Green Little Leprechauns

It seems as though on March 17 (and the days surrounding), everyone becomes Irish. Green is worn with pride. Parades become a family tradition. Corned beef, cabbage, and Irish soda bread adorns dinner tables. I’m proud to have Irish blood in me and I love to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I love it even more now that I have kids. Here are some ideas to make your St. Patrick’s Day a little more fun and a little more green!

Leprechaun Traps

IMG_7200This week, we worked extremely hard on our leprechaun traps. This became more of a thing for us when my kids entered school. I remember doing it with my students, but it’s way more fun to see your own kids at work. All you need is a box. It can be as small or as big as you can handle. My oldest started hers in school and brought it home and worked on it for another 2 days! Some traps are covered completely in green, maybe painted or wrapped in paper. Ours were simple and decorated with favorite stickers. Crayons and paint markers are our favorite decorating tools in our house and were also out, but my kids seemed to stick with stickers.

IMG_7203You set the traps the night before St. Patrick’s Day and put something inside you think the leprechauns would like. Some suggestions: anything gold/shiny, picture of a rainbow, a pretend leprechaun. Set the traps and kids go to bed. When they wake up, the traps are closed and inside may be a leprechaun, but in most cases, they are too sneaky and fast to catch and instead they leave behind candy or chocolate. Ours left behind notes, too.

Mischievous Behavior

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Leprechauns are known for their mischievous behavior. In my classroom, the kids would come in to overturn garbage cans, green footprints on the floor and up the walls, lots of glitter, things put in the wrong place, and green toilets. They are not AS messy at home, in our case. We wake up to a green toilet and a few green footprints on the toilet seat. Some friends woke up to green milk or green eggs, footprints on highchair trays, and books knocked off shelves. There is no changing food or drink colors in my house as I believe my kids won’t eat or drink anything green and I hate the idea of wasting food, even for a day, so maybe one day this will be in our routine, but for now, it’s just a little green on the toilet.

Erin go Bragh

No matter how big or little your St. Patrick’s Day traditions are, may you find a little Irish in your self today. May you find luck and good fortune.

May you always have…
Walls for the winds 
A roof for the rain 
Tea beside the fire 
Laughter to cheer you 
Those you love near you 
And all your heart might desire.

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(photo credit: my lovely momma on her trip to Ireland a few years ago)

 

I decided NOT to give up something for Lent

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It’s that time of year, where many people are giving up chocolate, coffee, swearing, whatever it is they choose to give up for a 40 day period called Lent. I remember growing up and the biggest “sacrifice” for most of my school aged friends was chocolate. I never seemed to have the will-power to give it up for the whole 40 days and eventually I stopped trying.

In my wise old age, I have decided to return to this Lenten ritual, but doing something a little differently. Yesterday, I was chatting with some of my MOPS friends at our meeting and I was saying that I decided to not necessarily “give up” something but to do something which will cause me to give up something. I always look to Lent as my second chance– my second chance to recommit myself to that New Year’s resolution I have already put on the back burner.

I’m running a lot of things through my head and this is where I’m at:

  • Saying “yes” to my kids. This means putting the dishes on hold or that tedious thing I need to do to play 15 minutes with my kids because they are asking me to or giving in once in a while to that random request like eating ice cream for breakfast.
  • Before I react to something my kids are doing that is driving me crazy, counting to 10 to refocus myself.
  • Waking up 20 minutes earlier to get in a quick workout or to start my day off with some quiet meditation.
  • Putting a REAL timer on electronic use in our house.
  • Taking 15 minutes to either read the Bible or do the rosary.

I’m hoping I can commit to one or more of these and hopefully become a better mom, wife, friend, daughter and to take away some of my shortfalls. What will you be committing yourself to for the next 40 days?

The New Year’s Resolution

It’s that time of year. A new year is about to begin and we start thinking of ways to make ourselves and our lives better. Maybe you want to head to the gym. Maybe you want to eat healthier, drink more water, be more patient, love more, stress less…… It’s a huge deal to do any of these things and if you are anything like me, I think I can just do it starting January 1 and forget all my bad habits. Then when January 5th comes around, I am already disappointed in myself and everything goes out the window.

