Wednesday, November 30, 2011

these are a few of my favorite things...

(in no particular order)

1.  Yankee Candle Sparkling Pine - in my humble opinion, this is the BEST scented holiday candle out there.  I love it and look forward to lighting it every season.

2.  Decorative match boxes make lighting candles more fun.  It's true!  My sister & Ronan had some beautiful large matchboxes on each of the tables at their wedding reception and I just fell in love with them.  I'd love these for Christmas.  If you search for HomArt on Amazon you will find many more varieties and lots of them have free shipping. 

3.  Kleenex Wallet Packs - These new-ish small packs of Kleenex are so cute!  I buy them in a 2 pack for .99 at Target and they make wiping noses a little more pleasant.
4.  McDonald's Peppermint Mocha - Don't be a hater!  This mocha is every bit as tasty as Starbuck's and the small size is about a buck cheaper. 

5.  One of the posts that consistently gets a lot of hits on my blog was this one that I wrote on "greening" my swiffer over 4 years ago!  (Wow, does time fly.)  I used that cut up swiffer bottle for a loooooong time until I saw this O' Cedar beauty at Target or WalMart one day last year.  Hooray!  They finally made exactly what I wanted...a bottle I could fill with my own mixture and a thick, washable pad.  I love this mop as much as one can love a mop.  I even emailed them after I bought mine to try and get a free one to give away here but they turned me down.  :(  boo.  But anyways, I still love their mop.

6.  Food Network Magazine - You can get a year for $18 or two years for $28.  This is one of my favorite cooking magazines and the only one I'm subscribing to this year.  Love it!

7. Paper straws...I adore cute straws, always have.  I am thrilled to have so many darling designs just a few clicks away these days.  They are so cute displayed in a jar on my counter top and the kids love using them.  Last time I ordered from Domestic Charm on etsy and was very happy with their product and service.  I think polka dots might be next on my list...

8.  This Ecotools retractable Kabuki blush brush - so soft and I love that it retracts feels like it stays a lot cleaner that way.

9.  Ikea wrapping paper - I only bought one roll of this small red and white print paper (second from left in image) and am regretting that decision.  It is really nice to wrap with and I absolutely love the design...simple and cheery.  (kind of like Ikea, right?  hahaha)

10.  I love this song and look forward to hearing it every December:

You can download or buy the whole CD here and I suggest you do.  :)


I hope you enjoyed hearing about a few of my favorite things!  I'm linking this up with The Nester...head over there to check out some more fun lists and add your own!


(this post brought to you by an extended Nicky nap.  Amen.)

veggie soup wishes & peppermint twist dreams

I finally got another pot of that soup made this morning. I can't tell you how much I love this stuff. This time I used yellow squash and added mushrooms, parsnips and green pepper. mmmmmmmm. (Patrick gagged when he saw it on the stovetop. haha! he hates almost all of these veggies. silly man.)
Nicky broke one of my favorite vintage mugs a couple of weeks ago but I found a replacement almost immediately.
See the vanilla bean flecks? I've been using some of my vanilla sugar and it is very yummy!
Last night I made the kids Christmas-y pillowcases for their beds. I had the peppermint fabric on hand and used an old Cannon sheet I've been saving as the main part of the case...they are the softest cotton. I got them big fleece snowflake blankets and plan on surprising them with a cozy winter bed after school tomorrow. ("Surprise! It's bedtime!" hahahahhahaa)
A couple of weeks ago the boys and I took a long walk one afternoon. We had such a nice time and I shot lots of short movies of James and Nicky racing and doing tricks. I'll have to upload them soon.
Somebody was tired out afterwards.
James also lost another tooth a couple of weeks ago.  He placed it in this baggie, under his pillow.  (a Nintendo DS costs $169.95)  :)
And finally, Ruby in her dog house.  I can't tell you how many hours she spent in this thing before destroying it in a fit of frustration.  She even slept in it twice!


Nicky and I are heading out to do something in a little while.  What, I don't know, but we just need to get out.  We will be home all day tomorrow as Patrick needs the van to go to his uncle's funeral.  (his car is not very reliable right now.)  Other news:  James and Ruby both had great dental check-ups yesterday.  Whew.  :)


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

titillating tuesday

First, a cute postcard I ordered here. I liked it so much I framed it...cute for winter, no?
Second, one of my bridge pics that my sister in law added some depth to...I had it blown up to 11x17 and it is making me so happy:
Third, icky Nicky.  :)  He actually wasn't so bad today but did have me nervous at the beginning:
lovey, lovey Nickey:
What I've done today...almost done!
and last but not least, the only picture I took in Duluth:

Monday, November 28, 2011

winner winner chicken dinner

Hello you. 

