Sunday, November 30, 2014

Family Craft: Christmas Tree Ornaments

I love this craft.  It requires little supplies, isn't a huge time sucker and the kids love them.  We made these two years now, the first go a few years ago and the second this past weekend.  The end result is always adorable and perfect for the tree.

You'll need:

Large "Popsicle" craft sticks
One bag regular size Popsicle craft sticks, broken into assorted sizes
Green paint
Ribbon or small wood stars painted yellow for tops of trees
Craft gems
Green glitter
Craft wire (if you don't have craft wire I recommend using the wire ties that come on most loaves of bread.  They are the perfect size and free!)
Wood glue or glue gun (glue gun is fast which is my preference)
paint brushes, paper plates and newspaper for clean craft areas!

Prepare your craft area.  Have kids assemble a "tree" using largest sticks on bottom and working smaller as they go up.

Use a glue gun if you have one to glue sticks to large popsicle stick.  Have the kids paint the tree green.

While the paint is still wet, sprinkle green glitter.

When the tree dries, add gems.

Use glue gun to add star or ribbon to top of tree and add wire to back for hanging.

Love it?  Pin it below!

Happy Almost December 1st!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


After a year of ups and downs and many surprises, I remain thankful.  It’s very easy to sink into self-pity.  With Facebook and Instagram constantly rolling everyone else’s highlight reels, it’s only natural to feel like you’re the only one on Earth who is going through hard times.

But that isn’t the case.

With this year winding down, I'm thankful I've learned to be open and to let people in.  When times get tough, it takes too much energy to keep everything inside and just smile.  It’s so much easier to TALK about our problems.  Most struggles are more of a passing phase than a permanent place, and the more you hear other people’s stories the more you will realize that “this too shall pass.”  No one is immune to struggles.  Not one single person.  Family struggles, financial struggles, weight struggles, confidence struggles, friendship struggles, health struggles…

The list is endless, and not one person on this Earth will dodge all of those bullets.  And when a bullet hits us, it’s okay to share the bad stuff too.  It’s all a part of living.

My older daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was eight.  She needed (and still needs) a back brace.  She’s monitored every six months and we still don’t know if she’ll ever need surgery.  When my daughter first saw the back brace she decided to own it.  She named it and we bought clothes that worked around it.  Attitude is everything, and to this day I strap my daughter in a stiff, extremely uncomfortable brace every day.  I told her from the get-go to share her story.  Don't try to hide the brace because kids are much more understanding when you explain what it is and why you have it. 

No one is perfect, and I wanted my daughter to feel empowered, not ashamed or embarrassed.  Her struggle may be scoliosis, but another kid may struggle with something else.  

Three years later scoliosis has proven to be just one of the mountains my family has needed to climb.  This thing they call life really knows how to challenge us.  But with love around me I've learned nothing is impossible and if there is a will, there is a way.  There may not always be a solution, but there is a way to make life continue to work.

So this Thanksgiving?  I’m so very grateful for my family.  I wake up to four little faces that make my heart sing and give me a reason to be the best person I can be every. single. day.  I have friends who lend a hand and a community my kids are blessed to grow up in.  My struggles are small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, and every day I wake up thankful for what I do have.  Low bank accounts, family struggles, back braces and all.  I have so many more blessings than I do troubles.  If you look around I'll bet the farm you do too.

Head up.  Keep marching.  Find the good in everything.

My glass will always remain half full.  Always. And I'm wishing yours will as well.

Cheers and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey Pins

In this month's Family Fun Magazine there are several great crafts.  My favorite was the homemade Turkey Pins.  The Mommyhood version is a tad more simple, a few less steps.

Sometimes I am guilty of cutting corners.  I tend to remove any step that isn't 100% necessary.  I am all about the bare minimum.

This approach doesn't work with everything, but it worked like magic while crafting Turkey Pins.

Here is the modified, "Mommyhood" Turkey Pin:

Unless you stockpile craft supplies, you will need to purchase two items for this craft:

Googly eyes and adhesive pins.