This year, I am vowing to be happier and calmer. Dealing with a deployed husband and two young kids, this is something I am very much struggling with, but something that I can’t just turn my back on. It’s more for the two little ones who must deal with me every day than for me, and I am hoping that it helps make it stick a little longer.

Here is a list of things I am hoping will help, but I am no expert and these are not necessarily scientifically-proven, they are just reminders for myself and maybe you can find some value in it as well:

  1. WRITE! Write your fears, frustrations, accomplishments, failures, gratitudes– everything. This is something I am doing not only with this blog but with a journal I have at home as well. A dear friend of mine gave me a journal to write it while my husband was gone. It was something she did during her husband’s deployments. I also saw somewhere to keep a gratitude journal which is a great concept but we all have so many emotions and things going on in our lives that affect us. I find that if I can write it down on paper (or screen), it’s like talking to a best friend about it. Sometimes you need to let it out for it to affect you less. Writing has been an excellent outlet for me. It allows me time to reflect  and process everything and not overreact. Starting in the new year, I may create a section just to write down only happy memories from each day so when I have extremely hard days, there is something I can go to easily and relive those.
  2. BREATHE! Take a deep breath, hold it for a second, and release slowly. This seems like a no brainer, but how many times do we actually heed this advice? When I am about to scream at the top of my lungs at my kiddos, I myself need a timeout. I need to find the calm in the crazy and not reduce myself to a toddler/preschool level of tantruming. If all it takes is 10 seconds of breathing to find even the smallest glimmer of calm, it is worth it than my kids crying because I overreacted about them picking up toys.seriouslybreathe.gif
  3. ALONE TIME! Give yourself 10 minutes of alone time. Yes, WAY easier said than done. I used to get decent alone time before my kids woke up where I was able to start my day with a little calm (and coffee), but now my kids wake up and snuggle in my bed before we start the day, which I absolutely love! This just means I need to find it somewhere else during my day. For me, my kids rest at around the same time and they are in bed by a decent hour that I can find 10 minutes to myself. Not every family is as lucky as me, but I urge you to find 10 minutes to just be by yourself with no cell phone, no TV, no kids, no adults. Even if it means you take the dog for a walk when our spouse gets home or drive a letter to the post office instead of putting it in your mailbox, find 10 minutes to just be with yourself. Maybe you can only get 5 minutes locked in the bathroom (just try to start your 5 minutes after the banging on the door for you stops), or your drive home from school drop-off- find time with no distractions to allow your brain to process your day.
  4. CUT OUT TOXIC PEOPLE! Do you have a neighbor or “friend” who just rubs you the wrong way and every time you encounter them, you feel anxious and frustrated, cut them out. Trust me, this is another WAY easier said than done, but it will allow you to rid of that spitefulness you hang on to every time you see them and you will feel your heart and your attitude lighten up because they aren’t there bringing it down. Now, if you are like me and as connected by so many people through so many different avenues (clubs, Facebook groups, meet-up groups), you may not be able to cut someone out entirely. My best advice is to participate in whatever it is you are involved in pretending they aren’t there. Don’t allow their presence to shy you away from anything. Allow your presence be known and do your best to continue to be yourself and try to block out anything that is toxic to you.
  5. GO MEDIA FREE! Put your cellphone on silent and in a different room, turn off the TV, close the laptop. This can be combined with your 10 minutes to yourself, BUT wouldn’t it be something if everyone could put away all electronics and media for 2 hours at the end of the day when everyone is getting home from work and school and just be a family?! This is something I need to do better myself. I am so glued to FB and I absolutely hate it. I don’t want my kids to only know me with a phone in my hands. I am in a little bit of a predicament as we wait for my husband’s call and I don’t know if we will get one or not each day so my phone stays close, but I have to be better about not opening it up every 30 seconds and checking other people’s lives. I definitely have the FOLO– Fear of Losing Out, and I am going to do my best to leave in 2016.783a2a9c4b4524b5fe5673267d6f1ede
  6. DO GOOD! Every week, do a random act of kindness. Random acts of kindness do not need to cost you anything. You can give a compliment to a complete stranger. You help someone load their car with groceries. You can allow someone to pull out in front of you or give someone the spot both of you are competing for. If you have a little extra change, pay for the person behind you at the drive-thru. Send a handwritten letter to someone. Pay for another table’s meal. Take a bag of popcorn to the Redbox. Take a quarter to the gumboil machine. Whatever little thing you do, it may make you feel silly, but it will also make you feel good inside.