It's Monday!  I'm chilly!  Nicky is napping!  I'm wrapping gifts!  We had a good weekend!  Happy to be home!

That is basically all of my news.  I am too lazy to write more about our weekend but it was a good one.  I hope yours was, too.

Thank you for signing up for my vanilla give away!  Because I didn't want to leave anyone out, I'm going to send one bottle to each of you that signed up or pinned or facebook'd it!  (full disclosure:  some of you were already on my list!  :)  )  Look for those in the mail sometime this month. 

Have a happy monday!  xoxo

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

advent calendar hello

I want to show you a (not so) little advent calendar I put together yesterday afternoon.  I've been preparing for it for weeks, busily collecting small toys and ideas...I was so excited to put it all together finally!

When I took this picture of the books I thrifted last week ( kids LOVE Jan Brett and I got 5 of her books that we did not have) I was having so much fun:

I typed up my activity ideas and printed them much fun!:

I gathered everything and carved a polka dot potato festive!  I cut art paper for my packages, figured out which days to give which gifts/treats/activities, and started stamping the dates on each piece of paper.  It was going to be so cute!

After about an hour, when I was at this point:

it stopped being quite as much fun.  My potato stamp had seen better days, my fingers were blood red and I was starting to sweat a little.  I stripped off my fleece, got some chocolate and went back to work.

For each package, I sewed the 2 open sides, slipped the treat in, and then sewed each one closed:

Oops!  Nothing for December 2nd or 3rd!  Crap.  Went through everything, found mistake, watched the clock and kept on sewing.  My shoulders were a little tight at this point and I couldn't help but think of a blinking neon sign like the one in that old Motel Hello movie...

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Finally at 3:19 I finished sewing the last package closed.  Ah, 10 minutes to relax before the kids get home.  :)

It ended up being more work than I originally anticipated (of course) but I am so happy it's done and think they are going to love it.  (the potato polka dots were cute but unnecessary!)  I tried for a nice mix of family activities, art activities, books, treats and little toys.  I think I spent around $25 for all of it, using paper, stamps, potatoes and thread that I had at home.  I plan on displaying all of them in a wicker basket and they can pick out the correct one each morning.

I love sewing on paper and find it a lot easier than wrapping 24 items.  I used mini paper bags one year and that was pretty darn easy, too.  I just knew I wanted Christmas-y books this year and those don't fit in a mini paper bag.

Next time I will skip the polka dots and not try to do it all in one sitting.  I'm so glad I did it, though.  And that I don't have to do it again for another year.  :)


Monday, November 21, 2011

free vanilla up in here

Hello friends, 

I have a squirrelly but just-started-tantrums-toddler precious baby in my midst so I need to make this short and sweet...

I'd like to send 2 mini vanilla extracts to 1 of you!  I will also include 5 vanilla beans so you can make some extract of your own or try another tempting recipe like vanilla bean sugar cookies or homemade kahlua or even simple but delicious vanilla sugar.   mmmmmmmmmmmm.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post to enter.  If you "like" my original post on facebook (there's a button at the bottom of the post) or pin it on pinterest (or both!) come back and let me know and you'll be entered again.  Up to 3 entries per person!  :)  (but one is fine, obvs) 

New readers, friends and family are all welcome to enter!

Thanks and I can't wait to send one of you a little treat in the mail!!  :)


Sunday, November 20, 2011

the easiest homemade vanilla extract directions

I was talking with my mom last weekend about doling out my vanilla extract at Christmas (I didn't have enough with 24 of them.  :) ) and she wondered if I could just give her some beans and she could add them to some tiny Absolut bottles she had been saving.  Brilliant, I thought, brilliant!

I went to the liquor store on Thursday and got some tiny New Amsterdam bottles, on a worker's recommendation, for only $.99 each!   These mini vodka bottles are smaller (about 1.7 oz. each) than the bottles I ordered online but still make for a nice gift...especially when you figure that they can be refilled for years.  And they are readily available at most liquor stores...I think that's the best part.  :) 

Oh yeah, and they're pretty cute...

I would still recommend ordering your beans online to get the best price as they are ridiculously expensive at the grocery store!  I bought in bulk from Amazon and the fat and fragrant beans ended up being about $.50 each.  These minis only need 3/4 of one bean so you can make a lot of gifts with 50 vanilla beans.  :)  (maybe share an order with a friend?)  You can also order smaller quantities but you will pay a bit more.

