Thursday, December 27, 2012

Simple Holiday Craft: Ornament Magnets

This post is a little late for Christmas and most of the holiday season, but perhaps some of you will be inspired to get crafty as you take your decorations down.

Months ago, I found this easy-to-do project on Pinterest. On her Young House Love blog, she recommends using liquid nails to securely attach magnets to basic ornaments to festively decorate your fridge. I'm a big fan of using what I have around the house, I so used my hot glue gun. I had some round magnets leftover from my picture frame project. I think I got them from a hardware store, but I can't recall exactly. Please remember to keep small magnets away from little kids! If they swallow them, the magnets can cause serious internal damage.

I used my magnets to hold up all of our Christmas cards and greeting cards. I think I need to make more! I had to use every magnet in the house.

Here are my magnet ornaments up close:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

I woke up at 5am on Christmas morning and couldn't go back to sleep. I felt like I was a little kid, jumping out of my skin because it was Christmas. The kids couldn't get up soon enough!

Oliver and Jo both got up at about 6am. I ran into their room and told them, "Santa came!" Oliver's eyes lit up because we'd been discussing Santa Claus all week. He said, "Santa came and ate the cookies!"

We hurried downstairs. Oliver's eyes grew wide when he spotted the gifts under the tree. He started to walk to them but then stopped. He was more interested to see if Santa ate the cookies he'd set out for him the night before. He ran over to the fireplace and announced, "He ate them!" Oliver was so excited that Santa ate the cookies. Let me tell you, that's the best Christmas gift I've ever received. All I've ever wanted since getting pregnant for the first time was to experience Christmas as Santa. This is the first year I really got to do it!

Oliver wasn't very interested in the stockings at first.

Here he is, helping Jo with her gifts. Every time Oliver started to open play with one of his gifts, he'd change his mind and go back to Jo's. Oh, and isn't this a very attractive picture of me on Christmas morning? Ha! I was actually really into it, though, and definitely not as tired as I looked...

Joanna's favorite gifts were the jingle bells and the box of Kleenex. Here she is in action!

When all of the presents were opened and examined, Andrew made our Christmas breakfast tradition: donuts. We use a recipe from a childhood friend of mine (well, from her mom). All you do is heat oil (enough for frying) to about 350 degrees. Then, you pop open a package of Pillsbury (or generic, of course) biscuit dough. Poke a hole in the center to make it a donut, and then fry it.  After a couple minutes, you flip it over and fry it on the other side. We let them drain on paper towels and then dunk them in cinnamon and sugar. They are so good, but we limit ourselves to once a year ;-)

After breakfast,  Oliver figured out the stockings. He made sure we all opened ours.

As a Christmas treat, I lit some candles and let him blow them out. He really loves blowing out candles. I even sang, "Merry Christmas to you!" so he could blow them out like a birthday cake.

We took his new shovel for a spin!

It was the best Christmas morning I've ever had. I'm already looking forward to next year! After lunch and nap time, we went over to my in-laws'. It was warm and cozy, and Oliver got to brew coffee. For dinner, Paul and Colleen made some lasagnas and pasta. It was delicious.

Oliver got to open gifts, of course. He got a suitcase (with his name on it!) and his very own mixer from Grandma Colleen and Grandpa Paul.

The mixer actually doesn't work, so it's perfect for a kid obsessed with small appliances. It's staying at Grandma Colleen's house, and he's going to look forward to playing with it every time he goes over. 

Joanna got some stuffed animals and some stacking blocks. She was mostly interested in the Play-doh Oliver got from Uncle Scott. Actually, to be more specific, Oliver got a Play-doh ice cream maker. He calls it a blender and has a lot of fun cranking out "ice cream" with it and pretending to eat it.

Aunt Bonnie, Uncle George, and Cliff brought a Christmas cake. Every year, they bring the most beautiful cakes from some bakery up in Arvada. Last year, it was a yule log cake!

