Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Books for Kids

As soon as Halloween was over, the kids were ready to launch into Thanksgiving. I think my 5 year old even started talking about it at bedtime on Halloween :) One of our favorite ways to get excited for any holiday or special occasion is to read about it together and this year I realized that we don't have a very good selection of Thanksgiving books. I was on a mission to gather some but of course ten minutes after Halloween, the library was already completely cleaned out of Thanksgiving books! I found one turkey-related story. ONE. The book store has a great selection but I knew I could get them cheaper on Amazon so I did a little research and then chose a handful to order. All but one have arrived and we've been really happy with the selection.

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey
This goofy spin on the original 'Twas the Night story is about a class field trip turned rescue mission at a turkey farm. The rhymes are reminiscent of the Christmas version, but the story is silly and both my kindergartener and almost 3 year old loved it. The illustrations are great but it's the hilarious antics of the school kids that really make this story fun.

A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman
Another silly story of turkey-related shenanigans, this one doesn't disappoint! I don't think we've read anything by Teresa Bateman, but I will definitely look for other stories because her writing is wonderful. The story revolves around a town in need of a Thanksgiving turkey for their annual feast and the lengths they go to lure what they believe to be an unknowing participant. It turns out the turkey might be on the clever side and the result is the townspeople learning that Thanksgiving is really about being thankful for what you have.

10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston
Silly stories seem to be our theme this year, but my little one especially enjoyed this one. Each of the turkeys in this story attempts some sort of stunt that doesn't go so well. It's great for counting (and especially counting backward.) And in the end you find out that all the turkeys are safe and sound.

The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern
If you're looking for a more realistic portrayal of pilgrim life and the first thanksgiving, then I highly recommend this one. It's definitely for the older crowd, but my five year old daughter has a very inquisitive mind so it was perfect for her. It's on the longer side so it makes for a lengthy reading session, but the story is divided into sections based on the seasons so you could break it up into multiple story times. The illustrations are great and the story is full of rich detail painting a picture of those early Pilgrim times.

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Allison Jackson
Along the lines of the old lady who swallowed the fly, this story follows an old woman who manages to eat an entire Thanksgiving feast. It's pure silliness and my kids think it's hilarious. The only thing I wish was different was the "Perhaps she'll die" bit at the end of each segment. The consequence could easily be something a little less dire straits than death, although for the record, the old woman does not die and the end is pretty funny.

Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation by Diane Stanley
Another book for slightly older kids, this one is a more creative twist on the traditional Pilgrim story. The main characters are twins who time travel to Plymouth Plantation with their grandmother to learn first-hand about the early settlers and their harvest celebration. The illustrations are fantastic and there are plenty of details about Pilgrim history. My five year old enjoyed it but it was a little lengthy for my little guy's attention span. I definitely want to check out other stories by Diane Stanley after reading this one.

Happy reading!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Halloween in Oz

Yes, I'm completely aware that it's a week into November and I'm a little behind the game here, but I have to share our Halloween theme before we're too far gone. Right before Halloween last year I found some amazing Oz inspiration from Brooklyn Limestone. Stefanie is a creative genius and every Halloween she really goes above and beyond with her amazing ideas!

Unfortunately it was too close to the big day and I was already into the dance with our pirate theme so I pinned away and promised myself I would follow through the next year. So here we are all decked out and ready for some serious trick or treaters!
I used a projector to focus images of the flying monkeys and wicked witch on black posterboard, then traced the images with white chalkboard pen and cut them out.
You can see our yellow brick road (so easy with some yellow chalk although I did have a major fingernail situation when I was hurrying to finish)!
Our yellow brick road led to the front door, which was wrapped in green plastic table cloths to look like the entrance to the Emerald City, and our creepy sign was draped in cobwebs.
Witch legs peeked out from under the house right near the front door. I scored those witchy shoes at a local thrift shop for $2.

And of course no Oz theme would be complete without the ruby slippers...

I loved how everything turned out and it was pretty inexpensive overall. Now I just have to come up with a theme for next year!

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Design, Dining & Diapers
Becoming Martha

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Medifast Pancake Muffins

So the hubs and I have been trying to lose some weight and a friend got me hooked up with Take Shape for Life, a program geared toward improving your overall health with a focus on weight loss and nutrition. TSFL uses the Medifast portion-controlled meal replacements to help with weight loss and gradually transitions to regular food with healthier habits. Over the past couple months I've tried a number of different Medifast products and also experimented with a handful of recipes that use the Medifast meals. Sometimes I get sick of the repetition of the same meals, so it's fun to test out recipes that alter them slightly or transform them into a different type of meal. I'll post some of the recipes I've gotten from other bloggers and my results soon, but for today here's one of my own creations.

