Monday, December 22, 2014

Beer Bread Mix

Beer Bread...YES!

It's one of the easiest peasiest breads around and super delicious!

It also makes a great handmade gift for Christmas.  Plus, you can get everything you need at the grocery store, so you don't have to battle crowds of crazy people go to the mall.  Or sew things.  Me sewing something tends to be a swear filled, sob inducing, teeth gnashing experience.  <-- overstatement (mostly).

Here's what you need!
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder*
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt*

*If you have self rising flour (I never do), you can just use 3 cups of that and omit the baking powder and salt.

Mix the above ingredients together.  Put into a bag.  I didn't have anything fancy, so I just used a quart sized freezer ziplock.  Be sure to include theses directions:  Mix with 12 oz of beer. Pour into greased loaf pan.  Top with 3 tablespoons of melted butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Obviously, include a beer, because it is beer bread after all :)

I got some "cool guy beer."  I mean, maybe it's "cool guy beer," but seeing as I'm neither a cool guy nor a beer drinker (it doesn't taste like juice), I can't be sure that a Spotted Cow is indeed "cool guy beer."  But, I do feel fairly certain that it is significantly cooler than Milwaukee's Best or Busch Light.

So, yeah, be sure to include the beer.  You can make beer bread with 7 up, but it's just not as good.  I did make beer bread with (ahem) caffeine free diet pepsi once.  I wish that was a joke, but it's not.  

I hope you get a chance to toss this together for someone special in your life!  Or, just make some for yourself...Merry Christmas to you :)

Have a happy Monday!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Project 365: #49 and #50

It's been an awesome couple of weeks around here and we are gearing up for Christmas!

Day 339

Leah vacuumed the living room and then wanted to vacuum out inside the couch.  Who am I to say no to that?  Then, she kept sticking her fingers into the attachment which made it make funny sounds.  Gracie is laughing and laughing and saying, "The vacuum is tooting!  The vacuum is tooting!" with great little girl glee :)

Day 340

Reading with Grandma Linda before bed on Maggie's grandparent birthday party day.  

Day 341

Maggie with one of her sweet friends at her friend birthday party.  My number one birthday party tip?  Have a friend come to help!  It made everything SO much easier!  Thanks, Becca!

Day 342

Let's discuss why I take daily pictures.  #1 I want to remember what every day life is like when the girls are little.  #2 Sometimes the pictures I take are take represent the little bit of good in an otherwise difficult day.  Yes, this picture falls in the number 2 category.  I think this moment was the only time they weren't fighting.  Sigh.

Day 343

Being silly in their Christmas dresses after decorating the tree!

Day 344


Day 345

Carb-tastic goodness! recipe here

Day 346

I got to be the Mystery Reader in Maggie's class.  So fun having my inner forensics nerd come out!

Day 347

The girls found some time to craft while we celebrated Thanksmas!

Day 348

Maggie taking down our Advent card for the day.

Day 349

I love this sweet picture of Gracie!  She loves drawing on the condensation on the door.

Day 350

We ate dinner by candlelight the other night.  It was fun even though Gracie spilled her milk into the tea lights.  

Day 351

The girls got to decorate Christmas cookies with royal icing.  The did an awesome job!  Royal icing is kind of a pain to make, but I think it's actually easier for them to use icing in a squeeze bottle than using a butter knife to spread butter cream frosting.

Day 352

Random Christmas tradition: driving around looking at lights, but eating supper at Taco John's first :)  

I hope your last weekend before Christmas goes great!  We actually have a wedding on Saturday.  Should be fun!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Around Here

It's only fitting that I'm drinking peppermint hot chocolate as I'm writing about Christmas around here :)  

I had this great idea that I would have all of my Christmas shopping done and gifts wrapped by December 1st.  Let's just say that didn't happen.  Between birthday parties, Gracie cutting her own hair, being the Mystery Reader in Maggie's class, small group, and a super fun Thanksmas party, I'm still finishing up.

And, I'm okay with that!  

