Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Time is Here!!

We are in full countdown mode in nanny land. The kids are all hopped up on Christmas cheer and with three advent calendars to keep up with and all the presents under the tree taunting them it's becoming more and more real.

I loved this link up idea so much!

I was raised in a family that loves Christmas. I know that about 95% of it comes from my mom and her happiness for Christmas. It was always and still is my most favorite time of the year.
Our Christmas begins Thanksgiving Night, after we get back or get done eating our Thanksgiving meal then we put up all the decorations or the tree. My mom would give us our first gift of Christmas and it would always be a new ornament. Then when you moved out of the house you would get a shoe box full of the ornaments to take with you and put on your future tree.
This year at my apartment I put up the decorations the weekend before Thanksgiving. Both my roommate and I were leaving for Thanksgiving and every weekend leading up to Christmas is packed for me, so I got it up while I had the chance.

A couple of my favorite things to do at Christmas time are watching ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas, no matter what there is some good Christmas movie on and even if I am not "watching" it, the noise is on and it just feels right.
Growing up we always went to Christmas Eve service at Church and then went out to eat at IHOP, who doesn't love a good breakfast meal to get in the spirit!
Then we go home and everyone would pick either to open one present or open their stocking and we would go around and do that. On my mom's side of the family we all draw names since there are so many of us and that is the person you get the "big gift" for. It's an easy way to ensure not everyone spends a ton of money and everyone gets a good gift. Then of course my grandma would give us all something cute and small.
The next morning we would wake up and my dad would set up the video camera as we opened presents. Every year someone was appointed "santa" and they would get the role of calling out the person's name and welcoming to the front of the room to open the present in front of everyone. This took about 2 hours with 6 people in the family, and longer if we were out in Phoenix with my mom's family but it was always fun.
Stockings at my Grandma's House....yes. It's that crazy.

And yes we are that family that wears matching shirts at Christmas (Hello Crazies)
We have other traditions such as driving around every single night leading up to Christmas looking at Christmas lights. As we are all getting older things are changing and life is making it more difficult to all get together. I cant wait to have my own family one day because I plan on implementing my own traditions.
Here is my list so far
1. Advent Books (wrap 24 books and read on each night before bed)
2. Christmas PJs (But I plan on making them for my kiddos)
3. Gingerbread House Making
4. Elf on the Shelf
5. The Christmas Tree Pickle (Hide the ornament in the tree and the first kid to find it gets a special present!)
The list will continue to grow as I spend hours on Pinterest looking at things.
 A lot of things I will keep though and I guess that's what makes a tradition, a tradition.
Make sure you link up and check out everyone else's posts!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Top 6 Ways to Keep Female Friendships Alive

As I get older I like to think that I get that much more wiser. I think it's just a combination of trying new things mixed in with learning from the past.

If you don't know my story then you need to know that I moved every 3 years of my life for my whole life. The longest I ever lived in one place was the 3 1/2 years I lived in St Augustine, Florida for college. I know what it's like to have to make new friends and have to say goodbye to friends you might not ever see again.

I have tons of friends (or so I think) and many live here in Atlanta and more live all over the world. I work 50 hours a week and I live 45 minutes away from work. This means I leave my house at 7am which is in the dark now, and get home around 7pm which is also in dark. That leaves very little time to connect with friends and spend time with them.

There is something to be said about a solid female friendship. We can cry together on the couch and eat ice cream, we can have lunch and talk about our deepest secrets, or we can dress up and just go out to dinner, because hey we want to. As I have gotten older I have realized how much intentionality matters when it comes to solid girl/woman friendship. Day to day stuff happens all the time and it makes it that much more important to see your girls when you can. So I have decided to give you to the top 6 ways that I intentionally keep those friendships alive.

1. Call and Call Often

Like I said, I have many friends who live all over the world. Luckily we are so blessed these days with the technology that allow them to be as accessible as possible. Two of my best friends are Mallory and Abby. We all met at Flagler in St Augustine and became great friends. Mallory still lives in Florida and Abby has just recently moved to North Carolina for Grad School. We don't talk all the time but usually every other week one of them or myself will pick up the phone and call the other. It doesn't have to be a super long discussion. Just a simple, "hey I miss you", or "you will not believe what just happened to me" conversation helps us to stay as in each other's lives as possible. Sometimes I just go through my phone and look for someone I haven't talked to in a while and call them just to check in on them. Those can turn into some of the best conversations I have all day. So pick up that phone and use it for something other then texting and social media.

