Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Off My Needles: Cupcake Hats

One of my friends asked if I could knit up some cupcake hats for her daughter to give to her classmates as a Christmas gift -- what a cute idea! I think they'd be super cute packaged in a small bakery box.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Every other year we have Sarah for Thanksgiving so every other year our Christmas decorations go up a little earlier. This is only our second Thanksgiving with Sarah EVER and I just love preparing for the holidays with her!

Sarah and Ella did all the ornaments themselves. Sarah was putting hooks on some red balls and Ella was putting them on the tree, but Sarah couldn't see where Ella was putting them (they were on the stairs so Miles wouldn't get in to the hooks). Sarah was very delicate in managing to rearrange the red ball cluster!

Miles has shown very little interest in the tree at all. He spent a few minutes playing with the lights and spent the rest of the afternoon pushing around a ball!

Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Entertain A Family of 5 for $10

A few weeks ago I picked up a local family magazine to peruse. In the very back of the magazine I found an advertisement for the UNLV women's basketball team. Turns out they had a home game while Sarah, our resident basketball fanatic, would be in town. I did a little investigating and found out the kids 12 and under get in to ALL UNLV sporting events for FREE! I also had a BOGO coupon for the women's basketball team in our Entertainment Book (admission is $7 for 12 and over). But it gets even better...on Sunday afternoon when we logged in on-line to double check the time of the game we found out that they were selling tickets for $1!

We paid a total of $4 for 4 adults and 5 kids to go to the game. We all had snacks and we still came in under $10 for an afternoon of bonding with the Runnin' Rebels. As an added bonus, UNLV played UNC and a gal who graduated from my husband's high school plays for UNC so there was a lot of hometown support at the game.

The ladies basketball team offers specials at pretty much every game. I'm not a huge fan of basketball, but we had such a great time that I'm looking in to attending other UNLV sporting functions with our kids.

Ella and Mimi (who of course bought her whatever she wanted to eat thus the popcorn!)

Sarah dancing during half-time

As an aside, we met up with an old friend of my husband's from his undergrad days and she has two kids Sarah's age. We were thrilled that she was able to make more friends here. She ended up spending the afternoon with them!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Off My Needles: Mrs. Flurry

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rethinking Christmas

During a trip to Wal-Mart last month, I decided to peruse the toy aisle to get some ideas for Christmas gifts. As I was looking at Littlest Pet Shop Pets and My Little Pony toys, I started to see this "stuff" for what it is -- STUFF! It's a bunch of plastic that someday will end up in a Goodwill bag after the kids have outgrown it.

I started pondering WHY was I out looking for gifts for no reason except to simply BUY GIFTS?!?! Yes, we're celebrating Christ's birth, but why does that have to involve tons of STUFF? The idea of gift giving just for the sake of gift giving seemed shallow and empty.

I've spent the past month pondering that overwhelming sense of shallowness I experienced in Wal-Mart that day. I determined that this year, Christmas WILL be different. I already have a small stockpile of gifts for the kids purchased on clearance and at yard sales. I've had handmade gifts for my family and close friends finished for weeks. I decided that I AM DONE. No more time, energy, or money will be spent on gifts this year. In fact, I put some of the gifts I have aside for birthdays for the next year!

I'm now focusing on re-working our Christmas celebration. Advent will become a bigger part of our season. I decided to make an Advent wreath (after wanting to buy one for years but they are just expensive!) and I pulled out an Advent devotional we have. We'll be reading "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" as a family. I'm looking for a way to make an Advent calendar that doesn't include Christmas trees, Santa, or little mice. I'm thinking of adding a piece of hay each day during Advent to a manger in one of our (many!) nativity sets.

Another "kink" in our Christmas celebration is that we are a "blended family" and our eldest daughter never arrives before December 23rd (or so) and every other year (like this year) doesn't arrive until December 26th. I certainly don't want to spend every other Christmas celebrating without her! We decided that our family will have our big Christmas celebration on December 26th or 27th every year. I'm hoping this will help take the focus off the presents and put it back where it belongs. We'll spend Christmas day baking a cake for a birthday celebration for Jesus and decorating for a party. At the end of that party on the 26th or 27th, we'll open gifts. The twelve days of Christmas, the true Christmas season, runs from December 26th until January 6th. I really like celebrating during this time and this new tradition falls right in!

