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My Favorites from 2015!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hi!!! Happy New Year's Eve!!
It has been such a FULL, wonderful week since we celebrated Christmas! 
We just got back from a super fun visit at my parents' house yesterday and we watched our friends' kids last night (they have QUADS!!) and Aaron had to be at work at 5 am this morning.  Needless to say, I have been looking forward to nap time and a piping hot cup of coffee since I woke up this morning- HA!

I am linking up with Andrea, Erika and Narci today and sharing some of my favorite posts from this past year!!
I started this blog just little under a year ago and it has been such a FUN, creative outlet for me!! I had absolutely NO expectations (and still don't- HA!) going into starting this blog and I think that is why it is has brought me so much joy and allowed me to truly enjoy this blogging adventure!!
Thank you SO much for all of the sweet comments you have left and the emails you have sent me! And to my new, special "blog" friends- you know who you are- thank you for your support and always leaving me the nicest, most encouraging comments!! 

Okay- now time for the fun part! Here are my FAVORITE posts from this past year!

Back in February, I linked up with Andrea for her Show and Tell Tuesday Series and shared how I met my husband! I LOVE our love story and it was SO fun getting to share it!! 

In February, I shared one of my favorite cookie recipes!! Cowboy cookies are SO yummy and the dough is actually super versatile and easy to "mix and match!"

In March, I shared my "new momma must haves" and I can tell you- now that I am expecting baby #5 in a little over 4 months- that list is still spot on for me! 

In April, I had so much fun talking about what Peter Cottontail was bringing to our house for Easter! 
I also shared some wacky facts about me- if you know nothing else about me- you can rest assured I totally "own" my weirdness! HA!

In May, as part of Andrea's Show and Tell Tuesday Series, I shared my most classic "Momfessionals" moments. I had so much fun writing that post!! You would never know from this picture, but about 5 minutes prior to taking this sweet photo, our precious baby Cora had a huge blowout all over Aaron's white shirt!!

In June, I shared about a simple, touching moment I witnessed at the gym. 
I also wrote about how we approach meal time at our house, with 4 very young children, who all have VERY different likes and dislikes when it come to food!

In July, I gave a little tour of our house! Since we are renting and will only be living here for another year and a half, I am so glad I took some pictures and will have a memory of this special house during this season of our life!

In August, I wrote a post about budget beauty products, all found at Walmart!
I have gotten into a routine of writing a "Weekly Walmart Finds" post every Wednesday and they are some of my favorite posts to write!!

In September, I shared about a fun little shopping trip I took with my two older daughters. We had such a great time!!

In October, I wrote about some super fun "splurges vs. steals" at Walmart- I had a BLAST writing that post!!

And I finally got to share our super exciting news about expecting Baby #5!!!

In November, I shared about my deep feelings of gratitude for our Veterans.

And in the earlier portion of December, I wrote a post about our favorite Christmas traditions we do with our kids!

It has been a wonderful year and I am so thankful I got to share it with all of you who have been so kind and supportive to read my little blog.
I am so excited for 2016 and all of the wonderful moments, big and small, that are in store for us in the upcoming year!!

Wishing you the Happiest New Year!!!

My Favorite Organizational Tool!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hi!! Happy Monday!!! Merry Christmas (a few days late)!!!
We had a wonderful Christmas and are actually continuing the festivities because we are visiting my parents for a few days! I am so happy to be "home" for the holidays- even though I am 35 and haven't lived at home since I was 18- it never feels like Christmas unless I come "home" for Christmas!

Soo...today I am linking up with Andrea and Erika and and sharing my Favorite Organizational Item!  


I really had to think long and hard about what my FAVORITE organizational tool was...I LOVE to organize things, I despise clutter and am always trying to find ways to keep our house organized and functional.  With that being said, when it comes down to it- what keeps me organized and totally helps me NOT lose my marbles is my Plum Paper Planner!

Last year for I decided for 2015, I wanted to move away from the traditional calendar on the refrigerator and invest in a personal planner. After doing some reading around blog-land, I decided to try out the Plum Paper Meal Planner.  Since it is a little on the pricier side ($31), I asked my husband to get it for me as one of my Christmas gifts. He was able to pick out a fun design and pick the picture that went on the front cover and I loved that he had a part in "designing" my planner!  
I ended up LOVING my Plum Paper Planner and it was the gift I wanted the most for Christmas this year.
Well, my sweet husband delivered and I got a 2016 planner!
This is the picture and design my husband picked out - I just love it!
I know there are SO many wonderful, functional and beautiful planners out there to choose from- so I wanted to show you the features that I LOVE about my Plum Paper planner!