One of the big no-nos on the Medifast plan is bread so obviously if you are used to eating a lot of bread products, it can be kind of a bummer. I made a "muffin" using the Medifast Original Pancake mix because sometimes I just don't feel like eating an actual pancake. It was quick, simple to make and a delicious breakfast alternative.
Pancake Muffins
(Servings: 2 medifast meals with 1/2 condiment each or 3/4 condiment each if you use sugar-free syrup)

2 Medifast Pancake packets (any flavor)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together all ingredients (I use the blender bottle). Spray two cups of an extra-large muffin tin with cooking spray. Divide the mixture between the two cups. Bake 18-20 minutes.

I poured about 1/2 tbsp of Walden Farms Pancake Syrup on a plate and cut the muffin in half and dipped it in the syrup but you could use just about any spread you wanted that complies with the plan. I know you can make pancake muffins in the microwave but I've noticed that a lot of the meals taste better when I bake them in the oven. I personally liked this better and it would easily slice in half for to use for a breakfast sandwich alternative. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lamp Transformation

Our living room is a giant work in progress, but I made one small step recently with a new lamp for our end table. The awesome guy who custom made our kitchen cabinets agreed to make us a small end table/cabinet for our tv components. It has a glass door so you can still use the remotes, but everything is neat and contained, which is the opposite of what it was after the living area was first renovated.

I recently found a GIANT consignment store near our house and I've been going in about once a week checking around for good deals. Last week I decided to see if they had any lamps for cheap and happened upon this little lady who was just begging for some spray paint.

Not that I don't love peachy-mauve... but it wasn't going to work in my house without some new paint. I liked the shape and it was working fine so I figured some spray paint love and a new shade would do the trick. The shade that came with it was so dirty and ugly I left it at the store. I covered the important parts with tinfoil, primed it and gave it two light coats of Rustoleum Heirloom White. 

And here she is now...

Did I mention this lamp was $10 at the consignment shop?!? The shade was $20 at Target and if it looks just a little shiny, it's because I hadn't completely decided if this was the one when I took the picture so it was still wrapped in plastic :) For $33 including the lamp, shade and can of spray paint, I have what I really wanted at a third of the cost. I saw a similar lamp online at Ballard Designs, but with two small (and sometimes clumsy) children, I don't need a $219 lamp in our main living area! 

Now I need to figure out the wall behind the sofa and we'll be on our way to finishing this room (at least for now!)

I'm still so happy when I look at the before and after...
Thanks for stopping by!

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring In My Step

I know it's still snowing in a lot of places but here in sunny southern California, it's been spring for a while. So I decided it's time to come out of hibernation! I love to use fresh flowers to give some new life to our home. I got the flowers at Trader Joe's, one of the best sources for reasonably priced flowers.
I found the parsley and sage hanging boxes at Homegoods and I couldn't believe my luck. I had seen them in Layla's kitchen on The Lettered Cottage and loved them for so long. Then I was just strolling through Homegoods and there they were!

I love the bright green and yellow of the tulips when you first walk in the door. We still have little hands in this house that like to pull things off of tables so I don't put much within reach but this simple arrangement makes the entry feel much more welcoming.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On Hiatus

The past month has been chock full of transitions for our family. In a matter of three weeks, my "baby" boy moved out of the crib into a toddler bed, gave up the bottle, and started showing interest in potty training. Oh and he turned two years old!

Despite a fun solo getaway for my birthday to visit my sister in San Francisco, I've been feeling just a little overwhelmed by all this change. I'm usually pretty good at rolling with the punches but as I told some friends recently, I feel like my hand was forced on some of these big transitions and so I wasn't as psychologically or physically ready to handle them as I would have liked. I suppose that's the nature of parenting but still it's sent everything else out of whack.

I haven't been able to put the energy into writing posts or even finishing projects that I need to and yet the blog is always in the back of my mind. So last night I decided that I need to take a break from blogging for just a couple months so I can get back on track in other more important areas of my life. I hope you will keep checking in and come back once I'm writing again. I hope that when I do come back I will have plenty to share!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Food Storage Revamp

Today I had the chance to go grocery shopping by myself. You know you are a mom of small children when going to the grocery store alone feels like a vacation! I went to Trader Joes which makes the experience even better because these days shopping at TJs with my kids is a nightmare. The aisles are so small and it's always crowded and my little ones' arms seem to reach sooo far. 

Anyway... I went shopping and when I got home and put everything away, I realized that it's high time for a little fridge/freezer/pantry reorganization. I grabbed a few pictures for inspiration off Pinterest. There were a lot of great ideas for french door style refrigerators but we have a traditional side by side so I tried to stick with pictures showing the same layout.
*Please pin these from the original source. It takes a few seconds extra but directs people to the real source that deserves the credit.
I included the last example even though it's french door style because it has some good tips about actual food storage and not just how to keep things from falling all over the place. 

Now in the name of keeping it real, here are the before pix of my fridge and freezer. I love them being full, but hate that all the organizing I've done in the past has kind of fallen to the wayside. 

