November 24, 2014

Gift Guide for the Family

Hey there! Happy Monday before Thanksgiving! Keith was at a class all weekend, but luckily he's off most of the week, so we can get lots of the work for Thanksgiving checked off our list. I don't know about you, but I've barely started my Christmas shopping this year. We've bought O a couple things and I've bought one thing for Keith, but I still have so many people to shop for.

Christmas shopping is so much fun, but it can also be incredibly daunting, especially if you don't know what to give! Keith comes from a large family -- 5 siblings total, + a spouse and at least two children per family, which puts us at 21 on his side of the family -- so each year we do a Family Gift Exchange, where we draw family names and each family gives the family they draw a gift instead of buying individual gifts for each person.

We love this idea, because it is so fun trying to find something that everyone will like and have fun with. We usually go with a theme to help center the gift. In recent years we've done movie tickets, and ice cream makers. Here are some other great ideas for families of all ages!

MOVIE NIGHT - What family doesn't love cuddling up on the couch to watch a movie together? Some of our personal favorites to give are: the Toy Story trilogy, Home Alone 1 & 2, Elf and now Frozen. Include candy, popcorn, popcorn bowls and a cozy blanket along with the movies.

OUTDOOR FUN - Coped up all winter long, we all dream of warmer days when we can play outside to our heart's content. Games and activities for the outdoors are usually something every member of a family can participate in, like ladder ball, bean bag toss or bowling

COLD TREATS - Make dessert a family activity with a Zoku Slush & Shake maker, ice cream maker or popsicle mold. You can include an ice cream mix, sprinkles or even some cute bowls to complete the gift.

KINECT - We have had the Kinect for about four years and it is a great activity to play with a group that gets everyone moving, involved and having fun! There are some great games that even younger children can enjoy, like Kinect Party and Kinect Sports.

AN EXPERIENCE - This is our favorite kind of gift to give and receive! A membership to a museum or theme park or one-day admission for the whole family! We've also give tickets to a movie paired with each persons favorite snack or candy, etc.

Tip: If you're local check our Favorite Toddler Outings for ideas for place to go and see.

GAME NIGHT - Many fun games for families to play together. Here are some of my personal favorite that even younger children can participate in: Apples to Apples Jr., Headbanz, Dropping Ball, Story Cubes.

Tip: right now lots of the board games at Target are buy 1 get one for 50% off.

WAFFLE IRONS - Sunday breakfast is something we all look forward to. We use this Mickey Mouse waffle iron at our house, but there are other fun ones that families are sure to enjoy, like hearts and zoo animals. Include some syrup, coffee, your favorite waffle mix and the gift is ready for giving! 

MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION - There are so many monthly subscription boxes (a service that sends interesting, new goods to your door each month) out there these days that you could easily find one to fit the liking of the family you're shopping for. We've loved Citrus Lane and Kiwi Crate, but Koala Crate and Tinker Crate sound like a great option for kids too.

Tip: Use PREVIEW60 to save 60% off your first month of any Kiwi Crate! This works on the Koala Crate, Tinker Crate and Doodle Crate too.

Put the gifts in a basket they can use for something else (toys, throw blankets, etc. ) HomeGoods and Ikea are great places to shop for these, or order a personalized tote with the family name on it.  

What are your favorite group or family gift ideas?

November 21, 2014

Five on Friday

Good morning and happy Friday! We've had a really nice week with some great rainy days and lots of fun, so we're ready for the weekend. Let's get on with it!

Still trying to decide what to make for dessert for Thanksgiving this year? Consider these 4-Ingredient Mini Pumpkin Pies! I promise they're really easy to make, and everyone loves miniature food!

It was pouring rain yesterday on our way home from school, so I promised O that after nap time we'd put on our boots and coats and stop in the puddles. By the time he was up the rain had almost stopped and the puddles were drying up, which of course kick started a round of O's favorite new questions, "Why?". Everything is "Why?" lately...

O: Why is the wind blowing the clouds?
Me: Because the wind is blowing.
O: Why is the wind blowing?
Me: Because the weather is changing.
O: Why is the weather changing?
Me: Because we're getting closer to Winter.

.... you get the idea! It's really sweet, and I know he is asking because he is interested in the world around him, so I don't mind answering "Why?" questions all day long, but I am running out of answers a 2 year-old can understand!

The time change is still having an affect on us. I had hoped it might work in our favor, the sun going down earlier = an earlier bedtime, etc. Unfortunately though, we're still not making it to "lights out" any earlier than 7:45pm and we've stuck to rising earlier, still up at what would have been 6 or 6:30am before the time change, which is actually 5 or 5:30. The upside to all of this? Getting to see a beautiful sunrise! That was the sky last Sunday morning. 

If you need me, I will be in the kitchen. The Whole 30 has me chopping, scrambling, baking and sautéing like a madwoman. Pretty much all I have done this week is shop for, cook and plan our meals -- which is quite possibly the most challenging part of this challenge. Today is day 5 and the thing I miss the most is chewing gum, which we weird because I would have thought I'd miss toast, cheese or coffee creamer. I'll give a more detailed rundown next week.

I saw this article from the  NY Times this week about what children around the world eat for breakfast and it actually made me feel pretty good about O's eating habits. We always try our best to give him a well rounded breakfast (and lunch, snacks, dinner) but sometimes it seems really oddly matched, i.e., cheese stick / bacon / apple and peanut butter. Well, according to this list, having a variety of flavors is pretty normal for childrens' breakfasts around the world.

And I'm linking up with a whole lot of people today! 
Oh Hey Friday with September Farm and The Farmer's Wife!
Friday Favorites with A Little Bit of EverythingMomfessionals, and Grace and Love.

