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Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! This year, rather than an over-arching list for the whole year, I'm attempting to accomplish something specific each month. Some are bigger projects that need to get done. Some are specific to events. Some will probably be changed before the year is out.

January: Make one of these note card journal calendars. And then use it. I have note cards, so if I don't get to making it right away, I can at least start journaling.

February: Deep clean my refrigerator. It's not a glamorous goal, but it needs to be done.

March: Make a spring/Easter decorative hanger for our door. Or maybe finish the one I started last year...

April: Make a reusable Swiffer duster refill (or two, since I have two dusters).

May: Make at least 2 "busy bag" learning activities for Jonah.

June: Get everything packed up, purged, and organized for our move. It's not a big move. Just back into town. But it is still moving, and all the fun that goes with it.

July: Get our new place set up, and routines reestablished. A new place, plus the busy-ness of moving, will throw everything off for awhile.

August: Take $10 and go to the dollar store and/or thrift store and find something to take from trash to treasure in a crafty way.

September: Bake myself a pretty birthday cake (or cupcakes, or whatever I'm in the mood for).

October: Begin planning Christmas gifts for the year. This last year went pretty well, because I planned early, but I still ended up working on quite a few projects well into December. This year I want to figure everything out and set up a schedule so I can spread the projects out more, and enjoy more free time (and baking!) in December.

November: Prepare an Advent calendar with fun activities for each day in December. I wanted to do this last year, but didn't end up having time.

December: Create at least 3 homemade Christmas decorations, including at least 1 with the kiddos. Projects are fun!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Easy Magnets: A Naptime Project

Naptime projects are quick, easy projects that can be done in less than an hour while the little one(s) sleep.

We got two magnetic nativities for Christmas this year, both of which are really cool. The pieces punched out of a big magnet sheet, and I noticed that there were some pretty large empty magnet spaces, so I saved the punched out sheets.

I added lots of stickers wherever they fit. They're mostly state stickers, which have been sitting in my sticker collection for a long time, and then some Disney stickers I keep getting in random mailers.

The longest part was cutting them out, but even that didn't take very long.


And now we have a whole bunch of new magnets for Jonah to play with. I don't care if they get a little beat up, because they were free, and this means my nicer magnets might actually stay on the fridge! And, as a bonus, I still have some bits of the magnet sheets left if we get some more cool stickers!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What I'm Reading...

Merry Christmas! Here are just a few posts to read before you celebrate today...

Christmas Treat Round-Up. This one is more to keep on file for next year - a list of recipes for all sorts of gifts in a jar. (Home Ec 101)
The Secret to Breaking Bad Habits. I have a few that I intend to break. (Life Your Way)

Last Minute Ways to Reduce Waste This Christmas. A few helpful reminders... (Life Your Way)

May you all have a blessed Christmas, and I'll be back to posting next week!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crafty Link-Up: Christmas Ornaments

Christmas is this week! You probably already have your tree decorated, but here are some fun ornaments you can make to add to your collection.

These delicate little ornaments are made of paper. You can find the directions and templates here.


I've seen so many adorable felt ornaments, like these Christmas lights.


Here's a fun one: make a melting snowman ornament from hot glue.


If you have any old lightbulbs, give them new life by making these Cat in the Hat ornaments.


And finally, a simple wooden shape nativity. I almost made this one for my mom this year, because she loves nativities.


For more Christmas ornament ideas, check out my board on Pinterest!

I hope that as you celebrate this Christmas, you remember the Reason for the Season. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When in Doubt, Give Food!

One of the best Christmas gifts, in my opinion, is a special treat, or something that makes life easier, and even better if it doesn't take up much space! These Peanut Butter Brownie Mixes in a Jar are all of those.


For a few of our church staff, I put together little treat baskets with soup mix and the peanut butter brownie mix. They also got some Reindeer Food, a.k.a. Puppy Chow with Christmas M&Ms. I had planned to make the bottles a little prettier with some nice printable labels, but our printer ran out of ink, and I ran out of time, so I left them as is. It's okay to not be perfect.


The finished product. I think they'll really enjoy these.


And, for another present, we put together an "Everything but the Ice Cream" sundae box. Ours included waffle bowls, sprinkles, fudge sauce, M&Ms, chocolate chips, marshmallows, and candy canes. Yummy!

I was able to reuse some baby food jars for the toppings, as well as the Frappuccino bottles for the puppy chow. I hope you have been enjoying all these handmade Christmas presents! I'm done for this year, and I hope you're close too!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Easy Christmas Card Display

I knew I wanted to come up with some sort of easy way to display our Christmas cards this year. Since we're obviously not going to use the air conditioner at this time of year, I taped some ribbons to the inside of the cover.

We've been getting more cards (which I love!), so I added yarn above the cover, and above one of our windows.

We're already almost out of room there too, so I guess I'll just have to keep expanding it. I don't mind! I love Christmas cards!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What I'm Reading...

