Holiday Giveaway!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

This time of year most days I am up to my eye balls in kid activities and trying to get all this "holiday stuff" accomplished  You know what I'm talking about, lugging the kids to the holiday play practice, getting the kids dressed up and smiling for those holiday cards, baking stuff for the traditional nights, baking cookies for and wrapping them cute to give to people, decorating the house, making sure outside timers are making the lights go on...all this "stuff" in addition to the daily craziness. It's enough to drive anyone insane. BUT! I keep telling myself I will get it all done and when I do it will be worth it :) Most of this "holiday stuff" I absolutely adore, just not all at once ;)

One thing I do love about the holidays is that they bring about lots of giveaways! And how fun for the person who wins this! They could make some adorable gifts for next year-- or if they happen to be amazing for this year ;)

My sister has some amazing fabric and happens to be hosting a giveaway till this Saturday  So enter now for your chance to win!!! CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

It's officially the day before Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Can you believe it's here?! Some of you might be filled with dread. My tips for you are try to breathe slowly, make a check list (I love checking off check lists...even if it says to just put slippers on, check!) and remember that the whole reason for having friends and family over is to make memories and reminisce about those good 'ol times. Keep in mind there are a lot of people in your same situation and I always say the worst thing is for a host to get so frazzled that they miss out on the fun of the event.

Even though I typically make a lot of food, rolls and pies from scratch, it's ok to have help. This year we are traveling for Thanksgiving, so our families pies will be from the great baker Costco. Definitely not the same as my homemade. If you are looking for some last minute pie tips, my sister spilled a few of our family secrets here:

If making a pie today is not in your plans - thats fine! We all have our physical and mental limitations. The important thing is our family (or maybe its friends that will be with you) will be together this thanksgiving and I know my kids will be asking who gets the turkey legs. I hope you all have a wonderful thanksgiving!

With Love,

Re-post: Turkey Wrangling

Monday, November 19, 2012

This year we will be visiting family this Thanksgiving  so I was able to bypass all the crazy planning and prep cooking. But in honor of all of you that have to cook I thought I'd re-post one of my favorite thanksgiving posts. Here is an oldie but a goodie from one of my first thanksgivings.

Here's the issue with the Thanksgiving turkey.... it is THE Thanksgiving turkey. It is the main focus point of the meal. You spend hours on end slaving away in the kitchen over side dishes and deserts all to complement a big chunk of meat. I mean, think about it- if you burn the turkey, that kinda ruins this whole meal that you literally have spent a month preparing and hours prepping for. It's kinda scary to most people to put that much pressure on one piece of meat!

Yes, even after doing this many years, it is still intimidating to me. Not to mention the whole "prepping" the turkey.
Here's what goes through my mind on Thanksgiving morning:
How the heck am I going to rinse this awkard lump of meat that weighs an insane 24 pounds ! Um...o.k. So I'm dangling this in my sink and trying to control where the faucet is hitting the turkey while trying to not drop it. It's freezing too! It's been thawed out in the fridge and happens to be very cold. And it's slippery! Oh crap, totally just dropped it- hope that didn't bruise it or tear the skin. This thing is bigger than a kid! It'd be easier to hug this thing and rinse- but eeew. Well, do I have another shirt? Ok, bad idea. Ok, got most of it rinsed by this point. Oh darnit, the turkey just hit the faucet- mental note: Disinfect that when I have to disinfect the sink later. And, LIFT. And then try to gently set this monster of an obese bird on a roasting rack. Phew. Now just pat dry.....and thoroughly scrub myself and the sink and possibly floor where water went splashing everywhere. Now yell at the dog to not lick the water on the floor, dangit that's going to make him sick. Kids!
No running in here! Don't come over here!...... When do I get to open the wine?!

Here's the good part- it turned out perfect! After I patted it dry I rubbed it down with a salt/herb mix and slathered with butter and olive oil. It was soooo good. Yay for a successful turkey roasting!

My little project- a mantle

So when I think of Christmas I think of stockings hung above the fire....ok, stop there. Until a week ago I couldn't do that. Our house was built without a mantle! And the people who built it, made a cut out right next to the fireplace. Probably for a desk or something. Buuuut since the cutout is there it means that there is a sharp corner by our fireplace. Really annoying because all pre-made mantles that you can buy at the home improvement stores get larger at the top so they'd hang over the side. So I had to make a custom mantle.

My inspiration came from this blog:

And I'm sooooo happy with how it turned out! Here is a walk though of how I did it.

