Thursday, December 29, 2011

CHRISTMAS MORNING


CHRISTMAS MORNING MEMORIES

Coop was so excited...came into our room, jumped up in bed...so thrilled that today was the day...but he waited at the top of the stairs like we asked so we could go downstairs with cameras first.

We got home late on Christmas Eve, and we all got a good sleep for Christmas.

We got to open the stocking from Nana and Papa...Coop had been eyeing that since our drive home the night before.

I bought my own stocking stuffers...I was bummed.

Instead of buying me stocking stuffers, Brian gave me the gift of amazingness by donating to Kisses from Katie's organization Amazima.  I got over it.

Coop would open a gift with excitement...and then ask to open more.  He was just so excited to see gifts.  That was fun to see.  I pray we help him stay grounded in the true meaning of Christmas...that we as parents and we as a family keep it all in perspective.

Cooper was excited most with the simple things we gifted him.  His imagination is awesome.  We built a huge train track with some new pieces and new trains.  He got what he wished for...Thomas, Diesel, and Mighty Mac (later getting Percy and Diesel 10 - the not nice Diesel).  The excitement was precious.

Easy breakfast of loaded scrambled eggs, toast, juice, and satsumas.

Packed up and headed out to Gmam and Poppy's to see my side of the family!


Oh blessed memories...thank you Lord.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Need for Speed


Cooper loved sharing his birthday jeep with Cousin Andrew when they came to visit the day after Christmas.  He even let him drive.  Where do boys get their need for speed?


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On the hunt for a basket...



Lots of fun little treasures made their way home with us this Christmas.
So immeasurably blessed with love and family.

Praying you enjoyed sweet family time and made lots of precious memories.

I'll be on the hunt for the perfect basket to adorn my new cruiser.
So fun!

I am also on a purging mission.
The upcoming weeks, piles of stuff, corners of junk, nooks, and crannies better watch out!
I'm going to tackle them with gusto.
Don't mess with me clutter...don't mess with me!

Blessings to you on this day!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve Kisses 2011



CHRISTMAS EVE MEMORIES

Time spent with Minnesota family at Nana and Papa's house

Brian playing soccer outside with the boys to get all their sillies out

Watercolor ornaments

Sweet Auntie Karin playing hide and seek with those little buddies
while we parents took a much needed moment to breathe

More gifts for others than for ourselves

Cooper sleeping through the entire church service...even during the LOUDEST
sound malfunction you've ever heard, then waking up with the cutest smile as
we walked out, saying, "Merry Mismas" to the gal behind us

Nana making yummy salmon dinner...with the best fruit chutney you ever did eat

Papa reading the Christmas story

Lots of Lego building

A late evening drive home with Coop in red tractor pjs



Saturday, December 24, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM HALLELUJAHS BY HOLLY


PHOTO BY AUTUMN BALDWIN VIA WRITE.CLICK.SCRAPBOOK.


May your days be merry and bright, full of love and grace!
Signing off except for catching up with advent posts.
Merry Christmas!

Advent Day 23: THE POLAR EXPRESS

I found THIS POST with THESE ticket images and decided to have a little fun for the boys to enjoy the night we watched The Polar Express.  They each got a ticket with their name on it and a silver jingle bell in preparation for watching the movie.  So fun.  I used to do this when I was a teacher for my students too.


Cooper got to open his Christmas present from A, A, and A on this night, as it was matching PJs and slippers...so he and Andrew could be cute little matching cousins.  So cute.

However, he was exhausted, hadn't napped in days, and was pretty much at the end of his manner rope.  He was not the most gracious gift receiver this evening.  Thanks goodness none of us took it to heart.  We have some understanding sisters and brothers.  It was like pulling teeth trying to get those pjs on him, and we settled for his favorite (wear them everyday and nick name them Slippies) slippers that we had brought.  And all began to look up.  Sometimes a momentary breakdown leads to the most joyous attitude.  Crazy.

By the end of the movie, those slippers were on his feet after his prompting, and he woke up the next morning, Christmas Eve, telling his Auntie A how cute his new pjs were.  Go figure.

Love these little buddies, and loved this time with our family.
Oh and don't worry, we didn't forget the hot, hot, hot, HOT chocolate.


