Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas 2010

I think this was the busiest Christmas yet, but it was a very special one as it was Jack's first!

3 separate family Christmas celebrations in one week's time + a brunch at my parent's house the morning after Christmas + the usual hustle and bustle of getting ready for the holiday + caring for a baby = one tired momma!  (And daddy too!)

I love holidays and I hope to establish fun traditions that will make Adult Jack look back on his childhood Christmases fondly as I do mine. 

Being that Jack was days away from being 10-months-old on Christmas morning we really didn't expect that he would know what was going on or care, but we were pleasantly surprised by his obvious excitement!  He had so much fun opening his gifts and playing with his new toys.

The Monday before Christmas we went to see Wildlights at the zoo.  Probably more for my enjoyment than Jack's or Mark's, but it was a fun trip.  We bundled up to stay warm and only stayed for an hour or so.

Before Christmas, I was busy working on stockings for the family.  Since we needed to add on to our collection this year anyway I decided to make us all new ones. 

I think they turned out pretty cute despite some trouble with my stocking.  Originally, I was planning to make a red stocking with white snowflakes.  Against my better judgement I only purchased one skein of the red yarn I needed and a week before Christmas when I ran out I couldn't find anymore despite visiting several stores.  So... I had to frog all my work (3/4 of the stocking!) and start over with a new idea.  I settled on the stripes which turned out pretty cute and a Christmas tree instead of snowflakes.  Next year I'll add some embellishments to the tree. 

And this year's special ornament is a very special one made with Jack's handprint!

I made it with salt dough (recipe below) and I'm pleased with how it turned out.  I'm sure this will be an ornament that we cherish forever.

2010 was a great year for us and I can't wait to see what 2011 will bring! 

Happy New Year everyone!   

Salt Dough Ornaments

1-cup AP Flour
1/2-cup Table Salt
1/2-cup Water

Mix ingredients together then turn out onto the counter and knead until fully combined. 

Roll out to desired thickness and cut with cookie cutters or make handprints. 

Use a toothpick or straw to make a hole at the top (to add yarn or ribbon to hang). 

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in a 250-degree oven for 2-8 hours (depending on size and thickness of ornaments, it took me 8 hours) until dough is completely dried out.  

Once ornaments are dried they can be painted with watercolor or acrylic paint, or decorated with glitter and glue, if desired. 

String with yarn or ribbon and hang on a Christmas tree or add to a gift as a fun embellishment.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tidy Home Tuesday: Week 5 - The Office/Spare Bedroom

Sorry, I kind of disappeared on this challenge! 

A few things happened... 

1) I have a small house, and I've noticed that it's much harder to find time to dig in to cleaning and organizing as I move closer to Jack's bedroom.  Because I'm left with rooms that are adjacent to his, I can't really clean during his naps for fear of waking him and of course setting aside enough time to clean a whole room while he's awake isn't very easy.  So I had to find time while Mark was home. 

2) The holidays snuck up on me and I found that it's much harder to get everything ready for Christmas when you're also tending to a baby! 

And 3) I didn't realize anyone was following along with me until they said something about it because no one was commenting ::side eye:: 

Moral of the story is, I'm hoping to get back on track now and finish up this challenge! 

This week's assignment is the Spare Bedroom. 

We happen to have ours set up as an Office/Dog Room/Place-to-throw-everything-we-don't-know-where-else-to-put.  If you're anything like me this room is probably filled with clutter and things that need organized and purged.  And, again if you're like me, you've been putting it off and ignoring the clutter. 

Let's get started. 

Here's before: 


Step 1:  De-clutter!

I don't even really have general guidlines for this... because I wasn't sure where to start for myself.  I just found a place adjacent to the only floor space still showing and started sorting things into piles: donations, trash, recycling, things that needed to be moved to the garage for storage (then it becomes Mark's problem!  Muahahaa!), etc.  Then, rehome things accordingly. 

We have a lot of different things in this room: books, mail stuff (envelopes and that sort of thing), office items (documents, paper shredder, supplies), and tons of craft things (paper cutters, art supplies, scrapbook paper, fabric, sewing supplies, yarn, etc. - and there's A LOT of  "et cetera"!).  Although I wasn't sure what exactly to do with it all, I just kind of grouped everything together as best I could and found a bin or drawer for it to call its own. 

Those two short paragraphs really don't describe the amount of time I spent in this room, but we'll move on. 

Step 2: Clean!

There wasn't a ton of cleaning to be done in here for me, but I did dust and vacuum, both of which desperately needed to be done.  If you have your spare bedroom set up as a guest room with a bed, now might be a good time to strip the bed and wash the sheets, which may have been sitting for a while. 

And after:

I still have to move out the bassinet that's sitting under the window.  That will go back into storage in my parent's basement and we're planning to put a toybox in that space to hold all of the toys that Jack got for Christmas!  Because... we don't have anywhere else to put them right now. 

