2012 Ramblings and New Year Wishes

I have not been blogging as much. I started a new job back in mid November and it’s also been the holiday season so double whammy. The job came at a perfect time. I had been looking but not really getting any replies to resumes, etc. It’s a tough market and I just had a feeling that something would come via networking. And it did. A friend referred me to another mutual friend who needed a part time admin. {Perfect!} That is what I was looking for. It is a good fit for my family and helps with our monthly budget a bit. I realized how much less stressed I felt when I got my first ‘real’ paycheck. So this mama is acclimating to working out of the home after being an at home mama for 10 years. It’s good though. I feel pretty lucky to have landed this job. My boss and coworkers are all so nice. You can’t beat that. Oh, did I mention it’s an accounting office? Ask me how I feel again after tax season. Ha ha!! Just kidding ;)

December has been full of sadness for so many. It’s really been heavy on my mind as of late. Obviously the tragedy in Connecticut hit close to home for so many. It left lots of questions on how we can make this world safer for our children. It made us question gun control {OK, I have questioned this a lot. I know my views and opinions don’t align with many so don’t yell out me if you disagree!}. It made us question mental illness and how we can better cope with people who suffer from mental illness. I think mostly it just made us feel helpless. It also made us enjoy our own babies more this holiday season.

Another story I have been following in our little community is the one called, Shane’s Village. It’s about a local 8 year old boy battling Leukemia. The updates both make me want to cheer him on and cry for him. Mostly I’d love to give him a big giant hug. And his mama, I want to hug her too. My heart hurts for him and his family as they battle this disease. He’s this amazing little soul who continues to smile through the ‘yuck’ of a serious disease. What an inspiration.

There have also been several deaths from cancer and other serious illnesses this past month. Several people I know have felt loss first hand and they are trudging through the holiday season with a heavy heart. My heart hurts for their losses.

Last night I found out that one of my dearest friend’s has a sick little girl. She is in the PICU with fluid around her heart. They are not sure what has caused this. Medicine has not alleviated the problem so they are exploring other options. My girlfriend has also suffered from various autoimmune issues for years so the stress this puts on her is also not good. I’m sending many get well wishes their way tonight!! Maybe you can join me in doing so?

Then today came along — I was cruising along, running some errands alone as my sister took the boys to spend their Christmas money {awesome Auntie!}. Anyway, my phone rings and it’s her. She says in a tearful voice, “Don’t panic, everyone is OK”. Yikes. Not a call I wanted to get. They had been in a minor car accident. Everyone was OK but shaken up. Of course the 20 minute drive from Folsom to Roseville felt like a million miles. My babies are OK. My sister is OK. It was scary but could have been so much worse. So I am feeling extremely blessed to have healthy and safe kids but I am also hyper aware of how quickly that can change.

So going into 2013 can I ask for world peace and healthy children? Seems like a an easy enough task? Sigh. If only.

With that I am leaving you with a few of my favorite quotes – may you apply them in life. Along the way. When needed.

be kindsource

itsnicetobeniced2wordsimportanttobenicemessagequote-4863aa579ed3b2571799543d2fc5012d_hsource

let goSource

great thingsSource

live every day

 

Source

 

let goSource

small thingsSource

trySource

And last but certainly not least, I leave you with this:

just loveSource

I am so thankful for all of you that read my little blog. It makes my heart smile to see the comments and the shares. I love when you tell me that you tried and loved a recipe that I shared on my blog. Those of you who know me and read my posts know that I feel things whole heartedly and with this comes my emotions. The good, bad and ugly but no matter what my mood, I am always so thankful for all of the little things that really are the BIG things in life :) I wear my heart on my sleeve and I may go from laughing to crying in a split second. I feel deeply. Then I share with all of you. Thank you for being there for my life!

What are your intentions for the new year? Whatever you do — do it with kindness and love. I wish you a new year with a happy heart and great blessings and love.

 

Neighbor Gifts

I love giving gifts and there are so many people on my gift list. I am about done but I still have my neighbors. Well, I typically do platters of cookies but then I started to think that I wanted to be different this year. So this is what I have come up with — I have 6 neighbors that I deliver too. This is my plan:

I love these oh so practicable soaps. The attached gift card is adorable and personalizes it a bit. I found the idea over at g*rated but she linked back to Crafts reDesigned for the printable. I picked up the soaps at Bath & Body Works. They have some great coupons right now too!

soap gifts

I think I will also add a mini loaf of egg nog bread. It’s a holiday favorite in our house. I love how Knead to Cook wrapped them up all sweet with a very simple hole punched gift tag and a pretty ribbon.

