Christmas Baking and Painting

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is such a busy time of year.  There are so many fun things to do! At the end of last year, I started a new job and worked for two part time jobs for the majority of the season! It made the days seem even busier. We still managed to bake and do crafts many times this Season. We hosted our family Christmas party, went to an ugly sweater party and had many fun days with our family.

The kids enjoyed many days of baking and cookie decorating for our family cookie exchange. I baked most cookies ahead of time and froze them until the night before. I mostly did cookies that did not need frosting with the exception of 2 batches of gingerbread for my kids to get to decorate. For them, I used the divided kid’s plates and put all the fun sprinkles and decorations on the plates. I used zip top baggies to put the frosting in for the kids to squeeze and decorate. My 4 year old did an excellent job with this. She was so proud of herself for the gingerbread people she created. Her cookies were voted #1 Best Gingerbread Cookies at the cookie contest at our family party this year!

One of the projects that I am post proud of from the Christmas season was some of the painted cans I  made for both decorations and game props. I had my family keep and collect cans for many months. I had the large size cans (that you get Nacho Cheese or Tomato sauce in) which I decorated for snowman which stood 3 cans high plus small one for the hat.

I also made 3 different cans: a reindeer (painted brown with a face and felt for the antlers and ears and a pom-pom for the nose). A Santa (painted red with a painted black belt and gold bended pipe cleaners for the belt buckle). The gingerbread girl is my favorite (got to have at least one girl). She was painted brown with a super cute face and a little brown bow. I also used some “puffy” fabric  paint to decorate her.

After making each of the big cans, I made corresponding matching clothes pins. I used matching paint, felt (for the antlers) and gold glitter puffy paint for the belt and colored puffy paint for the gingerbread decoration.

I also painted 36 smaller cans into snowman. These were stacks of 3 and I used egg cartons cut apart for the hats that I painted black. I painted faces on the smallest 12 cans, 3 buttons  on 12 cans and kept the last 12 all white.

I hot glued felt for the scarves and the hat décor. I think of the best things to do when painting faces is to make each one different and to add little white specks in their eyes.  I love that each snowman has their own personalities.

See what games we played with the cans here:

I really love painting. After the party, I kept the large cans and 5 small can snowman- I used them for décor for the table at Christmas for my 5 family. Each person had their own snowman and they loved seeing which face I chose for them. My daughter really wanted a girl.

Painting is defiantly a passion of mine and I am thankful to use it for decoration and fun that others can enjoy.



Family Christmas Party Fun- for all ages!

We were able to host our family Christmas party this year which always a fun time.  Usually the turn out is between 30-60 people, depending who can make it during this busy season. We hold the party at my grandmother’s retirement community’s party room.

Hosting a family party for that many people of so many different ages (6 months-91 years old!) requires a lot of different types of activities. This year we had a manager scene with our children, a hot chocolate bar, rely race games and a photo setup for pictures with “Gram”.  We also had a cookie contest and exchange.

About once a decade we have a manager reenactment.  Last time we did this was the year 2000; I was 15 and was one of the angels. This year is was exciting to see my children be a part of this beautiful tradition. My daughter was the angel that spoke to Mary and my son was one of the Wiseman. My aunt narrated the story and led us all in many beautiful Christmas songs that tell about our Savor’s birth. We had a backdrop against the wall (with the blue starry night and the empty stable (purchased from Oriental Trading). Then we picked up costumes of animals, kings, angels and old time cloth at second hand stores after Halloween when they had 50% off. Most clothing items were $1-3.

After we ate a beautiful feast of  our “Childhood Favorite Dishes” we enjoyed a hot chocolate bar. We ordered festive hot travel mugs with lids (found ours at Oriental Trading). We made hot chocolate out of condensed milk (2x 14 oz cans), 2 cups chocolate chips, 1 Quart Whipping Cream and milk (we used almost a half gallon). This made a medium Crock pot full and about enough for 20 people.  I suggest making one crock pot then refilling it if needed.

We used Christmas mugs for the toppings- everyone gets at least one new Christmas mug each year as a gift- so put them to good use. We had 3 kinds of marshmallows- small fruit flavored, regular small and large coconut covered. We had tiny red and green M&Ms and peppermint chips (found in the baking aisle). We also had crushed candy canes, red and green sprinkles and 2 bottles of spray whipped cream. This gave everyone a good variety of options to chose from. Word of experience- put this on the highest table possible so the little (and not so little kids) don’t snitch too many marshmallows.