And the big box in the corner of the last picture is holding a surround sound system, which has yet to be installed.  We need to do that so we can get that box out of there! 

But, things are looking so much better and hey!  There's a floor!

My goals for keeping the office clean:

Daily/Weekly/Monthly Task:  Don't dump stuff in there and put things back where they belong!  Seems like an easy task, but somehow this room always gets messed up again.  ::blushes::  I swear, if you dump just a few things in there they mate and you come back to a room out of control with clutter babies! 

Alright, let's see your spare bedrooms!

You have until next Tuesday, January 4th to complete the assignment and blog about it (feel free to right click and save my "Tidy Home Tuesday" graphic to use in your post!).  Come back to this post and link up to your post.  If you don't have a blog just leave a message in the comments about your progress!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Week of December 26th

I took an impromptu bloggy break last week as things got a little crazy with the holidays.  It is a lot more tiring now that we have to do all the usual Christmas preparations plus tend to a (near) 10-month-old!  Today, I will resume Menu Plan Monday and I'll get some pictures from Jack's very first Christmas posted very soon!

Let's try this again since I had my dates wrong! 

Sunday:  BW3-inspired Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wraps with Ranch Wedges

Monday:  Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Paninis

Tuesday:  Sloppy Joses with Elly's World Famous Black Beans

Wednesday:  Crunchy Honey Chicken with Brown Rice

Thursday:  BBQ Chicken Meatballs (from freezer) with Ranch Mac & Cheese and Steamed Green Beans

Friday:  New Year's Eve - not sure what I'm making yet, but I'm sure it'll be snacky things we can graze on all night!

Saturday:  Corned Beef and Cabbage

I'm linked over at

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Extended Rear-Facing

Extended Rear-Facing (ERF) is the act of keeping your child rear-facing in their car seat for as long as possible.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children should remain in a rear-facing car seat until at least 1 year of age and 20lbs.  If you ask most parents, this is the recognized threshold for when to turn your child around into a forward-facing position. 

Some parents turn the seat at this age because they think...

...that's when it should be done (that is the generally recommended guideline, after all).

...the child is no longer safe because their feet or legs are touching the back of the seat.'s easier to keep an eye on their child when they're facing forward.

...that their child is bored staring at the back of a seat while in the car.

...that their child is uncomfortable because their feet or legs are touching the back of the seat.

The truth is, rear-facing in a vehicle is the safest place for a child so it's beneficial to keep a child rear-facing for as long as possible. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain rear-facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.  There is no general rule for when to turn your child, but rather it depends on the model of car seat that you have. 

Convertible car seats vary in price, but most are safe for rear facing up to 35 pounds.  Some even go up to 45 lbs.  On average, a child will not reach 35 lbs until they are 3 to 4 years of age.  Check your car seat's guidelines for the specifics of your model's weight and height limits.

Why should you choose extended rear-facing for your child?

Car accidents are the leading cause of death among children under 14 years of age.  {source}

Rear-facing is safer in the event of a frontal or frontal-offset impact car crash.  According to Crashtest.Com, frontal and frontal-offset crashes combine for about 72% of severe crashes.  Side impacts are about 24%.  Rear and rear offset crashes only account for about 4%.  The odds of being in a frontal crash with a fatality or very serious injury are many times greater than being in a severe rear-end crash. {source}

Because of this, being in the proper position in the event of a frontal impact crash is of the utmost importance.  When a child is rear-facing in a car seat, the force of a frontal collision is spread throughout the child's body while it is cradled by the car seat, which protects the child's body, neck, head and organs and very importantly keeps the child's head from being snapped forward. 

A child's body is underdeveloped when compared with an adult's.  Their spinal column is comprised of both cartilage and bone making it more flexible than an adult's.  If a child's head is snapped forward in a collision it is much too easy for them to sustain spinal column injuries, which can leave them paralyzed or dead. 

Flexibility also allows for children to be more comfortable in a rear-facing position than many adults perceive.  Children can sit with their legs crossed in a car seat and still remain comfortable and safe.  There has been no research which shows that it's no longer safe to rear-face because a child's feet or legs can touch the back of a seat.  Car seat safety isn't about the position of a child's legs, it's about protecting their body, organs, head, and neck from trauma in the event of a car accident. 

Research from the AAP finds that children are up to 5 times safer when rear-facing in a car.  Data show that it is particularly important to keep children rear-facing between the ages of 1 and 2 years of age. 

In Scandinavian countries, children are often kept rear-facing much longer than in Europe or North America, even to 3 or 4 years old while ERF here is considered to be around 2 years of age.   Because of this, auto-related injury and death rates for rear-facing children in countries like Sweden are near zero. {source}

If you still need additional convincing that extended rear-facing is the best choice for your child, YouTube has numerous heart-wrenching videos regarding the importance of car seat safety both from a research standpoint and from the urging of families which have lost children or whose children have sustained life changing injuries because of car accidents. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Week of December 12th

Sunday:  Coney Dogs (CrockPot) with Tater Tots - didn't get to this last week because we ended up eating at a gathering!

