I've got lots of plans in store for 2012 and I am so excited!  I just wanted to give you all a rundown of what to look for in the upcoming new year!  I'm tweaking my post schedule a little.  I'll still have my regular posts, but I'm also adding some fun link-ups as well.  Here's what things will look like beginning in January:

Monday: Stuff I Love
Tuesday: Stuff I Don't Love and/or Tuesday Top 5 linkup
Wednesday: Book Of The Week and Wednesday Wander linkup
Thursday: Recipe Of The Week and Think Thinner Thursday linkup
Friday: Free Friday (anything goes) and Swap It To Me linkup (once/month)

I'd love for this blog to be a starting point for all of us to get to know each other better and share our knowledge and resources.  So I'll be giving you guys opportunities to share your opinions, gain new followers for your blogs/shops, share your best fitness tips and trade goods and services. 

AND the BIGGEST news it - we're going to be moving!  Lovely as weebly is - it's just not the very best place for us.  I'm in process of having a lovely designer give my old blogger site a brand new facelift!!  Starting in February 2012 we'll be moving back to blogger (I'll keep this site up so y'all can come visit the archive anytime).  I'm sure I'll have some kind of fun grand reveal.

So that's what we have to look forward to next year!  I'm signing off until 2012.  I hope you all have a really lovely, blessed and safe new year celebration! 
 
 
I posted over here recently about my New Years goals - primarily in relation to health and fitness.  But I'd like to expound upon them here. 

I don't make New Years resolutions.  For me resolution has such a negative connotation.  When I resolve to do something, I feel like a failure the second I make a misstep.  If I don't get to the gym one day, I let myself down.  If I eat that piece of chocolate, I have broken my resolve.  Instead, I prefer to set goals.  I know there will be setbacks, but they are things that I want to work towards, things I hope to accomplish by years end.  So here are my top 10 goals for 2012.

1) Make an effort with my appearance. I will attempt to dress presentably and wear makeup at least 5 days a week. Ideally 6 days a week. I can wear yoga pants and sweatshirts if I'm really going to be doing a lot of cleaning or yard-work, but that's it. When I feel like I look good, I feel good about myself. And when I feel good about myself, it positively impacts every other part of my life.

2) I will work out every day even if I only do 20 situps. Usually, if I get a start, I want to keep going. It's motivating myself to get my tush out of my chair to do something that's the hard part. But if I tell myself I only have to do 20 situps or 5 minutes of running, then I'll be more likely to start. I can quit after my tiny goal. But odds are, I'll want to keep going.

3) Eat a healthy diet 5 days a week. I have a HUGE sweet tooth. And I love carbs. And in winter, telling myself I have to eat healthily is like telling myself I'm going to lace up some boots and climb Mt. Everest. I'm a lot more likely to eat fruits, veggies and grains 5 days a week if I know I can bake a pie on Saturday (or have a bagel for breakfast on Sunday - or whatever). To this end, I can't keep junk in the house. If there is chocolate, I will eat 9 pieces in an afternoon. If we have bread 'on hand,' I will eat toast all day. If I've got mac'n'cheese in the cupboard 'just in case we're snowed in,' I will make it for lunch the next day. I am a weak weak person and I can't keep junk in the house. Which means I'll have to plan my menus carefully. It means I need to have healthy 'in case of snow' meals in the freezer. It means I have to have lunch pre-made in the morning so I'm not seduced by the call of Panda Express when we're all ravenous after preschool. It's doable - I just have to make myself do it.

4) Get up at 6:30. My poor kids are suffering from my own laziness. I sleep in as late as possible in the morning, dawdle with getting out of bed, putter around with email and odds and ends and then get them up in a big fat rush because I keep trying to get them all fed and dressed and out the door in 20 minutes. So, I WILL get up at 6:30 every day. I don't have to work out. I don't have to shower. But I will do a devotional (what better way to get myself prepared for the day), quickly check my email and get myself dressed (nicely - with makeup) for the day and have breakfast started and clothes laid out before I get the kids up - hopefully by 7:30. If I can do that, we should cut down on a LOT of morning angst.

5) I will make quiet-hour shorter. Quiet hour lately has drawn out to quiet-two-hours (or more). Which is fine for the younger two who nap that long. And fine for Mommy who gets done a ton of blogging and cleaning and crafting and sleeping. But it's miserable for big brother who does not nap and, though he is ingenious in his creative use of such a long chunk of time in his room by himself with a box of toys, I know he misses Mommy. We used to spend naptime together reading books and playing. Then Mommy realized she was a nicer person if she got a SMALL break in the afternoon (and sibs slept better when big brother wasn't being loud) and we instituted quiet hour. And then Mommy realized how nice quiet hour was and it has gradually gotten out of hand. Therefore, I resolve to do what I must to make quiet hour stick closer to the hour-long mark. Nap first, errands second, clean third - the rest I'll have to fit in somewhere else.