Along with your googly eyes and adhesive pins, gather:

Empty cereal boxes
Two different sized caps (I used a cap from an Iced Tea Jug and one from a beer.  Classy.)
Pen for tracing
Trace caps onto cereal box.  There was no method to my madness other than to vary the colors for each circle.  I was aiming for colorful pins.

Have your munchkin cut out the circles.  Separate large and smaller circles.
If you are anything like me, you will take over circle cutting after about five minutes.  I then assigned my munchkin feather snipping duty on LARGER circles.  Snip lines 1/2 way around circle to make feathers.
While munchkin is feather snipping, find a yellow part of cereal box and snip out triangular beaks.

Paste smaller circle on top of larger one, towards bottom (away from feathers).  Hand turkey to munchkin to glue on nose.
While glue is setting, trace several more smaller circles, and cut them in half for wings.  Set aside pairs of googly eyes.

Paste wings in place on sides, underneath smaller circle (away from feathers).  Slightly tuck edges under smaller circle to help hold them in place.

Hand almost finished turkey to your munchkin for googly eye placement.

Making certain turkey is right side up and that pin is going directly across back, peel adhesive off pin and stick to back of turkeys.
Voila!  Turkey pins for your munchkin to bring to Thanksgiving.
These are great to add to each place setting, or have your munchkin proudly hand them out to each Thanksgiving guest.

Happy crafting!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm constantly printing Pinterest recipes and stashing them in my cookbook (anyone else?).  I have stacks of cookies, cakes, frostings and meals waiting to be made.  This past weekend, I actually made one.  I usually tread lightly when trying a new recipe, because I've had many epic fails that make me furious I used up my unsalted butter sticks.

Those things are not cheap.

These cookies do not waste butter sticks, I promise.  I tweak every recipe to work for my kitchen, but this recipe was adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp cornstarch
dash salt
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (light works too)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups chocolate chunks

Mix first four ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  

In medium bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until smooth.  Add egg then yolk.  Whisk in vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with large spoon.  The dough will be thick.  Fold in the chocolate chunks (or chips).  Scoop (I use an ice cream scoop) dough onto cookie trays.  Chill in freezer 10 - 15 minutes before baking.  

Bake at 325 for approximately 11 minutes.  You want to remove them from oven when the centers look a tad raw, and edges are beginning to lightly brown.  Leave cookies on sheet for 3-5 minutes after baking and they will cook through.

If you can resist allow them to cool.  These cookies did not last the day in our house.  The perfect addition to football on Sunday.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Family Meeting

Every few months we hold a "Family Meeting."  I usually announce this meeting after a particularly few days of chaos. This past Family Meeting was announced after two children forgot to study or do an assignment until 9pm, but they had time to play on game consoles or dilly dally in the shower.  Rooms were being left in various levels of disarray.  When I find myself feeling more frustrated with my kids than I'm comfortable, I call "The Meeting."

I need to stop here and stipulate that on a day to day basis things usually run smoothly.  I expect my kids to be independent.  I don't check homework every night and I don't follow them to the bathroom and check their tooth brushing.  My five year old, yes. My other three? No. If they need help, I see grades slip or I notice anything out of the ordinary I'm on it like flies on sh*t.  But every day?  Four kids?  You best be doing your assignments and cleaning at least 70% of your mess.

I'll take the other 30% of the mess because it's more work to follow kids around and get them to clean it than it is to just pick it up.  It's also a giant mystery who left the mess because everyone always claims they didn't eat it, didn't touch it, weren't in the room or they don't even KNOW what I'm talking about.

Another blog. 

Our Family Meetings are more of a re-group and remind than anything else.  There is no yelling and no blaming.  We all sit over a dinner everyone loves.  This time we went to Burger King and did it Heck style (anyone watch The Middle?).  Once we're seated I talk about why we're having the meeting, completely and totally calling out all events that frustrated me.  Kids are not allowed to interrupt.  I discuss how generally we don't expect much; we don't have hard and fast rules on television time and game consoles.   Chores are easily handled.  They can be done in ten minutes every day.  This is also the time I explain life from a different point of view:


This past meeting, after requesting that the kids be more aware of picking up juice pouches or returning bowls and cups to the sink, I heard groans.  

