crafty love: triangle doodle trees

doodles

Looking for a quick and easy holiday craft to keep the little ones busy on these cold winter days? Make and Takes has these adorable printable triangle doodle trees that were a big hit with my kids. The idea is pretty simple: just print out a few pages and have everyone put different little doodles in each triangle.

I’m always on the lookout for crafts that encourage open ended creativity rather than strictly cookie cutter results – I was very pleased with the very different results of each of our finished products, each beautiful in their own unique ways.

My son, age 7, had a lot of fun trying to come up with different doodle ideas for his tree – taking some cues from me but also coming up with a lot of great ideas on his own. My daughter, age 4, was more interested in simply coloring each triangle a different color and drawing “a beautiful purple sparkly star” on top. I tried to go for classic doodles that I remembered doing a lot in middle / high school and kept it strictly black and white. I loved the end results!

doodle trees

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What I’m Into (November)

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer a bit late (but better late than never, right?) to share the things I’ve been into for the past month.

what I’m reading

Right now I’m reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. My book club is discussing it next week (ack!) and the odds of me finishing on time are a bit iffy but I’m going to try. This book is intense and complicated and fantastic and occasionally awful, but not in a literary way so much as a “how many times are we going to torture, kill and humiliate this person?” kind of way.

Imagine if you could go back and relive your life over and over again – what things would you change and do differently? This is sort of the premise of the book and in the beginning the main character seems to just keep on dying every ten minutes in awful ways that made my mother heart hurt. But gradually she lives longer and longer and it oscillates between feeling like a story about all the ways you can die / be hurt / suffer and feeling like a story about all the ways we can survive / overcome / be better. It’s hopeful and despondent all at the same time. So it’s fascinating and I’m enjoying it as much as you can enjoy that kind of book, but I’m taking for freaking ever to finish it.

Some nights I’m just too spent from my own realities to deal with such a heavy book and on those nights I’ve been reading As You Do by Richard Hammond (of Top Gear fame) instead. This book reads as though Hammond is actually standing next to you talking. His writing style is VERY similar to his talking style which I suppose could be a good thing or a bad thing but I consider it a good thing. I’m not super far into the book as I’ve been trying to be more diligent about getting through the book club pick but I am really enjoying this one so far. It’s a collection of stories from his adventures on Top Gear and other ventures. I actually bought this book for my husband and he LOVED it so much that I felt inclined to read it myself. So far so good…

what I’m watching (tv)

Anyone else still going a little bit spastic inside over the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode? My husband and I watched it that night and kept squealing like fan girls and theorizing little bits and pieces to death (Emergency Awesome has some fun easter egg /hidden references from the episode) . The next afternoon we watched it with the kids (we always give the new episodes a trial run before letting the kids watch, just to be on the safe side) and squealed all over again. I’m both anxiously looking forward to the Christmas special and apprehensively dreading the end of the 11th’s tenure. I hope Peter Capaldi is amazing, I’m sure I’ll get used to him eventually as I did the others.

Can you believe the contestants that have been eliminated on X-Factor so far these past couple weeks? The results have been surreal to me and I’m not sure if it’s because I am just not the same target audience as the people that are voting or what, but I mourned the loss of another Top Fave last week. ::sniff:: I doubt that my vote would have made much of a difference but I do sometimes wish that people who DVR and watch the show later were given a chance to vote. Do you think the results would have been different if everyone who watches could vote and not just the people who watch it live?

what I’m watching (movies)

We took the kids to see Frozen the day after Thanksgiving (otherwise known as stab each other for video games day) and I think the whole family fell in love. I was jonsing for a good “Princess Movie” and this totally hit the spot. BB of course now wants Anna and Elsa everything and I can’t say I’m bothered by this very much. We may have to buy the DVD when it comes out and possibly the sound track because I cannot stop singing, “Do you want to build a snowman?” Such a great movie.

in my kitchen

This year for Thanksgiving I was basically the Queen of Desserts. I made:

My MIL’s famous rum cake and a delicious apple pie (this recipe’s crust was the first pie crust I’ve ever made and I think I’m going to go ahead and officially swear by it) as well as a peanut butter dip which was basically a peanut butter pie (I loosely followed this recipe) minus the crust with a bunch of sliced apples to dip in it (though I confess my favorite thing to dip in it is a spoon!) and a sweet potato casserole (this recipe has become a staple for me, this was my third year using it and I can’t imagine straying from it now).

