Thursday, December 22, 2011

Operation Wrap-It! Free Holiday Tag Printables

I am not what you would call a pretty wrapper.  I mostly just wrap it, stick a tag on it and if I am feeling extra special, put a pre-made bow on it.  I always figure that what really matters is what is inside.

But sometimes I aspire to be more.  To do more.  I think an easy and quick way to put a tiny bit more thought into my wrapping would be to make a pretty tag to place on the package.  Thankfully there is pinterest to help me when I feel a bit motivated.  There a ton of free holiday gift tags out there.  Below are just a few (plus some packaging suggestions) that I found.

Now get a rappin'!  Oh wait, I meant wrappin'.

For the Teen/Rocker in your life.

A Bag full of Treats for a Friendly Neighbor

A Wintry Mix of Holiday Tags

Christmas Treat Bag Toppers

Colorful Mix of Christmas/Hanukkah Tags

We can't forget those Reindeer, Can We?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coming into Focus

She said they (the glasses) can't be her Christmas gift.
C wonders when she can get some too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Send a Lego Star Wars Holiday E-Card for Free!

Lego Star Wars is working with the Marine Toys for Tots in a great Christmas promotion.  Go to Lego Star Wars and choose one of the three Lego movie e-cards to send to your friend.  For every e-card you send out, a LEGO toy will be donated to the Toys for Tots program, up to ONE Million toys!  As of this writing, already 331,725 toys have been donated!

What are you waiting for?  It is totally free and will put a smile on that Star Wars fan in your life.  Plus you get to see Yoda in a Santa suit.  Need I say more?!?  Check it out here!

Full Disclosure: No one told me to write this.  I saw it on SwagGrabber and shared it with Miss M and now I have shared it with you!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Last Wednesday, we drove the usual five hour trek to southern Illinois to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with J's side of the family.  We had clear weather with just a couple of hiccups due to bridge construction.  The whole family was able to spend Thanksgiving together.  It was especially wonderful due to the fact that J's brother had just recently returned from a six months overseas deployment.  So much to be thankful for.  Here are some highlights:

Making up their own virtual worlds

Cousin Love (they are 21 months apart)

Horsin' Around (they are 9 months apart)

The Newest Cousin to Love (She and C are 22 months apart)

As you can see fun abounded and overflowed.  After the cousins left to visit their other grandparents, we went to an Indian Art Show / Market Days at Cahokia Mounds.  Both MaGa and Pop (the girls' grandparents) have (and continue to) conducted archaeological digs there.  I love how the girls are so comfortable there and already have a sense and appreciation of history.

How was your holiday?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Count Your Blessings

From Our Family to Yours...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Pity The Fool

Universal Studios - 1986 (not the real Mr. T)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Be Thankful For: Free Thanksgiving Printables

Below are some goodies that I have found across the interwebs.  Print them out to decorate your home, entertain your kiddos and generally celebrate your blessings.

Today's Fabulous Finds: Thanksgiving Subway Art

ThirtyHandmadeDays: Thanksgiving Placement for kids- (cover it with contact paper)

Anything But Perfect: Coloring Page and More!

Homespun With Love: Gratitude Cards (I am thankful for..)

Kiki Creates: Mr. & Mrs. Turkey Potato Head (with tons of fun outfits, etc!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

At the Half

I love my half birthdays.  Yes, I said my HALF birthday.  I don't get any presents but I do get a song.  My mother calls me up and will sing to me "Happy Half Birthday to you.  Happy Half Birthday to you.  Happy Half Birthday dear Angie.  Happy Half Birthday to you!"  Sometimes she forgets it is our half birthday and so my siblings and I have to call her to remind her to sing to us.  We are silly that way.

Today is not my half birthday.  (It is next month in case you are curious).  Today is C's.  She is 2 1/2.  I try to continue my mother's tradition and sing to my girl's on their respective half birthdays.  When they are little like C they just look at me strangely and then inquire about cake and presents, not quite getting the sentimentality of the little song.

Although I like my own half birthday, I do not like it when my children reach theirs.  I have never had any experiences with the "Terrible Twos," but rather the "Terrible Two and a Halves."  It never fails.  They reach their half birthday and they become a little less fun to be around and more trouble and cantankerous.  Take today for example, I can not just pick something out for C to wear gladly.  No.  She has to pick it out herself and if the shirt that she wants is in the wash?  Watch out.

My biggest frustration and hers is when C is trying to tell me something and I don't understand her.  This. Drives. Me. Crazy.  So many times she will just cry and scream at me instead of trying to tell me what she needs, wants, etc.  This behavior ultimately gets her a one way ticket to time out land.  She does pretty good in time out, meaning she stays put and is much better when she is "released."  I just wish I didn't have to put her in it as many times as I have to sometimes.

Parenting is hard, yo.

Free Child Admission at Morton Arboretum!

From now until December 31, 2011,  Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL is offering free admission for one child with a paid adult.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Three Little Piggies

Bought matching pjs for the girls...didn't realize that my niece had bought the same ones for her baby!  Hence a pajama party was born.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Holding Hands

I remember when I was about 10 or 12 and we were visiting my grandparents that lived in Southern Illinois.  We didn't get to see them all that much because we lived in the Chicago suburbs.  We usually went there, though, during the summer for one of the many annual picnics that their little town held.  While we were at the picnic, my Granny held my hand as we walked around the park.  I distinctly remembering telling my older sister that "Granny wanted to hold my hand" and that I thought that was weird since I was clearly too old to have my hand held.  My sister replied that Granny just misses us and was showing her love through holding my hand.  I don't know why this memory has stuck, but there it is.