"What if it isn't mine?"

That very comment sent me into an explaining tailspin.  All day I pick up mess that isn't mine.  And if you walk by any cup, plate, juice box, jacket, pair or single sock you are essentially leaving the mess for the next person.  Which is always me.  If you know whose mess it is, either get them or clean it and tell them you did.  Be kind, because next mess just may be yours.  And they're more likely to clean it.  

I stress to my kids that we are a big family, and we are a TEAM.  The house is clean because we all chip in.  We can't slack and start expecting other people to handle our mess.  That isn't how life works.

After all the general areas of why I called the meeting are discussed, I go around the table and tell each child what they are doing well.  I praise them for anything they do that makes my life easier.  I then insert two areas they need growth and a chore.  Everyone has to go around and repeat back to me what they need to work on and what their chore is so I know they understand completely.

This is where I stop and discuss respecting each other's privacy.  I have four kids, all of them are in school.  They all know the same kids.  I make it clear that inside our walls everyone deserves to feel to safe and comfortable.  Not everything is meant to be shared.  Kids at school don't need to know who had the smelliest farts or who clogged the toilet.  Those gems are for family only.

Last, I go over the rules we set for television and all electronics.  Those rules are always:

DO NOT TURN IT ON IF EVERYTHING ELSE ISN'T DONE.  This includes homework, lunch sacks unpacked, STUDYING done, chores done and mess cleaned up.  Before you hit that "power button" pause and think hard.  If there is anything left undone you are going to lose that electronic for whatever time period I feel is necessary.

And this will always depend on what kind of mood I'm in.  

When everything I wanted to discuss is discussed, the kids can take turns sharing their two cents.  Everyone has the opportunity to be heard.  

Usually Family Meetings get everyone back in line quick.  About 50% of what was discussed sticks with them, and I see more effort and less groans when it comes to helping or handling their own things.  Kids need structure, and they like to know exactly what is expected of them.  Tell them what TO DO and what they are doing well.  Tell them what they need to work on next.  No one wants to hear someone rattle off all the things they shouldn't do every day.  It makes ears bleed.  Saying "eat more fruit and try this new yogurt" sounds much more pleasant than "STOP EATING JUNK!  PUT DOWN THAT CANDY!"  

It's all in the delivery.

Have a fabulous Sunday!  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's All About Balance (and enter to win $100 Visa GiftCard!)

I'm a fan of moderation.  I've tried drastic diets and exercise and I'm here to announce I prefer a little bit of everything.  My "I'm never eating that again" kicks never last very long.  With my first baby, I tried making all my own baby food and using all natural everything.  I had dreams of raising kids on an all organic diet and my house being chemical free.

Wishful thinking.  Not only did this require a tremendous amount of work, it also required a tremendous amount of money.
Every time I left the house with my baby I was encountering foods and drinks I thought about banning forever. We went to houses with Oreo cookies and my mom spoiled us with donuts and treats every time she came to visit.  I realized early on that if my family was going to be out and about, I couldn't restrict everything.  
Over the years, moderation has become the key to raising my kids. We want to have fun and be with friends. I want them to enjoy birthday treats. We love dessert after dinner. One can of soda a day is allowed, so is Halloween candy. The trick is to send fruit with the lunch, play outside as a family and encourage participation in clubs and sports.  My kids thrive when they get sleep, get fresh air, and eat a balanced diet.

Everyone does.

I have four kids, one is a teen and one is a preteen. They understand the difference between processed foods and foods that help them grow and stay healthy. All my kids are athletes, and while sports drinks are popular, I encourage water for most of the day. I know water keeps them hydrated, but I tell them it also keeps breath fresh and lips from cracking. I've explained that protein will build muscle and processed, sugary snacks won't give them the energy they need for practice. When I speak in a language my kids understand, they make better choices.

My kids hate winter lips. And no teenager wants bad breath. More importantly, I've explained how many calories can be hidden in certain beverages. This doesn't mean my munchkins can't have them, it just means they know to limit them.  

