Christmas Thoughts + Pics

We had a lovely Christmas in all the ways Christmas is supposed to be.

Best of all, husband-Stephen was off for quite a number of days in a row. Whoo hoo! That never happens. We had so much togetherness, and I loved it.

Also, Stephen gave me THE most fabulous gift - he made me (us) a gorgeous kitchen table, the perfect size for our quirky long, narrow space in the kitchen.

The kids were easy to please gift-wise, the biggest hit being an electric train from Publix for $14.99. No Disney World. No iPads. I'm a big believer in setting the bar low for young children....on purpose. They are so satisfied/thrilled with so little. You see this quote "presence over presents" everywhere this time of year. It is cheesy, but it is so true!

One funny thing I always do for my children's stockings, I divide one bag of candy amongst the 3 of them. By the time Christmas arrives the last thing they need is more sweets. It also saves me a few dollars to only buy one bag.

We are loving these last few slow days before the children return to school. Right now I'm sitting by the fire, the older two are playing outside, baby George is napping, and I'm making tea. Bliss.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! See you in 2015.


Five Great Toys

Here are 5 toys that have stood the test of time in our house. My kids have loved each of these toys for a long time, and no matter how many times I clean house I never get rid of these. They suit a number of ages and stages and my three children (ages 2-5) are always inventing new ways to play with them. 
1. Wooden Pull Toy My babies have loved this as well as toddlers who pretend it's a dog on a leash. This is also is super popular with visiting friends.

2. Cozy Coupe Need I elaborate? Cozy Coupes are just the best.We have two and often if the weather is bad, I will bring them in the house.

3. Giant Stuffed Alligator My parents bought this for my oldest child almost six years ago before he was born. All three of my children actually play with it, pretending to ride it or wrestle it. More recently, my son started sleeping with it every night. I guess its kind of like a body pillow.

4. Toy Pizza This may be a pizza, but my children also pretend it's birthday cake or pie. The other night, behind my back, they turned the pan over and spread some leftover hummus on it, pretending to ice a cake. I wasn't real happy about that. But they were so thrilled with themselves I didn't have the heart to fuss.

My two year old also loves to cut and slice through the Velcro pieces over and over and over.

5. LEGO Duplos I actually put all our Duplos up a few weeks ago to take them out of circulation for a while and give them a rest. Within two days my children were asking where they were. These seem to hold their attention span longer than any other toy.

The beauty of each of these toys is they are all gender neutral and appeal to kids ranging from age 1 - 5. I think any of these would make great first birthday gifts.

What are your kid's all time favorites?

I've heard these Magnet building tiles are fabulous.


Piggy Cupcakes

Stephen, my kindergartner, had a program at school this week, The Three Piggy Opera, and it was SO CUTE. I'm amazed how much discipline and hard work the class put into pulling off this production.

Afterwards, there was a reception, and I signed up to bring the piggy cupcakes. Pinterest for the win! This post from Emily's Little World was my inspiration.

These were SO fun to make. But I'll admit the stress of keeping my children from touching every-single-cupcake drove me mad. I'm convinced for every cute cupcake out there, a mom yelled five times. But hey, we got the job done, and overall making these was a positive experience. 

ears: strawberry wafer cookies cut into triangles - use a sharp knife
eyes: brown mini m&m's
noses: pink marshmallows cut in half

Wal-mart was the only place I could find pink marshmallows and strawberry wafers. These would be so cute for a farm party.


Sorting and Organizing Photos - My Goal for 2015

I mentioned that I'm reading Japanese writer, Marie Kondo's book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I'm an avid purger and simplifier, but I needed an extra kick in the pants before the flurry of new stuff comes with Christmas.

The message of the book is to tidy up "in one go", not a little everyday because you will be tidying forever says Kondo. The idea is to clean right, one time over the course of a few weeks or months. This way you catch a vision for order that enables you to actually change your habits and keep your home tidy. Behind all this tidying is the method of discard, discard, discard. We all have too much stuff!

The question Marie asks when deciding whether to keep an item or not is "Does this spark joy?"

Isn't that great? I love that.

* I don't think Marie has children ;) So, I'm reading this book with a grain of salt (or a saltshaker of salt), taking what works for me and leaving what doesn't.