The games were super fun!  I wanted to have something that involved everyone of all ages.   I made the games into 3 teams (Rudolph, Santa and Gingerbread girl). T0 divide the team I had everyone chose a painted clothes pin as they came in. Then when it was time, they divided up into teams. This mixed up the group a bit- so each team had adults, teens and kids. It was a rely race game to there were 3 “stations”. It was a close call to see who would win, all teams were pretty close.

The first group used pantyhose, either on there head or around there waist filled will jingle bells to knock over the stacked snowman cans. The next person in line had to rebuild each of the 4 snowman in their group, for the next person in line to go through and use their pantyhose to knock them over again. Once everyone in that group had gone- the next group can go.

Station two: each member in this group got 2-3 gigantic S’more Marshmallows to toss in painted containers. There was a line that they stood behind to toss. The goal is to get all of the team’s marshmallows in the bucket and they can work together. Once each member of the team goes and the marshmallows are in the cans, the final group can start.

The last station, each team member gets to unwrap a box with over mitts on. The box will have 5-6 smaller wrapped boxes inside (or however the most amount of people to be in each team will be).  Each person will unwrap the present, then pass the box and oven mitts to the next person in there team. Once they get to the smallest box, there will be festive holiday candy inside (that way everyone gets a treat for playing- I am big on participation). The first team to complete all 3 games wins. I got $1 or less fancy or fun candies for each member of the winning team. I got these from Wal-Mart or the Dollar Tree. The games were fun, it was so cute to see my 91 year old grandmother and 4 year daughter unwrapping the gift with oven mitts on.

We had a cookie contest, where we had participants take a paper with a number on it, and write their names and type of cookie on the back. This way as people came to vote on the cookies, they voted by numbers and did not know who the cookies belonged to. We had ribbons (also found at Oriental Trading) for the Cutest, Best Decorated, Most Awesome, Best Gingerbread and over all Best Cookie. The biggest thing to consider for a cookie contest is if you re going to have awards for taste or not. We decided not to so everyone would have more cookies to take home. After ribbons (and “Winner Gifts”) were given out, everyone could come get their boxes and start by taking 1-2 of each cookie. They can always come back with another box if there are extra. We had a great time baking this year and my little daughter won Best Gingerbread cookie.

Lastly, we had a Family Photo set up. I chose not to use  a tree or Christmas theme as the backdrop, in hopes that these are pictures we can cherish and enjoy all year long, not just at Christmas. Backdrop was purchased at… you guessed it, Oriental Trading. We used a plastic bench from our yard, covered it with a nice blanket and each family got pictures with “Gram”. It was a great way to get some pictures of everyone together.

For the favors, I used little boxes and stockings (got at the Dollar Store) and filled them up with themed candy, airplane gliders and Christmas tattoos (from Oriental Trading). I used boxes for adults and stockings for kids.

Overall, it was a good time, filled with plenty of fun the whole family. If only the weather would have cooperated- it snowed about 8 inches the night before and was freezing (a high of 3 degrees for the day).  I am thankful to have had the opportunity to plan an event for my lovely family!

Santa- Spoiler Alert

One of the biggest decisions a parent will make around Christmas is whether or not they are going to participate in the tradition of Santa. Most parent, including us, tell their children about Santa and the presents and reindeer. I certainly have nothing against Santa- who doesn’t love that jolly old man? BUT I have had a real eye opener this year when my 4 year old daughter  was decorating the tree then said that her and her brother were “praying to Santa, thanking him for coming with presents”. WHAT?!?!

I defiantly have some work to do to help my children understand that we only pray to Jesus. We read many many stories about the manager and Jesus’ birth, but still Aimlee was so excited about Santa, like most children. We did the whole Santa thing for Christmas- presents wrapped in special paper with different handwriting and stockings. Aimlee looks up to the ceiling and says “Thank you Santa”!

SO, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to take the Holly Jolly Santa away from my kids! It’s fun, its tradition, but is it terrible that I want to let my little kids know that Santa is not real, but rather just a holiday character, like Frosty the snowman? We can still get presents from Santa and stockings and sing “Santa Clause is coming to town” but I want them to know that the REAL reason for the season is Jesus and His birth- and THAT is real!!