(And I wanted to apologize for the not so special quality of these pictures! I took these pictures at 6 am the day we left for my parents' house...so the lighting is not the greatest!)

Okay- so this is a new feature that was not in my 2015 planner and I am SO excited about it!! At the beginning of every month- there is a "goal page" along with a place to write birthdays, special events and other things that you need to remember.  On the other side is a full page to make notes.
I am so excited about the "goal circles!"  I don't know about you- but when I put my goals in writing- I am much more likely to achieve them versus just kind of formulating them- but not getting them in formulated and written out!
Next, there is a full calendar for each month. I like writing all of our doctors appointments here and other important things we have going on throughout the month.  This also where I write out my husband's on-call schedule.
After the full monthly calendar, the month gets broken down into weeks. Plum Paper Designs has several planners you can choose from- and my favorite is the Meal Planner option! As you can see, at the bottom of the page, for every day, there is a space to write out your meals.  Since we eat super simple breakfasts, I pack my kids' lunches and my husband eats lunch at work- I don't write those meals down. I use the whole space to write down our dinner for every night. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this part of my planner!
At the back of the planner, is a two-sided page with pockets. I use this for important receipts I want to hold on to and other important documents. I also keep love notes my husband writes me in this portion of my planner :)
Another cool page in the Plum Paper planner is this page specifically dedicated to keeping track of all your passwords for the different websites where you have an account. I don't know about you- but I am ALWAYS forgetting my passwords!  
I also love this "holiday" page- this is so helpful to have- especially when you are trying to plan out visits with family  or if you just simply want to know when Easter is going to be in 2016!
And finally, another page I really like it this two page spread in the back of the planner where you can write down important notes, birthdays, ect. This is where I write out gift ideas for people, if I buy a gift in advance, I write it out in the particular month I bought it for- basically- anything I could possibly forget throughout the year- I jot it down here!
And this is the back of my planner! 
I love the flower design Aaron picked out- the color is very "me." :)

And there you have it! My most favorite organizational tool. I find if I have our family's life organized, I am able to keep an organized home and just in general stay on top of all of the other aspects of my life! 
If you are in the need for a 2016 planner- you should totally check out Plum Paper Planners!! 

I hope you have the BEST day and are continuing to enjoy the Christmas season. 
I am going to soak up everything wonderful about this time of year for as long as possible! :)

Bits of Cheer!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hi!! Happy Christmas Eve Eve!! Aren't these last couple of days before Christmas just so much fun?? Actually, I love the week after Christmas too...especially since we will be visiting my parents this year! :)
Even though yesterday was the official day to link-up AmyJess and Alisha for their Bits of Cheer Holiday link-up party...I am going to be a rule breaker and link up today.  I thought it was the perfect way to share about some happy holiday moments around our house these past couple of days!

Soo....if I had to pick my favorite "area" of Christmas decor in our house this year...I am pretty sure it would be our mantle!! I love the way it looks during the day, very simple and festive, but at night, with the glowing lights twinkling in the garland...well it just makes me happy!! I downloaded the "Joyeux Noel" print several years ago (for FREE!) and my husband made a new frame for it this year. I got the two cone, silver sparkle trees in the Target dollar spot this year (they were $3/each) and I love the way they just add that something "extra!" And of course...the handmade stockings my mom has sewn for each of my kids. They are so precious to me!! Next year, Aaron and I will probably have to be demoted from the mantle to make room for Baby #5's stocking! HA!
Last night, we piled up in our van and did one of our favorite family Christmas traditions (you can read more about our Christmas traditions here): went and looked at a local Christmas lights display!! We had on our Christmas jammies, I brought a Christmas cookie for each of the kids and blasted Christmas music!! Probably one of the worst pictures EVER of our family- but major props to my husband for even getting us all in the picture without even being able to see what he was doing! HA!
The Christmas lights display we go and see (this is our 2nd year going to look these particular lights) is set up by a local John Deere company.  They put up lights all around their company's property and the lights are free for anyone to come and see. There is always a HUGE line to get through and see them- but they are SO awesome- it is worth the wait!
My favorite part of the lights display are the ice skaters they have set up on a pond.  Doesn't it totally look like they are skating on ice?!?
And my biggest "bits of cheer" are these 4 crazy kids.  I am totally obsessed with dressing them in fun, Christmas clothes throughout the month and my two older daughters are definitely getting to the point where they are kind of "over it."  I have had to "let it go" and compromise that they don't have to wear a Christmas outfit EVERY day they are home on break- but they have been dressing up every Sunday for church in their Christmas outfits! I can't "let it ALL go" just YET! HA!
 
