Friday, November 16, 2018

Happy Birthday Goals & Highlights

Happy Friday!!  It's an extra happy day here because it's my birthday!  Cheers to 37!  Can't wait to see what the coming year has in store for me.  I'm also a little in denial that I'm 37.  Feel so strange to be quickly coming up on 40.  Wasn't I just turning 21??  Apparently not.

We've had a super busy week of fun things like parties, lunch dates and outings.  Along with grown up things like flu shots, oil changes, appointments and errands.  I have lots to recap today.  Both Kevin and Olive have the week off next week so I am taking the week off, too.  We're traveling, enjoying family time, eating and celebrating all the things we have to be thankful for this year.  I'll be back here on Monday the 26th!!!  Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


My 3 + 7 = 10 birthday goals:
1. Read more for me and my kids
2. Keep finding ways to get plugged in at church
3. Keep making friends & be a good friend
4. Welcome more people to my house
5. Less scrolling on my phone
6. More hobbies
7. More real food
8.  Keep working hard to only bring my favorite things into my house (declutter!)
9. Take more pictures with my real camera
10. Be more willing to try new things - say yes to new adventures!


Fall seemed extra gorgeous in our backyard this year.

Our family has a new favorite meal - burgers at Five Guys! 
Olive keeps asking to go to that 5 Men restaurant. ha ha

I love decorating with my cute turkeys and real pumpkins this time of year.

We surprised the kids with going out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant after church on Sunday.  They were thrilled.  It feels like we might be hitting a milestone where going out to eat is mostly enjoyable.  Hooray!
 I really need to step up my pico game.  I'm going to try to recreate this delicious pico.

Fireman Fletcher.
I've been trying harder to get involved and plan fun outings for my local mom's group.  I really enjoy it.  The top of my list was a fire station tour because I knew Fletcher would LOVE it.  I was right.  He climbed all over the emergency vehicles and loved being there.




Impromptu trip to the park on a pretty Fall day.  Skip the little kid playground and head straight for the big kid stuff.

Olive got to participate in a color run recently.  She had a great time!  I am so proud of her and her willingness to say yes to new things.  She did not hesistate when I asked if she wanted me to sign her up.  She's never done a race of any kind, but was totally fearless.  We went to cheer her on and it was really fun.  She's ready to sign up next year.



My favorite lunch date!
I think I've mentioned this before, but if not, Fletcher and I basically have the exact same taste in food.  We love all the same things... except crayons.  He seems to be going through a crayon eating phase - yuck!  Anyways, he loves eating at Clabber Girl Bakery.  We order the exact same thing and share a dessert.  It's my favorite.  They had chocolate dipped pecan pies this week.  It was amazing!


I got some one on one time with Olive taking her to a birthday party.  She loved it and it was nice to catch up with her while she had my full attention.  It was also fun to meet some more of her school friends and their moms.


Mom's Night Out.
My mom's group planned a really fun night out where we had a special event at a local boutique.  We got to shop, snack and then head out to dinner at Fresh Thyme.  The whole night was so fun!  I found a cute cardigan and a great North Face fleece.  I'm also hooked on Fresh Thyme pizza!  It was delicious.



This is how my kids like to eat turkey!
No thanks to real turkey.  Yes to cute turkeys made out of all of their favorite foods.

Olive: Sounding out words wherever she goes.
Fletcher: Climbing things wherever he goes.

Not kidding about that climbing stuff.
I took my eyes off of him for a second to pick out a medicine and I hear him say, "Look at my cool moves, Mom!!"  He's wild!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!!



Linking up with My Glittery Heart

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

6 Simple Secrets for Wonderful Family Pictures

It's that time of year again... Family picture time!!

Many of my friends and family are scheduling family pictures right now.  I don't know about you, but I LOVE family pictures.

I love styling my family.

I love having updated family pictures.

I love having a family photo for Christmas cards.

I look forward to it every year.

We've done family pictures enough with our family of four and extended family that I have really figured out what works best over the years.

1. Try to schedule pictures at a time that works well for everyone.
Plan around work schedules, nap times and meal times.  We opted for 11:00 am pictures this year.  It was perfect.  Everyone was wide awake, not hungry and not ready for a nap.  Keep in mind weather/time of year.  Our weather was very cold the morning we had pictures so our photographer moved our session indoors at the Christmas tree farm.  It worked just fine and was warmer than outside.

2. Plan your outfits well in advance with a try on session.
Make sure to give yourself time to gather clothes from things you already have and only buy a few new things.  Let everyone have a say in what they wear.  Pick items that are true to their style so they'll feel comfortable.  Everyone must try on their outfits to make sure it's comfy, cute and that they are happy with the fit of things.  There's no time to mess with that on picture day.