I'm slowly learning that things don't have to be perfect to be meaningful or special.  I'm not one of those women who compare themselves to the perfection they think they see on pinterest or in magazines, etc.  Rather, I compare myself to the idealized version of myself and family experiences that I store in my brain.  I'll go ahead and say that it's equally unhealthy.  

So, here's what Christmas is looking like at our house this year!

Our Christmas season always gets started the weekend after Thanksgiving when we go to a hotel with my family. 

As always, we had a great time!  I got a jump on my Christmas shopping (before abandoning my efforts for a couple of weeks), and Aaron and the girls swam their little hearts out!

I also took pictures of the girls sleeping at the hotel, because I just can't help myself.

Perhaps I could consider this a Christmas tradition? 

On a side note, the bed Gracie is in is amazing.  It's a blow up toddler bed and has really come in handy!  

Once we got back, we started Advent...a couple days late.

We are doing something really special for Advent this year that I have affectionately titled "Advent by the Seat of My Pants."  No, there will not be an e-book coming out detailing my strategies ;)

We got the beautiful advent calendar cards from Naptime Diaries, and I hung them up all fancy-like on twine.

Not pictured: the 4 extra holes I put in the wall because I had a really hard time getting things level.

To achieve Advent by the Seat of My Pants excellence, you basically wait until the last possible second to figure out what activity you are doing for the day and then somehow manage to sneak a post it note with the aforementioned activity on the back of the Advent card while your children aren't looking.  This takes skillz, my friends, skillz.  Yes, skillz with a z.

We also read a short verse or 2 each day before our activity.  I get the verses from here.  Leah reads the verse from her Bible and sometimes we talk about the verse more than others.  It's fun talking about why the shepherds were afraid of the angels or how it's significant that Jesus was born in a barn.  We really desire for the girls not to take the details of Jesus coming to earth for granted! 

I'm not going to pretend that our Advent activities are particularly spiritual or full of hard hitting Gospel truths.  They aren't.  But, I'm letting go of the pressure to put meaning into every little thing we do.  I don't make Christmas Gospel-centered; it already is!

For one of our Advent activities, the girls got their Christmas dresses 

right before we decorated the tree.

Thankfully our tree went up without incident this year...unlike last year.

Like always, Gracie got to compare her hand to Aaron's hand when he was little.

Like always, Gracie made a silly face :)

While we were decorating the tree, I realized that we have another tradition which is me making snarky comments about our ornaments.  

Before you become appalled at my snarky comments, please consider 2 things:
  1. I appreciate the ornaments and the people who gave them to us.  
  2. I fully expect that our daughters will be making fun of the ornaments we got them.  I'd actually be a little disappointed if they didn't.
That being said, take a gander at these lovelies...

I can't help but say things like:
  1. Nothing spreads holiday cheer like a one-eyed nut with mop hair.
  2. A ping pong playing Santa really helps me reflect on the real reason for the season.
  3. Clearly a red-eyed blue dinosaur wielding a candy cane reminds us all how Jesus was born to be our Rescuer. 
  4. "Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing...ruh roh, Shaggy!" 
  5. Clearly my love for all things chalkboard began with this ornament purchased at a craft fair in 1989. I especially appreciate the un-centered Christmas sentiment written just this side of legible.  
But, really, look at these little lovelies <3

We also just celebrated our 2nd annual Thanksmas!

We had such a fun time celebrating with friends!  We had an awesome meal which incidentally has moved me totally over to Team Ham.  I am bidding a whole turkey a fond farewell.  We visited, played games, and had a fun gift exchange.  

Here are the ladies <3

Becca ,Steph, Jenny, me, Bri, Hannah
Seriously some of my very favorites!

After the girls went bed, the ladies decorated sugar cookies!

I don't love making sugar cookie cut outs or royal icing, but it's always more than worth it.  I think decorating with royal icing is so relaxing and fun.  This is the 3rd year that Steph and I have been decorating them together, and I hope we don't stop any time soon!  I use (and love) the recipes here.

That's some of what's been going on in the Christmas department around here!  We are still looking forward to decorating cookies with the girls (after I push through the pain of baking them), driving around and looking at lights, reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, eating a meal by candlelight, etc. etc. etc.  