I cut the boards to the size I needed and made a simple rectangle without a back

I filled in all the nail holes with wood putty and then I stained it :)

Because I had to wait for the stain to dry this is a 2 day project. I used Dark Walnut from Minwax and did approximately 2 coats.

Next step was to screw a 2x4 into the studs above my fireplace. This is where measuring the size of your mantle that you made is important. The mantle slides over this piece and is nailed in. So measure 2x before you screw in the 2x4! The little pieces in front are just for extra support for the top piece of the mantle.

And here she is! Because I took the pic almost straight on it looks like it hangs over, but it is flush with the little corner. It doesn't hang over the sides :)

It really wasn't too hard and it wasn't very expensive. Total came in under $45. So go ahead! Give it a shot!

Getting into the Halloween Spirit!

Monday, October 22, 2012

We are about a week away from Halloween! And I'm sorry to say I'm a bit behind in October posts. We've been battling the sickies at our house :( But we are in the full BOO spirit now! And if you aren't I have some great ideas to get you in the spirit!

1. BOO your neighbors!

Now I don't mean hide in your bushes and wait till they get home. Instead gift them with a little pail of goodies and a cute ghost on their door. You can pick up a jack-o-lantern plastic pail at Walmart for $1. Fill with some candies, pencils, fall soap for adults? Or a candle for a mom? Some glow sticks and erasers are great for kids.
Boo sign Template

2. Get Batty

When I think of a spooky Halloween night I think of a cold dark night accented with some screeches of bats flying across the sky. But how do you bring that spooky magical feeling into your own house? And with out adding in anything so scary it'll give your 5 year old nightmares? My answer is cutouts :)

I just love these bat silhouettes hanging down over our kitchen table. I cut the bats out of black card stock and attached them to one another with a piece of black string. Then I hung them from the chandelier. I think it's so fun and my kids just love it!  

My scanner has decided to hate me this week so I'm having some trouble creating templates for my crafts. I took a picture of the bat I used on a background of white paper. If you print this bat out it'll give you a good template to trace so you can make your own hanging bats. I'm almost 100% sure that this was originally a Martha Stewart Halloween craft idea, but I think she removed since she's now selling packs of her bats in stores. Well, I'm one of those people who love to look through her magazines for ideas, but I'll never go out and spend 15 dollars when it's a paper cut out. This is so easy to do at home, you have to try it! Notice the "fur" around the head of the bat, a very cute detail!

3. Spooky Windows

I did large window decorations that can be easily seen from the street. I went to a teacher's supply store and purchased 12 foot long black paper that's 2 feet wide. I flipped it on it's back and drew out a picket fence. 

I then drew a cat to go on the picket fence....and some bats in the "sky" above the picket fence. Anyway, you get the idea. You can draw or trace out a spooky scene on the flip side of the black paper. Then you cut out your scene. 
Here I am just beginning to cut :)

I have pull down black out curtain on those windows so I taped the scenes to that. But if you do not have anything on your windows I suggest taping it (with painters tape) to tissue paper so light can shine through! It'll create a very spooky effect. Although if it is for a kid's room maybe something a bit sturdier such as a sheet or even a large piece of white paper. It's so simple and so fun!

4. Get Crafty

I picked up some of the $1.00 masks at my local craft store and decided to start painting them for the kids. I finished the Frankenstein one and the kids have looooooved it! 

Throwing a Jungle Party- Part 4: Planning the table

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Now that the house is in order it's time to figure out the goodies. I wanted the food to be jungle-ish for the kids. Here's some pics of the kid table (some of the adult guests really wanted to eat at the kid table)...

Here's the Monkey Mash: 
 Monkey Mash is banana pudding with layers of Vanilla Waffers crumbled in the pudding. Topped with a Vanilla Waffer and Whipped Cream. Spoons are already in so the kids can just grab and go...

Fruit Kabobs:
 Basically because eating anything off a kabob is more fun. REALLY IMPORTANT NOTE: Take heavy duty scissors and clip the pointy part of the kabob off. We don't want anyone getting hurt.

Cheetah Crunch:
 It's caramel popcorn with chocolate drizzle in individual little cones. To make the cones I just rolled up a square like a trumpet and pulled it in a few places till I got a cone. Than I hot glued it to hold it's shape. The cones are standing in a Styrofoam rectangle. I pre-punched holes in the Styrofoam and covered with white paper and ribbon.