So this is not a decision made, but rather just an expression of my thoughts. Who knows what will happen next Christmas. Just a really important reminder to me to help them understand the realness and importance of Jesus!

A Homeschool Mommy’s Tale: Twas the Night Before Preschool…

Twas the night before Preschool…  And the homeschool Mommy was up late… Preparing all the school tools… for her little homeschool mate!   Ha!

Tomorrow will be our fi20160906_113114rst official day of the Preschool 2016-2017 year. Aimlee is almost 4. We started doing Preschool in January and took a little summer break. She was so excited watching me go through my school supply cabinet g20160906_115401etting ready to start school. She kept asking to do the projects I was pulling them out, I told her she had to wait until tomorrow (got to build anticipation).

Homeschooling in a small space is not ideal, but can defiantly be done. Since we are living in my mom’s basement right now, we use the living room for many different rooms including my husband’s office and our home school room. We still have a 2 year old, so we use a baby yard across the room to separate the living room and the office/classroom- this helps the space feel more divided and keeps little fingers out of things that they should not be touching.  This also helps the space feel more private for learning.


I got two cabinets- you can go to a wholesale warehouse or one that recycles cabinets that were ordered incorrectly- and you can get a good deal. I use one cabinet for our book and school supply area. I label the shelves accordingly. I keep upcoming seasons and units on one shelf, things that she will be growing into (in a longer time frame), projects for cold winter days (sand, water painting, puzzles) on another shelf. I also keep our extra school supplies and books in there too. My husband put baby latches on that shelf to keep kids out of the supplies.20160906_114901

The other cabinet is for school “works”/projects. We are doing a Montessori concept, where the student get to choose their own work (with some guidance). They are responsible for  following all the steps, completing the work, cleaning it up and putting it away. On the shelves, I offer many works that get exchanged regularly. Currently, we have a Fine Motor grasping work using tongs, “pin punching” and Play dough . We have “I- Spy” for Phonics and a 1 to 1 counting work using small colored math blocks.

She also can do cutting, drawing and crafts- which we have in our Easel. Each day we will do sound lessons- until she knows all of her sounds. She knew quite a few at the end of Spring- so I am excited to see where she is with her math and Phonics. We will also be doing units- we are starting with “All about Me,”  “Family” and will be doing “Zoo Animals”- in a couple weeks around her birthday- when we plan to take a field trip to the Zoo. She will have a fun Scavenger Hunt to do there.

There is something so magical about a teacher watching their own child grow and learn. I am so grateful that God blessed me with the ability to teach my children. People keep asking me how long I plan to homeschool the kids. I know that it is right for us now, and I will take each year as it comes, and see what God has in store for us then.  I am excited to see what this first week of Preschool holds and looking forward to all the fun we are going to have this year!



Mickey Mouse Birthday Party

We recently celebrated my “babies” birthdays. Having their birthdays a month apart is a great reason to celebrate them together, espIMG_1546ecially at this age. My daughter turned 4 and my son turned 2.

They both love Minnie and Mickey right now- so we celebrated Mickey style. If you know me at all, you know I love to plan parties. I wish I had unlimited budget… but since I don’t… I had to make a lot of the party decorations.

One of the things I splurged on- mouse ears- which I bought on Amazon for a little over $1/each. There are tutorials of how to make them, I just did not think it was worth the time for me, this time. It was so worth it to see my 92 year old grandma, all the cute kids and all of our family and friends wearing mouse ears!

I went to the Dollar Tree for the table cloths (red and black), a few decorations (foil balloons for a dollar is a great deal- plus they have Minnie and Mickey), party favors (little books, bubbles, temporary tattoos and candy). I also got some craft supplies, poster board and tape. I made all of the centerpieces, out of printed paper and kabob sticks- and rocks in baggies covered with tissue paper for balloon holders.IMG_1465

One of the things that was most important to have at this party for me- was a photo booth- Gotta show off the cute mouse ears. Since I could not afford a party booth, I made my own. I used an old TV box (but you can make any kind of large appliance box work). I cut a slit in the back, and an opening for the picture part and covered the outside with poster board to make it look like Mickey. Red  on bottom, black on top. Added Mickey ears on top (we stapled them on) and white “buttons” on the bottom.

