Christmas Clean-Up

And a Merry Christmas it was for our family!!!  I hope everyone had a happy holiday season - we sure did.  Today is the day, however, that we take it all down.  {sniff...gasp...}  This part is always so hard for me because the Christmas break, the excitement, the spending time together, the celebration, all of it is so much fun and when we take the decor down, it means that the fun is officially over.  So to keep myself from lapsing into a post-Christmas depression, I'm looking ahead.

Is it weird that I'm already excited for Valentine's Day?!

Here's some of the decor that will all be destroyed today...  I didn't take a whole lot of pictures this year...I know, shame on me, but I'm so preoccupied with way too many things going on.

My tree this year....ahhhhh....
I wanted sort of a golden/sugar plum kind of thing going, and at night, that's exactly what I got.  It was gorgeous.  And then, slowly, it got un-decorated from the bottom up to where my little baby girl's arm reaches.  Thank goodness everything is plastic!  Glad I learned that lesson long ago...

And this is my little baby tree up in our window mantle area.  
(it's dark here...always cloudy...not much natural light...OY!)

zoomed out, a little crooked, and kinda dark... but you get the idea, right?!
It was all so magical.

Some Christmas whimsy.  
And my little elf 'helper' peeking out! And when I say 'helper', I mean 'destroyer.'

So now it's onward and upward.  January is not only the start of the new year, it's the start of my MOVE TO ARIZONA COUNTDOWN!!!  wahoo!!!!!  To say that we're excited is a severe understatement.  Not that we don't love it here in Michigan, we really do, but we're pretty much homesick for all things related to home.  Our families, Mexican food that will never be matched, outdoor activities all year long, the scenery, the scenery, and more scenery.  This year couldn't end fast enough for me....come on 2012!!

Happy New Year to all of you!!!  


Coming Up for Air...

So my last blog post was early November.  OY!  That's pretty typical for me during this time of the year.  It all starts with Halloween and all of the fun things I think I'm going to do...and never manage to do...

Now that it's December, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! I wish I had a fun Christmas craft to post, but nowadays it's getting so hard to squeeze in some craft time.  I know, I know.  Not cool.

Since school has started back in September, my typical day goes something like this:  wake up at 6 a.m., stagger to the kitchen and take the thyroid meds, send the hubby out the door for his 1.5 hour commute, get the oldest kid up and ready and out the door; get the younger two up and ready and out the door; the little one wakes up sometime in between and needs food FAST...get myself dressed, get the baby dressed, go to the gym and pound it out for 1.75 hours (I know...it's a luxury and I desperately depend on this), come home, collapse, feed little one and put her down for a nap (or at least hope she naps), check email, convince myself that taking a shower would be a good idea, or not, but the smell usually wins out {eww} and I end up in the shower, do the whole hair routine crap (wish I could wave a magic wand for this step), clean the house, do chores, scrape crust off the floors; oldest kid gets home, needs food, little one wakes up, needs food, younger ones get home, needs food; homework, start dinner, clean more stuff, do dishes, feed the family, hubby comes home tired, feed him, tell kids to bathe and hope it all works out; teeth brushing, scriptures, prayer, tuck the kids in bed; vege for a little bit with the Love Nugget, crawl into bed and start the whole thing all over again in a few hours. 


Honestly, I love it.  And there are so many happy little moments in all of the day-to-day things that it makes me want to bottle it all up and save it for when my little ones are grown and gone.  {sniff}  

my beebies...  They're getting bigger.  Older.  Wiser.  Soon they'll leave me.  Then what?!  I'm dying.  [are you loving the sweet sock/shoe combination on my little robo-cop guy?!]
 These rad little kids make my job feel like the most important thing in the world. 

Then came Thanksgiving.  November just kind of crept up, lingered for a minute, and then ran off.  We had the most beautiful, spectacular November I've ever had while living in the Arctic.  Thanksgiving was busy and fun--and I only managed to take two pictures.  What the?!  See what I mean?  It's all like a giant, fun blur.  Our food was SO good, too!!!

Now it's December and the Christmas season is upon us... and I feel like I just got Halloween taken care of!  ???!!!  
So whattyagonna do?  Go to the biggest Christmas store in the WORLD!  I took some photos for all of you - so you could experience a taste of it!

Any type of theme you could imagine is available.  How could you not want a pizza tree?!  Pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and breadsticks?!  If that doesn't scream Christmas, I don't know what else does.

Of course, I naturally gravitate to the candy/cookie/ice cream themes.  

And look at all the fruit!!!  How FUN!

This place really is so huge.  Every nook is filled with something magical.

Someday I want to have an amazing little mini-village.  There were so many here.

Even the miniature village has a Nativity scene.  

America the Beautiful on display here.