6) To that end - Spend less time on the computer. I blog a LOT. Which is ok if I plan things out in advance and do as much of it as I can before getting up for the day. But I also enter all kinds of online giveaways, play around on Pinterest and generally waste tons of time on the internet. Time that I could be spending napping, cleaning, crafting and doing all those other things that make quiet hour so long. My plan is - leave the computer downstairs. That way, I can't work on it while I'm with the kids. They (and the house) get my undivided attention, and I'll have to learn to prioritize what I do on the computer during "my" time.

7) Keep a tidier, cleaner house. By bedtime, I'm pooped and don't want to clean. In the mornings, I'm in too much of a rush. And in the afternoons I know that anything I do will just be undone again by bedtime. So it never gets done. But I'm going to work toward both a) cleaning more with my newfound time that I won't be spending on the computer or frittering away at quiet hour, and by b) re-organizing the house to make it more efficient. If there's a spot that is always dirty or always covered in piles, it needs to be re-thought. And I can learn to multi-task. Clean the bathroom while the kids bathe, wipe down the kitchen while the kids eat breakfast, use vacuuming as a discipline tactic (my kids love to vacuum). There are lots of ways to keep this nest a little more nicely feathered - if I take the time to plan. Time that I'm hoping to gain back by being more efficient in all the above ways.

8) Seek counselingI don't like this one. I'm pretty embarrassed to have it on my list.  And I know that my husband is going to be even more convinced that I'm a hypochondriac nut.  But I really think I need to go see a therapist.  I've struggled with depression all my life (from mild bouts, to anorexia, to sobbing-on-the-bathroom-floor blues).  At first, I thought maybe I just had a hormone imbalance - but after extensive testing, all my bloodwork came back 'normal.' And while I'm not in the incapacitating funk I was in after my third baby (in three years) was born, I still find that I have a really hard time with my emotions.  I'm angry.  Like all the time.  Over really stupid things.  Some days I don't want to get out of bed because I don't have the energy to deal with the day (made so much worse in winter).  I just don't feel right, whatever the medical tests say.  So, I'm making it a goal to go talk to a professional.  Maybe there's a simple solution I'm overlooking.  I just need to stop being mortified, suck it up and go.

9) Spend more time outside. I've heard that sunshine (all that vitamin D!) is a great mood booster.  And goodness knows that a little running around outside is great for getting the ants out of my kids pants and making them calmer.  And, frankly, we've been having an amazingly mild winter for our area.  I have no excuse NOT to take the kids out for some playtime every afternoon.  It just might be that magic pill I've been waiting for.

10) Count my blessingsNo matter how I'm feeling any given day, expressing a little gratitude makes things so much better.  I'm trying very hard to stop several times a day to say a little prayer of thanks.  Especially for the things that are making me nuts.  "Thank You Lord that I have such energetic and creative kid to make all this mess."  "Thank You Lord that we eat so well it takes ages to do the dishes."  "Thank You Lord that we have a car that needs washing and gassing up and cleaning out."  "Thank You Lord that I have a husband who's home so often he has the opportunity to put things where I can't find them."  I have been blessed more abundantly than I can fathom, and I really need to open my eyes and see it more clearly.  Then maybe some of these things that make me so angry/blue/grumpy won't seem so important anymore. 

So that's what I'll be up to this year.  Anyone have any advice for me?  What goals are on your list?  Join me in linking up with
 
 
It's been quite the Christmas at our house.  We celebrated in early December with my parents and the kids were spoiled with tons of presents.  Then we celebrated at home on Christmas eve and the kids were spoiled with even more presents.  Then (after a brief jaunt to church where they were thoroughly bored), we headed out to the other Grandma's house and they got so many presents we don't know where to put them all.  By the end of the unwrapping sessions, our two year old didn't even want to finish unwrapping his gifts, the four year old wanted another present even after he'd finished unwrapping all 12 of his, and the baby decided she'd rather just chew on the boxes.  Wow.