I'm an advocate for balance. A scale isn't meant to tip in only one direction. My kids play sports, watch television, and play on iPads. I set rules that require them to read and help with chores, and as long as grades are good and the kids are healthy, I'm okay with snacks and video games.
I'm just not okay with them all day.  
I remember being a preteen and the weight was piling on. I felt awkward and ugly and I was willing to try anything to look like I did pre-puberty. My mother quickly stepped in and explained that one chip wasn't the problem. One cookie wasn't tipping the scale; it was half the package that caused trouble. I needed to learn to eat less junk, not ban anything all together.
I'm glad I did. And I'm teaching my family the same. Moderation has made my life easier because I'm not constantly saying no to myself and my kids. I'm saying yes, and teaching them about good choices. Life is much easier when I don't have to fight with little people about eating candy or drinking a soda. I'd rather say yes, educate them about why one or two is enough, and keep living.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

(3 Step) Pull Apart Garlic Bread Biscuits

Brace yourselves.  I'm about to share the easiest, most delightful garlic bread biscuits ever created. 

I've always had a small love affair with those flaky biscuits that come in those cans that "pop" after you peel the paper away.  Never in my life have those been on a table and I've eaten less than three.  Possibly four.  Truthfully I only buy them a few times a year because my waistband would never ever be the same if they were in my life on a weekly basis.

These garlic bread biscuits begin with those biscuits in a can.  They end in your stomach.  It's that's simple.

This recipe is perfect to make with dinner, bring to a dinner or even for Thanksgiving.  The possibilities are endless.

You will need:

2 (12 oz) biscuit cans
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon either oregano or Italian seasoning
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pop biscuit cans. 

1.  Mix melted butter with seasonings and cheese. 
2.  Halve the biscuits and dip half of each biscuit into mixture. 
3.  Layer biscuits on pan with dipped half facing up.  You'll need to try and layer the biscuits until you hit the end of the pan.  I made 2 rows with 2 biscuit cans.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. 


Enjoy your week!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ten "To Do's" Before December 1st

Being the mom of four, I have to plan ahead if I want anything to run smoothly. It's imperative.  At least for the big stuff like Christmas.

I admit that for anything not completely necessary or of vital importance I fly by the seat of my pants.

Before December 1st, there are a few things I try to accomplish in order to enjoy my holiday season without undo stress.  This is how I avoid waking up in a cold sweat because I have a thousand things to do with just a few days to do them.  

I love my sleep too much to let that happen.

1.  Take down the Halloween decor.  Do this today.

2.  The first mild, sunny day you have get out the holiday lights.  This sounds crazy, but if you hang them now you won't have to worry about it when its 20 degrees outside.  Set the timers, have everything up and ready.  Thanksgiving night plug them in and watch the kids get super excited at the official start of the Christmas season.

And you can super excited the lights are up.

3.  Make "the list."  This includes every single person who you plan on buying for, even if it's just a small token of appreciation.  I can't even begin to admit how many times I rummaged through the house for an unused candle or uneaten box of candies five minutes before the bus driver pulled up.

It happens.

4.  Start grabbing small items like giftcards.  It stinks to buy three or four (or more) gift cards at once.  You spend $100 and all you have are small four envelopes to show for it.  I prefer to buy one every few weeks, starting now.

5.  Make a Thanksgiving plan.  Decide what you're bringing or making, and purchase all necessary supplies.

6.  Start stockpiling magazines for kids to make holiday wishes.  Sit the kids down at the end of November, near Thanksgiving time, and make wish lists.  Make this an event, and have discussions with the kids regarding their wishes.  If you just hand them five magazines and tell them to circle what they want you'll have five magazines full of circles.
Explain Santa has MANY kids to make presents for, and they need to prioritize what they want the most.  More on list making here.

7.  Buy an elf.  They are fabulous fun and useful in many, many ways.  There is no better friend than one who flies to the North Pole every night to report to Santa himself.
8.  If you aren't a Black Friday fan, remember the same deals are often found online with FREE SHIPPING.  Start browsing Thanksgiving night, and get a few purchases taken care of at deep discounts.

