Sheriff Callie Party

I know I’m a little behind on sharing A’s December birthday party but I figured while I’m on a roll, I may as well back track!  She requested a Sheriff Callie party and I’m typically pretty opposed to character parties but I thought I could probably run with a cowgirl theme so I agreed.  Of course our first step was to snap some photos for her invitations.  I stumbled upon the cutest little flea market outside of town that looked like a mini old west town from the outside so we loaded up and took advantage of the scenery.

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I designed a quick and colorful invitation in photoshop and sent it off to my print company.  The above photo was the back and the front was this:

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We used our trusty ole tablecloth trick to transform our garage into the ole west.  We picked a blue color to look like sky and my mother had the idea to use cotton to make clouds.  The result was pretty adorable!  I knew early on that I wanted to make an old west town out of appliance boxes for the party so I called me local Lowe’s and asked them to save me a few refrigerator and washer/dryer boxes.  They called within days saying they had a few and we went to work cutting and painting them.  We made a bank, Ella’s saloon, Uncle Bun’s store, and of course the Sheriff’s station and jail.  I had my husband cut a walkway between a refrigerator box and a dryer box so that we could connect them.  That way when the Sheriff had to throw someone in jail, they had to go through the station door.  We used a box cutter to make the bars and tin foil to give them a metallic look.

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We took pictures of her stuffed animals and added them to wanted posters in photoshop then printed them in sepia tone and taped them inside the sheriff’s station and the outside door.  I used scrapbook paper that looked like old distressed wood from Hobby Lobby for the bank and sheriff’s station doors.  We bought fake money at dollar tree for the kids to play with in the bank, plastic cups and pitcher (also from dollar tree) for the saloon, and brought out some play kitchen foods and shopping bags for the general store.  It’s amazing how much fun kids can have in cardboard boxes!

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As our guests arrived, we got them all fitted in bandanas, cowboy hats, and deputy badges. We got the foam hats in black and brown at dollar tree and the bandanas at Hobby Lobby.  Because they were so large and the majority of our guests were under 5, we cut each bandana into 4th’s.  This was cost efficient and they fit much better on little ones.  The deputy badges came from Hobby Lobby as well.  We also gave each guest a little drawstring canvas bag from oriental trading to keep their gold nuggets in from the panning for gold station.

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Because our party was in the afternoon, we served sweet snacks rather than an actual meal.  We choose flavored popcorns from a local gourmet popcorn shop and put them in little cow print favor bags from Hobby Lobby.  We also made s’more pops by putting large marshmallows on a skewer, dipping them in melting chocolates, and then covering in sprinkles.  These were a huge hit as were the chocolate coins. I raided our American Girl collection and thought this Our Generation horse stable was the perfect addition to our table.  We used it to hang onto our snacks.  12322645_1229405073752640_166357767555459773_o

I found those awesome fabric garlands on clearance at Michael’s for around $3 each and knew I couldn’t pass them up.  We found the tissue fans at Dollar Tree for an extra pop of color.

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Kids colored Sheriff Callie sheets and “roasted” their marshmallows over the “fire”.  I found that adorable inflatable campfire at oriental trading and it was a big hit!  I printed the coloring sheets directly from the disney jr. website.

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My niece, nephew, and girls tried out the panning for gold station before the party started.  For quality assurance purposes of course.  To make this, we purchased a small bag of decorative rocks from Dollar Tree and spray painted them gold.  We then took a large long plastic bin and filled it with sand purchased from Home Depot and sprinkled the “golden nuggets” all around burying them in the sand.  We added water to the top and added some shovels and other sand toys we already had.  We used foil pie tins which we hammered holes into the bottom so the kids could scoop and sift.  Whatever nuggets they found, they got to take home in their little pouches.  There was a steady flow of children here the whole party.  HUGE hit even with the older kids!

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Another huge hit was the Photo Booth area.  To make this, I just took an image of a wanted poster I found online (I’ll link it if I can find it again) and enlarged it in photoshop. I then printed it off in quarter sections.  We cut it out, burned the edges with a lighter to give it an aged look and then glued it to a piece of cardboard that was left over from our cardboard box town renovations.  We used a box cutter to cut out the center and thumb tacks to secure the edges and look like fancy nails.  We used a long thick piece of leftover cardboard to create a stand and then placed it in a small bucket filled with sand and rocks to steady it.    The kids had fun with this but honestly, I think the adults had more fun with it!  haha

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Unfortunately, in my haste, I forgot to photograph the other 2 activity stations we had but they were inexpensive and simple and kept the kids busy the whole party long.  We took a stick horse from our playroom and stuck it in the yard by digging a small hole for the stick.  We set out hula hoops we already had and let kids try their hand at “lassoing” the horse.  It was sort of like a ring toss on a bigger scale.  We also had buckets which I had decorated with pictures of boots I had printed and colored.  We purchased plush snakes from the dollar tree and kids had to try and toss the snake in the boot.  We called it the “there’s a snake in my boot” game.  Because we’re witty like that!  😉

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The Sheriff and all her little pals had a great time and those darn boxes stayed in our garage for a month because we couldn’t bring ourselves to toss them!  lol

Birthday Carnival Fun

Gosh, I’ve been pretty bad about updating here lately.  What can I say?  I’ve been a busy beaver for sure!  The holiday’s had me swamped and then it was birthday parties and traveling and out of town guests galore!  Last weekend, we hosted T’s 7th birthday party here at home.  Even though I never managed to get A’s Sheriff Callie party blogged (I better do that today too!), I thought I would go ahead and get the details for the Carnival party blogged while they were still fresh on my mind.