There are so many other things you can do to try to be a better, happier, calmer you. Getting more sleep, giving yourself a break, reminding yourself how important you are, surrounding yourself with the right people, planning a getaway, doing one thing for yourself everyday, loving the person you see in the mirror. All of these are true and wonderful pieces of advice. I hope the 6 things I laid out for you though are simple things that everyone can incorporate into their lives. We all want to be happy. We all want to live calmer, in the present, lives. Try these out and see if they make a difference for your 2017 self.

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“Stress-free” Cookies

Being that time of year, many of us are wrapping up some last minute presents. We want to present all the people that make our lives easier with something special. Not all of us can provide the gifts we really want to give so sometimes cookie making is the easiest (and most frugal) way to show our appreciation, but even THAT can get stressful as it takes quite a bit of time to bake. So I have compiled a little list of some of my favorite cookies that are also pretty low maintenance. Most of them require to be baked in baking dishes (making them more like bars versus the traditional cookie) so you aren’t sitting in the kitchen switching out cookie sheets.

In our family, we call this “Crack.”  Later, we found that it might actually be somewhat the name for these treasures! We call them “Crack” because you can’t just eat just one. Once you start eating these, they are gone. They are also crowd pleasers, super easy to make, and can be somewhat varied to the liking of your recipient.

“Crack” Cookiessaltine-toffee-cannabis-cookies-weedist

  • 1 sleeve of Sunshine Krispy Crackers
  • 1.5 sticks of melted butter
  • 1/2 bag (6 oz) each of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips
  • Choose your topping: 1 cup of chopped walnuts or any other type of nut; sprinkles; chopped candy or mini M&Ms
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet (15×10.5) with foil.
  3. Lay down crackers on pan so they are touching. (You should use 1 full sleeve- breaking last few crackers to completely fill cookie sheet).
  4. Pour melted butter over crackers.
  5. Brown at 400 degrees for approximately 10 min.
  6. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and peanut butter chips on top of crackers.
  7. Return to oven for 1-2 minutes to melt chips.
  8. Spread melted chips over crackers.
  9. Top with desired topping.
  10. Refrigerate for approximately 1 hour.
  11. Break into pieces.

Magic Cookie Bars (EAGLE Brand recipe)

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  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 and 1/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I am not a big nut fan in my desserts so I opt for holiday M&Ms)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for glass dishes).
  2. Coat a 13×9 inch baking dish with nonstick cookie spray.
  3. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter, then press into bottom of prepared pan.
  4. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture.
  5. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut, and other topping.
  6. Press down firmly with a fork.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
  8. Cool, then cut into bars.
  9. Serve at room temperature.

Pretzel Bites

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  • Bag of festive M&Ms
  • Bag of rolls
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Place as many pretzels as you desire on tray.
  4. Place a rolo on top of each pretzel.
  5. Bake for 3-5 minutes (just enough to slightly melt the role).
  6. Take out of the oven and place an M&M on each roll, pressing down.
  7. Let cool (or stick in fridge for faster results).

I hope you are not like me and just getting to the baking, but if you are, I hope these “cookie” ideas help. They are quick and easy and require one time at the oven which is a plus when you have a busy life and can’t be back and forth every 8-11 minutes. I have eaten and loved each of these and have given all as gifts as well as to potlucks and they are always a hit!!

ENJOY!

LAST minute gift ideas

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Yes, it is that crazy time of year that we all think we have plenty of time to get the perfect gift or to pick it up later and then….. BAM, it’s the last week before your kids are out of school. We quickly write down our lists of the family and friends we like to express our love for and for many of us, we add on the teachers that spend a lot of time with our kids. What do teachers really want? I’m happy to give you valuable, first hand, teacher experience to help you!