Wrapping Paper Alternatives. I finally ran out of wrapping paper in the middle of present wrapping last weekend. You see, I had nicely wrapped 6 gift boxes for the Christmas for Kids devotions, and used up most of my wrapping paper in the process. I planned on being able to wrap some of my presents in those boxes, but brought them home afterwards to find that (irony!) none of my presents were the right size for those boxes. (The Simple Dollar)

When an Adult Took Standardized Tests Forced on Kids. I don't like that school has become more and more about preparing kids for tests. But I still don't want to homeschool. So let's fix this before my kids get to school age! (Washington Post)

Congrats, Internet, For Making Me Never Want to Take My Baby on a Plane. "Act sorrier. I need to act really sorry that I'm even on the plane, then also sorry I chose to have a kid, sorrier even that I don't live closer to where I've chosen to go, and sorry that I need to take these little monsters with me." (Jezebel)

Of Santa and Jesus
. We're not doing Santa in our household. But I kind of like the idea of teaching my kids the story of Saint Nicholas. (A Deeper Story)

Fast Food, Convenience, and Money
. We definitely pay for the convenience. I could make a better burger or taco. I just don't want to sometimes... (The Simple Dollar)

When Parenting Means Steering Into the Skid
. Sometimes kids go through difficult phases, and parenting is more difficult. (Simple Mom)

How My Family Rocks Our No-Cash Holiday Season. We don't go as far as no-cash, but spending less, and doing things that might require more of a time investment instead is okay by me. (Offbeat Mama)

And finally, a few posts about toys:

Friday, December 16, 2011

I Made Bread! and an Update on the New Year's Resolutions

I love homemade bread, but I had never actually made any myself. Until now. The loaf got a little smushed coming out of the pan, but it turned out awesome otherwise. I used this recipe.

And now, for the rest of the resolutions...You can see the original list here, and the updates here and here. And since then, I've completed a few more that I don't think I ever posted an update about:

Spiritual/Family:
Baking:
Other Food:
I obviously didn't finish all of them, but that's okay. I think for next year, I will have a smaller list, or maybe a goal for each month. Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Handmade Christmas: Grandkids Board

I bet you can't guess who these are for! I saw a picture of these on Pinterest, and I thought they would be perfect presents for all the grandparents in our life. I used the same lettering technique that I used for the Birthday Board, and hot glued some clothespins to the bottom to hold pictures. Then I nailed picture hangers to the back.

This was a really easy project - it just took lots of room on my dining room table while the paint was drying. I know they will all appreciate having another place to display their grandkids.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Crafty Link-Up: Gifts in a Jar

We're getting closer to Christmas! If you still have some presents to knock off your list, what about some gifts in a jar? These food items are pretty and delicious!

For instance, these truffle hot chocolate balls that melt into milk and make hot chocolate sound absolutely amazing!

Or the more traditional hot cocoa in cone shape. Gifts in a jar don't have to actually be in a jar, of course.

How about some easy yummy S'mores Bars? They're from Paula Deen, so you know they're going to be good.


I'm actually planning on making myself this Mocha Cocoa mix.


I've also found some smart and fun ways to wrap these gifts, besides the typical jar. For instance: Pringles cans for cookies.


For more gifts in a jar, as well as more wrapping tips, check out my board!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Handmade Christmas: Fleece Scarf

One of our Christmas exchange relatives this year is a Steelers fan. So I decided to make her a Steelers themed fleece scarf. This is actually relatively simple. Stitch a straight(ish) line down the center. Then cut strips like you would for a fleece blanket. You can find the tutorial here, but it really is that simple.

This took me a few hours, because I had to hand-stitch the line down the center, but if you have a sewing machine, it will only take a few minutes to sew that, and a few more to cut the strips. Another gift that is customizable! Love those!

I'm planning to make a Cars one for Jonah with the leftover fleece from his blanket. He's excited...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

The next few weeks are going to be pretty busy, so I went ahead and went grocery shopping and menu planned for the rest of the month, except for a few days right around Christmas when we will be doing all sorts of family stuff.

Lunches (keeping these simple):
  • PB&J x5
  • Grilled Cheese x2
  • Roasted Squash
  • Egg Salad x2
  • Macaroni & Cheese x2
  • Turkey/Ham Sandwiches x4

Along with our usual sides of fruit, crackers, yogurt, etc.

Dinners:

Monday: Stir Fry
Tuesday: Chicken Noodle Casserole (pushed back from last week because we ended up going out with friends who were in town)
Wednesday/Thursday: Slow Cooker Tuscan Bean and Ham Soup
Friday: Eggs, Toast, Hashbrowns
Saturday/Sunday: Veggie Pot Pie

Monday/Tuesday: Split Pea and Ham Soup
Wednesday: Homemade Pizza (making my own crust again since it was such a success last time!)
Thursday: Turkey Quesadillas
Friday/Saturday: Crockpot White Bean & Sausage Stew

Sunday-Wednesday: All sorts of family things
Thursday: Sausage Mushroom Quiche
Friday/Saturday: Chicken Alfredo Lasagna (using up the last of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey)

And then it's the New Year! Jesse and I have decided that we're going to go vegetarian next year. The whole year. We've done vegetarian months before, but this is a whole new ball game. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What I'm Reading...