2. Go Out on Planned Dates

Last February I met my great friend Kirsten. We both happened to be running in the same 5K and met through mutual friends. We instantly clicked over a 3 hour coffee date and spent a lot of time together through the spring and into summer. She got into nursing school and started this past fall and life has just become busy for us both. I called her last night to check in on her and talked about planning a couple of dinner dates surrounding the holidays. When life gets crazy sometimes you really just have to plan an actual date with your friends. She stopped by the house and we pulled up calendars and made two dinner dates between now and Christmas to make sure that we would see each other. We care about each other we just don't see each other often, so making a time set aside for that will help. It doesn't have to be fancy either, it could just be a Mexican dinner every other week.

3. Give Gifts

Who doesn't love the feeling when you get something for no good reason other then they thought about you and wanted you to know. I know I do. One time my roommate and best friend left me flowers and a card in my bathroom to thank me for something and I just about lost it because it meant so much to me. I want to make sure that my friends feel that way as often as I can. I love giving gifts. Whenever I am out shopping I am always on the look for something that one of my friends would love. About two months ago my friend Kristi came over to learn how to make apple pie. While we made pie she talked about the struggles she was going through and what the Lord was doing in her life. In that moment my heart was stirred for her. The next day I got online and ordered some flowers, put the lyrics to her favorite song Oceans on it and just signed it With Love. I didn't want it to be a big scene but I just wanted her to know she was loved. Eventually I told her it was me who sent them and she told me that the flowers is what helped her make the final decision to move to Italy to be a nanny for a year. Something as small as flowers. If you pass by something and it reminds you of someone, pick it up, give it to them. Let them know they are loved.

4. Pray for Them Always

This is probably one of the most important aspects of maintaining a solid female friendship. The power of prayer is stronger then we give it credit for. The bible doesn't say Pray Always as a suggestion, it's something to help us live by. I have been so honored to blessed with friends who know that no matter what is going on they can contact me for prayer. It always amazes me to see the fruit that comes when sisters or friends band together to pray for another one of their own. I see this all the time in all of my bible study women. In the business of our lives I can text all of them at once and know that in that moment about 10 or so women are praying on my behalf. I know that I too can be praying for them and for all of my friends. Anytime someone pops into my head I start praying knowing that the Lord will intercede on their behalf and do his will. Take the time, pray for your friends, it will bless them and it will bless you more then you know.

5. Be Spontaneous

Being a young twenty something makes me feel like I am getting older. At the same time I realize how young I am and how much more life I will get to live if the Lord allows it. As we get older more responsibility comes and comes, jobs, marriages, families, kids, the list goes on and on. My roommate and best friend Lindsey and I often take the time to spend together on Saturdays. It's when we both happen to be home at the same time. We go shopping or do whatever we want with no real agenda. Last weekend we went to Wal-Mart and spent an hour and a half walking around and having so much fun. I am sure we looked ridiculous but in that moment we were just 23 year olds having a good time. It was some of the most fun I had in a long time and we both just ended up laughing and giggling our way through the store. Every now and then I get a night where I have nothing to do. Instead of sitting at home I will go through my phone and see if someone wants to go see a movie or do something, why? Because at this age I can. I am choosing to spend my time with my friends before life catches up too quickly and the opportunity is gone.

6. Go Out of Your Way

This can be one of the most challenging and rewarding things on this list. I learned early on that it's not about me but about them. In a world that's all about me me me, this can be extremely hard. Pride takes on a big role in our lives and it's so easy to forget about the other person. I find though that if you continually put yourself aside and go our of your way for another person, eventually they will start doing the same and a beautiful thing emerges. Whenever I plan a date or something I try to make it as easy on the other person as possible. If I want to spend time with them then I will do whatever it takes to do that. Drive an hour just to have dinner? Yes. Why? It shows them how much they actually mean to me. I want my friends to feel loved and to do that I need to set myself aside and really show love not the fake stuff that only happens when you "happen" to get together or see each other. But the real love that is intentionally seeking after them and challenging them as you allow them to challenge you. Put yourself aside. It's not about you anyways. I promise in the end you'll reap the rewards.

So there you have it. That's how I keep my friendships alive. It's pretty easy and the pay offs are huge. I know that in the drop of a hat I have a long list of friends who would come to help me or be with me just I need ask. I would do the same for them.

Have a great Friday!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Christmas Prep - Kids Edition

Next week is Thanksgiving. Crazy. I will be stuffing my face all day then that evening will retreat into my apartment to decorate and allow Christmas to come to life!

