Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Books

I was visiting my daily blog stop- The Nester- only to see she listed the books she read this year. Most of you know me well enough to know that I love to read. It's one of my favorite hobbies. I decided I would join her linky party about books I've read this year and some of the ones I plan to read in 2012. I'm very excited to share this list with you!

I didn't include the picture books and such I read with lil man. He owns over 300 of his own books and we've read almost all of them. There are a few that are a little too old for him yet, but they were gifted or great finds at garage sales/library sales - posts on this soon!

Remember, I teach special needs high schoolers, so I read a range of books from grade level 3-young adult. Most of this list is to help my students develop a love of reading or at least become more confident in their reading skills. I share every book I read with them (as long as it's school appropriate- which most are).

I am posting a link to the book on Amazon and if I wrote a review of it on this blog, the word review will be listed next to it with a link to the review.  I do not write spoilers as I want you to be interested in the book but not give away the whole story. That's not my job, it's the author's!

Read cover to cover:

The Book Thief - review

The Maze Runner

The Scorch Trials


Crossed - review

I am the Messenger - review

Calvin and Hobbes- There's Treasure Everywhere - review

13 Reasons Why

A Child Called It

Room - review

The Pioneer Woman Cookbook (review coming Jan. 2)

The Hobbit (well, as of now, I'm almost finished. It will be done by Saturday)

I am Nujood

A Long Walk to Water - review

Illustrated Poems for Children- filled with poems by Tennyson, Whitman, other greats.

Fighting Ruben Wolfe - review

Heaven is for Real- Review

Becoming Chloe - Review


Tears of a Tiger

The Purpose Driven Life

The First Part Last


Sweet, Hereafter

Readicide - a book for ELA teachers

The Book Whisperer

Naked Reading

Books I plan to read in 2012:

When I Fall, Please Grab My Hand

Steig Larsson's Millenium Trilogy

Little Bee


Not a Fan

Slow Love

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Death Cure


There are many more, but I'll update as I go along. If you are curious as to how I keep track of my books and what I want to read, I simply use It's a great site that will connect with your Amazon purchases and add them to your virtual bookshelf.

Shelfari lets you set a goal for how many books you want to read and keeps track of it. If you own books and loan them out, as I do to students, you can use this as your library checkout system instead of a paper tracking system (didn't work out for me). You can find my shelf and request me as a friend through shelfari by looking up cherbear (a nickname from a very dear friend). This lets you get updates like reviews, new books I'm reading, planning to read, etc. Great for finding book recommendations!
What are you reading? Enjoy!

**** On Jan. 3, I'll be hosting a give away! Please be sure to stop back to see the beauty I'll be giving away!***

Friday, December 30, 2011

Purposeful living

I read this post by Hayley at The Tiny Twig.  It was so good to read. She posed the question: "when did you realize your life had a purpose? How did you come to that realization?" 

I love sharing this story, however, I don't do it often enough. This will be a rather long post-just a heads up.

I was raised in a broken home. Dad and mom divorced when I was 3 and my brother was 1. I spent most of my childhood raised by my grandparents on my dad's side. My grandpa (Pappaw) was a pastor of a church and employed at BF Goodrich and my grandma was a school bus driver. So, I guess you say faithwise, I was raised to believe and trust in Jesus which is just what I do... It's not quite that easy though. You see, while I grew up surrounded by church and Jesus, I didn't come to faith in Christ until I was 13. That moment was at Bible camp. :)

Then I hit teenage years and struggled with identity as we moved to a new area. My grandmother was still close in distance and relation, but my grandfather passed when I was 14. It was a terrible loss for me as he was essentially like a dad to me. We ate dinner every night. I curled up in his lap to watch the Cosby show....  So, my mom & stepdad started going to other churches who said we needed to do all these diffferent things to demonstrate faith (which I later learned is a total lie!) Needless to say, I fell away. I gave up on churches and on God.