Monday:  Loaded Potato Soup

Tuesday:  Mushroom and Provolone Patty Melts with Sweet Potato Fries

Wednesday:  Baked Potato Bar - Baked Potatoes, leftover Coney Sauce, Cheese, Sour Cream with Veggie

Thursday:  Asian Chicken over Sesame Noodles with Veggies

Friday:  OUT

Saturday:  BBQ Chicken Pizza - This was on the menu for last week, but we didn't end up eating it because I made a white pizza with leftover alfredo sauce instead.  I promised Mark we'd have it this week!

I'm linked over at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tidy Home Tuesday - The Bathroom

This week's assignment is The Bathroom. 

We only have one bathroom, and aside from being our only it's also tiny (and ugly, but that's a separate issue), so every inch of it gets used.  A lot.  Because it's used a lot it gets dirty fast.  Just like everything else around here, it's well past due for a deep cleaning so let's dig in. 

Here's a before:

Step 1:  De-clutter

Thankfully there's not a lot of extra stuff hanging around in this room, but I did take a few minutes to throw out any empty bottles that I leave hanging around much too long in the tub, empty toilet paper rolls that needed to be recycled and that sort of thing.  I also had to remove the random caulk-gun that's been sitting in our bathroom for several weeks from the toilet repair project my husband did at least a month ago.  You may also want to go through your drawers and cabinets to purge any outdated makeup, moisturizers, and other items. 

Step 2:  Clean

Wipedown countertops, faucet, sink, the mirror, cabinet doors, the entire outside of the toilet as well as the top and bottom of the lid and seat.

Clean the inside of the toilet with appropriate products.

If you have a window, clean that too.

Wipedown and scrub the tub and shower stall.  Now is also a good time to change out that gross shower curtain liner for a fresh one.  We're currently using the cheap plastic kind, but I think we're going to invest in a washable one soon. 

Wash shower curtain, towels, and rugs. 

Dry sweep and mop the floor.

And although it doesn't look much different in the picture, here's after:

I'm going to be honest here.  I hateHATE cleaning the bathroom.  It's the stupidest thing, but it really skeeves me out.  I feel like there are germs all over the place and that they get on me and I'm not cleaning anything, but actually just spreading the germs around.  I know it's irrational, but that's my bathroom cleaning confession. 

Because of this, my husband has always taken responsibility for the bathroom and I think I'm just going to have to keep relying on him for this one.  I'm going to try to nag encourage him to do it on a more regular basis and I'll help out by doing the in-between-cleans maintance.  Thanks in advance for keeping on top of it, honey!

My goals for keeping up with the bathroom: 

Daily Task:  Spray the shower down with a no-scrub spray to help keep it clean.  I'm planning to use the following recipe:

1/2 cup Hydrogen-Peroxide
1/2 cup Rubbing Alcohol
6 drops Liquid Dish Soap
2 teaspoons Liquid Spot-Free Dishwasher Rinse-Aid
24 oz. Water

Mix in a spray bottle and spritz around shower stall after every shower.  {source}

Here are a few other options.

Weekly Task:  Wipedown counter, sink, and faucet.

Bi-Weekly Task:  Clean toilet (inside), floor, and wash rugs.

Monthly Task:  Deep Clean - hubby's job :)

Alright, let's see your bathroom(s)!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Week of December 5th

Sunday:  French Onion Soup

Monday:  Fettucini Alfredo with Veggie

Tuesday:  Mom's Night Out!

Wednesday:  Chicken 'n Dumplings over Mashed Potatoes with Steamed Carrots

Thursday:  Meatball Subs with Veggie

Friday:  BBQ Chicken Pizza

Saturday:  Coney Dogs (CrockPot) with Tater Tots

I'm linked at 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tidy Home Tuesday... err Wednesday: Week 3 - Organization

This week I have something different to share.

We're kind of off schedule around here between the holiday weekend where we had places to go and people to see and food to eat, as well as Mark being home with us for 4 days, and this week we are busy with playdates and such.  Because of this, I'm going to slack on my cleaning (obviously I'm slacking because I didn't even post Tidy Home Tuesday until Wednesday!) and instead focus on organization. 

I decided that the best way for me to stay on top of the "extra" chores that I want to do after I get done with the daily things is to map it out on a calendar.  Here is what I came up with for me:

{Click Image to Enlarge}

 I also have a blank version that you can download {HERE} to fill in with the tasks that you need to complete in your household.

I'm planning to slide this into a plastic sleeve and then write in the dates over top of the chart so that I can easily find the corresponding day.  So, today is Wednesday, December 1st (December?!  Yikes!) and I can see that I have to dry sweep the kitchen at some point today.  Does that make sense?  I hope so. 

So, this is my plan to get my household tasks organized so that I know exactly what I need to get done each day in order to keep up with my goals.  I hope this is also helpful to someone else!