Thursday, December 18, 2014

girls' night Christmas party!

I'm all for girls' nights, and I'm all for Christmas. Combine the two and you've got yourself a pretty fun and festive evening! My friend, Lauren, and I decided to make it happen, so we threw a few games and activities together, and set up a hot chocolate bar. Homemade hot chocolate with whipped cream, marshmallows, and cinnamon sprinkled on top...combined with Christmas cookies? Too much goodness. And probably a thousand too many calories. ;)

The best thing we did was slap some wrapping paper up on a wall, hang some colorful lights, and buy photo booth props from the dollar store. So. Much. Fun! Such an easy and fun activity, and now we have (a million) pictures from the night!
 (If you want to know more of the specifics, check out my post here!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sunday dress + gems heard in Primary.

I know you probably can't focus on anything in this picture other than my pasty white legs, but check out this fabulous dress from eShakti! Not only only does it have pockets (!!!) and a removable sash, it's customized. That's right, every single dress from eShakti is customized! I was feeling pretty fancy when I picked what neckline I wanted, my desired sleeve length, and the length of the hem. I'm really loving this dress, minus the fact that it's a bit hard to get out of it since the zipper is on the side and I chose a higher neckline. Oops. :) Regardless, I'm quite thrilled with how the dress turned out and will definitely be purchasing one in the future. Check out eShakti on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest - you'll be amazed at how different every dress is!

P.S. $30 off your first order right now when you create an account.
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And now for some gems heard in Primary...

7-year old boy: "My pretend friend Wendy won't stop punching me in the back and it's getting reeeeeally annoying."

Playing Charades during Sharing Time:
7-year old boy huddled in a ball on the floor: "Guess what I am!"
*5 minutes of guessing ensues and no one can figure it out*
Sister D: "Okay, we give up! What are you?!"
7-year old boy: "Well I can't remember the name of it, but it's this animal in the ocean that can protect itself..."

Me to an 8-year old boy in my class: "You look so dapper today with your sweater and gelled hair!"
8-year old boy: "Ugh! All of the girls keep telling me that!!"

Describing the "perfect" world during Sharing Time:
Sister W to an 8-year old boy: "What would you guys imagine is in the 'perfect' world?"
8-year old boy: "A fountain!"
6-year old boy: "Streets for the cars."
A teacher: "Good schools that keep kids engaged and entertained."
8-year old boy: "Magic necklaces and bracelets that give you 30 wishes!"

Monday, December 15, 2014

need some stocking stuffer ideas?

Today, my new friend, Alyssa, is sharing a long and fabulous list of stocking stuffer ideas! My favorites include art supplies for kids, portable chargers for phones (I got Ben one this year...shhhh!), card games, LED slap bracelets for runners, and baking supplies. :) Check out her 60+ ideas and let me know what some of your favorites are!

Stocking Stuffers to Add to Your Holiday Wish List
Author: Alyssa Craig

As you are running around, frantically collecting gifts to put under the tree or to ship to loved ones who live far away, don’t forget about the stocking stuffers! While larger presents usually go under the tree, stocking stuffer presents are a fun opportunity to get creative, as they have to be small enough to fit in the stocking! Consider some of these fun ideas and don’t be afraid to think out of the box.

For the Kids
  • Art supplies such as crayons, markers, a stamp set, or small paints and brushes
  • Bath toys like rubber duckies, boats and bath paints for younger children
  • Small stuffed animal
  • Fun bibs to replace the ones that are likely well worn
  • Magnet numbers and letters for the fridge
  • Coloring books of their favorite movie or television show characters

Accessories
  • Ties or bow ties for boys young and old
  • Compact mirror for the ladies
  • Pocket screwdriver
  • Clutch purse for the women or a coin purse for the little girls
  • Warm gloves
  • Scarves, both warm and decorative
  • Head wrap
  • Mini measuring tape
  • Tide To Go pen, a necessity for most of mankind
  • Lint roller
  • Portable charger for phones and other electronic devices
  • Phone case to replace the one that has likely seen better days


Tasty Treats
  • Bacon candy canes. Need I say more?
  • Astronaut ice cream. Your kids will be telling their friends about this cool treat!
  • Candy necklace or bracelet
  • Gift card to your loved one’s favorite restaurant or treat store

Beauty/Personal Care
  • Teeth whitening. If you don’t have any immediate plans to visit the dentist for professional whitening, consider getting your family member some whitening products.
  • Lotions. Especially in dry climates, you can never have too much lotion during the winter.
  • Chapstick. For some reason, chapsticks go missing as often as bobby pins and socks. You can never have too many of them.
  • Makeup Brush Set. This might be a great gift for a teen who is just starting to wear makeup.
  • Nail polish or patterned nail stickers
  • Hair ties. Every girl can always use more hair ties.
  • Electric toothbrush, for the orally hygienic member of the family
  • Perfume or cologne

