Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Advent Calender 2011

I just finished cutting, sewing, and assembling my advent calender garland for this year. A pack of fat quarters, a cheap tinsel garland, and a pack of plastic snowflakes (I was actually 5 ornaments short for the picture) and ribbon.

Just cut each fat quarter into fourths, and fold those fourths in half, right sides together and sew around, leaving a short end open, turn right side out and BOOM! Bag!



I hung a cheap tinsel garland on my mantle, tied each bag with a piece of ribbon to the garland, and then hung a plastic snowflake ornament with the countdown numbers drawn on in permanent marker, over the top of each bag.

Each bag contains either a piece of candy, a small toy, or a piece of paper with a fun Christmas activity for us to do that evening. And we can hang the ornaments on the tree each day we open the bag.

I'm most excited to get the "Ice-cream for breakfast" bag! Woohoo!




Tip Junkie handmade projects

No-Bake Energy Bites Tutorial

I found this recipe on Pinterest (the original recipe can be found here), I changed a few things, however. I had all the ingredients on hand so I made a batch for my husband and I while we played some late-night XBox. They are delicious!

While we were taking a break, I learned via Facebook that one of my husband's buddies at work was having a birthday the next day. So, as a last minute gift, I packaged up the rest of the Energy Bites in a pretty box and sent them to work with my husband.

His buddy shared his gift with the other people in the office and the orders came FLOODING in within an hour. I had orders for 100 bites the first day and I'm currently on a weekly auto-delivery for one guy. They are SUPER easy and quick, and people LOVE them.


No-Bake Energy Bites (makes about 16 bites)


1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter (I prefer Chunky)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup Wheat Germ
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I used regular sized chips)
1 tsp vanilla


Combine all the ingredients in your stand-mixer (or by hand). 
Press into a 8X8 dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes.



Once cool, cut them into 16 equal sized squares and roll into balls. Enjoy them!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Apple Chips Tutorial

I came across this recipe/idea on the internet. It never occurred to me to make apple chips in my oven. I've only ever made them in a dehydrator. So, I gave the "oven-dried" apple chips a chance...and they are awesome! Crunchy. Like, Lays potato chips, crunchy. Yum.


Oven-Dried Apple Chips


Using a mandolin or a knife and steady hands, slice the apples (skin on, not cored) paper thin. I used the thinnest setting on my mandolin.


 Lay on a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 225 degrees for 1 hour.



Remove from cookie sheet, let cool on a plate, then transfer to an airtight container for storage.

My kids (and husband) loved these. I'm totally making potato chips like this from now on. Yay for healthy snacks!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mexican Pinwheels Tutorial

If you're looking for a fast, easy, delicious potluck dish or party food, this is it. I LOVE pinwheels and I love Mexican food...this is their love child.

Mexican Pinwheels

1 block of cream cheese, softened
1 can of refried beans
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 pack taco seasoning
1 small can of diced chilies
A handful of green onions, chopped
Optional: Shredded lettuce and finely diced tomatoes- I didn't use either this time.
Salsa for dipping.

Step 1



In a mixer (or by hand) stir together the cream cheese, beans, and taco seasoning. Mix until smooth. Add cheddar cheese, chilies, green onions, stir until combined.

Step 2


Spread 2 heaping tablespoons of the bean mixture onto a tortilla. You would sprinkle the lettuce and tomato over the top of the bean mixture at this point, if you are using them.

Step 3


Roll up and lay in a baking dish. Continue until all the tortillas are done. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Step 4


Cut the tortillas into 1/2 inch pieces, set in serving dish, with a bowl of salsa for dipping.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Classroom

I've decided that we are going to try and homeschool for the long haul. The original plan was to homeschool until the 4th grade and then send June to public school. However, she has shown signs that she's ready to start NOW and since she's only 2 1/2 years old, that posed a bit of a problem. I don't feel it's fair to make her wait until she's 5 years old to go to school.