Umm.... whoa. The freezer looks like it could all come tumbling out at any minute. 

After some strategic rearranging and cleaning the shelves, drawers and walls of the fridge and freezer, here are the after photos. 
I used some white plastic bins from Ikea and Target to corral the lunch meats, yogurt and snacks since those things seem to quickly spread out and take over. I had the plastic bin meant for juice boxes which I used for a few randoms since we don't typically have a lot of juice boxes on hand. 

I removed the fruits and veggies from their plastic bags so we could not only see what we have in the bins but also how much is left.
Amazingly I didn't have that much expired food to toss. I go through everything quickly almost every week the night before the trash gets picked up so pretty much what we had was useable. I did get rid of a bunch of packaging just to clear out space. It's also easier to see what you have if it's not in a box.

I'm very happy with the results and it's a great way to start the week feeling so organized! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Gift For A Lifetime

I love opening presents. I think it makes me feel a little bit like a kid again, remembering all the anticipation that would build before a birthday or Christmas morning. My own children are at the point where the process of opening almost overshadows the gift itself. This past Christmas, we could barely contain my daughter as she sped from one package to the next. I get it. Really I do. But I'm also old enough experienced enough to know that peeling off the paper is a momentary thrill while the gift itself holds the real value (well, usually).

Even the best gifts rarely have true lasting power. I don't mean to sound pessimistic or ungrateful, but the truth is clothes will go through wear and tear, gift cards get spent, make up gets used up. Even my fabulous macbook from last Christmas will at some point need to be replaced (hopefully not for a long, long time). But this year, my sister gave me a gift meant to last a lifetime.
My Prudent Advice by Jaime Morrison Curtis is a sort of fill-in-the-blanks journal meant to be passed from a mother to her daughter. It's broken into sections like "On Friendship" or "On Being a Woman" and each section has a series of writing prompts that allow a mom to pass on her thoughts and/or advice to her daughter. There are also "free" sections where you can write about the section's theme without any specific prompt.

You could probably sit down and fill this book in a matter of months, but since my daughter is still so young, I plan to take my time over the next several years to finish. I think it would make a great gift for her 18th or 21st birthday or when she graduates from high school or even college. There's nothing inappropriate but some of the topics are a little more mature, which makes me think it would be a better gift for when she's older. Not that I didn't have a sincere interest in politics or education when I was 13... right, so you get my point.

I have already started writing in it and it makes my heart lurch just a little to think of my baby girl as a young woman reading what I've written to her. Although I hope to have a long time to share all these things, one bonus of the written word is that it has some serious staying power. That's also why I'm being careful and intentional about what I write. I want her to have a collection of my thoughts and advice that she can return to even after I'm gone someday. I'm very grateful to my sister for this gift and while I'm in no hurry, I look forward to the day when I can pass this to my sweet baby girl.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Best of 2012

I thought that it would be fun to kick off 2013 by looking back at some of my best posts from 2012. A lot of blogs I read have been doing this and I personally really like seeing the highlight reel from the past year. So here are some of the favorites, both mine and yours (based on comments and pageviews). As always, I'm thankful to those who take the time to visit!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Starting 2013 With A Bang

Happy New Year! I am so excited for all that this next year will bring, both for my family and this blog. I have a lot of home projects in mind and I hope to share them with all of you. You probably noticed I took a little bit of a break from posting these last few weeks and I can only blame the busyness of the holidays. I did some good pre-Christmas shopping and planning but once the ball got rolling, it was moving a little faster than I expected. I guess it was just a good reminder to plan ahead even better next year.

I needed to step back from the blog in order to really enjoy the holiday season with my little family. We did so many fun things together during the month of December and it all culminated in a lovely Christmas and New Year celebration. The kids had a blast on Christmas morning and my Christmas dinner turned out extremely well (with a lot of help from my amazing sister)! I will share the menu one of these days and maybe even some pictures if I can scrounge any up. Even though I was pretty excited with how my holiday decorating turned out, I managed to not take any pictures before I took it all down. Well done, blogger, well done. Oh well. Not much to do about it now :)

After all of the crazy, fun chaos of the holidays, I was ready to settle back into our normal routine. Instead, as a belated Christmas present for me and the hubs (not really) my little guy climbed out of his crib for the first time on Sunday. Instead of crossing off some other tasks on the to-do list, the hubs and I spent Sunday afternoon taking down his crib and putting together a new big-boy bed. Our little guy will be two at the end of this month and I reallllly wasn't ready for him to be out of the crib, but I also wasn't prepared to risk him climbing out again and getting seriously hurt. So far he's done pretty good in his new bed, although naptime mostly involves him turning on his lights and looking at books or pulling the clothes out of his dresser. Nothing like starting the new year off with some major transition.

Hope everyone's year is off to a wonderful start and I look forward to sharing some good stuff soon!
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