Entertainment
  • A classic book such as Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, or Tale of Two Cities
  • Card games like Old Maid or Go Fish for the younger crowd or Uno and Phase 8 for the older ones
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • Mad Lib books. These are always a hit at sleepovers.
  • Mini portable speakers that can be used with phones or MP3 players
  • Bananagrams

Exercise
  • LED slap bracelet for bikers, runners, or walkers to be easily visible
  • Fit Bit or Nike Fuel+Band
  • Wireless headphones they will absolutely love
  • Sports watch to track distance, heart rate, and speed
  • A note letting them know you have signed them up for an event in which they have been wanting to compete
  • Sports socks - a highly undervalued part of any athlete’s wardrobe

Pets
  • Chew toys. Festive toys are especially delightful.
  • Laser cat toy for both your’s and your cat’s entertainment
  • I.D. tag with all of Spot’s information just in case
  • Dog cookies so your pet does not feel left out of all the holiday eating
  • A holiday outfit or sweater

In the Kitchen
  • Reusable cupcake cups
  • Mini whisk
  • Measuring spoons or cups
  • Mug with a favorite quote or picture of their favorite place
  • Frother to make your drinks extra fancy
  • Hot cocoa, coffee, tea, or cider packets
  • Cookie cutters in fun shapes and sizes

Hobbies
  • Bookmark for the bookworm in your life
  • Mini notebook that can easily fit in bags or purses
  • New journal (or diary if it is for a young girl)
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths for a camera
  • Mini tripod for phones to make it easier to take selfies
  • Flash bounce light diffuser for the serious photographer
  • Sketch pad and pencils

The holidays give you a great opportunity to show your loved ones how much you care and how well you know them with personalized stocking stuffer gifts. As you catch the vision and start collecting stocking stuffers, your only concern will be if there is enough stocking to contain all these great presents!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tips for Reducing Stress

I made it through finals and the semester!!

Basically, I want to shout it from the rooftops and post annoying Facebook statuses and maybe even a picture or two on Instagram, but I'll refrain. This semester was the absolute craziest. I went into it thinking that it would a piece of cake, but somehow I ended up being busier than ever and personal time became non-existent except for on Saturday and Sunday evenings. I had a few meltdowns, I stopped cooking meals (I can't tell you how many quesadillas and PB&J sandwiches I've had over the last 3 1/2 months! Disgusting, right?), and too many times I ran out of clean clothes. Some weeks I was only home for 8-9 hours a day and that includes eating, sleeping, getting ready for the day, and trying to clean for a minute or two.

Besides the end of the semester making her presence known, December is always a stressful month for me. Church parties to attend, friend parties to attend, work parties to attend, treats to make for those parties, gifts to purchase, crowds at the stores, less sunshine, cold weather, etc. I'm sure I'm not the only one that completely stresses out around this time of year, so I want to share some tips to reduce stress that Ben shared with me recently while I was freaking out about finals. (His program directors emailed this out to all of the grad students...guess PhD's are stressful or something?? ;))

1. Have more fun, both individually and with friends.
2. Take care of your body. Eat better, get more sleep, and exercise.
3. Organize and prioritize your time.
4. Learn to say "no."
5. Adjust your perspective. Is "X" a crisis? Am I being a perfectionist?
6. Relaxation training.
7. Get more support.

I'm committing myself to eating less quesadillas, getting more sleep, saying "no" more often, and working on not being a perfectionist. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

in honor of National Cookie Day, I'm resurrecting my favorite cookie recipe from the archives.

Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 3 dozen cookies

1 c. salted butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 t. vanilla
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 1/4 c. whole-wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
2 c. milk chocolate chips
sea salt for sprinkling

1.  Brown your butter by heating 1 stick of butter (1/2 c.) in a pan over medium-high until melted. (About 2-3 minutes.) Stir/swirl the pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown and you can smell a nutty aroma.  Pour it into a bowl and allow to cool completely.
2.  Mix the other stick of butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes.
3.  Add the vanilla to the mixer.
4.  Slowly add in the brown butter, then mix on medium speed for another 2 minutes.
5.  Add the egg and egg yolk and mix.
6.  Add the flour, salt, and baking soda to the butter mixture and mix on low until the flour is just incorporated.
7.  Add chocolate chips and mix for a few seconds.
8.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, then cover and chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.
9.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper or use a silpat non-stick baking mat and place dough 2 inches apart.
10.  Sprinkle each ball with some sea salt.  (Don't use too much! :)
11.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through.


recipe adapted from here