Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Christmas Tree 2011

We found a cute little tree behind Rich's grandma's house again this year.


The trunk was so small that Rich had it cut down before I could get a picture of him cutting it-lol!


Blake thought the chain saw was a bit noisy, but he still liked it ;-)


We got it up and decorated within the next several days. The kids posed for a picture once we finished and the picture became our Christmas card this year :-)


Picking out our Christmas tree has become one of my favorite family traditions. Each year is the experience is different, but always good. It's great making the memories with the kiddos ;-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Halfway through Advent

The kids and I are enjoying advent this year, but it sure is going fast! I added a couple more 'calendars' to our original two this year. The new ones are a little more involved now that the kiddos are older :-)


I've seen this done a few times, but never took the time to do it myself before. I wrapped up all the kids' Christmas and winter-themed books (plus a few mailing envelopes with notes to go to We Give Books to read a book, since I didn't have enough Christmas books.) I did it a couple days before Advent, stuck the books all wrapped on the shelf. The anticipation to see what those 'gifts' were was almost too much for Morgan and Blake ;-)



The other advent calendar we started, Countdown to Christmas, came from Focus on the Family's magazine "Thriving Family". Each day has a scripture reading and an activity to do with the kids (which they've LOVED doing.) The book also provides a link to sites where you can do even more like watch a video, do a craft or listen to a carol.


As part of the Countdown to Christmas advent, we also made a little makeshift advent wreath with a glass star-shaped candle base, clay, some spruce tree clippings and birthday candles. (The blue candles should be purple, but we didn't have that color.) We light the candles each Sunday during our scripture reading to start the new week of advent. (The candles are a lot of fun for the kids...they LOVE blowing them out!)




I have enjoyed these new advent calendars as much as the kiddos have. It's been so fun that I already purchased a new advent book in anticipation for advent next season! :-)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I have a Pot Rack!

I know it may seem minor to have a pot rack put up in my kitchen, but it's exciting for me! I've been waiting for six years for it to happen! When Rich and I were married, we received this nice set of pots for either my shower or the wedding. (See, it's been so long I can't even remember-LOL!) Anyway, there isn't enough room in the drawer under my oven to store them and if I tried, they'd scratch easily. So I've been using some old Teflon pots and pans waiting until I could get my nice new set out.
For my birthday, almost a year ago, my sister bought me this pot rack from IKEA. Well, it finally got put up last night!! I cleaned all the pots and pans today and hung them and now I can't stop looking at it I'm so excited! Now for a new kitchen to go with my new pots and the new pot rack! ;-)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Please Help Almost Home Animal Rescue

This is a guest post by my sister, Katie. Please take a minute to help if you can. (It would literally only take a minute!)

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Hello All! My name is Katie and I have a favor to ask of everyone. I live in Metro Detroit and happen to volunteer at an animal rescue called Almost Home. Almost Home is a great shelter and is absolutely 100% no kill! They rescue dogs and cats in the area and if they hear of an animal at another shelter that is about to be destroyed, they go rescue it if they can find an extra square inch of space to put the fuzzy little soul. On to the favor part. This shelter rescues all sorts of animals and some of them have extensive health bills. The shelter would also LOVE to expand to save even more animals from being destroyed. In order to do this, money is required. I’m not asking for donations. I’m asking if you will vote for Almost Home in Pepsi’s Refresh Everything program! There are 2 ways that you can vote. You can either follow this link and click vote or text your vote in by texting 109736 to 73774 (standard text messaging rates apply). If you have the time and means, vote both ways and get counted twice!

I love this shelter as it's the place where I was lucky enough to find Spot, my 1 year old Jack Russell Terrier and adopt her. She has been such a joy in our home and we love her soooo much! We do not know her story, or why someone would abandon our sweet little girl, but we do know that the shelter heard that she was to be euthanized in Toledo and they drove down and rescued her prior to her scheduled appointment. I am so glad that they did. Please help Almost Home create more happy tails! ;-)

Katie's adorable adopted dog, Spot.

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To learn more about Almost Home and see some of their dogs that they have up for adoption, please visit their website. I was just checking out the site and there are some super cute puppies!! :-)

Thanksgiving Weekend

We've been a little busy....and sick...lately. The five days leading up to Thanksgiving we had three birthday parties, two of which were surprises and the other was a little guy turning 4, so they were all fun :-) Blake and Morgan had colds throughout that time and then Rich and I got the colds in time for Thanksgiving...not so fun!

Thanksgiving day was spent with Rich's family. I made up some green bean casserole and a pecan pie, which was just a tiny contribution to the huge feast we had. Thankfully I was sick or I probably would have eaten WAY too much...I had enough as it was ;-)

Friday, we took it easy a bit throughout the day and did a little catching up and preparing for Saturday's Thanksgiving get-together, then had to leave for the town's Christmas parade at night. Morgan's dance studio had a little routine they had practiced for the parade to the song "We Need a Little Christmas".