Thanks to Confessions of a Homeschooler's "Letter of the Week" preschool curriculum and a trip to Hobby Lobby (and some orders from Amazon.com, of course), I managed to convert my formal dining room into a classroom:

 

I have baskets of art supplies on the table, two bulletin boards (one being a weather center and the other is a display for worksheets and artwork).


The alphabet is displayed around the top of the room. The empty wall will be shelving soon. June helped me make the school themed "mobile" on the chandelier.


I used the removable crib side of June's bed as a coloring book/ workbook holder. I also lined the closet door with Dry Erase contact paper.


The other door is a "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" tree I found on Amazon.com. With each letter we complete, we hang it from the tree.

It's bright and colorful and I add to my supplies with each trip to the store. I can ALWAYS find something on clearance that I can use at some point in her homeschool career.

I think it's amazing. When I was little, I wanted to be two things when I grew up: a chef and a teacher. Thanks to God and my husband, I'm able to be both. =)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Proposal: A Love Story...

So, you have read about how we met. Now the fun part...the OFFICIAL proposal. And like most everything about us, it wasn't typical.

We had been together for 7 months at this point. We were verbally engaged to each other but he hadn't made it official yet. I wore a fake diamond ring on my finger to keep all my other suitors (eye roll) at bay.

We planned a spring break trip together.


A 12 hour drive to Eureka Springs, Arkansas and a weekend in a luxury tree-house cottage.




On our way to the cottage, we stopped at several random points of interest. A small diner with the "World's Best Pies", a winery (or two!) a State Park for paddle boats, and lastly, a White Water Rafting adventure. We picked up some sandwiches for a picnic later and we were driven to our raft. It was a solo rafting experience. No guide. Just us, a raft, and life-jackets.

It started out relaxing. We paddled through a few little rapids. Nothing major by any stretch of the imagination. We mostly floated and talked. I remember making this comment: "These rapids are kind of weak...I was hoping for something a little more extreme."

It was at this point that God intervened and granted my wish for more extreme rapids. We turned a corner in the river and I see a giant boulder with rushing rapids on each side of it. I began to panic and told Justin "Just don't hit the boulder!" Of course, in man-speak, that's translated into "Head STRAIGHT for the boulder!" Well, I can assume it does, since that's what he did. We crashed into the rock, flipped over, and went rushing through the rapids together...bouncing off other rocks, no helmets, no experience. We survived, he swam for the boat, I swam for the paddles. We pulled ourselves out of the river, trekked through the woods a ways, and made our way to the rafting place. We were alive, soaking wet, and freezing.

We drove like that to our tree-house. When we got into our room, we got undressed and hung our clothes outside on the balcony to dry. 


He lit a fire in the fireplace...



...and we laid down on the couch together, and laughed about how we almost drowned that day. My hand was resting on his chest and I suddenly felt it beating faster and faster. I asked him, "Are you okay? Your heart is beating fast!" He said he was fine. He asked me if I could get up and get him a soda. Which was weird since he didn't drink sodas. I got up and got a can of Coke out of the fridge. I gave it to him and got comfortable again on the couch.

Then a few seconds later, he said "Can you do something else for me?" I sighed heavily, I was warm and I had JUST gotten comfortable again from getting his Coke. I said "Sure..." He said "Can you give me that ring you've been wearing on your left hand? I have something better that I want to replace it with." And he pulled out THE RING that I built on some jewelry website of my "perfect engagement" ring. He asked me "Will you marry me?" and I cried...which means "YES" in girl-speak.





It was one of the best trips of my life...even considering I later was diagnosed with Lyme Disease which I can only assume I contracted while hiking through the Arkansas woods to get back to the rafting place. Every rose has it's thorn...yada yada yada. He also told me later that he had my ring in his pocket during the rafting "oar-deal" (bwhaha, get it??? OAR-deal?!!)...I'm just happy he didn't lose the ring during our near-death experience. It wouldn't have surprised me though. We are accident prone people. And by "we" I mean "him."