We had a “Hot Dog Hot Dog, Hot Diggity Dog” Bar- with all the Hot Dog fixins. We also had “Minnie’s Bow” Italian Pasta salad. Along with chips, drinks, fruit salad and Brownies.

I always make a birthday board with all of the kid’s favorite things, size and fun things that they do- so we can remember as they grow.IMG_1515

This party was so fun. The photo booth and ears really let everyone feel involved in the party- which is an important for a good party.




Some quick tips for Meal Replacment Shakes

So I have recently really been getting into doing a “shake diet”.  About a year ago I really wanted to get motivated to start losing weight. Well, it took until this Spring for me to really buckle down and decide that I needed this! And, surprisingly to-even me- I have already lost 15 pounds- 20 from where I was 6 months ago!  My mom and I decided to do it together- it’s always nice to have a friend to help encourage you!

So, I chose to go with the Isagenix program, because I had some friends that I trust, that were seeing really exciting results, but most importantly were getting really healthy! Here is the products I use:  The weight Loss shakes. I think everyone needs to find what works for them- so choose a protein powder that works for you! For the weight loss program, Isagenix suggests that you replace 2 meals a day (preferably breakfast and dinner) with a shake. We replace breakfast and then eat a really light lunch (something  like string cheese and a handful nuts) or a shake. Then have a really healthy dinner. For dinner we eat A LOT of salad and typically a lean protein (tuna, fish sticks or chicken).

I wanted to mostly focus on how I make the shake. So I really don’t like drinking protein shakes- they are typically all clumpy and powdery- ewww! So I decided I was going to add ice to my shakes to make them a more enjoyable texture. I also was thinking how hungry I was going to be… after all I am replacing my meals (and I LOVE to eat)! So, I thought it may be good to mix some fruit or vegetables in there too. So I could get a little extra “food” add even more nutrition.

I barely have enough time to eat breakfast,  let alone prep for breakfast! So I found a few things that work to make a great shake quickly:

I use a hand held blender to make my daily shakes- This helps me cut out the time I spend disassembling the real blender to wash it- not to mention the less space it takes up on the counter.

Similar to this one:

I pre blend my “extra” veggies and fruits in bulk so they are ready for my daily use. I use ice cube trays that I had for freezing baby food (although any kind of ice tray should work). I typically use Spinach and whatever20160310_133332 fruit I have that is getting ripe; sometimes strawberries, blueberries or bananas. Lately, I have just been blending Spinach20160628_185920 and water. I sometimes use a regular blender if I am blending in bulk. I try to fill about 6 trays at a time. This will last me and my mom about 3-4 weeks.

You can pretty much use anything you want in your fruit and veggie cubes. I have a friend that adds carrots and celery (just go light on the celery).

I like blending in bulk, so each day I just pop out the fruit and veggie cubes without having to get out all of the ingredients each time, plus this way they are frozen.

When making my shakes: I add my fruit and veggie cubes (I usually do 3, but add as many as you want based on the texture you want your shake to be). I blend this with water and my protein powder- as recommended.  And Ta-Da- a super easy and delicious shake!


My kid’s even love thier Spinach shakes espcially when they help make them

Not only is it a great way to get leaner, but it is, most importantly very nutritious! If you do not want to lose weight, I suggest having a shake in addition to a light breakfast, or as a shack!

To make a shake at work I suggest using a single serving blender: You can just toss in your protein, veggie ice cubes and water. Blend and you can drink it straight from the cup! I break up some of the f&v cubes and put enough in a baggie for all week- then just store it in the freezer.

I got my mom one like this for her office:

Last tip: Use a thick straw. It’s so much easier to drink it with a straw!

I got mine from IKEA (that place really does have everything!):





Pull Apart- Spotted Cow Cake

I wanted to make a spotted cow cake for my grandmother’s 91st birthday. I made a cupcake pull apart cake with spotted cow cake on the inside.

To make the “spotted cake”: 

I looked for white cake and the darkest chocolate cake I could find. I used Duncan Hines White and Dark Chocolate Fudge. For the cupcake liners I found white liners with little black flowers, the non fade kind.

