Sunday, December 14, 2014

When Christmas Needs to be Easy

Sometimes you have a year where things don't easily fall into place.  Sometimes you have a year when you don't get the stockings down until after the 14th of December although the tree has been up since the beginning of November. Sometimes you just send out the photo card without the letter to go with it...even though you know you know you will get a letter in January from a certain someone laying on the guilt about not receiving a letter.  Sometimes you have a year when your husband has been traveling like crazy, you are almost mid-way through your first year of homeschooling, and getting nervous  eagerly awaiting the arrival of your third bundle of joy.

Sometimes life is happening all around you and you are just trying to keep up with what you can. 

Something that the past few months have taught me is to accept my limits. I know that God did not create me as a person who can handle it all. In the past I would try so hard to keep up with everything, including all the extra stuff, that I would make myself and my family miserable.  I  could easily suck all the joy out of a day with to-do lists and unrealistic expectations. 

I am learning to let it go. Most of it doesn't really matter anyway.  It's totally ok that I don't have the house decorated as much as I would like. It's just fine that I didn't have an Advent calendar ready for us all to go through together until yesterday (hello 12 days of Christmas!). And it's ok that things aren't 'perfect'.

This is where we are right now.

This is who we are right now. 

We are a family who is so happy just to be together for the beautiful normal.

Normal is beautiful. 

The everyday is beautiful. 

This Christmas season, it is ok that you don't do everything. Focus on spending time together as a family and filling your days with joy. Look for the beauty in the normal.  We go through different seasons of life.  Sometimes we can do more, but sometimes we need to embrace that we simply can't.  Being filled with joy is so much more important than all the other stuff.  

Keep the decorating simple.

Plan some fun activities. Singing carols, watching movies, making an easy batch of cookies, a game night with popcorn or a root beer float.  Pick up a peppermint shake (yum!!) at Chick-fil-A and drive around looking at Christmas lights. 

If you don't make it to all the different activities around town, I will be ok. They are going to remember the laughing. The fun they had dancing and singing to Christmas carols. How they got to decorate the cookies any way they wanted while you smiled and told them how great they looked. They will remember being with you.

My favorite quote (from the Nester) is this:
"It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful".

It's true. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Elf Day

We kicked off our week with our first annual Elf Day. The idea came from a super fun Instagrammer I follow: katherinemaries Go follow her! You'll be inspired to do so many fun things with your kiddos!  Here's what we did...

I wrote this up the night before and had it waiting on the breakfast table. The kids were so excited when they got up and read it!

1. Issue elf ID's

I had two laminated Post-It Notes that I punched and strung on twine. The kids picked their elf names and I wrote them on their badge.

2. Play Pass the Present and Elf Relay

Pass the Present: Grab a gift-like box and some music. Turn the music on and have them pass the present like you're playing hot potato. Stop the music. Whoever is holding the present is out. 

Elf Relay: Be set up a cup at one end of room and a plate with 4 marshmallows at the other end of the room. Using their elves, the kids pick up a marshmallow and run it across the room to their cup. First one with all 4 marshmallows in their cup wins.

3. Hot Chocolate Break

4. Blindfolded gift wrapping: We didn't actually make this a contest. It was the best activity of the day. Hilarious!

5. North Pole Picnic Lunch: Fun lunch on the floor next to the Christmas tree.

6. Paint your elf: Paint a picture of your elf.

7. Elf Pancakes for Dinner: I searched Pinterest for Elf pancakes and found this great pic to follow!

8. PJ's and a Christmas movie: Always a favorite activity!

We had so much fun with this day and it really didn't take long to set up! I'm convinced we need more fun days like this in the future!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

DIY Daily Sink Scrub

Something I do every day is scrub my sink. I have been making my own sink scrub for quite a while now and still love it.  In fact, I have posted this recipe before, but I think it's a good one to repeat! Plus now I have a cute and easy shaker to go with it! 

I love scrubbing my sink at night while I'm cleaning up the kitchen. Something about waking up and coming out to a clean kitchen makes a huge difference in starting my day. 