So thankful for all these special moments we have had this month, celebrating such a BEAUTIFUL season!

I hope today is great and the next few days spent celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas are joy-filled and full of special moments with the people you love the most. 

Wishing all of you the Merriest Christmas!!! 

Show and Tell Tuesday!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hi!! Happy Tuesday!! 
If your house is anything like our's, the excitement level is at an all time high :)
We are going to see to Christmas lights tonight in our Christmas jammies and the kids can't wait!
These last few days leading up to Christmas Eve and Christmas are just SO special!

Today, I am linking up with Andrea for her last Show and Tell Tuesday of the year!!
Isn't that crazy?? This has been such a fun link up party!  

The topic for today is:
What is the best gift you have ever received?

When I was 9 years old, I received Samantha, one of the 3 original American Girl Dolls, for my BIG Christmas present.  As kids, we got a few small presents and then one BIG gift.
Seriously- I was BESIDE myself when I opened that box and saw Samantha!!!
It was something I had been really wanting and just really couldn't believe I had actually gotten my very own American Girl Doll!!
What made receiving my Samantha extra special was that my mom had bought the dress patterns for all of Samantha's clothes from the American Girl Doll company and she made Samantha a wardrobe of dresses that matched MY dresses!!
I didn't think life could get any better :) 
As you can see by this classic and awesome picture, my mom made Samantha a Christmas dress to match my dress (which my mom made me). 
26 years later and I still have Samantha, the original box she came in and all of the clothes my mom made me for her.  My girls LOVE to play with her and look at all of her clothes and just think she is the most special doll EVER.
Because my mom is amazing, she has continued to make dresses for Samantha, but now she makes them match dresses she makes my girls!! YES- my mom is one of a kind :)
To me- my Samantha doll represents all that is magical and special about Christmas morning!
As I was thinking about writing this post and what the best present I had ever received was- Samantha quickly came to my mind as my most favorite material gift I have been given.  
But then I started reflecting on the fact, that while I have been given SO many wonderful, amazing (material) gifts in my 35 years- the most profound gift I have been given is God's faithfulness and steadfast love that is present daily in my life.
I was raised in an incredibly loving, Christian home my whole life and I grew up going to church every Sunday. When I went away to college and graduate school, while I still very much believed in God, my attitude and actions definitely did not always reflect that.  
When I was 25, I made some huge changes (physically and emotionally) and I will never forget sitting in church, very shortly after I moved to Austin, TX, praying to God to "just lead me where he wants me to go." I was ready to really follow him.  
And from there, my life began to drastically change- in the most amazing and challenging ways. And now 10 years later, I can say confidently and with the most grateful heart that I would not be where I am and who I am without God's unwavering presence in my life.

My girls love to play in our big garden tub in our bathroom and the other day, my daughter Celine, who is 3, brought in one of their nativity sets and was playing with her "friends." Well...once I was finished getting ready, I told her it was time to get out of my bathroom. I didn't even pay attention to what she had been doing in my bath tub :)  Later that night, when I was getting ready for bed, I looked over to our bath tub and saw what she had set up.  The most simple and perfect representation of what Christmas is ALL ABOUT.
It seriously made me catch my breath and I just said of prayer of thankfulness for God using my precious little child to remind me of how simple and pure his love is for me.
 I hope you have the BEST day :)


Menu Plan Monday!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hi!! How was your weekend??  I went to bed extra happy last night knowing that we don't have to do the crazy morning shuffle for the next 2 weeks!

How funny is this?? Pretty darn true in my house! HA! Soo happy to have a break from this for the next 14 days! :)
Soo...I always have a hard time getting a meal plan together when there is a holiday coming up. I mean let's be honest- most weeks I have a tough time coming up with meal ideas- HA!
But- with all of my kids being home for Christmas break, on top of the extra Christmas activities we are doing this week- having a plan for dinners is SO important.  At least it is for our family :) I have 5 very hungry people on my hands come 6:00 pm and it is in my best interest to have some sort of meal ready to go! HA!