Time went by. Mom, being the Christian woman she is, continued to pray for her little lost lambs (my brother and myself). One day, I just picked up a Bible and started to read for myself. Don't get me wrong, I grew up surrounded by the Bible, memorizing Bible verses and trying to be the perfect person for my family- note to self.... It can't be done- but something about coming to a point where you want to investigate what you believe or were taught makes it a whole new experience.

My family found another church and I recommited my life to Christ at 19. I was baptized at 21. Little did I know that trusting God would lead me to where I am now....

I started really studying the Bible and doing many things. I was going to school and working part-time. I stopped because I wasn't thrilled with my major and didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I met my hubby while teaching ballroom dance, married, bought a house 6 months later, moved and went back to school part-time while working full-time. I went into middle childhood (school) education... yep, those preteens.

I ended up in a pickle. I was full-time in a great department with great people at my job working 7 - 3:15. My classes were getting more demanding and one day a week I needed to be on campus or in a school from 7 am - 7:30 pm. There was a small break in there of course. Because I felt I was doing what God wanted me to do, I knew he would work it all out. So, I approached my manager and asked to work a 4 day work week or 1 day on the weekend to make up for the 1 day during the week I needed to be in school. "No" was the answer. The proposed course of action was to work 3rd shift 11-7.... Not really possible with classes at 7:15 and half hour from work. We went 3 rounds like this. I finally felt I had tapped them out, but couldn't quite leave as they were paying my tuition- not that I didn't trust God to provide, but I also didn't feel like I should leave at that time.

My next course of action was the school. If the job couldn't budge understandably, the school may. I mean, I'm an adult student. They have to work with me right?? I met with the dean of the college of education. He pretty much looked at me and said my options were to leave my job or go into special education.... Do you see where I'm going with this?

Upon leaving his office, I walked over to the advisor and asked if I could talk with her. She was great, Joanna. Loved her. She gave me my options and told me SPED would add 1.5 years to my schooling. Not something I wanted.

I was beside myself.

I did what I knew I needed to do, pray and enlist others to pray. Essentially, my entire workplace was praying for me as well as some outside of work. I kept praying for God to send me a postcard because even though each door was closing (more schedule change requests and proposals to work), I needed something solid, so to speak. I wanted a concrete sign of what was to be my next step in life. It kept coming back to SPED... but I continued to pray for the postcard..... Stubborn, stupid humanity!

What you should know is, the work proposals and visit with the Dean all took place with 2 weeks left obefore school started. What happens next is sooooo clear, even to this day.

I remember it like yesterday. I had rushed home from work because I had a doctor appointment (dermatologist really). I didn't have much time to stop home, but needed to do so to take care of the dogs. I checked the mailbox. In my mail, no lie, was a letter from the Special Olympics with a postcard of a child with Down Syndrome. I simply laughed and said "No way!" I quickly said a prayer asking for verification that this was the right choice (duh! Cheri! You got the postcard you asked for... why do you need more???) . I continued to laugh and headed out the door.  I mean, why would God want me to add another 1.5 years to my education? Really???

The dermatologist I normally see wasn't available so I saw his partner. While checking out, my regular doctor was sitting at the counter talking with another patient. The receptionist wanted to schedule an appointment and I couldn't come up with a day/time to tell her since everything I knew would more than likely be changing. I said that out loud and my dermatologist heard me. He then told me about how he was almost finished with med school and decided to change his specialty when his daughter didn't recognize him without his mask on! Can you imagine? It took him 3 additional years I believe.

Well, by this time, my mind was set and I said "I'll do it." It was too late for me to call the school to officially change my major as the offices were closed. I went to work the next morning and told the prayer warriors what happened. They held me 150% accountable to making the phone call to change my major. I did.... That wasn't the end of the obstacles though.

Now, I would keep my job, my home and still get the education I needed to go into the education field I had dreamed of since I could remember.

