Thursday, December 29, 2011

Welcoming the New Year with Resolutions

Good morning, friends!  I hope y'all had a wonderful Christmas and are ready to celebrate the new year! 

I don't know about all of you, but it's taking me a long time to recover from the holidays.  All of the running around shopping and preparing for Christmas has really tired me out this year.  Four days since Christmas and I'm still exhausted. 

There are so many factors that could have made preparing for the holidays so much easier.  Things I should have been doing all year long to eliminate all of that last minute running around.  That brings me to the point of this post. 

Photo credit: Nanalulu's Musings

There.  I said it.  The dreaded R-word that pops up every year around this time.  The same word that (at least by me) is forgotten about 2 weeks into January. 

I really want things to change in my life.  Not mid-life-crisis type changes.  More like creating better habits for myself that will help make my life easier on a daily basis, as well as during more hectic times of the year. 

My resolutions are pretty much the same year after year.  But like I said, they are soon forgotten once the new year begins.  That being said, I'm posting my resolutions here for all to see.  In hopes that I will feel obligated to follow through. 

So, here are my resolutions for 2012: 
  • Get Organized
  • Save Money
  • Lose Weight
I'll be checking out other blogs with the help of Pinterest for ideas and inspiration for keeping my resolutions and making them work for me.  I'll report back here and share anything that I find useful!  I'm also open to any suggestions from y'all to help keep me on the right track! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Santa Photo 2011

Christmas wouldn't be complete without a trip to the mall to see Santa.  Every year, we plan to go the first Monday in December.  We go in the morning and never have to wait in line.  The experience has always been great! 

This year, Grace was excited when she spotted Santa and waved the entire time we were getting her ready to sit on the big guy's lap.  But as she and Joe moved closer, a rare moment of shyness showed through! 

The staff was great!  They were very patient with us and gave Grace some time to get comfortable.  Since there wasn't a line, we didn't feel rushed. 

Nine photos later and they snapped the perfect photo! 

Grace with Santa 2011

Here are the photos from the two previous years.  

Grace with Santa 2009

Grace with Santa 2010

Oh my!  She's growing up so fast!

This post has been linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Koziar's Christmas Village ~ Our New Family Tradition

Although, Joe and I have been together for nearly 2 decades, we really didn't have many traditions to call our own.  Now that we have Grace, we've been trying to get more into creating traditions for our little family.
When I was a little girl, I remember my parents taking us for walks around our neighborhood to see everyone's Christmas decorations.  I specifically remember the house on the corner, the yard was filled with those wonderful, plastic figures with the lightbulb in the back!  Santa, his reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and always a special spot for the Nativity scene!  I also remember looking out the windows of the car when we would drive somewhere after dark.  I loved looking at all the twinkling lights and decorations.  I looked forward to doing this with my kids someday. 

Last year, Grace was still a little young for looking at the lights out the car window.  I couldn't seem to get her to look out of the side windows, she would only look straight ahead, missing all of the beautiful holiday lights.  And since we're not in the city anymore, walking around to see the neighbors' decorations isn't a really good idea, considering we don't have sidewalks in our neighborhood. 

I remembered my parents telling us about Koziar's Christmas Village many years ago.  At the time, we didn't have kids and I really didn't pay all that much attention.  So, when I saw a friend of ours post pictures on Facebook of their family at Christmas Village, I knew right away I wanted to take Grace to see the wonderful Christmas displays. 

Since it's mostly outdoors, we bundled ourselves up and drove out to see the village.  I'll never forget the expression on Grace's face as we drove over the hill and the spectacular display came into view!  Her eyes lit up, huge with excitement!  It melts my heart just thinking about it! 

If you'd like to see just what Grace saw as we passed over that hill, check out Koziar's Christmas Village website.  Don't skip the into...or you'll miss it!!! 

We couldn't get her out of the car fast enough!  She was so excited to see all of the pretty decorations! 

This sign greets you as you enter the village from the parking lot!
Much more magical in person!
We took a handful of pictures, but mostly just wanted to enjoy watching Grace take in the magic of the beautiful lights. 

Grace loved running up to the windows to see the festive displays inside! 

But I think her favorite were the little houses!  She really loved walking onto the little porches and knocking on the doors! 

Check out this HUGE Santa! 

Here's a photo of Joe and Grace standing in front of the HUGE Santa.  Joe is over 6 feet tall, to give you an idea of the height of that Santa! 

This was one of our favorite light displays:

And of course, they didn't forget the true reason for the season:

We're looking forward to taking Grace again this year, making it a new family tradition! 

disclosure:  I was not compensated in any way for this post.  I simply wanted to share our wonderful experience at Koziar's Christmas Village.   