On the right side of the table we have Toasted Coconut Marshmallow Pops and Grass Pops (Marshmallow dipped in chocolate which is than covered in green sprinkles) ....Also notice the worm bowl :)
 The Toasted Coconut Marshmallows I was lucky enough to find bagged and ready to go at Walmart. Phew! One less thing to do :)

Here's a snap of the adult area:
 For the adults I made:
*BLTA sandwich triangles. Toasted in a panini press for nice grill lines
*Chicken Ceasar Salad wraps. It's basically the salad wrapped in tortillas
*Pasta Salad with cucumber, feta, tomato, olives and olive oil --yummy
*Veggie Tray - handmade - just keep empty veggie tray platters. It's so much cheaper than the store bought and your guests get a lot more veggies!
* I also put out some trail mixes for people to munch on...

Throwing a Jungle Party, Part 3: Leaves & Vines

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I think this deserves an entire post to itself because creating vines and cutting out a LOT of leaves takes a LOT of time. The great thing is this can be done while watching TV ;)

To create vines, I purchased a large role of brown packing paper, it weighs about 50lbs! This is a serious role of paper. It's only about 2-3 feet wide, but it goes on for 1400 feet or something crazy like that. This can be purchased online or at a UPS store. I unrolled about 10-12 feet and cut it from it's roll. Than I grabbed one end, bunched it together and started rolling it in one direction. Very important not to switch direction- it will unravel. I continued rolling and crimping every few feet to keep it secure until the end. You have to use nails or some heavy duty tape to stick it to your walls because this will be fairly heavy. I hung one across our kitchen by tying some twine to our cabinet hinges. I than tied the twine to the vines and it stayed for over a week! Consider tying it to a curtain rod 

caution: make sure your curtain rod, or whatever you tie it to, is stable and secure and will not fall and cause injury. 

I did this a week in advance, both to make sure the vines would stay, but also because it could be done in advance. Why not do it as early as possible so its one thing checked off your list?

After the vines were literally hung throughout the house, I cut the leaves. I used two different colors of green paper. Regular printing paper or construction paper will work for this. It doesn't have to be thick paper. Using my template I cut out the leaves. I folded them in half while cutting to make sure they were symmetrical and to give the leaf a nice crease! I probably cut over 100 leaves. I used them on the vines and I laid them out on the different tables. They added a nice decorative touch. 

Throwing a Jungle Party, Part 2: Hydration prep

Now we enter the not so fun prep work... My best suggestion is to put on some music you love and just buckle down and do it. I took frequent breaks so as not to have cramping in my hands or back. I suggest you do this too. Even if you don't feel like you need a 5 minute break, getting up and walking around...maybe getting yourself a glass of water will really help you out when you are 2 hours into a project.

Now these projects are very straight forward but they are redundant...and I really don't like redundancy. But the end result is worth it!

Step 1: Create your labels (this part was actually kinda fun)
     - I just used Microsoft word to creat my labels. I picked a background image and added a text box
     - when I needed a really long background image I just enlarged the image on my screen. You can either
       cut away any excess background or you can insert blank clip art boxes (with out border lines) to create
       the blank space needed. 

Once you have your labels cut to the size you need, you are ready for the hot glue gun! Here is a pic of my assembly station:

I removed the straws from the juice boxes (keep them sealed in the wrapper- so don't yank them off too quickly). Than I wrapped my paper around the box to line it up and create nice creased edges. I hot glued one edge to the box, don't worry it won't melt through. Than just wrap the label around and hot glue the other edge to seal the label on. On the back of the label I used just a dab of hot glue to reattach the sealed straws. 

With the water bottles, I removed the previous water label and left any sticky residue (Walmart water bottles have GREAT sticky residue!) on to help grip the label. Than I wrapped the label around and used hot glue to glue the paper label to itself. Ta-da! Customized and simple. 

The last thing I did was make "Elephant Sneeze" which are basically mist bottles and if you turn the nozzle (as the kids quickly did) they become squirt bottles. You can find these in the laundry section of Walmart for $0.97 . And they make cute take home gifts. Where we live it is quite warm in July and these little squirt bottles were a hit. It's easy for little kids to grip, they don't run out and they won't crack and break like some of the cheap squirt guns. I don't know if you've ever had a kid excited about a squirt gun- just to fill it and it's leaking everywhere and won't work. That can cause a major melt down in my house. So these were perfect! I used similar labels as the water bottles, but in a different color scheme. I placed them in a galvanized bucket for a cute table piece and they are good to go! 

TIP: You might want to consider wrapping your label in clear packing tape to seal it. After an intense water fight some of my labels were soggy and torn.