I went to schedule the classes, but all the classes I had to take were full. I had to be put on a waitlist. Let me tell you about God- He will provide!  Here's what happened. I emailed the professors and they admitted me in to their classes! :) I was short on cash: 1 professor loaned me her book for the semester and another cancelled the book altogether! God is good and does provide. If you obey Him, He will provide for you. No doubt in my mind. It's been an amazing journey.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I am constantly amazed at what God does. He is totally amazing. Ten days after my son was born, my husband was laid off from his job. It was bittersweet. Bitter because who wants to be laid off just after the birth of a child no-less. Sweet because he would get to be home with the little one until he found a job.

Fast forward two years, after numerous applications, resumes, interviews with many companies, hubby was offered a position at a truly fantastic company. We didn't realize who truly fantastic until he started working. In the few months that he's been there, hubby has had paid vacation time, an excellent holiday party, trick-or-treat for employees' kids, and dinner with Santa. Amazing.

I really believe God let all this happen at the time he did for a reason. That's the thing about God. He knows the right thing to do at the right time- even if it doesn't seem it at all! One of my favorite verse in the Bible is "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jer. 29:11.

During this time, God provided for us in many ways. Hubby took full advantage of being at home with the little one and joined a moms group. Because of this, I was able to meet great new women and take a coupon class that not only helped me, but helped me help others by teaching them how to save money using coupons. We learned about the important things in life- family, friends, hope, love, joy, forgiveness, grace, and gratitude.

God clearly had a plan for us during that time. His timing for everything is perfect even if we don't think so. Trust in Him. He knows what He's doing. Just have faith that all will work out and rely on Him to make it all work out the way it should.

When the lay off happened, we didn't know what God's plan could possibly be- especially when everyone around us was being laid off as well. I honestly didn't know where the prosperity, hope and future were going to come from. At times it was hard to see. Clearly, God had a plan. He let my husband stay home until lil man was 2 then blessed him with a truly great job at a really fantastic company.

It's like Max Lucado said in his book, Cosmic Christmas, "I could not comprehend God's plan, but my understanding was not essential. My obedience was." Think about that for a few. 
 If you ever feel like there is no end in sight to whatever you are going through, please realize that yes, there is a plan for it and everything will work out as it should in the end if you obey. God is good, all the time!

Monday, December 26, 2011


To my dear readers,

  I apologize that I haven't been blogging much lately. It's been a crazy week or so. I had a few doctor appointments set and my son ended up going to the ER for fevers of 104 and up. Then we ended school which was a crazy busy time getting everything together, especially since I'll be missing the first 2 weeks back to work in January due to my tonsillectomy this week. On Dec. 23, my husband's grandmother passed away. On Dec. 24, little man woke up crying in his nap- only to not be able to walk- yet another trip to the ER (mind you we were at the doctor the day before thinking he had pink eye, which he didn't- thank goodness!). On Christmas, it's just a run around kind of day spending time with our families, but when we got home, lil man woke up from his nap crying and unable to walk again. Thankfully, today E was able to walk with no pain and woke up saying "Ouie is gone, Momma. It's all gone." :)

   It's not often that you will see me spout off, but I felt terrible for not blogging lately.  I felt a responsible blogger would let you know what's happening!

     There are 2 posts for this week scheduled- tomorrow and Wednesday. I'm hoping to get one or two more written before Thursday (T-day - tonsillectomy day). After that, I'm not sure when I'll be able to blog, but there are projects in the works. One is half finished and I'll be blogging about it. I hope to blog about my goals for 2012 and inspire you to set realistic, yet fun goals.

   So excited to share some fun ideas with you! It's funny what you can find and adapt to fit your needs! :)
  Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I just had the most fantastic time with a bunch of my friends. I have to tell you they are some of the greatest women I know. We were missing a few from this group due to work and other engagements, but those that were here had fun.

What was the occassion you ask? Friendship, food, and ornaments! You know me, I love ornaments. So, I arranged an ornament exchange and luncheon with some of my gal pals. The great thing, they all have kids too, so the kids were engaged with each other while we were exchanging ornaments.