C is still at the age where she needs to hold my hand.  Sometimes she doesn't want to and so then I have to carry her, but for the most part she will reach out and take my hand.  She will do this especially when she is walking down stairs or needs assistance with something.  Miss M is now seven.  She is getting closer to the age that I was in the memory described above.  Nevertheless, when she gets out of school, she still reaches for my hand as we walk to the car.  This small act never fails to make me smile.  In the back of my mind I know that her wanting to do so will soon come to an end.  I don't know why but it saddens me in however a small way.  Don't get me wrong, I want my kids to grow up and fly out of the nest, if you will.  It is just that I can see what is on the horizon and I would like it to just slow down for a bit.

Perhaps this is what Granny was doing as well as she reached for my hand on that summer day.  I can only pray that she will continue to "hold" my girls hands as they navigate through life.  I know she is certainly still holding mine.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spooky and Not-So Spooky Findings

In the spirit of Halloween, below are some free printables, crafty ideas and yummy food that I have found while perusing the web via pinterest.

Click on the image to see more.

Using Cookie Cutters to Carve Pumpkins

Soda Bottle Monsters

Free Printable Treat Tags

Pumpkin Pie Bites

Monster Pudding Cups

Gory Brain Cap Costume Idea

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Gals

Fun at the Pumpkin Patch at The Children's Farm in Palos Park, IL.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


C is a definite two year old.  And a stubborn one at that.  When she doesn't want to do something, she, well, won't do it.  We found that two things work to cajole her to our way of thinking.

Threaten and Follow Through.
Many a night goes by where C does not want to clean up her toys and start to get ready for bed.  We tried time outs but she rather enjoyed them a little too much.  She liked them so much she ASKED to be put in time out rather than clean up.  J then had a thought, she loves LOVES to read or rather, be read to, before bedtime.  So we started to give her a warning that if she chose not to clean up, then there will be no bedtime stories.  After the first couple times where she didn't clean up and therefore she didn't get her stories, a warning is pretty much all that is given for the deed to be done.

Sometimes, no, really a lot of times, C becomes obsessed over something.  For example, the other day her empty fruit snack wrapper blew out of the car when I went to take her out.  Oh my goodness, you would have thought the world was ending!  Let me remind you again, the wrapper was empty.  She had already eaten the snack.  Didn't matter.  She talked about this empty wrapper for a good hour and then had to tell her daddy about it at dinner and then told me about it again today when I gave her a new fruit snack.  The only way I got her off the subject of the darn wrapper was through distraction.  I showed her something else, like a book or put on her Barney or Dora dvd or just talked to her about other things we saw on that same day.  9 times out of 10 this works and helps my sanity tremendously.  I truly believe that if I let her talk about that wrapper she would.  All.  Day.  Long.  My sanity is worth more than that.

Two year olds are tough.  But I know they are nothing compared to three year olds.  She is so different from her sister and yet, I take comfort in the fact that I have been down this road before.  This too shall pass.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Star Wars Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: A Recipe

This past weekend, I made Miss M her Star Wars cupcakes as she requested for her 7th birthday.  The cupcakes themselves were from a box.  Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake Mix, to be precise.  So that was easy enough.

Then came the frosting.  I have never made it by hand before.  I knew I wanted chocolate but it also had to require items that I already had on hand.  Oh, yeah, it also had to be super easy.  I did a search on my beloved pinterest and found it.  The one.  The best chocolate buttercream frosting that I have ever tasted.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe
as adapted from Savory Sweet Life

The Good Stuff:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks!) unsalted butter (softened but not melted)
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream (or whole milk)

Where the Magic Happens:

  1. Cream butter for a few minutes in mixer using paddle attachment on medium speed.  Turn off mixer.
  2. Sift all of the confectioners sugar and cocoa powder into the mixing bowl.  (I sifted before I measured).
  3. Turn mixer to lowest speed and add sugar and cocoa powder and mix until both are fully absorbed by the butter.
  4. Increase mixer to medium speed and add vanilla extract and cream/milk and beat for 3 minutes or so.
  5. Does it look alright?  If so, you have made frosting!  If it needs to be thinned out, add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time.  If the frosting needs to be more stiff, add a little more sugar.

Star Wars Stencils

Miss M really wanted something to do with Star Wars on her cupcakes.  Again, on pinterest, I searched "Star Wars cupcakes" and came up with this product that Williams Sonoma makes.

For about ten bucks, you get four stencils of Darth Vader, Yoda, Storm Trooper and the Logo itself.  The stencils are quite easy to use.  You simply place them on top of the cupcake and sift some powdered sugar, cinnamon, etc over the stencil.

Here are some helpful tips:
  • make sure you refrigerate your frosted cupcakes overnight or a suitable length of time so that the frosting will not automatically absorb your design.
  • if you are traveling with your cupcakes, do the decorating once you get to your destination.  This is what we did and it took a whole five minutes for us to decorate about 24 cupcakes.  Quick and Easy.
Overall, I was quite pleased on how the cupcakes turned out this year.  We had some leftovers but they have since been eaten up.  If that isn't a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011