So, here's a quick rundown:

  • buy 50mL vodka bottle (or "nip" as my sister informed me they are called) and open
  • cut a vanilla bean into 4 equal pieces 
  • slit each piece up the middle about 3/4 of the way exposing the good seeds inside
  • place 3 (or 4) pieces inside the nip and put cap on tightly
  • shake once a week or whenever you think of it...should be ready to use as extract in 2 months
One of the best parts of this gift is how it keeps on giving, in my opinion.  I saw instructions similar to the ones below on another blog and suggest that you enclose them with your bottle so people know they can refill them.  If you are just making them now for Christmas - no worries!  Just put a "don't use until" date on your tags!  Here's an example:

"This vanilla extract needs to steep for about 2 months.
It will be ready to enjoy after January 30th, 2012.

It contains quality vodka and (insert type here) vanilla beans.
When it gets about 20% low, simply add more unflavored
vodka and it should be ready the next time you need it.
You will have delicious vanilla extract for years!

Merry Christmas!"


I can't wait to give these to my friends and family this Christmas.  I hope you use and enjoy these simple instructions and here's a big thank you to my mom for the idea!!  :)
Come back tomorrow for a give away!  

I wonder what it might be???  


Linking up with Think Pink Sundays this week.  Go look and see all the amazing ideas people submit...



Thursday, November 17, 2011

surprise! more talking about myself!

Good morning, all.  How are you doing today?
....listening to you....
Good! :)  Things are good here.  Patrick came home last night (what an amazing thing!  to have a helper at bedtime!) and I scurried off to our room for some list-ing.  I know have a fairly conclusive list of what I still need to buy/make and it is fun to see it all laid out.  I want to make James something like this only much simpler.  (like, no piecing or anything like that...just 2 big pieces of round fabric.)

I have to say.  I am loving doing this Christmas stuff right now.  Whenever something doesn't go right or I feel stressed about something I have to do, I remember...Christmas is still a long way off.  What a nice feeling.

I worked for a while on my vanilla labels yesterday morning.  I totally should have bought round stickers to just stamp or print on but, oh well.  Nicky was happy coloring for about 3 minutes and then pulled all of my rubber stamps apart.  (this having a busy toddler business is alllllll coming back to me.  mess after mess after mess after mess.)

 I love this stamp thing.  I think I got it at WalMart a couple of years ago and have used it a lot.  It takes a while to get the impression just right but it's also easy to fill in the missing spots with black sharpie.  :)
 During nap time I printed out a bunch of "instructions" that I found here and put a few bottles together.

Each bottle ended up costing me just under $4.00 to put together. 

After craft time we went out to follow the garbage truck around town for a while.  It was cold and windy but wasn't so bad once we were moving and bundled up.  (and we need to get used to it anyways...)

 This is the face he makes when he spots a garbage truck:

 Also, he drank the Lego kool aid.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

he's home! he's home! (say like tattoo)

today I am loving:

  • how Ruby says "finger 8" instead of figure 8
  • Nicky saying "uh oh" and making siren noises
  • having coffee with Patrick this morning  (!!)
  • ordering Ruby a darling dress for Christmas for $9  (I had a 25% off and free shipping with no minimum order coupon...I love Lands End clothes.)
  • Nicky running around and around and around the house pushing a monster truck
  • that both of my big kids are at school today
  • that I got our disaster of a bedroom clean before my husband got home  (not an easy task)
  • that I can see James and Ruby both trying to have an "attitude of gratitude"
  • that my sister and Ronan and Jacob and new baby are hoping to move here NEXT SEPTEMBER
  • the sunshine.  It's cold but Nicky and I are going out for a walk in a while.
  • that soup I made
  • thinking about Christmas cookies
  • thinking about my husband coming home from work tonight
  • that I am not a hoarder  (i.e. I can get rid of stuff as easily as I can bring it home.)
  • texting 
And a separate list for Thanksgiving weekend: things I am excited about:

  • dinner at my dad's
  • walking on the lakewalk
  • hopefully going out to breakfast with patrick (hint, hint mom)
  • seeing my brother and Erin, and hopefully Kristy and Rachel and maybe some friends
  • hopefully shopping with my mom  (hint, hint patrick)
  • taking the kids to bentleyville
  • the trip up...patrick driving and me reading  :)
I was trying to take a picture of me and Nicky the other day.  Here is how it went down:  (he wanted the camera, you see)

 writhing on my lap:


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