Ultimately, I love most of all that this is a time of year that begs us to slow down and celebrate Jesus.  Jesus coming not just to earth, but to a simple, stinky stable.  He came in the most humble of ways to live a simply remarkable life that led to His redeeming death on the cross.  Our Emmanuel living the life we couldn't live to die the death we couldn't die.  That's why angels sang and kings bowed down...our hearts should do the same.

How are all things Christmas going with you?  And, please, I can't be the only one making snarky comments about ornaments!  What are some of yours?

I'm linking up to Share My Christmas with Kristi et al...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Project 365: #47 and #48

It's been a whirlwind around here with Thanksgiving and Maggie's birthday!

Day 325:

Mags is cooking up a storm!

Day 326:

Just getting ready for bed...

Day 327:

Aaron getting his baptizing on...

Day 328:

Singing, dancing, playing <3

Day 329:

When your mommy writes a food blog, you get to take pictures with some pretty random stuff :)

Day 330:

Contrary to Gracie's silly face, we had lots of fun making turkeys with candy corn, oreos, mini peanut butter cups 

Day 331:

Enjoying what I call a "nibble platter" of leftovers from Thanksgiving lunch for dinner!  Notice anything different about Gracie's hair?

Day 332:

Fun times at our annual weekend after Thanksgiving get away with my side of the family!

Day 333:

Fun time out for pizza with the whole bunch of us!  

Day 334:

Ah, the best part of just about any day <3

Day 335:

Gracie kept busy making crosses by putting painters tape on paper and then cutting them out, because "everyone should know that Jesus died on the cross!"  <3

Day 336:

Happy Birthday to sweet Maggie!!!

Day 337:

Maggie and I conquered the Puzzle Challenge!  We combined 2 24 piece puzzles and put them together without looking at the pictures :)

Day 338:

This is not a comment on this production of Peter Pan, but, um, that's a really weird story.  My favorite part was probably the Walmart commercials with Melissa Joan Heart and her husband and kids :)

Do you have anything going on this weekend?  We are having Maggie's birthday party with grandparents on Saturday and then a Minnie Mouse birthday party with friends on Sunday!  Whew!  A fun and full weekend around here :)

If you have some Christmas shopping planned for this weekend, here are some gift guides: for girls, for boys, and books (partnered with a game or stuffed animal)!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Gift Guide: Books + Fun!

We've talked about gifts for girls.  We've talked about gifts for boys.  Now it's time to talk about books as gifts!  I especially love giving books as a gift with a "tie in" or toy associated with it.  I hope that makes sense, but if it doesn't, here is a list of some of my favorite books and a small toy or game to go with it!

Fancy Nancy
I LOVE Fancy Nancy!  I love that she's, well, fancy without out being snobby.  I love that she dresses creatively.  I love how the books teach vocabulary.  I love that when Fancy Nancy and her friend, Bree, have a disagreement or misunderstanding, it's resolved well at the end of the story.  I also like that the books have different price points.  There are hardcover books that run about $12 and paperbacks that are in the $3 range.  There are also a lot of Fancy Nancy games, and we have the card game, Positively Perfect Parfait, and Fabulous Fashionista.  The Fabulous Fashionista is by far their favorite!  My mom got them the card game, but I inexplicably found the other 2 at Menards.  

Max and Ruby
I have a few questions about Max and Ruby.  Where are their parents?  Why do they live alone?  Why is Max's vocabulary so limited?  Do they know Bugs Bunny?  Is Ruby quite possibly the bossiest bunny ever?  There are lots of Max and Ruby books.  We have Funny Bunny Tales and Snow Bunny Tales, and both of those books include 3 stories.  Wouldn't it be fun to give a kid a Max and Ruby book with Max and Ruby!?!

We also have several Max and Ruby DVDs that I've picked up at Walmart.

I impulse purchased a mini LaLaLoopsy doll as a Christmas gift for Maggie a few years ago, and she loved it!  The dolls are "sewn" out of old clothes which then determine the doll's personality.  They've since expanded their selection of dolls (they even have ones that poop charms...I mean, I can't even...), but my favorites are the mini dolls that come with a little sister.

