Christmas Traditions as a Family of Three

by Michelle

Once we became a family of three, I was excited to start traditions with our daughter.  For Penelope's first Christmas, we started the tradition of having her gifts from Santa delivered in a Santa sack with her name on it and the presents inside are unwrapped.  I do love wrapping gifts, but not when they are odd shaped so the Santa sack was perfect for those hard to wrap gifts.  I purchased a Santa sack on (seems like it's no longer available) and then took it to a local embroidery shop in Arkansas to have Penelope's name added to it and here's a picture from her first Christmas with her Santa sack filled with toys!

Penelope loves books, so for her second Christmas, we started a tradition of having her unwrap a Christmas book every night before bedtime.  When we started this tradition, we didn't have very many Christmas books and I didn't want to spend tons of money buying new books, so I purchased a few at a local used bookstore and then borrowed some from the library.  We have a version of "The Night Before Christmas" that is child-friendly, so that one is opened on Christmas Eve along with new pajamas for all three of us to wear that night to bed.  The pajama tradition is one that I got from my in-laws in Ohio that my husband and I continued once we were married.  This year the 23 books wrapped in Christmas paper are in a wood crate that I painted and distressed.  Starting on December 1st, Penelope will pick and unwrap a book at bedtime leading up to Christmas Eve. 

Here are a couple of our favorites from the past two years:

Thanks to after Christmas sales and used bookstores, we have more than enough Christmas books but I will continue to add to our collection as her reading level begins to grow.  Here are two books that are new for us this year:

As I look back on my childhood at Christmas time, the one thing that got me into the Christmas spirit was baking and decorating sugar cookies.  Last year was the first time for Penelope to get in on some of the action and I look forward to her helping decorate cookies with me again this year.  Last year life was crazy with moving into our rental house, so I purchased pre-cut sugar cookie dough from GFS and just baked them.  They were very tasty and I'll be getting them again this year since I'm not sure when our kitchen will be fully functioning prior to Christmas.  Penelope didn't have any interest in icing the cookies.  Instead, she enjoyed adding the various sprinkles on top.  Isn't she a cute little cookie decorator?

Have you started any new traditions with your kids or have you continued a family tradition from your childhood?

April Fool's Day - Time to Stop Fooling Around

by Michelle

It's time to stop fooling around, and I'm not talking about people who choose today to play a practical joke on someone. I'm talking about myself. Time for me to stop fooling around with my health and do my part to avoid the health issues that I have inherited. It's time that I truly make a lifestyle change and make it one that I want my daughter to have.
With the summer months closely approaching, I have decided to try a new skin care system that I have heard women rave about how they now feel better about leaving the house without makeup. In the summer, I completely hate wearing makeup since I get hot and sweat and my makeup ends up on my phone when I use it as a phone and not a social media device. With a little girl who seems to love the park, I predict many sweaty days and I don't want to worry about my makeup sweating off my face. This new skin care is not cheap, so since I don't plan on wearing makeup, I hope it's not much of an impact overall. I do still plan to wear eyeshadow and eyeliner....maybe mascara, which I typically don't use.
Sadly, I'm not hitting the ground running with a full on plan. I have not figured out what my workout plan will be. One thing I have done, is started menu planning and I plan to get more then just week at a time planned since this is a task I don't enjoy doing. Menu planning is more than just dinner, I need to do mine and our daughter's daily breakfast and lunch. This is a big task and one that I hope eventually gets easier.

My First 18 Months of Being a Mommy

by Michelle

Well, I managed to survive 18 months of being a mommy to our sweet little girl. Overall, I have yet to decide whether or not being a mommy has come naturally to me. Maybe someone else can answer that. What I can say, is that I think I am a little more of a relaxed parent than what some of my friends thought I would be. Yes, I am one to freak out over small things, but I am willing to let our daughter explore and kind of learn on her own. As she's climbing on things and experiencing life, I have my phone out and taking a picture or video and hoping that this is not the time she goes crashing down and a trip to the ER is made.