One of my favorite parts of the book was about dealing with photographs. When sorting photos, Marie asks her standard question "Does it spark joy?" about each photograph.

My photos have been piling up on my computer since 2009. I have had so much angst about how to organize them and which ones to print. I once attempted to create photo books, but then got so overwhelmed I've resorted back to regular old photo albums.

So, a big New Year's goal of mine is to sort photos and have them printed in 2015. Before reading this book, I probably would have seen these photos below as ones I'd unlikely print.

But with my new question "Does it spark Joy?" I can boldly say YES and keep blurry crayons, over exposed children on a picnic table, Hello Kitty, and my Tuesday night supper being breathed on by my son.

I'm actually a little excited to tackle photo albums in 2015, feeling joy and not dread! And it's funny how even pictures of inanimate objects spark joy because they remind me of our everyday, ordinary life.


Here is my inspiration post by Soule Mama for how I'm going to FINALLY get my my photos in order. I absolutely love how she prints them with the white boarder.


Also, I use Costco to do all my printing. I think they do a fabulous job.


How do you organize your photos? Are you up to date? Does it stress you out?


The Secret Ingredient to AMAZING Hot Chocolate

I love homemade hot chocolate. It's the only way to go. A packet will suffice in a pinch, but homemade is a delicacy.

Honestly, I re-invent my recipe every year. This year:

serves 1

small handful semisweet chocolate chips
enough water to cover chocolate chips
teeny hint of vanilla
tiny pinch of salt
about 1 cup milk 
and the the secret ingredient, a splash of coffee

In a small sauce pan, melt the chocolate chips in water on medium heat (this allows you to melt your chocolate thoroughly without scalding the milk). Add vanilla and salt. Pour in milk and a splash or two of leftover coffee.

The coffee enhances the chocolate, but does not make the hot chocolate taste like coffee.


I'm sitting here finishing this post, sipping on my hot chocolate, and I just popped over to the blog Habit. A small group of bloggers share captivating photos in their every day life and a one or two sentence thought. I love how mundane, yet beautiful the photos are and how often you can relate to the words even though they don't tell the whole story. It's relaxing.


Also, have you seen this gorgeous wrapping paper on Etsy? I think it would be a great gift itself.


Good Haircut for So Cheap

I got my haircut....for $13.95 + tip. My friend, Jessica, always has the best hair and one day I asked her where and who cut it. She said Billy at Cuts by Us and that she paid almost nothing for it! She told me he used to work at an upscale Aveda salon, but got tired of the drama. I was sold.


I have been bouncing around trying to find someone who I could trust and would not charge $45-$60. Usually I'm in a hurry and want a quick and dry cut.

Anyways, I could not be more thrilled! I'm feeling some ambitious financial goals come January and this new hair guy fits right in line with my 2015 plans.

Let it be noted, I think I look so much more put together with short hair. I don't throw it in a ponytail or top knot... because I can't. And it actually does better if I don't wash it a few days. I'm on day 2 and I think I can definitely go one more day. Such a time saver.

Get a hair cut, keep a hair cut. It's one of my life rules I've slacked on lately.


P.S. I think Old Navy is killing it with the flannel, plaid shirts this year.


Thanksgiving + Christmas

photo credit: my dad

Y'all, we had a great Thanksgiving visiting my family. And now we are home and ready to take on Christmas!

I love the Christmas season, but I do not like to go too crazy schedule-wise, especially with kids. I like to be careful and not let all the hoop-la throw over our normal routines.

Going to bed early, playing outside, reading books, eating our vegetables, and memorizing scripture- it's important to me to keep these things a priority. Mostly, I have selfish motives. My kids just do better when we stay committed to healthy activities.

Promise I'm not a Scrooge. Of course there are plenty of treats! - the tree, Christmas music, fires, hot chocolate, parties, and gifts.

Also, in prep for the flurry of new toys I'm working on a major clean up/ clean out around here. This book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is both hilarious and inspiring.

Praise the Lord, I got most of my Christmas shopping done online on Black Friday. All I have left is a stop at (the cutest!) local bookstore. I want to patronize them and the experience of going in there takes me back in time.
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