12/31/12

Sausage Stars

I am all for appetizers.  I have mentioned this fact more than once: I can make a meal out of apps.  And I've made some pretty tasty ones for you all at this very spot.

This one is going to become a staple in our home.  It's pretty easy to make; the hardest thing is probably browning the sausage.  If you can do that with minimal discomfort, I think you'll find this one will easily enter your rotation as well!  I even browned mine a day a head of time and then mixed everything together before I baked them.  One less dirt dish to deal with during the holidays.


I added in two kinds of olives and celery for crunch, but you could add or omit things as your tastes allow.  I think bell peppers, or even pepperocini would be amazing in this mix as well.  And the cheese mix was determined on what I had on hand - use what you like and what you have.  Whatever yeilds about 3 cups.

This batch will make about 48 mini wontons.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly grease a mini muffin tin.

You'll also need:
1 lb ground sausage, browned (I used Jimmy Dean)
1/4 c green olives, finely chopped
1/4 c black olives, finely chopped (half a little can from your supermarket)
1/2 c celery, finely chopped
1 packet dry Ranch seasoning (some recipes will call for you to prepare this mix, I did not for mine)
2 c Monterey Jack shredded cheese
1 c sharp cheddar shredded cheese
1 package wonton wrappers (48 typically come in a package)

Mix everything together in a large bowl, except the wrappers.

Press your wrappers into the muffin cups.  Spray lightly with cooking spray and bake about 5 minutes (without filling).  You want them to crisp up a bit before adding the filling, otherwise you'll have less than crunchy wontons.

Scoop in about 1 Tbsp filling into your crispy wrappers, pressing filling in.  You can be generous, the cheese will melt and sink the filling and sausage goodness into the little cups.  Bake another 5 minutes or so until the cheese is melted and the wrapper is a nice brown color.

If you're like me, you have a muffin tin with only 12 spots, so repeat until you've make enough appetizers for your crowd.  The mix keeps well in an air tight container for 2-3 days, so you can make this ahead of time.  Or keep leftovers.  That is, if there are any.

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12/24/12

Tell it on the Mountain

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!!  This is my last note before the end of the year... hope it brings you joy this season!

I've been able to take a job helping in our church's nursery, which also means that our family is at church more often and able to participate in more things.

This winter, Liv was still "little" so I didn't push for her to be in the church pageant.  It wasn't until that Sunday morning, a good friend strongly ENCOURAGED she join in.  As a lamb, bunny, mouse, whatever.  She could stand up with the other kids and pretend she knew the songs they'd all been practicing.

Turns out, not knowing the words is not a problem for Olivia.
Being that she's only four and can't read yet, the choir director's cue cards did little to help her - she improvised.

The video is less than a minute - Nate does laugh so hard he can't keep the camera straight, and you'll notice several of the other kids finding her act amusing as well.   It just a snip-it of the day, but I promise, you'll giggle at her "jazz hands" and it will brighten you day, if even just a little.




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12/21/12

Chalkboard Win

Our toy room is constantly evolving.
When there was only one kid and one collections of toys to contend with, it seemed smaller.
Now with two, plus friends and all of it, it's bursting at the seams, but I am so grateful to have it.  A place to dump toys and let the mess "live."
It'd be great if it didn't spill out into the living room, and climb the stairs and trip me in the upstairs hallway too, but we can't always get what we want.

In an effort to be the "fun" mom, I painted an ENTIRE wall in chalkboard paint.  Best twenty bucks I've ever spent.
100 square feet of art, and drawing and scribbles and joy.




 Chalk this up for a mom-win.
Ugh, the horrible pun!


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12/20/12

Washi Tape Candles

More cute decor with this week's wall art giveaway - enter {here}

I use washi tape on a lot of my Etsy packages.  It's a sweet little touch to the wrapping that I hope comes through to my customers opening their goodies on the receiving end.  I bought a 5-pack from In the Clear in the hopes that it would help me organize my calendar like this pinner, but it was a Pintererst FAIL.