Teachers LOVE gifts from the heart and things that will help with their classroom saving them time and money. School supplies, by this time of year, are getting low. You probably think, “I bought 500 sharpened pencils, how could they possibly need more?!” Let me explain. Kids love to erase. Once the eraser is gone, the pencil is no good to them (or really the teacher for that matter).  “Then buy them extra erasers.” Simple, but not practical. Erasers, when not attached to the pencil are just easily lost as their pencil counterparts.

Gift cards are a simple and very much appreciated gift. As a teacher, I treasured gift cards. As a parent, I despise giving them because you feel like you have to give a certain amount to make it worthy of gift giving but that adds up. (Amazon, Walmart and Target are always good choices (and maybe even a little splurge like a favorite coffee place!)

Are school supplies and gift cards not quite your cup of tea? Maybe those are great ideas, but you want a little something more to gift with it? Here are some gifts to present to a teacher that will definitely be appreciated (if not treasured):

  • Framed poem or special quote.
  • Organizational bins (check these out for less than $20 and shipped super quick with Amazon Prime or these which can even be decorated and quickly labeled with some scrapbook letters if you feel crafty!!)
  • Ornaments. I have a few from former students and I think of them every time I place it on my tree. It’s an excellent reminder of them!
  • Edible gifts. This is something I always enjoyed (but maybe not everyone) because I would be able to enjoy it without causing more clutter in my house.
  • Plants. Yes, a nice plant that they can either place in their classroom for a little green cheer or take home.
  • If you are so lucky to be crafty, use that to your advantage and give a teacher something homemade.

 

 

**Full disclosure regarding content on my blog. I share the items I personally love and want to share with others. I would NOT suggest or promote something I have not used myself and that I do NOT believe in.  I am an affiliate with Amazon, so for those items I am making a small amount if you decide to purchase through my site. Much of what I will make, I will be donating to different causes- Wounded Warriors, Fischer House, and other pop-ups throughout the year like Epilepsy research and St. Jude’s Hospital. I plan to use this blog to help give back while also helping my family.

Be a Santa

I love a good giving back story. In the midst of holiday shopping, Salvation Army bucket bell ringing, Toys for Tots, I think sometimes we forget that there are people on the receiving end are real. It’s so easy to just drop off unopened, unwrapped toys or stick a dollar in the red bucket.

I love this story because you can see the kids Campbell is helping and how they are effected by his kindness and heart.  While I feel like I am doing something when donating items or money, I find the most rewarding efforts are giving to someone directly.  Finding a family and providing a little extra help (anonymously or not- depending on your relationship).

I have stated before that in our house, our Elf on the Shelf provides my kiddos with random acts of kindness during his stay with us. My oldest is only 4.5, but she is starting to understand the idea of helping others, even if we don’t get recognition for it, and how it makes us feel. She has embraced the idea of doing nice things for others. One of our recent  endeavors was to pick a toy she really wanted and instead of her getting it, we wrapped it up and will be delivering to a friend. She picked the toy, picked the friend, and will help me deliver it! I thought she would be sad that she didn’t get the toy, but her face lit up when she realized she was going to make someone else happy.

This is all helping in the upcoming years when the idea of Santa changes. I am teaching my kiddos how to be a Santa as they get older. In our house, we will take the transition from Santa believing to skepticism with grace. I will sit down with each child and explain that Santa is not just one man but a group of generous people all around the world. Santa lives among us everyday and brings joy and love to others during the holiday season and the jolly man in the red suit is just a representation of those group of people. It will be the time that they will join the ranks of the other Santas and start to spread joy and love themselves.

In this season of giving, be a Santa. Remember your neighbors, maybe a struggling family in your kids’ school, or ask friends if they know anyone who needs a little extra help.

Some easy, inexpensive ways to help:

  • Provide a meal
  • Wrap up some warm gloves, socks, and hats for someone
  • Wrap and deliver an age appropriate present to be added to their holiday celebrations
  • Drop a grocery or gas gift card in their door
  • Donate a gently used coat to a local family
  • Provide a few cups of dog or cat food to help with the furry friends in their home
  • Provide a basket of favorite snacks

This year, don’t just wait for Santa to come, be a Santa to someone else.

