December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

"Christmas waves a 
magic wand over this world, 
and behold, everything 
is softer and more beautiful."
-Norman Vincent Peale

Hope you're enjoying this magical, special day with those you love.  I sure am! 
Merry Christmas!

(Thank you Graphics Fairy for the darling Christmas image!)
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December 24, 2012

Robert Duncan Studios (Holiday Edition)


I mentioned I have a very talent father-in-law a few posts ago (you can read about it here).  Well, he has an art gallery on main street here in Midway (Utah).  My husband has worked there for over 10 years.  We spend a lot of time at the gallery.  My boys love going to visit dad because they usually end up coming home with some sorts of cardboard boxes, tubes, "weapons" (all you mothers of little boys will understand).  I love going because along with all of my father-in-law's paintings, they also sell home decor items.  My mother-in-law has great taste and has the cutest things in the gallery. 

If you're in Midway over the next little while, stop in and see what they have.  I have some pictures of a few Christmas items they have (which will probably be going on sale soon for great prices!).  If I could, I'd have one of each item!  There's everything from ornaments to stuffed animals, signs to wreaths and dishes.

One of my favorite things she has at Christmastime are the pillows.  There's one in the collage above, and two below.  
The bird pillow with the pom-poms is my absolute favorite!

I always like shopping after Christmas for Christmas items.  I love the deals you can get, and I love thinking about what I can use for the next year (I'm already excited for Christmas next year).

Happy Christmas Eve!  I hope you have a wonderful day filled with whatever brings you joy.  We are having a family dinner with a cousin talent show (my favorite!) tonight.  My boys say they're singing 'Away in a Manger'.  I hope they follow through and don't get stage fright because it's the cutest thing ever!  Enjoy this exciting day!
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December 21, 2012

Christmas Gift Exchange Games

We have a houseful of cousins here today for a sleepover, so this is a quick little post. 

We have a local lifestyle show here in Utah- Studio 5.  I used to watch it every day, but my life is a bit more busy these days, so I don't get to see it as often as I'd like.  Several years ago I saw a cute idea from Alisa Bangerter (she's full of amazing ideas!).  She put together a whole list of ideas for Christmas gift exchange games.  After seeing her idea, I decided our family needed to give it a try.  We now do it every year.  Everyone brings a $5 gift for the game.  We try to make the gifts very gender neutral, because in some of the games you never know which gift you might end up with. 

 My boys look forward to the game as much as they do Santa coming.  They remember the games every year, and get so excited to see which one Aunt Miss is going to do this year!  
Go take a look at Alisa's list.  There's over 20 game ideas.  You can do the same game every year, or choose a new one each year (that's what we do).  I promise it will quickly become a new, favorite holiday tradition!  
Happy Friday!

Thank you dry icons for the cute graphic!
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December 20, 2012

Teacher Gifts & Printable

I'm guessing most of you have sent your child's teacher a Christmas gift already.  We just got ours all put together and sent off today.  If you still need an idea for this year (or maybe you're super on the ball and are already thinking about next year), here's one for you.

We LOVE the little oranges available this time of year.  We buy a bag every week, and my boys devour them!  Every time we sit down for a meal my three-year-old says, "I'll go get the orange to peel."  He really likes the peeling process! 
 Anyway, I loved getting treats and goodies as a teacher, but sometimes something a little more healthy was nice.  For my twins' teacher I just bought a small glass bowl at the dollar store and wrapped some oranges in clear plastic wrap.  I tied it with a cute red ribbon and add a gift tag I'd made with my Cricut Preserves Cartridge (this cartridge has tons of cute tag, and card shapes to be used).

For my wrapping, I used a roll of brown craft paper, added red yarn, a tissue paper flower (I use these for everything!), and another gift tag I made.

I have to say I think my favorite part of the whole gift may have been this cute card.  I found it at Michaels yesterday in their 2 for $3 bins.  And guess what?  They were on sale for 50 cents!  I bought all they had left (which was only four).  So, hurry out to Michaels and stock up.

I got so excited to wrap the present that I forgot to take a picture of what was inside. :)  I found a teaching quote on Pinterest and retyped it.  I printed it out on white card stock and put it in a black 5X7 frame from the dollar store.  I have a link here if you'd like to print one out for yourself.  This quote is great for any time of year, so if you've already given your Christmas gift, save this for another occasion.  

I hope you found something you liked.  As a former teacher, I know how much small tokens of appreciation mean.  It was fun to get gifts, but the thought meant so much more!  I still have a file of notes from students and parents that I will treasure forever!  Teachers are amazing and need to be reminded of it.
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December 19, 2012

Christmas Books & Puzzles

Do you love a good Christmas book?  I do!  And most of my favorites are children's books.  I'm sure that has everything to do with the fact that I taught first grade for five years, and I have three little boys of my own now.  