9.  On Thanksgiving, make "Thankful Lists."  Everyone makes one, and stipulate how many blessings must be listed.  You'll be amazed what kids write down, and it keeps everyone in a thankful mindset instead of a "I want, I want" mindset.

Perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving, and even better way to start December.

10.  Take time to smell the pumpkin pie.  Or apple pie.  This season is all about friends, family and remembering all of our blessings, big and small.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Homemade Reese's Peanut Butter Trees

November.  The time of year wishbooks arrive in the mail, Christmas commercials run on the television and Reese's Peanut Butter Trees arrive at the grocery store.

The holidays are here.

With no running around to do this evening, I indulged myself and made homemade Reese's Peanut Butter Trees.  They were easy.  I promise.  I was waiting for a giant experimental disaster, and instead I found myself with smooth, creamy Christmas Trees made of peanut butter and chocolate.

Heaven on Earth.  These can be made in just over an hour, and they are the perfect holiday treat for friends, teachers or your family.  I highly recommend hiding a few in the crisper drawer for yourself.

We all know no one is looking for anything good in there.

3 cups powdered sugar (may need a little more to achieve desired molding consistency)
1 15oz jar creamy peanut butter
1 Tablespoon soft butter
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 Tablespoons milk 
3 cups milk chocolate chips
1 tsp oil
Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter

In mixer, blend powdered sugar, peanut butter and butter on medium speed.  Mixture will be crumbly.  Add milk, one tablespoon at a time until dough is sticky but mold-able.

Line baking sheet with wax paper.  Using a spoon, scoop heaping tablespoons onto wax paper.  Flatten with your hands, and use tree cookie cutter to make trees.  Continue to mold and cut.

Freeze 1 hour.

Melt chocolate on medium-high heat in microwave in a heavy glass bowl.  Stir every 30 seconds until smooth.  Add oil and stir.

Using a fork, dip trees one at a time, tapping fork on edge of bowl to smooth chocolate.  Place back on chilled pan lined with wax paper (this helps chocolate set quick).


Sunday, November 2, 2014


1. Today is our last football game.  While it's my favorite season, and I love watching my kids play, the snow flurries and wind gusts will make it much easier to bring on basketball season.

2.  I neglected to post for Halloween this year.  This is 90% because I went to upload my Halloween pictures and there was no CF card in the camera and 10% because I was exhausted.

Courtesy of my bestie, I have a picture of my youngest walking in the school's Halloween parade.  Hubby did get pictures of this, but that CF card I have yet to upload.  

I'm only human.

3.  Halloween Eve was spent at my older son's last football game, which in our town was also Trick-or-Treat.  My youngest waited patiently as Sleeping Beauty until my son walked off the field at 7pm.  We busted home and hit about 12 houses before gathering my two middle children from good friends.  

Last babies seriously get the shaft.  This is why mom's baby them.  We're compensating for all the crap they don't get to do and we know one day they'll realize it all and call us on it.

We better have something good to explain it all, such as "Yes but we bought you waaaaaayyyyy more toys and tied your shoes until you were ten!"  

Halloween day I worked and our town hosted the last varsity football game of the season.

I stayed home in my pajamas.

4.  My Halloween post was going to be about handling all the Halloween Candy and what candy is the worst as far as chemicals and sugar.  Here is the condensed version:

Every child gets a sandwich sized zip lock baggie.  Write their name on it.  They can fill it with as much candy that will fit.  This is now their candy to eat and have as they wish.  Whether they want a piece a day for the next fifteen days or fifteen pieces in the next twenty four hours the choice is theirs.  This gives them ownership over their candy and freedom to enjoy it.  The rest of the candy disappears.  Gone.  

And don't eat skittles.   

5. Working full time is kind of cramping my blogging style, my baking style and my anything other than homework, lunch packing, child snuggling, laundry and vacuuming style.  

Only the necessities.  I'm holding out hope I will fall into a routine and my creative juices will start to flow again once my body is over the shock of Monday-Friday, 8-4.

Happy Sunday all!  Stay warm!