With that being said- here's what's for dinner at our house this week! 
Hopefully if you are need of a couple meal ideas- you might find some here!

Monday: Meatloaf, "smashed potatoes," and steamed green beans
For tonight's dinner, I am going to make a simple meatloaf.  This recipe has great ratings and I am going to give it a try! To make the process a little quicker, instead of peeling our potatoes, I am just going to wash them really well and boil them with them their skins on. Rachael Ray calls these "smashed potatoes." I call it- "I am lazy and don't want to peel 10 potatoes." HA!  I am definitely going out on the limb doing this- because I am not sure how my kids will like the texture of the potato skin in their mashed potatoes...but I am going to give it a try anyway!  For our vegetable, I am going to steam up a bag a frozen green beans from Aldi.  They have the BEST frozen green beans!!

Tuesday: Crescent "dogs" , steamed broccoli and potato soup
We are going to look at Christmas lights on Tuesday night, so I wanted an easy dinner to have so we could leave for our lights adventure at a decent time.  Crescent dogs and steamed broccoli for the win! All of my kids love both of these things- so I know I will have some happy eaters around the dinner table.  I am going to serve my husband a side of potato soup with his dinner.  I shared my favorite potato soup recipe last week- check it out here!!

Wednesday: Mini-cheeseburgers, tater tots and steamed green beans
Ground beef was on sale this past week at our local Fresh Thyme market so I am using that  in a couple of our meals this week.  Cheeseburgers are always a hit with my family and they are even more fun when you put them on a mini bun!  I took a vote with my kids if they wanted french fries or tater tots...and tots won :)  Green beans are a stand-by vegetable in our house, as everyone likes them! My little James can't get enough of them!! 

Thursday: Christmas EVE! Pizza night and Christmas movie 
Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days of the year! For a special breakfast, I am going to make my "semi-homemade" cinnamon rolls and top them with some fun Christmas sprinkles.  Check out how I make them here!
For dinner, our Christmas Eve tradition is to go to early Christmas Eve Mass (this year it is at 4:00 pm) and then we come home, get cleaned up and in our Christmas jammies and have a pizza picnic while watching a Christmas movie.  Simple and easy- and SO much fun!
We love to use the "pizza kit" from Aldi.  I pick up a bag of their shredded mozzarella and I am able to make 2 pizzas using one bag of cheese. My girls and James have a plain cheese pizza and Aaron likes his pizza to be topped with pepperoni and mushrooms (both of which I get from Aldi). 

Friday: CHRISTMAS DAY! Turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole and mashed potatoes
Christmas Day!! After we open our Christmas presents, I am going to make a fun Christmas breakfast- Rudolph pancakes (+ some eggs for Daddy :)!!
 This picture is from 2 years ago...I can't get over how young my "big" girls look!!! 
For our Christmas dinner, we are going to have Thanksgiving dinner!! We have one last round of our delicious Thanksgiving dinner in the freezer and I asked Aaron if he was okay having it for our Christmas dinner and he said, "Um. YES. Why wouldn't I be?!?" HA! 
So we will be having turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and Paula Deen's green bean casserole! April recommended Paula's recipe in this post and I am so glad I listened to her recommendation- it is SO yummy!! For dessert- we will have Christmas cupcakes :) I am going to let the girls decorate their own cupcake with sprinkles and candies!

Saturday: Hot dogs, mac 'n' cheese and steamed green peas
We are having what my kids like to call an "easy dinner" for the day after Christmas :) We are headed to my parents' house early Sunday morning and really don't want to have any leftovers in the fridge. So hot dogs on the grill, shells and cheese and steamed green peas is what's for dinner!  Sometimes I serve organic mac 'n' cheese from Aldi, sometimes I make homemade mac 'n' cheese and sometimes I serve the kind in the box that has the liquid cheese packet- which happens to be my families' favorite version- SO GROSS. But- it's Christmas time and I am in a giving mood- HA! So shells and cheese from a box it is! :)

Sunday: Headed to Baba and Papa's House! 
We will be at my parents' house on Sunday and I can't tell you how excited I am to have a few days "off" cooking!! My mom is a wonderful cook and a fabulous hostess- and it is always SO nice to just kick back and relax for a few days!!

Do you have a menu plan for this week? I LOVE to getting new ideas for dinner- so if you have a favorite recipe you are making this week- share it with me!! :)

Happy Monday and I hope you have the BEST day!

