Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Year, New Restart

I mentioned the other day how much I enjoy the new start that the New Year brings and this year is so exception. I have my 2017 Planner ready to go and I've already sat down and laid out my 2017 Goals and Plans. I noted all of my plans in the first section of the planner so I am able to refer back often and see my progress.

I separated my goals into four categories and thought I'd share with you are few of them.

Financial - 
  • Reach my yearly goal for our savings account through set weekly deposits
  • Retirement account setup for my husband
  • Setup college accounts for the girls
  • Payoff our main credit card balance
  • Stick to budget and check progress weekly

Health - 
  • Visit the dentist twice for cleanings
  • Workout consistently three to four times a week
  • Drink Shakeology daily
  • Meet daily step goals
  • Reach weight goal and maintain it

Family - 
  • Disney trips for girls' birthdays
  • Schedule dates with the husband monthly
  • Take the girls out on one-on-one dates
  • Swim lessons for March for Macie
  • Weekly lunch dates with husband

Personal - 
  • Keep up on blogging at least twice weekly
  • Monthly updates to my photobook
  • Reading challenge 40 books
  • Stay positive and above the B.S.
  • Continue working on my creativity (hand lettering, calligraphy, and most recently photography)

Do you guys like setting goals at the start of the new year? What are some that you are working on this year? 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Recap

Another Christmas has came and gone and it was a great weekend of family, friends, and fun. We are Christmas'ed out over here.

Christmas Eve started with breakfast out with the family. We have a daytime cafe down the street called First Watch that is amazing. I had a hard time choosing what to get because everything is so good. If you ever near one you've got to try it.

After breakfast we hung out and started to get ready for dinner while the girls played with our neighbors, cleaning the house and making dessert.

I made a conscious effort to not go overboard with dinner and therefore only had to make mashed potatoes, rolls, and a dessert. See here for my Christmas Eve Menu. I ended up choosing creme brulee for dessert, which I've made a handful of times, but it was a total flop. I tempered the eggs just right but when they came out of the oven it looked very yellow, like scrambled eggs and had shrunk way down into the dish. To make up for the flop, I ended up making chocolate cake balls---equally as good, just not as "fancy".

My family arrived around four and the festivities began. We attempted some family pictures and got a few cute ones.

Dinner was great, the girls played so well with their cousins, and of course the opening of presents was a huge hit.

Christmas morning was amazing. The girls came out of the rooms excited and hopeful. Seeing their excitement was infectious. Being a parent on Christmas morning is way better than being a kid. Seeing the pure joy on their faces makes every bit of effort worth it.

The Owlette Costume, the Frozen Jeep, and the makeup kits have been the biggest hits. Christmas was really great. It one of the few holidays that I love every aspect of---love prepping, love the actualy holiday and love to see it go. 

The last two days have been spent purging and organizing. There really are more toys than we have room for so we have had to donate tons. I refuse to have stuff just to have it so we are donating tons that the girls just don't use. I am working on a post for our organization that I should have up this week. 

I'm really looking forward to 2017 and a fresh, new start. I really enjoy the reset that comes with the new year. I have a few goals and resolutions that I'll be sharing shortly.

I hope your holiday weekend was amazing and hopefully you have a few days off to recover. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours. I hope you had a great day and are relaxing as I type.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Santa Claus is coming to town...

Let's hope what he brings the girls isn't based on Macie's interaction with him. This picture cracks me up every time I look at it.

Merry Christmas to you and your families. I hope you have a great holiday and get in some much deserved rest and relaxation.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Eve Menu

Christmas Eve was always a bigger day for celebrating with my family as a kid. We used to go to my grandparents house with my dad’s family & all of our cousins, it really was a great time. Once that tradition ended due to life circumstances, my parents kept it going at our house with my siblings and Christmas Eve really became such an amazing day for us all.

As an adult, I’ve hosted my mom and siblings for Christmas Eve for about four years now. Picking the menu is always fun because we aren’t committed to a set menu like we are for Thanksgiving, seriously my siblings would cut me if I altered our traditional Thanksgiving lunch -- ever.

Last year I did a fun Grinch theme complete with “roast beast” and “who hash”. This year I wanted to do something a little different so we are planning to get a ham.

This is our menu so far, complete with appetizers and desserts.

