Love Story

Thursday, December 22, 2011

10 Ways to Save in the Kitchen this Holiday Season (Guest Post)

Today's post is contributed by guest writer Jakob Berry. Enjoy!

10 Ways to Save in the Kitchen this Holiday Season

With the holidays here and many people having guests there’s a lot of room for things to get out of hand, especially in the kitchen. That’s where the potential for a lot of waste exists.

Think about it: Food, drinks, gifts and increased energy usage, which can jump dramatically when having extra people around, are all added expenses that can turn a sweet holiday into a stressful decision making process based on money.

That’s why in order to stay grounded, be that wonderful host you love to be, and enjoy this time of year with family and friends here’s a few tips that can help take some of the financial burden off your mind. Let them transform your home into a more efficiently working mechanism and carry you into the new year:
  1. Compost: Some towns charge for the amount of trash put out each week. If you have a lot of scraps from cutting fruits and vegetables composting will take weight off those garbage bags and if you live in a garden friendly state like New Jersey JerseyCity gardeners won’t hesitate to tell you how much important nutrients all that organic matter adds to your soil.

  2. Repurpose: Whether freezer bags, containers, plastic bottles, or glass jars, you’ll probably be    handling more than usual. Use them over and over so you never have to purchase new ones.

  3. Boiled water: Try and plan ahead when it comes to boiling water and reuse it for something else. For example, you may steam green beans or another veggie and instead of pouring out the water use it for the soup you were hoping to make.

  4. Cut out disposables: Instead of buying fancier disposable plates and cutlery for the table use your real dishes and silverware. Yes, it will mean a little more work cleaning up but chances are your guests will be happy to help out.

  5. Dishwashing: Cutting out disposables might mean a higher water bill because of the extra dishwashing. To prevent using excessive water fill two dish pans; one for soaking and another for rinsing after the dishes are scrubbed. If this isn’t feasible scrub everything and then turn on the water to rinse. Never leave the faucet running.

  6. Veggies: Limit waste when cutting vegetables and try to use as much as possible freezing extra pieces for a rainy day. Example: If you’re cutting broccoli freeze the trunks for soup.

  7. Thermos: Keep a thermos with hot water available so you can make tea or coffee without having to constantly reboil water.

  8. Portions: Don’t give out large portions that may not get eaten. It’s better to serve smaller amounts and have guests come back for more.

  9. Monitor electricity: Unplug appliances when not in use as they still use energy when plugged in.

  10. Delegate: Have guests bring an appetizer, wine, or desert and don’t think of it as being cheap. You’re actually giving them a chance to contribute and lend a hand in the festivities.
    Jakob Barry is a home improvement journalist for He also blogs for contractors across the U.S. like Hialeah remodelers and electricians in Aurora.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    Elfie, Elfie, Elfie!

    Another week and another handful of photos from Elfie's adventures to share. He always seems to get extra creative the closer to Christmas we get...enjoy!

    Elfie was kind enough to bring the boys a new Scooby Doo movie to watch with daddy one night when mommy was out

    The boys frantically searched for Elfie one morning only to discover he was stuck to daddy's back! (Thanks for this fun idea Aunt Amy:)

    Hungry for cereal

    Leading a parade of trucks with some other friends in our house

    That rascal got a sharpie and got artistic with the boys pictures:

    Nathan the pirate

    Jordan the little devil

    Sweet baby Isaiah (now 19 months old, we should really update that picture!)
    Only a few days left until Elfie goes back to the North Pole for the next 11 months. It will be interesting to see how he wraps up his visit!

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Pin this - homemade gifts and Christmas decor

    With less than a week left until Christmas I thought I would share some of the easy homemade gifts (for you last minute folks:) and DIY decorations that I have been finding on Pinterest the past few weeks. If you have found something you love, feel free to leave a link in the comments.

    I thought this "Whisk You a Merry Christmas" was the picture for 15 gifts under $2
    I made this for a takes only 4 ingredients that you likely have on hand and minutes to make (and smells AMAZING!)
    This has to be my absolute favorite homemade gift find this week...magnetic paper dolls!
    A tea wreath - beautiful and a great gift for the tea lover in your life
    This list is actually up to 30 now (just click on the picture) - including a bean bag tutorial from yours truly:)
    A Santa centerpiece made from a coffee can
    I love this snowman family made from dollar store gloves - great decor or family gift
    This sock snowman would cost next to nothing to make and is so adorable
    I hope that gives you some stuff to work on this week if that's what you were needing. If not, something to bank for next year:) For more of the fun ideas I have been finding, make sure to come follow me on Pinterest - just click on the button on the upper right hand side of this page. Happy Pinning!

