Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Cookies

People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.  ~Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat

I love that quote above!  And I feel the same goes for having cookies around at Christmas, wouldn't be the same without them and they bring such smiles and warmth to a table! 

Between both the boys school parties, teacher gifts, neighborhood functions, family gifts, and our own personal stash at home I think I lived in the kitchen the past week!  I totally enjoyed every moment of discovering new recipes and decorating each batch, but if there's weren't other holiday things like wrapping presents, cleaning and entertaining my children all day I could have enjoyed it much more!  Next year I'm defiantly evoking help from the kids, I don't care how they turn out, just so long as I get help!

Molasses Gingerbread Men

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies

Sugar Snowflake Cookies

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Melting Snowman Cookies

                   Saw these cuties on The Decorated Cookie and had to try them out myself!

Baked blobs out of sugar cookie dough

Coated in Royal Icing, watered down version so it was a little runny (melty)

Added mini marshmallows while icing was still wet.  The marshamllows were puffed in the microwave for a few seconds to get them mushy looking, and just a tip- I had to use a buttered knife, and buttered fingers, to get them off the plate and onto the cookie without sticking to me.

Added details with the rest of the Royal icing that I tinted with food coloring,
but you could use regular icing too

I'm sure they'll be a big hit at Carter's Christmas Party tomorrow!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Santa's Elf

We have been blessed with the presence of one of Santa's elves thanks to one of our wonderful neighbors who went to a book signing and thought of us!  I had heard about the Elf on the Shelf but never saw it anywhere to purchase or knew anyone who had one so never looked into it.  And to tell you the truth I wasn't too sure I like the idea of a little doll staring at us all day.  But I am so thankful Chip's here now, not only is he adorable but we have so much fun with him... and the kids do too :) 

Registering online is a must, the kids enjoyed the virtual visit to the North Pole and after we registered Chip there are so many neat games to play!

Chip's been hiding in some great spots but after a few weeks,  and if you have a small house like us, you might need some extra creative ideas and that's when I was on the look and found these:

This will be such a great tradition for us, it's even helping to keep the boys in line with always saying 'Chip's watching, you'd better be good so he might tell Santa you've been naughty.'  Last week has been an exceptionally difficult week for the boys and getting in trouble so I used Chip as a helper to deliver letters from Santa in hopes that it'll encourage better behaviors.

If you don't have a Santa's helper yet in your home, I would certainly recommend one if you have children who still believe.  The magic of believing will only last so long and I'm looking forward to keeping the vision of Santa alive as long as I can!

Friday, October 28, 2011

FREE Scrapbook Software Giveaway!!!!

Congrats Janie! 
I'll send you the info for getting your free Memories Suite once the company sends me your access code!  I know you'll enjoy!
*Giveaway now Ended*


Okay all, time for a great FREE Giveaway to one of my lucky readers!  I was contacted last week from a representative from MyMemories, a great digital scrapbook software program for anyone from the novice scrapbooker to the extreme picture taker who never remembers to print all their pictures!  are giving They away a program to one of you for free, whoo-hoo!  You will all love this My Memories Suite, I know I do!  Here's a clip of what it's all about on YouTube.

When Gavin was born I was your typical 1st time mom, taking tons of photos, scrapbooking when he napped, getting all the milestone photos done at photo shops.  Then only a yr later when Carter arrived I vowed to take the same photos and make the same books so he wouldn't feel left out, but... best laid plans don't always work out!  I didn't have that same down time as Carter was colicky for the first 3 months and with two different nap schedules it was hard to get cleaning done let alone have time to scrapbook.   I did keep up with the professional photos but still feel bad Carter won't have a scrapbook to look at over the yrs as Gavin will.  That is until this opportunity!

I was able to play around with all the different layouts and must say that it is super simple and actually more fun than meticulously cutting out little pictures for an actual page, with no clean-up and of course it's much faster!

Here's a layout I chose

Below is a page I created myself... in under 3 minutes!

OMG, this was soooo easy!!!  Seriously, anyone can do this!  You just download the program, select the theme you'd like and either have the program automatically fill in photos or you can select certain ones.  Then you're done if you'd like, or if you're like me you have to add things to make it your own and more personal.  I added the text, buttons, green ribbon and the brown flower, and it was so simple!  There are also separate digital scrapbooking kits you can purchase to use on the program. 