I remember the night before I was being induced. The control freak in me was happy and somewhat calm knowing that soon we would be holding our little girl in our arms. At times, the thought of a tiny, little baby in my arms scared me. The self-doubt of can I really help raise and care for another human being would just take over and then knowing that my husband would be right there with me, helped ease those worries.
Overall, our daughter has been good baby. Yes, she has her moments when she is unhappy and yes, it took us some time to learn her cues and be able to understand what she was needing. I have been very blessed to have the opportunity to stay at home with our daughter since mid to late April of last year. During these months I have learned and am still learning what kind of mother she is needing me to be. She has also helped me realize even more that I need to do a better job at not losing my patience. As our daughter has morphed into what some call a toddler, my need for patience has increased. Once I came to the understanding that for the most part, her 'toddler tantrums' were a result of her being frustrated, my goal is to remain calm in hopes that it helps her to calm down and ensures her that I am there for her.

During these first 18 months, Dan has been out of town very little with his job and I am extremely grateful for that. I am not sure how single parents do it. It has been a fun and challenging 18 months and I look forward to continuing to grow as a mother, as our daughter continues to grow into a little girl.

Goodbye 2012 and Hello 2013

by Michelle

Yes, it is the end of the year and time to reflect on the year that is ending and think about the year ahead of us.  While 2011 was mostly spent trying to be prepared for being a parent, 2012 was 100% being a parent and I still have so much to learn about what kind of mother our daughter needs me to be.  So what would I like 2013 to be like?  More sanity and less insanity.  

To help with my sanity, I want to be able to stop feeling guilty about no being superwoman.  There will be days where my daughter needs me more and that will result in me not getting something done on my To-Do list.  For the most part, things can wait a few minutes, hours or even days.  This is something I really need to work on realizing.  Another big help to my sanity is to become more organized.  I am not expecting to have the spotless home that could be seen on pages of House Beautiful.  My goal is to be able to find things in a timely manner and have a system for being able to leave the house with everything I need for where I am going.

Just like many others out there, I do wish to lose weight and get healthier.  I have even posted here on my blog about this and really this is just something I want to always focus on.  Not really focusing on certain numbers, even though I do want to get to a particular weight, but once I'm there, focusing on being a positive influence for an active and healthy lifestyle for our daughter.  One of the items on my Christmas wish list was a jogging stroller and I received gift certificates towards the purchase of one.  Now I just need to purchase one and get my daughter and I out on some walking/jogging trails. So before 2013 is said and done, I would like to be happier with my appearance and therefore spending more time in front of the camera instead of always hiding behind the camera.  Looks like I will be spending some of my Christmas money on a tripod and remote for my new camera!

2013 will have it's fair share of insanity and not just with a little girl who will turn two in September.  2013 will be the year that I open my own little business on Etsy.  At first it will just be a few little girl clothing items and burp cloths.  As the year progresses and things go well, I will add to the collection.  I do not have a particular grand opening date set because I need to accomplish some of that organization goal.  Prior to getting this business up and running, I need to create a space for my sewing that does not include our dining table.  Our dining table will actually be used for dining since a certain little girl likes to climb onto our laps and eat what we are eating after she has had her own dinner.

One final hope for 2013 is that I do a better job at blogging.  I am not going to set myself up for failure and say that I'm going to try and blog everyday or a certain number of times a week or month.  My goal is more often and not just a post on what our meal plan is for the week and who won in our weekly weight loss challenge weigh-in.

So here's to gaining some sanity in 2013!


Weight Loss Challenge and Meal Plan - Weeks Four and Five

by Michelle

Holiday prep is in full force at our house and therefore skipped last weeks post.  The winner of the fourth week of the Weight Loss Challenge was the husband and I had to watch a movie without distractions.  I do not even recall the name of the movie, but it was an old movie with the Marx's Brothers and I thought it was cheesy.

The winner for the fifth week of the Weight Loss Challenge is ME!!!  I have most almost 10 pounds, 9.8 to be exact and I saw a new middle number, so I was happy about that.

Here is our meal plan for this week:

Monday - Chicken Patty and Sweet Potato Fries

Tuesday - Pork Tenderloin

Wednesday - Turkey Chili

Thursday - Baked Shrimp

Friday - Happy Camper Cheeseburger Crumble

Saturday - Chicken Nuggets

Sunday - Holiday Open House


Weight Loss Challenge and Meal Plan - Week Three

by Michelle

There was no winner for the second week of our weight loss challenge.  We decided to still weight in and there would be no winner or loser.  The husband did gain weight and I lost almost half a pound.  Now I just hope something crazy does not happen and I end up gaining weight.