Family relaxing and opening gifts on Christmas. Uncle George, Aunt Bonnie, and Cliff gave Oliver his own headlamp, and Jo received some two-piece puzzles!

We had a very merry Christmas. I hope all of my family, friends, and readers got to enjoy their Christmas (or their favorite winter holiday). Happy Holidays to you all!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The $3 Christmas Present Piles

Santa pulled it off again this year!

We managed to create a pile of gifts for each of our kids for less than $3 each.

Up first is Oliver's. He got a new child's snow shovel from Home Depot. This past fall, Home Depot had a Facebook game in which you mowed down zombies with a wood chip mulcher to get free certificates. We used a $5 off of $5 purchase to get Oliver a free snow shovel. On Small Business Saturday, we went to a toy store called Timbuk Toys. As I posted before, we got a "Honeybee Tree" board game for Oliver and some jingle bells for Jo. After the $25 Small Business Saturday discount, they came to $2.28. I took Jo's summer clothes into a consignment shop and got enough credit to pick out the baseball mitt for Oliver. On Black Friday, I scored two baseballs for less than 50 cents. A fellow mom in MOMS Club was cleaning out her daughters' bookshelf, and she gave me a pile of Clifford books. They were in great condition, so they went into Oliver's Christmas pile. Finally, I went to JCPenney every day between Black Friday and Christmas Eve to get free buttons that they were giving away. Each button came with a code I entered online. One in four buttons was a winner. I won a substantial quantity of free $5 and $10 vouchers. I worked hard to make purchases of their exact amount to get items for free. Below, you can see Oliver got a toy birthday cake because he loves candles. It was on sale for $10, so I got it for free with one of my $10 vouchers. The Melissa & Doug stamp set was on clearance for $8. I picked up a $2 pair of socks and got the stamp set for free!

Here is Jo's pile. The mailbox was actually once Oliver's. A few months ago, I cleaned it up and replaced the batteries. I stowed it away in the closet so it would be fresh and new for Jo. I got the basketball game from a gift exchange from MOMS Club. We brought in some toys we no longer used and got this in return. The wrapped gift was a bathtub coloring set that I got for free with my Pampers rewards points. I posted previously about good rewards programs, but I ended up saving the bumble bee flashlight and the Dumbo puzzle to give to the kids next year instead. The bathtub fishing net was also free. We ordered a Christmas present on Amazon that came to $20. We were going to have to pay $5 in shipping, or we would get free shipping if we spent $25. So, I searched the website for a $5-$6 toy, since I would pay that much for shipping anyway. Jo loves taking baths, so I chose that for her. The book was saved from Oliver. I paid for the box of Kleenex (which she loved). You can also see the jingle bells poking out from behind the wrapped gift, which, as I mentioned from Oliver's pile, came from Timbuk Toys on Small Business Saturday.

And, so, once again, Santa pulled off a good but affordable Christmas. All told, we spent about $7 in our piles of presents from Santa. In addition, we got a number of gifts using the JCPenney vouchers for next year. Santa plans ahead!

Christmas Eve 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!

We spend every Christmas Eve with my parents. From the time I was a small child, we spent Christmas Eve with my dad's family. We spent Christmas morning at home, and then we'd go over to my mom's sister's condo for Christmas dinner. We've continued that kind of tradition for our kids. Christmas Eve  dinner is spent with my family. Christmas morning is spent at home, and then we go over to my in-laws' home for Christmas dinner.  It works well!

Julie made chicken salad and vegetarian chicken salad for sandwiches. She cooked some Swedish meatballs in the Crock Pot, which Oliver enjoyed watching. She made fixings for grilled cheeses and just pulled off an amazing spread.

Oliver got really excited for presents this year. He enjoyed "reading" the tags to figure out which present went to whom, and then he put them in piles. 

He opened a book from Aunt Julie that he gets to fill out about himself. We'll work on reading and writing, and then he'll be ready to go! She also gave him new undies! Oliver gets the best undies every Christmas from Aunt Julie. Every time he opened a gift, he was immediately ready to move on to the next one.

