Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent 2014: Week 1

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday with family! We are still enjoying leftovers, great shopping deals, and all this time we get to spend together. Now if only Notre Dame could pull it together...;-)

Our 'goal' for December is to really focus on the meaning of Christmas. Here is my Advent plan for this year: I have an Advent journal for myself to use from Blessed is She, and I'll do those readings in the morning. Then, I'll try to do 1 craft, 1 family activity, and 1 book/movie during the week with the kids. I've tried to do something every day, but it's too hard to schedule happens, and I prefer going with the flow! ;-)  I'm sharing multiple ideas of what you could do in each category...I'm picking one and going from there! :)

Daily Verses for Reflection:

S:  Luke 1:26-28, 31
M:  Matthew 1:18
T:  Luke 1:46-55
W:  Matthew 1:20
R:  Matthew 1:21
F:  Matthew 1:22-23
S:  Luke 2:4

Family Activities:

Make a Christmas countdown chain with prayer intentions/daily verses.
Celebrate St. Nicholas Day on the 6th.
Make a 'good deeds manger' - place straw/yarn in manger for every good deed you do.

Craft Ideas: 

Make Advent wreath for kids to use.

Or this one!

Mkaing Cinnamon Applesauce ornaments - easy and make everything smell delicious!

Make a cinnamon applesauce ornament (and prepare for the house to smell amazing!)

Below I have posted some affiliate links, which means that I may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking on those links. Please see the disclosure page for more info!

Kid Books/Movies: 
These are ones I'm borrowing from our library - if you have any favorites, let me know!

St. Nicholas movie  (We own this movie and love it!)

Like I said, these are just some ideas...pick and choose what works! We're fairly busy this week, so I'm not going too crazy. ;) Please share any fun traditions you have for Advent!

Happy first Sunday of Advent!

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You may also like:

Printable Advent Wreath Banner
DIY Felt Nativity Scene for Kids
Family Advent Wreath Craft

Today, I'm linking up with Cait, Katie, Annie, and Lisa for their Holiday Link Up,
and with these awesome parties :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Handprint and Leaf Turkey Craft for Kids

Handprint and Leaf Turkey Craft for Kids -

I especially love handprint crafts because...I'm sentimental. ;)  I want to remember how little my kids were years down the road!

So when I saw this cute little leaf turkey on Pinterest recently, we decided to make our own handprint version of it for Thanksgiving this week:

Materials needed:

White, brown, orange, red, and yellow paper (we didn't have brown paper, so we used a cereal box!)
Leaves (fresh or pressed)
Black marker

It's pretty easy from there!  Just glue down the leaves to a white piece of paper.  Then, trace and cut out your kid's handprint from the brown paper for the turkey's body.  Glue that on top of the leaves, and then glue on a beak and "gobbler" (according to the kiddos ;).  Then, use a black marker to make eyes for your turkey.  Easy.  And so cute!

Handprint and Leaf Turkey Craft for Kids -

We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving eating, watching football, and especially enjoying your time with family and friends!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Handprint and Leaf Turkey Craft for Kids -


I'm linking up with these awesome parties!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Last Minute Thanksgiving Day Ideas

For Thanksgiving, we head down to my parents' house and hang out with all of my siblings and their spouses/kids. We are a relaxed bunch - we eat the usual Thanksgiving food courtesy of my amazing mom and play games all afternoon. If you need any last minute Thanksgiving day ideas, here are my favorites from years' past!

Last year, I was a cranky first trimester pregnant lady...and I didn't get any pictures on Thanksgiving. I did make Abby a fun turkey snack, similar to the picture below, but think less perfect ;)


Two years ago, I made Abby a cute little outfit and Josie a matching hair bow. If you have a glue gun and can cut ribbon, this is super easy to make.

It's crazy how little they look! Our girls are so grown up now!

If you need some last minute party game ideas - play Minute to Win It! They don't require a lot of planning and most of the supplies you can find around the house. I highly recommend Elephant March and Bite Me...they are hilarious to watch! :)

Find all the games here and here

John and I are in charge of bringing a snack and drink. This Pumpkin Pie Dip is delicious - and I'm not a huge pumpkin flavored type of person. We eat it with apple slices and cinnamon graham crackers.