eggnogbread

Last but not least, I like to include a little something special for the kids. Every year my boys and I whip up some Reindeer Food. This tradition is a sweet one and of course, super simple {notice my pattern here — SIMPLE!}. I love the *free* printable over at TomKat Studios. I love that it allows the children to feel the magic of Christmas by leaving something special to bring Santa and his reindeer to their homes.

reindeer food label - tomkat studio

There you have it – a few fun and simple gift ideas :)

 

26 Random Acts of Kindness

Last Friday was a horrific day for a small little town called Newtown, Connecticut. It shook all of us. I still can not even fathom the grief these parents are feeling. Their children and family members killed in a senseless violent crime. I think all of us are just not able to wrap our heads around any of it. I don’t want to get on a soap box about mental illness, stricter gun laws and how much the media focuses on the killer. All of that has been swimming around in my head and I wish there was a solution to stop this kind of hurt from ever happening to another person EVER AGAIN. But, because we can only go forward  - I wanted to share this with all of you and see if you can spread some kindness? I saw a quote the other day while driving on the freeway, it said, “Kindness is contagious, catch it”.  It’s been on repeat in my head. If we could all practice kindness perhaps the world will breathe a little easier.

I know that as a parent I am constantly battling my kids. It’s things like them constantly wanting material things or fighting as siblings do. I am always trying to remind them to be kind and that they are so fortunate to have so many basics that others are lacking. I don’t feel that I spoil my children but a sense of entitlement comes from somewhere. I want to change that. I think this 26 Acts of Kindness will help plant some seeds of kindness. One of my oldest and dearest friends shared this idea with me and now I am passing it along to all of you {thanks Jenn — love you!!}

proxy.storify.com

 

Can you do 26 Random Acts of Kindness in memory of the 26 lives lost? Go here or here for some ideas. I’ve also read quite a few different opinions that there are only 26 acts and not 28. I feel that it is a personal and individual choice as to whether you honor the shooter and his mom, who are also both dead. A few people had suggested donating towards mental health services. Again, how you decide to proceed is a very personal choice.

As quickly as this can become a political & religious discussion, lets step away from that and do what we can to honor the sweet souls lost that day. Many of whom were the same age as my baby. Earlier this week I was able to be in the classroom helping to run his Christmas Party. Never have I felt so blessed to be in that classroom surrounded by sweet, smiling faces, an amazing teacher and adoring parents. What a gift.

Can you practice 26 Random Acts of Kindness? I bet you can :) I know we will be starting tomorrow.

Citrus Salt Gifts

Tis the season for baking but sometimes there are so many sweets {is there such a thing really?} Anyway, if you want to give something that can be used for months to come and it isn’t going to pack on the pounds, try this gift. I made several of these for the yard duties, admin staff and librarian at my kids school. They looked like I worked super hard on them were super easy.

A couple of tips, I used sea salt as the ‘flake salt’ was not available at any of my local markets. I also ordered the cute little wooden spoons from here. I picked up the 4 oz jars at WalMart. Sunset Magazine has the printables. Just print on plain printer paper, cut down and use a pretty ribbon to attach it to the jar. Done — just like that you have something pretty and that will last beyond a few days. I had some leftover and used in a pasta dish the other night. Delish!

 source

Citrus Salt with lemon zest

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flake salt, such as Maldon, or coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons citrus zest (any kind)

Preparation

  1. Mix salt and zest in a bowl; work zest into salt with your fingers to release oils and flavor. Spread on a baking tray. Air-dry until dried completely, 8 hours to overnight.
  2. Note: Zest’s color will fade over time, but this won’t affect taste.
  3. Make ahead: 2 months, kept airtight at room temperature.
  4. Bottle it: 4-oz. jam glass jar

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

Oh my deliciousness!! I can not even explain how amazingly good these are. I had to whip up something quick the other day. You know, cookie exchanges and all are kinda happening left and right. Tis the season! I have now made 4 batches of these. In 3 days. Yep, I’d say these are my latest go to recipe as far as treats go. The downfall? I can’t stop eating them! I am popping them in my mouth A LOT. So basically they are a diet fail but hey, who diets this time of year anyway?? ;)  

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

Source

(Printable Recipe)

2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup peanut butter
2 pounds white chocolate chips (2 12-oz packages plus 1 1/3 cup)

In a large bowl, combine cereal, peanuts and marshmallows. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate and peanut butter on High for 1 minute and then in 30 second intervals until fully melted. Stir chocolate into cereal mixture. Mixture will be slightly runny. Drop by tablespoons onto waxed paper. Let set until firm, 2 hours. Store in an airtight container.