I've put together a collage of a few (I could have easily put at least twenty on my list) of my favorites.  A lot of them are old ones from when I was young.  Christmas is all about the feelings and memories, isn't it?  I love how reading many of these books to my boys takes me back to my childhood. 

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Just click on the numbers to find more information on each book.

Puzzles.  Do you love a good Christmas puzzle?  I do!  I'm guessing most of you don't get quite as excited about Christmas puzzles as you do about Christmas books.  But hey, maybe there are more of you out there like me than I think.  Once again, it all goes back to Christmas memories.  We always did puzzles in my family- especially during the holidays.  I mentioned my dream world/home library in my post here.  Well, I have the same wish for a game/puzzle nook someday.  I would love to have a permanent spot just for puzzles.  I imagine a cozy corner with a cute table, lamps, chairs, treats, music, blankets, and whatever else would invite you to sit down, stay awhile, and put a piece or two in.

Here are a few favorite Christmas puzzles of mine.  I also found some new ones I can't wait to try!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
(Once again, just click on the numbers to find out more information on each puzzle.)

I also love puzzles and books because they make fantastic gifts.  I always try to get my boys at least one book and one puzzle at Christmastime.  I usually ask for one book and puzzle myself. :)
So, what are your favorites?  I'm always on the lookout for new ones.  Let me know what I'm missing!
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December 18, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Orange Slices

We're down to the week before Christmas (yikes!  I'm not quite ready).  Do you need a yummy, quick, and easy neighbor/teacher gift?  Well, these fit the bill.  My family used to make these all of the time.  You could really make them any time of the year, but chocolate and orange are definitely Christmas flavors for me. 

milk chocolate chips
candy orange slices

Simply melt the chocolate chips (I added a drop of cooking oil to them as well) in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds. Take the chocolate chips out, stir, and melt again for 30 seconds.  The chocolate chips should be completely melted by now.  If not, just repeat until melted and smooth.
Dip the orange slices into the chocolate.  I only dip half of the orange slice, but you can dip as little or as much as you'd like.  Allow to harden on a piece of wax paper. 

It doesn't get much easier than that.  Does it?  We made a batch of these today to take to some friends and my boys were devastated that they only got to sample one each.  We are headed to the store tomorrow to get a new bag of orange slices so my boys can have a "whole batch to themselves".  :)
I'm going to try to post my quotes every Tuesday (we'll see if I can remember that), so here's your Tuesday Quote for this week.  

Linking to these parties & Savvy Southern Style.
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December 17, 2012

Dollar Store Cookie Ornaments

My boys and I were at Dollar Tree a few days ago.  We were looking for a Christmas card to send their cousin who recently moved to Georgia.  While we were looking at the cards, a cute little older man started talking to my three-year-old.  He noticed my three-year-old was holding a fifty cent piece.  The sweet  man reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills.  He then gave a dollar bill to my three-year-old (I guess he was worried that the fifty cent piece wasn't going to cut it at the dollar store).  He handed another dollar to one of my twins.  I told the older man he didn't need to do that, but thanked him graciously.  What a kind thing to do!  My boys were in awe- a complete stranger had given them two whole dollars!  
We left the card isle, and a few minutes later the cute old man was back with his wad of money.  He must have gone up to the register to get change, because he had one more dollar bill for my other twin.  My boys were beaming!  He made their day!!  Three dollars isn't a lot, but the kind act of giving (to complete strangers) meant so much.  I was smiling all day because of him.

After many, many, many minutes of agonizing decision making (apparently, spending a stranger's dollar carries a lot of responsibility with it), my boys ending up choosing the cookies you see above.  I was thinking it was an interesting choice, but was glad they'd finally made a decision!  We left the dollar store with three boxes of cookies.  

When we got home, we opened the boxes of cookies.  My boys were thrilled!  Inside the box, they found about eight little compartments, each filled with about five cookies.  They couldn't believe how many cookies!  I couldn't believe how cute a few of the cookie shapes were.  The cookies in the picture above reminded me of little wreaths.  I decided I needed my own box of cookies too!  

Once I had my box of cookies, I started making ornaments.  I got started and couldn't stop!  I added stickers, yarn, evergreen sprigs, fabric covered brads, my favorite pearl embellishments, and even spray glitter.  I also used one of my layered flower stickers from my Christmas bookmarks.  It was so much fun coming up with new possibilities!  The more I looked, the more I found to use.  I even liked the cookies without anything on them.  They looked like cute gingerbread wreaths hanging on the tree.  

