Monday, December 5, 2016

December Goals!

Good morning, Monday! 

I'm currently working through pink eye and a cold, but we have Matt's birthday tomorrow and fun Christmas activities planned for the week, so I'm full stream fake-it-til-I-make-it this week. No time for colds in December!

Real quick, here's a recap from November. November was a BUSY!

Christmas Shop- start and finish
Done! Well all but one gift. And of course it's a men's gift. Might be referring to my own gift guide to find something great this week! If you missed my gift guides, you can check them out here:

Design and order Christmas card
I am so excited about our Christmas card this year! This stage of littles we're in is not super ideal for the posed, smile-at-the-camera shot, so I'm really happy about the one we got! If you don't get a card in the mail from us, I always post our card on here and Instagram on Christmas Day every year, so stay tuned!

Make 12-Days-of-Christmas plan for December
You can see our plan here. :)

Get away with Matt
Ahhh, what a trip! We haven't been away for two nights somewhere since Ryan was born, and man was it fun! We took two pictures while we were away- one on our first night and one on our last morning:

I think the best part was walking to breakfast lunch and dinner, eating for as long as we liked, talking about whatever we wanted to talk about (and completing every conversation!), and watching a movie in the middle of the day in our room. It was SO relaxing!

We also go these sweet pictures from my parents while we were gone, which made our trip even better knowing that our kiddos were having so much fun with their Nonna and Papa! They are the BEST!

Share 3 New Recipes

Pumpkin Cheesecake (recipe here)

Apple Cinnamon Overnight French Toast (recipe here)

Beef Wellington (recipe here)

Read Simply Tuesday
I read but didn't love it, unfortunately. :/ You can read my full review here.

My goals for December are simple- enjoy the sweetness of this season as we work through the activities we have planned for our 12 Days of Christmas. And I'll probably share a few new recipes and read a book too. :)

Tomorrow I'll be sharing 5 of our new favorite children's book centered around the reason we celebrate Christmas- Jesus! See you tomorrow!


Friday, December 2, 2016

12 Days of Christmas 2016

We cannot WAIT to celebrate the Christmas Season with our two kiddos this year! I remember last year thinking we would have one Christmas with just Ryan, and trying to picture what it would be like to have a little 10 month old girl a part of the mix the following year. And now here we are! Celebrating Christmas with the two of them this year will be extra sweet.

I try to get all of my gift buying finished before December hits so that the month of December can be all about enjoying the Season and less about the prep that comes along with it. December is also Matt's birthday month (4 days away as a matter of fact!) so we like to make sure he gets his own celebration among the excitement of the rest of the month. Needless to say, this month is going to be full of fun!

Here's our plan for our 12 Days of Christmas this year. It's similar to the list we made last year, but the goal is to get to do it all this year!

Pick out & decorate our tree + Ryan's tree for his room

We've been reading this book for a few weeks now, getting Ryan excited about setting up for Christmas and teaching him what Christmas is really all about. This book is one of my new favorites! Next week, I'll be sharing a list of others that have made it to the top of my favorites list for kids at Christmas.

Visit Santa
One of my favorites from Ryan's first year seeing Santa!

Ride the Pink Pig

Visit Snow Mountain @ Stone Mountain Park
I am SO excited about this one! We have a date scheduled, so now I'm just hoping that the weather gets cold enough for it to happen. Last year they had to close before our scheduled date because it was too warm!

Botanical Gardens

Matching PJ Playdate Party!
Each year, my girlfriends and their babies get together for a Christmas PJ party complete with breakfast, a craft, a Christmas movie, and coffee for the mamas. :) Here's a picture from our first PJ party two years ago!

See Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the Center for Puppetry Arts

Christmas Crafts
Crafts and I do not get along super well. But being that it's Christmas, I'm going to attempt to make handprint and footprint ornaments again with the kids, and we'd like to also build a
Gingerbread House with Ryan (like this one we bought last year). Next year, Natalie will be big enough to join in on the Gingerbread House fun! Here's a pic of Ryan doing it last year:

Make Cookies for Santa
We grew up making this cookie recipe for Santa, and now I'm carrying on the tradition with our kiddos! My mom used to take a bite out of them on Christmas eve, and we'd get so excited to wake up and see that Santa tasted them. :)

Have a Christmas music dance party
We love dancing and we love Christmas music, so a Christmas dance party sounds like a perfect activity for our little family this year.

Watch a Christmas Movie with Popcorn and Candy Canes
Funny enough, Ryan really got into The Sound of Music last year. It came on one night and Matt recorded it, and it was all Rya wanted to see for months. Literally months. He still requests the "coo coo" song. So along with The Sound of Music, we'll watch some fun animated Christmas movies as well this year.

Make a Birthday Cake for Jesus
This book is another one we've been loving! We're going to make a birthday cake for Jesus just like they do in the story.

That's it! That's our plan for the next month! We're so excited for this Christmas Season!!!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Simply Tuesday {book review}

One of my goals for November was to read Emily Freeman's book, Simply Tuesday, and I'm disappointed to say I didn't love it. :/

She had some really great points to share, but overall, I felt like her theme of appreciating the smallness of our "Tuesday" moments and "creating benches" in our lives were overstated and honestly not super relatable, at least for me.

