My New Years Resolutions

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2015 is coming to a close and we'll be celebrating a new year in less than 48 hours.  Crazy!  It's hard to believe how much can happen in a year's time and yet feel like it went entirely too fast and you didn't get to do all the things you would have liked.  Time definitely speeds up as you get older and life gets busier.
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Crock Pot Minestrone Soup

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Crock Pot Minestrone Soup--an easy, delicious soup that is perfect for busy days, sick days or any day!
It's been a crappy week or so in my house.  Everyone got sick with this yucky cold, which then turned into acute bronchitis for my husband and I.  Yeah.  Fun stuff, let me tell you.  And when I'm sick, I really hate having to put too much effort into cooking.  So I was relieved when I opened the fridge and found a big plastic container full of one of my favorite soups: Minestrone.  It was leftover from Christmas Day when we had dinner at my in-laws home and we ended up with about half to bring home.

So today I'm sharing this recipe with you in hopes that you'll find it as delicious as me and my family do.  I wish I could say that I made up this recipe and take all the credit for the yumminess that it is, but I’d be lying and that is generally frowned upon…  The truth is that I found the recipe on Pinterest on a blog called Yummy Healthy Easy who adapted it from another blog (Foodtography).  I have adapted it a little more to suite me and my family.
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Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas

I'm so grateful for this time of year when I get the opportunity to be surrounded by reminders of Christ and His birth.  It is a truly wonderful time of year.  I hope you get to spend the day with family and friends and make memories to last a lifetime. I know that's where I'll be.  Merry Christmas!
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Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic

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Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!
Can you believe Christmas is in two days?  I distinctly remember one Christmas where I was about 8 years old.  I was sleeping soundly, but woke up for some reason.  I looked towards my window where I could see a faint red light and then I heard the sound of bells.  We didn't have red lights on our house and my mom didn't have any bells around that I remember.  I told my mom what I'd seen and heard the next morning and she looked surprised.  Whether it was my imagination or something else, I have always kept that memory as a little reminder of the magic of Christmas.
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150+ Christmas Coloring and Activity Round Up

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The last few days in our home have been filled with crying, whining, fighting, cabin-fever crazy kids.  It seems like the closer it gets to Christmas, the more the bad behavior increases.  Maybe we are all just sick of being with each other day in and day out since the weather turned really cold and we are stuck indoors more often.  I am usually a pretty patient mama, but lately I have been prodded and poked and pushed to my limits.

One thing that I always have in the back of my mind is trying to come up with new activities to keep my kids entertained.  Since my kids are still small, they need more guidance and instruction when it comes to the activities we do.  My daughter is only in preschool but her teacher follows the same schedule as the school district, so the kids are out the whole week of Christmas.  This can lead to less merry and more scary when it comes to everyone being at home together.  So I thought that doing a fun round up of Christmas/winter coloring pages, activities and crafts might be just the thing to keep us all sane.
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25 Easy Neighbor Gifts

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25 Easy Neighbor Gifts--also great for friends, family and co-workers.  Lots of fun ideas!

Today I opened my front door and found a jar of jelly sitting there with a cute note attached: "He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed, like a 'jar' full of jelly".  Aaaannnddd...cue the fun, creative and yummy treats that start popping up on doorsteps during this Christmas season!

Every year, I like to think of fun treats to give out to friends, neighbors and my husband's coworkers.  There are so many cute ways to package and label gifts that it seems a shame to repeat any one gift twice!  (Although, I'd probably be the only one who would know...)  Since it would be impossible to make all of the treats I would want to and show you how to present them, I've put together a friend and neighbor gift round up for you to pick and choose what you'd like to give.  I've just made your holidays easier.  You're welcome.  *wink*  (Please follow the links for more information and pictures.)

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Reindeer Day

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Reindeer Day--fun crafts and activities to do with the kids centered around reindeer

There is something so magical about reindeer.  Maybe it's the thought of them flying through the air pulling Santa's sleigh.  Or Rudolf's red nose.  Whatever it is, my kids can't get enough of them.  So I decided to put together a couple of fun activities and create a "Reindeer Day" for them.

My kids are still fairly young (21 months and almost 4), so I had to keep it simple.  We spent a total of about 3 hours doing these activities over the course of the day, however, if you didn't want to do reindeer activities all day, you could choose any one of these, or split it up across a few days.

Hand Print Reindeer

My kids loved this activity!  They are super hands on and don't mind getting a little messy, so paint is right down their alley.  They thought it was so fun to create a reindeer using their hand prints and some paint.

Step 1: Gather your supplies--We pulled out some blue construction paper, acrylic paint (white, red, brown and black), googly eyes, red or black pompom balls, bells and glue.  You will also need a foam brush, paper plate and paper towels or baby wipes.

Reindeer Day--fun crafts and activities to do with the kids centered around reindeer

Step 2: Squirt some brown paint on your paper plate, grab your foam brush and paint the palm of your child's hand (just one hand!).  If they are old enough, you could let them do this part themselves.  I had to make sure and use a little more paint on my kids' hands since acrylic starts drying quickly.  They thought this part was so funny and kept squishing their hands to feel the paint.