I'm hoping that despite the fact that we went totally overboard this year, the kids will be able to take away from the holiday something other than lots of presents.  I'm hoping that they learned something about Baby Jesus at church.  I'm hoping that they remember that His birth is what it's all about (after all, we did have a "birthday party for Jesus" on Christmas eve - even if it did involve more junk-food eating than Bible reading).  I'm hoping that they treasure the time they had with their grandparents and aunt and uncle more than the gifts they won't even remember in a few years.  And I'm hoping that they will remember to think of those who don't have enough, as they themselves are blessed with too  much. 

I plan on making the kids sift through their toys to pick out a few to donate to children who don't have as much.  I think it's a concept they understand, even at this young age.  They're still learning all about "share"- so I think sometimes the empathy is difficult for them - but I want them to learn now so that giving will be second nature when they're older. 

Our kids know that Santa isn't real.  They choose to believe that he is, just for fun.  But they know that all the gifts under the tree(s) come from people who love them, and they know that saying "thank you" is a must.   They still get excited to see the man in the red suit when we're out around town, but somewhere in their sugar-crazed state they know that the 'real' meaning of Christmas is so much more than presents and sweets. 

Now that the holidays are over, I'm hoping that we can focus on the fresh start of a new year.  I'm planning to sit my kids down and talk with them about goals they want to accomplish this year, hopes that we have for them, and ways that we can make this a better year for others.  I know it's a long-shot that they'll really 'get' it, but some day they will and I want to set the precedent now.  I wake up every single morning feeling so incredibly blessed for all that we've been given and I just hope and pray that I can pass on an attitude of gratitude to my kids. 

So how did your holidays go?  What are some goals that you have for this coming new year? 
Gift overload
Don't worry, this Christmas celebration is protected by Green Lantern and Superman
What Mommy and Daddy spent their entire Christmas assembling (but isn't it gorgeous!?)
 
 
Merry Christmas everyone!  Much love to you all from our family.  We are grateful for you!  Hope that you have a truly wonderful and blessed holiday and a stellar new year!
 
 
Yup - another swap.  This time I swapped over here at Sneakers Over Stilettos.  All the bloggy moms got paired off with other moms to send gifts to the bloggy babies.  What a fun swap!  Baby L's secret Santa was Marian and her daughter Sophia from over at My 2 Jobs.  And boy did baby L get spoiled!
She just loved her Dora pajamas and headed straight for them!
And this is a terrible picture, but aren't these hairbows (made by Marian herself) amazing!?  I tried to take pics of them in baby L's hair, but she's in the "tear them off and chew on them" stage.  Hoping we grow out of that soon - these are too cute!
And these toy keys are so awesome that she often has to wrestle them away from her big brothers just to get a turn.  (please excuse the dirty pjs - mama didn't open the package until after dinner...). 

A hearty thank you to Marian and Sophia.  Baby L loves her gifts!
 
 
A huge thanks to Michelle at The Momma Bird for organizing this super cute rewrite.  Merry Christmas everyone!!

Twas the Night Before Christmas {blog style}

Twas the night before Christmas, while scheduling posts on the blog

Not a child was stirring, they were bumps on a log.

Facebook was quiet no updates to see,

I sure hope Santa remembers presents for me!

http://www.themommabird.com">{Michelle @ the Momma Bird}

Oliver was chewing his bone by the fire,

his eyes were heavy, he was so very tired.

I had on my onesie covered with penguins you see,

hoping that under the mistletoe Mike would meet me.

http://ashlemieux.blogspot.com/">{Ashley @ The Shine Project}

When out on the web there arose such a clatter,

from the Duggars &cloth diapering, to family matters.

Away to my laptop I started typing away,

25 blog posts to schedule before Christmas day!

http://www.livingonloveblog.com/">{Lacy @ Living on Love}

The room was a mess and life was on hold,

as the luster of my screen showed I had one more post to go.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

but a sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

http://cantelmofamily.blogspot.com/">{Melanie @ Catelmo Family Blog}

With a plump red belly and a white beard to boot,

I knew it was Santa Clause delivering his loot,

With a voice that sounded much like Tom Hanks,

He shouted out to his flying ranks:

http://jkoakden.blogspot.com/">{Kendra @ Our Little Almanac}

Can you hear that baby?! Happy, now sad, now laughing, now crying!

Little girl don’t you know, tonight’s the night in which I am flying!

From the boppy to the bed, all in one fell swoop.

Let’s scurry off to bed, for your mommy is pooped!

http://myblognamedkip.blogspot.com/">{Alexandra @ My Blog Kip}

As the wind picks up and the snow is falling,

We are met with deadlines and emails are calling.