I promise, these will be a hit at any party you bring them too!! Delish :)

Kids Christmas Party

Wow — December slow it down! Between going back to work and just the normal holiday hustle and bustle, my blog is getting neglected. I’m missing it!! So hello friends — I hope everyone is enjoy the season and slowing down to make some amazing memories. We have watched a lot of holiday movies this week. I love the snuggle time.

By the way, where do people come from this time of year? It seems every road, parking lot and store is packed full of people. Then come January the world feels a lot quieter. It’s crazy! Six weeks of crazy I tell ya!

I love the kids parties at school. When the new school year rolls around and the sign ups come out I am all over it. This year I was able to sign up to run the Christmas party for my youngest and Valentine’s for my oldest. Christmas is around the corner so I have created a Pinterest Board to help compile fabulous crafty ideas. Some are arts and crafts and others are cute food ideas. Some of you might be planning holiday parties as well so I wanted to share some of my fun finds with you! I should mention that the other person helping me run this pretty much said she didn’t have ideas and would love to hear mine. Um ok!! ;) I can handle that! Here are a few fab crafty ideas that I am hoping to do this season — either in the classroom or out. Also, my son is in second grade so I am gearing it towards that age group.

 

  1. I love this Christmas cheese platter. It’s filled with tomatoes and cheese with pretzels as the stem. Of course you could serve more pretzels on the side.
  2. Of course snack time wouldn’t be complete without these sweet sandwiches.
  3. This idea for Grinch Floats using green {guessing lime} sherbet and sprite is so fun!! I can’t find the original source though — if you know of it, please do share. I’d like to give the credit where it belongs.
  4. These reindeer munchies are giving me the munchies!!
  5. Kids love cupcakes and these wreath cupcakes also have candy. Yum!
  6. I love this chocolate donut reindeer. They are simple yet so cute!

 

I love crafts. I think it is super sweet to make them nostalgic so little projects that involves handprints melt my heart. Kids grow so fast .

  1. These cute reindeer handprints are on the top of my to do list..
  2. If you have some scraps of fabric {I do!}, just add cinnamon sticks and you have these cute lil’ trees. Plus they will smell yummy!
  3. Another great craft using up old fabric or even some ribbon are these snowman clothespins. You could add a magnet to the back to make it easy to display {and hold stuff like letters from Santa or Christmas Lists!}
  4. I love these beautiful swirled paint ornaments. I happened to pick up some glass bulbs at a great price at Michaels last week. Just in case it’s a project we decide to do.
  5. For something pretty easy and with very little supplies needed, how about a pom pom pinecone? All of a sudden you’ve created a mini tree
  6. Reindeer Food is a must in our house. I adore these sweet little tags to go along with them. Hint: These also make fun gifts for the neighborhood kiddies!

If you are on Pinterest, pop on over and check out my Kids Christmas Party board. I have a whole bunch of other goodies on there that I didn’t share in this post.

Do you have any must do crafts for the season? How about must eat treats? I’d love to hear about them :)

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Oh boy is it soup weather! Plus my lil’ sis wanted some tortilla soup for her birthday yesterday. Well I am a firm believer in giving people what they want for their birthdays. Especially my sister who is also a super Auntie! It was a success which means, yes indeed I will be making it again!! It was super easy and fast. It also had the perfect amount of spice. Definitely add the lime as it just adds a nice pop of flavor that really compliments the spices.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup - adapted by Sunset Magazine, December 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
source

Ingredients

  • 1 qt. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds boned, skinned chicken thighs, cubed {I used boneless breasts as it is what I had on hand}
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 to 1 serrano chile, halved and sliced
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed corn tortilla chips, divided
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges

Preparation

  1.  Heat broth, covered, in a medium pot over high heat until boiling. Add chicken, onion, tomatoes, chile, beans, and spices. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in 1 cup tortilla chips; ladle into bowls.
  2.  Serve soup with remaining 1 cup chips, the cheese, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.

This is a super quick go to meal on a busy night. You could also make it with rotiserre chicken if you are short on prep time. The soup came together in about 30 minutes including the time it took me to cook the chicken in my Forman Grill prior to adding it the broth.

Feeling Crafty – Homemade Advent Board

A couple of weeks ago, I held a holiday open house. Including myself, there were five vendors. Last year I also hosted this event. I wasn’t sure that I was going to do it again and then decided to give it a go. It was definitely worth it. The energy was amazing and a good time was had by all {or so it seemed!}. I crafted several things — wreaths, chalkboards, pennants, magnets, clothespin Christmas card holders and advent boards. Things literally flew out of baskets and off of shelves. It was crazy and in all the madness. I didn’t snap photos of my stuff! Eeek! Anyway, I was able to craft a couple of more Advent boards. One of which was for myself and I am sharing it with all of you.