Holiday Spirit

Today I felt truly in the holiday spirit. It’s been a little tough with my husband gone and we have had our Christmas tree up since Halloween to celebrate a little Christmas before he left, but that is all we had. We usually hang lights outside with moving reindeer, hang garland and lights over the doorways inside, hang our stockings along the railing, and place all kinds of trinkets around the house. Until yesterday, we still just had a tree. I knew I was going to keep it a little more low key this year, but I was struggling and needed to do something a little more.

Last night, I quickly pulled things out in anticipation of some company. I got out the Advent calendar, my kids stockings and placed them on some unused stocking hangers, Santa’s key and bell, and our trusted elf. It started to feel a little more like Christmas.  It’s been nice, and calming.

Then, today– I was in full crafting Christmas mode. I made my daughter’s teachers’ Christmas gifts and changed my seasonal chalkboard. I felt accomplished!

So let’s first start with the Christmas gift. I am pretty proud of myself with it. It wasn’t my original thought for a gift, but I saw a similar one in my friend’s house and thought it was perfect. I decided to make a holiday card holder. Let me tell you, it was one of the easiest things I’ve made. All it took was a wooden plaque from Michaels, along with some gold glittery scrapbook letters, snowflake stickers, gold ribbon, and small cloths pins. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous line, I could have been in and out of Michaels in 10 minutes! Loving my finished project!!!

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My second project today was doing my seasonal chalkboard. I made it last winter with a LITTLE help from my husband. He has all the tools and he taught me how to use them and I cut, stained, and screwed it all together!  Every holiday/season, I google seasonal chalkboard ideas and this is this year’s:

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I am not an overly artistic person but I will say, the chalkboard pen is a MUST! This was my first time using it and drawing the pictures and writing the letters were SO. MUCH. EASIER! Plus, not chalk dust which is a HUGE perk! I am still working on my lettering as I have taught early childhood for so many years and the fancy stuff is over my head, but I’m slowly learning.

My house now feels a little more like Christmas and while we aren’t completely decked out like most years, my kids and I are happy with what we have.

Sven the Elf

Raise your hand if you have an Elf on the Shelf?  Yep… that’s what I thought, just about everyone. 😛

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We have our own Elf on the Shelf (and it’s still not too late to get yours!). My 4 year old named ours 2 years ago—- SVEN. Yes, because the craze of Frozen is never lost in this house.

So here’s my take on the elf: He is in your house to watch your kiddos and to report back to Santa, yet there are tons of pictures taking over Facebook of the little guy getting into all kinds of trouble- cozying up with Barbie, knocking down ornaments, drinking syrup, and all other kinds of mischief. What is that actually teaching the kids?? That they can’t misbehave because there is an extra pair of eyes reporting to Santa, yet those eyes that are watching them are allowed to do whatever they want?!

Ok, so maybe I’ve put too much thought into this whole Elf of the Shelf thing, but I wanted to do something that was more meaningful and to not give conflicting ideas to my young children. Last year, my daughter was old enough to actually care about the Elf and find Sven every morning. We tried a new tradition. Every morning, she woke up, found Sven and read a note he left. Every note gave a random act of kindness. Yes, a three year old needed some help and maybe some of it was lost on her, but it started our December tradition.

Sven made his very first appearance today. We start on December 1 because Thanksgiving weekend is just too crazy for us and it gives me some time to get my Christmas self ready. The kids were thrilled to see Sven and it’s nice to have the first year where both kids are really engaged. We first read the book so my youngest knows what Sven is all about and to remind both of them the “rules” of the elf. He came with his first note and his first task and my daughter wanted to get started right away. I think this is a perfect way for us as a family to step out of the craziness of the season and to really help spread holiday cheer. Isn’t this the perfect time to teach our kids kindness, generosity, and love? If we start early and be their role models, we can raise beautiful, caring, compassionate young people!

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**Full disclosure regarding content on my blog. I share the items I personally love and want to share with others. I would NOT suggest or promote something I have not used myself and that I do NOT believe in.  I am an affiliate with Amazon, so for those items I am making a small amount if you decide to purchase through my site. Much of what I will make, I will be donating to different causes- Wounded Warriors, Fischer House, and other pop-ups throughout the year like Epilepsy research and St. Jude’s Hospital. I plan to use this blog to help give back while also helping my family.