We decided about 3 months ago that we would be going with a Carnival theme and took to pinterest immediately to begin planning.  A few weeks before the party, I took her out in some colorful clown garb to snap a few photos for her invitations.  They’re pretty goofy but they’re probably my favorite pictures ever of her because they really let her silly personality shine!  Here are a few of my favorites!

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I normally have really cute double sided photo invitations printed from my print company but, unfortunately, I procrastinated a bit and ran out of time.  Instead, I had them printed 2 to a page at my local office depot.  They had them printed and cut down to size for me within an hour and they were on their way to the post office that afternoon!

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Meanwhile, we begin gathering supplies and prizes for the games and sketching ideas for setup in chalk in the garage and driveway.  Haha  We decided that since A. I would be returning from camp with my oldest the night before the party and B. The party was in the afternoon that we would not serve a full lunch menu but instead opted for snacks and sweets.  While I was at camp, I enlisted my hubby and mama to transform our garage into a big top canopy by using plastic tablecloths.  We’ve used this method for many parties and it always works so well.  Gives us an ample party space while still being whimsical and colorful.  You almost forget you’re in a garage.  Thankfully, weather for both my girl’s winter birthdays has been absolutely perfect!

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I wish I had taken a better picture of the garage because it looked super cute but you get the gist here.  We served popcorn, cotton candy, cake, and ice cream.  I got the cute little carnival napkins at Hobby Lobby, as well as the little cotton candy stand, and the marque looking signs.   Most of the other table decor came from the dollar spot at Target!  We found the colorful popcorn containers there as well as the felt birthday banner and letters, and the cute little red cake stand.  Because I didn’t have a lot of extra time or energy for cake decorating, I picked a super simple design and I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out.  I rolled the bottom tier in sprinkles and for the top tier, I designed cute little ticket strips with her name and birthday in photoshop and then took it down to my local Wal Mart bakery for them to print on an edible image.  It was quick and easy and the image only cost about $7!  I got the little pennant banner, cupcake flags, and glitter 7 at hobby lobby too.  I bought bags of cotton candy from our local Golden Corral for $1.25 each and just divided them into small portions and put them on lollipop sticks.  They made for a cute display and kids weren’t consuming giant portions of sugar so it was a double win!

We had 5 game stations so each kid was given 5 tickets when they arrived (I got these at dollar tree!) so they each got to try each game once.  Because we had extra time and more prizes once each kid had a turn, we allowed them another set of tickets if they wanted to continue playing which most did. We also hired an amazing local face painter.  She was a huge hit with the kiddos!  Our carnival games were simple and inexpensive as were our prizes.  Most were purchased at the dollar tree with the exception of the pet fish soap which I made myself.

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The balloon pop station was the biggest hit I think.  To assemble it, we used squares of cork board purchased at hobby lobby attached to a piece of plywood we had laying around.  We used thumb tacks to attach the balloons and darts with plastic tips for the kids to throw.  If they popped a balloon the selected a prize (bubbles or play dough) and if they missed they got a piece of candy.  They each got 3 tries per ticket.  We got the dart balloons on amazon and the darts 3 to a pk for $1.97 at Wal Mart.  We blew all the balloons up prior to the party and placed them in trash bags.  We just did a little at a time and within a couple of weeks had them all blown up!  🙂

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For the fish bowl game we used small clear plastic cups from walmart filled with water.  We dropped a plastic fish toy in several of the cups and kids had to toss ping pong balls into the cups.  They got 3 tries per ticket and if they got it in a cup with a fish, they got to take home a pet fishy bath soap.  I made these easily by purchasing a large block of clear glycerine soap from Michael’s with a 50% off coupon.  It totaled about $10 and I still have a ton left for a future craft!  I purchased the vinyl goldfish on Amazon.  They were so simple to make and the kids had a blast helping me.  We cut the soap into smaller pieces and placed them in a microwave safe bowl.  We melted them in the microwave and then poured the liquid into small plastic treat bags sitting in mugs.  We then moved the bags to a bowl of ice water where we used a skewer to push fish toys down into the soap as it hardened.  If you choose to add scent to your soap, mix it in with the bowl.

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For the ring toss, we had the painstaking job of drinking beer to empty those bottles!  I gave my husband that job weeks in advance thinking they would be done waaaaay ahead of time but the week before party time, we only had 2 bottles sitting on the counter!  Luckily, we attended a Super Bowl party the weekend before and managed to collect enough!  lol  I spray painted the bottles and caps and found those super cute carnival soda labels at Hobby Lobby.  The kids each got 3 rings (which were harder to find than I imagined).

