We had a Merry Christmas!

December 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Our Life

This is the second Christmas these kids have spent in these pajamas! I will miss them next year when they probably won’t fit anymore but I’ll have to get them new ones, there is just something so adorable about seeing all your children in matching pajamas on Christmas. Its the day after Christmas and Ethan is still wearing his (luckily he decided to take the 4 Christmas stickers off of his face though)! The kids slept until Ben woke us up at 8:15 Christmas morning, then we did stockings, ate cinnamon rolls and then after breakfast we did presents under the tree. The boys are so funny, if they opened a Lego set they HAD to stop unwrapping and run upstairs to put them together. Instead of them tearing through everything in seconds, we had to try to convince them to keep opening things. I love it, actually they did that last year too. We just had the best morning. Unfortunately we all have colds but no temps and only John and I are complaining. We are having a wonderfully lazy day today and tomorrow we should get busy cleaning for John’s family is coming to visit on Monday. The kids are very excited to see their cousin and play! Soon I can get pictures of 5 kids being goofy and cute.

Our family (footprint) tree!

December 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Art Projects, Family Activities, Kid Art

Here is another one of our advent calendar activities! There are so many hand and footprint craft ideas and I think they’re fun so we did our family wreath and then we tried out something I thought up on my own: a family tree made of footprints. I had thought of this last year but Jillian was a newborn and things were too crazy. I had hoped for better, more Christmas tree results but I’m actually pretty happy with it (we made another one that looks just like a regular deciduous tree). I think I will try it again on a real canvas sometime. I got 2 papers for us to use and each person did their feet on both because I figured a backup would be good in case one of the kids smeared the paint. I should have used  bigger papers because I guess I wasn’t thinking our feet would be so big! You need to start with the biggest feet and work your way to the smallest. For the one we made a Christmas tree I did the baby’s hand as a star and then the next day the other kids made ornaments with fingerprints. I’m really glad we tried this crazy idea, its definitely something I want to try again. There are a lot of possibilities: a fall tree with different colors for the feet, a tree made of hand prints, a set of 4 for all the seasons? I know weird!

Our attempt at making Christmas ornaments

December 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Art Projects, Family Activities, Kid Art

Well I thought we’d try to make some of the gifts we give this year. Its not going as well as I’d hoped, I think they are on the young side for some of the things I had in mind. At first they liked making these ornaments  but after making 1-2 they lost interest. I envisioned us making loads of them for their grandmas, teachers and friends but we have only finished 4. The main problem with how I did things was that the cheap remnant of cream fabric I got was too thin and the black fabric marker ran no matter how careful we were (it works fine on other fabric). So I’d try this again but with better fabric and maybe in a few years since it would be fun for them to try sewing with a needle.  I do really like how Jamie’s snowman looks like a happy banana! I might try to do this again using their paper drawings, scanning them and then printing them on iron-on transfers.

Ethan also made a Lego ornament all by himself with a rubber band as the hook, I think he did a wonderful job with it!

Musselman’s Applesauce Christmas style and GIVEAWAY!

December 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Contests, Recipes, Reviews

WIN SOME THING FROM MUSSELMAN’S: Musselman’s told me that they have a special treat to send my family for Christmas and one for us to give away! Not sure exactly what it will be but if you’re family likes applesauce just let me know in a comment and you could be the lucky winner! Contest ends12/21/09. DSCN0157

We were already fans but Musselman’s sent us some more applesauce to try out, this time in jars. We tried the regular and the cinnamon. I personally am a cinnamon fan all the way but one of the kids isn’t so fond of cinnamon in anything (weird!)  so I guess I would stick to purchasing the regular and just adding some cinnamon to the top of mine. With this review we were asked to try the applesauce in a recipe and to share what we came up with. I use applesauce quite a bit in baking, especially in my muffins to help lower the fat and keep them moist. DSCN0159This time I decided to have more fun with it and Jamie and I made Christmas tree applesauce. Now having tree shaped muffin cups is key but I also thought about making green applesauce as a bagel topping and making Christmas wreaths. I tinted the applesauce and put it in the tree cup and then gave Jamie some dried cherries and Cheerios to decorate with. Very simple and Jamie thought it was a very special snack. Check out their promotions on their site for some coupons!DSCN0165

WIN SOME THING FROM MUSSELMAN’S: Musselman’s told me that they have a special treat to send my family for Christmas and one for us to give away! Not sure exactly what it will be but if you’re family likes applesauce just let me know in a comment and you could be the lucky winner! Contest ends 12/21/09.