Last week I did a post called Prepping for Christmas, where I showed off the Pins that I found that I wanted to do for my house which even led to me making these wonderful things! You can check out that post here.
Well this past weekend and earlier this week I went on and found a few crafts that I want to do with the kids to make this house festive. Their parents make it really festive with many Christmas Trees and decorations, but I know that a touch of hand prints and glued on cotton balls will make it that much more awesome.
So here are my top pins for Christmas Crafts for Kids.
These are super cute and look really easy and the kids can just make them in all different styles to be unique. Pin Here

These look so simple and allows the kids to use as much or little creativity as they want, which on any day could vary quite a bit. Pin Here

W made something like this in Preschool last year and when he brought it home I thought the girls were going to pass out from excitement. We do a large advent calendar upstairs with goodies and prizes but I think we will all make these this year as well. Pin Here

We have tons and tons of popsicle sticks, usually I come to work after a weekend and there are houses constructed out of them and glue and markers. So why not use them for these cute Christmas Trees. Pin Here
These as well. Pin Here

Add all these to the list as well. Pin Here

I just about died when I found this Pin, how adorable, the kids are going to giggle so much  making these I just know it! Pin Here

This last one is of another set of crafts to do, I haven't really gone through it yet but I really like what I see in the pictures so I am sure I can find a few that will work for us. Pin Here

I'm sure that will keep us busy for a bit, we did a few crafts last year but I wasn't really blogging at the time, I wish I was!
The kids are about to come bounding off the bus so I better go get ready.
It's Hump Day!!! Woot woot!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bread and Butter

It's Tell Us Tuesday with Much Ado About Something! Today I am showing how to make homemade butter with kids!

Much Ado About Somethin

Two of my kiddos came home from school last week after doing Thanksgiving rotations. In both cases they were able to make Butter using little baby Jars and spread it on some crackers to enjoy. They both came home so excited and told me that "we must make some together!!!" So yesterday as I was getting up I packed up my Mason Jars and lids and then remembered my bread machine that sits in the laundry room and grabbed that as well.

When I got to the house S was home sick, which makes the 5th week with a kid home sick. I am sure she could have gone to school the way she was attempting to bounce around the house, but I told her she had to lay on the couch and rest so she could go for the rest of the week.

About 3 hours before the kids got home I prepared the bread in the bread machine. This appliance is probably still one of my favorites, so easy to use and it makes some amazing bread.

I also sat the Heavy Whipping cream in the mason jars to sit out at room temperature for a few hours. This helps to make the butter quicker and easier, which is just what is needed for those little hands shaking.

You start out by filling the mason jar about half way full.

Then start a shaking and keep shaking, it will get thicker and eventually coat the entire jar.

The kids have fun with the shaking!

And of course they had to get a picture of me.

It will seem like you can't shake anymore but just keep shaking you are not done yet. Eventually you will see it come off the sides cleans and you will hear a solid shaking around in some liquid. That would be the butter in the buttermilk.

Then pour it into a colander and you can save the buttermilk to bake with or just toss it.

Then rinse it with some cold water to help it keep longer in the fridge.

Then I put it in a bowl and start pressing it with a spoon to get all of the extra moisture out and eventually it will all ball together.

We added some salt to taste in a couple batches and then some cinnamon and sugar to a couple other batches. 

Then we transferred them to some containers and of course everyone had to have their own.

Can we talk about that school and couch laying hair?!?! Haha next time I am going to make sure to comb that out!

By that time the bread was done and cooling a bit on the cutting board.

I used a serrated knife and cut some slices and put them on a plate and covered half with the regular butter and the other half with the cinnamon butter. They loved every bit of it and each had a second piece.

It was really easy and the kids had a good bit of fun. We even have butter leftover sitting in the fridge ready to be used for breakfast and the butter sandwiches they eat for lunch. We go through a lot of butter every day.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Mini Banana Bread

A few weeks ago my rooms asked me if I could make some banana bread because she had some left over bananas. At the time I didn't have all of the ingredients and I didn't want to go to the store.

A couple weekends ago while spending time with my kiddos we went to Michaels where I found some awesome Mini-Loaf Pans. They were only $1.25 with sales and coupons. So I got 6 naturally. I knew I wanted to make some mini breads and I figured banana would be the best.

Mini Banana Breads

Dry Ingredients
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour

Wet Ingredients
1 stick butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 large, ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup buttermilk

Makes 4 mini loaves

Preheat oven to 350

I didn't have any ripe bananas but I really wanted to make this bread so I took four bananas and put them on a pan in the oven at 350 for an hour. The bananas will turn completely black on the outside but in the end they will be ripe and ready for bread.

If you have ripe bananas though use those things!
Next take the butter and sugar and cream them together.

Add the eggs, bananas and buttermilk. (I just put my bananas in because I like my banana bread a little chunky, if you want it smooth make sure you mash them up well)

Then add in all of the dry ingredients.

Then prepare your four mini loaf pans. I like to use Crisco so that at the end those breads come right out, but you can use some cooking spray as well.

Fill up those pans by dividing the batter between the four pans.

Cook them for about 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick or fork or knife come out clean.

Let them cool a bit then you can pop them out and put on a cooling rack. They are good to go after that you can eat them warm like I did!

Just make sure you watch out for little puppies who are tempted by the delicious smelling banana breads, because if you leave the room for a second they might attempt to help themselves. (And they might actually get a piece)

Super simple and super yummy!!!