And.....chocolate?!  I. will have. a chocolate tree. someday.
...it was a little embarassing when my kids found me gnawing on these...how do you explain that?...

And so it continues...December is rolling by and I'm finding that it's getting harder and harder to squeeze in a project here and there.  I'm ready to make something fun, but when?

HOWEVER...I am proud to say, though, that my Christmas shopping is all done.  Thank you, internet shopping.  Because of you, I didn't have to feel overwhelmed and irritated.   

And my little baby girl.  She's going to be TWO in February.  ???!!!  {hold me...}  Where did the time go?  I really don't know.  Slow the heck down!
 My baby girl.  And she looks at me with that little face and no matter how many times she drops sticky things, powdery substances, and liquids all over the house, I just want to squeeze her and kiss that little face!

Well.  Time is ticking.  Soon I'll be welcoming the kiddies home, so I better to scrape some crust, do some dishes, and if I don't sniff my sweaty self, I can get an hour's worth of work done while I can!  

Merry Christmas to all!!


Cooking 101 - Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

{ohhhhhhhhhh} This soup is so good.  Like..."mmmm..." out loud good.  I'm a tomato lover, so that helps, too - and when you use fresh tomatoes like this, you can only imagine how flavorful this tastes.  It's the ultimate gray/winter/blah weather soup because it's warm, bright, and has rich, deep flavors.

I have this awesome cookbook by Ina Garten and the original recipe is found here, among so many others that I LOVE.  However, after cooking, tweaking, and adjusting it to my taste, I found the perfect balance.  I'm giddy to have found a recipe for the perfect tomato soup!

...and this makes your house smell ahhhhh-mazing.

adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

serves about 8 adult portions

You'll need:

3 lbs. ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 c. + 2 T. olive oil
1/2 T. salt
1 1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
2 c. chopped yellow onion (2 medium onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. butter
1/8 t. red pepper flakes (a shake or two)
1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes with juice - (I didn't use plum, I just had diced and they worked fine)
4 c. fresh basil leaves, packed (lots, and lots of basil!)
1 t. fresh thyme leaves
1 qt. chicken stock or 4 c. water and 3.5 tsp. chicken base or 3 chicken bullion cubes
1 c. half & half or 1/2 c. heavy cream - optional but heavenly

grated asiago or parmesean cheese
sour cream
fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Using an immersion blender, or a regular blender,  blend the soup until it is smooth but still chunky.  Add the half & half or cream; adjust salt and seasonings.  If it's lacking some flavor or salt, add a small tsp. of chicken base, stir it in, and then adjust.  Sometimes chicken base can make all the difference, rather than adding salt.  The chicken base adds depth and flavor, as well.

Serve with your toppings and some amazing grilled crusty bread!  OR a grilled sandwich of any kind!  I LOVE to dip a grilled sandwich in this soup!


Happy Thoughts & Fun Printables

First,  let's have some good-humored fun, shall we?!  Because if there's anything we like, it's to have fun.

**NOTE**  Due to a scathing comment, which is not published because {ouch}, I want to make it clear that I'm seriously only having fun with this post.  I'm not trying to hurt anybody's feelings - this is all very light-hearted.  {wow}  I guess it's not funny to everyone.

Okay...back to the post...

Quick backstory:   I grew up in a teeny, tiny little town that was 3 hours from the nearest shopping mall and clothing stores.  We had:  Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Factory 2-U. All too often, my mom would come home with a shirt from Wal-Mart, off the clearance rack of course, and I'd show up to school wearing it, right alongside 32 other embarrassed, unfortunate souls.  The absolute WORST was when my shirt came from the cringe capital of the universe, Factory 2-U.  Anyone showing up in matching clothing from that place instantly buried their face into a brown paper bag and tried so hard to walk the other way!  haha.  Anyone from my hometown would totally laugh about this.

SO...maybe it's because I'm psychologically damaged from post traumatic clothing stress as a youth, but there is something within me that dies inside when I see something being obtained by thousands of women and it makes me step back and re-evaluate if I really want the latest and greatest thing in my home or not.


hahaaahaha!   good stuff.

Confession:  I actually had a print of the original-style "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign in my home up until a few days ago.  I have a love for anything during the WWII era and the message struck me.  However...I did it way back before the became all the rage and because we've beaten it to death, it's no longer unique and special to me, so I've had to replace it. {sniff}


 SUBWAY ART.  And it's all over Pinterest.  So, because I like to waste time, I created my own version!  I removed it, though because my integrity was questioned by a reader and I don't like that.  I do have it on Pinterest, though, for those of you who can handle a good laugh.

Fun, {CUTE} Printables for you!
These are *never* going to be considered tacky, by the way. 

I like the use of words - when done tastefully - in moderation.  Words can stick into our minds whether we realize it or not, so it's important to have positive words floating around wherever we can see them.  I also think it's important not to make anything PERMANENT.  Find a cheap frame, and fill it with positive images like what I've created below, and brighten up your space!  