Although this picture doesn't shout photography at its finest, it is a quick iPhone shot that will have to do.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Day 17: Silly Christmas Hat Pictures



Hope you're having a lovely weekend!
After a day of Christmas movies and wrapping presents...we went a little bonkers.
It was amazing!




Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Day 16: Deliver Treats to Neighbors


Cooper was the best delivery boy ever.
So sweet and brought the biggest smiles to our neighbors' faces.
Great day!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent Day 15: Making Cookies


Making cookies with my little buddy is one of my favorite things to do.
Bonus: delicious cookies to enjoy afterward!
Sometimes even for breakfast...don't tell!

We love us some good ol' chocolate chip.
My favorite chocolate chip recipe actually.
Find it HERE!

Many blessings,

Babycakes...Cake Pops That Won't Gross Me Out?

 Look what Beth over at Home Stories A to Z just whipped up...aren't they fun?

PHOTO CREDIT GOES TO BETH FROM HOME STORIES A TO Z

Cake pops kind of gross me out.  Cake crumbs squished up in a bunch of frosting and coated with melted chocolate...it just doesn't sound or taste good to me at all.  I don't understand how they became so popular...not to mention how intensely unhealthy they must be.  I watched Coop snarf down one from Starbucks, and it made me wince and regret letting him get one.  (If you love cake pops, please take no offense to this.  It's purely my opinion.  Everyone gets their own, right?)  If you love cake pops, you go right for it and enjoy one for me, would ya?!  :)

But this little cake pop maker looks like a good solution for me.  It's actually cake covered in fun stuff...not just mushed up cake mixed with frosting.  I can do these cake pops.  I could pop probably a million in my mouth and think nothing of it.  :)

So, I've seen these around, but I'm just now realizing how fantastic one of these little machines might be.  I'm sure little mini cupcakes would be just as fun...but there is something about a round little treat that screams fun!

Have you used one of these machines?  Was it worth getting?  Do you love it?
Many blessings to you!
Can hardly believe it is December 15th.  Wow!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Day 14: DIY Thumbprint Reindeer Gift Tags


I USED: white cardstock, circle hole punches, red and white twine, Coop's thumbprint, Q-tip for the ears, colored pencils for the antlers, black sharpie, and round red adhesive embellishments for the sweet little nose.  Add the giftee's name, and you are good to go.

WARNING:  If you make your three year old do a million thumbprints, he might decide he's completely over it.  Just sayin'.




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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Day 9: Hot Chocolate and Movie


So it was supposed to be a Christmas movie with hot chocolate.
The Mr. was out of town and we had all the options in the world open to us.

We ended up choosing (or at least Cooper did) Cars 2, milk, and cookies from the exchange.  
It was grand. 
I even got some Christmas card addressing in there.
Lovely, snuggly evening with my little buddy.
It doesn't get better.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Day 8: A Favorite Dinner Out (As In Going Out or Take Out)

We have been going, going, going like crazy lately, so a favorite take out meal felt like the perfect special dinner for us.  It was going to be Panda Express (Cooper's favorite), but we had an impromptu change of plans.  Auntie Karin was in town for a friend's wedding, and that made for a whirlwind impromptu visit and dinner with Nana and Auntie Karin.

Instead of Panda Express, they graciously brought Chili Thai (so delicious...we hadn't tried it yet).  We then gobbled up some cookies from the exchange (some are already completely gone...Brian!!!!!!!...just kidding...Coop and I had a huge hand in that happening), mugs of hot chocolate, and some crazy entertainment from Cooper.

 




He did settle down long enough for Auntie Karin to read some Christmas books.  



He even melted our hearts enough to get us to say yes to eating cookies on the couch.  He started noticing all the crumbs and began obsessively brushing them all off the couch.  Oh this boy.  I love him.  Thanks for a great dinner Nana and Auntie Karin.  Good times!  Can't wait to see you Christmas Eve!


Roll A Snowman Game...Fun Family Activity



CREDIT GOES TO STEPH FROM SOMEWHAT SIMPLE VIA TIP JUNKIE

Pretty fun.  Coop and I have had a great time playing this game.  I just cut out two sets of the provided snowman template and instructions, and then we just took it from there. Pretty great watching Coop figure out the dice and practice counting.  Such a neat little family activity.  The best part, you could play forever.