Your "Someday" List Can Change Your Life. I don't have a "someday" list (or a bucket list), but I do have a few things I'd like to do at some point. (The Simple Dollar)

The Messy Table. We inherited our dining room table from my parents, and it's one of my favorite pieces of furniture, even though it's a bit big for our current apartment. It has lots of memories, and it's definitely built to last. (Simple Mom)
Here's Something You Can Pull Out the Next Time Someone Says You're Not Parenting the Way "People Used To"
. Times have changed. (Offbeat Mama)

Get Started with Apartment Composting
. Jesse is more excited about this than I am. But I am looking for ways to reduce waste in our household, especially since we don't have recycling available to us. (Offbeat Home)

15 Ways to Reuse Plastic Grocery Bags
. Every so often we specifically take a little break from using our reusable totes to get more little plastic bags for our bathroom (read: dirty diapers/wipes) trash can. (Money Saving Mom)

Say No to Scattered and Unfocused Organizing. One reason I make a list of "house projects" on our big whiteboard, so I can focus on one thing that needs to be done. (I'm an Organizing Junkie)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Handmade Christmas: Bubble Magnets

These bubble magnets are one of my favorite gifts to make and give, because they're easy and you can customize them to the recipient. You can see the tutorial here.

I made two sets this year for part of our Christmas exchange. We have some on our fridge at home as well. Please ignore the uckiness of my cookie sheet - it needs a good cleaning.

Easy and unique! That's a good Christmas present. And as long as you have magazine pictures/patterns saved (I just tear them out as I read magazines and put them in an envelope with my crafts), this is definitely doable as a naptime project.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crafty Link-Up: Trees

If you haven't yet, it's probably time to get out the Christmas tree! We haven't yet, because Matthew at 8 months already pulls everything down, and I'm still debating whether or not we should even put it up this year.

Maybe we should do one of these felt trees instead, and both he and his brother can enjoy it.


This Tinker Toy tree makes me smile, because we used to play with these, and I actually still have the set stowed in the closet for when my kids are a little bigger.


This clothespin and lollipop tree is adorable, but it would be destroyed in our house (or any house with kids).


These wire trees look so simple to make, and very pretty!


And it's still not too late to start an Advent calendar! I mean, you are late, but you can still do one, especially an easy one like these construction paper trees.


For lots (and I mean lots!) more Christmas ideas, check out my Christmas board on Pinterest!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Birthday And Anniversary Board Part 2

It's finally done! You can see part 1 of this project here. I ran into a few more mishaps before I finally finished this project.

I tried a white paint pen to write the dates on the buttons, but it wasn't very white, and the edges of the letters and numbers got all runny. It looked pretty terrible. I moved on to black and silver Sharpies. When in doubt, go with Sharpies. That worked.

And then I spilled a cup of water all over my neatly-stacked-in-order buttons. And they started to curl every which way. So they dried for a few days under some heavy books. Only one broke, which is not too bad.

Most of the inspiration pictures I've seen for this project use jump rings to attach all the buttons together. That would take FOR-EV-ER. At least for me. And it would involve making tiny holes in the buttons. No drilling during sleepy time! So I got out my handy glue gun and ribbon went to work.

Once that was all done, I took it out into the hallway of our apartment building to hammer the picture hangers onto the back. No hammering during sleepy time! Very important.

Once the final button dries, I'll glue that on. At some point when both kiddos are awake, I'll be able to hang this on the wall. No hammering during naps! Still very important.

The reason I did this project now is because I was working on another project that involved painting and glue guns, but that's for another time...after those certain family members take their mid-December blog-reading break...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What I'm Reading...

Q&A: Buying Yeast in Bulk. I just made homemade pizza crust for the first time this week, and it turned out really well. I have plans to attempt making bread soon(ish), and if that turns out, I see a lot more yeast buying in my future... (Money Saving Mom)

Oops: I've Totally Abandoned My Partner in Favor of My Child. "We were having a sweet moment singing lullabies, and I was smothering Toby with kisses — his cheeks, his forehead, burying my face in his neck. Alex was humming along and waiting patiently for me to put Toby to bed, when suddenly I realized, Oh my goodness, I should plop my baby in his crib and go kiss my husband! It struck me, like a lightbulb moment." Yep. Done that. (Offbeat Mama)

Boiled Omelets. In ziploc bags. Interesting... (not martha)

How to Freeze Cookies for Holiday Baking Do-Aheads. (Life Your Way)

10 Things 90s Kids Will Have to Explain to Their Children
. I was born in the 80s, but I was definitely a 90s kid. (Thought Catalog)