None the less, there are a million things I can do with these sticky little rolls.  Perhaps a lovely addition to my holiday-draped bookcases...


While I was doing my weekly craft-run at the Dollar Store, I spotted some white pillar flameless candles.


You could very easily use real wick candles, but I would hesitate on using a tape near the top of the candle and watching it closely as it burns so your tape doesn't start to melt or worse, start on fire!


Being that Christmas is in the air, I grabbed the red and green tape from my pack and carefully lined the bottom half of my candles.  I tend to be more of a minimalist in my decorations (tends to distract less from the piles of books, baby dolls, play dishes and random McDonalds toys that litter my home.)


Ta-da.  Super simple.  Feels a little silly to even have a "tutorial" on it, but hopefully this sparked a creative itch you need to scratch!
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12/18/12

Game Faces

Have you entered this week's giveaway for FREE wall art yet?  Go do it {here}

We have a Wii in our home.
Nate got it for his 30th birthday.
Three years ago.
It was played like MAD when we first got it.
Liv was little, we'd have friends over and play golf and bowling.
It was the novelty and hot thing.

Time fades.
We run out of "free time."
But then, the kids start to get interested.
Liv can play now.
And she's pretty good at some games.
We can still kick her ass - not that I'm competitive or anything.
But she likes to play it, so why not.  It's sitting there, collecting dust otherwise!

If you're familiar, Wii Sports Resorts has a "fruit slice" type of game.
We introduced Liv to this and she took off like a rocket.
And so did the facial expressions.




But let's not forget.
Someone else has a game face when pushing the fiercest grocery cart there is...


Oh.
And a proud mama moment.
I wrote out the words on a card and Liv made a picture on her chalkboard to welcome Grandma and Grandpa to dinner.


She's brilliant.
I grew her.
I'm so proud.
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12/17/12

DIY Wall Art & Olive and Birch {giveaway}

Every once and a while, you come across someone who is truly talented and you are super DUPER excited to talk about.

Allyssa, and Olive and Birch, is one of those designers.

So many awesome prints available for digital purchase.
Size options.
Color options.
Text options.
Allyssa does it all.

I approached her for a giveaway and she was willing to share her "I'll Eat You Up" print.
I immediately bought two more, knowing there would be more the horizon.
Perfect nursery decorations.
Perfect new baby gifts.
Perfect home bar decor.
Perfect holiday mantel pieces.
She does it all.


I was able to snag a piece for my girls' bedroom (among other hangings for my wall during Christmas and a sweet baby gift for Mr. Jude.)  This image is so cute, plus it's especially perfect because Where the Wild Things Are was one of Liv's favorites.  Her first "memorized" book she'd read to us, instead of the other way around.

I printed the image at Costco for SUPER CHEAP.  A little Modge Podge on a canvas, it took like butter.  Perfect.  I thought about printing it at Kinkos or somewhere similar, but it was about 5 times more expensive.  We're all about thrift.


Flip the image over and press down to make sure the glue takes and you press out any bubbles.
The photo paper should be thick enough, there shouldn't be many quality issues, but just in case.

It was a super cute, easy addition to their room.


And, like I said, Allyssa's got something for everything, I also scooped up something for the holidays (Modge Podge in the same way) and a image framed for a sweet new baby gift for that special little man.

Just a sampling of her great works...

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I am so excited about this giveaway because I know it can bring a bit of flavor to any home, at a very reasonable price! (Her most expensive print is a $7 silhouette!)
Jump on this style train while it's new, before it's in "everyone's home."

Allyssa is giving away a print of the winner's choice.
I'm adding to the pot by adding a second print of the winner's choosing from my own pocket.

It's too cute not to share!
Tell a friend.
Grab some Modge Podge and some canvas and make a masterpiece.
It's too easy not to.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway





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12/15/12

Outlive the Mess

I made a bargin with Liv when she was born.

I would feed her and love her and care for her.
And she would stay small and tiny forever.
Only one of us has held their word.
Avery isn't showing signs of compliance either.