DIY Sink Scrub

1 part borax
1-2 parts baking soda

Fill your jar half to two-thirds full of baking soda. Add borax to fill the rest...almost full. Leave room to mix well. This isn't an exact science. The borax adds a bit more scrubbing power that I like. 

To make the shaker, take the lid from a mason jar and trace it on cute cardstock. Cut it out and punch four holes in it. Secure it on the jar with a band. There you go! Cute and easy!
 I found this great idea here

Some other great cleaning posts:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Easy Mini Banner

Happy Halloween! I hope you are all making some fun memories tonight and having a great time! We will be bundling up her in northern Alabama. It is going to be more like January than October for us.  Crazy!

I wanted to share the mini banner I made the other day. I love the look of book page banners! To make the letters, I printed out the phrase and taped it to the window. Then it's as easy as tracing with a Sharpie!

Super easy, right?  I think I will be making lots of these mini banners!

Have a great weekend!

Linking up at the Party Bunch

Friday, October 24, 2014

School: Letter Tile Storage

Here we are a few months into our homeschool journey.  One of the things the kids like to do is an activity called making words.  I give them a set of letter tiles that make a 'secret word' and together we make all the words you can using those letters. 

I needed an easy way to store and search for the letters we need...a Ziploc bag wasn't cutting it so I came up with this idea. 

During a trip to Hobby Lobby I picked up this divided box and used my 40% off coupon, came home, and started organizing.

Using washi tape, I labeled each compartment. Since I only wanted one box to store on the shelf so I assigned two letters per compartment. The last two compartments are for blends, word beginnings, and endings. 

I am thinking there are a few different ways I could use containers like this. And by the way...the vertical sides of each compartment is removable. Lots of possibilities!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Syrup

Shut the front door. This pumpkin spice coffee syrup is the best pumpkin coffee drink I have tried at home!  Plus your house will smell amazing while you're whipping this up!

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Syrup
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp pumpkin purée 
1 tbsp vanilla 
2 tsp pumpkin spice 

Simmer all ingredients in a saucepan for 20 min or so, stirring occasionally. You want it to thicken up nicely. Cool and store in a mason jar in the fridge. Add 1 tbsp or more to your coffee and stir. For a super delicious treat, top with homemade whipped cream. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I Heart Fall Chalkboard

The other day I picked 30 pumpkins from the garden. 30! There are some pie pumpkins but most of them were the small decor type pumpkins. So.....I got to decorating.  I soaked them in bleach water for a while, let them dry, then buffed them with a small amount of Vaseline to make them shiny. (of course, don't bleach any pumpkins you will cook with)

All the pumpkins made me want to keep on going so I broke out the chalkboard paint.  I had this small mirror that was a gift from my sweet mom and thought it would be great as a chalkboard!.
Read this post to find out how to turn a mirror (or window) into a chalkboard.

Here is my start for the mantle. Our TV is up in DC with my husband and I had to hide the hanging brackets. Enter stacks of books and a sign. I love it! I'm not done decorating yet but it's early. I'll get there!

The wall color is the same as the above picture. that wall just has poor lighting. 

Have you started your fall decorating? Are you dreaming of all things pumpkin?  

sharing at 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our First Week

Well, if you follow along on Instagram or Facebook, you might have an idea about how crazy the past few months have been. Here's one reason....

Our family of four will become a family of 5 in January!  We were surprised to find this out but very excited! With this baby I have been needing to rest more than with the others (I'll save you the details) and home is easiest place to do that. So......our time in DC ended with the exception of a trip to visit coming up. 

Then this happened.  The first day of homeschool. I can happily tell you that we all made it to Friday! Week one is in the books! Not every day was great, but most of them were. We are all excited about what this is turning into. And it is changing... I was a classroom teacher.  It really is different than teaching your kids in your home. Some things are the same (thank goodness) but some of it is different and I'm learning what that looks like for us.  The kids are doing great and I am having fun planning our lessons and field trips!