The kids got in on the fun by decorating their own wood ornaments with markers, crayons, and for my son, ink pens.

More coloring. Aren't they cute???
Everything was very simple. Our food for this chilly damp day was potato and ham soup with salad. Desserts included red velvet cupcakes (YUM! Not to mention they were FANTASTIC!) and Godiva brownies (YUM!).

While I finished up the soup (I was running behind due to my pre-surgery testing), the kids played and gals all talked amongst each other. Some helped me in the kitchen. Then it was lunch time and everyone ate. Then the anticipation came of what kind of ornaments are in those bags??

One wasn't wrapped, so I simply put it in a small bag and since my tissue paper was put away, I did a classy job by stuffing a paper towel in the bag to act as tissue paper. Tacky, I know, but in an pinch, it's what I do.

super fast wrapping job... nice paper towel in place of tissue paper... Desperate times call for desperate measures

When doing the exchange, we drew numbers from a cup and that was the order for picking.

The kids were all getting tired and it was getting later in the afternoon, so it was time to go. As each kid was getting ready to leave, they were given a "gift" (a coloring book, a couple crayons, bubbles and fruit snacks- all from my stockpile). They were so excited as they opened their bags. It was great watching them all. :) What fun we'll have in a couple days watching our kids open their gifts on Christmas. What joy that brings! :) The delight and awe dancing in their eyes as they await the surprise. I love it!

Good times for all. Definitely doing this next year, but I think I'll invite more people and maybe do a mom's night out then a family day for the kids. My house isn't huge, but we'll make do.  I loved it and can't wait until next year.

All of us around the table! Glad hubby stopped home on lunch break to snap this!

Anna on baby duty... by choice, of course!

Someone just wasn't a happy camper today.

Finally! Adults getting to enjoy a warm lunch and chit chat.

Ornaments packaged and ready to be opened.... along with the kids lunches that needed cleaned up.

Katie got a jingle bell snowman

Carole and the glittery pinecone

Lauren and the super funkalicious ornament

Anna and Santa... She had that baby asleep in no time!

Melissa and the jingle bell wreath

Coloring and doodling- not to mention the play food that was all over the table too. At least they know to eat at the table!

Getting more markers/crayons for the wood ornament.

Hanging out in the kitchen (don't mind the mess)

Kids opening their gifts. :)
I highly recommend setting something like this up. Simple, easy, inexpensive, and all out fun!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mudroom blues....

I love our house. It has a lot of character and potential. There is one pitfall to our almost 100 year old home- it lacks storage. When guests come in our front door, they immediately block anyone coming down the stairs as the door is right at the bottom of the stairway. No mudroom space there.
At the back door, you immediately enter the kitchen. The side door, well that's where the mudroom is. Really, it's not even a mudroom but just a hallway leading down to the basement or up to the second floor. For years, I've been trying to come up with a space where people can hang their coats and remove their shoes.

A few years ago, we decided coats would go upstairs in the landing area/doorway from "mudroom". When we have guests, this is generally where coats go. That leaves the shoes.... Ideally, I would love to have a tray for shoes and a basket with slipper for guests to wear around the house to keep their tootsies warm. With a house this old, it gets drafty and chilly.

Anyway, back to the current "mudroom". It's simply an area that is a catch-all. I HATE it. I want to fix it, but I'm not sure how. I would take pics, but it's really that bad. There is no shoe organization, things just pile up on the stairs or in the cubby area under the stairs, there is limited walk way. One plus, there are a bunch of hooks for coats and bags- unfortunately not enough for our house!

So, I'm thinking I'm going to try to rearrange things this year. A few things I want to tackle in 2012- the "mudroom", the balcony off the spare bedroom, painting the dining room, and fixing up the kitchen as much as our budget will allow.

I figure the mudroom is easy to start with, so I'm looking for inspiration. This is what I've found so far.
I would love a spot like this- but storage for shoes under the bench (think open shelving there). Image from here.