Maggie and Gracie play with the mini dolls all of time.  I love listening to them make the dolls talk and go on adventures.  They each have bigger dolls, too, which are also super fun.  There are plenty of LaLaLoopsy doll books.  And while they are by no means going to be winning any literary awards, they are nice books with cute, predictable stories.

Houndsley and Catina
I cannot articulate to you just how much I love Houndsley and Catina. Houndsley and Catina are a dog and a cat (duh) who are different than each other but are very good friends. Each book has 3 chapters which are essentially 3 stories that have a common thread and a sweet lesson or takeaway at the end. The books have a lovely cadence to them which make for a beautiful read aloud.  We have all four books:  Houndsley and Catina, H and C and the Quiet Time, H and C and the Birthday Surprise, and H and C Plink and Plunk.  

The illustrations are incredibly sweet, too.  Now, because I am a crazy person, I hunted down beanie babies that looked like Houndsley and Catina.  Meet Bones the Dog and Flip the Cat:

Even though it doesn't look like it in the picture, the beanie babies are the same size and of equal proportion to each other.

If I was going to get all bossy with you, I would peer pressure you into getting the Houndsley and Catina books :)

High Five Magazine
Aaron's parents got Leah a gift subscription to this magazine when she was 4 and now they get it for Maggie.  

High Five is basically Highlights for littler kids and way better.  It's bright and cheerful and fun!  My favorite feature is a monthly short story about twins Tex and Indi.  There's always a search and find that's in color and easier than the one in Highlights.  The girls consistently enjoy "That's Silly" which is pretty much finding hilarious things wrong with a picture.  Plus, I don't know a child who doesn't like to get mail!

I don't have a toy to go with High Five because you don't wrap anything up :)

Bonus Ideas!
Backpack:  My girls love backpacks!  Whether it is a mini backpack or a drawstring type backpack or an old school back pack, they love them!  Pop some books in a backpack and make the kid in your life happy.
Flashlight:  Throw a flashlight in the backpack with a book and the kid will love you FOREVER!  My girls love having their very own flashlight and find all sorts of reasons to use them in fun and creative play.  Don't forget to include batteries!

What are some of your favorite books to give as gifts?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gift Guide for Little Guys!

Yesterday I told you all about gifts for the little ladies!  But, I don't know a THING about little boys!  So, I'm super excited to introduce you to Amanda from Queen of the Land of Twigs 'n' Berries, because, as a mommy of 2 little guys, she's the expert!  She's a fellow lover of Melissa and Doug, too :)

Take it away, Amanda!

As a mom of two little boys, many people approach me asking what they should get the special little boy in their lives as a gift, especially with the holidays approaching.  And as a mom who despises clutter, I am VERY particular about what I purchase or encourage my family to purchase (even though most don’t listen) for my little guys.
So without any further ado, here is my list of 10 AMAZING toy-based gift ideas for boys aged 1-4.
10.  Melissa & Doug Vehicles

It doesn’t matter if they are trucks or cars, my boys LOVE any and all Melissa and Doug vehicles.  They are mostly wooden so they can take a beating when they crash into walls over and over, and I love getting them on sale at places like Home Goods, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s.  My three year old also really enjoys taking apart and putting together the more sophisticated vehicles that are almost puzzles themselves!
9.  Playdough

One of our favorite ways to spend a rainy morning is to bust out the play dough.  It is great for building so many small motor skills and provides a great outlet for creativity.  Just make sure that you avoid all carpeted rooms since it is pretty tricky getting playdough out of fabric.  This holiday my boys will be getting their first “play dough” set so I am so excited to see how they use the tools, like this pizza set, to make their creations.
To see the rest of Amanda's list, click here!  And, spoiler alert, I totally want to get the last item on her list for my girls.  So much fun!
And don't forget to stop by on Monday to see my BOOK gift recommendations!
Have a Thanksgiving and an awesome holiday weekend!