A weekend surrounded by good

Did you ever notice that Thanksgiving weekend starts with a wonderful day of family and giving thanks, ends with Giving Tuesday, and stuck in the middle is a barrage of steals, deals, and overspending?!  Sort of sounds like typical American culture.

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Giving Tuesday was inaugurated in 2012. It is supposed to be the kick start to the charitable giving of the holiday season. It is very likely your favorite charity or nonprofit is having some sort of Giving Tuesday campaign. With that, there are a number of groups that will match your donations.

According to Huffington Post, these are the top contenders to match your donations:

American Civil Liberties Union

The ACLU, which fights to uphold the individual rights protected by the Constitution, will match donations up to $500,000 total.

American Red Cross

The emergency-relief group will match donations up to $50,000.

Best Friends Animal Society

The nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary, which works to promote pet adoption, will match all donations it receives Tuesday.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Facebook

The Gates Foundation, which focuses on reducing poverty and expanding access to health care, has teamed up with the social media giant to match funds raised via Facebook’s fundraising tool. The groups will match up to $1,000 per fundraiser.

Feeding America

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins pledged $3 million to match donations made to Feeding America this Tuesday, with a goal of providing 100 million meals via food banks, shelters and other community groups.

Heifer International

Heifer International seeks to curb global poverty by distributing animals to families and giving people agricultural training to become economically self-sufficient. The charity is matching donations made this Tuesday up to $855,000 total.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation

This organization, devoted to researching Parkinson’s disease, will match all donations it receives Tuesday (up to $1 million total).

UNICEF USA

The American branch of the worldwide anti-poverty group is matching all gifts up to $5,000.

Your employer ― maybe

Many corporations offer to match their employees’ charitable donations up to a certain amount per year. Use this search tool to see if your company will match your gifts.”

 

So if you over indulged this weekend on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, maybe consider finding an extra $5 (or more) and give to your favorite charity or non-profit. Find a child who might need a therapy dog or a Go Fund Me page to help support a local family. Take your thankful hearts we all had on Thursday and find something near and dear to your heart. Every penny makes a difference.

My favorite things…

Happy election day all! Yes, I realize it’s a huge oxymoron for sure. Between the lead up to today and now the long lines (which is a good thing because that means people are actually taking the time to voice their opinion in a constructive way), we need something a little more uplifting. Because this election has the whole nation on edge, let’s think about something happier- hot cocoa, holiday lights, Christmas trees, cookie exchanges, family and friend get togethers.  Today, we leave all the stress and animosity of election day behind to talk about some of my favorite things!
Are you headed to a cookie exchange this season? Maybe 2 or 3? I know I have at least one on my calendar. My FAVORITE cookie for a cookie exchange is Magic Cookie Bars983028I butter the pan instead of using a crisco spray, but otherwise, I follow the recipe. I love these cookies for exchanges because they are a bar vs a traditional cookie so you can easily make 2 dozen in one pan, 4 dozen in two pans. They are super easy. Almost zero clean up! I hve also made my own graham crackers in the past but the blog I found them on is no longer working so I haven’t done that in a while. (The recipe I found was ridiculously easy to follow and make and I am so bummed I can’t find it.)

I always head to my in-laws on Christmas day and every since I dated my husband, I came with a dessert. I always brought a bowl of Reindeer Chow. It can certainly get a little messy making it and it cannot be done in a rush, so make sure you have a bit of time to do it correctly, otherwise it is super easy to make and always a huge hit. I also would bring along a cheesecake. chocolate_raspberry_cheesecake_1My father-in-law and nephew especially like this cheesecake and request it every year. There have been a few years I couldn’t quite get to it and to make it travel 4.5 hours to their house wasn’t always ideal but they can rest assure that they will get it this Christmas. While the Keebler Ready Crust no longer has it on their website, I was able to find it on this blog. It’s the perfect combination of tart and sweet and super easy to make.