Here's another page in this Fall group that is created for you, and once you add your photos you're done or you can add other embellishments if you'd like.

And the best part is once you purchase one of their digital scrapbooking kits, you can use the items forever!  Not like in-store where you buy the paper packs or embellishments and once you use them, that's it, no more unless you buy another one.  Where if you buy, say the animal crackers zoofari kit like I plan to, I can use the animals for decorating a birthday page for Gavin's upcoming jungle theme party but also use most of the items again on another page for our trip to the Zoo, the boy's lion costumes for Halloween, even using the cute animals on a baby page for an expecting Mom... my creative juices are flowing for sure with this one! 

You can then print out you creations on your printer or have it professionally printed for you as pages or even made into a book!  What great gifts these can be too!  And did I mention... no mess, no clean-up, no running to the craft store... it's all download-able, so no waiting for something to be delivered in the mail either, once you buy it... it's yours to use right then!

So here's how you enter to win your own My Memories Suite ($39.97 value) for FREE!

1. Visit the MyMemories website, choose what your favorite item is and tell us by adding a comment to this post. 

2. For an extra entry, friend MyMemories on Facebook and then leave another comment on here that you did so. (PS, there's a coupon code on their page for $5.00 off your purchase too- making some of their kits free!)

That's it, comment below and good luck!  Be sure to leave your e-mail address with your comment so I can contact you if you're the winner.  Also, feel free to spread the word to friends or family that may be interested too! 

I'll use to choose the winner on Friday, November 4th and post the winner on here!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Literary Pumpkin Display

We were all excited to find out that Carter's Pre-K 3's class got to join the big kids in his school this yr in designing a pumpkin for the Literary Pumpkin Display.  This has been super fun to see which books are favorites and how creative the kids can be in creating a character from the story.

Carter chose his favorite book "Cupcake- A journey to be special"  The story has such a great moral to it and the cast of cupcakes and candles are too cute!  

We were then supposed to make a character from the book using a pumpkin.  I truly thought he'd pick Stripy Cupcake, he always says that one is his favorite, but he chose the main character Vanilla and I'm glad he did, I had fun making the candle :)

He got to help paint the vanilla icing on, white paint of course, and help draw the U's for the creamy frosting.  Then we chose the color yellow to match Vanilla's wrapper, he helped to color green paper to make the perfect green candle and we painted a toothpick black for candle's wick.  I cut out the rest of the details and we put it all together.  Super cute!

Most of the pumpkins that were decorated at the school were the big ones, they're a bigger canvas for painting and making faces, but I thought a mini pumpkin fit a cupcake theme perfectly.

Some of the other designs are pretty fantastic and super creative!

Smurfette is pretty cool, though my boys haven't a clue what she is and prob won't know who they are for yrs to come with the new movie that just came out looking not so good.

Gavin spotted Tow-Mater right away!

Squash penguin, sooo cute!

Three little pigs and the wolf, ingenious!

Can't wait till next yr to do it again!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Canned Apple Pie Filling

After picking an enormous amount of apples the beginning of the month I knew as the kids were picking every apple in sight that I would be making more apple pie filling than I planned to use for upcoming holidays.  This yrs batch was awesome, though I'm sure it's the freshness of the apples and all the love that goes into it that makes it better than the ones on store shelves.  Some jars may even become gifts with the frugal Christmas we'll be having this yr!

Canned Apple Pie Filling
Makes 9 quart jars of filling.
2 quart jars make a 9"pie

You will need:
12 cups sliced peeled cored apples, treated to prevent browning* (about 12 medium apples)
8 cups water
3 cups apple juice
4 cups granulated sugar -may substitute 1 cup of granulated for brown sugar
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup ClearJel® (cooking starch used for preserving) or 1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup lemon juice
8 (16 oz) pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands (though this made 9 jars of pie filling for me and one small jar of just the filling; which we use on pancakes/waffles)

*mix a little lemon juice with the sliced apples

1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) BLANCH apple slices, working with 6 cups at a time, in a large pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a covered bowl.
3.) COMBINE sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large stainless steel saucepan. Stir in apple juice and cold water.
-Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.
-Add lemon juice, return to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
-Drain apple slices and immediately fold into hot mixture. Before processing, heat, stirring until apples are heated through.
4.) LADLE hot pie filling into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with spatula. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
5.) PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 25 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Playing with our food

Waffle + banannas = Yummy fun!