The "Savana Water Hole" 

Throwing a Jungle Party: Part 1, Party Favors

This year my son asked me for an animal theme birthday party. My response: "Animal?....That's a really broad theme....can we narrow it down some?" My son: "....Well....ok....I really like lizards."
And that was the start of it. To be honest, I probably could have done a lizard party, but I'm really not a huge fan of all the reptiles, so I just did the whole jungle- lol! Here are some ideas for a great party, and let me tell you it was great! The kids had a blast!

First things first, when throwing a party, there is a lot of prep work. The first things I made were the favors. I knew that my hubby and I were gifting a bearded dragon to our son, so I thought 'how fun would it be to send a lizard home with everyone?' Now... I would never REALLY do that to other parents. I would never be forgiven- lol! But a plastic, realistic looking one would totally do the trick! Now, to package it to make it look real :) How about white little boxes, stamped with the words LIVE ANIMAL and FRAGILE. I also punched little air holes and tied it with twine.

On the inside I put shredded brown paper and the thank you.... along with the lizard of course. I bought a 12 pack of lizards off Amazon. I specifically purchased assorted plastic PVC Toy Lizards set of 12 (if you click on this link I'll take you right to them)  for $4.35. DEAL! And since we have Amazon prime, shipping was free, and tax free :) Love stuff like that! On the inside of the box, I wrote a little thank you poem. Any type of thank you note adds a personal touch to the favor. This is also a great way to customize it to fit your party. Here was mine:

"Thank you for spending your day with me. I hope it was fun -- as fun as could be!
Please remember to take care of your lizard in the very best way.
(Remember that lizards really like to play)
When you spot your lizard hiding in your dresser, possibly making it even messier...
Please don't scream out in surprise "this is not ok"...but instead remember the great time we had today!"

These were such a hit with the kids! One of the kids even jumped when they opened it- I guess these little lizards really do look real!

TIP: Once you place your lizard in the box, do not tip it over, the paper and lizards will get all tangled up and will not be as cute when opened. 

A new white board

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

When I think of a typical school room, I think of a big white board. How big of a white board do I really need for a homeschool classroom? Well, recently a dear friend of mine gifted me with a white board. It is a decent size white board, maybe 3 feet by 2 feet? It quickly filled up and is now our family message board in the upstairs hallway. So my hubby took me to Lowe's where we found a humongous white board. No joke, it is 8 feet by 4 feet. Hmmm... I think this will do just fine :) It is also known as flat tile board and runs around $10 for an 8'x4' piece. If you don't have a wall big enough for an 8' long whiteboard, the helpful employees at Lowe's can cut it for you! Just think, you could make whiteboard table tops for your class! 

Ok, so here is how we installed our whiteboard:

We purchased an 8'x4' piece of plywood (this was about $15) and applied a layer of liquid nails. The plywood is to keep the whiteboard from warping or curving. If your wall isn't 100% flat and square, your whiteboard will show it. 

Next we carefully lined up the white board on top and gently pushed it on. Next we flipped the whiteboard/plywood over and put some heavy objects on it to weigh it down so the whiteboard would adhere to the plywood.


We put the whiteboard facing down so that we wouldn't scratch the surface....I guess we also could have put a blanket on it....buuuut we didn't think of that at the time. 

Once the whiteboard and plywood were one piece. We held up our board against our wall so we could see how it would look. We also marked out the studs where we were going to be screwing into. NOTE: This is heavy and I would recommend screwing it into studs in your wall. 

(I apologize for the horrible lighting)

Next my hubby pre-drilled some holes, always a good idea. He held the board up to the wall in the right spot and I screwed it in. It honestly was that simple.

My hubby started adding some trim around the board to cover the screw holes. But here it is so far! And yes, it really works! Even the red EXPO dry erase marker comes off easily. Who knew that a huge whiteboard could be so cheap?! I just love projects like this. 

With Love,

Summer Freebies!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Keep those kids active this summer! Turn off the television and give the kids some good old fashioned fun at the bowling lanes! 



At AMF, kids 15 and under can bowl for free all summer. Simply register at and you'll get a weekly voucher for two free games per child per day through September 3. Shoe rental is not included.