The peanut butter pie dip that I made ended up being so far from the original that I feel the need to share what I actually made and pretend that I can call it a “recipe”

Jen’s Deviously Good Peanut Butter Pie Dip

  • 1 pint (16 oz) of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • most of a 16 oz container of creamy peanut butter, we’ll say 12-14 oz. (I just used what was left of my barely touched container, you could probably use a full 16 oz container or less if necessary).
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Beat a pint of heavy whipping cream in your mixer until it’s thickened enough – I don’t think I ever got mine truly “whipped cream”ish but I was starting to get bored so after awhile I moved on to the rest of the recipe.
  2. Beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, butter and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Fold in the “whipped cream”. Gently spoon into a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to eat. If you can control yourself. Yield: 8-10 servings.

On a non-recipe note, can I mention again how obsessed I am with the orange clove scented counter top spray from Mrs. Meyers? I may have snagged a bottle of the orange clover dish soap and a scented candle at Target today…

stuff I loved online

the entire ‘Doctor Who’ history in one amazing tapestry (awesome)

after a year of parenting, one thing is certain (sweet)

Moms: OK is good enough (amen)

So what have you been into lately?

Dream Big Momma! A Wish List for Mother’s Day

Mothers Day is this weekend and even though I am prettttty sure I won’t be getting the Subaru of my dreams, it doesn’t hurt to drool a bit, right? Here are some other things that top my Dream Big Momma! Mother’s Day Wish List.

  1. A macro lens for my camera – I have a little macro filter that is fun but the big bad lens would be awfully cool someday. I’d settle for a wireless remote to make taking pictures of me and the kiddos easier.
  2. Some cute ballet flats like these pretties at J Crew. Alternatively, twenty minutes alone in Famous Footwear and permission to buy something just for fun would be pretty cool, too.
  3. New counter tops like this gorgeous hardwood counter top on Pinterest. Or something pretty to put on the counters I have like this cute vase from IKEA.
  4. A weekend at some fancy spa & resort where I get pampered for hours and get to sleep in as late as I want. Or a massage at the Princeton Club.
  5. Breakfast at a little cafe in Paris and then a day of sight seeing, museum hopping and picture taking. Or breakfast in bed (or at the kitchen table – less messy) and home made cards & drawings from the kids.

What would be on your Dream Wish List for Mother’s Day?

What are you actually hoping for?

Favorite Christmas Gifts (Our Family’s Top Picks)

It’s been a few weeks since Christmas and I thought I’d share with you some of our favorite gifts that we received this year.

Momma’s Favorite Gifts

A Baby Blues 365 calendar (in addition to a year of my favorite comics, it also has little trivia facts and puzzles on the back of each page), wonderful new books to read (I picked up even more not pictured with Christmas and birthday money), a macro filter for my Nikon (similar to a macro lens but much cheaper, I’m still getting the hang of using it, but I love a good photography challenge) and Marzipan fruit candies which my husband ordered for me online when he couldn’t find them locally.