Monday, December 19, 2011

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of December 19th

I'm feeling like a disorganized mess right now.  There's still so much to do for Christmas and I'm running out of time!  I've already decided that Christmas cards aren't happening this year!  I struggled last week to get a Christmas-card-worthy photo of Grace and she just would not cooperate.  I decided instead, to make a card using a few of our favorite photos from the year and call it a New Year card!  That is, if I ever get around to ordering it! 

Dinners are going to be easy again this week.  I'll be grabbing a couple of pre-made meals from the downstairs freezer to help me out this week since we'll be running errands after dinner most nights. 

  • Hearty Un-Stuffed Cabbage Soup, Salad, Baked Potato.  Years ago, I went to a little restaurant for lunch and ordered their special:  A cup of soup, salad bar and a baked potato.  Over the years, I've made this meal myself for lunch.  I have a small container of Hearty Cabbage Soup in the freezer.  Enough for each of us to have a bowl, but not enough to allow for seconds.  The salad and baked potato will make this meal a bit heartier. 

  • Breakfast for Dinner.  Joe bought 3 dozen eggs the other day, since he saw them on sale.  I'll make some homefries, scrambled eggs, scrapple and toast for dinner one night this week.  Some fruit and yogurt on the side would be nice, too! 

  • Spaghetti and Meat Sauce.  I never did get around to making that big crock pot full of homemade sauce a few weeks ago.  I'm thinking this week, I'll just doctor up some jarred sauce by adding some fresh vegetables and some additional seasonings along with some ground beef. 

  • Hamburger Soup.  We love hamburger soup.  For some reason, whenever I make it, I lose my notes on what I put in it.  So, each time I make it, it's different.  Usually, it's a combination of ground beef, frozen vegetables, diced potatoes, beef broth, alphabet pasta (or other small pasta) steak sauce, worcestershire sauce, and an assortment of seasonings.  I will really try not to lose my notes this time, so I can share the recipe here. 

  • Crock Pot Multi-Bean Soup.  A couple of weeks ago, I made a huge pot of this 16-bean Soup and put some in the freezer knowing that I would need some help with dinner this week.  I mostly followed the linked recipe, except that I added extra pepper, some turkey bacon and used a different brand of tomatoes.  I'll serve Corn Quesadillas on the side alond with iceberg lettuce wedges topped with peppercorn ranch dressing.   
  • Braided Spaghetti Bread.  I've been wanting to try this recipe ever since my buddy Nicole told me about it!  That's the main reason we're having spaghetti this week!  So that we'll have leftovers to use to make this!  Mmmmm!  This will most likely be lunch on Christmas Eve. 

  • Christmas Dinner.  I haven't fully decided on our menu for Christmas Day.  When I was growing up, we spent most of the day visiting family.  Party-type foods were usually served buffet-style.  Hot roast beef sandwiches, meatballs, potato salad, macaroni salad, etc.  I prefer that over a traditional holiday dinner.  Since everyone will be munching on holiday treats throughout the day.  Although, I was thinking of doing this on a much smaller scale. 

Here are a few of the desserts I'll be making this week: 

Are you looking for more links to recipes or menu planning inspiration?

Handmade Christmas: Ribbon Tree Ornaments

A few months ago, I discovered Pinterest.  It was love at first pin, but I knew I needed to be very careful and limit my pinning time to just an hour or two a week, otherwise, I'd lose entire days clicking and pinning all sorts of tasty recipes, clever tips and crafty creations. 

My 2-hour-a-week limit worked well for about 2 months.  After that, it became to difficult to resist!  So, I figured if Pinterest was going to cut into my Facebook time keep me from my housework, I should start creating some of the things I've pinned to my boards. 

I've been away from crafting for a few years, so I'm starting with smaller projects.  Also, since we're pretty short on cash, I'm trying to find projects for supplies I already have on hand. 

I have loads of ribbon down staris in my craft bins.  I went crazy buying yards and yards of ribbon a few years ago on ebay.  I've used some of it over the years, but there's still a bunch of great ribbons in my stash! 

While browsing on Pinterest, I came across a sweet Christmas tree ornament made of ribbons and pearls.  I knew right away I had to give them a try!  I checked my stash and found green ribbon and some clear plastic beads leftover over from another ornament craft from several years ago (long before my blogging days).  I'm so glad I didn't throw those beads away!  Sometimes it pays off to be a pack-rat! 

I followed all of the directions included in the tutorial provided by Annette over at Sunshine Yellow, except I skipped using the Fray Check, since I don't have it and didn't want to run out to the craft store.  So far, I haven't had any problems with fraying. 

I think I might have enough beads in my craft box to make a few more of these cute little trees! 

Here are a few of my other Pinterest inspired posts: 

This post has been linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Our Fiber Optic Christmas Tree ~ The Compromise

What do you do when your Christmas decorating tastes don't match those of your spouse? 

Compromise, of course! 