A fun holiday tradition we have is to head to look at holiday lights. One of our favorite places to head is Meadowlark Botanical GardensMeadowlark Garden Winter Walk of LightsIt has always been a low key event when we go with not a ton of other people. You get a nice stroll through the park and finish up at the fire. It’s great for little ones to point out different animals and plants, but the adults can also enjoy the hard-work and intricacy of the lights throughout. It’s a great event to get you out of the house and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg $13 for adults and $7 for kids (2 and under are free) and you can save $2 off online ticket purchase on Mondays through Thursdays through December 8 (excluding Thanksgiving). There are over 500,000 lights on display during a .6 mile walk (so not too long so even the littlest ones can get through it). You can pick up hot chocolate before the walk and then shop at the Snowflake Shoppe at the end of your trip.

Are you headed to an event with a grab bag? I have LOVED any and all of Beautycounter’s Holiday Sets, but my three favorite that can be good for any and everyone are the Naughty to Nice Gift SetThe Jet Set, and the Shimmer & Shine Gift Set. I love these because ANYONE can use them! The Naughty to Nice Gift Set is a small spa experience. It combines the Charcoal Cleansing Bar with the Purifying Charcoal Mask, giving a luxurious at home spa regiment. The Jet Set is perfect for that friend or family member who is always on the go. It is a travel set of the shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, and charcoal bar in a travel pouch. Perfect for a carry on or gym bag! The Shimmer & Shine Gift Set combines travel sizes of the famous Sugar Scrub and Body Butter with a luxurious shimmer body oil. 12276954_1017875141597900_933821065_nAll of these are packaged and delivered in a limited edition red gift box so only a bow is needed to hand these out! If you don’t know Beautycounter, they are a company on a mission to get safer products in the hands of everyone. The US has ban only 11 ingredients in the skincare industry and no laws have been passed since 1938. Beautycounter has a rigorous and thorough screening system in place to get the SAFEST ingredients in their skincare and makeup products. They are not all natural or organic but their products all score a 1 or 2 on the EWG website (which is a non-profit organization that rates products on a 1-10 scale based on their ingredients. If you have not been on there, highly recommend!)

Do you have a kid that has everything?? I have the gift for you!! A subscription to any of the Kiwi Crate is exactly what you need. kiwi-crate-june_zpsbe7ddecdMy daughter has received either a 3 or 6 month subscription of the Koala Crate for her birthday or Christmas and she looks forward to getting them each month. They are filled with 3-4 activities that center around a theme (oceans, colors, farms, etc). It keeps her busy for a few hours and it’s something we do together and we either keep the stuff around for a short period of time or it’s now something she can play with for a long time– for example, she has made a stuffed snake, a stuffed cloud, a tote bag, weather sock and chart, or a wooden car that we have kept around, but items like a glow in the dark moon, 3-D tree, and other crafty things that we adored for a little bit but then after a quick picture of it, found it’s way to the garbage.

Have a friend that has everything?! Have you heard of StitchFix?? o-stitchfix-facebookI am OBSESSED with it.As a busy mom of two small kiddos, I find myself picking up most of my clothes at Target (which is not a bad thing at all— I love my Target clothes), but I tend to buy the same style and I am not a good shopper for myself. StitchFix is a personal stylist who sends you 5 pieces (clothing and accessories based on your preferences) and you have three days to try on and send back what you don’t want and buy the things you want to keep. I do it about 1-2 times a year as I tend to try to buy everything in my box and it runs me about $200, which is WAY more than I would ever spend BUT it’s the clothes I get the most compliments on. What I love most is that you can link a Pinterest board to your account and write notes to your stylist to get the best match. I usually state I want machine washable items that are great for a day with the kids but don’t make me feel mommy. They have provided me with things I have LOVED that if I saw it in the store, I would never have bought for myself. It’s definitely a fun treat.  I love getting a gift card from there.