We also had our first Book Club! We aren't part of a co-op yet and wanted the kids to have the opportunity to work with other kids.  A friend of mine and I had decided to take turns of Friday afternoons having all the kids play together. Perfect situation for a book club! They are at my house every other Friday. When they come we will read a book together (something I pick to go with a theme or season) and do a few differentiated activities that go along with what we read. 

This time we read a book about Johnny Appleseed to kick off my kiddos' apple theme (I love teaching in themes). After we read the book the little guys did a coloring sheet and printed the name Johnny Appleseed. While they were working on that, the bigger girls (who are both named Michaela but spell it differently) worked with letter tiles to spell as many words as they could out of JOHNNY APPLESEED. They filled up the entire page! I know they could have found more if there would have been more time. 

Next it was time for an apple taste testing. I cut 5 different types of apples, labeled them, and set them out. The kids tasted them all and wrote down whether or not they liked them. Then they chose their favorite over all. 

The last activity for the afternoon was good ol' apple prints. I gave them a piece of scrapbook paper cut in half, half an apple that I had patted dry, and paints. They painted the inside part of the apple and used it as a stamp. The creations turned out pretty neat and all very different! 

We are only one week into our homeschool journey but I am seeing little signs that their bond is growing. There are still plenty of times when they aren't getting along, but I'm praying there are less and less. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

DIY Bottles for DIY Cleaners

Hey there! Things have been busy here at home...we are back in Alabama for up around the house, prepping for our first homeschool year, and taking care of our accidental pumpkin patch.
In this picture, the kids decided to set up a sale. Kayla was selling her bracelets and charms (she is crazy about Rainbow Loom right now!) and Noah picked some cars to sell.  It was a hot Wednesday morning and only one person stopped. Bless his heart! He picked out a couple of items from each kid and paid them $5. That totally made their day! Guy-who-stopped-by, I thank you so much!

The weather has been great! Fall-like temps ever couple of weeks are so refreshing! The cool morning air and the fact that we are already harvesting pie pumpkins have me thinking about sprucing up the place for fall. I will hold back. After all, it isn't even August yet!

One little project I finished was my cleaning bottles. I found these spray bottles. They come in a pack of 6 for less than $12. Perfect!  I planned on printing labels for them but for now they are just decorated with some cute washi tape. So fast and easy. I just wrote the labels with a black Sharpie and filled them up!

Countertop Spray: This is my Mrs. Meyer's all purpose cleaner. Currently my fav is Radish
Shower Cleaner: when it's time to clean the shower, fill with vinegar (leaving room at the top for soap) and heat in the microwave for 45 sec to 1 min. Add 2-3 tbsp Dawn dish soap (or an off brand) and mix gently by tipping back and forth. Spray and let sit on surfaces for 20 min or so. 
Tile Floor Cleaner: I'm still working on the perfect mixture....I'll share when I am totally happy with the results.
Glass and Mirror: Water....that's it! I just spray a little bit of water and use microfiber cloths to clean my windows and mirrors. I haven't found anything better!
I still have two bottles to fill. I am doing some experimenting with a couple of cleaning recipes.
Do you have any favorites?

The kids have enjoyed being home with a yard to play in and all their neighborhood friends (have I mentioned we live in the friendliest neighborhood?) In this picture, the kids decided to set up a sale while I was painting the play/school room. Don't worry, I checked on them regularly and could see them the whole time. Kayla was selling her bracelets and charms (she is crazy about Rainbow Loom right now!) and Noah picked some cars to sell. The signs they make are the cutest ever!
  It was a hot Wednesday morning and only one person stopped. Bless his heart! He picked out a couple of items from each kid and paid them $5. That totally made their day!
Dear Guy-who-stopped-by, I thank you so much!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vintage Pancake Recipe

I have been spending a good while in Nashville I feel like I should give you a proper southern greeting...
Howdy!  I hope you're having a great week and enjoying the summer weather! We are in the middle of our southern escape from the business of Washington, D.C., soaking up all things southern and small town.  Being away from Alabama and Tennessee has made me realize how much I really do love it here.  I can't believe it has been more than 10 years since we moved south!
Whenever I am at my parent's house I love to read through my Grandma's Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book from 1947.  This week I made some pancakes from it and they turned out so perfect!