(Maybe we'll do chocolate syrup and a cherry next time...Mmm)

Preschool skills

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it. ~Author Unknown

I'm finding out that gardening parallels alot of things in life.  Baking yields the same glorious results from the combination of sewing ingredients and patience you get wonderful results that you can take pride in because of your hard work. You may not necessarily enjoy every aspect, cleaning the kitchen afterwards... weeding... but the end result is what gets you thru it and makes it worthwhile. 

Now even school work too can be better enjoyed when the subject matter excites you and the end result is something you'll have longer than any flower or baked goodie; a life skill.

School work too can be like the hard work of pulling the weeds, especially in middle/high school with such large work loads, but only if you focus on the task at hand and not at the end result.  Hopefully instilling fun into the work when they are young will help a little in the long run :)

Thus, my dear Gavin enters the age of needing focused learning instead of just associated learning.  His teacher says he needs to work on his hand strength for writing and cutting skills.  I've noticed he needs help with fine motor skills, since the age of 2 really, and I guess instead of always saying 'It'll come in time' and working on things here and there, there's no time like the present to help speed the process a little more :)

*Starting with a layed back approach is best and let them cut scrap paper to their little hearts content.  Learning finger placement and how to open and close the scissors is key in this process.

*Next, move on to cutting lines.  You can draw out simple lines on paper to start but, to give them the desire and 'want' it may help to add pictures to the paper they are cutting. 

You can draw things or use a Word document page with dashes as I did and add some clipart, very simple!  You can even make it themed; animals to their habitat, foliage to the correct season, etc.
The best part is that these cutting line pages can be used for tracing excercises too!  You can also switch it up and make it a matching game.  The possibilites are endless!

*Then you can help further this skill by having them create a photo collage by cutting out their favorite photos from a magazine.  Again, this can be themed by cutting out certian colors, animals, or foods.  They will be so proud to see the masterpiece that they cut out themselves and look forward to it everytime until the skill is mastered!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Magnetic Tree Frogs

Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart. ~Russell Page

Ah yes, now this week is my kind of weather!  And it must be great for the tree frogs as well because it's this time of year that we see an influx of them attached to our windows.  Just yesterday the boys and I were watching one of the cute little fellas leave us a present as he was suction cupped to our back door, so I decided to put a magnet Science idea to use that I came across a few weeks ago. 

We talked about magnets and tested out what was 'magnetic' and was wasn't.  Then we made our own special 'Magnetic Tree Frog'

Paint a small paper plate green

Add spots if you'd like; hole punchers work great for small circles too

Our next step was to clean up the almost 100 cut holes that fell to the floor because it was hard for them to stop at just a few; saving them to use for other projects of course :)

Add the eyes and legs and you have a great little tree frog.  You can add a second plate stapled to the bottom and paint blue and add orange/red hands to complete the tropical tree frog look, but my boys just wanted red toes, have fun and make it your own!
I then hot glued a piece of magnet to end of a pipe cleaner.  I just cut some pieces from those free magnets you get on the front of telephone books, nothing fancy.  Then hot glue the other end of the pipe cleaner to the inside of the top plate.

My little guys were occupied for a while collecting flies for the frogs... paperclips :)

These would even be a great game to use at a birthday party to see which frog could catch the most flies!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pre-K 4's for Gavin today!

Now it's Gavin's turn for Pre-K to start!  So proud of my big 4yr old!  No tears for anyone today, including me! 

Someone was raring to go this morning!  So much for my shy little guy!

Drop off couldn't have gone smoother today!  Both were super excited and eager to get going with their class!

I couldn't say the same so I made sure to keep busy while they were gone- doing laundry, paying bills, making phone calls I otherwise couldn't with my 2 loud speakers that are usually in the background.  I thought had done it, gone a couple of hours without both of them on my heals and my heart wasn't aching... that is until I stopped at the post office and the teller asked, 'No kids today?'  That was all I needed to hear, I missed them now... bad, standing there all by myself, not playing I Spy games while we wait in line, or having them to help ring the bell at the counter.  I actually felt guilty they weren't with me. 