Joe and I don't always see eye to eye when it comes to decorating our home.  Luckily for me, he leaves most of the decorating decisions up to me, but occasionally, he brings something home that he wants me to use in the house in some way. 

Enter, our little fiber optic tree.  Not my style.  At. All.  But after gathering a few items from around the house, it matches my style much better! 

Joe bought this little tree years ago.  We still lived in our apartment when he bought it.  But for some reason, he never brought it home.  It ended up in storage at our friends' house instead.  That is, until we moved 4 years ago. 

When it came time to put up our Christmas decorations that first year in our new home, Joe dug out this little tree.  He was so proud of the good deal he got on this little guy.  I don't fully remember how much he paid for it, maybe five or ten bucks. 

After a couple of years of skipping the decorating in our apartment, I was really looking forward to putting up my twig tree and filling it with all of my primitive/homespun ornaments that I collected over the years.  I had no idea how I was going to include this little tree without it sticking out like a sore thumb.  But I also wanted to be fair and use Joe's tree somehow. 

When I was a kid, my Mom never went overboard with the decorations.  She kept things very simple.  So, I never thought I'd be the type of person to decorate the kitchen for the holidays, but since our kitchen is actually the front entrance to our home, I thought there should be some sort of Christmas decoration in that room.  So, I decided that the kitchen was the perfect place for this little tree! 

In addition to bringing a little holiday cheer to the front of the house, it was also far enough away from my little primitive tree in the living room so not to ruin the look I was going for in that room.  (Yep, I'm a snob when it comes to my Christmas decorations!) 

Well, after looking at the fiber optic tree sitting on my kitchen table, it started to grow on me. I realized that it would look much better if I just covered the base of the tree somehow.  It sat too high to use a make-shift tree skirt, so I ran down into the basement and poked around in some of the boxes that still weren't unpacked from the move.  I had no idea what I was looking for, but knew I would know it once I saw it! 

That's when I found this great tin canister with a gingerbread heart them that I picked up at Ikea several years ago.  (It's the largest of a set of three.) I plopped the tree into the largest of the 3-canister set and decided that, although, the can was a little too deep, it was the perfect solution to hide the not-very-attractive base of the tree.  Next stop, the garage for a scrap of wood to put in the bottom of the can to prop the tree up a little higher.  After that, I raided the linen closet and found an ecru doily that, once draped over the edge of the container, softened the look of the arranement very nicely. 

Now, I have to admit that this little tree is always the first decoration I put up every year and even added the little gingerbread baker to the tree last year!  Isn't he cute?!  Someday I might even remember where I put the little ornaments that match the gingerbread hearts that are on the side of the tin! 

This year, our little tree has a new home in the house.  I had to find a safer place to display my vintage ornament tree (away from Grace) and since Grace can't really cause much damage to this little tree, it's now sitting in our dining room adding some holiday cheer to that little corner of the house! 

Need a quick and easy recipe to take to your Christmas office party or family gift exchange this year? 

Check out  this Easy as 1-2-3 Funfetti Cookie Dip

This is going to be my new go-to recipe to take to parties! 

I've linked this post to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:

Easy as 1-2-3 Funfetti Cookie Dip

Today's post is a quick one!  I have a lot going on around here today, but I wanted to be sure to get this posted before I started my busy day! 

With so many holiday parties to attend in the next week or so, I think this recipe will come in handy for when you need something to take with you, something that won't take a lot of time and energy! 

I don't know about you, but I love cake batter!  I love to lick the bowl when I make a cake.  I even save a little extra batter at the bottom for myself!  I know, we've all heard how bad raw eggs in cake batter can be.  But, I've been licking the bowl since I was a kid and I haven't gotten sick yet!  That being said, I would NEVER imagine letting Grace eat cake batter with raw eggs!  I'm one of those "do as I say and not as I do" type moms! 

So, when I saw a recipe over on Pinterest for 3-2-1 Funfetti Dip, I just knew I had to make it over the holidays! 

The original recipe calls for plain yogurt.  I didn't have plain yogurt, so I made mine using the low fat vanilla yogurt I had in the fridge.  Mmmmm!  Perfect! 

It's in the fridge, chilling until we head out to a house warming party for Joe's brother and sister-in-law.  Can't wait for everyone to try it! 

So, do you want a quick and easy recipe to whip up for family and friends during this busy holiday season?  Well, here it is: 

Easy as 1-2-3 Funfetti Cookie Dip

  • 1 cup Funfetti Cake Mix
  • 2/3 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/3 cool whip
  • extra sprinkles, optional
  • With a hand mixer, mix the cake mix, yogurt and cool whip, until well combined.
  • Chill for a couple of hours until ready to serve. 
  • Transfer to a serving bowl or chip and dip bowl and top with extra sprinkles!