Update: right after I posted this I went upstairs and saw UPS leaving and it was my package from Musselman’s. Inside was a beautifully wrapped gift basket with three 4-packs of flavored applesauce, one big bottle of applesauce, one full sized apple juice and two cans of cherry and blueberry pie fillings! I  wasn’t expecting so many products and I’m excited to try the new pie fillings. Unfortunately my UPS guy can be a bit rough and despite the fragile stickers, 3 of the small applesauce cups were broken and my basket was a little messy BUT not really a big deal since I cleaned off the unharmed products and gave the opened applesauces to the chickens.

Our snowman family painting!

December 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Art Projects, Kid Art

IMG_1175One of our advent calendar activities was to make snowmen for each person in the family. The boys and John were out until mid afternoon today so Jamie and I started without them. I used to do similar snowman paintings  when I was an art teacher but I decided to try something different and we used balloons to make the snowman bodies for our big snowman family portrait. I blew up 5 or 6 balloons with various amounts of air so we could play around with sizes. IMG_1148Jamie needed some help stamping the balloons (but I may let her try it solo tomorrow since I saved the balloons). We made the bodies for everyone in our family and then I got out a sponge brush and told Jamie to make the ground UNDER the snowmen’s bodies. IMG_1153I thought she might just paint over our snowmen but she really got the idea of it. Next I gave her a q-tip and told her to make snowflakes falling. She liked making them better with her fingers! We decided to let all the white paint dry and to wait for the boys to add all of the details.  I put out some little cups (pillsbury cinnamon roll frosting containers to be exact, they are my favorite for paint) with orange, green, red and black paint and I showed the kids how to use q-tips to add the features. I had hung up the painting to dry right where I wanted to display it and they stood on chairs to finish (this worked out very well). They did a great job! IMG_1167IMG_1179IMG_1178

Marmalade Ink photo cards, enter to win 25!

December 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

holiday card 2009 1*Use the coupon code “Fam09” for 15% off your order but HURRY it expires 12/15/09!

Marmalade Ink very kindly sent me 25 free photo cards to review and 25 to give away to one of you! I would never dream of sending anything but a photo card while my kids are little and I look forward to receiving them from friends so I can see how their kids are growing too. I was very happy with the HUGE selection of unique Marmalade Ink holiday cards available (they also have cards for about any holiday or occasion you could imagine). What makes them different is that they are all 2-sided, printed on heavy card stock and many designs can fit multiple photos. If you can’t get all of your kids to smile perfectly in one shot, you can just use individual pictures of them all. Or maybe you get so many great ones that you can’t decide on just one! What do you think of the front of mine? I used a card style called Evelyn that has spots for 5 pictures on the front and 3 on the back and I think it came out beautiful! On the back I put a picture of the girls together and then a picture of each boy on either side of it, as well as our personal message. It was very easy to make the card myself. You just upload your pictures and then do the cropping (and even color altering) right online. The cards arrived quickly (they ship them within 3 business days) and were packaged nicely so they arrived in perfect condition. I’m excited because I finally went to the post office today to buy stamps and these are going out in the mail tomorrow!

To enter to win 25 free flat cards (as opposed to the bi and tri fold designs they also have):

  • Visit Marmalade Ink and then come back and tell me your favorite card or product that they make.
  • Open to US mailing addresses only.
  • HURRY Contest ends Sunday Dec 13, 2009.

I really liked the color scheme of this card but I couldn’t decide on just one picture of the kids. HC0066F

If I only had 3 kids (or if Santa said “ho, ho, ho, ho”) I would have picked this one (this shows both sides of this card but since the card and my background are white its hard to tell):HC0057F

HC00571B

Here is a little info from Marmalade Ink: “Marmalade Ink prints on both sides of our cards.  We don’t believe in “plain white backs”.  There are no extra fees for multiple photographs.  Our designs are printed on heavy 110 lb. uncoated recycled card stock for a designer upscale look.   If you don’t see exactly what your heart desires we can design a card for you for a nominal custom design fee.  All envelopes are included.  We also have the most adorable return address labels!!”

Groovy Grape body wash & shampoo and Lullabye Lavendar baby wash by Belcam

December 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

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Belcam sent us two of their Bath Therapy products to review and we have been very happy with them over the last month of use. Groovy Grape Body Wash & Shampoo is by far the best smelling kids’ bath product I have ever found, it is exactly like the grape bubble gum I loved as a kid.  I am not a fan of perfumey products but I really love smelling the grape scent every time my kids use it. I admit that I have used it a few times myself just because I like the scent so much! Lullabye Lavender Gentle Baby Wash has a nice mild fragrance  and I have been using it in the tub for all of the kids. My kids like it because it smells nice and makes plenty of bubbles too! I like both of these products because they are better for my kids’ skin than a lot of the brands I find in the store. According to Belcam both of these products “contain No Sulfates, Parabens, Phthalates, Propylene Glycol, Petroleum nor Artificial Color. It is tear free, Hypoallergenic, Gluten free, Vegan, pH skin compatible, soap free and biodegradable. Test results from an independent laboratory indicate that there is no occurence of toxic 1,4 Dioxane and formaldehyde in the formulation.” Belcam has 4 other products in their kids and baby line but they make products for the whole family and offer free shipping for orders over $50.