As for the drink, we make the same one every year. John got this recipe from his brother, and they call it Spiced Wine. There is no wine involved, so I'm not sure where that name comes from! You can leave out the alcohol if you want. It really tastes great either way! Here's the recipe:

Spiced Wine

2 jugs of cranberry juice (64 oz each)
2.5 cups apple juice
6 Tbsp sugar
2 whole cinnamon sticks (about 3 inches long)
1 tsp all spice
2 cups brandy (optional)

Place in a large stock pot and heat until warm. Or, you can place in a slow cooker and keep on low for several hours (this is the method we use).

Hope you all have a great weekend - stay warm! :)

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Sharing my Thoughts for Thursday with Natalie and Annie,
5 on Friday/Friday Faves along with DarciNatashaChristinaApril
KarliAmy, AndreaErika, and Narci

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Advent Preparations

Is it just me or is November flying by? I can't believe Thanksgiving is next week already, meaning Advent is not far behind. Last year, I tried to do SO much for Advent...basically trying to fulfill every Pinterest idea I'd ever seen. And guess what - I ended up falling behind, not focusing at all on the reason of Christmas, and felt overwhelmed. I promised myself I would not be doing that again!

So this year, I'm using an Advent devotional book and making an easy 'calendar'. Easy for me means a paper chain with prayer intentions for us to pray together as a family. :) I will try to post an Advent devotion every Sunday, so please join us for that! It will not be anything crazy - just a place to gather my thoughts and ideas for the upcoming week. I'm hoping by promising this it will force me to actually do it ... nothing like accountability to light a fire under yourself! ;)

The Advent book I have is from Blessed is She, a new site for devotions based off of the daily readings. I love having the readings and reflections sent straight to my inbox every day! I am really looking forward to using their Advent book this year. It is full of readings, room to journal, saints to inspire you, and questions to get your mind thinking. Have you used an Advent journal before - any other ones to recommend?

Another thing I want to do is focus more on giving and spreading joy to others. This past summer, we did a bunch of random acts of kindness, and that's what we'll be doing again this holiday season. We made a list of ideas here - any more ideas to share?

Here's to a blessed Advent season!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Resolution Check-In: Being Thankful

Resolution:  Being Thankful.

This month, I've been striving to complain less and be more grateful.  Wow, this has been so hard to do sometimes!  So this resolution has been the perfect challenge for me to grow in virtue this month.

As a family, we've been adding to our Thankful Garland everyday.  We come together each night and write down one thing we're thankful for.  Then, we hang the leaf up on the garland, which is on our fireplace mantle.  So everyday we think about and see all the blessings we have in our lives.

I think my mind so quickly focuses on the "bad" things (however minor they may be) and what I don't have.  So seeing this Thankful Garland in our living room has really helped me to focus on all the beautiful and good things I do have.  I really can't help but have a smile on my face every time I look at it!

I think the biggest change I've seen in myself is seeing inconveniences differently. 

It's hard to be grateful when things aren't going my way - even if it's something minor.  But I'm trying hard to re-set how I see the situation.  So every time the kids don't listen to me, one of the kids has a medical issue, or the cashier is painstakingly slow, I am trying to see them as a lesson to be learned or an opportunity to grow in virtue.  Patience, peace, kindness, and the list goes on.  It sure isn't easy!

I still have to constantly remind myself to be grateful when I encounter these frustrations, but I think focusing on all the things I do have and am thankful for (like with the Thankful Garland) has really helped me to see the blessings in the inconveniences too.

And not just women, but everyone!  Again...via Verily Daily Dose

Lastly, I'm so glad we've been working on being grateful together as a family.  It's been uniting us in counting our blessings and seeing the joy in the little things, especially when I hear what the kids are thankful for.  Seeing things through the eyes of our kiddos really shows us pure gratitude and happiness.  Sometimes I think our kids teach us as many lessons as we teach them. ;)

Have a truly beautiful weekend,

Are you new here?  Welcome!  Every first of the month, we "start fresh" with a new resolution to better ourselves as wives, mothers, and women or to make our houses into homes.  Then, we check-in on the 15th to see our progress.  We'd love for you to join us! 