Morgan had the letter "E"




I tried getting a picture before dark and before I ended up in the parade behind them pulling a wagon. :-)




Blake was almost in the parade with Morgan, but ended up riding in the Fire Department's Kabota with Santa and his Daddy. Santa asked him if he was going to be his little elf and I think that made Blake feel special. ;-) Here, Santa had left and Morgan hopped on for a picture after the parade.



After the parade, the we went home and made hot cocoa and popcorn, set up the air mattress and we had a fun family movie night watching Shrek the Third and camping out in the living room. :-)

Saturday we had Thanksgiving at my sister's. I planned on leaving for my sister's between 10 and 10:30, since it was a 2 hour drive and dinner was at 1:00pm, but that didn't work out so well. Right at 10:15 Rich got a fire call and was gone. I almost left without him, but decided to wait and he made it back so we were only an hour and fifteen minutes late for Thanksgiving. (Not too bad for a fire call!) We made it home by 8 pm, were exhausted, and fell asleep before 10...which is not like us!

Sunday, we took down all the Halloween and Thanksgiving decor and set up the Christmas decorations. We won't have the tree for a couple weeks, but at least it looks a bit like Christmas here. We also watched White Christmas and enjoyed the day together resting and trying to get well. (We're still not better, but we're getting there!)

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving like we did! :-)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Pictures with the New Fire Engine

A few of Rich's fellow firefighters flew out to Pennsylvania about a month ago to pick up the department's new fire engine. We went to see it the next day to get some pictures and check out all the special bells and whistles....quite literally! ;-)



This is the special bell that they had put on it.


Morgan and Blake posing with the bell.


Isn't it pretty.
Since it was in the bay, I couldn't get a full picture of it, but it sure is pretty!

Happy W.W.!! :-)

Record a Story Keepsake Storybook Review

When I think of my favorite time of the day that I spend with the kids, it's the time we spend together reading bedtime stories. I love everything about it. I love seeing the joy in their faces while they pick out their favorite books. I love how they run to their places on the couch and start looking at the books before I even get there. I love cuddling with my favorite two little ones, while reading books that spark their imaginations and foster their love for reading. I even love that they still want that time after a super long day and they both fall asleep while I'm reading so I have to carry them to bed.

Being that reading bedtime stories is my favorite time with my kids, it's also the time that I miss most when I'm away. And if I miss it, I'm sure they do too. So when I first heard about Record a Story Keepsake Storybooks, I thought it was an awesome idea! I thought it was great that I could record myself reading to my kiddos and they could look page through the book together and listen to me read it whenever I was away. It'd be comforting to me that I could still read to them, and comforting to them to still hear my voice before going to bed.

I was fortunate to have Publications International, Ltd. contact me and send me their Record a Story Keepsake Storybook,"Good Night, Sesame Street", to review! Take a look at the short video to see how the book already reads when it first comes in the mail:


One thing you may have noticed when I was turning pages was that the book has a tendency to start the music up for the wrong page. The reason it does that has to do with the lighting, so the book should be read in a well lit area. I also didn't show the whole book, if you're wondering why the book seems so short ;-)

I actually decided not to record my voice in the book, since I happen to know a little one who LOVES Elmo that I'd like to give this to. I'm sure she'd rather have her mom or dad's voice over mine. But I took a look at the directions for recording and they're super simple. The directions also tell the reader how to unlock the book so their voice can be recorded and how to lock it again so their voice can't be recorded over. The locking switch is inside the battery compartment, so little fingers can't get to it. Great features! :-)
Since I won't be keeping my review copy, I was looking into which book I'd like for Morgan and Blake:

I like this one for the times I'm gone.


With Christmas coming, I like this one.
Whichever one I decide on, I'm sure the kiddos will love having their mom reading to them whenever they want and especially the times I can't be there for bedtime stories :-)


Be sure to check out their other cute storybook selections here.


Publications International, Ltd is also doing what they can to help keep military families connected this Christmas with their Record a Story Keepsake Storybooks. This is what they have to say about their Operation Record a Story program:

"This fall and into the holiday season, military parents about to deploy will have the chance to arrange for shared story time with their children even after they leave for their tours of duty, through United Through Reading's Military Program. Operation Record a Story, a program sponsored by Publications International, Ltd. (PIL), has donated thousands of books, many from its award-winning Record a Story collection, to the nonprofits USO and United Through Reading. Through these organizations, service members can record the stories for their children before they deploy. The books, along with a DVD of the parents recording the story, will then be shipped to the kids for the holidays."

I think what PIL is doing for military families is wonderful and if you do too, you can find ways to make a donation here.