Would love to do this in the kitchen/back door or at the bottom of the stairs. CUTE! The bench wouldn't work though as it would block the stairs. Image from bhg
Maybe a shoe rack like this would be better. Cubbies didn't work for us... or maybe we have too many shoes... Nah!
Image via
Love the chore board. I'm doing one in the kitchen at E's level this summer. :) Image from The Yellow Cape Cod
Want this in my mudroom area too. :) Image from here.

Similar to what we have, just the hooks aren't as cute and no cute bench. Wondering if this would work at the bottom of the stairs. Image from Michael Partenio.

Tasty Tuesday: Beef Stew with Beer and Paprika

I've been vising the Pioneer Woman for the past few weeks for some hearty recipes. I tell you, what a blog to follow! If you don't, you really should. I love her blog (not to mention the recipes!).

While perusing it one day, I found a recipe for Beef Stew with Beer and Paprika. I'm sooo glad I did! It was absolutely scrumptious!

Here's the scoop:
1. Easy to make.
2. Lots of simmer time on the stove top means time to do something else you've been meaning to get done or simply enjoy your family, a book, whatever.
3. Simple yet rustic texture and flavoring.
4. tender tender meat
5. Great Sunday meal.
6. Easy to adapt to what you wan which means this is a great base recipe.

Okay, I really liked this recipe and enjoyed it with the Dutch Oven Bread. What a great combination! My husband liked it as well, but since he wasn't feeling great, he couldn't give an accurate perspective. Little man wasn't eating anything so he was out. That just leaves me.... I say 2 thumbs up... way up! It was delightful on a cold Sunday night.

Ways to change it - if you choose: Add a bay leaf maybe some thyme, add mushrooms, use pearl onions (YUM!) in place of the diced onions, add green beans ( I love them). I'm sure there are more but it's late and I'm tired!

Here's the link to the recipe. Definitely in our meal rotation!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

De-Coupon-Age ornament how to

First, I want to say I apologize that I didn't take pictures during the process. I would normally, but I was covered in Modge Podge, glitter glue, and varnish while the lil guy was escaping with coupons and coloring the new wood table with glitter glue. We have a nice sparkly table in some spots now. Good thing it comes off fairly easily with HOT water and soap. (Can you tell we've done this before? Remember this?)

Here's the low-down.

Bulb ornament (I bought a large clear plastic one from Michael's) Size depends on you
Small bottle of Modge Podge (you don't need a ton)
1 tube glitter glue
1 can of spray finish (shellac, varnish, clear glossy spray paint)
Coupons or whatever you are going to use to cover the ornament.
Sponge brush or paint brush (I liked the small sponge brush best)

Step 1: Cut the items to the size you want. I did circles, rectangles and squares.

Step 2: Use the sponge brush to apply Modge Podge to the back of the paper.  Note, you will get it on you and therefore be sticky, so watch what you touch while doing this. Hence the reason for no pics!

Step 3: Once the paper is covered on one side in Modge Podge place it on the bulb ornament. Be sure to smooth it and remove creases. Again, this is a sticky job, but tons of fun! Continue until bulb is covered in your medium.

Step 4:  Allow it to dry and cover the entire thing with a small amount of Modge Podge to ensure no pieces lift or come off. It doesn't take much. Be sure to spread it around well.

Step 5: Spray with 1 coat of varnish. How you do this is up to you. I hung it up in my unfinished basement and sprayed away. You could also put down paper and spray one side then the other (after the first side dries, of course).

Step 6: After varnish is dry, apply glitter glue and spread to thin it out (this will make it dry faster).

Step 7: Re-spray with varnish. If doing more than 1 coat, allow 15-20 min. between coats to dry. Let dry 24 hours.

Step 8: Apply ribbon and you're done!!!!!

So you can't see the glitter as well as I hoped, but it is there! See the spec on the "S" in Save???

