Thursday, January 8, 2015

Annual Gift Giving Trackers with Free Printables

I know we are well beyond the Christmas season now, but I made a recent update to some of our holiday Home Management Binder printables and thought you might like them too.

I think we've all seen gift trackers that help keep us on budget and on schedule when it comes to holiday gifting.  I personally used Jen's this year, but the purpose for these is a little different.

We have a lot of cousins/nieces/nephews and sometimes I come across a great gift that I either want to remember to send them another year (because it won't be appropriate until they're a little older), or I can't remember if I've already gifted it to them on a previous occasion.  

So, I came up with this tracker to help me remember the gifts I've given in the past and to keep track of gift ideas for the future.  I write a different recipient's name in each of the blank spots on the top row, then I fill in the gift we sent that year.  If there's a gift I want to send when they're a little older I pencil that in the appropriate year's slot.  Tastes and interests change, so embrace the pencil! 
You can download a copy of the Christmas Gift Tracker HERE.  Print off as many sheets as you need to cover all those special peeps.

I realized this helped me remember how we gave during a given Christmas, but I could have given a gift during a birthday too.  So, I made another gift tracker for that which includes birthdays 1-18 years.  You can grab a copy of the Birthday Gift Tracker HERE(Something funky is going on with the title/header on the PDF version, so you can download the EXCEL document HERE)

Do you have a go-to gift for certain genders or ages?  How do you keep track of all those great gift ideas?  We do a lot of giving through Amazon since all of our family lives out of state, and as I was attempting to update these I was relieved to see that I could track my orders through Amazon pretty far back.  It's a start!


Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Monday, January 5, 2015

Hello 2015!

Hey there!  I know for many of you today was the Monday of all Mondays as you went back to work and school after a nice Christmas break.  I hope it wasn't too painful and that you're now relaxing with some wine or beer or tea or whatever is your happy place.

About three weeks ago I called an indefinite time out on the homeschooling (hello 9th month of pregnancy).  We took our time decorating and tried not to kill ourselves making and mailing Christmas gifts. We barely succeeded in the not dying part.  Maybe that's what Sully's praying about in our family Christmas photo...


All I have to say is next year Amazon and I are going to be holiday BFF's.  I'm sure I sound like my grandmother here, but when did shipping get so pricey?!?   

I feel like we've been switching between Christmas mode and baby prep for the past few weeks and it had me completely stressed.  Of course my list of things to do was ridiculous and only a couple of items were actually necessary before the baby arrives.  But that crippling feeling of ohmygoshwehavesomuchtodoandnotimetodoit overshadowed the end of 2014 and it's not how I want to enter or operate in the new year.

The new year always feels like such a fresh start.....like mercies that are new every morning on the grandest scale.   I've spent a lot of time with blank notebooks and an empty planner reflecting, listening, and jotting notes.    

Although the ideas are still swirling, they all seem to have a common theme: simplify.  When I think about applying that to the different areas of our life everything in me just screams "YES".   I debated typing out all the ways I hope to do that in the coming year, but we're expecting this little lady any day now...


...and she sort of trumps all the plans.

Becoming a house for six is just one of the changes happening for our family this year.  I'm saving some of those updates for posts when our bambina arrives, but we'll definitely be doing some house tweaking and adapting some household systems in the coming year.

One of the big themes of this blog has always been getting creative in making your house work for you, not the other way around.  I'm excited to get back to that.  Over the past couple years we've also tried to embrace a more simple way of living - more of what we truly love and need, less of the rest.  All things that will carry over into 2015 for our House For SIX!

I guess we really do need to do something about that header....
 

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Posts From 2014!

Happy (almost) New Year!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are still enjoying some time off!  We're attempting to put our house back in order after the wrapping paper bombs.....and I'm about ready to throw out all the sugary treats because even though I feel awful with every bite, I. just. can't. stop. 

Aside from the holiday cookie binging, we'll continue to celebrate the Christmas season through Epiphany on Jan 6th.  Which means most of our decorations are still up....although the tree known as "fire hazard" is getting the boot this week.

We're also due for a good Christmas decor purge before packing it all away.  We kept things simple this year and only pulled out about 1/2 of our decorations.  It was nice and I really didn't miss the rest.  I've got that New Year's urge to get organized and purge, coupled with some serious nesting. So, while we savor these last days of the season with a little nesting/purging on the side, here's a look back at our most popular posts from 2014....