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 Linking up with Andrea for her Monthly Goals Check-In Link Up!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Freezer Meal Favorites

One Friday night each month, our group of girlfriends get together for 'Book Club'.  We don't always read books - we've done recipe swaps, craft days, movie nights...basically just time for us to be kid free and hang out. :) This past month, we did a Freezer Meal Swap. I'm really excited to try out their recipes and get back into making freezer meals. I think it'll come in handy with the busy holiday season ahead. Here are my favorite (tried and true) freezer meal recipes:

List of Favorite Freezer Meal Recipes -
I need to stock up on my meals...I'm currently running low!

Cooked eggs freeze really great! I use Jess' recipe for quiche cups and they are so yummy!

My husband loves breakfast wraps. Ours consist of: scrambled eggs, ground sausage, hash browns, onion/pepper that goodness in a tortilla and individually wrap. A very simple grab and go breakfast! :)

I cook a lot of shredded chicken and ground beef and freeze them in 1 pound increments. Then if we want tacos or BBQ chicken for sandwiches/quesadillas, it's all ready to go!

List of Favorite Freezer Meal Recipes -

My husband eats lunch at work, so I whenever I make a casserole, I freeze individual size portions for him to grab. Those are in the blue Gladware containers in the picture above!

We freeze popcorn, pretzels, and Goldfish crackers. Sounds weird, but they don't really freeze. They more just taste chilled, which surprisingly is so good! :)

I love soups and chilis.  My favorite chili is the Taco Chili I shared last month. I also love making Natalie's Chicken and Dumplings. For that recipe, I put all the ingredients in a bag, and then when I want to make it, I throw the bag in the slow cooker. SO EASY...and super delicious :)

I really like this recipe for Chicken Fajitas. I prepare the filling (so don't place in tortilla yet) in an aluminum dish and wrap with foil. When you want to make it, defrost it the night before and it will be ready to cook for dinner.

List of Favorite Freezer Meal Recipes -
Source - doesn't that look delicious?!

We are big pasta fans, so I make Spasagna a lot. We'll eat it for dinner, and then I'll freeze all the leftovers. I love this recipe, and basically every other one from Brandy's site!

We don't eat a lot of sugary foods (or least try not to!), so if I make a cake or cup cakes, I usually end up freezing the leftovers. Just wrap them individually so you can grab a treat whenever you like! ;)

Do you make freezer meals? What are your favorite meals to make? Check out our Pinterest board for more recipes and ideas!

List of Favorite Freezer Meal Recipes -

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5 on Friday/Friday Faves along with DarciNatashaChristinaApril,  
JennieLauren ElizabethKarliAmyAndreaErika, and Narci

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Avocado Blueberry Muffins

My son is allergic to eggs, so I'm always looking for baking recipes that are egg-less.  When I saw these Vegan Blueberry Muffins from Averie Cooks, I just had to try them.  They looked too perfect!

Avocado Blueberry Muffins
(Modified from Averie Cooks' Vegan Blueberry Muffins)


1               Avocado (very ripe to over-ripe)
3/4 cup     Sugar
1/3 cup     Canola oil
1/3 cup     Sour cream
1/4 cup     Light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp.        Vanilla
3/4 tsp.     Nutmeg
3/4 tsp.     Cinnamon
Pinch        Salt (optional)
1 cup        Whole wheat pastry flour (or white all purpose flour)
1 Tbsp.     Baking powder
1-3/4 cup  Frozen blueberries
2 Tbsp.     Flour (to toss with berries)


1.  Preheat oven to 400 F.

2.  Remove the seed and skin from the avocado and discard.  Mash the flesh in a mixing bowl until mostly smooth.

3.  Next, add the sugar, oil, sour cream, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt (if desired).  Mix with a whisk until combined.

4.  Add flour and baking powder.  Stir with a spatula until just combined.  (My batter was fairly thick and very green at this point.)

5.  In a separate bowl, toss the frozen blueberries with the 2 Tbsp. of flour.  (Coating the blueberries in flour helps them to not sink to the bottom of the muffin.)

6.  Fold the blueberries and flour into the batter.

7.  Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 to 3/4 full.  This recipe should make 12-14 muffins.

8.  Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes.  Then, reduce heat to 350 F and bake for 13-17 minutes longer or until done.  Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

9.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then place on cooling racks.  Serve warm or cold.