I love this project because you can do this with anything! They also have cute little boxes at the craft stores you could use decoupage for so if an ornament isn't your thing, see what else they have.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

De-coupon-age ornament

As I've stated many times, one of my favorite gifts to give people are ornaments. Not only do I like to give these, they're one of my favorite gifts to receive as well. It's always great the next year to get out the ornaments and remember who gave them to you and the memories they evoke.

I have a very dear friend who is a fellow couponer. She and I have co-taught a coupon class at our workplace. We share deals and are known in the building as the couponers. So fun.

Needless to say, I really wanted a great ornament for her with coupons or money saving on it. I couldn't find anything I liked so I decided to make one. I wasn't sure how so I decided on decoupage.

During the process, I had to consult another newer friend who is an art teacher at our school. She was a great help and big encouragement. I had never decoupaged before and wasn't sure what I was doing.

When I finished the product, I was so pleased. As I was making it, I was a little concerned that my piece was not going to work out or would not be appreciated. However, upon completion, I couldn't wait any longer to give it to her. I had to give it to her the next day at school. I was so excited about it, I sent her a few texts about how great it was- in my opinion.

The next day, I ran over to her room to gift her. I was beside myself with excitement and anticipation of her reaction. Needless to say, it was priceless! She didn't even notice the other small gift that was in the bag because she just wanted to look at the ornament! (SUCCESS!!!!) It made it's way around the building to be shown and was appreciated by all.

Before a coat of glitter glue, but after the first coat of varnish.

Purple is her favorite color, so I simply added a purple ribbon. The glitter isn't seen well here. :(

If you have a couponing family member or friend, these are easy to make and supplies are not terribly expensive. Stay tuned for a how-to post coming up soon.

If you don't like coupons, use pictures, themed scrapbook papers, scraps of maps, stamps, book covers, etc. The options are endless.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Traditions 2

Remember this post about traditions? I'm back with another we do in our family.

During the week of Thanksgiving, usually the day before or Black Friday evening, we had to the John S. Knight Center for a Festival of Lights. I posted pics from this year here.

Here are some from 2010. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: Crossed

I must admit, it's taking me forever to finish this book. Most of the series books I read have the same problem- the second is never as good as the first. That is the case with Crossed.

I've been trying to figure out why that is, as I LOVED Matched.  The one thing that is different is the author, Ally Condie, is now telling the story in 2 voices. It makes great sense why she does this. You have two characters looking for each other and trying to find their way to and through a location. So, the reader follows each of the characters on their journey.

There are a few twists and turns in the book that had me say aloud "What!?" but for the most part, I was kind of bored. You simply wait for the characters to do something for what seems like a while in the middle. I am not good with waiting, especially in the middle.

Aside from waiting, the book isn't terrible. One of the things I like is that it's told in 2 voices. I also like that Condie doesn't spend the majority of the first few chapters recounting what happened in the first novel- she shares this information as is needed when you read through the book and in a great way- just enough to help you remember, but not too detailed to bog you down. Thank goodness!

The first few chapters were catching but then the story slows. I'm not sure why. It's almost like Condie was stuck and trying to bring things together but not sure how.

I like how Condie makes you wonder if Cassia made the right choice or if she should switch. I found I was unsure of my feelings on how Ky behaved/interacted with others. Xander simply blew my mind in this.  I also enjoyed the end of the book. Again, Condie keeps you guessing which "he" Cassia will be meeting- even though I'm 100% sure I know!

**** Something really cool- I looked up Ally Condie's site. She has a cool blog where she posts on Tuesdays. One of the posts was a playlist for the book. I'm going to go through it and check out what she pictures as good tunes for the journey the characters are on. I just love the face that she took time to come up with it. Check out her blog here. Scroll down and you'll see the playlist under the picture of Crossed. She also gives good ideas for books for Christmas. Love books for Christmas... Shoot, I love books anytime!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Dutch Oven Bread

I've wanted to make homemade bread for a while. A long time ago (okay like 6  years ago) my mom gave me her bread machine that she couldn't make work correctly. I didn't bother to try as I was in school ful time and working full-time. I had time to make bread (yeah right). I ended up selling the bread machine in a garage sale. With E having allergies to dairy and corn, I've been wanting to make my own bread to ensure it is safe for him as breads usually have dairy in them somewhere.