My very last favorite thing is to take the month of December and make it Random Act of Kindness month. Many families around the country have those pesky little Elves on the Shelves. We are one of them. The first year, luckily my daughter was too young to realize what was happening because I could not keep up with moving it around and coming up with creative things for the elf to do. It took 2 years for me to rethink the whole idea and now our Elf comes down from Santa and gives my kiddos an act of kindness to do each day.  To start you off, here are some ideas thanks to this amazing blog:

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100 ACTS OF KINDNESS FOR KIDS

  1. Put change in a vending machine.
  2. Hold the door open for someone.
  3. Do a chore for someone without them knowing.
  4. Tell a joke.
  5. Return someone’s cart at the store.
  6. Give candy to your bank teller.
  7. Leave a letter in a library book.
  8. Feed the birds.
  9. Leave happy notes around town.
  10. Put a small bin in your car to collect recycling.
  11. Call your grandparents and ask them about their childhood.
  12. Pick up litter.
  13. Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  14. Compliment a friend.
  15. Wash someone’s car.
  16. Write a thank you note for your mail carrier.
  17. Plant something.
  18. Bake dessert for a neighbor
  19. Walk dogs at the animal shelter.
  20. Check in on an elderly neighbor.
  21. Set up a lemonade stand and donate the profits.
  22. Send a card to a service member.
  23. Bury treasure at the playground.
  24. Set the table for dinner.
  25. Leave bubbles on someone’s doorstep.
  26. Put money on a stranger’s layaway bill.
  27. Tell someone why they are special to you.
  28. Donate outgrown clothes.
  29. Buy a coffee for a stranger.
  30. Pass out stickers to kids waiting in line.
  31. Talk to someone new at school.
  32. Write chalk messages on the sidewalk.
  33. Weed or shovel for a neighbor.
  34. Donate food to the food pantry.
  35. Bring flowers to your teacher.
  36. Tell a manager how good your service was.
  37. Tape change to a parking meter.
  38. Donate socks and supplies to the homeless shelter.
  39. Give a lottery ticket to a stranger.
  40. Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while to say hello.
  41. Tape money for the ice cream truck to a friend’s front door.
  42. Take treats to the fire station.
  43. Read a book to someone.
  44. Leave heads up pennies on the sidewalk.
  45. Donate a book to a doctor’s office waiting room.
  46. Tell someone how much you love them.
  47. Say hello to everyone you see.
  48. Make someone else’s bed.
  49. Hold the door open for someone.
  50. Wave at kids on school buses.
  51. Sing songs at a nursing home.
  52. Invite someone to play on the playground.
  53. Tell the principal how great your teacher is.
  54. Donate a toy to Toys for Tots.
  55. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
  56. Say thank you when you see service members.
  57. Fill a kindness jar with candy for another family.
  58. Make a thank you sign for sanitation workers.
  59. Make a busy bag for a family with young children.
  60. Bring cookies to the custodian.
  61. Help make dinner.
  62. Donate new pajamas for foster kids.
  63. Make a get well card for someone.
  64. Bring your neighbors’ garbage cans up for them.
  65. Take care of someone’s pet while they’re away.
  66. Leave a popcorn surprise on a DVD rental machine.
  67. Share a special toy with a friend.
  68. Clean up your room without being asked.
  69. Tape a video message for faraway friends.
  70. Leave kindness stones at the park.
  71. Give a candy bar to the bus driver.
  72. Send dessert to another family at a restaurant.
  73. Give spare change to the food pantry.
  74. Buy extra school supplies for a teacher.
  75. Make muffins for your pharmacist.
  76. Teach someone something new.
  77. Reuse paper when you are drawing.
  78. Pay for someone’s toll.
  79. Give someone a hug coupon.
  80. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  81. Write a note for someone’s lunch.
  82. Collect money or items for your favorite charity.
  83. Donate coloring books and crayons to the children’s hospital.
  84. Write a poem for a friend.
  85. Ask for donations instead of birthday gifts.
  86. Help someone unload groceries at the store.
  87. Make a candy gram for the police department.
  88. Collect books for the library.
  89. Adopt an animal online.
  90. Decorate tissue boxes and hand sanitizer for nursing stations.
  91. Make a homemade gift for someone.
  92. Clean up your toys without being asked.
  93. Deliver water bottles to the homeless shelter.
  94. Create activity bags for families of deployed soldiers.
  95. Give high fives to a friend.
  96. Make a thank you card for your librarian.
  97. Dry the slides at the park with a towel after it rains.
  98. Make play dough for a preschool class.
  99. Send a postcard to a friend.
  100. Smile at everybody. It’s contagious.

I hope this helped to take you away from the craziness today and enjoy some great things to come!! May we all find a little unity and peace over the next few months, regardless of the outcome today. Happy Tuesday!