Buy it!: If you'd like to purchase a Record a Story Keepsake Storybook, they run $16.95 to $19.95 and can be purchase on their website here.


*Disclosure: I was sent a Record a Story book for review and was not compensated in any other way. The views expressed in the post are my own.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Centennial Celebration, Story Time and Face Paintings

Our local library celebrated 100 years of being open this past weekend. We went for Story Time and Blake made the paper! (Upper right-he's doing the craft.) I was also quoted, but you can ignore that. ;-)


One part of the celebration was the kids could get their faces painted. Morgan chose a butterfly...

...and Blake went with a shark.

Of course the library had other things going on and snacks for everyone to enjoy. I think it's wonderful all they do to show the kids that the library is a fun place, which not only encourages them to visit, but also to develop a love for reading. :-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Home Organization 101 Binder Review and TWO GIVEAWAYS! *Closed*

Congratulations to the winners, Debby @ Just Breathe and jenblizzard!!
With the holidays quickly approaching, it's more important than ever to get organized. Before I know it life is going to be even more hectic than it already is! When I was selected by Ashley at Sweetpea Lifestyle to review the Home Organization 101 Binder, I couldn't have been more excited-it's exactly what I needed!

The Home Organization 101 Notebook includes:
*Bi-Monthly Cleaning List/Monthly Cleaning List
*Daily Cleaning Schedule
*Fall Cleaning List
*Holiday Gift Planner
*Weekly Meal Planner
*Monthly Blogging Schedule
*Party Planning Guide
*Spring Cleaning List
*Weekly Cleaning/Laundry Schedule

The notebook comes as a zip file. You can print off the pages (as many times as you would like), put them in a binder and get to work being organized! It's set up to use as you see fit and you can even put the pages in sheet protectors and write on them using dry-erase markers/crayons to save on paper and ink!

I usually make grocery lists and use my daily planner, but for other things, I need a little extra help...like weekly meal planning! I can not tell you how long I've been meaning to start planning meals. Many days I'm scrambling at the last minute to get something together for dinner and I really don't care for that kind of stress. The meal planning page from the Home Organization 101 Notebook is going to be a life saver!



As I mentioned, these pages are set up to use as you wish. I put the page in a sheet protector and wrote on it with a dry erase crayon. I don't plan lunches, so I just crossed that part off. I love that it has a space to make a list of groceries needed to make the recipes in the meal. Very handy!
I DO usually make a list of people to buy for at Christmas, but having a sheet to go off of just makes it easier. I haven't written down gift ideas yet...I don't want anyone who is on the list seeing what they may be getting! ;-)

The Party Planning Guide is going to be great for the few parties that we have each year. My husband has an "Opening Day Eve" party coming up next Monday to celebrate the beginning of deer hunting season. I started filling out the guide for him, but it will be great to have all the party info in one place! This will also come in handy for the kids' birthdays!


I have only begun to use the Home Organization 101 Binder, but I can see it making life a ton simpler from now on!

Buy it: Visit the Sweetpea Lifestyle Etsy shop to purchase the Home Organization 101 Binder for the price of $60. Use the coupon code HAPPYFALL for 60% off!!!

Win it!!: Ashley has been kind enough to offer TWO Home Organization 101 Binders to give away!!! To enter, please let me know what page of this binder you are most excited to try, or where in your life you need help being organized :-) Please leave your e-mail address in your comment, so I have a way of contacting you if you're the lucky winner.

This giveaway will end Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 at 10:00pm EST. Two winners will be chosen that night, or the next morning, by random.org and contacted via e-mail. The winners will have 48 hours to respond, otherwise I will have to choose a new winner/winners.

*This product was provided to me for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way.

Pumpkin Fun and then Some

We managed to squeeze in a few pumpkin projects this fall, despite having less time with both kiddos being in school. I think it's harder on me than the kiddos, not having the time to be as creative with them! LOL!

The kiddos' entries into the newspaper's coloring contest. I think it's cute Blake tried coloring his like his sister's :-)

These are some Marshmallow Pumpkins we made. I had seen them on Frugal Family Fun blog, but I made a little change by adding a green sprinkle for the stem :-)


The kids LOVED making these Paper Bag Pumpkins!


The pumpkins turned out almost as cute as their creators :-)


Of course we had to pick our TWO pumpkins from the garden.


Then do a little posing for pictures with the pumpkins....and the cattle.


I put the kiddos to work taking the pumpkins to the house...good thing work is fun at their age :-)


I made these Candy Corn Cupcakes just because I thought they were cute and would be fun to eat this time of year :-)


The cat posing with the pumpkin that we never had time to carve before Halloween. Now if only she were black, it would be more fitting for this time of year! :-)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween 2011

This year seems busier than usual, so we haven't done as much crafts as in the past, but the kids still had the chance to do some trick-or-treating and other fun activities for Halloween. (We did do some pumpkin crafts and activities that I'll share in another post.)