A friend of mine started her blog and posted that she used this recipe for making homemade bread for her family. I decided to try it. I'm so glad I did!!! 

1. It's easy.
2. It doesn't take a lot of work- just some wait time. Most of it while you're sleeping or working.
3. It bakes in only 35 minutes.
4. It's absolutely FANTASTIC!  My family of 3 gave it 6 thumbs up.

Here's the link to the recipe. I highly recommend it. So nice, simple, easy and scrumptious! Perfect with soup on a cold day.

By the way, Lyzz's blog is a must read. She is an excellent writer. Please visit It's Worth It All to enjoy a little of her life and learn about life with a child with Autism.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Traditions are a great thing. In our house, we have one definite tradition across my immediate family. Everyone in my family knows that at Christmas they will get a new ornament from us (well, me). I LOVE to give ornaments as gifts. It's one of my favorite gifts to receive. How adorable is it to have a present wrapped and an ornament hanging from the bow all pretty and sprakly??? LOVE IT!

What I love most is finding the perfect ornament for each family member. Something either personalized or representing a hobby they have. So fun!

In our house, I take my son out each year to get his ornament. He gets to help choose. Last year, we couldn't decide and he got 2. My favorite place to go for ornaments is Kohl's. They have great options to choose from and reasonable prices.

Here are my little guy's ornaments from the past 3 Christmas's.

E's first ornament - based on his safari themed nursery.

Great grandma gave us this one. :) He loves when we turn it on and it changes colors.

One of last year's ornaments- He liked the lion because it moves. :)

His first beloved plane. He LOVES it- always talks about spinning the propellers round and round.

this year, this is what he chose. I'm not surprised. If there were a helicopter or excavator those would have been a close runner-up.

What holiday traditions do you have?  I'll post another later this week!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gifts for $5 or less - men's version.

Remember this post? I felt kind of bad that I didn't include anything for guys. So, here it is.... :) For the men in your life that are hard to buy for when you have a limited budget. All gifts are around $5, in keeping with the original post for women. This is what I would have suggested if hubby drew another guy's name in the Secret Santa drawing.

1. Cool keychain: maybe with initial or, even better, a laser pointer.

2. Favorite sports team ornament. (I think everyone should get an ornament each year!)

3. Cool new screwdriver or other tool that isn't too expensive.

4. Sharpie pens (if you haven't tried them, they're among the best! LOVE mine)

5. masculine frame (pictures of pooch, pals, loves, etc.)

6. Nivea men lip care (hubby liked his)

7. Deck of cards (for playing poker or other games with the buds)

8. Monopoly Deal (a little more than $5, but it's among our favorite games!)

9. Lottery tickets...

Let's face it, men are harder to buy for, especially under $5!  Got any ideas? Feel free to share by leaving a comment below!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Peach Whiskey Barbecue Chicken

It's funny how this came about. A few weeks back a friend let me know about the Peach Whiskey Barbecue Chicken recipe she found at The Pioneer Woman (one of my favorites). The next day, I was reading another blog that mentioned the same thing. I decided it must be something truly spectacular since it was everywhere so I would try it.

As a recipe to make, it's fairly simple. Lots of time in the oven= tender, fall off the bone chicken and time to do other things in the house. I like that!

Cost wise, not terribly expensive unless you run out of Jack, which we did! You could cut this in half if you have a smaller family- which is what we should have done, but I wanted to have leftovers for 2 nights later. I'm lazy and like to do a leftover day if I can.