My mom makes a sausage bread every year and has been making this for as long as I can remember. Of course, as is the case for most moms, she has no recipe but I asked her for a high-level summary:

Take two loaves of frozen bread, let thaw and rise.
Take two "tubes" of breakfast sausage, diced onions, and diced green peppers and brown all together. Take it off of the heat and let cool. Once cool add in shredded mozzerella cheese and two beaten eggs. Roll out the thawed dough and put the mixture on the dough. Roll up and brush with egg wash. Bake at 350 degrees until brown and the bread is cooked through. Let rest and then dig in!

It’s really tasty and the whole family devours it within minutes. This recipe would also be great for a breakfast bread for Christmas morning.

I love making brie topped with cranberries, brown sugar and pecans. This recipe with puff pastry is great but brie is also good with a topping of cranberries and brown sugar alone. We usually eat this with crackers or little toasts.

My most favorite appetizer of all time are these stuffed mushrooms from Ina Garten. They have sausage and mascarpone cheese and are a hit everytime I serve them. These can be made a few hours in advance and then just popped in the oven an hour before serving. They do taste the best served hot but I have reheated them for leftovers and they are still pretty good.

For our ham we are cheating a bit and ordering it from Honey Baked Ham. They are just so amazing and with one less thing to make, my husband is as happy as a clam. Everytime I think about getting a ham from there I think of that scene in ‘Christmas with the Kranks’ where Nora is chasing her Hickory Honey Ham into oncoming traffic, I just love that movie! (Side note if you are getting one of these hams I highly recommend reserving online picking up first thing Friday morning, they get so crazy!)

My mom is bringing green beans that are packed with flavor. They are cooked in chicken broth and have red potatoes and bacon in them----seriously, who doesn’t like bacon! The recipe is from Paula Deen so don’t be surprised by the lack of nutrients.

The next side we are making is going to be some sort of mashed potatoes. I will probably end up jazzing it up with sour cream, bacon, and chives. I love mashed potatoes with the skins on but my brother can’t stand it so peeled it will be.

We will have rolls too that I planning to buy frozen and just bake, I’m not motivated enough to make some from scratch but if you have an awesome recipe to share I’d love to see it.

I’m still undecided on dessert. I have a few options but I just can’t quite decide. I love Giada de Laurentis’ recipe for Panna Cotta with Berries, that’s usually a hit and the honey in this recipe gives it such an interesting taste. I was also considering creme brulee or a family favorite, banana pudding. My mom will also bring a dessert of some kind so I’m thinking something opposite of hers.

With dessert the options are endless really, and with that they are also overwhelming. I’m also planning to make something the kids will enjoy as well such as cake pops or rice krispie treats.

Last but not least are the drinks. I am planning to try this recipe for Santa Claus-mopolitans (love that name!) and we will have both red and white wine on hand.

I am looking forward to Christmas Eve so much, from the dinner with family and friends and the kids opening presents, it’s such a fun time. And let’s not forget the guaranteed easy bedtime---”if you don’t go to bed, Santa won’t come!” Ha the perks this time of year.

What does your family plan to do on Christmas Eve? Any fun traditions to share?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Disney World---Happiest Place on Earth

We are annual passholders as of recently to Disney World. In order to make these worth their while we are planning to go up to Disney three or four times in the next year. We went last week for Henley's birthday for about two days.

While I was watching Henley on a little train ride at Disney Springs, I was looking around at all of the kids faces, it's so amazing the joy. For the most part, the kids are so enamored with the characters and the rides and the parents are thrilled watching the joy on their kids' faces. Of course there was the overtired toddler and annoyed parent here and there but really for the most part it was pleasant. I really enjoyed watching the kids as much as their parents, especially during the Character meet and greets.

Even though we went just two months ago, I feel Macie has opened up even more to the rides and characters. She loved the Ariel ride and the Carousel, even saying "more horsey" over and over again. I mean, look at this face! Pure joy.

Henley of course was just as excited...

Happiest place on Earth....see you again real soon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Frozen Fever Birthday Party

Henley has been planning her birthday theme for months, in case you're interested she has plans for her fifth and sixth birthday as well.

I tried to keep this simple and just focused on small details that would give the most return.

For the banner I used my Silhouette Cameo to make the shapes and cut out the letters. I also purchased the Frozen Fever jpegs from Etsy and used the Silhouette print and cut feature to cut them out.  I also used these same images for the favor bags. The kraft bags were purchased from Target.

Pretzel rods dipped in light blue candy melts, drizzled with white chocolate and sprinkled with yellow sugar.

Cake was from Publix. They did a great job. 

I had beer and iced tea for the adults and made a punch for the kids. I used blue Hawaiian punch, 0.5 liter of Sprite and about 4 scoops of pineapple sorbet. The kids loved it and I think just the idea of the spout makes them want to drink it. Every time we have a drink in this container Henley and her friends love serving themselves. 