I am linking up with Laura today!

Friday Favorites!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hi!! Happy Friday!!
And it is indeed a HAPPY Friday- my 2 youngest daughters are officially on Christmas break and my oldest daughter has school today- but gets out early- and then we are in official NO SCHOOL MODE until the New Year! 
I am SO excited to have a little bit of time to just "be" with my kids.  We do a lot of running around and having to be places at certain times...it is going to be glorious to let everyone sleep as long as they want to! Which you know, means, they are going to get up SUPER early- because that is how it always happens, right?!? HA!

Okay...now time to share my FAVORITES from this past week :)

ONE
One night after showers and baths this past week, the girls decided they wanted to act out the Christmas Story. Except my daughter Cora did NOT want to be Joseph. So luckily my oldest daughter quickly suggested that she could be Mary's mother, Anne.  All was right with the world again :)  Then, they decided instead of using a toy baby, that James would be the perfect baby Jesus.  Well...you can see how he felt about that. HA!
I was dying laughing while my husband took this picture!! 
Definitely one of my FAVORITE moments this week!!
TWO
The girls handed out their Christmas gifts to their teachers this year and I was so happy when several of their teachers told me how much they loved their gifts!! I have been giving the same teacher Christmas gifts since Charlotte started preschool- and it is always a FAVORITE with our teachers!  The "big" part of the gift is a monogrammed Christmas hand towel from Leah who runs the cutest shop, Simply Made with Love. The towels are excellent quality and she does the best job with her appliqu├ęs and monogramming!! Then I add either a Bath and Body Works candle or a Bath and Body Work hand soap.  This year, I was also able to include a festive Christmas dish cloth (my mom made them!!) and dish soap- so it ended up being a fun, Christmas dish set! I worked as a speech therapist in the schools for several years and received so many lovely gifts over the years- but the ones I really enjoyed were functional and personal. I have always tried to keep that in mind when I get all of our teachers their gifts!
THREE
Speaking of FAVORITE gifts to give teachers and other special people in your life at Christmas- I think I found my new, favorite "GO-TO" gift! I LOVE reading Christina's blog and the other day she talked about making homemade jam for all of her children's teachers.  She includes a loaf of cinnamon bread with the jam- and it is the NICEST gift! 
Well, I realized yesterday that I had a few people still on my list that I wanted to give a little gift to- and so I totally used Christina's cinnamon bread idea! I called my local Michael's and luckily they still had the $1 ceramic mini-baking pans that Christina mentioned using- so my husband graciously stopped by after work and picked me up several of them- along with some festive Christmas ribbon and cellophane gift bags.  The cinnamon bread recipe is SO easy and it makes your house smell SO yummy while the mini loaves are baking!! 
I am SO excited with how cute these little gifts turned out and can't wait to make these every Christmas for the many, special people in our life!
FOUR 
We got a super fun piece of mail this week- the most recent issue of the American College of Foot and Ankle Pediatrics Journal just so happened to have an article in it CO-AUTHORED by my awesome husband!! The girls were totally flipping out seeing Daddy's name in the "magazine" and it was a pretty great moment for my husband to see his name next to his first article he has had published! Definitely a FAVORITE moment for us!!
FIVE
And not to be totally annoying and brag more about my husband...but this week was big for him- so he deserves to be featured twice today :)
About 6 weeks ago, he took a VERY difficult exam that would allow him to be licensed to practice in a specific state (after he graduates from residency).  We were told by A LOT of people that the exam is extremely challenging and to NOT expect for him to pass.  Well- we found out yesterday- HE PASSED!!! 
We were SO excited!!  I don't know if I have mentioned the back story on Aaron's journey to become a podiatrist- (I should totally write a post about it!!)- but he decided to go back to school at 27 (he is turning 37 this January) and it has been a LONG journey to get to where we are now. It is really awesome to see all of his perseverance and hard work paying off. I am so proud of him!
And can we just talk about how cute my guys are?!? :)
Very, very thankful for some wonderful moments for our family this week!
Now it is time to cozy up and soak up the rest of December and this beautiful Christmas season!!

I hope you have the BEST day and a fabulous weekend!!

I am linking up with Andrea and Erika for their Friday Favorites Link Up!
 I am also linking up with April for Five on Friday!
 Joining Karli for her, Oh Hey Friday Link Up! too!


And lastly, linking up with KatieTifDella & Caitlin for High Five for Friday!

 
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