Thankfully it was my last stop and I only had 15minutes of that feeling until I had to pick the 1st one up from school.  That was a test for sure, and I know now I have to keep busy, and to avoid places with familiar faces for the next week, like the Bank too, that might do me in if they offer a lollipop and no kids are there to receive one! 

But of course it's always worse for Mom than it is for the kids, their smiling faces and glorious stories of new experiences and friends always make growing-up a wonderful thing!  I can only savor these days and try not to look ahead to the future school and college yrs too much, it's a learning experience for me too and I'm glad we're all in it together!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Carter's Big Day!

Wednesday was a big day for Carter... his 1st day at preschool! He was so excited the day before and morning of and even a great sport about wearing the new uniform! I could see a little nerves were mixed into his smile in the morning, this was a new adventure and I'm sure he didn't know what to expect. But in the back of his little mind he had to know that it would be a fun because everyday Gavin went to school last year Carter kept saying he wanted it to be his turn, well, now it is!

As soon as he went into the school he greeted his teachers with arms extended for a big hug, told them 'Good Morning' like telling a good friend you hadn't seen in a while, and then stood in line and gave me one of the biggest smiles... he was soooo ready for this!

He was a pro at staying in line, singing their 'wheels on the bus' song they sang on their way to the classroom and even blowing a kiss to Jesus when they passed the cross in the hallway. I saw such a big guy walking away from me that day, it made me cry just like seeing Gavin on his 1st day, but this time it was for all different reasons. Gavin cried and they had to carry him or help hold his hand the 1st week of school until he knew the routine, where Carter was ready and willing and couldn't wait from day 1.

Such a proud little guy!

As with Gavin I had a freebie book bag from my Mother-in-Law that I was going to use for Carter but had to at least spruce up something. Carter also chose a 'cookie doggie' to put on his name label inside his bag.

And being our second yr at this wonderful school and having the same wonderful teachers I just had to give them a 1st day of school gift. I saw this saying somewhere and after jotting it down on Word and adding a photo clip, opted to have Carter help me make it for his teachers.

I also had a template for a mini popcorn box I printed out and had Carter help me color two. Then after taping up the seams, tying on the notes, and adding some mini cookies, there was a great little gift they were sure to enjoy!

If I had more time I would have made the cookies myself but I did have some refrigerated cookies on hand that I got for less than a dollar, boy I love utilizing coupons and Safeway sales together, we've spent tons less on so much this year! And I found if you cut the little circles into 4's and baked them for a shorter amount of time that they made the perfect size cookies for the little holder.

Now we'll see what's in-store for Gavin after Labor Day with his new school! All this fun excitement all over again...I can't wait!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

School's on the horizon

Weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans. ~Marcelene Cox

We've been playing school this week in preparation of Carter's 1st time at preschool next week so I had to post some shots of the kiddos in action; and now that I look back I'm glad I got a picture of them in their pj's and rain boots the other day, I didn't realize at the time how cute they were!

I had divided our paper into 4's and got them trying to paint different patterns in each square. They were excellent listeners and really did imitate what I showed them; love that the fridge is now my teaching board!

Oh, the concentration they both had!

On the lines of painting and drawing, this is Carter's picture he drew all by himself last week, of course I helped him with his name, it' a rock monster from the Vegietales movie :)

They were even taking turns being a teacher, teaching each other letters and numbers all on their own after we reviewed some flash cards

We ended the week with a trip to Target to get the list of school supplies needed for Carter's classroom and came across a neat ice cube tray. The bottom of each cube has a silicone spot so you can push out the cube, ingenious! I decided to try out juice pops 1st just to see if it indeed was easy to pop out.

Love the tip of covering the tray with plastic wrap so the toothpicks stand straight, wish my Mom and I knew this when I was younger and making our own frozen treats :)

They came right out!

It worked great! Can't wait to try our using it as a mold to make candies next! Next it's off to get Gavin ready for when his preschool starts after Labor Day! They are so excited to make new friends, and I have say I'm excited about the same, it's always great to connect with other parents, meet at parks for the kids to play after school, and know there are life long relationships being built!

So grateful I can be home to enjoy all of these precious times! One day they'll be a distant memory but right now they're so much fun to partake in!