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For the lucky ducky game we purchased 50 rubber duckies and this inflatable pool from Amazon and glued washers to the bottom of each duck.  We painted about 12 with nail polish first.  The kids got 3 tries to pick a duck with a colored washer on the bottom to win a prize.  They got a piece of candy if they didn’t pick a winning ducky.

Last but not least we had a bean bag toss.  I didn’t get any pictures of this but it was pretty simple.  We used a lawn game set we already had from Academy and set it out side by side that way 2 kids could play at once.  Each got 3 bean bags.

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After a stop at the face painting booth, our guest were ready to have their picture taken in the ring of fire.  I had my oldest and a friend make this using a hula hoop we found at the dollar tree and red, yellow, and orange tissue paper.  Made for a cute photo prop!

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Overall, I think a great time was had by all.  Even this ole top hat wearing Ring Master!  Thanks to everyone who came to make our girl’s day extra special!

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Reading nook fun

Our oldest daughter is severely dyslexic.  She’s struggled with reading for years and finally as she nears the end of 4th grade, she seems to be reading on level and actually enjoying books rather than dreading reading time.  I wanted to really nurture her newfound love of reading as well as that of her little sisters so I decided we needed a designated reading area.  I initially planned on a cute little teepee or something in the corner of the playroom with pillows and blankets (hint: hobby lobby is now carrying super cute teepees for $100 and you can use a coupon!) but our playroom looks over our living room and kitchen so it isn’t always the quietest of places.  Then it hit me!  The “secret” closet under the stairs.  The door is in the laundry room and it’s pretty quiet with the exception of the lull of the washer/dryer when it’s on.  We were using it as storage for our cleaning supplies and some boxes of Christmas decorations.  The girls and I got started on clearing it out and moving the boxes up to the attic.  We are so pleased with the way it turned out and it’s been used daily since.  Aside from the little book rack and a new rug, it cost me next to nothing as we used items we already had around the house.  

The only rules are to be quiet and have fun.  Everyone has to pick a quiet activity while in there, doesn’t necessarily have to be reading.  

   
 

The reading lounge seating is actually an old ottoman top that no longer matches my living room.  It’s padded so pretty comfy to sit on and the back is a rolled piece of foam for a bed we had laying around.  I had an extra set of queen size sheets that I used to cover  both items and I used a little duct tape to secure them to the bottom without having to actually cut or sew anything.  They’ve held up great so far!  We had the battery operated lanterns and pennant banner leftover from a party and I got the rug from garden ridge on clearance for under $20.  The cloth book rack is from Walmart.com.  It arrived in days and was inexpensive.  I used chalk pens to doodle a Dr. Suess quote on a chalkboard we already had and hung it for decor.  

  

I wanted some color on the walls but didn’t want to commit to paint so I was ecstatic to find the little circle decals on clearance for $4 at target.  

  
We filled the area with quiet activities like magnets and magnet boards, (an oil drip pan from the auto part store and cookie sheets from dollar tree), I-spy bottles we made a few years ago, and books.

  
We got the idea from Pinterest of course and the girls love them!  Super easy and fun project.  They’re made using voss water bottles, rice, and little trinkets from around the house.  We took photos of the items before putting them in the rice, printed them out, laminated, and numbered them and the bottles as a key.  They use dry erase markers to mark off the items as they find them.  

  
The girls aren’t allowed to have electronic devices upstairs because I like to be able to monitor anything with internet capability so we created an “iStation” with all our iPads, iPods, and innotabs.  We added headphones so that game and electronic stories didn’t disturb others enjoying the quiet space.  We had such a fun time creating this reading nook together and the girls love having a secret quiet hideaway to unwind and enjoy a good story.  Can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner!  

Apple pie and baked apple cups

Everyone is always raving about my apple pies so thought I would share my process with y’all. The greatest part is, you can use your leftovers to create an additional goody: baked apple cinnamon cups. Yummmm!

I think everyone is going to be shocked by how easy this is. Seriously, everything I make is easy and quick even if it doesn’t look like it at first glance.

I do sometimes make my own crust but I’ll be honest with you, I despise rolling it out. It frustrates me beyond belief. This is also why I hate working with fondant when I make a cake.

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Sorry, couldn’t resist! Anywho, more often than not, it’s pilsbury to the rescue! My OCD really loves how the crusts are perfect circles when you roll them out unlike my own hand rolled crust. But I digress…

You’ll need:
-1 box of refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts per box)
-4 apples. I use 4 different kinds of apples: Granny Smith, golden delicious, red delicious, and gala. You can use any combination of apples you so choose or all the same kind if you prefer. I personally like the different tastes the variety provides.
-1 pie tin
-1 small mixing bowl and 1 larger mixing bowl
-cinnamon, brown sugar, sugar, apple pie spice
-vanilla flavoring and caramel flavoring
-1 stick of butter

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Preheat your oven according to your pie crust packaging instructions for 2 crust pies. Usually 375.
Peel and core your apples and slice them as thinly as possible. I put the slices in the large bowl as I cut.