Christmas is going to look very different in our home this year and I hope it is also more meaningful for all of us!

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to Throw A Frugal First Birthday Party

My son is turning 1 next week and so we're throwing a birthday party for him. Birthday parties can get really expensive really quickly, but by planning way ahead (I chose my theme, Construction, at least 6 months ago) I was able to shop after holiday clearance sales and create a cute themed party at a low out of pocket cost.

The Food
I decided to have the party in the morning for "cake and ice cream" so I could keep my cooking stress level to a minimum and actually talk to our guests (Ok, really -- the University of Michigan v. Ohio State football game is that day and I want to catch at least SOME of the game!).

The menu includes homemade cinnamon rolls, sour cream coffee cake (a recipe from my mother-in-law) and cheesy sausage muffins. We'll be offering pumpkin spice lattes, orange juice, and water to drink. I have all the ingredients for all the above in my pantry and stockpile. I only had to buy the OJ!

The Cake
For cake we'll have a Dirt Cake with a little Tonka dump truck on top. The ingredients for the cake were the most expensive part of the entire party (hello, OREOS?!?!). I should have bought the seasonal Oreos earlier in the year, but I forgot! I still can't decide whether to bake a little cake for the birthday boy or not!

The Loot

I saw these buckets and eggs at Sam's around Easter and went back a few weeks later and got them at 75% off (probably around $2 each). The buckets will be used to serve food and the eggs will go in the goody bags for the kids.

I bought the blue take out containers as goody bags on clearance after the 4th of July.

The pumpkins are bubbles I purchased after Halloween along with the small container of Play-Doh which were intended for Trick or Treaters. I purchased the small Velveteen Rabbit books on clearance LAST CHRISTMAS! They are all for the goody bags.

The Tonka coloring books were at the dollar store and have stickers to decorate the goody bags, posters to decorate the house and the kids can color at the party and take the books home with them. SCORE!

The Paper Supplies and Decorations

I bought the paper supplies in orange (for construction!) after Halloween. We have balloons and streamers left over from Ella's 1st birthday over 3 years ago so I'll use those up to decorate along with the posters in the coloring books and reusable "Happy Birthday" banner I got for free from Vista Print (they offered a free banner so I made a Happy Birthday one!).

That's it! We're all ready to go. I'll do some of the baking earlier this week and freeze items until the party day. I'll post party pictures next week so you can see the end result of all my months of planning ahead!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Homemade Hot Chocolate

My daughter was begging me for hot chocolate the other day. The only problem -- I don't have any mix in the house. I've been disappointed to find that most homemade mixes call for non-dairy creamer, which is a lot of partially hydrogenated icky stuff. But I figured that I could probably make hot cocoa with milk, cocoa powder and some sugar. Sure enough I managed to concoct the best hot chocolate I have ever had (my husband concurred). The measurements are guesstimates -- I just dumped stuff in. I really can't believe it is this simple.

Hot Chocolate

2 cups whole milk (I think, I just dumped some in the pot)
1 Tablepsoon cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
A few drops of almond extract or vanilla, if you want

Warm milk on stove over low, low heat. When it's warm, stir in sugar to dissolve. Add cocoa and dissolve (whisking helps). Add in drops of extracts if desired.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Off My Needles

Lacy Girly Fancy Hat child size in Patons Wool, size 6 needles. This was a BUGGER but it's gorgeous and I love it! Too bad Ella refuses to wear it (and it's a tad long)!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Road Trip!

We took the kids and joined my sisters for a long weekend in Utah at Zion National Park. We kept the cost down by renting a 2 bedroom condo and eating all of our meals except one, lunch in at the park, at the condo. We easily could have packed a lunch to eat right in Zion, but it was our first time so we didn't know.

Because we went in the off-season, the condo itself was super cheap and we split the cost with my sister. With a little bit of research I found a condo complex that had 6 pools (1 indoor and one a child wading pool), 2 hot tubs indoor, tennis and racquetball courts, playgrounds, and basketball hoops. It was too chilly to use anything but the indoor pool and hot tubs (well, Ella braved the cold weather to go in the wading pool), but it was perfect for us.

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