10.  Store in an airtight container for 5 days (if you have any leftovers ;).  They can also be frozen for 3-4 months. 

Notes:  I use 100% whole wheat pastry flour as a substitution for white flour in all my recipes (because of my dietary restrictions).  Regular whole wheat flour is usually too dense as a 1:1 substitution.  But in my experience, 100% whole wheat pastry flour works perfectly 1:1.

It so nice to have a breakfast we can all eat.  And let me tell you, these avocado blueberry muffins went really fast.  Next time, I'll be making a double batch!

So do you have allergies to work around in your family?  What are your go-to recipes...or substitutions?  So far, I've only used 1/3 cup applesauce to replace 1 egg in baking recipes.  I'm curious what else works, so I'd love to hear yours!

I'm linking up here today!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Frugal Holiday Tips

I'm not going to lie - I love shopping. But something I love even more is getting things for a really good deal or free! Jess and I compiled some of our best tips to help save (or earn!) some serious cash this holiday season.

1.  Shop all year round. Ok, so this probably won't help you now, but keep it in mind! :) Get a big storage bin and keep all your gifts you find throughout the year in there. I also keep a list of the items in the bin so I don't forget who I already have done!

Most of my gifts are from clearance areas after a holiday/season ends - sometimes they are giving stuff away! If you have a sports fan you're shopping for, wait until right after the season is over. Last year, we got nice Adidas Notre Dame shirts for less than $5 at Kohl's in January! Right after Halloween this year, I bought some clearanced Disney princess costumes for $6 for dress up clothes/costumes next year.  

Frugal Holiday Tips - Ways to Save Money at Christmas -
Yes, I'm living my childhood through my daughter ;)  #disneyprincessforever

Also, don't be afraid to check out garage sales in the summer and stock up on goodies. You won't believe the things you'll find with tags still on them! 

2. Use freebies wisely. Got a free shutterfly book coupon? Jess used hers to make adorable books for her kids! If you go to Kohl's, use your Yes2You and Kohl's cash for gifts. We use a credit card to pay off our utility bills (only do this if you are paying them off in full - don't go into debt!) and get a ton of reward points for it! We then use those reward points towards gift cards to give as gifts.

Frugal Holiday Tips - Ways to Save Money at Christmas -
Jess' free Shutterfly creation :)

3.  Earn cash back. If you aren't using Ebates already, you are missing out! You can get cash back on pretty much any online purchase you make - hotels, stores, Amazon, etc. We also use Swagbucks to rack up points and earn Amazon gift cards. If you are purchasing items online for the holidays, this is a great way to get a little back in your pocket! And if you'd like to join in on the fun, the links provided to the websites are our referral links. :)

4.  Have a gift exchange. Our family used to buy gifts for everyone, and that gets really pricey when you have a lot of people like we do. This year, we used as our Secret Santa headquarters! This site is great - it draws the names for you (you can specify no getting spouses/kids, etc), keeps wish lists for everyone, and lets you ask questions to others anonymously. Best of all - it's free!

5.  Make your own gifts. We've made coupon books for our husbands (make sure you follow through with your coupons!). Our sister and sister-in-law made us ornaments last year that were so adorable. Do you have any crafting ability - sewing, crocheting, drawing, painting? Can your husband help you make something (if you need help with tools like I do haha)? When we were kids, our parents made us a Barbie house out of scrap wood and that is by far the best Christmas gift we've ever received! Check out our Pinterest board for more DIY Christmas gift ideas!

The cute little ornaments my sister made last year...the chalkboard picture frame wasn't gifted, but is super easy/cheap to make! :) It would be a fun gift to give!

6.  Volunteer.  Rather than material items, give your time or talent in another way. Volunteer at a local shelter or holiday event.  Another idea - instead of giving gifts to each other, adopt a family or soldier! Jess and I adopted soldiers one year and it was so fun picking out gifts for them! 

What are your favorite ways to save around the holidays? I can't wait to hear some other tips!! :)

Frugal Holiday Tips - Ways to Save Money at Christmas -

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Linking up with ElizabethTaraBrittSarahDeniseKatieKeri, and Becky for their Monthly Link Party

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