Step 3: Have your child press their hand onto the paper and push on the fingers to make sure the paint touches the paper before lifting it off.

Reindeer Day--fun crafts and activities to do with the kids centered around reindeer

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My FAVORITE Roll and Cut Cookies

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My Favorite Roll and Cut Cookies--the perfect cookie to use with cookie cutters.  We make these year round!
I love to bake, especially yummy treats.  My husband is not so much of a treat guy.  It took a little time for me to figure this out after we first got married and I'd make what I thought was a delicious dessert, only to have him take a tiny bite to appease me.  It hurt my feelings and one day I asked him why he didn't like to eat any of my desserts.  Well, it turns out he's more into fruity desserts, candy or ice cream shakes, so what I was making wasn't bad, it just wasn't what he preferred.  Now, I've learned to either half dessert recipes or make sure and share them with my friends and neighbors.

However, one recipe that my husband and kids LOVE are these cookies I learned to make growing up.  For sake of a better name, they were called "Good Roll and Cut Cookies".  Creative?  No.  Descriptive?  Yes.  These cookies are perfect for...you guessed it: rolling out and cutting with cookie cutters.  I can't count the number of times I've made these, but I would venture to say I've made them more than any other cookie recipe I own.  The reason is that they are super simple, they make a decent amount and you can use them any time of year.  They are definitely my go-to for cookie cutter cookies.

Let's get started!

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Gift Guide: Men

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Gift Guide: Men--HUGE list of ideas for gifts to give the men in your life
If you ask my husband, he thinks that guys are really easy to buy for.  I tend to disagree.  When it comes to trying to figure out what to get him for a gift (whether it's Christmas, birthday, Father's Day, anniversary), it usually takes a lot of thinking on my part to come up with a gift I think he'd really like.  Thinking back on the types of gifts I give him, I realized they generally fall into three categories: practical, interest-based and sentimental.
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Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents

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Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents--great list of all types of gifts for parents and grandparents that they will love!

Trying to find meaningful gifts for parents and grandparents is tough, mainly because in many cases, they could purchase the things they want or need.  So what do you give them?  Most gifts fall into two categories: tangible/physical gifts and consumable gifts.  I've compiled lists from both categories that will hopefully help you find the perfect gift for your parents/grandparents.
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Splitting Time Between Family During the Holidays

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Splitting Time Between Family During the Holidays--great tips on how to balance holiday time with family
The first Christmas my husband and I celebrated after getting married was probably my least favorite.  And it had nothing to do with him!  It had to do with the fact that we tried to split our day between five different places.  By the time we made it to our last stop of the day, we were tired and cranky.  We did our best to muster up the last bit of energy we had, but I'm sure everyone (including us) could tell that our hearts just weren't in it.  On our way home that night, we vowed that we were never going to allow ourselves to do another Christmas like the one we'd just had.

My husband and I are in a somewhat unique situation in that our families and most of our siblings are all in the same state.  In addition to this, my parents are divorced which means we have three sets of parents.  While we love having so much family nearby, we don't like it as much during the holidays because it always seems like someone doesn't get visited or an event can't be attended.  We've experienced a lot of frustration and guilt over the years as we have tried to make everyone happy, to the exclusion of ourselves.
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How to Make a Holiday Glass Block

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How to Make a Holiday Glass Block--an easy decoration to make for yourself or as a gift for holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc
Over the last few years, I've been working on discovering my own personal home decorating style and slowly but surely things are coming together.  This has, of course, extended into my holiday decor.  Each year, I've been getting rid of decorations that I no longer like or use and buying or making some that contribute to the overall cohesiveness of the look I'm going for.

A while back I was browsing through a local boutique that was closing their business.  They had a back room with tons of random items I wouldn't have expected to find there considering it was a clothing and jewelry boutique.  Out of everything in the store, I didn't buy jewelry or clothing--I bought glass blocks.  They only had three of them but I took them all and at a killer price.  I had the best of intentions to make something cute out of them for my home but never got around to it.  (This happens fairly regularly and it drives my husband crazy.  But I do get around to it eventually. *wink*)
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Traditions I'm Starting This Christmas

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When I think of Christmas as a small child, I think of all the different traditions we had growing up.  My mom loved (and still loves) traditions and Christmas is her favorite holiday so we had a lot of them.  Now that I have a family of my own, my husband and I have the opportunity to create new traditions as well as adopting some of the same ones we had in our family.

I remember loving Christmas as a child and wondering how it could get any better than unwrapping presents, playing with new toys and eating yummy food.  And then I became a parent and I was able to see the world from my parents' eyes as I watched my own kids experience the anticipation on Christmas Eve, their excitement on Christmas morning and just the overall feeling of happiness that seems to radiate from their being.  I loved Christmas as a kid, but I love it even more as a parent.
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