Summer is Here! ....But my mind is still on school

Today was my son's last day of school. Actually the last day of public school for him. Next year we are homeschooling. This will be an adventure for us. I think we will be successful and let me tell you why:
*I've always supplemented my son's school curriculum with projects and educational activities at home
*My son has the highest grades in his class
*I love to read and love to learn, which I hope to pass this on to my kids
*We're always doing science
*I love arts and crafts
*I love organization and structure
*More than anyone, I love my children, and I want them to be the best they can be and to succeed

I also have some reason's for feeling justified in pulling my kid from the public school system. We have already encountered bullying this year, twice. My son handled it very well and I am proud of him. But it made an impact on me. Kinda woke me up a little. I do feel really lucky that my son had amazing teachers in public school. I know it isn't always that way, but truly these women gave it there all and you could tell their heart was in it. But I can only imagine how hard it is to teach 32 children at once. One teacher vs 32 kids. Not only that, their budgets keep getting cut. In California, kids only have to go to school 175 days out of the year. That's about 35 weeks. In other states it's about 40. Hmmm... That is quite a difference. I do have some personal reasons for being out of the public school system as well, but they are personal and I believe that everything I've stated is enough.

So to make a long story short, we are entering the wonderful and absolutely crazy and overwhelming world of homeschooling :) And I'm SOOOOOO excited to plan my classroom! I can't even tell you how excited I am. I have ideas popping out of my brain all day long. If you don't homeschool, it's ok, who's to say that you can't incorporate some of these ideas into regular family life? There are some pretty cool idea coming up... like how to get a 8'x4' white board for under $30... that's right, budget friendly too :)

With Love,

It's starting to feel like a farm here...

Monday, May 21, 2012

This past weekend we eagerly welcomed two new members to our family! We adopted 2 kittens from our good friends (who actually do have a farm). We were over there last week and had the most wonderful time. Here is a picture of my son on their zip line... He absolutely LOVED it!

But without further ado... Meet our sweet, snuggle loving "Minnie"

And our sweet, silly, adventurous "Daisy"

We fell head over heels for these two. Aren't they cute?? 

We have trouble putting them down long enough to let them explore and play. Even our good boy Seuss has taken to them.

It's so funny, my husband and I find ourselves watching them play. We just sit there and watch them like we're little kids. It's nice to have something new to break up the day to day. And I have a feeling these two will keep Seuss on his toes for quite a while.

I hope you all are keeping cool. It was 97 today here- *gah!!* And of course our air conditioning compressor died.... All I have to say is I'm so very grateful for fans! ...And popsicles :)

From my home to yours, with love,

Spring recap

Monday, May 14, 2012

When last we chatted, I was preparing for spring break, our first Passover (ever), my hubby's birthday and my little brother's graduation, in addition to my grandparents visiting from Pennsylvania and my mother in laws birthday... Oh and Easter... Hmmmm.... anything else? Oh, I started homeschooling my daughter. Yea, no big deal, haha! Sheesh it has been a crazy April! And I'm so glad it's May. Now I can get back into the swing of life.

Here's our fuzzy family pic at Passover:

Side note, the laundry detergent and softener have been working great for me. I hope you have enjoyed them too!

Some of our chickens have started to lay eggs. It's been lots of fun going to the coop and discovering eggs in the boxes. It's almost like receiving a yummy little gift every morning. And they are yummy!

For my husband's birthday he wanted a tattoo cake. I can honestly say I've never done one of those before. First I covered his cake in a buttercream fondant. Than I used a paintbrush (one only used for food) and food coloring and painted the tattoos on. But I found these great markers in the baking section at Walmart that are made for writing on food. So our kids took a side of the cake and decorated it for Daddy :) They were so proud and it was very sweet. And simple! You should try it!

I was never super into gardening until I moved here. But since moving here I've been an avid gardener. I've planted all sorts of fruit trees, which are still living! Yay! But most exciting has been the corn, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelons, carrots, tomatoes and sunflowers. Corn was something I never really thought much about trying to grow. I thought you needed a big open field to grow it. Well... It turns out that corn loves my yard. It has flourished and is over a foot tall now. I promise you every day I walk in the garden it seems like it's grown's like a teenager! lol! It's been fun for the kids to watch too. Our corn and sunflowers are having a race to see who grows the tallest and fastest.  Here is my corn, fingers crossed it actually produces some good ears!

What a crazy month and a half it has been... remind me not to plan so much next March-April! Good thing May is looking more relaxing. Speaking of relaxing, I hope all you mother's out there had a wonderful mother's day! My day was wonderful, but looking back I have to admit, every day is pretty wonderful. I can't imagine spending my days with better people or in a better place. 

feeling truly blessed :) 

With love, from my home to yours,