November 19, 2014

Fall with eShakti

The weather is finally cold here in California (by a Californian's standard), which really makes me want to spend all day, everyday in warm comfortable clothes! I'd love to be able to live in sweats and tee shirts, but alas, we must leave this house once a day, so I have to find a great balance between comfortable and presentable.

I was recently asked by eShakti to review one of their pieces, and as soon as I saw this jacket I knew it would be perfect for me -- just long enough to wear with leggings! Have you shopped on eShakti's site? They are the only online women's fashion apparel company offering sizes 0-36W & custom clothing. Yes, you read that right custom clothing -- it isn't just for celebrities, real people can have it too, and not for an outrageous price either.  They offer a wide variety of dresses (holiday, wedding, special events and even casual), jackets, tops, sweaters and skirts that are fully customizable to your liking.

On the site you'll find a basic design for all items, which you can then alter by changing the length, sleeve length, collar, neckline, etc. You can also leave it as is and just have the piece made to fit your specific measurements.

Like I said, when I saw this jacket I loved it, so I decided to keep the shape as it was shown, and just customized it to match my measurements. Ordering was really easy -- they walk you through the proper steps to get your correct measurements, and I was actually able to do it all myself, although they recommend having someone help you. 

My item arrived about 10 days later and it fit me just as I'd hoped! I love wearing it with leggings and boots or booties, but it would also be pretty cute with jeans or the right dress (with boots)! Overall, I had a fantastic experience with eShakti and would absolutely recommend to you for the next time you need to buy a dress or sweater. 

Have you ever ordered a piece of clothing from eShakti or had something custom made? Learn more about eShakti's custom products at Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

November 18, 2014

4-Ingredient Mini Pumpkin Pies

This is my go to Fall dessert when we're entertaining. These are small enough to satisfy the craving for something sweet and easy to just grab -- no serving knife or cutting required. What I really love about them though is that with only 4 ingredients they are so easy to throw together.

I made them this week, even though we are currently in our first week of Whole 30, because Keith's co-workers are having an office Thanksgiving potluck lunch. It wasn't so hard to making them knowing we couldn't have any, but having them sit there in the kitchen all evening after I made them was torture. Looking forward to Thanksgiving so I can have some!

Makes two dozen.

1 can pumpkin pie filling
1 5oz can evaporated milk
2 eggs
2 packages prepared pie crust (the kind in the rolls, not the shells)

Preheat your oven according to package directions. Lightly flour a cutting board and unroll one pie crust and start cutting out your mini pie crusts. I used a regular drinking glass that's radius was slightly larger that the size of the muffin tin holes. I was able to get 6 pie crusts out of each roll of pie dough -- save the scraps if you'd like to create a cute design for the top. I used the scraps and a set of holiday pie crust cutters I bought on Zulily, similar to these from Williams-Sonoma, to create the design on top.   

Press each mini pie crust into the cups of a standard muffin tin. (Do not grease the muffin tin)

Mix together the eggs, pie filling and evaporated milk. For easy pouring put your batter in a large measuring cup and pour about 1/4 cup filling into each prepared crust. Bake according to package directions or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the middle pies comes out clean.

Let cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes or more before removing them from the muffin tin. They should come out easily, but you can use a butter knife to loosen them if they get a little stuck. Serve with whipped cream!

What are you serving for Thanksgiving this year?

November 14, 2014

Five on Friday

Hey there! Late five happening today. The morning got away from me somehow and I was determined to get us out of the house this morning since it wasn't too wet or cold. We spent over an hour playing at our favorite play place, which was a blast, but ended on a sad note when O slipped on the floor in one of the rooms and busted him lip. Poor boy kept asking me "how you make ouchies go away?" the whole way home. He's fine and is napping now, so it's all good.

On to my five...

one. Yesterday was school picture day at O's school and I'm so happy to report that it went well! I love looking at this picture of O next to that picture of Keith as a little boy. It is still so funny to me that when I was pregnant with O I though he would look just like Keith did when he was little, but surprisingly he actually looks a lot more like me.

And I still cannot believe our baby has already had his first school picture day. Thursday is my off day from helping in the classroom, so I didn't think I'd get to be there when his photo was being taken, but luckily he was in the first group to have their pictures taken, so I got to sneak a peek. The photographer was fantastic and really got O giggling, which made for some cute pictures. I can't wait to see the final product.

two. We're heading to Disneyland in 22 days and we're so excited! Keith and I have been during Christmas a few times pre-O and it is so magical, and we can't wait to see it through O's eyes. I think he's going to have 20x more fun on this trip than he did on his first trip to Disneyland, which was really fun, so that's a lot of FUN!

Whole 30 approved monkey salad
three. I'm considering giving the Whole 30 a try. You're probably rolling your eyes right now because you know me and you know I totally failed at completing that juice cleanse that one time, and because you probably/maybe follow me on IG and I obviously love cookies, french fries and Mexican we'll see! Right now is the worst time to start with Thanksgiving in two weeks and our trip to Disneyland in 22 days, but I think it is worth it to give it a shot, while making exceptions on those days. Right?

four. Currently on my wish list? This cute crossbody bag, and it's under $100! The mushroom color is the most practical, but the fuchsia is so fun. What do you think?

five.  I'm in the process of creating a job chart for O-- I really like this one on Etsy, but I'm going to make my own to meet our needs specifically. He always likes to be a "helper", so I think it would be a smart parenting strategy to capitalize on that and work it to our advantage when I need to get him to do things like get dressed, brush his teeth and clean-up his toys. And as always, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Have a great weekend!

And I'm linking up with a whole lot of people today! 
Oh Hey Friday with September Farm and The Farmer's Wife!
Friday Favorites with A Little Bit of EverythingMomfessionals, and Grace and Love.

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