Joanna was very deliberate in opening her gifts. She'd examine the packages and then tear off the paper in strips.

Oliver got a rolling pin and spatula baking set from Uncle Andy and Aunt Erin. They couldn't make it into town this year, but they sent packages with love! Oliver also got a bubble set that he's been begging to play with. It's hidden in the closet for warmer weather, but I think it'll make an appearance when we go on vacation!

Joanna got a new French bulldog sweater from Aunt Julie. She loved crinkling the package.

Oliver got a French bulldog hoodie from Grandma Judy and Grandpa Larry. He also got a drill set that he loves!

Here are Oliver, Julie, and Joanna all in their French bulldog tops. There's Arthur (Julie's French bulldog), posing handsomely for this Christmas photo.

Andrew got a new tall-person tie as part of his Secret Santa gift. He was thrilled to tie a double Windsor and still have it be long enough for him.

Joanna got an elephant ball popper from Grandma Judy & Grandpa Larry. Both she and Oliver love it!

Loved ones also gave a sticker set, some Smarty Pants flash cards, and a practice pad to learn how to write letters. Oliver had enough presents, so he opened those at home from Santa the next morning.

Thank you, Family! We had a lovely Christmas Eve. It even ended with some snow for a white Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Denver Zoo Lights

Andrew and I took the kids to the Denver Zoo Lights tonight. It could have easily been a disaster, and my review of this seasonal treat would have been quite different. As it stands, we really lucked out.

The zoo was transformed into a wonderland. The Zoo Lights were stunning. Everything was lit up and beautiful. The kids, who had been so crabby during the drive, instantly perked up. Oliver oohed and ahhed, and Joanna was lit up with smiles!

I'm not exaggerating when I say I didn't anticipate the kids having as much fun as they did. I'd hoped they'd like it, but they loved it!


Honestly, I thought the light displays were just as good (if not better) as Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Here are some photos of the kids having a good time:

Jo was all smiles:

We absolutely want to go back next year. This was one of the highlights of the season! I think we might go a couple of weeks before Christmas, perhaps on a week night, in order to avoid the parking problem and the insane lines. And, of course, we'll make sure to buy our tickets in advance online!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Untitled (JibJab Card)

I made this holiday card on a whim, and Oliver can't get enough of it. His character on the drums cracks me up! Here's so we can enjoy it always:

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012

We selected a tri-fold Christmas card this year in order to include this series of images:

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 87: Tape

This might be a good activity for some stay-at-home parents this week. If you need to get wrapping done, give your toddler some tape to play with! Just be sure to supervise your child at all times with the tape so your child doesn't stick it in his/her mouth. If it gets caught in the back of the mouth or throat, they might not be able to get air. So, close supervision for this activity, please!

I was wrapping some packages, and both of my kids were being cranky. I didn't want to stop in the middle of a gift, so I stuck a long piece of tape on each of their hands. It did the trick!

Jo kept herself happily occupied with the tape for about five minutes--not an eternity, but enough time for me to finish wrapping. I think Oliver was mostly interested in the tape because Jo was. He stuck it to her jammies a few times to see what would happen. Jo crinkled it and stuck pieces to various toys.

It was so simple! I think it was fun because of the novelty. It's a trick I'll certainly use whenever I happen to be wrapping a gift. I give it a B grade.
Also, if your child is old enough to enjoy coloring and stickers, check out this old activity to get your child involved in wrapping with you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Animals for the kids' boo-boos

We went to Kohl's today to get a bear for the teddy bear drive benefiting the survivors and families of Sandy Hook. Oliver helped choose the big bear. The small bear has the letter S on its tummy. I tried to tell Oliver that some kids got hurt, and we wanted to help them get better. In the store, he kept talking about "giving the kids animals because they have boo-boos."

Here he is with the bears we selected. He did a very good job not getting upset when we dropped the bears off.