Not pictured but deserving a mention: I used most of my Christmas money buying two new pairs of pants from Dressbarn and also a fantastic pair of slippers. Their Westport denim line fit me perfectly, keep their shape for days and don’t cost a fortune. I’ve been loving a pair in a dark wash for months now and decided to pick up a lighter wash and a pair of brown trousers in the same brand. While I was there I spotted these slippers (in black) on sale for $9.99 and had to grab them. They are super comfortable and keep my feet warm on cold winter days. ❤

DH’s favorite Christmas gifts

I found this burr style coffee grinder for just $20 at a store called Tuesday Morning that has amazing deals. We’ve been looking for a good coffee grinder (burr style is essential for us espresso snobs) for awhile but were unwilling to shell out the big bucks. So far this Black & Decker model has treated us very well, though some reviews on Amazon have me leery about how long it will last, we have been in coffee nirvana since Christmas morning.

Not pictured: I don’t even have to ask my husband to know that the PS3 we picked up in December has probably been his favorite gift this year. It was a purchase we made together outside of the holidays technically but it’s been getting a lot of use as both a gaming system (the whole family is obsessed with Little Big Planet) and a blu-ray player and Netflix Instant watching device. We had purchased a pretty inexpensive bluray player last year and were more and more unhappy with it. It was slow to respond, clunky when loading and had a horrible remote control. The bluray player on the PS3 is pretty much the opposite of that and I’m so glad we convinced ourselves to buy it.

I also got my husband a few goodies on ThinkGeek.com that he has been loving like this Time Lords t-shirt and an Aperture Science Pint Glass.

BB’s Favorite Christmas Gifts

The kids were only mildly spoiled rotten this year! BB (my three year old daughter) got some really cute stuff like these matching tutus from grammy for her American Girl Bitsy Baby and herself. Dress up gowns were a big hit in general this year as well as anything for her baby like the trundle beds for her dolls and the adorable shopping cart I picked up for her at Costco. I can’t find it on their website anymore but it was this shopping cart for $20.

Other favorite gifts included these flash cards by DK, Pride & Prejudice – board book edition and a new set of duplo blocks so she can keep up with her always building something big brother.

MM’s Favorite Christmas Gifts

I think both of my kids would agree that having their grammy, papa and aunt and uncle come visit for the holidays was probably the best Christmas gift of all this year. A close second for MM would be this amazing Ninja Turtles hat that she found for him. She does a lot of her own knitwear and loves to gift her creations but when she saw this in a store she knew she had to buy it for MM. I’m not sure if she knows about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot on tv that all the boys MM’s age are infatuated with, but this was a very timely gift and he’s been wearing it everywhere.

MM also got a toy airport set from Santa (as requested), a cool 3D drawing pad (another ThinkGeek find), activity books, a little gardening kit, some new games, chapter books, a Cat in the Hat card game (super cute and fun for both kids), a k’nex set and an erector set and more.

Another favorite not photographed is a copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. A nice compromise between Early Reader books and chapter books. The words are a bit more challenging but there are plenty of pictures and it’s all silly and fun. He has been reading it every night.

What were some of your favorite Christmas gifts this year?

easy craft: make a candy cane wreath with your kiddos

candy cane wreath

A couple weeks ago I read about a super easy, super adorable holiday craft idea over at one of my favorite blogs, Really, Are You Serious? Krystyn has three sweet little girls, pretty close in age to my own children and her post about creating a candy cane wreath with her littles sounded like a perfect holiday craft to do with my 6 year old and 3 year old.

So the first thing you need to do is pick up a foam wreath circle thingy (that’s a technical term) and some red and white tulle. You’ll also need scissors and a piece of cardboard. Krystyn recommended a piece of cardboard that was around 12-14 inches long. I found one that was ten inches and decided that was close enough, especially given the fact that my foam circle thing was smaller than hers.

So using the cardboard, you wrap your tulle around the cardboard and then cut so that it’s all the same size. Smart, huh? Krystyn recommends using two 100 yard packages of tulle. I think mine were half that size but it ended up being plenty since I used a tiny… foam circle thingy. I really lucked out here because if you haven’t noticed, I half-assed my way through this entire craft. But miraculously it still worked and came out pretty cute!