With each day, Liv is getting smarter.
She's watching shows and figuring out that when you get "bigger" there are other things to do:
School
Friends
Maybe getting big like her MOM and becoming a mom herself.
Thankfully we have no breeched the "sex" topic, though I know that trauma is coming.
Regardless, she's thinking she's going to get "older."

Liv:  The truth is Mom, when I get bigger, I still want to be with you.
Me:  You may not though.  You may want to have your own family in your own house.
Liv:  Okay.  But maybe we'll live across the street from you, so I can still come see you in the morning.

Even typing this out makes me teary.
I know it's not true.
She will get older, she will move away.
Even if it's five minutes, she won't be there when I wake up each morning forever.

Rationally, I know it's a blessing and curse.
You raise these little people to become big people.
You want them to grow and succeed and live.
That doesn't mean that I don't ever want to be the center of their world, even though I know it's the way of the world.

I've grown up,
Moved out,
Fallen in love,
And become a mama of my own.

And my parents aren't far away.
I see them weekly.
Talk to them daily.
And yet, I know, they miss my mess.
They'd never admit it, but they do.
The laundry, the noise, the empty pop cans, the extra plates to clean at dinner.
And the same goes for my older sister's mess.
You go from cleaning and caring for four...
to three...
to two...

It's why their world lights up when the grandkids come over.
The house goes from order to clutter-cluster chaos in 3.4 seconds.
And I know they LOVE every minute.
One day, the grandkids will be too cool to come "play."
The mess will again fade.
And it will go again to the two of them,
Their cereal bowls for dinner and the shopping list for two.

So before the mess fades back to Nate and my mess.
And let's be honest, it's more him than me,
I want to have more fun that worry about picking up.
Let's not mistake - I do not WANT clutter.
I'd love for everyone to pick up after themselves, especially those who can (ahem, HUBS.)
But it's a good reminder that it's truly short-lived.

Even the ugly newborn months fade-
They smile
They sleep.
It changes too fast.
And then it's gone and you miss it a little.

{via}







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12/14/12

Tolerance

I feel a little funny commenting on such a huge topic with something like Sister Wives in mind.

Sunday's episode was highlighted with a the storyline of a few of the older children going to volunteer with a rescue organization for women and children looking to escape abusive polygamist sects.  The kids set out to do something good but yet, were met with some resistance and indifference from some who experienced horrible circumstance with their polygamist families and attributed that as THE NORM.

I have no doubt that there are abusive people within the LDS community.
You watch the news or read the paper, you can be certain this is true.
There are abusive families that are Christian, Catholic, Methodist, Muslim, Atheist and otherwise.
Kids are abused every day in our country.
It's horrible they are made to feel small and weak and stupid and worthless.
Religion has little to do with treating your child like this.
I believe it has to do more with fear, misinformation and legacy.

There are ugly people EVERYWHERE.

What makes me sad is when the bad apples are taken is as the whole crop.
I was baptized as a Catholic.  You all know the name some priests have made for themselves.
Does that mean that ALL Catholic priests are like that?  Absolutely not.
Our family attend an Episcopal church.  Does that mean that my kids are immune to predators?
Of course not.
Same goes for every soccer coach, 5th grade teacher, kind lady down the street.
Religion plays no part.  Nothing does.

Remember, there are ugly people everywhere.

There is also the amazing priest who truly walked with you through dark days, the soccer coach who cheered for every win and loss, the teacher who never gave up on you even when you did, and the kind neighbor who was just KIND.

People can be good, just because.

The kids on this show (the silly reality show that I watch and love) they were abused and hurt and scared.  They saw the worst of the worst.  Religion and belief aside, no kid should feel like that.  They should always feel love and kindness from their parents -
that love should be the warm sun on their face.  
They were cheated, and it's not fair.

Ugly people SUCK.

I really wish that the ugly people didn't exist.  Not just so they couldn't hurt people, but so they couldn't sour people.
They jade people against the kindness in the world.
You can hate the ugly, but don't lump the good people in that just because they share the same "name," "belief," "hair color," "skin tone," or whatever.

