Saturday, November 22, 2014

Homemade Hot Cocoa

Several years back, a friend made her own hot cocoa mix.  I was in love!  Forget that Costco size box of packets, around here, we sip our own.  However, the fact that the recipe we were using resulted in "rainbows" in our mugs that reminded us of oil spills, I have been on a quest to alter the recipe a bit while maintaining the yummy taste.  Here's what I have come up with:

Anna's Hot Cocoa mix 

8 cups instant dry milk (one box 26.5oz box)
4 cups powdered creamer (we use hazelnut flavor)
2 lbs powdered sugar
8 oz cocoa powder (one box of Hershey's brand powder is what I used this time!)
2 t salt

I mix it together in the largest Tupperware bowl I own.  My friend actually mixes and stores her in a giant storage tub with lid! Either way, you get the picture - it's a large batch.  But with as yummy as this is, you'll be drinking it every night anyway.  Not exactly sure how many mugs we've polished off already since I made up this batch late this afternoon. 



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Preparing for the holidays with kiddos

It's that time of year: time to prepare for all the holidays!

I got asked to share at my MOMS group about preparing for the holidays with kids.  As I stopped to think about it, I realized that there are quite a few things I do, without even thinking about it! It's been fun to put together a list.

(photo credit: Sweet Something Design)
Whether we admit it or not, most of us probably dream of a home that is filed with festive decor, smells like freshly baked pumpkin bread, and is all nice and tidy.  But that's just my fantasy world - not where I actually live!

Where I live, there are toys on the floor in every room.  Like, even in my closet.  I'm pretty sure they migrate in while I sleep.  And I if I take the time to clean up one room, some disaster is sure to happen in another room, rendering my house worse off than when I started 15 minutes earlier. Unless I have a candle lit - and time to stand guard making sure little fingers don't wander into the flame, my house probably smells like the last meal we ate.  Or the dirty dishes in the sink since I forgot to start the overfilled dishwasher earlier.  So any decor I have out for any given holiday had surely better be kid-friendly.  Or I need to be okay with it being potentially destroyed.

It's just a season.  Deep down, I know it's true.  But it's still a season I've been in for the past 6 years and counting.  A few more years and all will change.  Not that my house will look like Better Homes and Gardens, but the candle might not need guarding.

Now, first of all, I feel like in America, Thanksgiving has become a forgotten holiday.  People get all amped up for Halloween, then cruise right over to preparing for Christmas.  This is totally a bummer to me.  Thanksgiving is such a great time to stop and reflect on all we have to be grateful.  And believe me, we have a ton to be grateful for!  In our house, we have a "Give Thanks" calendar, much like an advent calendar for Christmas. There are 28 pockets- enough to use one each day of November leading up to Thanksgiving.   The pockets of my calendar are filled with verses from the bible on thankfulness. There are more than enough to choose from! Another fun idea is to write what you are thankful for on a slip of paper each day and put it in the coresponding pocket. When you get to Thanksgiving, take them all out and read them.


I love having my house decorated for fall, but having small children does put limits on what I feel I can do.  Most of my decor is quite kid-friendly. I have a set of three pumpkins on the front porch that are fake and have withstood children hucking them down the steps and across the yard. 


I have three more pumpkins on the stairs that are plush. Those, my friends, are the kinds of pumpkins you need! Cute, but no disasters waiting to happen.


We have been checking Thanksgiving themed books out from the library as well. The library is such a great resource- use it!  Take the opportunity to teach your kids about the holidays we celebrate and why! You can choose cute little picture books, or go with non-fiction depending on your preference. Even Fancy Nancy has a thanksgiving-themed book. 

As you prepare for Thanksgiving, there are plenty of craft options for keeping your kiddos busy. You can always paint some pumpkins and keep them around after Halloween. Kids generally love to paint! You can help them make toilet paper roll turkeys, or let them help make place cards for Thanksgiving dinner. 

Next up: CHRISTMAS! 

What kiddo isn't excited about Christmas?! They labor over their long lists of wants and dream of what they will find under the tree. They love the music, the lights, the magic of it all. And they love getting their little hands on EVERYTHING. They want to unwrap the presents. To rearrange all the ornaments on the tree. And they definitely want to play with the "dolls" that are part of the fragile nativity set handed down from your great-grandma. So what do you do?

Let me tell you.

First of all, when you decorate the tree, make a felt tree and ornaments for your little one to play with. They can rearrange the ornaments over and over to their little heart's content. There's always the option of not decorating the bottom 2 feet of the tree too (which I think is the route we will be going this year!) We used that same method a few years ago when Sweet Pea was one...if you look closely at the photo, you can see the ornaments start several feet off the ground.


At my house, we always have an Advent calendar. For ours, we use verses that, over the course of the month, tell the story of Jesus' birth. Some people use candy or a calendar of activities to take you through the month of December. A couple of years ago, we tried something different- I wrapped 24 books and we used those to help us count down to Christmas. Each night the girls got to open one, and that became the bedtime story for that night. They loved it!