I mixed both cake batters (in separate bowels). I took turns dropping little spoonfuls of the mixes in each cup. Don’t mix them together, just drop little blobs. Cook according to box- I suggest getting the same brand so the cook times are the same.

The white may appear “golden” out of the oven, but if you are frosting, this is not a problem- the cake on the inside, should still be white.

Let cool completely before frosting.

(I could also see this working for Zebra party, just by making srtipes with the chocolate batter.)

To make the pull apart cow cake: (For about 40 cupcakes, I used two cake mixes and 3 ½ frostings)  

Choose a board to lay the cake on. Make sure the measure the fridge (if you will be refrigerating) to make sure you have the room to put the board in. I used the lid of a storage container.

Cover the board with foil if needed.

Choose your frosting. I used 3 white frosting containers and one chocolate. Get the darkest chocolate possible. I used green, blue and red gel to make black.

Arrange the cupcakes in a cow shape, start with the head, add the body, legs, a tail, ears if you want and if you have lots of extra cupcakes- you could make grass.

Frost a thin layer of frosting with a knife. I held the cupcakes together as I frosted, in order to get them to stick together- make sure to frost in between the cupcakes.  The rest  can be frosted by spreading or piping.

Use black for the spots, feet, ears, hair, tail and nostrils. Use pink for the nose, ears and udders. Everything else will be white.


How to make a Photo Prop Board

One of my favorite party decorations is a photo prop board. This is perfect for any gathering- I made this one for my grandmother’s 91st birthday. She loves cows- so this was the picture we came up with. I was originally g2015-07-03 17.55.09oing to do two cows, but I liked the idea of having the heads at different heights.

Here are the steps to making a photo prop board:

Step 1: Buy a piece of ply wood board from a hardware store such as Lowes or Home Depot.

Mine was 8 ft by 4 ft, so my husband cut it down to about 5 ½ ft by 4 ft (I needed to transport mine, so it needed to fit in my van). Think about the height of your guests (if you’re throwing a kids party you would want a smaller board).

Step 2: Paint the board white. The paint absorbs easily, so this helps set a good foundation for the colored paint. A quart of paint should be enough.

I had to paint 2 coats on the front and one coat on the back (I painted the back to make it smoother and more uniform- this is optional though)

Step 3: Cut the heads out.  2015-07-03 10.10.34

I did this before drawing the picture, so I could adjust if it ended up bigger, smaller or different then what I had planned. We printed off a oval shape and cut it out to use as a template to trace before cutting. My husband used a jigsaw to cut the holes.

Step 4: Dra2015-07-03 16.09.58w your picture.

Weused clip art as a reference. You can either free hand draw or use a projector to trace. If you trace, make sure the face fits in the hole. I put two pictures together to get the look I wanted. Start drawing around the face first.

Step 5: Paint your picture.

I would recommend painting thIMG_3156e background first, then painting your characters. I used acrylic paint. Make sure to paint the inside of the hole for the head with the color you painted the face. This makes is smooth and makes it fit in with the picture.

Step 6: Enjoy!!!

Siblings and Family Planning: Part One

After having our two beautiful babies, my husband and I have been starting to talk about the possibility for more children.  There are so many factors to consider when deciding how many children to have, but the most important to me is, the quality of life for my children and my family. Being an only child for most of my life (I have two half brothers that are 10 and 14 years younger than me, that live in another state), I don’t really know what it feels like to grow up with siblings. Growing up as only child was actually nice most of the time, but I knew I wanted more than one baby, but I had a lot of questions, as to how adults felt about their childhood, after growing up with siblings.

I asked about 20 people, from ages 20s-60s questions about their childhood, and here is what I learned:

Everyone I asked said they overall liked having siblings! It appears that everyone thought they had the right amount of siblings, whether they had one or five siblings. Only one person wished for another sibling of the opposite gender.  This is really encouraging to me, as it seems that everyone had a “perfect” family.  Most people enjoyed playing with their siblings. Some stated they had different interests then than their siblings, or say they were closer to one sibling then another, but “when they were together” it seems everyone enjoyed having brothers and sisters.  This showed me the importance of doing things as a family often, so my kids can spend quality time together. Everyone I asked said they feel at least somewhat close to their siblings still, as adults. I think the biggest factor, is similar lifestyles and taking time to spend together.