3. Plan your color scheme around one item of clothing.
I usually pick out a fun dress Olive's and then base the pictures around those colors.  Her Matilda Jane dress was one of my favorites this year.  If you don't have a little girl, you could easily plan pictures around a pretty scarf, plaid shirt, dress for you, etc.

4. Do a mini session if possible.
We did a mini session of 15 minutes this year and it was so easy.  We got family pictures, individual pictures, sibling pictures, mom and dad pictures and tons of cute options in less than 15 minutes.  It was wonderful and we all walked away smiling.  Even my husband, who is not a lover of family pictures, enjoy the mini session.  I've seen mini session range from 15-30 minutes depending on the photographer.

5. Try to schedule family pictures by November
This way you can take advantage of big sales on Christmas cards.  Sams always runs a deal for Black Friday weekend that is 100 photo cards for $25.  That includes the envelopes.

6. Plan a fun treat for after pictures
Really talk up a fun treat for after pictures.  Pick something that your family loves - ice cream, favorite restaurant, pizza, etc.  My kids LOVE ring pops so I had them waiting in the car to give the kids after our pictures.  Kevin got to swing through Starbucks drive through :)

Here's a sneak peek of our outfits.  We started with Olive's MJ dress and all worked to find pieces in our wardrobes that worked.

Olive.
I wish her dress came in my size!

Fletcher.
I love little boys in sweaters and mustard is always a good idea.  Thankful for friends who pass down cute boy clothes :)

Whitney.
I love this top and this color.  I also love my new distressed Rockstar Skinnies from Old Navy.

Kevin.
He picked out his outfit all on his own :)  He was happy to wear his favorite and I was happy his matching skills are improving.

We went really neutral with our shoes.  Olive picked her sparkliest pair - sparkle high tops with a pom pom.  Fletcher wore his standard crocs and I wore gray booties.  I can't remember what Kevin wore - whoops!

My BONUS family picture secret is PICK YOUR BATTLES.

Compromise with the people you love most so that everyone gets a say in what they're wearing or where they're standing or whatever for family pics.  Example: I really wanted Olive to wear these mustard mary janes.  They looked so cute with her dress.  She was not having it so I let her pick her shoes and she was THRILLED.  She was super cooperative for pictures and we all had fun.  It was not worth me pushing the issue.  Compromise is good for everyone :)



Family Picture Archives:

2017:  My cousin shoots our family pictures every other year.  She's a saint and I love seeing our whole crew together.  My mom pictures 3 main colors for pictures and we all work to coordinate our families.


2016:

2015:


2014: Polar Express

2013:

It's time to link up with my favorite Welcome Wednesday Ladies.
Be sure to join us with some of your best posts of the week.





Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Operation Christmas Child with Young Kids

Good News.  Great Joy.

We look forward to participating in Operation Christmas Child every year.  We have done it several years from before we had kids to now.  It's such a great way to get involved and share the gospel/spirit of Christmas around the world.

Samaritan's Purse is an amazing organization.  They are very involved in helping people all over the world.  You can read all about their Operation Christmas Child mission here.

I showed  this video 25 Years of Operation Christmas Child to my kids and it made me cry!  You could just see the JOY that these boxes bring to so many children.  This video really helped my kids connect with the project and it was neat to look back on how much this project has grown in 25 years.

November 12-19 is collection week so you still have several days to fill those boxes.  Go to their website for more information and to see pick up locations.  We don't live in a big city and I found seven drop off location options for us.  We sent them through our church, but it was nice to know we had several different options.  They ask for a $9 donation/box to cover shipping costs, but it is not required.

Our kids are young so I know it can be tricky to find ways for them to serve others.  They love to help me deliver meals to families, visit elderly neighbors, write notes of encouragement and cookies and they had a great time packing Operation Christmas Child boxes this year.

They both got really into finding items for their boy and girl.  We opted to do one child at their same age/gender.  It was really easy for them to connect with and find items for because they were able to think about things that they love to share with others.



We pulled items from our bins of extra things around the house - new packages of stickers, hair accessories, art supplies, etc.  We shopped for school supplies hygiene items and shirts.  We did a mix of brand new items and gently used items this year.


Age 2-4 Girl Box ideas:
stuffed animal
beanie babies
toy horses
bouncy balls
index cards
crayons
markers
sidewalk chalk
bracelets
hair accessories
sunglasses
cup
spoon
floss
tooth brush
soap
shirt
socks
Hatchimals - I was especially excited for Olive to add a handful of Hatchimals to her box.  We talked all about giving to others and sharing things we had with needy people around the world.  Olive thought about it and picked out a handful of Hatchimal characters to add to her box.  Totally her idea.  She LOVES her Hatchimals so I was extra proud of her for going outside of her comfort zone to share happiness with other kids.