As for a creche, I have one that I get out and put down low just for the kids to play with.  Ours is a wooden one that is very sturdy, but even Little Tykes has a Little People one that is great for kids.  Having one for the kiddos to play with allows them to play and learn without destroying the family heirloom one!

There are lots of ways to make the Christmas season feel magical for your kiddos.  One idea I stumbled across this past week was to "grow candy canes" with them.  What fun!  My girls are pretty skeptical, so I don't know if they will buy it, but I would love to try! We have also watched a snowman "grow" at our house.  I found an awesome set of wall decals, sort of like these, at Walmart a few years ago.  Multiple pieces were missing, so we had to say goodbye to our snowman this past year, but I'm working on an idea to bring him back! Each night while the children were sleeping, I added a new part to our snowman on the wall.  We started with the three round circles to make the body, then added eyes, nose, mouth, arms, mittens, buttons, a hat....  It was a lot of fun.  And the girls had a blast checking to see what our snowman had gained overnight each morning when they woke up.

There are tons of fun craft projects you can do with your kids around Christmas time too. You can use toilet paper rolls to make reindeer, snowmen, and a nativity scene. You can use puffy paint to make snowflakes that will stick to windows. If you are ready for some scissor practice, you can make paper snowflakes together, or work on cutting out circles for snowpeople. And there are plenty of things you can make with your children to use as gifts for friends and family. Stay posted for more ideas of gifts to make with your kids, hopefully coming later this week!





Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pumpkin Patch




We did it. We braved the weather and headed to the pumpkin patch. And not just any pumpkin patch- we headed to the famed Sauvie Island. We had never been before, and I had no idea how long it would take. Turns out, it definitely takes longer than we anticipated. But the girls were good sports and we all had a blast! 

We met up with cousins and had a great time connecting with them. We all agreed that it's crazy it's taken nearly 10 years for us to get our act together and be intentional about hanging out. Afterall, they live fairly close by and also have three girls, not too different in age from ours. We wore the littlest two, while the other four had a great time scampering around together! 


Hay rides, pumpkins, a quickly abandoned trip into the corn maze, hot dogs, and roasted corn.  Mud puddles, a giant pig, laughter, and fun. A great day. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fancy Nancy in real life

This morning I saw my life through a different lens.  For the first time, I realized that I was living in a Fancy Nancy book.

I mean, I've had fleeting thoughts of it before, but today it was blazingly obvious.

Gracie was playing the part of JoJo, the little sister.  JoJo is often depicted wearing overalls and it can be difficult to tell her gender.  Sweet little Gracie girl was wearing jeans and a green top.  No bow in the hair, no darling little shoes.  Just some white socks and she ran around with her hair in her eyes just the way she prefers.

Then there is "Mom."  She is always wearing jeans.  As I looked at myself, I realized I had on jeans, a sweatshirt, and runners.  Yep, I was practically her clone.

And then there is the infamous Fancy Nancy.  Ribbons, ruffles, jewels, and all things extremely girly.  She wants to be fancy.   Before me sat miss Sweet Pea.  Plum colored velvet skinnies, bubble gum pink ruffled shirt with a purple ruffled sweater.  A necklace and matching bracelet made of zebra striped and pink sparkly beads.  Pale pink glittery shoes.  Oh, and a tiara on her head.  And she was informing me she was dressed to go to the grocery store.



So that's what we did.  We loaded up and went to the grocery store.  Just. Like. That.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cheesy Tomato Pasta Bake

I tried a new recipe recently, and I really like how it turned out!  I found it on pinterest (of course!), but revamped it a little and re-worked it since the measurements were in grams and temperatures in Celsius.  Time to Americanize this one, and alter for my family!



Cheesy Tomato Pasta Bake

One box of dried rigatoni
1 small container of cherry tomatoes
2-3 t garlic granules
2-3T olive oil
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded cheddar
seasoning to taste

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Boil water and cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than recommended.
Drain pasta and transfer to a greased (use some of the olive oil) 9x13 pan or casserole dish.
Dice up the tomatoes and add to the dish.
Mix in shredded mozzarella, garlic granules, and any seasoning.
Drizzle remaining olive oil over the top.
Top with shredded cheddar.
Bake for 25-30 minutes - until bubbling in places.


Enjoy!





Thursday, October 23, 2014

Remember what's important

Tune my heart to sing Thy praise.
May I be a blessing to those around me today.

Whether I have anything to "show" for my day, whether I make a single dime.  May I remember Whose I am and Who I am choosing to live for.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Me" time



Wait, are you telling me this isn't what your feet look like every night? Sad. I mean, the kiddos need a bath anyway. And when you are this mama, you just don't get a lot of me time. So I've leaned to make the most of bathtime. Fill up (to the ankles- don't want it to get too deep for the littles) that giant soaker tub I never have time to soak in, load in the kiddos, add a splash of toys, and enjoy. At least until they dump a cup of water in your lap.