I made this one below for my kiddies - we often talk about the importance of developing good character traits.  How wonderful if they see this sign, their spirits lift {even if it's just a little} and they are reminded once again how to be positive in a fun-loving way.  So this is what they look at whilst eating breakfast and contemplating the wonders of the world.  ....or whatever kids think about when they eat...

- all of these print on an 8.5 x 11" piece of cardstock.  I take my thumb drive to Staples and get a *nice* color copy for $1.00 each.

I'm ALWAYS telling my kids, "Well, life is hard sometimes.  You can either laugh or cry.  Either way, you are the only one who can choose how to feel."  I think it helps us put into perspective on whether we want to be whiney or not - and that includes grown-ups.  You either laugh or cry - but keep moving forward.  Right?!  Right.

Well, I hope maybe some of you will enjoy these!  Let me know if you have a special request!


Lazy Halloween Food

I. Love. Easy.

Let's be honest here - I love to bake and create amazing food...but not for a classroom full of 6-year-olds who shove all they can into their mouths as quickly as they can before they pass out.  I've learned over the years that, rather than spend my precious time cooking and baking homemade goodies for class parties, I'll just jazz up the pre-made crap.  The end result is the same: sugar consumption.  Why waste time, ladies?!

Here we have The-Lazy-Mom's-Amazing-Looking-Halloween Treats!  Credits:  I found them on Pinterest.  Love Pinterest.

Nutter Butter ghosts dipped in vanilla almond bark, and cookie witch hats.  Do they even look like witch hats?  What witch has a bow on her hat, anyway?  They definitely needed the bow...but I'm sure many of you are more capable of making prettier bows.  I was in a hurry, folks.  Besides, they're just going to be inhaled by kids who could care less if the bow is pretty.  {I think it's just me who cares....}

Some of those 'bows' kind of look like doggie turds.  eww.  Maybe I should have grossed the kids out by saying that!  
That would have been rad.

For the ghosts you'll need:
Almond Bark (that melty stuff over by the chocolate chips)
Nutter Butter cookies
Tiny chocolate chips.  If you are an over-achiever,  you could pipe some chocolate circles for the mouth.

Melt the almond bark in a microwave for 20-30 seconds at a time, stirring each time.  Maybe towards the end, you could stir it every 10 seconds.  Then dip the cookies and roll them around with a fork, lif them out, tap off the excess, and set them on waxed paper.  Put the eyes on before the chocolate hardens.

Takes maybe 30 minutes---if you're slow.

For the witch hats you'll need:
{These took me 15 minutes--start-to-finish!  GASP!}

Circular fudge cookies
Hershey kisses (better get 2 bags because you'll pretty much eat half.)
Plastic baggie, corner clipped a teen, tiny bit
Frosting - and color it whatever color you want. (1 stick butter, 4 c. powdered sugar, pinch of salt, 1 t. vanilla, some canned milk - blend it up, adding more canned milk as you need it.  It needs to be thin enough to pipe but not too thin.)

I did this assembly-line-style:
Line up all of your cookies
Unwrap all your kisses; keep them in a little bowl next to the cookies
Scoop your frosting into the baggie, and begin:

Pipe a pearl-sized drop of frosting in the middle of each cookie
Set a kiss on each drop
Pipe a circle around each kiss - your frosting should be just thin enough where you can circle your hand around and it should fall around the kiss without you having to fuss with it too much.
Finish with a bow.

BOO-YEAH.  You're done.  And you look like Super Mom.  And that's what's really important.


...Still Remembering...

MY GOODNESS - feelin' so nostalgic!!  What's wrong with me?!  (darn website!)  I think it's partly because there is so much turmoil in the world right now, and because my kids are at the age that I was during the 80's & 90's, that I'm being drawn into this old world of mine that no longer exists.  We really had the best of everything - Gremlins, E.T., the catalogs we would scour before Christmas, and a much simpler world around us.  I would hop on my bike and drive all over town to play with a friend without a second thought from my mom.  Nowadays, I'm too freaked out to let my kids ride through the neighborhood on account of the seemingly normal-looking perverts out there waiting to prey upon a vulnerable, alone child.  Is it worse now or were we less worried back then?  Life was so magical as a kid.

Anyway--step back in time with me for a minute and let's remember some of the good stuff!!! {heaven knows there's a lot more out there than this}

Check out these old commercials!!  awww--takes me back!  Why didn't my mom do my hair cute like the little girls in the commercials?!  Oh, yeah, I wouldn't let her touch my hair.  What was I thinking?!

How fun was that?!  What were your favorite toys growing up?! You know you're feeling nostalgia--don't fight it!!

Now back to work for me.