New homemade marshmallows!

December 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Recipes

IMG_1062I did a post about homemade marshmallows already but I just tried a very different recipe yesterday and it was easy and I think I like it much better! Here is my old post using Tyler Florence’s recipe and my new recipe from Alton Brown. The big difference is that Tyler’s uses egg whites and Alton’s uses corn syrup. My digital cooking thermometer was all out of batteries so I just followed the approximate times and it worked fine. The boys were up playing Legos and missed out on the marshmallow making and thats a good thing since the girls were happy not having to share the whisk attachment! It was like a huge bowl of fluff before I spread it in the pan so fluffernutter obsessed Ethan would have been excited. These were really easy to make and a lot less messy than when I made Tyler’s marshmallows! The directions say to wait at least 4 hours before eating but we didn’t even wait 2 and they were fine. The only problem was that I forgot we are all out of hot chocolate but luckily we all like them on their own. Definitely something I will make a bunch more times this winter (maybe dipped in chocolate next time)!IMG_1053IMG_1055IMG_1057IMG_1063IMG_1060

Alton Brown’s recipe (on the site he also tells you how to make them mini but I don’t think its worth the extra effort):

Ingredients

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt    (I forgot about the salt!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract    (or peppermint for the holidays with a little squirt of red color at the end)
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch     (I just skipped the cornstarch because I didn’t have any)
  • Nonstick spray

Directions

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Gingerbread advent calendar!

December 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Family Activities

IMG_1020I was planning on making an advent calendar with fun things to do the first 25 days of December but when I saw this post from the Artful Parent I decided that instead of the traditional advent with the little doors, I would make mine out of gingerbread paper dolls. I just did it really quickly by tracing a cookie cutter. I glued the very tops of 25 numbered hearts and each night I have been putting a little paper slip with that days activity under the heart (that way they can’t peek ahead of time and I can decide last minute what I want the next days activity to be because I know one day I’ll opt for a Christmas movie over a big project). I considered  it being a countdown calendar but instead I started at 1 for the actual date. Instead of putting it on a table I thought it would be safer taped to the wall and it filled a wall in the dining room nicely. So far the kids really like it. We did paper gingerbread men, Christmas decorating and a painted hand wreath so far. This afternoon we are decorating real (but fake) wreaths.

Our family hand print wreath, 6 hands filled it up nicely and then we added fingerprint berries. So quick and easy, not perfect but good enough for me!IMG_1037

Yesterday I found that Jamie tucked in Santa with a little dog and toy doughnut! Just looked so cute I had to take a picture.IMG_1022

Photo books make the best Christmas presents!

December 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

coverstyles_jacket_modernbookstyles_bestseller3If you are having trouble thinking of what to get people and you want to give something personal, photo books are such a great idea. MyPublisher.com gave me a coupon code to use for a free book and it was a lot of fun to make and really easy (you download their free software and then you’re set to go). I have been wanting to make a photo book for some time and I was really excited to do this review. I just ordered my book today and I can’t wait for it to get here (I’ll post again once I get it). I take so many pictures of the kids but never end up printing them. A photo book is the greatest because its so much easier and more professional than doing an album and you can add captions or stories to go with them. I’d like to make a ton of photo books now actually. The one I made has pictures of all 4 kids in it but I’d like to make them each their own as well as one from our wedding and one from my childhood (and John’s maybe too). I also had the idea of making one for all my favorite recipes with pictures of the kids making them. A family cookbook would be a fun gift! Check out MyPublisher.com and maybe you can cross some presents off your list.

Here are the prices at MyPublishers.com (I think they are pretty reasonable):

Paperback PocketBooks: Size 7.75″ x 5.75″.  20 – 100 Pages

Price (20 pages up to 240 photos): $12.95             ($0.49      each additional page over 20)

Classic Hardcover books: Size 11.25″ x 8.75″.  20 – 100  Pages. Available in high-quality linen or leather or with a customizable printed book jacket — the choice is yours!

Price (20 pages up to 240 photos)

$29.80      linen cover
$34.75      book jacket
$49.75      leather cover
($0.99      each additional page over 20)

Deluxe Hardcover books: Size 15″ x 11.5″. 20 – 100 Pages.

Price (20 pages up to 240 photos)

$59.80      linen cover
$68.75      book jacket
$89.75      leather cover
($1.99      each additional page over 20)