On a separate note, someone posted an image on Imgur today that had me in tears. You can find it here. It was written from one of the little friends of a victim.

If you're in the Denver area and would like to participate in the teddy bear drive, you can find information here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Teddy Bear Drive for Sandy Hook Survivors and Grieving Families

I'm not really able to put my feelings into words at this time. What words are appropriate when there are parents out there who had their children taken from them with such violent means? There aren't any.

Being in high school in the south suburbs of Denver at the time, I, of course, was acquainted with people who went to Columbine High School. I still can't even write about it, and I wasn't there. It's making my head hurt just to try to find the right words to write here. This isn't going to be a well-written post, but bear with me. People amaze me every day. The strength of the survivors inspire me. After everything they endure, to find the good in the world again... It's a powerful thing.

**Skip this paragraph if you can't deal with specifics from Sandy Hook.**
Just know that for every person who does a terrible thing, there are people out there doing good. A young man killed children. But there were good people who helped save lives that day. A principal and school therapist lunged at the shooter to stop him. They died trying to stop him. In that time, he let off shots. That gave one teacher, the teacher whose door was closest to the entrance, enough time to lock her classroom door. When the shooter found that door locked, he moved on. A special education teacher used her body to shield her students and died. Another teacher stuffed her young children in a closet. When the shooter entered the room, she lied and told him they were at gym. He shot her. There were real heroes that day. They didn't save everyone, but their good deeds and heroic actions give me hope.

Today, a friend who is a survivor posted on Facebook about a charity drive led by fellow Columbine Massacre survivors. She shared that little acts of kindness helped her to see the good in people again. She said she still has a teddy bear that was given to her after the shooting. Many students were given bears and kept theirs after all this time.

Those survivors are organizing a teddy bear drive. You can find details for the drive at this website:

They write:
When our tragedy happened, many kind strangers sent us teddy bears for comfort. We still have those bears. They brought us hope.  They continue to bring us comfort and a reminder that there is so much good in the world.
We want to help provide the children and families of Sandy Hook some of the same hope and comfort we received.

If you are in a position to, please consider donating a bear to their teddy bear drive.

My thoughts and sympathy are with all of the parents and siblings and survivors from Sandy Hook. These were babies. All the photos of the deceased--I look at their smiling mouths filled with baby teeth... it's too much. I don't know how the families and community are going to move on. But I think back to those Columbine survivors, and I know good will prevail there, too.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Easiest Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Last year, for Oliver's birthday party, I found a very easy pumpkin cake recipe on The ingredients are literally just this: a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin. Based on some of the reviews, I added an egg to make sure it rose properly.

Well, last month, the topic of this cake came up in a Pinterest group I joined. Apparently, some people use those two ingredients and bake it into a spice cake. Others use muffins. One girl said to add cinnamon chips to the muffins. My grocery store just started carrying cinnamon chips, so I made a mental note to try the recipe out sometime. I bought all the stuff and left it in the cabinet for a rainy day.

I'm currently avoiding caffeine--no coffee (even decaf), no tea, and no chocolate. It's a long story, and I hope the situation is just temporary. I'm the queen of coffee, and this is no easy feat. It's also hard avoiding all the chocolate treats set out this time of year. So, I decided to make a treat I can eat--these easy pumpkin spice muffins.

Oh, my. These aren't just good. They are phenomenal. We made two dozen. I've already eaten three today, and it's 10am. Joanna has had two, and Oliver has had one. I need to hide them or something to make sure they last until Andrew gets home.

This is what I used:

1 box of spice cake mix
1 can of pumpkin
1 egg
1 package of cinnamon chips 

Here's what I did:

1. Beat the spice cake mix with the pumpkin and egg. Stir in the cinnamon chips.

2. Pour into muffin cups (I got 24). Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes, or until done.

Could it be any easier? Could they be any more delicious? The answer: No.

Well, I bet you could try cutting out the egg, if you'd like.