#1
I'm always curious to see which posts top the list and this year it was a pretty well rounded mix.  The chart topper went to the last post in a series I started at the end of 2013.  Our 31 Days of Moving is still one of our most popular series and this final post on Staying Organized On Moving Day with a full printable moving binder is king at numero uno.
 


#2
Our house in NM was our first playground for any sort of DIY home improvement projects.  The learning curve was steep and it forced me to fight my inner perfectionist.  It's scary to think how much we would have missed if we hadn't been willing to welcome others into our imperfect spaces and lives.  I wrote about it in Letting Your Messy All Hang Out


 #3
Our Gold RASKOG Cart Makeover is #3!   This wasn't our first spruce up effort on this cart but it's my favorite.  This thing is so versatile and I still use it all over the house.
 fantastic DIY office makeover!


#4
Sometimes the most simple tweaks make the biggest difference.  I wondered if sharing this simple trick for keeping your curtains from sliding all over the rod was even worthy of a post, but it turns out you all liked it too.
Such a simple way to keep your curtains from sliding all over the bar


#5
Moving into a new home left us feeling all nostalgic over leaving our first "fixer" of a house.  We spilled our 7 Lessons Learned From Our First DIY House and they still ring true for us today!


#6
One of my favorite projects in my office was this Letter Writing Station we put together for Mia.  She loves writing notes to her friends and family (both near and far) and we loved gathering everything she needed in one sweet spot. 
Letter writing station for a little correspondent


#7
Pulling from our lessons learned, one of the first things we tackled in the new house was the floors on the main level.  I'm SO GLAD we did, but it was no easy task.  We had some lovely curves to deal with and this post on Working With A Curved Step was a popular read!

 #8
Squashing The Need Machine is one of those posts that I just keep coming back to.  I felt prompted to write it after an eye opening trip to one of my favorite shopping spots about how we fight the constant battle in our hearts over what we truly need. 
tips when you feel like you don't have enough


#9
Number 9 is our Home Office Makeover! There were so many fun and easy DIY projects here.  It's sort of ironic that it started out as a little girl's room by the previous owners.  We transformed it into my office, and now it's in the process of going back to a little girl haven as we prepare for baby #4.
 fantastic DIY office makeover!


 #10
Rounding things out at number 10 is one of the less fun/easy and more annoying-but-totally-worth-it projects for that office:  Working With A Bad Bead Board Installation. We had to get a bit creative with this one, but we managed to avoid ripping out all the existing bead board and fixed the poor installation job.

Fixing gaps in beadboard


2014 was full of big changes for our family - an unexpected cross country move, a new house, new schools, new city, shifting to homeschool, and discovering that we would soon be a house for six.  More changes are in store for 2015 and I love this time of year when we can look back but also dream ahead.  I can't wait to share a bit of what's in store for the blog and our family in 2015!  I'm sure there will also be plenty of the unexpected/surprises in the coming year, both good and more challenging, but I feel so grateful for this space to share it.  Thank you for reading...for commenting...for sharing...for your encouragement.   They mean so much to me and I don't take a single one for granted. 


Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Around Our Home

I knew this year would be a year of less.  With a baby due in just 3 weeks there's no way I was going to tackle a mountainous to-do list.  Of course, that didn't stop me from making one and somehow thinking I could pull off a grand holiday home and get a nursery done.  I'm laughing at myself now but at the time it seemed totally doable.   #nestinglies
 
So this year I had to let go of my lofty expectations early on.  In truth, I struggled the entire season of Advent - it became a daily choice to take things slow and not force the decorations or our calendar.   I wanted each thing we did to have purpose and actually be enjoyable, especially for our kids.  Even if it wasn't perfect.

Like the joy of decorating a tree just for your room without mom "fixing" your ornament arrangement....

And using pom poms as a tree skirt so your bird can have a nest.
 
A quiet "waiting for baby" corner that reminds us of how we've been blessed with another incredible gift.



A place for a little fun...



And a touch of whimsy I can keep up all winter long...


Deciding not to the paint fireplace even though I really, really wanted to (as only a 37 week nesting DIY fanatic can) and making do with an old door, some twine, and some clothes pins.


Using what we had to make our first Advent wreath and hanging the kids favorite colorful ornaments in the window instead of on the tree.