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    More elf antics

    Another week with Elfie has passed. He has really out done himself with all kinds of crazy stunts that have kept the kids on their toes each morning as they try to hunt him down. I love listening to them speculate how he got into all of these places over breakfast each morning. The imagination of children is magical all on it's own! Want a peak for yourself at the fun we've been having? Here you go:

    That sneaky elf dyed our milk green!! This was a morning that the kids panicked because they couldn't find Elfie anywhere...what a shock when we opened the fridge:)

    Just hanging out! Nathan got quite a surprise when he awoke on that morning.

    This was a favorite...Elfie brought the bigger boys their own Christmas mugs (this was a request for sometime) and a hot chocolate bar to enjoy as an after school snack.

    Elfie donning Jordan's stuff, apparently he wants to go outside to play!

    Who knew Elfie was a card shark? The boys have decided Santa must have taught him how to play.
    Oh, the things that elf comes up with while we are all sleeping. Can't wait to see what he has up his sleeve this week! Do any of you have an elf visiting you this year? Would love to hear what your elf has been up to, feel free to share:)

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    The Heart of a Drummer Boy

    There is no question that I am a HUGE fan of Christmas music. I especially love the more touching ballad type songs like O Come All Ye Faithful and Holy Night. Something about the words describing the true meaning of Christmas that speak to my soul. Maybe it's the sentiment of the season, or maybe I have just had one to many eggnog lattes, but this week I surprised myself by tearing up at a not so typically emotional Christmas song - The Little Drummer Boy. These lyrics in particular:

    Little Baby
    Pa rum pum pum pum
    I am a poor boy too,
    Pa rum pum pum pum
    I have no gift to bring
    Pa rum pum pum pum
    That's fit to give our King
    Pa rum pum pum pum
    Rum pum pum pum
    Rum pum pum pum
    Shall I play for you!
    Pa rum pum pum
    On my drum.

    Mary nodded
    Pa rum pum pum pum
    The ox and lamb kept time
    Pa rum pum pum pum
    I played my drum for Him
    Pa rum pum pum
    I played my best for Him
    Pa rum pum pum pum
    Rum pum pum pum
    Rum pum pum pum
    Then He smiled at me
    Pa rum pum pum pum
    Me and my drum.

    I guess it is something about the imagery of that poor little boy coming before baby Jesus. He was not dressed to impress, did not come bearing gifts of gold or other monetary worth. He just came as he was to worship his new king. He gave the gift he had to give, a song of worship on his drum. Isn't that what Jesus wants from all of us? To come before him just as we are. It isn't about what others can do. I don't see the Drummer Boy measuring himself against the wise men in this scenario. It's about offering up the very best gift that we have to give, as humble as that my appear.

    "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." (1 Chronicles 16:29)

    My prayer this Christmas season and beyond is that I develop the heart of the drummer boy - that I would come just as I am to worship my king, offering the best of what I have been given with no concern for how that measures up to anyone else.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    Pin this

    It's been a couple of weeks since we talked about pinterest...way too long if you ask me!! But that doesn't mean I haven't still been pinning on a regular basis. Can I share some of my favorite pins right now?

    These hot chocolate cones would make adorable stocking stuffers
    Peppermint Stick White Chocolate Marshmallows...need I say more?
    Elf donuts made out of cheerios. Brilliant!
    Loving this place setting for a Christmas dinner
    This is a Peter Pan silhouette using a cutout on top of the lamp. Lots of possibilities!
    Make your own never-ending Vanilla Extract
    Isn't this stuff great? Want to see more of what I am pinning each week? Click on the red Follow Me on Pinterest button at the top of the page. Happy Pinning!