Age 2-4 Boy Box Ideas:
large car
beanie babies
matchbox cars
index cards
crayons
markers
sidewalk chalk
zippered pouch
mini football
bouncy balls
sunglasses
cup
spoon
floss
tooth brush
soap
shirt
socks

Fletcher was really sweet.  We added cars to the box to giveaway and he kept coming up with cars from his stash of favorite to share.  I know he's young, but it makes me so happy to see him sharing things he loves with others.

It's amazing how quickly these boxes fill up!!  We had hoped to add in some bandaids, a wash cloth, hair brushes and mini notepads, but we ran out of time.  We also thought about adding in some shoes, jump ropes, harmonicas or games like tic tac toe/marbles/jacks.  Maybe next year!

What are your favorite things to include in Operation Christmas Child boxes?  Leave me a comment with your ideas so I can look at it when we're assembling our boxes for next year.

We prayed for the kids who'd be receiving our boxes, added in some personalized art and added a rubber band to each box.  It was really fun to deliver these boxes to church and see a HUGE pile of boxes waiting to be picked up. 

Don't worry if you're not able to get things together this year to participate. 

I'd encourage you to start collecting items NOW and you'll be set to join in the Operation Christmas Child service project next year.  I save happy meal toys, stock up on art supplies during back to school sales, keep an eye out at the dollar spot and Dollar tree for items and put things back all year long.  That way we are not scrambling to shop for everything new when November rolls around.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Lemon Cookie Bites

I'm excited to share a recipe with one of my #1 favorite flavors in it... LEMON!!

Do you love lemon?

I have always loved lemonade, but for the last five years or so I want lemon everything - donuts, cakes, cupcakes, treats, my ice water, etc.  It's just such a yummy flavor.

Breaking News... I picked the HELLO FRESH WINNERS!  There were so many entries that I decided to pick FOUR winners instead of THREE.  All winners have been emailed.  Congrats Julie, Kristen, Stephanie and Becca!  Hope you enjoy Hello Fresh as much as we do.

Back to lemon cookie bites.

In full disclosure, I tried a couple lemon cookie recipes that were a DISASTER before coming up with this one.  The first one smelled like playdoh and the second one baked into runny pancakes in the oven.  So this simple take on altering a sugar cookie recipe is the winner.

I hope you love these Zesty Lemon Cookie Bites as much as we did.  They're easy to make and so good!  They'd be a fun addition to any holiday gathering because they are sweet, but not rich or heavy.  Bonus: This is a kid friendly recipe if you've got little ones anxious to help you in the kitchen.  I also made them about half the size of my regular cookies so they were tiny and cute.


COOKIES:
I used this recipe for Simple Sugar Cookies that I shared back in 2013.

You could really use any sugar cookie recipe that you love - just swap out the vanilla extract for lemon extract and you'll get a mild lemon cookie.  If you really love lemon flavor, add in about half a lemon's worth of zest, too.  It's that easy!  I like my lemon cookies to have a little crunch so I baked them for 12 minutes.  I also used my 1 inch cookie scoop.

FROSTING:
Then I used my go to Perfect Butter Cream recipe.  I shared it in 2014 and it's amazing.  I get compliments on it everywhere I go.  It's delicious on cupcakes, cakes, cookies, graham crackers and cinnamon rolls.  I use it for everything.

One cup of the perfect butter cream frosting.  Add in the juice of half a lemon and the zest of half a lemon.  Stir until frosting is a runny consistency.  Let cookies cool and use a knife to ice them.  You can always add a little lemon zest to the top of the cookies while the icing is still wet for a little extra lemon pop.  Let the cookies dry in the open for 1-2 hours and then package up.




Since we're on the topic of cookies today, I thought I'd share a couple other cookie recipes that I LOVE.  I make these all the time and my family/friends really enjoy them.  I have plans to make all of these this holiday season.

THE BEST PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(Recipe and details here)


MY MOST FAMOUS RECIPE - CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(Recipe & details here)


AMAZING BROWNIE COOKIES
(Recipe and details here)


I'm participating in a fun Cookie Swap Blog Hop with several of my blog friends.

COME LINK UP ALL OF YOUR FAVORITE COOKIE RECIPES!!

It's going to be awesome to have so many new cookie recipes to try for the holidays.

Head over to check out all of their delicious cookie recipes and find a new blogger or two to follow.