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Line the pan with the first pie crust and trim edges with a knife or kitchen shears if needed. I use my hands to mix up the apple slices so that the different types are evenly distributed. Once mixed well, fill your pie crust and place the stick of butter in the small mixing bowl.

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Microwave butter for about 45 seconds or until fully melted. Add about 1 tbsp of sugar, 5 tbsp brown sugar, and a sprinkle of each cinnamon and apple pie spice. Mix it well and pour about half of the mixture over the apples.

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Lay out your second crust on a cutting board and use cookie cutters to make a design or cut the crust into strips to make a basket weave design if you want. Place the crust on top of the apples, press firmly all around and trim edges if needed. I like to put the crust cutouts back on top. Looks nice and the crunchy crust pieces are the hubby’s favorite part. I then take a fork all around the edge and sprinkle top with cinnamon.

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Ovens will vary but you’ll need to bake it for about 20-30 mins or until your crust looks golden brown.

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It’s best served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top. 🙂

Now, I usually have some leftover crust trimmings, sliced apples, and buttery filling on my hands. We don’t let that go to waste! Take an extra apple, (I used a golden delicious here) and use a knife to cut around the core. Use a spoon to dig the insides out. I rinse the apple and pour a little of the butter mixture inside it. I twist it around to make sure the inside is coated. I line a pan with foil and place the apple on it. I then take a handful of leftover apple slices and dice them before placing a handful on the pan. Drizzle a little buttery/sugary goodness over the apples and mix around. I use the cookie cutters to cut out a few shapes from the pie crust trimmings and place them in the pan as well.

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I bake the apple next to the pie for about 10 minutes or until it’s nice and soft and the pie crust shapes are nice and flakey. Place the hot apple on a plate or in a bowl, place a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream inside and top with baked cinnamon apples. I sprinkle a dash of cinnamon over the top and add a pie crust shape for garnish.

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Grab a knife and a fork and enjoy! Delicious!

BBQ bacon cheddar balls

Going to quickly share one of our favorite quick easy meals with you. My kids can smell these a mile away and always get super excited when I make them.

You know the drill, gather your supplies:
-1 lb lean ground turkey
-Shredded cheddar cheese (about 1/4 cup)
-BBQ sauce of your choice. (About 1/2 cup). I use sweet baby rays sweet and spicy sauce. It’s ah-maze-ing!
-about 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, crushed crackers, or oatmeal (I used bread crumbs here)
-bacon bits jarred or fresh
-1 egg
-seasonings of your choice (optional). I use my old trusty garlic powder and onion powder.

We often choose asparagus and white rice or cauliflower rice as our sides. I start by chopping the ends off of the asparagus and laying it out on a cookie sheet. I then drizzle some coconut oil and squeeze a small lime wedge over the top and use my hands to toss and coat it. I then sprinkle a little pepper and sea salt and toss them in the oven at 425 degrees.

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While those are busy getting extra delicious in the oven, toss all your meatball ingredients in a mixing bowl. Only use about 1/4 cup of the BBQ sauce and save the rest for the pan. Mix well.

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Pour the remaining BBQ sauce into a pan, add a little water, and mix around before turning the heat on medium. While your sauce begins to warm, use your hands to roll meatballs and drop them into the sauce.

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You can add more sauce and water if needed/desired. Turn meatballs often for even cooking and sauce coating.

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While these are cooking, you should start on your rice. I don’t think you need an instruction on how to make instant white rice do you? Lol

By now your asparagus should be perfect. Remove it from the oven, serve it all up, and enjoy!

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Someone got a big girl bed!

When we moved to our new home in December, we toyed with the idea of not moving A’s crib at all and moving her straight to a toddler bed since she had just turned 2.  I felt with the new surroundings and having stairs for the first time, I didn’t want her to experience a sensory overload so, we decided to wait until we were well settled in.  Over the last month or so I had been looking online   for the perfect bed and was really having commitment issues!  Surprise, surprise!  I found several on the ikea website that I liked but it was so hard to decide without seeing them in person.  Her room has an ice cream shop theme so I wanted a cute little bed that would work with that but be versatile in case I decided to change themes on a whim.  A friend who was also shopping for a toddler bed had told me that the Ikea beds were oddly shaped and thus normal bedding would not work, you would be restricted to their bedding so I had to see how big of a difference the sizing was and if it was a problem easily rectified.  I had finally decided on the OVERE bed with canopy so my mom and I decided to make the drive to Frisco to check it out in person last Saturday.  It was so super cute but we were going to have to change the colors of the flags for the canopy and in the end I thought we might like a bigger bed.

You can find the OVERE bed here:

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S59012280/

The mattress size appeared to be that of a standard twin mattress if not a hair smaller.  I honestly think normal twin bedding would fit it alright but you’ll have to check the dimensions on the website and compare with another manufacturer if you’re considering it.