Krystyn was able to have one of her girls hold the box for her while she wrapped her tulle to make the process faster. My piece of cardboard was just big enough for the tulle and left no room for hands to hold on. So I had the kids watch tv or something while I wrapped (mother of the year, I know) and then called them back in for the fun part. MM was a big help handing me the THREE pieces of tulle needed to tie on each section of the candy cane and BB thought she was being helpful when she grabbed handfuls of the tulle and rolled them into balls for me. Tulle is very forgiving (even if I can’t pronounce it) and I mostly didn’t get mad about this.

Fun fact: I noticed that the white tulle was much softer and easier to work with than the red tulle. I’m not sure if I somehow bought two different kinds or if perhaps the red dye stiffens the tulle. Either way, I liked tying the white pieces much better than the red ones.

Here’s the end result: Pretty and kind of resembles Krystyn’s results. And my children seemed to think it was fun helping out. So all in all, I’d call it a wild success!

candy cane wreath

I recommend you check out Krystyn’s blog for the full set of directions for this craft, but it really was very easy – so easy that even a Type B momma like myself was able to finish it while only mostly paying attention.

Advent: Two Ways.

advent

This year we are doing, not one, but two advent calendars. A beautiful quilted advent calendar from the kids’ memere filled with cute little toys and treats to open each day. We open this in the mornings after breakfast typically.

Here are some of the cute things they’ve opened so far:

What I love about this calendar is that we can reuse it every year instead of having to buy or craft a new one each year. And we can fill it with small toys and treats or make activity cards instead for a less materialistic and perhaps more memorable holiday? We did an activity advent calendar (er box) last year and the kids really enjoyed it.

I thought about doing it again this year but decided to focus my attention on a different advent activity that I read about a million times last year, an advent book box:

The first step was to gather my 24 holiday themed books: some from our book collection, some from thrift stores or Amazon, some from my son’s school book fair. Next I had to decide how to present the books. I went back and forth on this one. I considered wrapping the books individually and numbering them, but that sounded like a lot of work and I didn’t want to burn myself out on wrapping before I even got to the Christmas presents.

Instead I decided to put them all into a large cardboard box, put a little sign on top and number the books with pretty post-it notes. I found some cute star shaped ones on sale that were perfect.

Here are some of the books they’ll find inside:

So the kids get to open this box at night and we read the book inside as a bedtime story that night. This has been a big hit and the best part is, now I own all these books I won’t necessarily have to buy anymore if I want to do this again next year. I could choose to buy a few new books just to mix things up – or not. Or not do it at all and just bring out all the books at the beginning of the season.

Do you do an advent calendar / activity with your kids? What’s your favorite kind?

5 things I’m loving on Tuesday: Holiday Edition

How was your Thanksgiving weekend? We had a five day weekend filled with delicious food, major cleaning projects and a trip to the movies with the kids. The week before was less fun with a nasty stomach bug that worked it’s way through the family – which I’m using an excuse for the lack of posts her lately.

I have some legitimate review posts planned to go up soon, including a review of Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Bliss and Phillip Phillip’s debut album, The World From the Side of the Moon. But for today, here are 5 things I’m loving lately:

silly outtakes

1. It’s that time of year again – time for dressing our kids up in their cutest outfits to take pictures for Holiday cards. I tried to snap some cute pictures of the kids on Thanksgiving, but it took awhile to work through a serious case of the sillies. I love the outtakes though, I think they show the kids in their natural state of being and a lot of times these outtakes make it to the final card! How about you? Do you prefer a perfectly posed holiday photo or silly and sweet?

2. Peppermint mochas are back at Starbucks and this makes me a happy, happy momma. I know a lot of people are all about the Pumpkin Lattes in the fall, but my sweet tooth holds out for the winter flavors and peppermint mocha is one of my favorites. That said, not all the coffee shops have nailed the perfect peppermint mocha – I tried one from Dunkin Donuts this weekend and was pretty disappointed. What’s your favorite seasonal treat?

