Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from our little family to yours! I’m so excited to finally have taken the time to put all our favorite memories from this Christmas season into a video  using iMovie for us to cherish forever! 

// Song: Jingle All the Way by Dan Bremnes //

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Baking + Vegan Royal Icing

It almost feels like we’ve been hibernating, at least from the blog  the past couple weeks. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the rush of Christmas and we consciously made the decision to slow down, and make a break from the blog this month. It’s been great! We’ve spent countless nights cuddled up on the sofa with blankets and bowls of soup watching all the Christmas movies, building telephones and skyscrapers with legos, we’ve covered our fridge with drawings of Christmas trees and snow scenes. This month always seems to fly by and it’s been so nice to enjoy it!

This week is our baking week so the kids and I have been busy making our traditional Christmas favorites of graham cracker toffee, cinnamon rolls, gingerbread, and of course sugar cookies. Every year we love to make a Christmas motto for to remember the season and they’re usually a cliche saying from a movie or song. Kensi and Finn came up with “Jingle All the Way” because this Christmas season is so much fun and Finn loves Turboman from the 1996 movie that we just can’t get enough of this year. We literally watched it four or five times on Finn’s birthday and it was so much fun, I am really loving this season with kids and all the messy chaos that comes with it!

This year I also had to mix things up and find a royal icing Olivia can enjoy since she has both a dairy and egg allergy. Typical royal icing uses meriguine powder which is a huge no no for Olivia. Instead I searched for a vegan friendly recipe and it turned out great for sugar decorating purposes! I’m not sure how this would hold up for the glue on a gingerbread house, we won’t really know until later next week when we build those at grandma’s house. Olivia is happy to munch on the festively decorated cookies Kensi and I did (Finn was only interested in sprinkles and eating). Below, I’m sharing the vegan icing recipe we used for our sugar cookies. I hope you can all find some time during this busy season to sit down and enjoy icing some delicious cookies!

Vegan Royal Icing
4.5 cups Confectioners Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Arrowroot Powder (I buy mine here)
1 pinch Salt
1/3 cup Water (plus a little more to get the icing to your desired consistency)
Food Coloring (I use these! and they can be found at Michael’s Craft Stores)

-Combine confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, arrowroot powder and salt in a stand mixer or bowl and mix with the whisk attachment on low for 1 minute. 
-While the mixer is running, drizzle the 1/3 cup water and increase the mixer speed until the sugar is blended. Beat the icing on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. The icing should be thick at this point (better for gingerbread glue). Here is where I added a little bit more water and continued to mix to thin the icing out for the cookies. 
-Divide the icing into separate bowls and color with food coloring as desired. Place each colored icing into a piping bag or a plastic zip bag and begin icing sugar cookies!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Our Home // Dining Room Makeover

Checking off another small project, our dining room! In waiting for the floors we held off on doing much of anything to the walls, but once the floors went it we replaced the baseboards and the rest is history.

Our drappy flat paint was past it’s prime days after we moved in and this entire space needed something fresh and bright. We replaced all the baseboards with 1x4 pine and decided to add more character and texture to the walls by continuing vertical board and batten to the ceiling similarly to what we did in our entryway. Since this is our dining room we wanted to give it a little more pizzazz and did so by adding crown on top of our board and batten.  To accomplish this look we add a 1x2 board around the top perimeter of the wall for the crown to sit against. Had we not done this, there would have been a large gap between the vertical boards and the crown.

So, after the vertical boards were all in place, we installed our crown using the Kreg Jig Crown-Pro Crown Molding Tool. This kit makes installing crown molding yourself a breeze and we highly recommend it. We used it for our cabinets and saved ourselves hundreds of dollars. Now that all our boards were in place, it was time to caulk all our seams and prime the walls. For this project we purchased pre-primed pine boards rather than the premium pine boards and saved over $150 on this project!

// Before //

 // After //

We painted everything with Benjamin Moore Super White to match the rest of our trim in the house. This room has officially been transformed from drabby to bright & classy!

Now with bright white walls everything seems to pop in this room and I absolutely love it! White can definitely feel stark and bland, but it’s the perfect blank canvas for frequently changing decor pieces. This allows everything to work together without the thought of two pieces competing or clashing. Now it’s time for me to finally decorate and maybe actually do a little post on how we decorate this space for Christmas!

Paint | Benjamin Moore in Bright White
Lighting | Home Decorators 
Dining Table | DIY

Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas Wish List

It’s the most wonderful time of year again and we’re busy finishing up our Christmas shopping for the kids so we can relax and enjoy all the festive fun of the Christmas season. We always try to keep things simple at home especially with gift giving. We really like the concept of something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read, but we’re not super strict with it, we just like to use it as a guideline so we don’t go off the deep end when it comes to shopping.

We don’t usually go for the super trendy items for the kids. We really like to stick with toys and items they can grow with and will encourage play, rather than something they’ll quickly give up on in a few weeks or months. That being said, it doesn’t mean we skip what the kids really want, we just keep it simple. Right now Finn is very interested in Transformers and Kensi enjoys My Little Pony.