We fell in love with the Minnen bed which isn’t available online apparently but you can always google it!  It reminded us of an old fashioned wrought iron bed that was perfect for our ice cream shop theme!  We chose it in black but it’s also averrable in white. The frame itself is adjustable and so is the mattress.  I wondered how this would be accomplished initially but it’s a pretty neat little system!  The mattress is the width of a twin sized bed because the twin sheets fit perfectly that way.  At it’s smallest size, it is about the length of a crib mattress.  I used her crib mattress to show you the difference in size here:

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To extend the bed, you simply remove the bolts and slide the frame out and then replace the bolts.  The mattress has 2 extender pieces that almost look like pillows.  One for the head and one for the foot so when you’re ready to add on you just add one piece at a time.  I figure I will add on next year and then again the next.

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this is one of the the mattress extender pieces.  When all 3 pieces are assembled, it is about the size of an extra long twin.  Think your old dorm room bed!  lol

I bought regular twin size sheets rather than purchasing from ikea because their selection left something to be desired.  I found 2 fabulous sets at Ross for $10 each!  I was super excited because they matched the ice cream treat printed comforter that my mother had made her when she was born perfectly!  One was a polka dot print that reminded me of sprinkles and the other was a coordinating stripe print of the same brand.  My intentions were to alter the sheet to fit but it really only needed a little tucking at the foot and it worked well without moving so I decided to let them be.  I used the flat sheet to cover one of the mattress extenders to fit at the head of the bed so the little darling wouldn’t whack her head on the metal frame behind her.  Again, I intended to sew this to fit but I just wrapped it on snuggly and secured the edges with rubber bands.  Really, I just wanted to see what it would look like before I got to cutting but it looked so cute like a big piece of candy or something so Mom and i decided it should stay that way.  I’m going to tie some bows for extra cuteness.  Then when she gets older and no longer needs the bumper, she can still use the flat sheet as intended since it hasn’t been cut.

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I’ve tucked the other part of the mattress securely in a plastic bag for protection on the top of her closet.  Today, I’m going to go hunt for a fabulous tiny nightstand to put the ice cream lamp I ordered her on next to her bed.

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It should arrive in the next day or so from one of my favorite websites of random home decor ever:

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The first night she got out of bed once and then slept soundly till morning and has slept in it without incident since.  She loves her big girl bed and I can’t wait to finally get her room finished in this house!  More pictures of her room to come once I get it all settled once and for all!  For now, I’ll leave you to enjoy her cute bed and her extra cute face!

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Overall, the bed was easily enough assembled (I think so anyway, I was more so supervising as my dad assembled it!  lol).  It is sturdy and adorable and my little sure enjoys it so far!  I like that it’ll last her a little longer too.  Don’t forget you need TWIN size slats if you are purchasing this bed at ikea.  I accidentally grabbed the wrong kind and dad have to have wood cut for the bottom for me!  Ooops.  Thanks Daddy!

Using your “doll eyes”

With 3 American Girl Doll obsessed little darlings under one roof, we’ve accumulated quite a bit of doll sized treasures over the years. People are always asking me where I have found such and such doll accessory and the answer is easy (or difficult depending on how you look at it!). I use my doll eyes everywhere I go. What exactly does that mean? Well, it means when I’m out and about at any old store I try and see things from a dolls eye view. If you look around you, I guarantee you can find an ordinary every day item that can be something extraordinary for your little darling’s doll collection. American Girl has some great products don’t get me wrong but they don’t have everything a doll could possibly need right? It’s pretty pricey too if we’re being honest. I’m going to show you a few inexpensive goodies that weren’t intended for dolls originally but work out pretty stinkin’ well anyway!

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We don’t have a problem or anything though, don’t worry. Really, we can quit any time we want! Hahaha

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Like baseball games? We sure do! Last summer at our hometown baseball stadium the girls asked for ice cream in the signature baseball helmet bowls. You know, every stadium has them, they’re a baseball staple snack! I saw it immediately, once the ice cream was gobbled up and the bowl was washed, it was a perfect dolly souvenir!

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Oh chuck-e-cheese, how every parent loathes thee. A necessary evil of parenthood! Several weeks ago, daddy decided to treat the girls to a special daddy daughter outting to indulge in nasty pizza and germ infested arcade games! The girls used some of their ticket winnings to score this perfectly functional doll sized whoopie cushion. They get a kick out of having their dolls play tricks on one another. I’m told party city sells these by the package and I’m sure other party supply stores do as well so no trip to see the giant rat is required!

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I’m sure you’ve figured out that jewelry boxes make terrific doll sized dressers and nightstands already but did you notice votive holders make great doll trashcans? Perfect size! Pretty sure I got this in the dollar spot at target last year!