Jason and I have been watching the show Parenthood, a show about 4 siblings raising their families. They often have a family dinner at their parent’s house, and it seems like such a great way to keep families close. We talked about how great it would be to have a weekly dinner with our kids. Maybe call it “Family Night”. This could be fun when they are kids to spend family night watching movies, or going bowling or playing games at home, and as they grow continue to have Family Night once a week, even when they are adults. What a great way to spend time with your children, in laws and grandchildren every week! The kids would have to agree, once they are adults though…

Another portion of the questionnaire I sent out, was about how having siblings affected relationships with parents. I was wondering if the children got to spend enough time with their parents and got enough attention from them. The most common answer was yes- although there were a few answers that showed they did not spend enough time with their parents, because they were busy with other siblings. This was a big eye opener for me, as I will need to learn to give appropriate attention to each of my children, together and individually. I also had someone tell me, that one or more of their siblings seemed to “get away with a lot”. So I will need to learn to be fair- although obviously this is a difficult thing to always do! Overall, it was my understanding that even though some kids got more attention then others- it didn’t seem to affect the amount of love they felt from their parents.

Finally I asked, if they had less siblings, if they would have had more or better opportunities while growing up. Surprisingly, almost everyone seemed to think they would have lived the same lifestyle. I did however learn that some felt like finances played the biggest role and there was not always money for all of the siblings in a family to have new clothes or be a part of extracurricular activates or even go to college. Some even mentioned that they probably would have been able go on more trips or go out to eat more often. But overwhelmingly, it appears that they would have chosen their siblings over “better” opportunities.

So, what does all of this mean for me and our family situation? I am not sure yet. We are constantly talking about our family planning. It seems that most people I have talked to struggled more with deciding  when to stop having babies then when they decided to start. We are currently making pro con lists, trying to decide if our 2 sweet babies is enough, or if we need one (or even two) more. As a part of this questionnaire I also asked people who had more than one child what helped them in deciding when their family was complete. I will post a follow up, in regards to our decision making process, but for now we are still in the process. Thank you to everyone who sheared their stories. I would love anymore information anyone would like to contribute.


Icky cold days- How to help with the Winter Blues

Am I the only one who suffers from Cabin Fever or who gets the Winter Blues from the dreary, cold weather?  The cloudy, snowy (yuck!) and just plain cold days really get me down sometimes! I do think that snow can be beautiful, like 2 times a year. When we are home all day to watch movies and drink hot chocolate and not have to drive or shovel! After Christmas, it just seems so silly for the snow and cold to continue- the holidays are over! Time for the rest of winter to hurry up so that Spring can arrive! I would skip the months of January- March (except for my friends birthdays and Valentine’s day, of course)  If it were up to me, it would be 85 degrees all year long! But, where I live, it gets pretty cold in the winter!  Last week it was -13 degrees- that is just way too cold for me, not to mention expensive for my heating bill! So I am starting to get Cabin Fever and some major Winter Blues!

So here are some things I do to help:

Get Outside!

Any day that it is sunny and at least 45 degrees (or even less with sunshine)- Go for a walk. Even if just for a quick walk around the block or play ball with the kids for a while. Fresh air and sunshine can do amazing things for our minds and attitudes! If it is too cold outside, but there is still sun, chase the sun around your house! Open the blinds and sit in the sun! Sunshine is a wonderful pick me up.


Want something yummy to drink?

Sometimes all we need is a yummy drink to make us feel better and less gloomy. I make a summer-y mocktail, that gets me in a wonderful mood. I use 100% pineapple juice and add crushed up maraschino cherries in it. YUM! Or maybe just a nice cup of marshmallow-y hot chocolate would do the trick.


Celebrate the season:

Have a winter themed party. Invite over some friends over for a cookie exchange or a chili cook off. Drink hot apple cider. Make winter crafts or snacks!


Be productive:

Make a list of all the projects you have been putting. Cold snowy days that you are home, are a perfect time to catch up on cleaning, organizing, crafts or trying new recipes.  Over Christmas break my hubby and I worked in four rooms in our house. My husband organized one room from top to bottom- it was fantastic.


Whatever you do on a gloomy day, make sure to find the joy that each day holds!