So up to the house the laptop now closes,

With a sleigh full of Giveaways and cheeks all a rosey.

http://www.throughtheeyesofthemrs.com/"><em>{Beth @ Through the Eyes of the Mrs.}

And then as I took a sip of my tea

I heard, on the roof, someone louder than me.

I quickly grabbed my flask to spike my large cup.

Oh phew, it's just Santa, here to make my pageviews go up.

http://novamomblog.com/">{Niki @ NoVa Mom Blog}

He was dressed all in red, it was a nice little look,

And a noticed in his bag, a little silver Macbook.

He took out his Mac, took a seat in a chair,

Then connected to the web, and said, "I like to share what I wear."

http://littlemissnerdgirl.com/">{Lacey @ Little Miss Nerd Girl}

His Iphone did twinkle! His Ipad did glow.

His fingers like ice cubes, his pointer like snow.

He looked for his warmers, they went on with a pop,

he could text and browse thanks, to the Hollie Rogue Shop!

http://www.thehollierogue.com/">{Andi @ The Hollie Rogue}

The click of the mouse beneath His forefinger,

As upon another blog post his eyes did linger.

But alas he grimaced in pure consternation

As he saw that dreaded prompt “Word Verification”

http://throughaphotographerseyes.blogspot.com/">{Misty @ Through A Photographers Eyes}

He was savvy and smart, a solo Geek Squad in red,

And I followed each detailed instruction he said.

And my blog design problems were through, I could tell,

For Santa, it seems, sure knows html.

http://voicemyopinion.weebly.com/home.html">{Cat @ Stuff I Love}

I sat at my desk, typing away with a smirk,

choosing words and pics to display all my quirks.

Each word and sentence slowly turns into prose,

the night ticks away, as the bright screen still glows.

http://lilyamongthorns22.blogspot.com/">{Mary @ Lily White}

I sprang to my laptop, not a moment to lose,

and feverishly typed while G continued to snooze.

I looked out the window, as he disappeared into the night,

wishing Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

http://www.babeblessings.com/">{Jac @ BabEblessings}

Merry 'early' Christmas Everyone!!!

Love, http://www.themommabird.com"> The Momma Bird http://ashlemieux.blogspot.com/">The Shine Project http://www.livingonloveblog.com/">Living on Love http://cantelmofamily.blogspot.com/">Cantelmo Family Blog http://jkoakden.blogspot.com/">Our Little Almanac http://myblognamedkip.blogspot.com/">My Blog Kip http://www.throughtheeyesofthemrs.com/">Through the Eyes of the Mrs. http://novamomblog.com/">NoVa Mom Blog http://littlemissnerdgirl.com/">Little Miss Nerd Girl http://www.thehollierogue.com/">The Hollie Rogue http://throughaphotographerseyes.blogspot.com/">Through a Photographers Eyes http://voicemyopinion.weebly.com/home.html">Stuff I Love http://lilyamongthorns22.blogspot.com/">Lily White http://www.babeblessings.com/">BabEblessings

 
 
I can't believe it's almost January already!  With that in mind, I'm putting out the call for January sponsors.  I would love love to have your buttons on my page, and my rates are pretty low.  I'm also looking into sponsoring with some much bigger blogs this month, which would increase traffic for all of us!  Here are my stats:

Facebook page (1000+ fans)
Twitter (600+ followers)
Plus many posts are also listed on my personal FB and twitter pages, my Google+ pages, and I'm often linking up with tons of other blogs.

I also do product reviews every Monday and occasional Tuesdays.  If you have a product, shop, blog or other item that you would like me to review for you, please contact me. 

January Prices:
All 175x175 slots are $10 for a button  AND a full-page write-up/interview of your blog or shop.
All 150x150 slots are $5 for a button and a group write-up.
150x150 sponsor buttons are free with sponsor swap or to anyone willing to provide an item for a giveaway. 

So if you're interested in seeing your pretty button over there to the right, please drop me a note!  Thanks all!
 

Hot Lunch Link-Up

12/19/2011

 
I had great intentions for getting through the holidays healthily and without adding pounds.  So much for good intentions.  I haven't gained much weight, but my healthy eating has been totally out the window.  With family in town and constant celebrations I feel like I've been living on junk food and restaurant food.  A trip to Panda Express used to be a special treat, but is now becoming a weekly habit.  And despite my best efforts to carefully plan this week's menu - you guessed it - we hit the drive-through for lunch once again.  Why?  Because it's cold and rainy out there and I did not want cold yogurt and fruit in my belly.  But that's what was on the menu. 