Hope you got a laugh out of our story. We sure did. =)

PS: All pictures are from our "Love Book."





Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How We Met: A Love Story...

My wedding anniversary is this weekend. Justin and I have been married for 6 years. Together for 7 1/2 years total. So in honor of this anniversary, I thought I'd post on how we met.

It was 2004 and I was in college, I was 21 years old. I was working at Cracker Barrel as a cashier/hostess and my best friend was Jennifer. Jennifer had a brother, named James. She set me up with her brother and I went out with him once. James mentioned on our date that I was like a girl version of his best friend, Justin. He said he liked me and that I was really sweet but he thought I'd get along better with Justin. So, Jennifer and James started telling Justin about me. They gave him my number. He never called. They gave his mother my number...he never called. I pretty much forgot about him as I got busy with school and work.

I had a date with a new guy, Mark. I met him once, he was nice...but I needed to study for an exam, so I cancelled our date and stayed home to study. Then my cell phone rings. I didn't recognize the number but I answered it..."Hello?!" "Hey, this is Justin...James' friend."

Justin had been seeing a girl for the past several months which is why he never called me. He doesn't believe in dating more than one person at a time. They had recently broken up and he had recently broken his LEG in a dirt-bike accident. He was laid up in bed and found my number on a post-it note in his wallet and figured he had nothing better to do that night, so he called me up.

We spent the next 3 hours straight talking on the phone. The call lasted so long that I had to plug my phone in to charge during the call. It was instant. A spark I've never felt with anyone, in person much less over the phone. We talked about everything that night. We planned to meet in person the next day. He worked down the road from Cracker Barrel and would come in for lunch on his break. As I hung up the phone, my heart was racing, I was totally, head over heels, in love with him.

The next day, I put on my cutest black pencil skirt and my burgundy apron. I nervously awaited him. Lunch rush started coming in and I stared at the doors wondering when he was going to walk through them. My friend Renee was working with me that shift. Suddenly, I see a pair of crutches push through the doors and my heart stopped when I saw him. He was gorgeous and TALL and I turned bright red as he hobbled toward me on his crutches. I leaned over to Renee and told her "I'm going to marry that boy!" She laughed at me...I dated a lot and she just rolled her eyes at that statement. But I just knew.

We talked as much as my work would allow me and made plans to meet again the next day at a park for a picnic. We must have spent hours at that park, talking about all kinds of things. We had our first kiss at the park (he was actually in his car, about to leave, and I walked over and pretended to fall in his lap and kissed him- he was shy). On my way home, I called Jennifer. I gushed about how wonderful he was and how much I liked him. I found out later, that Justin called James on HIS way home. So Jennifer and James were each on the phone with one of us. They just knew, too.

I went on vacation for a week to Florida with my family. The day I got home, I met up with Justin to meet his parents. He drove me to his house and I met his family. I loved them instantly and KNEW I belonged with this family. We said "I love you" to each other that night (our 2nd official date) and the next night we went out to an Italian restaurant.

On our way to the restaurant, we picked up a blank journal at the book store. While we waited for our food, we wrote in this journal. We labeled it our "Love Book" and the first entry is this:

"We chose this book together. It's to document our life together. Use this book to speak what's on your mind and in your heart. Draw pictures, write letters, or just doodle, so later on, we'll have a collection of our love for each other to pass down to our kids. A journal to look back on during tough times and a lovely reminder during slow times. I love you with all my heart."

Starting on that 3rd date, we planned our future wedding and life together. The book is filled with love letters to each other, petals from flowers he gave me, tokens of our love are pasted and glued on the pages. Even the paper table cloth from that restaurant is in there. My  name is written on it...his last name tacked on to the end. Only a week since I had met him, my soulmate.

PS: The guy I cancelled on the night Justin called me...Mark? I introduced him to a friend of mine the night of my Bachelorette party...they are happily married to each other and best friends of ours.

Next post...the OFFICIAL proposal...