I also had a thought.  You could tailor this game to anything.  Construction vehicles, animals, book characters, or train parts.  Anything your children love...totally doable.  Just find pictures online and tailor to the game.  Go for it.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Advent Day 7: Shopping for those in need through World Vision


He circled almost every gift in World Vision's Gift Giving Catalog.

Such a joy to give during this season especially...hoping to reinforce and encourage this for the little buddy.


Blessings,


Advent Day 6: Host A Cookie Swap (Homemade Peanut Butter Cup Recipe)

Let me just say as I wipe my brow and take a deep breath, "Fshew."  My crazy schedule leading up to December 6th's Cookie Party is done...with the grand finale being the Cookie Party.  What a treat!  It was lovely.

I feel alive.  I feel like I can breathe.
I feel excited and ready for a joy-filled December.

Crazy, stressed out, overwhelmed Holly just walked out the door.  
Smiley, happy, goofy, ready for fun Holly just reappeared.


Hallelujah for the dearest of family and friends for making Cookie Swap 2011 so much fun.   From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the time and effort you put into making this year's cookies.  I know we all have some crazy stories to tell in regard to our baking adventures - 84 cookies is a lot to make!  But we did it gals, we did it.  And it was amazing!  Hope you all enjoy your cookie loot!
Here's a little peek into the 2nd Annual Cookie Swap at my house, along with a recipe for Homemade Peanut Butter Cups.  Please excuse some of the pictures...imperfect lighting and focus and such.  I'm over it.  :)
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GUESTS WERE ASKED TO BRING
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1.  1/2 dozen cookies/bars/treats for each guest attending (pre-packaged...ziplocs, tupperware, cellophane bags, etc...totally up to them).  I sent an Evite to confirm the number of guests ahead of time, also asking that they responded with the type of cookie they would bring (to avoid multiples of the same cookie).

2.  1 written or printed recipe for each guest in attendance

3.  1 basket/box/bag to carry home their cookie loot

*  I realize there are a million and one ways to do a Cookie Swap/Exchange.  This is just a peek into how I do mine.  2nd year in a row, and it seems to work well!  Who knows...maybe next year will be a little different!


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THE GUESTS
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I had the privilege to swap cookies with some pretty fabulous women!  I'm amazed at their generosity and creativity.  So sorry to my high school dearest, Nikki, who had to sneak out before I remembered I owned a camera, as well as my sweet friend from church, Pam (and your daughter, and her friend, and the sweetest little puppy that you ever did see) for not having your sweet faces here!  And to  Stella, my sweet Stella, although you were out with your fam, we missed you and were excited to see your cookies wrapped beautifully awaiting the swap.  To all of you, I give you my sincerest thanks...for the fun, the laughter, the stories, the recipes, the yummy treats, and really...just the best darn time.  Thank you for carving a moment out from your busy lives and precious families to join me.  It was my absolute pleasure!

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THE COOKIE SWAPPING TABLES
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Guests were welcomed in and guided toward designated spots for each individual's set of cookies.  I had various sized platters and baskets to hold all the goods.  Thank goodness my sister and Mama came early and helped welcome folks.  I couldn't have done it without them.  Most folks brought the cookies in their "take home" basket, and then transferred them to my dishes so as to have room in their basket to swap and take home everyone else's cookies.


Here is a shot of the cookie table after folks arrived...with a few ladies already having swapped.  (I tell ya.  I literally forgot that I owned a camera until nearly the end of the night.  Lame sauce.)  I gotta say...the cookie tables were definitely a feast for the eyes and tummy.

PS - Do you love my partially painted wall behind the clock and secretary desk?  I know...classy.
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BEVERAGES AND MUNCHIES
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I served a variety of warm drinks, including hot chocolate, various teas, and cider.   If I liked alcohol and knew anything about it, it would be fun to offer wine and other fun girly drinks.  But I don't.  So instead, we enjoyed Pomegranate Fizzies...1 part POM juice and 1 part Ginger Ale.  So refreshing.  It helps to simplify things to offer one main drink...I think anyhoo.  And the gals seemed to enjoy it.  To munch, we gobbled up some chocolate of course...