I always feel guilty when I don't love a book that's intended to strengthen my walk with Jesus (remember my review of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts?!), so I'd be curious to know if you any of you have read Simply Tuesday and if I'm way out in left field with my opinion of it.

I think I went into it expecting more of a For the Love feel, and just had a hard time keeping up with her anecdotal style of writing- which, oddly enough, worked great in Jen Hatmaker's book and in Shauna Niequist's book Bread & Wine, but just seemed so choppy in this one.

Or maybe it was that her overall approach to life's situations seemed pretty glass-half-empty. (Much like this review, huh?!) 

I did highlight a handful of thought-provoking ideas as I read; the ones listed below are the ones that stuck out to me the most:

"In my own life I’ve found it to be true that when I hold on to the wrong things, the wrong things hold on to me." (Page 19)

"Attention, success, and comparison hold my soul hostage and refuse to negotiate until they get what they want. Spoiler alert: They want everything. And they are never satisfied. They will never let you go." (Page 20)

Effort toward excellence in my work can silently morph into effort toward perfection in my soul. And before I can tease them apart my life becomes one defined by my failure and successes and I’ve forgotten who I really am. “Excellence” just becomes a more respectable word for “control,” which is a fancy version of “manipulation,” which is a physiological word for “sin,” (Page 73)

"When I am willing to explore my deepest disappointments I might be surprised to find my deepest desires lingering just beyond. Knowing Christ may only be possible when we come face-to-face with our deepest desire and are willing to walk through our deepest disappointment." (Page 176)

Don’t try to handle your anxiety. Bring your anxiety into the presence of Christ. Don’t try to fix your loneliness. Bring your loneliness into the presence of Christ. Don’t try to hide your addiction. Bring your addiction into the presence of Christ. Don’t try to change your attitude. Bring your attitude into the presence of Christ. Don’t despise your humanity. Bring your humanity into the presence of Christ. There is still responsibility and action that comes from me. But my action is not to make right, to make whole, or to make better. My action is to usher my abilities, inabilities, failures, and successes all into the presence of Christ. (Page 194)

So overall, it was not terrible, but I don't know that I'd recommend it either.

If any of you have read it, I'd love to know your thoughts!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This is the first cheesecake I've ever made, and I might just be hooked! It was so easy and turned out so tasty! So be on the lookout for more cheesecake recipes to come- maybe a peppermint one for Christmas?! Or if you have any other ideas, I'm open to suggestions. :)

1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust (found in the bakery aisle)
2- 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1tsp clear vanilla extract*
2 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Cool Whip or Whipped Cream

*If you don't have clear, use regular vanilla extract and add to the step with brown sugar, puree, and pumpkin pie spice instead... this will make sure the white layer looks white.


Preheat oven to 325.

Add cream cheese, sugar and vanilla to mixing bowl. Beat on low speed until light and fluffy. (I used my KitchenAid with the paddle attachment.) Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended.
Spoon half of the mixture over the crust and spread evenly.

To the remaining cream cheese mixture add the brown sugar, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin pie spice.
With a wire whisk stir until smooth. Carefully, spoon over mixture in crust.

Bake for 55 minutes or until the center is almost set.

Allow to cool and then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Top each slice with whipped topping (I used Cool Whip) and a dust of pumpkin pie spice.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Gift Ideas for Babies (0-18 Months)

I'm closing out my gift guides today with the 0-18 month age group. Sure, they may be too young to really "get" receiving gifts, but they're little faces are so adorable when they see a new toy that they are excited to play with- or in my daughter's stage, put in her mouth. ;)

Also running today are great sales at these stores:
Nordstrom: Extra 20% off sale, free shipping, gift wrap available
J. Crew Factory: 60% off everything, extra 40% off clearance, free shipping
J. Crew: 40% off everything + free shipping
Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy: 50% off everything, free shipping on orders over $50.
Loft: 50% off and free shipping
Brooks Brothers: Additional 10% off + free shipping
Talbots: 50% off one regular-priced item, 40% off entire purchase, free shipping and gift wrap

And if you missed my other gift guides, you can check them out here:

Now on to the babies! These are toys I personally recommend from my own two kiddos. They are sure to be winners!

*All prices are current as of this morning but could change throughout the day.

1. Noggin Stik Baby Toy- $19.99- found here

2. Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Baby's First Blocks- $4.88- found here

3. Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stack- $4.24- found here

4. Sophie the Giraffe- $20.99- found here

5. Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy- $5.09- found here

6. VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker - $24.88- found here

7. VTech Sit-to-Stand Alphabet Train- $49.50- found here

8. Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Blue Crawl Around Car- $59.98- found here

9. Fisher-Price Go Baby Go Poppity-Pop Musical Dino- $16.99- found here

10. Mega Bloks Big Building Bag, 80-Piece (Classic)- $11.47- found here

11. Melissa & Doug Deluxe 10-Piece Alphabet Nesting and Stacking Blocks- $8.24- found here

12. Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano Gym- $31.44- found here