    Elfie's first week

    Elfie has been here since last Thursday and has been the talk of the house. Jordan lectures him everyday about moving from his original spot on the table. One day he even went as far as making a plan to glue him to the table so he couldn't's pretty funny! Here's what Elfie has been up to:

    Taking over for the Christmas Countdown Snowman
    Last year Elfie brought us the Fisher Price Nativity, this year he gave us the 3 wise men set too
    Elfie replaced Isaiah's stocking with himself! The night before the boys had given him Christmas lists to take home to Santa so tucked behind him is a letter back to them from Santa:)

    Elfie always likes playing with the nutcrackers

    He brought out the Christmas books for the boys (with a little help from our cat Buddy)

    Elfie got up on the coat shelf and is wearing one of the kids Seahawk Santa hats
    A week in the life of a Christmas Elf...busy! I am sure he has many more antics and surprises up his sleeve so stayed tuned for more Elfie updates in the coming weeks.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    North Pole Breakfast

    Elfie is back! In case you are newer to my blog, Elfie is the name of our Elf on a Shelf. Still confused? Type Elfie in the search box at the top of my blog and you can read up on all my posts from last year.

    This is his second year coming to our house and boy did he come with a bang! The boys woke up to a fully decorated dining room with ribbons on the chairs, pictures on the wall totally covered in wrapping paper, and silver bells and snowflakes hanging from the ceiling.

    Each of the kids had a personalized letter from Elfie reminding them to be good so they can stay on the nice list. In his lap was a note to me asking me to kindly fix up the food he had brought since he was so tired from traveling and decorating.

    Turns out Elfie had brought all the fixings for a proper North Pole Breakfast complete with powdered donuts, berries, bacon and eggnog. Everything got wolfed up in no time and even our Little Guy was caught stuffing his face, mostly full of berries:)

    We donned our Seahawk Santa hats because after all, that is appropriate attire for a North Pole Breakfast in the Pacific Northwest!
    I can't wait to see what other things Elfie has up his sleeve as we count down to Christmas. Be looking for weekly updates to see all the fun things Elfie brings and does while staying at our house.

    (P.S. - For any elves out there looking to duplicate this at their house, I heard that our elf used mostly decorations we had on hand and got the rest at the Dollar Tree and only spent around $10. That frugal little elf!;)

    **Here is a post about our 2013 NPB for those interested**

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Not your typical Christmas gift

    When it comes to cleaning my house, I often find myself doing the bare minimum just to get by - a load of laundry here, a couple of sweeps there, an occasional vacuum in the main areas. It is always a struggle to buckle down and really tackle the whole mess on a regular basis. I guess it is the part of me that still rebels against anything not fun...I know, I know, I am 30 not 3 but somehow that is still a part of my personality.

    The problem with this is that the house is my job. As a stay at home wife and mom I consider my first priorities to be my husband and kids and right after that comes the upkeep of our home. We as women were created to not only stay busy but spend part of that busy time blessing our homes because it creates a warm environment for the people we love (see Proverbs 31:10-31). If I was honest with myself I would have to admit that I often rob my family of the blessing of a clean and tidy home. As I type this, really put it into words and let it sink in, I realize just how convicting this statement is. When I stop looking at the housework as work and instead see it as blessing my family, it really gives me a whole new motivation to re-prioritize the time I spend on my home.

    You might be wondering what it looks like to bless your family with a clean home. To me a clean home creates opportunity. If my kitchen counters are clutter free and my dishes are cleaned and put away, I am more likely to spend time on a nutritious homemade meal for my family. I am more likely to spontaneously invite the kids in for some baking time together. If my living room and dining room are always picked up my kids are more likely to turn off the tv and pull out their train tracks to spend hours creating a grand railroad station on the floor. They are more likely to color an elaborate picture at the table until their markers run dry. If everything is where it should be and clean, my husband can come home after 12 long hours of work and just relax. He would be able to truly find peace at home (at least until our 3 little monkeys start climbing all over him!).

    So my challenge to you, and to myself, is to give your family a different kind of gift this Christmas season. Bless them by blessing your home on a more regular basis. Open up opportunities for baking gingerbread men, playing a family game around the table, spreading out on the floor to wrap gifts together. In doing this you are really blessing yourself as well. Not only are you going to have a happy family and lots of memories, but I can almost guarantee your holiday season will be less stressful. So many times my stress during this time of year is compounded by the messy state of my home.