Griddle Cakes (from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book 1947)

2 beaten eggs
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons melted shortening (I used butter)
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
*I added 1 tsp vanilla*

Combine eggs, milk, and shortening (or butter). Add flour sifted with salt, baking powder, and sugar; beat smooth.  Bake on ungreased griddle. Makes 12-15 cakes. 

I served ours with butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar.

Using my Grandma's wooden spoon and bowls made me feel like I was cooking with her back in simpler times! I can just imagine all the wonderful family meals made with that bowl and spoon. 

Thanks so much for stoppin' on by! I love hearing from you! If you have any favorite dishes your Mom or Grandma used to make, I would love to hear about them! 

Have a blessed week!

Making Sweet Memories

Our summer is flying by! I can't believe that the Fourth of July has already come and gone.  I hope you are making some sweet memories with your kiddos! Summer can be a difficult time with relaxed schedules, free time, travel time...but if you think about the memories that are being made, it can be a great time!

Here are some pics of what we have been up to the past couple of weeks: 

Fourth of July was perfect! Nice weather and a fun down-homey festival with great food and music!  The kids participated in the bike rodeo. The description just said the kids were encouraged to decorate their bikes. I had no idea it was a contest...but thankfully the judges were creative! Noah won 'fastest rider' and Kayla won 'most colorful'. 

After the Fourth, we packed up the van and headed south. Our first stop was my parent's house. I posted a pic on Instagram and said that even though this isn't where I grew up, it's still home because this is where my family is.
Noah has been helping Grandpa take care of the yard. They have also enjoyed watching the work behind the fence. The land is being cleared for more houses.  No one is excited for more houses back there but you can't help but have fun watching the big trucks.

Kayla has had fun with the old Barbies Grandma has.

We finally headed out to Puckett's in Leiper's Fork for lunch! Yum!

And doesn't everyone pull their very old dog in a wagon? There is something about a boy and his dog that is so sweet!

And then there is Rosie. She is my brother and sister-in-law's new puppy. She is so sweet! The kids are in heaven....and can't stop asking for a puppy. 

While I'm here I'm trying to photograph as many of her old photos as I can. I'll have a post soon about what to do with them.  How cute is my sweet Great Grandma?!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mom's French Dips

With summer in full swing there are many days that I don't want to spend much time prepping dinner. Pulling out the crockpot in the morning is so easy!  

I grew up with this recipe for French Dips. So yummy. The best part is the bread in the au jus. 

Mom's French Dips
3-4 lb chuck roast cut into 3 or 4 pieces
1 beef bouillon 
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 bay leaf
3-5 peppercorns
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1tsp garlic powder

Remove fat and place meat in crockpot. Fill with ingredients. Add water to almost cover meat and cook on low 6-8 hours. Shred beef and add back into crockpot with about 1/2 hour left to cook.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Wedding Signs

It's a major wedding sign post!  Yay!  

Our life was a bit crazy around the time of this wedding so I am just now getting around to editing photos and posting them. 

I had the amazing privilege to create signs for a very special wedding! This family has become so dear to my heart over the years. I was her...teacher.  (cough) Yes, that makes me feel old. But it in my defense, it was only my second year of teaching.  

Let me show you what we came up with! All of these were so much fun to work with. And of course, the styles of these signs could customized with different verses or sayings.

These are signs to hang on the back of their chairs at the reception.  They are hung with twine but I didn't attach it because I wanted them to hang them at the whatever height they needed. (that's why the twine isn't shown.
This is my favorite. It just fell together and worked perfectly. This sign was displayed at the wedding and now hangs in their sweet little home.
This small frame was displayed on the guestbook table. A great way to find all those fun pics that people shared on social media!
This frame was displayed on a table with a bouquet of flowers to honor those special family members who have passed.
The guestbook sign sat on a small photo stand on the guestbook table. 

Instead of printing out programs, they wanted a 3 foot tall program. It was displayed on an easel. 

Thanks, Meghan, for making my work a part of your special day!

Email me at PrairieGirlBlog (at) gmail (dot) com to place an order.