We’re really excited about this year, because the kids are getting older and grasping the understanding of giving more than receiving. We let each of the kids build a shoebox for Operation Christmas this year and we purchased a tree for a military family. We love being able to teach the kids the importance of creating Christmas magic for others in simple ways. It’s so important to keep it at the center of our focus rather than ourselves and I'm excited to share more about our thought on this in the next year.

So here’s our wish list for the kids this year! We know they’re going to be excited and a little bummed since we’ll be traveling for Christmas, but they’re have so much fun playing once we get back home.

Wood Work Bench // We’ve been looking for a fun and simple workbench for the kids over the last year, but really didn’t find anything we loved, that is until Hearth & Hand released theirs! The kids love helping us work on projects and they’re always in the garage learning new skills and building their own small projects (like a balance beam)!

Wood Block Set // I’ve had my heart set on a large colorful block set for a couple years now, but the price was just killing me. Instead, we purchased a set of natural wood blocks and I’m painting them in the garage. Much more work, but I love a good DIY and I can’t wait to see what the kids build!

Money Saving Piggy Banks // We are teaching our kids to be money smart. Each month, I’ll sit down with them and we count all their money they’ve received whether it’s from a birthday or chores and we sort it into three piles: save, spend and give. I found this cute piggy bank trio set that has a separate bank for each one, so now instead of sorting it every month, we can sort it immediately and place the money where it needs to go.

Puzzles + Games // All the kids enjoy working on puzzles. They’re great for building fine motor skills, cognitive skills and learning different concepts depending on the theme of the puzzle. I love this United States Map puzzle for learning geography. We also picked up one of the new wood board games from Target. We picked out CandyLand because it’s one of our most loved games and we no longer have any of the cardboard markers, because seriously who still has the cardboard markers all in one piece?

Rain Boots // I love having rain boots on hand for the kids because they’re so easy to put on, they typically run a little large so they last awhile and we can get quite a bit of rain here in coastal Carolina. London Littles also have super cute prints!

Muslin Quilts // We all love muslin quilts. Let’s be honest, I really need/want one in my size! Any-who, I love these blankets because they’re so cozy, breathable and warm. We use them for sleep, cuddling on the couch, walks in the stroller and even in the car. We currently own two, but since we use them all the time we decided to get a few more for the kiddos. We have a few different floral prints for the girls so I they’re sharing one this time around. I snagged this whimsical rainbow and unicorn print from Clementine Kids. Kensi is seriously going to die over excitement. For Finnley, I got the Zoology quilt. He’s going to love all the animals!

Books // This year Kensi has become much more mature and patient with reading and listening to stories. We came across The Fairy Bell Sisters over the summer and she’s officially hooked. She’s not reading on her own yet, but I love being able to read to her and it’s just special one-on-one time we get together and can enjoy. To help her along her reading journey and to spark her interest even more so I found My Little Pony Phonic Box Set at Barnes & Noble. Finn still really loves the BabyLit books, but he’s also taken an interest in Dr. Suess and he loves anything that has to do with robots. I got him The Adventures of Otto Collector’s Set by David Milgrim. Finn loves reading silly books; I adore hearing his sweet giggle with all the silly words. Olivia loves getting books off the bookshelves, climbs into my lap and says ‘wee” (read). It’s so dang cute. We enjoy reading about lots of different things.

A few other fun items we’ve found throughout the year include Boogie Boards Writing Tablet. We found them at Costco in the office supply aisle. They’re essentially a digital version of a magna doodle board, except it has a button to clear the image rather than a swipe. The Hot Cocoa Set by Hearth & Hand at Target and the kids all love Legos so we have a few fun small sets for their stockings. Kensi stumbled upon Shrinking Trinkets in the Land of Nod catalog and I flipped with excitement! I loved making Shrinky Dinks when I was little and she thought the Shrinking Trinkets were pretty cool.

I do get a lot of questions about where we shop, how we find deals and what tips can I give to save as much as possible. Our biggest trick is shopping all year round. I often hit up the clearance section at Barnes & Noble. They have dozen of toys and puzzles marked to 70% off sometimes and it’s a total steal! I constantly wait for sales. There is ALWAYS a sale, it’s just a matter of waiting for it. Shops like Land of Nod will send out 15% off coupons almost monthly throughout the year. We also compare prices with Amazon and can usually find a better deal there. When we shop we try and get items that can grow with all our kids and are gender neutral. Of course we buy some items that are kid specific, but in general with larger items we try to go as neutral as possible (like the work bench). I also try and keep the mindset that they don’t HAVE to have anything. We are extremely blessed and we try not to get caught up in stuff or spending too much money on it, but instead focusing on the moments and experiences. At the end of the day if we’re gone tomorrow none of the stuff is going to matter, but we’ll always have the memories.

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