Taste wise: This was pretty doggone good. I think if I hadn't skipped a step- which happens when cooking with a 2-year old running between your legs and you're trying to keep him away from popping oil on the stove- it would have had more flavor and less fat. The step I accidentally skipped, pouring off half the fat before adding the whiskey, peaches, and bbq sauce. What was the problem with skipping it- much more liquid than should have been and not as much flavor from the good stuff. :(

Would I make it again- sure thing! I liked how simple and easy it was. As a working mother, that's what I look for in a recipe.

Thank you, Ree the Pioneer Woman for tasty deliciousness!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

I'm not feeling like cooking lately. Maybe I'm just busy with all this stuff to do by Winter Break/Christmas, or coming down with a cold or just lazy. So, another week of simple meals. It's a week filled with doctor appointments for me and the lil guy, so there isn't much time in the evening when you also count in the stuff for winding down for winter break at school.

Monday: Fried Pork Chops & mashed potatoes with Asparagus. (recipe from Pioneer Woman)

Tuesday: Tacos - bump from last week

Wednesday:  Salisbury steak, more mashed potatoes (because these 2 just go together)

Thursday: Left overs

Friday: Beef and Bean burritos with Spanish rice and refried beans. Because I have a half day at work due to ENT appointments... has nothing to do with the fact that hubby loved these and wouldn't it be nice to make them for him again around Christmas????  It's true- the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.... trust me, I know....

Saturday:  Beef Stew with Beer and Paprika (PW recipes again) & dutch oven bread (From here- recipe review coming Tuesday 12/13).

Sunday:  Left overs....

I hope you have a great week! Enjoy feeding your family. I know it brings me great joy to cook for my family, especially when I know it's stuff they love or the whole family can eat together (due to food allergies with lil one).

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gift ideas for less than $5!

It was so funny to hear who my husband drew for his Secret Santa at his new job- the CEO's wife. NICE!! Way to pick 'em honey. There are guidelines: 3 gifts over 3 days, give a clue without giving yourself away, and the grand total spent should be no more than $15. It led me to start thinking about what you can do with $5.

Now, the CEO's wife is middle-aged and obviously female. So, how hard could it be? I mean the whole package can't be over $15....

Here are my ideas:
1. Go to Michael's. They have a great $1 section with all kinds of goods (stationary- monogrammed or seasonal, pens, recipe cards etc.). Pick out some stationary - maybe a notepad, monogrammed cards, and a journal. Use the 20% off total purchase. Grand total is $2.40.

2. A cute scarf from 5 below... they're just $5.
Image from five below

3. A personalized ornament found at department stores for usually $3 or less.

4. Target has cute seasonal tip towels 2 for $1 in the dollar section. Get one of those, wrap up some measuring spoons from the dollar store and include a favorite recipe on a pretty recipe card with neat handwriting. Be sure to tie with a pretty ribbon!

5. Always, Hershey's Pot of Gold chocolates- a weakness for me.

6. Bath and Body Works has great hand sanitizers for CHEAP! Travel size goods from there work too, but you never know if someone is allergic to fragrance, so watch! Don't forget the hand soap. It's fantastic!
Image from Bath and Body works

7. A beautiful candle that smells good. Usually found pretty cheap (Michael's had some for $5.99 then the 40% off would make it $3.60.

8. A mug (maybe use craft paint on it to design something pretty) filled with hot chocolate goodies.
Image credit

9. Michael's also had soup mugs for $1. Imagine that filled with some treats and a recipe for a favorite soup. Again, tie with a pretty ribbon!

10. Kohl's had a great broach for $8. I have a coupon for 20% off. Grand total: $6. 40 A little over, but since we saved every where else, it's okay to go over by $1.40.

11. Charlotte Russe has some adorable pins that would easily spruce up a jacket, sweater, whatever. Check out this one at $5.
Image from Charlotte Russe

12: You could wrap up some Nivea Lip Care, trial size lotions and a pair of cheap gloves (the stretchy ones for a dollar). This would be a good hydrating kit for winter!

I'm sure there are more. What can you think of? Leave a comment!