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The fun finds section of michaels is ALWAYS a great place to look for doll goodies. They currently have these tiny tin my little pony lunch boxes. I don’t know what they are really for
but I know what were using them for! Lol

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While perusing Garden Ridge recently, I stumbled upon these little sugar/sweet n low caddies in the kitchen goods area and saw instant doll potential. They were around $3 each and my girls were so excited when I brought them home!

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Moseyed on over to dollar tree today to stock up on candy for our media room concession stand and the girls wanted to check out junky toys on out way out. We found these cute little mini tea sets that couldn’t be any more perfect for dolls! We grabbed a couple because for $1 each you can afford to buy spares!

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While at dollar tree, we also stumbled upon these doll sized glow in the dark lamps. No batteries or plugs required! Just let them absorb some light and they glow! I tried to capture a glowy picture but I’m not sure you can see it well enough…

The moral of the story kids is that there are doll sized goods at every turn, you’ve just gotta use your “doll eyes” to find them!>

Super scrumptious sangria

So a few months ago, I was a little grumpy cruising through HEB gathering food for the family when a really irritating voice came over the loud speaker. This woman was just too darn chipper about rotisserie chicken. You know how when you’re in a bad mood and people are extra happy you kinda want to slap them? No, am I the only one who feels that way? Hahahaha I digress. Anywho, a few moments later, I ran into said chipper rotisserie pusher and just when I was about to snack her she asked if I would like a sample. I like rotisserie chicken as much as the next guy but this my friends was not a rotisserie chicken day, this was a day for booze! So imagine my sheer glee when she holds up a tiny little shot glass type sample cup and said “I’ve got sangria”. I wanted to hug her! I took the tiny teaser cup and tasted the yummy sweet yet kinda tangy fruit juicy deliciousness and then quickly began to stockpile all the necessary supplies to go home and indulge in a full glass. Or two. Or 5 but whose counting?!?!? Of course I added a few twists from the original because well, have you
met me?!?!? I don’t do things the easy way! Needless to say I’ve been making it for family and visiting friends weekly since and it’s such a huge hit so I thought I should share it with you lovely people!
Gather the goods:
You’ll need:
– a bottle of moscato (or two or three if it’s been a rough week)
– frozen fruit of your choice. Heb lady used just a generic mixed fruit bag but I buy individual bags of pineapple, peaches, and strawberries because some of the fruit in the mixed fruit bag tasted dreadful when I ate it afterwards. I’m not saying my way is better, but well, it is! 😉
– lemon, lime, mandarin orange (like a cutie or halo). This is again an add on that heb lady did not use.
– 1 bottle of Italian soda in flavor of your choice. I actually use 2 different flavors for an extra kick of deliciousness but that’s me.

I like to wash my citrus fruits with soap and then slice them. I also cut up my frozen fruit into smaller bites but this is totally an un-necessary step if you want to skip it. I just find it easier to eat in the end.

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I then put it in ziplock bags and freeze it if I’m preparing in advance. I keep these babies on hand all the time in case I just want one glass.
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Meanwhile, grab your wine and soda and of course a fabulous diva-caliber wine glass!

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Put your fruit in then fill about halfway with wine. Fill the other half with soda or alternating sodas. I use this lovely berry kind as well as a blood orange. The original only called for the orange kind. I’ve also tried pomegranate which is pretty tasty too!
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Now enjoy! Cheers!>

Lies Christians tell themselves (and sometimes others too)

Those of us who were raised in the church or even found our way there as adults, know that there are certain character traits that Christians are “supposed” to possess.  Good Christians should be honest, fair, kind, and generous right?  So, I’m gonna start by being super honest with myself (and you).  Here goes, ready for it?  I am NOT always honest, fair, kind, and generous!  In fact, I.AM.A.LIAR!  Yikes!  Felt good to get that off my chest!  Yep, you read that correctly, I lie to myself (and sometimes others) pretty often actually.  What on earth do I mean you might be asking?  Let me give you an example as to lies I often tell myself (and others).  Brace yourself, you may just discover that YOU are a liar too!  Yikes!

Lie #1:  “I’ll pray for you.”  Relax.  I’m not saying this is always a lie.  In fact, a good 97% of the times that I say I will pray for you, I REALLY do!  But the bottom line is, I’m forgetful.  Reaaaaaaaalllly forgetful.  There are some days that I get so caught up in my super hectic life that I actually forget that 3% of specific prayer requests if I haven’t written them down or stopped that very second to pray.  Eeeeeesh.  Most of the time, I’ll see a post on Facebook or hear someone talk about the request later and want to slap myself in the face because I know I wasn’t a strong prayer warrior for that particular need. 

My commitment to future honesty: When I hear or read a prayer request I will immediately stop what I am doing and pray for that need if possible.

