butter {7 oz}

11.  Have you ever shopped at Red Envelope?  Everything arrives packaged in a ridiculously adorable red box.  I love, love LOVE these infomania family table topics

A box of cards with fab conversation starters sure to drive all kids crazy.

12.  For the gardener in your life?  Try these top rated monogrammable gardening gloves from Red Envelope.  Again, they arrive in that adorable gift box. 

13.  Soft, fun pajamas.  I don't know anyone who doesn't love soft flannel pajama pants.  Well, maybe my sister-in-law, but she is just too stylish and adorable and looks great in yoga pants.

We won't count her in the flannel pant comment. 

Pajamas are great for kids too, of course with a small stuffed animal or toy.  Old Navy currently has some fabulous finds when it comes to everything cozy.

14.  Anything Lolita.  Lolita makes adorable hand painted glasses and bowls, and they are my absolute favorite funky, fun gift.

Lolita Gifts

15.  When all else fails, go homemade.  Make up festive baskets with chocolate dipped pretzels, oreos or even crackers.  Sprinkle with festive sugars and package everything in ribbons and bows.  Add a gift card, a bottle of wine or cookie cutters and kitchen towels. 

The gift will be unique and useful, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Share your gift ideas in the comments section!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Chocolate Mint Brownie Bites

Right before Thanksgiving, I was busy packing for our road trip to New York.  Clothes? Check. Toiletries? Check.  Thanksgiving dessert? Check.

I usually offer to bring dessert to any gathering, since nothing sings to my tummy more than simple sugar.  This year for my Thanksgiving dessert I dreamed up something that reminded me of those peppermint cake pops I love from Starbucks.

The chocolate-y, minty ones that are dipped in white chocolate and rolled in crushed peppermint.  Heavenly.

To make these tiny delicious delites, you'll need nothing more than a box of brownie mix, prepared, and Nestle Winter Mix Morsels.  It's really that easy.

Once you have those items, you'll be ready to prepare Chocolate Mint Brownie Bites for your next holiday party. 
1 box brownie mix, prepared.
2 bags Nestle Winter Mix Morsels
wax paper

Prepare brownie mix according to box, bake and cool completely.   I made my brownies the day before since brownies take a while to cool.

Remove prepared brownie from pan.  You can either cut into squares or turn and dump.  You'll be rolling these into balls so either method works.  Roll brownies into 1-2" balls.  Chill in refrigerator on wax paper lined cookie tray while you melt chocolate.

Pour both bags of chips into heavy, glass microwave safe bowl.  Leave 1/2 cup chips aside.  Heat on high, in 45 seconds intervals.  Stir and continue to heat until chocolate is smooth.  Add 1/4 cup chips and stir until smooth.

Adding the chips lowers the temperature of the chocolate, and makes it just right for dipping goodies.

Using two forks, dip balls one at a time into chocolate and place back on cookie tray.  Chocolate will set rather quickly because brownie balls should be cold.

Allow to set completely, about 15-20 minutes. 

Enjoy!  These are easy and perfect for any holiday party!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Great Tree Hunt

Every year, right around this time, we embark on the Great Tree Hunt.  Depending on our schedules we either buy one off a roadside stand or cut one down.

This year, with friends in tow, we cut one down.

We walked through three fields, looked at dozens of trees, lost one child and dodged many piles of deer poop.  After about an hour of hunting and examining (too tall, too small, too straggly, too dead, too bare, too big, too many holes and just plain "ugh's) we settled on a tree.  And right after we cut the tree down every tree on the tree farm looked awesome.

All of a sudden I could see with clear eyes again.  Amazing how critical one can be before welcoming a shrub into the living room.

The good news is the kids have fun no matter how long it takes us to find a tree.  They claim they've found "the one" every few minutes and I'm never disappointed with what is around the bend.
Entertainment at its finest.

The tree was up all afternoon, drinking and settling.  Tonight, we popped in the Polar Express and the kids loaded the ornaments on.  I handed out ornaments and then spent the next hour rearranging all the ornaments so we covered more than just the bottom half of the tree.

And finally, we are in business.  It looks divine, and the family room smells of Christmas.

Happy December 1st everyone.  Do you have your tree up yet?