And reminders that this is a sacred and holy time....even if my heart is struggling to stay there.

I hope that however your home or calendar or lack of baking went down this year, that you're able to lean into these next couple of days.  That the awe of this holiday and the enormity of it's gift slows your pace.  That you are surrounded and restored by the love of family and a God whose love for you knows no bounds.  We wish you a very Merry Christmas!


Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chocolate Toffee Caramel Bars & Our Holiday Dessert Round-Up!

We just finished our final round of holiday baking and boy did we save the most addictive for last.  These Chocolate Toffee Caramel Bars are no joke.  They have the ability to ignite some primal survival mode in which you will lie, hoard, and drop kick smaller persons in order to preserve them for yourself.

My friend's aunt sent a care package with these on our first deployment.  My gracious and clearly delusional friend said we could grab one from under her cot where she stored them "whenever we wanted".  A ridiculous scene followed in which a handful of us would attempt to sneak over to her area and steal a piece (or five) without being noticed by the others. Those suckers were gone as fast as they came.

We begged her for the recipe and have been making them ever since.  And the best part is they're surprisingly easy to make.

Wanna try some for yourself?  Of course you do. 
(If you want to spare yourself the 10 extra pounds you will inevitably gain from this recipe, you can skip it and scroll down to our holiday dessert round-up!  Which also won't help in the waistline department, but your tummy will be happy.)
 

You'll need all this good stuff and few other things....

Ingredients:
1 package Moist Supreme Butter Cake Mix (I've also used a yellow cake mix)
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
12 oz package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup Heath chocolate covered toffee bits

1/2 cup butter
Approx 32 soft caramels (I buy one bag of Worther's)
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (heavy cream works too)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 baking pan.  In a large bowl combine the cake mix, oil and eggs.  Blend well.  Stir in chips and candy bar pieces - the mixture will be very thick. 

Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the greased pan and bake for 10 min.


Meanwhile, combine the butter, caramels, and cond. milk in a medium saucepan.  Heat on med-low stirring continuously until melted and smooth. Slowly pour the caramel mixture evenly over the partially baked crust. 

I prefer a thinner caramel center, so I only use half of this mixture and save the other half for another batch.

Place the remaining dough on top of the caramel layer.  This is the toughest part because the sauce is hot and it's hard to spread anything over it without messing up the bottom layer.  So, the best way I've found is to dip my fingers in a bit of flour and then flatten small chunks of dough at a time.

I place the flattened piece of dough on top of the caramel and continue this until the caramel is covered. 

It's fine to have a couple of small gaps.

Then it goes back in the oven for an additional 20-25 min or until the top is set and the edges are golden brown

Gently run a knife around the sides and cool for 45 minutes.  It's easiest to cut these into bars once they are completely cool and set, so we put the pan in the fridge for an additional 30 min or so and then cut. 

Then, we devour them.

You can download a printable version right here.


And just in case you missed any of the sugar-laden holiday yumminess from the past couple weeks and the archives, I've got a round up of our favorite holiday treats.  Time to get your bake on!

Yummy round up of easy holiday desserts!

These Chocolate Mint Cookies are a holiday staple around here.  You can find the recipe at allrecipes.com.  The only change we made is instead of breaking off a piece of Andes chocolate and placing it on the hot cookie to melt, we melt a cup of these baking chips in a bowl and spoon some over the top.  YUM.

We shared our family recipe and top tips for getting soft, chewy, melt-in-your mouth sugar cookies that still keep their shape.


This Classic Apple Crisp recipe from my aunt is just the absolute best....and totally flexible to your tastes/preferences.

If you love pecan pie but have an issue with large nuts in your dessert, or you just love pecan pie, then this recipe for Pecan Bars is for you.

Looking for something on the lighter side?  These Lemon Bars are a childhood staple at our home and a refreshing after dinner treat.

I don't think you can ever go wrong with a coffee flavored dessert.  This recipe for Cappuccino Cake looks and tastes uber fancy without all the fancy work.

This Salted Chocolate Shortbread recipe is something a little different, and completely divine.

And last but not least, these Orange Chocolate Chippers give a little zing to your average chocolate chip cookie. And they are the softest in the land.


Whether you're baking, wrapping, traveling, or resting, I hope you enjoy this last weekend before Christmas!


Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!
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