The party was great. I ordered all of the food from Publix to make it easier on myself, subs, fruit and a veggie tray. We were in Disney the few days before so I wanted to be realistic in what I would accomplish. We had a bounce house and the kids were worn out by the end of the day. Besides the record breaking heat, everything was fun. If these temps continue we might be having a December pool party for Henley. 

I still can't believe she's four but it is what it is. More to come from my oldest little one!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Motherhood...Don't Blink

As I laid in bed Saturday night, thinking back to when I had Henley it really hit me hard that she’s growing up and is turning into such a special little girl. On the other hand it’s only been four years since I joined this club of mothers but yet I feel like this is who I have always been. I can’t imagine a life without my girls now.

Being a mother isn't something that someone can tell you how it will be and you’ll get it. It’s nothing like you expect it will be, it’s so much more in every sense---better in some ways and harder in other ways.

A quote for me that sums up motherhood pretty well is this:

“Being a mother is learning about the strength you didn’t know you had and dealing with the fears you didn’t know existed.”

Looking back over the last four years I can easily agree with this quote. I am so much stronger than I ever thought possible (hello childbirth!). The bond with my husband has grown so much stronger, seeing a man loving on his daughters is the best. Motherhood, parenting in general really, does bring with it fears---fears something will happen, fears we're doing something wrong, fears that you aren't able to give them what they need or protect them from every element. I'm learning this is just a part of the deal---we do what we can and pray it's enough.

This journey has a lot more in store for me and my family. I look forward to all of the moments to come.

Here is my little FOUR year old yesterday at her party! Birthday details to come tomorrow…

Have a great week, hopefully it's a short one!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Photos

It’s that time of year again when I eagerly check the mail to see if I’ve received another Christmas card from a friend or family member. Christmas cards are considered “old school” to some people and many of my friends have never mailed them but for me they mean so much. I love the time and effort people put into the photos or designs they choose. I love seeing how the families of my friends have changed over the past year and I kind of love the nostalgia of receiving real mail, mail that you want to open and is not a sales ads or car dealership flyers.

About a month ago we went to the beach to try and capture the perfect Christmas card photo. After perusing Pinterest for ideas I decided to try a beach themed photo because when in Florida, why not!? It was cool and not too hot or sunny, however it was a bit windy but we made do. We went with my neighbor and took some pictures for their family as well.

I brought the ModCloth plaid blanket scarf I received in my fall FabFitFun box and a small Christmas tree I picked up from Hobby Lobby. I added in some holiday decorations and cute Christmas outfits for the girls are we were good to go.

I didn’t get one perfect shot of both girls looking and smiling at once, that never happens anymore, but I do love these. The ones or the kids playing with the sand ended up being after we were ready to do but ended up coming out great.

Outfits: Sweaters, Off White Tutu, Corduroy Skirt (old, similar here)

From my family to yours. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

My Favorite Parts of December

It’s December 7th already!?! Wow. I have been so busy with the holidays and prepping for Christmas I feel like time is rushing by.

I love December, I love pretty much everything about Christmas and in an effort to be able to enjoy the holidays more, I started and finished Christmas shopping in November. With the shopping and agonizing over what to buy being over, I am better able to focus on the parts of the season that I love. Here is a list of my favorite things about this time of year….

Christmas Music. I know my best friend is cringing right now as she hates it but I absolutely love it all, the classics, the original songs, the remakes---bring it all on. I play it at my desk, as I am wrapping presents, or whenever I am just hanging out around the house. This year I am absolutely loving Pentatonix’s Christmas album and the Amazon playlist called “Modern Christmas Favorites”. What is your favorite song?

First is the smell of Christmas. We always get a Christmas tree and the main reason for this is the smell. This year we also got a real wreath from the tree lot as well and the smell walking up to the front door is great. In years past I would always seek out the Mistletoe scent of candle from Yankee Candle but I found this candle from Target in “Oh Christmas Tree” and it is strong but not overbearing, the perfect compliment to my tree (or for your home if you opt out of getting a real tree).

Baking. I love making a huge selection of desserts and cookies and swapping with my friends, co-workers, and neighbors. This is my list that I plan to make this year: Cranberry Orange, Andes Mint, Peppermint Fudge Bark, Christmas Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing, M&M Chip Cookies, Oreo Cookie Balls, and dipped/decorated marshmallows. I have been looking for a lemon cookie recipe unsuccessfully for a while so if you have one please share!