So I'm enlisting all of you to help.  Other than cans of soup, I'm pretty stumped on what to fix for a quick, hot lunch.  Anything I can make ahead and quickly reheat, or anything that can be thrown together in a pan rapidly are ideal options for us, as we're usually rushing home from an activity just in time to scarf down some lunch and head for naps.  I really think that having a hot, hearty, healthy meal on the menu will help me cut down on my fast-food habit (I used to swear I would never be a mom who relied on take-out.  *sigh*). 

I've added a link-up below where you can link to your favorite recipes (yours or your favorite go-tos).  Or, you can leave a quick description in the comment section instead.  Thanks a million in advance - my wallet and my waist will be grateful!
 
 
I'm sure you are all aware by now that I am on a mission of beautification.  It is far too easy for me to let my home go.  I tend to settle for "good enough" or "not that bad" when what I really crave is "gorgeous."  For some things - clean walls, stainless carpet, everything in it's own place - I know I'll have to wait until my kids are older.  But just because I have kids in my house doesn't mean I can't decorate or make my house beautiful.  My major problem is simply apathy.  I don't feel like I'm 'good at' decorating, so I don't really try.  However, an undecorated house can feel a little depressing, especially around the holidays.

As you saw in my previous post, I'm making strides in my attempt to 'pretty up' my basement bedroom.  My husband has agreed to go purchase the mud and tape this weekend, so we are well on our way to making a cozy little nook for ourselves to relax.  I'm thrilled. 

One area of my home, however, which has always been neglected, is my front stoop.  I've never really given it much thought.  We tend to enter and exit the house through the garage, so I rarely even think about my front door.  But the other day I was shocked to realize the extent of my neglect when I noticed that my front porch still looked like this:
Note the cobwebs and the ancient, rotting pumpkins.  Meanwhile, most of my neighborhood looks like this:
source - for privacy purposes, this is merely an example, not my actual neighborhood
There is no way I could ever convince my husband to go all out and splurge on lights and inflatable Santas.  But I was thrilled to be accepted to the Daily Buzz Moms 9x9 challenge: Deck The Doors!  This gave me a great excuse to add a little holiday cheer to my sad little front stoop.  My goal - to make it kid-friendly and to do it on a budget!  So, I swept up the cobwebs, put on my thinking cap, and now my front porch looks like this!
I absolutely adore coming home to this door.  It's bright, it's cheerful, and it reminds me every day what this holiday is all about.  Another plus - it's kid proof!  The wreath hangs high enough that my toddlers can't reach it, and the vinyl angels don't come off easily enough for little ones to toss them out into the bushes.  I love it!   And it turned out to be really inexpensive to make?  Here's how:
The angels were really easy to assemble.  I used stencils that I found here to design them, then I cut them out of vinyl (that I ordered 60% off at Pick Your Plum) with an exacto knife.  Cute but removable - a major must for my minimalist husband.
I made the wreath at a Pinterest party months ago and had it sitting around just waiting for inspiration to strike.  I searched everywhere for the original tutorial, but simple couldn't find it.  However, if you look on Google or Pinterest you'll find a plethora of tutorials for very similar wreaths.  To spruce it up a little I added lace ornaments which I received as a wedding gift as well as some hand-sewn felt ornaments I had leftover from my etsy shop inventory.  The garland above was on super sale at Michaels and I thought it was incredibly pretty (and won't take up a ton of storage space post-holiday - another hubby must). 

I'm really pleased with how this project turned out, and now I don't feel like the Scrooge of the neighborhood anymore.  I am so grateful to DailyBuzz Moms 9x9 for giving me an excuse to add a little more beauty to my home.
 
 
Today I'm linking up with the Cold Hands Warm Hearts swap.  I got really into swapping this winter, obviously, but I couldn't be more thrilled.  I was paired up with SassyRae Expressions and oh wow did she send me a great package! Check it out:
Super cute warm mittens/gloves, amazing fuzzy socks (I've just been lamenting the demise of at least half of my fuzzy sock collection), a gorgeous picture frame, and a sweet little desk calendar that she made herself.  Oh yes, and a yummy Hershey kiss in the shape of a Santa hat - but clearly it didn't last long enough to photograph ;)

She also made these amazing gift tags for each of my surprises:
And the accessories have gone a LONG way toward helping me with my "pretty my room" project:
I really will get around to putting a photograph in that frame - promise.   If you want to check out more of her stuff (and you should, it totally makes my "stuff I love" list) you can find her at her blog and at her shop.  Thanks again, Megan!  Now I truly do have warm hands and a warm heart!
 
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