Lie #2:  “I don’t have any cash to give.”  We’ve all been approached by a homeless man on the streets, a group of children asking for donations for their school or sport, or some other need.  Sometimes I question the sincerity of the need and rather than opening my wallet, I just politely apologize with a generic “I’m sorry, I would, but I don’t have any cash on me”.  This isn’t always a lie.  In fact, I very rarely do carry cash on me but if I’m being super honest, there’s an atm on every corner and most stores have a cash back option when you’re paying with a card.  More than the lack of cash though, I wonder if the person is really in need.  I double even triple guess the need and if I don’t deem the person truly needy I use the no cash cop out.  Last week, the girls and I were grocery shopping and a young mom approached me with her young toddler on her hip.  She told me she was from a nearby town and needed some gas money to get back.  I sweetly smiled and said yep, you guessed it, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have any cash”.  She politely said “that’s okay, thank you anyway” and disappeared down the aisle.  The truth is, I had cash.  I had lots of cash actually.  I had a neat little row of $100 dollar bills I had been meaning to take to the bank to deposit.  If I had a $5, $10, or $20 I would have gladly handed it over but, I didn’t want to give her a whole $100!  I blow $100 on stupid stuff all the time so what was wrong with giving it to someone who could have used it.  But no, I questioned her motives.  I asked myself if her story was true or was she planning to use the money for drugs or alcohol and even, who knows if that was even her baby.   hahaha yes, I gotta laugh at myself on that last one because that’s just how paranoid and critical I have become.

My commitment to future honesty:  I will carry around several $20’s for instances just like this and I will attempt to calm my over analytical thoughts about people’s stories of need.  I will just open my heart and my purse and GIVE and not worry about what happens with that money once it leaves my hands.  

Lie #3:  “When God clearly speaks to me, I will obey.”  Sometimes we pray and pray for God to reveal things to us and we swear up and down that we will do whatever it is he is asking of us without question because really, who questions GOD?  Sometimes I’m guilty of hearing God’s voice loud and clear and ignoring him because I don’t like what he’s got to say.  A few weeks ago, I prayed that God would show me places that he could use me.  Specifically I was praying for a new church home where he might use me with the youth or on a praise team because those are the areas that have my heart to serve.  But I wasn’t just praying for those things, I was praying that he would show me ways that I could better show his love to the needy and broken people I encountered on a daily basis.  So first the stranded young lady at HEB then yesterday he placed another need before me and I just ignored him!  I went to city hall to get a proof of residency form because I didn’t yet have a utility bill with our new address on it and needed one.  As I was walking in, 3 kids in tow, a man and his son (probably about 10) held the door open for the girls and I.  I took note of how polite the little boy was because in this society it’s so rare to find youth who have been taught manners and chivalry.  They let us go ahead of them in line very politely even.  I got the form I needed quickly and then paused to the side to read a text message while Payton tied her shoe and couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between the man and the city employee.  He was asking for an extension on his water bill because it was about to be turned off.  He said his wife had a new baby and he had been laid off work and he didn’t have enough money to pay the bill at this time.  The employee said she could extend it until the following friday but that was the best she could do.  The man looked defeated but took what he could get.  At that very moment, God told me to pay the man’s water bill anonymously.  I looked him over and decided that I didn’t know enough about this tattoo covered man to do such a thing.  The girls and I slipped out to the parking lot and headed to the gym.  Throughout my workout I couldn’t get this family out of my head.  I remembered the feeling of desperation I had when T was born, just weeks old and Dave was laid off when oil crashed in 2009.  I imagined what his wife must feel like.  I pictured her sitting on the sofa, nursing that baby, crying, and wondering how they would provide for their children with her husband out of work.  I tried to push the image out of my mind and move on about my day but it plagued me and quite obviously is still bothering me.  Why didn’t I do what God told me to do?  Well, I don’t have a good answer other than I questioned the circumstances.  I made myself the jury and the judge and decided I needed to know why the man had lost his job, why he hadn’t yet found another, and why he couldn’t afford to pay that water bill.  I wondered if he had failed a drug test and gotten fired or if he was irresponsible and couldn’t show up on time.  When Dave lost his job, they tried everything in their power to keep him on.  He was one of the last people from that department they laid off in fact and his layoff had nothing to do with his very strong work ethic and everything to do with there just not being enough work at the time to justify paying him.  So why should it have mattered to me what this family’s circumstances were.  The bottom line was, they were in need, and I am so incredibly blessed to be in a place financially that I could have helped meet their need but didn’t.

My commitment to future honesty:  I’m a work in progress and it is human nature to be slightly selfish and apprehensive of giving your finances.  After all, you work hard and should get a say in where that money goes right?  But I will try and remember that it is not my money but God’s money and by his grace, we are so very blessed.  I will listen for his voice and even when it puts me out of my comfort zone I will try my hardest to be obedient.  I’m not saying I will never disobey but I’m going to make a conscious effort to practice obedience when he tells me to do something or give to someone.

Lie #4: “I’m not judging her/him/them at all, it’s not my place to judge.” Ha!  Who exactly do I think I’m kidding?   I’m judging ALL day long.  I’m judging those Facebook posts, that language he/she used, that parent with the ill behaved child at the playground, that mom giving her baby dr. pepper,  the elderly woman waiting tables, the mom who lets her little girl wear booty shorts or heels, the list goes on and on but you get the point.  I’m judging all the darn time and all the while telling myself I’m not a judgmental person!  