These kids didn't know they were wonderful.
People who hate uniformly have been burned.
They don't hear kind words or get hugs or feel joy.

And that sucks.
One bad apples does not ruin the crop.





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12/13/12

Milestone: Big Mac

I am not really that proud of this milestone.
I am 31-years old and have never had a Big Mac.
That is, until last Friday.
Big family night out - and Big Macs only cost a penny.
Cheapo-Champion.  I never miss a deal like this.


I am a bit embarrassed my these photos and blame Nate for the photography (only because I'm self-concious enough about how I look regardless of the stuffing greasy food in my mouth.)


But it happened.
I am now a real American.
I have unhinged my jaw to fit "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun" into my gullet.
I am a lady.
Just not at this exact moment in time.

And about 25 minutes thereafter, I felt a little guilty.
And very greasy.
But man those first bites tasted so damn good.

And because it was family movie night, we let Liv wander away to the TV and eat her fries there, while watching Tangled.
Monkey-see, monkey-do.
Avery had to be wheeled over as well.


Makin' memories at McDonalds.
Classy family, right here.



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12/12/12

So What Wednesday

I cannot believe that we are now LESS than 2 weeks from Christmas.  I am happy to say that our shopping is fairly complete (minus a stocking gift or two) however, NOTHING has been wrapped.  We are hiding Amazon boxes and Target bags in the laundry room.  Hey, I guess that could be a so what, on it's own.

So What Wednesday


Here's what I got to say this week:

  • On Sunday, Liv and I napped for nearly 4 hours.  With some crummy, sickie bug in our house, we basically woke up, tried to eat some dinner, and went back to bed.
  • I'm all for an un-cluttered kitchen, but I love that our cabinets are filling in with the smiling well-wishes of our family and friends.
  • I like my new job.  I haven't been able to say that I liked "my job" (paying, clock-in, have a boss to answer to kind of job) in a while.  Feels good.
  • The Twin Cities got some 16 inches of snow dumped on our fair town - we are still digging out of the ice and yuck because it hasn't been warmer than 12 degrees in two days.  
  • I love that Amanda Peet is back on TV (The Good Wife).  I miss Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  She's too cute to not have around more often.
  • CJ was robbed on Top Chef Seattle.
  • I really, really want to see Jack Reacher - except Tom Cruise is the star.  Anyone else would make it perfect.  Watch the previews  - wouldn't Jeremy Renner, or even Colin Farell be better?  Anyone else!
  • I am so excited to help Liv's preschool class make little baby Jesus in his manger projects next week.  I get some joy from thinking that something I helped their little hands make will be displayed with all the other family Christmas goobers for years to come.  (My Jesus I made in preschool is still on my parents' mantle, PS.)
  • We shopping for Toys for Tots tonight.  A long-standing tradition with my parents.  Shop, fill carts at Target, go drop the goodies off with the Marines and have dinner at Red Lobster.  The seafood is nice at the end, but I like being able to show my girls the gift of giving (even when our budget doesn't allow on as grand a scale as my folks!)


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12/10/12

Stuffed Animal Zoo


You've all seen this beauty on Pinterest, right??




Creative idea for storage, right?

The $157 price tag, plus $12 for shipping - not so much!

So I showed this to the hubs and had him put together a version for our playroom all for around TEN BUCKS

Thank you to my darling husband who put together this cut list for me.
all measurements are subject to your needs - larger or smaller depending on your space and animal collection

Keep in mind, when I say "1x4", the actual size is 3/4"x3 1/2".  If you ask someone at the store, ask for a 1x4.  They'll know what you mean.  The length is the actual length it should be cut.