3. Mommas, don’t hate me, but I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping. Thanks to the internet, I have been scoping gift ideas for months and last week I started making my official purchases – gifts for my husband and kids are done, photo calendars have been ordered and shipped to grandparents and great grandparents and I’ve started working on stocking stuffers and extended family gifts (which we don’t buy a lot of in general). I still need to figure out my holiday cards and finish stuffing those stockings (handknit by my grandmother which I love, but all four stockings are gigantic – I’m thinking big puffy socks and scarves). My go to websites for holiday shopping are Amazon.com, ThinkGeek.com and Shutterfly – what are your favorite e-retailers?

4. What is Santa bringing your kids for Christmas (or alternatively, what are the kids getting for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa)? My daughter (age 3) really wants a shopping cart so she can take her babies grocery shopping. I found one at Costco for just $20 that looks perfect and can double as toy food storage in our playroom. I also got her some mini princess figurines because she is crazy about princesses these days and a big box of duplo blocks because just like her brother, she is all about building things. My son (age 6) is getting an erector set from Costco (also $20 I think) and from Santa a toy airport set and “a garden“. My husband really wants a Mini Kreg Jig Kit. I have no idea what that means, but he asked and he’s getting one. :O) What do YOU want for Christmas? I’m hoping for some macro filters for my DSLR (a cheaper option for those wanting a big fancy Macro lens but lacking the funds for one).

5. I just finished putting together an Advent Book Box for the kids – a filing box filled with 24 holiday themed books for the kids (some classics, some chapter books and some picture books with favorite characters – most books picked up for next to nothing at a used book store, some purchased at my son’s book fair, etc.). I was going to wrap them all individually, but I thought that seemed like a lot of unnecessary work so I went for the put them all in a big box route instead. Then, this week my step mother sent a beautiful handmade advent calendar with 24 little pockets filled with little treats for the kids. In future years I could fill it with activity ideas or anything I want really. It’s gorgeous and I’m so thankful for such a thoughtful gift – the kids will be doubly spoiled this year with two advent activities a day – I’m thinking one in the morning at breakfast and one before bed. Do you do an advent calendar with your kids? What kind is your favorite?

What things are you loving today? Tell me about them in the comments section below or write your own blog post and send me the link!

momma loves: soup, sales & super awesome giveaways

  1. I made this slow cooker potato soup recipe from Mama Loves Food last night and it came out really good. I had to halve her recipe because I can’t actually fit 5 pounds of russet potatoes into my slow cooker (which I’d never considered small until yesterday) but I still got a ton of soup out of the deal and my husband may have raved a tiny bit. Very easy to throw together and because my slow cooker is possessed it also cooked up in about 4 hours on high. Normal slow cookers probably cook slower but I’m inclined to not complain because it meant I got dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. Love that.
  2. My husband just approved an early birthday present (I turn the big 3-0 next month, it’s kind of a big deal) when I excitedly blabbered to him this morning something like “OMG Lands End … having… major sale – coat was $180, now it’s $90… and… offering another 30% off… FREE SHIPPING… Coat comes to my knees, WARM, gahhhhh….” Which in calm & collected Jen voice would simply sound like, “Lands End is having some kind of an amazing sale right now and their Cire Down Coat is on sale for $66 with free shipping, tax included. That is a land slide of a savings off the original price of $180.”
  3.  Speaking of super awesome giveaways (we were already moving on to the last item on my incredibly literal post title, right?) – Kiwi Crate is running a pretty spiffy giveaway on their Facebook & Pinterest pages. Use Pinterest to create a board with the words “wish list” in the title, like “this is my kid’s wish list” or whatever and then pin all the things your kiddos want for the Holidays. Include at least one thing from Kiwi Crate in your wish list and then head to their Facebook page and submit the URL to your board on their Contest Tab to win $250 to go towards your holiday shopping. Kind of amazing, I know. And fun – who doesn’t love building wish lists and pinning things with abandon?