My commitment to future honesty:  I’m not saying I will never judge again because I think it is in our nature to judge others when their lifestyle and choices are different than ours.  But, I will say that I will stop telling myself that I’m NOT judging.  I will try and recognize when I am being judgmental and remind myself that different strokes are okay for different folks.  God made us all different and that’s okay.  I’ll try to remember that I don’t like the feeling I get when I know someone is judging me and try my hardest not to make other people feel that way.

I lie to myself all the time and sometimes others too but I can’t lie to God.  He sees my heart and he knows my actions.  What lies have you been telling yourself?

The F word

We’ve all heard the expression fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!  Most of us try and live our life to that standard.  We’ve got this idea that if someone does something to hurt us physically, emotionally, verbally, whatever, we should out of the kindness of our hearts give them the benefit of the doubt and extend some forgiveness but just once.  If the screw up again then too bad for them because we’ve already forgiven them once right?  Hate to burst your bubble kids {and my own} but WRONG!

Let’s get real honest with ourselves for a second.  Have you ever sinned?  Have you ever sinned more than once?  Twice?  More times than you can possibly count?  The answer is YES, YES, YES, and YES!  Often we go with our tails between our legs crying out to the Lord begging for forgiveness but other times, we just take his mercy and forgiveness for granted.  We just expect him to forgive us because we know he does.  We just know he extends grace and mercy repeatedly even when we don’t deserve it.  Why do we know that?  Because the word tells us he does!  But, in classic human nature, we take the word and we twist it to meet our needs.  We pick the parts we find beneficial to us out and use those but sort of paraphrase the rest.  We find the “loopholes” if you will.

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

I often joke saying I have a “black thumb”.  Seriously, I could kill a cactus and pretty sure I have.  Horticulturist I am not but last year, I thought I would try my hand at an herb garden.  Nothing makes me happier than cooking with fresh herbs and it never fails I’m out of basil or rosemary in the middle of making a fabulous from scratch pasta sauce.  So, I moseyed on down to my friendly local Home Depot and snagged some potted herbs and a large window planter.  I didn’t do much research on the subject because the little biodegradable pots were just to be planted directly into the soil so I figured it was fool proof.  I planted Rosemary, Basil, Cilantro, and Sweet Mint.  I watered and cared for them for several months and they seemed to be thriving.  They made delicious additions to soups, pastas, chicken, and even mojitos!  Nom…nom…nom… mouth watering just thinking of it!  After several months, I noticed the mint seemed to be thriving a little too well if ya know what I mean!   It’s super easy to grow and maintain so it easily takes over some of the weaker herbs.  After several more months,  it was becoming difficult to get to my cilantro.  The leaves of the mint had become intertwined with the leaves of the cilantro and it just became a lot of work to try and keep the leaves apart.  Eventually the cilantro died.  R.I.P Cilantro-you were my favorite herb child.  When I went to remove the cilantro plant, parts of the mint started to come up as well.  The mint roots were so strong that they intertwined with the roots of the cilantro plant and began to take over and defeat them!  What is the moral of this little gardening tale you probably are asking?  You may even be throwing your hands up yelling at your computer screen “get to the point already you dysfunctional domestic diva!!!”  The point my friends is when we don’t extend forgiveness to others, it plants a seed of bitterness that only grows and thrives inside of us.  It takes root and if we let it, this bitterness will thrive and take over our life and it can sometimes defeat the roots of kindness that dwell in the same place.  We need to remember that we are only human and we will ALWAYS fall short of the humans that we SHOULD be.  Some transgressions are easier to forgive than others but that doesn’t mean those transgressions are unforgivable.

All of that being said, there is a fine line between forgiveness and foolishness and I think we often confuse the two.  The act of forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to be foolish and constantly subject ourselves to hurt.  I’m not saying if your husband is repeatedly hitting you or betraying your trust that you should just say “oh no problem honey, I forgive you again” and stick around for more.  Get yourself OUT of that toxic situation but don’t let the hurt become your crutch.  It could be your spouse, a friend, a co-worker, an ex, a sibling or other family member, a stranger on the streets even!  You say “I forgive you” and truly mean it, then move on with your merry little life!  Here’s the kicker.  People don’t always ask for forgiveness.  They may not think they’ve even done anything wrong at all and it isn’t our job to pass judgement on their sins but it IS our job to forgive them.  We must show them the exact kindness, grace, mercy, and forgiveness that our heavenly father repeatedly extends to us.  If we don’t, that original hurt, that original sin committed against us by someone else can quickly morph into our own sin and become bitterness!  Don’t be bitter kids.  Forgive, move on, and please be kind to one another.  Forgive but please don’t be foolish especially when it comes to the safety and security of yourself or your children!  Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye and allow hurtful behavior repeatedly.  There are consequences for everyone’s actions whether that be on earth or on judgement day.  The good news is, we aren’t responsible for that big ole judgement burden, just the forgiveness part.

xoxo