It's Tuesday night and I am just now getting to our meal plan.  Our little girl ended up getting a stomach bug, so I spent most of Monday morning cleaning up vomit.  When I was not cleaning up vomit, I was cuddling with my little girl.  Today she is getting better and slept most of the day.  So here's our meal plan for this week:

Monday - Cheddar Brats with Mac and Cheese

Tuesday - Schwan's Frozen Pizza

Wednesday - Maple-Garlic Marinated Pork Tenderloin

Thursday - Turkey Mignon and veggies

Friday - Chicken Fajitas

Saturday - Creamy Pasta Bake

Sunday - Happy Camper Cheeseburger Crumble


Saw It, Pinned It, Did It - Fall Wreath

by Michelle in

To get us into the spirit of fall, I decided to make a wreath for our house and as always, I came across tons of pins on Pinterest.  This particular pin linked to a site that has links to 15 different fall themed wreaths.


From the list of 15 fall wreath ideas, I decided on this one and here is the original blog post with the instructions on how to make the wreath.


Hobby Lobby is typically having sales on flowers and wreath forms, so I managed to wait a few weeks and ended up getting most, if not all of the supplies on sale!

So here is my grapevine vine wreath and the floral pieces to make my wreath.

wreath supplies.jpg

The first step was getting the big flowers to stay on the wreath.  I used the same method as the blogger who created the original wreath which was to wrap floral wire between petals and then twisting the ends of the wire around itself and then tucking the ends up into the grapevine.

Step One.jpg

The next step was adding the little berry sprigs.  I clipped the small bunches off the main branch and then hot glued them to the grapevine.  Prior to actually gluing anything, I placed the berry bunches along the grapevine and make slight adjustments prior to glueing them.  To glue the bunches, I added hot glue to the bottom of the sprig and then stuck the end of the sprig into the grapevine.  As the blogger mentioned in her post, it is very tempting to stop here and not add the fuzzy things.

Step Two.jpg
Since I was tempted to not add the fuzzy things and because I am a perfectionist, I cut the fuzzy things off the main branch and just stuck them throughout the wreath prior to hot gluing.  It is amazing how much of a difference those little fuzzy things make i the overall look of the wreath!
Step Three.jpg
This wreath was simple to make and I just love how it looks next to our front door!
Wreath Hanging.jpg

Weight Loss Challenge and Meal Plan - Week Two

by Michelle in , ,

The winner of week one's weight loss challenge was me!!!  My husband lost just over 1% of his body weight and I lost almost 2% of my body weight.  Not sure how this week will go with Thanksgiving festivities, so it should be interesting to see who wins next week.  My goal is basically not to gain based on the punishment list!

Here's this week's meal plan:

Monday - Chicken Enchiladas (same recipe from last week)

Tuesday - Pork Chops and veggies

Wednesday - Annual Thanksgiving Eve Dinner with friends

Thursday - Thanksgiving Day!

Friday - Family in town

Saturday - Family in town

Sunday - Maple-Garlic Marinated Pork Tenderloin


Weight Loss Challenge and Meal Plan - Week One

by Michelle in ,

The husband and I began our weight loss challenge today and confirmed the rules of this challenge last night.  Here are the rules:

  • Weigh-in takes place on Sunday mornings at 7am
  • Weigh-ins are tracked on a spreadsheet that both contestants are able to access
  • Winner is decided based on percentage of body weight lost (previous weight - current weight)/previous weight
  • A winner can only win 3 consecutive times
  • The winner gets to choose something for the loser to do within the week that is not related to our child because doing something with our child should not be considered a punishment.  Examples: taking out the garbage, cleaning toilets, cleaning shower, laundry, watching certain movies WITHOUT distractions, etc
  • In the event that both lose the same percentage, nothing happens
  • In the event that either person gains weight, the individual gets to choose from the following list of pre-determined punishments along with their loser task: (punishment can not be reused until all have been used by the individual)
    • No screen time for one day (TV, Computer, iPad, iPhone, not related to communication
    • No other beverages besides water and coffee for the week
    • No meal outside of the home for the week
    • 2 hours of physical activity within the week
    • 2 servings of green vegetables a day for the week

Here is our meal plan for the week:

Monday - Hearty Cheese Soup

Tuesday - Chicken Enchiladas

Wednesday - Garlic Lime Pork Chops and veggies

Thursday - Sloppy Joes and Sweet Potato Fries

Friday - Tenderloin with Herb Sauce and veggies

Saturday and Sunday morning - Overnight Breakfast Casserole

Saturday - Shrimp Linguini

Sunday - Chicken - Chili Casserole