Two weekends ago the local library had their Halloween Story Time and craft. The kids heard the story "The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything", then made a pumpkin craft. Afterwards, they were given Halloween Oreos, pretzels and punch and watched "Spooky Buddies". Then, when the movie was over, there was a costume contest in which about 10 kids were given silver dollars as a prize and Morgan and Blake each won! Their 'special coins' are now in a safe place :-)

On Halloween, Morgan's school paraded through town and were given treats from all the local businesses. Blake and I went to watch, but didn't stay for the whole parade. As we left I found out that walking with a little one on the sidewalk during the parade meant you became part of the parade! So, even though Blake wasn't dressed up, and despite my protests that we were just going to our truck, he got a bunch of candy too :-)

As you can see, Blake was the same firefighter as he was last year, although I think he has a new helmet, and Morgan was still a princess! She wore her Princess Aurora costume that she wore the Enchanted Princess Ball in the Spring. (She was Snow White last year.)

Rich's mom picked Morgan up from school that day, then swung over to pick Blake and I up and take us to the nursing home where Rich's great-grandmother is at to do some trick-or-treating. This picture is of 4 out of 5 generations. There is another picture with me in it too, to represent Rich for the missing generation, but it's on his aunt's camera. :-)


Rich then picked the kids and I up from his parents' after work and we went to visit a few more family members before heading home. All the activity sure made for a long day, but it was fun! :-)

Help support Canines for Disabled Kids through the purchase of a MyOwnPet Balloon

For those of us who don't necessarily want to vacuum pet hair every day, but would love for our children to have a pet to take care of, MyOwnPet Balloons might be a great option! Not only are they hair free, but the child has all sorts of options! Anything from a dog to a dinosaur! No matter what one you choose, they'll definitely inspire a young child's imagination. As the child who receives a MyOwnPet Balloon enjoys the benefits of owning and caring for a 'pet', children with disabilities will also benefit from being connected with canine assistance programs since $5 from each purchase will be donated to Canines for Disabled Kids. Disabled children under 12 years of age are in the greatest need of the 52,000 disabled Americans, as they are often denied training assistance dogs. Now these balloons are not just any balloons, but they are balloons created by Treb Heining! Treb Heining is the one responsible for the magical Mickey Mouse “Balloon within a Balloon”, as well as the balloon art for 16 Super Bowls, seven Academy Awards ceremonies, two presidential inaugurations and the 200th Anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. He also holds three Guinness World records and is the Times Square “Confetti King”...the guy who has been responsible for dropping nearly 3000 lbs of confetti during the New Years celebration for the last 20 years.

So, if you were to purchase a MyOwnPet Balloon, you are not only helping disabled children, but you'll have a balloon designed by the ultimate balloon guy! Two great conversation pieces at your next get-together as your little one is walking their pet dinosaur! ;-)

Buy it: MyOwnPet Balloons can be purchased for $14.95 online at the MyOwnPet Balloons site as well as various locations across the country.

*I wrote this post to help support a great cause. I was not reimbursed in any way.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My Last Guest Post on Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports



The final guest post about the kids' and my apple adventures posted Friday at Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports. In the post I share about some apple science and history that we enjoyed learning about, so please click on the link above and check it out! :-)


I also wanted to thank Marina for asking if I'd like to be a guest blogger at Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports. I was honored to be asked and had fun putting the posts together. Thank you! :-)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Another Guest Post at Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports!

My third guest post is up at Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports. This post is my favorite so far! In it I share about all the fun apple crafts and activities the kids and I enjoyed! Please stop over and take a peak :-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Frugal Fall Garden

This little flower bed usually just has some tulips in the Spring then nothing (or weeds) the rest of the year, but this year I decided to spruce it up a bit for fall :-) After cleaning it out and adding fertilizer (thanks to the steers), we were given mums from Morgan's dance teacher. And since our pie pumpkins didn't come up this year, Grandma let us take some of hers'. For not spending a penny on it, I think it turned out pretty cute! :-)

**Thank you Grandma, Morgan's dance teacher and 'The Boys' (our steers) for our little fall garden! :-)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Second Guest Post at Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports



My second guest post is up at Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports. The post includes some cooking and baking that the kids and I did with the apples we picked at the orchard. Please stop by and see the fun we had! :-)

Friday, October 7, 2011

I'm a Guest Blogger at Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports!

I just wanted to share that I will be a guest blogger at Energizer Bunnies' Mommy Reports every Friday from today to the end of the October! I'll be blogging about the activities the kids and I have done with apples. Please stop by to see the fun we've been having :-)


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