...and lots of Trader Joe's finger foods.  Yum!

I felt like such a rebel...as I hadn't tasted the flatbreads and mushrooms before buying enough to serve 17 cookie swapping guests.  Chancy; totally chancy people.  Luckily, they turned out amazingly delicious.  Sorry I didn't catch the name of all these yummies before recycling the boxes, but at least you get the picture.  My Mama made the pumpkin dip...finger licking good...like pumpkin pie pudding.  Delish.

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THE LOOT AND A RECIPE FOR

HOMEMADE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS
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I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into each of these delectable treats.  What thoughtful creativity and attention to detail went into these cookies.   I'm sorry I don't have my act together enough to take pictures of all the cookies after opening up these sweet little bundles.  We've made quite a dent already.  If I have a chance in the next few days...I'll see what I can do.  I have a feeling a couple cookie monsters in this house might make it tough.  Seems like cookies disappear before my very eyes these days.  


Almond Strawberry Linzor Trees (Zimsterne)
Chocolate Chip
Gingerbread Snowflakes (inside the boxes)
Glazed Lemon Cookies
Hazelnut Meringues
Honey Almond Madeleines
Pecan Meltaways
Powdered Sugar Cookies
Raspberry Nut Pinwheels
Recipe for Disaster - Snazzed Up Sugar Cookies (I love you dear friend!)
Snickerdoodles
Starbucks Chewy Molasses Cookies
The Ultimate Chocolate Chip

And my contribution...

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Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

1 cup+ peanut butter...I used a little more than 1 cup
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 tsp vanilla
Powdered Sugar
Chocolate - I used milk chocolate chips.
Mini cupcake liners
Mini muffin tins

For the peanut butter centers, mix all of the ingredients together except for the chocolate. Then, add enough powdered sugar for desired consistency.  I like to taste after this step, and add a bit more peanut butter if needed (I think it really depends on the brand of peanut butter.)  My preference is a very creamy consistency.  But I think if you aim for a consistency solid enough to form a ball, but not too crumbly and dry...you are good to go. Roll the mixture into balls and flatten a bit  into a size that will fit nicely into your baking cups.  The first time I made these, I made the mistake of making the balls too small, and so the ratio of peanut butter mixture to chocolate was not balanced.  Make sure you have enough peanut butter mixture.  I found this to be vital.
Melt your chocolate on a very low heat. Stir often. You can also melt it in batches in the microwave...30 seconds at a time...stirring after each interval...until shiny and melted.  Spoon some chocolate into the bottom of each baking cup (make sure to leave enough room to top them off). Then press peanut butter center into each cup (there should be room around the edges for chocolate). Cover top and sides of the peanut butter center with chocolate. Let cool. Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.

Yields:  This recipe varies in the amount of peanut butter cups it yields.  I got somewhere between 24-50 for this recipe.  It really just depends on sizing/filling of each cup.

The recipe for peanut butter cups was found at s.e.i. LIFESTYLE.  Thank you Maria.  These treats are decadent and delicious.  Go for it folks.  So easy.  What I loved about this recipe is the wiggle room.  Measurements did not have to be exact for them to turn out beautifully.
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THANKS FOR COMING
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As folks left, I gave them each a Christmas card with a set of 6 free gift tags (found HERE...thanks Andrea!) and baker's twine.  Attempting to be intentionally frugal, I thought these tags were delightful and a great way to say thank you!  I just punched them out using my rectangular puncher...and voila!  Go to this artist's blog to be inspired and find the tags...they are darling!


ALL CREDIT FOR PRINTABLE GIFT TAGS GOES TO LIFE BY ANDREA VICTORIA


We had a great time.  If you have ever thought about doing a Cookie Swap, I encourage you to go for it.  It is a bit of work to organize and prep, but whether you host or simply attend, the fruit of the labor of fabulous women that join you is SO WORTH IT!!!


What a party!  So thankful!  Goodnight friends!

Hope you are gearing up for a Merry Christmas with dear loved ones and
a heart focused on the most precious gift we could receive...Jesus Christ.

Many blessings,


(For those that haven't had a chance to see, last year's 1st Annual 
Cookie Swap was just as much fun...check it out HERE.)

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