Bottom:
  • 2 pieces- 1x4 board, 20" long
  • 2 pieces - 1x4 board, 10.5" long
  • Assemble into a rectangle, with the 20" pieces forming the "long" sides
Center and Top:
  • 4 pieces - 1x3 board (actually 3/4" x 2 1/2" but remember those smarty pants lumber workers), 20" long
  • 4 pieces - 1x3 board, 10.5" long
  • Assemble into two rectangles
Verticals (not bars):
  • 4 pieces - 1x2 (actually 3/4" x 1 1/2"), 48" long
    This height is to your liking; we have tall kids and a lot of animals to store!
"Bars":
  • 8 pieces of 3/8" dowels, each 42 3/4" long

Assembly Steps:
  1. Glue and screw each of your bottom, center and top rectangles together.
  2. Drill holes into each for the bars to nest into
    • Holes for the long sides will be centered and then 4" apart (3 bars per side)
    • Short sides will have 1 hole, centered (1 bar per side)
  3. Drilling holes for bottom and top you will only go 3/8" deep
    • Center will be drilled all the way through.  I recommend go half and half on each side to help avoid splitting and splintering.
  4. Start from the bottom and middle sections and thread the bars.  Glue, screw and attach to your skeleton pieces.  Then add the top bars and top rectangle.
  5.  Stand back and admire your work.  Then clean up that piles of animals and baby dolls and show them their new home!



Ours stands about 4 feet tall when it was all said and done

You can see, no animal really escapes, but they're all removable through the bars.  Even blankets for those picnic tea parties are contained!

This has been the best things we've added to our playroom (aside from the door to lock enclose ensure that they're safe!)

Let me know if you've got questions - the hubs loves this sort of thing and would love to help you design your own!




12/7/12

Why Do We Do This to Ourselves?

I am a "normal," rational, educated woman.
You are normal, relatively speaking.
Probably fairly rational.
The gender doesn't exactly matter in this circumstance.

Why do we make Christmas so stressful?

I could blame corporate America and their giant trees and gorgeous, large presents in the new-Norman Rockwell Christmas painting.
I could blame the SAHM rock-star moms who claim to wear a dirty pony tail 6 days straight by still make chocolate chip-reindeer pancakes, snowman-banana snacks for their kids, and hot glue 657 handmade rosettes onto a wreath in one afternoon without complaint.  Oh, and have a raging sex life with their husband as the icing on the cake (so to speak.)
I could blame TV.  The beautiful trees on set, lovely holiday fashions.  But I would never blame TV.  TV is my one true love (no offense real-life family.)

But then I watch the wonder in my kids eyes as Norman, our Elf on the Shelf, moves from the counter to the bookshelf, overnight.
HOW DOES HE DO THAT?
We talk about "what do you want from Santa" to makes sure we don't miss any present under the tree.
And it's always the same thing.

Avery just repeats the word "Santa", proud of herself for understanding you.
Liv wants a pink unicorn.


Have you seen this unicorn on TV?
No.
Have you seen it at Target?
No.
What does it look like?
I made it up.  It's a real unicorn, and is pink and has sparkles.

Wonderful.

Thankfully, Amazon has EVERYTHING.
Check that one off the list and we are a win for Christmas morning.
And yet, we have several other gifts to wrap for her, and for Avery.  And they'll love them.  The excitement and wonder will be there.
And the point is they won't care if there's one gift of twenty gifts.
But WE care.
We as parents put the Hallmark-glaze on everything and want to make memories for our kids.

But really, remember the first "hill" you went down on your two-wheeler?
It was steep.  Gigantic.  Surely, you could die.  Some kids HAD died.
And then you drove past it during college and giggled a little at how intimidated you were at the gentle slope in the road.
Things are always bigger when you're a kid.
And kids feed off the excitement in the room.
One parents gets excited,
And then the next,
And it transfers to a sibling
And all of a sudden the room could power Times Square.

Maybe this is my talking down my own guilt.
We are not buying the $70 Lego sets for the kids.
There's no huge new technology coming in Santa's bag this year (we did however jump on the Leap Pad train last year, so shut up.)
But Liv is getting her pink unicorn.
Avery is getting a frog pull toy, she will no doubt drag around until the wheels fall off.

We went for the gifts that fit THEM this season.
What fits their personalities and hobbies right now.
Not necessarily what was big and flashy and would flood the tree into the next room.

And the magic will still be there.
I can't wait to see it.





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