I hot glued a small string to the back of all my cookies, then hot glued the embellishments on the front.  Oh, and the glitter I used was Krylon's Glitter Blast in Orange Burst.  I wanted red or green, but the Orange Burst was all I had.  It actually turned out to be the perfect color!  It matched the color of the cookie exactly and gave it just a bit of shine and elegance.  I'm not sure how a different color of glitter would work, but it definitely would be worth a try.

I only used two of the shapes in the cookie box.  There were one or two others that may have worked, but these two were by far my favorite!  I love a cute craft for hardly any money.  I made (from one box) 8-10 ornaments.  Not bad for one dollar!  I can't wait to go buy more and make a whole set of ornaments.  So, get yourself a box of dollar store cookies and go crazy!  Let me know what you come up with.  I can't wait to go buy more and make a whole set of ornaments.
Happy Monday!

Linking to these parties.            
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December 14, 2012

Easy Homemade Breadsticks

I love the smell of yeast!  I don't make a lot of bread or rolls, but I do make these breadsticks ALL the time (I could make them in my sleep).  I got this recipe from my friend several years ago.  The first time I made them I was a bit nervous because I hadn't had a lot of experience with yeast.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well they turned out- even after my first try.  I do have to say they turn out better than they used to (that practice thing really works :)).  I know how much flour is too much, and what the dough should feel like.
These are really easy- easy ingredients and easy to make.

Easy Homemade Breadsticks
1 1/2 C. warm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 C. butter melted
1 Tbsp. yeast
3 1/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Our Best Bites garlic bread seasoning (I make a bunch of this and keep it in a jar in my fridge)

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.  Dissolve yeast in water.  Add sugar.  Watch for bubbles to form. Make dough with yeast mixture, flour , and salt.  (Dough will be very sticky, but that's okay.  You'll add more flour when you're kneading. The trick is to keep the dough as wet as possible, yet still workable).  Knead for three minutes and  let rise for 10 minutes.  Roll out right away on a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut dough into strips (I use a pizza cutter) and dip into butter.  Place onto baking sheet.  Sprinkle with garlic bread seasoning.  Let rise for 15-20 minutes.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

We eat these breadsticks with spaghetti sauce most of the time.  They're also great with alfredo sauce.   You  can dip them in anything you like.  You can also change the topping.  I've used just garlic powder, kosher salt, and parmesan before.  I haven't tried it, but I bet cinnamon and sugar would be good on top for a sweet breadstick.  You could dip them in frosting!  Get creative- the possibilities are endless!

Linking up to these parties.
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December 13, 2012

Robert Duncan Art

A Winter's Chill

I have an extremely talented father-in-law!  You may have heard of him.  It's fun to hear the grand kids talk about him at times, "Did you know Poppy is famous?".  Well, he is.  My husband works at his art gallery where they sell his artwork. They also ship orders from there as well.  They ship all over the world.
So many of his prints are perfect for this time of year.  I put together a few (well... not so few, it was hard to narrow it down) of may favorites here.  You can go visit to see all of his prints, cards, calendars, puzzles, and originals.  All of the prints I've posted are available at his sight.  The top picture (A Winter's Chill) is and original, but all of the others are either prints or cards.  These make great gifts!  

1 My Fat Snowman
2 Way Up North
3 Home For Dinner
4 Barn Patrol
5 Hay For My Friends
6 Emma's Sleigh Ride
7 Winter's Eve
8 Ivan And The Girls
9 Be Back Soon

1 The Friendly One
2 December In The Country

O Christmas Tree

The only complaint I hear of those who have his work in their homes is that they don't have enough wall space for all the ones they want.  I feel the same.  I'm glad he has a lot of seasonal prints, it makes it fun to switch them throughout the year.  
I have even been in a couple of his paintings.  It's kind of cool to see yourself painted.

1 Love Letters In The Sand
2 Lovers
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December 12, 2012

Roll a Christmas Tree (Game &Printable)

Last fall I found the cutest game from The Happy Home Fairy.  It was called Roll a Pumpkin.  I'm always looking for fun seasonal things to do with my boys, so we gave it a try.  They had a ball with it!  And the great thing is, you can play it over and over and over.  
Well, I decided we needed a Christmas version of the game, so we came up with Roll a Christmas Tree.  Same concept as the pumpkin game, this time we're just making a Christmas tree. You could do anything with this game.  Roll a Santa, reindeer, present, oh, I just thought of a gingerbread house/man- that would be adorable!  We'll have to work on that one.  :)

*2 dice
*crayons, markers, or colored pencils
*one Christmas tree for each player (here is a cute one to print out, or you can just draw your own)
*instruction sheet (found here)

The game is pretty self-explanatory.  Just follow the rules on the instruction sheet.  My boys and I played yesterday (WARNING! you may be rolling forever to get your lights.  Rolling snake eyes for a two can take a long time!).  We had a lot of fun!  My three-year-old rolled a few times and then just started drawing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.  We all did finish our trees, here's what they looked like.  I quite enjoyed myself while coloring and decorating my tree.  I need more excuses to color.