  • In a pinch, this dip is good un-chilled.  I think it tastes more like cake batter, straight from the bowl that way! 
  • Serve this with a combination of cookies, graham crackers and pretzels.  I plan to pick up a box of 'Nilla Wafers and Animal Crackers on my way to the party!  (Nothing like last minute, huh?  It's been a crazy week.)
  • This dip can easily be doubled or tripled.  Just remember to use the 3-2-1 ratio:  3 parts cake mix, 2 parts yogurt, 1 part cool whip.  The original recipe states how to make single-serve portions, for those I-really-need-some-cake-batter moments! 

Grace saw me taking the pictures for this post and immediately wanted some!  I gave her a tiny bit on a spoon and added a few extra sprinkles!  That kid loves her sprinkles! 

This post has been linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cranberry Relish or Cranberry, Pineapple, Orange and Strawberry Relish

I think I may have turned my family into foodies!  On Thanksgiving, my Mom tried a new recipe for cranberry relish.  Since we weren't spending the holiday together, Mom had one of the kids take a picture of the finished recipe before anyone had the chance to dig in! 

I'm not sure of the original source of the recipe, but it sounded delicious so I thought I'd share it with you in case any of you want to try a new recipe to serve with your Christmas dinner. 

Cranberry Relish

  • 2 cans whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 2 cans crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 can mandarin oranges, drained and chopped
  • 1 bag frozen sliced strawberries, thawed and drained
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl and chill before serving. 

Notes from Mom:
  • Excellent served with Turkey, Chicken or Pork.  With or without a side of stuffing.
  • This relish would work well paired with dessert.  For example:  Top a slice of Jewish Apple Cake with the relish, then top with a dollop of whipped cream. 

This post has been linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Coffee Filter Snowflakes: Easy Craft ~ Frugal Decorations

Every year, I promise myself that I will take part in the after-Christmas sales so I can stock up on Christmas decorations for the following year.  Every year, I'm usually too broke to participate in the after holiday sales.  Or, when I have a little extra cash the day after Christmas, I find it difficult to part with it by spending it on something that's going to spend the next 11 months up in the attic. 

Over the years, I've accumulated some nice decorations.  Mainly, tree ornaments.  I don't have too many decorations suitable for the windows.  I was browsing Pinterest in hopes of finding a simple solution to my bare window problem. 

I came across a fabulous tutorial for making snowflakes out of coffee filters posted over at Made by Britta  I knew right away that this was the perfect project to spruce up my windows!  Especially, since I knew I had an opened package of coffee filters on my craft filters that my Mom gave me when she started using a reusable filter to make her morning coffee.  (Thanks, Mom!)

While Grace is still too young for this project, she enjoyed watching me make cuts into the folded coffee filter and was super-excited when it came time to unfold the pretty paper snowflakes! 

I made enough to fill one window and when my nieces came over on Saturday, I showed them how I made them.  The girls cut out enough to fill the windows in my living room and dining room!  I'm thinking of making a few to tape to our kitchen windows, too! 

These inexpensive paper snowflakes would also be great to place on the bottom of your holiday cookie trays instead of those more expensive paper doilies found in the cake decorating aisle of the craft store! 

One of my nieces even pointed out that the snowflakes can be used after Christmas, since they are winter decorations!  I'll be getting my money's worth out of those freebie snowflakes! 

This post has been linked to the following blog carnivals or linky parties: 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Etsy Love: The Pickled Pumpkin

I love to shop Etsy and I have a few shops that I frequent often.  Well, as often as my tight budget will allow!  Hair clips seem to be the item I purchase most often. 

Ever since Grace was an infant, I was always looking for cute little clips to put in her hair.  Back then, she would only keep them in for a second or two.  But with every cute little dress or outfit, I made the attempt to put a cute clip in her hair! 

Now, Grace is thrilled with the idea of pretty flowers or sparkly hair clips in her hair!  Sometimes, bribing her with a really cute clip is the only way I can get her dressed without having to wrestle her into her outfit for the day! 

For the past two years, The Pickled Pumpkin has been the first (and often the last) place I look for clips to match Grace's seasonal wardrobes.  My favorite are the felt clips.  Grace has several felt flower clips in a variety of different colors from The Pickled Pumpkin.  I often use mis-matched pairs to cover the elastic bands that hold up her pigtails. 

Here are a few of my favorites items they currently have listed (you can click on the photo to be taken directly to the listing): 

Not only are the designs great, but you can't beat the customer service, fast shipping, and promotional deals that the shop owner, Shelly offers.  Currently, you can save 20% on your orders when you use coupon code: SHOPPINGFUN at the checkout! 

But hurry, if you are looking for something for the holidays, Wednesday is the last day to order for the holidays! 

Check out The Pickled Pumpkin on facebook  if you'd like to be informed of future deals and promotions. 

Disclaimer:  I have not been paid for this review/post.  I simply like this shop and wanted to share with my readers. 

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