My kids faces, all month long their eyes light up constantly. When they get their chocolate first thing in the morning from the Advent calendar. When they finally find Sprinkles after looking around the house. When they talk about seeing Santa. When they decorated the Christmas tree and then undecorated it many times sense. At the thought of getting their presents or every time we walk in the yard and see the lights all around. The pure joy over something that we adult just rush through is truly precious. I am probably more excited than they are for Christmas morning. It’s such a blessing having kids, especially sharing moments like these.

Christmas Decorations. Sitting on my couch looking at the tree is one of the most peaceful things in my life right now. I love the lights, I love seeing the progression of ornaments over the years. We now have ornaments from our first Christmas as husband and wife, first home, and each baby’s first Christmas. I really love remembering all of the moments through the tree decorating. Here are a few pictures from my house this year. 

There is so much more that I love but this is just a start. How about you? What are your favorite parts about this time of year?


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tis The Season To Be Grateful

I was just sitting here thinking of a topic to post tonight and then it dawned on me that it's the Eve of Thanksgiving and a Grateful post would be perfect! 

2016 has been a good year. Looking back there were lots of moments of stress or anxiety, especially considering my employer had layoffs but scattered all through those moments are things that make me smile and make me thankful for my life everyday.

First and foremost I am grateful for my family. I'm grateful for my husband who is the best life partner anyone could ask for. He is kind, loving, and thoughtful with me. He is an amazing dad and does pretty much anything for our girls. I'm grateful for Henley and Macie. They bring me so much joy and pride.

I'm grateful for my mom. I'm grateful that she is always there for my family and for my nightly calls on the way home from work. I love the relationship she's formed with the girls and they adore her. She visits weekly to spend time with them but if I need some alone time she gets it and isn't offended if I tell her it's not a good time for a visit. I love that she just gets me.

I'm grateful for the success both my husband and I have had in our professional lives. We both are striving at work. 

I'm grateful for Hello Fresh. For about nine months now, off and on, we've had to put minimal effort into grocery shopping and meal planning thanks to their weekly meals. 

I'm grateful for the opportunities we've have in 2016 to travel, specifically the Disney Cruise and our Keys vacation. The girls are more and more fun with each trip. 

I'm grateful for our health. Not all people are blessed with their own health or the health of their children and for that I am extremely grateful. 

As you sit around your Thanksgiving tables tomorrow I challenge you to think of the same. What has 2016 given you? What has made you step back and just think how blessed you are?

I wish you and yours a great Thanksgiving holiday (and if you are planning to hit the stores, a happy Black Friday as well.)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Friendsgiving 2016

Hello Again! I posted last week on some tips for hosting your own Friendsgiving dinner and thought I'd follow up with a post from our event this past weekend. It turned out great and we had a blast. Here are some of the highlights.

For the first time I attempted a charcuterie platter (it's French for meat platter). I used store bought hummus, four different cheeses, crackers, mini toasts, olives, candied almonds, raspberry preserves. dried apricots, and various meats. You really could use any combination of meats and cheeses. I read a few different pins and articles to compile a mix that I thought would work best for us. It was surprisingly a hit and I definitely will be trying again next year. 

In addition to this platter I made rolls with pumpkin butter, sausage stuffed mushrooms, turkey, and pumpkin pie rice krispie treats. everyone else brought the traditional Thanksgiving sides. I didn't get a picture of the food as it was quite chaotic at this point. (side note---I tried these and they were a fail, very dry and crumbly)

For decorations, I used kraft paper and practiced my hand lettering to give it a special little flair. I got the coasters from Hobby Lobby and the napkins from Target.

I also used the kraft paper as an accent for the drink table. I got the chalk wood slice from Target. I made white and red sangria. Both were wine plus apple cider, fruit, and cinnamon sticks.

For the kids I made a pink lemonade punch which they loved, I'm not sure if they liked the juice more or the fact that they could get their own from the dispenser. Even the littles were going over and placing their cups under the spout.

I bought the jars that the sangria was in from Weck years ago for a shower I hosted. I love bringing these out for parties, I think it gives the perfect bit of character over typical pitchers.

Kids table: As I went to write the kids' names on the table I was informed by Henley to "not make the names all crazy" so block lettering it was. I had a bucket of crayons on the table but Macie stole it and ran, not before decorating it though.

Believe it or not, even with ten kids, we were all able to sit down at once and eat. I really was a great night and the kids have as much fun as the adults. 

Until next year...

Are you planning to host Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving? Any tips or stories to share? I'd love to hear about it.