Oh, and here's a quote for you today.  Happy Wednesday!

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December 11, 2012

DIY Gift Boxes

I have my fifth grade teacher (Mr. Downs) to thank for today's DIY project.  We made these little boxes in his class for Christmas gifts.  I remember being really excited about the boxes way back then.  I went home after class and made box after box after box!  

A few years back I started thinking about these cute boxes and wondered if I'd be able to make them again.  It was just like riding a bike, I started folding and it all came back to me.  What I love about these darling boxes is that they can be made in many sizes and with all the cute paper out there these days, the patterns and color possibilities are endless!   Right now I'm into lots of fun Christmas colors, but I do have a cute flower one at the end of my post I made for my mother-in-law's birthday.

I tried to photograph and explain each step, I hope they all make sense. 

*yardstick or ruler
*pencil or pen
*adhesive of some kind (glue dots work well)

Step 1:  Get a square piece of paper.  I actually like to use regular paper for these.  I like how well it folds.  Card stock does work, but can be a bit harder to fold.  Card stock does make a more sturdy box, but regular paper has always been strong enough for me.  Try each kind and see which you like best.
The smallest box I've ever made started out as 2  1/2" x 2  1/2" square.  It makes a tiny box!  The largest size I've made started as a 12" x 12" square.  I guess if you used wrapping paper you could start with a bigger size.  I just always use paper, so 12" x 12" is the largest size I've used.  The green polka dot paper above is 12" x 12".

Step 2:  Turn the paper over and make an X from one corner to the other.

Step 3:  Fold one corner into the center of the X.  

Step 4:  Repeat step 3 with the other three corners.

Step 5:  Unfold all of the corners.

Step 6:  Refold one corner to the center of the X.

Step 7:  Fold the same corner a second time to the center line.  Unfold and then repeat this with all three corners. 

Step 8:  Unfold your last fold.  Your paper should look like this with TONS of creases from your folding.

Step 9:  Cut the triangles out of the corners of the large folded square as shown.  You will also need to cut along the inner crease one square past the triangle.  This square should remain attached.

Step 10:  Fold opposite corners to the center of the X again.  I hope this picture helps you see how to fold.  The creases you've made should kind of guide you on your folding.

Step 11:  The two remaining opposite corners can then be folded over to the inside of your box.

Your box should now look like this on the inside.  I usually add a little glue dot in the center where the corners meet to hold them in place.  A small piece of tape works too.

When you flip your box over it will look like this.  Pretty cool, right?!  Now, the thing with these boxes is they come out a lot smaller than the original size of the paper.  This box began with a 12" x 12" piece of paper.  The top of the box is now 4 1/4" x 4 1/4".  The sides are rectangular and are 2" x 4 1/4" .  They are the perfect size for gift cards, jewelry, money,  little bags of marbles (my boys just got into marbles over the weekend), anything small and light weight.

You will need to make one more box to be the bottom if you are using it to hold a gift.  I usually just use white paper for the bottom box.  Start with a paper the same size as your top box, but before you do any of the steps, cut 1/4" off every side of you paper.  That way the bottom box will be slightly smaller than your top box and it will slide right into it.

This is the box I made for my mother-in-law's birthday.  I made the top box, the bottom box, and then wrapped yarn around and added a tissue paper flower I'd made.  I also stamped 'Nanny' on the bottom corner.  I tried to add a gift tag, but it kind of took the attention away from the cute box, so I opted for stamps.

I had a fun accident happen with my bottom box here.  When I was finished folding it, the bar code on the paper was showing right in the middle where the four corners met.  I decided to add two ruffled circles and a birthday hat sticker to cover it up.  I then thought it would be fun to stamp 'Happy Birthday' in the bottom as well (unfold your box before you stamp, it makes it much easier!).  Kind of a fun little surprise when the gift if taken out.  I think I'll do this with all my boxes from here on out.  

I've also used these boxes for decorations.  I make little ones for my boys' Christmas tree in their room.  They would make a cute garland of just about anything else you can think of.

Was that all clear as mud?  I hope the steps were easy to follow.  If not, let me know where you were confused.  You'll be a bit addicted, I promise.  I get folding and I can't stop.  Find yourself a good movie and fold away!

Linking to these parties.         
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