    What is one thing you envision yourself being able to do with your family this holiday season when the mess of your house isn't getting in the way? Can't wait to hear what you come up with and would love for you to stop back by and let me know how it is going! And if you are already good at this, please share your tips for successfully keeping a tidy home on a regular basis.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    Button Ornaments

    This year I have really been drawn to buttons. They are just so fun for crafting! In recent years we have agreed to stop exchanging gifts with my brother and his wife and instead focus on the kids at Christmas time. So we started a tradition of exchanging ornaments instead. This year we planned to swap ornaments on Thanksgiving so we could enjoy them during the current holiday season. I had planned to make mine so when I came across these button ornaments by Martha Stewart, I knew they were just the thing.
    I was extra blessed in this endeavor as one of the followers on my Facebook page generously mailed me a bunch of buttons from her stash for no cost after I inquired about where to buy them in bulk. Thank you so much Jerre Lollman:)

     Here's what I came up with (one each for my brother, sister-in-law, and 2 nieces):

    That's a reindeer, a snowman, an elf (or leprechaun as I kept calling it at one point;), and a Santa. I am planning to make some more to attach to gifts and am going to come up with some special ones for my boys so I'll post about those when I finish them. If you are interested in making some yourself click the Martha Stewart link above. The only materials you need are buttons, pipe cleaner, and ornament hooks. These literally take minutes to make and would be a fun project to get your kids involved with as well. Happy Ornament Making!

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Let's talk Pinterest!

    Okay, I'm officially hooked. Like most other things I am a little behind in jumping on the band wagon but now that I have I am glad I did! There are so many great ideas floating around Pinterest and even more than that I love that I have one place to keep them all. My brain could never begin to hold all of the recipes, crafts, decorations, etc that I see and want to remember in the future. And now it doesn't have too! All my future plans are neatly pinned on my boards for just that moment when I am ready to make a new recipe or start a new craft. Brilliant!

    Because I am always falling in love with ideas I find there and I have this blog to share what I love, I thought I would start trying to post some of favorite finds from Pinterest. Things I can't wait to try or things I got inspired to try. What do you think? I don't know if this will be a weekly thing or a here and there thing...we'll see! But if you want to see all the things I am finding feel free to hit the Follow Me button to the left of this post:)

    This week I am going to share a few of the things I have been inspired to do or make. Click on the caption if you want to see the original source and start creating yourself:)

    This Countdown to Thanksgiving turkey from my last post was Pinterest inspired:)  
    My boys are loving my twist on the dinosaur hats pattern I found! 
    Matching winter hats for my nieces made out of old fleece pajama pants
    Want to know what the number one Pinterest inspired item I have been making lately is? Anything pumpkin flavored!! Here are some links to the recipes my family tried and liked:
    - Pumpkin Cornbread -
    - Pumpkin Fudge -
    - Pumpkin Pancakes -
    - Pumpkin Gingerbread -

    Finally, with Thanksgiving a little over a week away (really??) let me share with you all the Thanksgiving decor and crafts I have been inspired by. This will take you to my board full of pins dedicated specifically to Thanksgiving:

    Happy Pinning, as they say!

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Countdown to Thanksgiving

    I love crafts. Always have. When I pictured myself as a mom I pictured lots of hands on crafts with my kids. So when my oldest boys were big enough to sit at the table I started planning all of these fun projects to do. I quickly realized just how hard it is to complete a project with two toddlers! Needless to say, it started to be fewer and further between that I let my boys in on my crafts because it just felt more like work then fun. But now that they are 4 and 5 I really want to make more of an effort to get hands on with them. And thanks to Pinterest, I have a LOT of ideas to choose from!

    The holiday season is a great time for crafts. There is so much inspiration to draw from. We decided to start with a Countdown To Thanksgiving craft (thanks to Make and Takes for the inspiration) that will help us get excited for the big feast as well as remember what we are thankful for each day. This was a great project to do with my kids because it only involved a handful of supplies and they were able to help with each step.

    I started by cutting out the body, the head, the facial features and the strips for the feathers. Jordan got to draw on the eyes and glue on the beak, waddle, and legs.
    Nathan got to write Happy Thanksgiving on the body.
    They both got to trim the strips of paper into feathers.

     Now I have seen this project where you start with all of the feathers and then take one off for each day as a countdown to Thanksgiving. I liked the idea of adding a feather a day so that you end with a full bird so we are going to do it that way. Each day I am going to ask each of my boys what they are thankful for and write it on the feather before adding it to the body. At the end we will have a nice keepsake to look back on:)

    Since we didn't start this until November 5th, we had 5 feathers to catch up on. It was sweet listening to my 4 year old say first that he was thankful that God and Jesus loved him and my 5 year old list his brothers as what he is most thankful for. I look forward to the next 19 days not only because that means Thanksgiving is here and we get to celebrate with loved ones, but also to hear each day what my little guys are thankful for in their life.

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