Supplies needed:

  • Scrapbook Paper
  • Coin Envelopes {found them at Staples}
  • Embellishments {stickers, etc}
  • Stamps
  • Ink
  • MDF Board {Home Depot)
  • Ribbon
  • Modge Podge
  • Hot glue gun

Cut board down to 24.25 x 21.5 {I forget the exact dimensions of the wood but it cost about $7 and I was able to get two Advent boards out of it with some to spare}.

Paint your board — I have done some in red and others in white. The one I am showing you was lightly painted white, sanded down a bit and then I rubbed a dark stain over the top. It made it an ashy color.

Count out 25 of the envelopes, cut off the tops. They should be 4 inches long.

Pick out your scrap paper and cut the pieces to the size of the envelopes.

Now it gets messy, you will use the Modge Podge to adhere the scrapbook paper to the envelopes {open side facing up}. Let them dry and spend that time getting the gunk off of your hands ;)

Add embellishments. This can be whatever you want — I used ribbons and various numbers stickers and stamps. Make it your own and use whatever makes you happy ;)

Last but definitely not least is adding the things you want to do this season in your decorated pockets. This is a list of things I have used. You could change them to anything of course. I know many of us have our own traditions so be sure to make this special keepsake unique to your family :) I just printed mine out in a word document, cut them in strips and added them to the pockets.

  1. Shop for a new toy to donate to a charitable organization.
  2. Make holiday cards and take them to a nursing/retirement home.
  3. Donate gently used toys, books, and clothes to a shelter.
  4. Give out secret gifts to neighbors and friends.
  5. Perform a random act of kindness for a stranger.
  6. Check out books from the library on how children around the world celebrate winter holidays.
  7. Bake and decorate sugar cookies.
  8. Host a holiday party complete with a hot cocoa bar.
  9. Have a family holiday movie night.
  10. Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
  11. Attend a holiday-themed play or event.
  12. Create a winter themed craft
  13. Make an ornament.
  14. Bake cookies and deliver to a firehouse.
  15. Build a snowman.
  16. Go sledding.
  17. Pick out and decorate the ‘perfect tree’
  18. Wrap presents.
  19. Make homemade gift tags.
  20. Have a candlelit dinner with your best china.
  21. Read T’was the Night Before Christmas.
  22. Pick out a new Christmas CD and have a dance party.
  23. Go ice skating.
  24. Make an Eggnog milkshake.
  25. Work on a Christmas puzzle as a family.
  26. Make paper snowflakes.
  27. Donate a food box to a local homeless shelter.
  28. Write letters to Santa.

You could hang your board on a wall or do like I do and stick it on your mantel or in a niche.

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season — I know I am!!

 

This week I am linking up to:

Christmas Wreaths

Yep, I’m a sucker for wreaths. I love trying to copy cat them and come up with my own creations as well. I thought I’d share some fun finds with all of you!!

 

1. Berry Wreath

2. Wish Wreath

3. Shimmer Wreath

4. Book & Coffee Filter Wreath

5. Star Wreath

6. Upcycled Felt Wreath

7. Santa’s Keys

8. Felted Sweater Wreath

 

Do you have a special wreath that you display during the holiday season?

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Buttercream Frosting

Do I have your attention? I know we just went from Thanksgiving to Christmas as far as the season goes but I had to share this recipe from yesterday. I felt like whipping up something other then pie {cause you know, we have like 10 of those in my house!!}. Pumpkin screams Fall so I decided on these Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Buttercream Frosting. They were a hit and oh so yummy! The frosting is very rich but spoon licking good. I added the candy corn for a little pop of color and well you know how I feel about candy corn if you’ve been following along ;)

 

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Buttercream Frosting

Adapted from Made in Mel’s Kitchen

Pumpkin Cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the  brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Beat on medium speed until well combined.  Add dry ingredients, and mix on low until smooth. Fold in pumpkin puree.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Makes ~ 18 cupcakes.

Source: Adapted from MarthaStewart.com.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

In a saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until very smooth.  Let caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable. Alternatively, you could use just under 1/2 cup of your favorite caramel sauce.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar.  Mix until thoroughly combined.
Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel.  Beat on medium high speed until light and airy, and completely mixed (about 2 minutes).  Mixture should be ready to use without refrigeration.  If your caramel was too hot when added, it will cause your icing to be runny.  If this happens refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
What do you think? Are you a pumpkin fan?