I can't believe it's November already!  Where has 2011 gone?  And yet, somehow, I'm a little surprised it isn't Christmas already.  I think I was ready for Halloween in August, and on Halloween I was thinking about snow and presents already.  Whew.  Fortunately, I did remember to take the kids trick-or-treating and even squeezed in some ghostly cookie baking as well.
Yum yum!  Of course, my kids had more fun making those ghosts disappear than they did stirring them up.

All day the kids have been asking "go trick-or-treat?  get candy?"  This is only the second trick-or-treating experience for the boys (and very first for baby girl!) so they were still super excited - and needed lots of reminders to take only one piece of candy and to say "thank you" as they left.  Big Brother even took a cue from the homeowners and started shouting "Have fun!" as he left each house. 
Here are our little cowboy, lady bug and penguin - aren't they adorable?  Poor little brother got stuck in a hand-me-down costume, but he didn't seem to mind.  It was a warm enough day that he couldn't wait to get out of that hot suit, though (crazy, huh?  I hear some of you had snow storms tonight).  And I probably have the only kids on the planet who were excited that we were handing out raisins at our house.  Each of the boys got to pick 3 pieces of candy to eat tonight and the rest is going to work with Daddy in the morning (or, um, hiding somewhere secret just for Mommy).  I know, it's kinda mean, but the last thing my little boys need is more sugar in their diets to make them hyper - they have plenty of energy all on their own, thank you :)

So how was Halloween for you all?  What did your little ones dress as?  Were you able to make the rounds, or did you get snowed in?  What's the policy on candy in your household?  And remember - only 54 more shopping days till Christmas! (woah.  still need gifts?  I've got some cute stuff here ;)).
Our littlest baby is almost a whole year old already! Oh my. Which made me think back on what were my favorite newborn items. I know a lot of you have (or will soon have) a tiny new baby of your own, so here are my recommendations:

Parents of Invention Ultimate Wrap - fantastic baby wrap! It's lightweight and comfortable to wear and you can carry baby in so many different positions. This has been my babies' favorite sling to ride in. A little bit of a learning curve in the beginning, but once you have it down, it's really quite simple and convenient. And it has a great pocket on the front for storing keys, a phone, pacifiers, etc.

Kiddopotamus' Swaddleme blankets - no-brainer swaddling blankets so easy to use even a sleep deprived new parent can't screw up. They hold baby securely and have a convenient flap for diaper changes. They helped my baby sleep soundly in no time.

Playtex Drop-ins bottles - the silicone nipples are just the right shape to use while breastfeeding and the bottle itself is easy for even tiny babies to grip. It's super easy to clean (I even washed the disposable liners to be more 'eco-friendly') and holds up really well to being tossed around. We've tried a few other brands, but this is by far our favorite. Oh, and no leaks!

Burt's Bees Baby Bee baby wash - smells so sweet and is so gentle on baby's skin. Has never given our kids a rash like some washes have and doesn't sting their eyes at all. And is mostly all natural.

The First Years Close and Secure Sleeper - if you're going to co-sleep, this is a great option. It keeps baby in the bed and close at hand for convenient nursing, but reduces the danger of rolling on baby or baby getting caught in the sheets. Nice hard sides to protect baby, comfy mattress inside. Works really well until baby learns to roll.

Fisher Price papasan chair - very comfy shape and well padded. Also has vibrate and music settings. This was our younger two's favorite place to sit and watch the action around them, and they even took many naps there. Keeps baby upright which is great for colds or reflux. Calmed our baby like magic.

Those are my top recommendations - what products did you love the most for your baby?
Fall is my favorite season of the year.  I like spring - after a long winter it's wonderful to get out into nature again.  But there's something about fall that just awakens me.  Maybe it's the holidays - I've always loved a reason to celebrate.  But here are a few more reasons I love fall!
Apple picking.  It's our family's favorite fall activity.  Not only do we get to enjoy a gorgeous day in nature together, but we get to enjoy months of delicious pies, apple sauce and juice afterward.  And who doesn't love a sweet baby amongst the apples?
Our second favorite fall activity is heading to the pumpkin patch.  The kids love to ride the slides and the barrel rides and the tractor rides and the swings.  Not to mention all the snacks.  And decorating the pumpkins when we get home keeps them occupied long enough for Mommy to make supper!
And last (but certainly not least) I love fall for sweet babies in footie jammies, silly stocking caps and cozy gloves.  (Find those amazing hats here).

I'm all set for the cold - I've got cocoa in my pantry and all the fixins for a delicious chicken-pot-pie in my freezer.  We've harvested the fall vegetables and pulled out the flannel sheets.  And I'm very much looking forward to Thanksgiving when we'll get to spend time with family, eat lots of super-decadent food and -best of all - celebrate baby girl's first birthday!  My oh my how time flies. 

Those are our treasured fall traditions.  What are some of yours?

Linking up with
It's Think Thinner Thursday again.  How is your journey coming?  Have any great new advice for us this week?  Remember, you can link up any post that is weight or health related at all.  I've linked my most recent post - no more juice fast, but I've got some new resolve.

This week I have a challenge for you.  As the temps fall out there, I'm going to want lots of hot, comfort foods.  And what is more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup?  Too bad most of my favorites have the word "cream" in the title.  So, I want to know - what is your favorite broth-based soup recipe?  It could be chicken noodle, it could be some type of chili, it could be a creamy butternut squash (as long as the cream comes from the blender and not milk).  Anything without dairy will do.  Post it in the comments, or link up a recent blog (put your soup name in your link title).  Either way, lets share the healthy, hearty love!
This week I'm trying something a little different for recipe day.  This week
Gussy Sews Inspiration Workshop!
And the topic this week is Favorite Recipes.  Excited much?  Oh yeah.  And what better place to start than browsing my Pinterest  page.  Here are a few recipes I've pinned that I am dying to try.  A lot of them are gluten-free because that's how I need to eat - but they still look super duper delicious!
I have a birthday coming up in just over a week.  It's going to involve a HUGE homemade lasagna with homemade meat sauce, broccoli and garlic bread!  And this amazing Gorgonzola loaf looks pretty perfect to me!
And it just wouldn't be my birthday without a giant slice of chocolate cake.  This one looks to die for.  I have yet to figure out how to make layer cakes gluten-free without having them crumble on one side - but some day I will figure it out!
Talk about inspiring - this lady has chronicled and entire year's worth of crock-pot recipes -- and they're all different!  I can't wait to get (slow) cookin'!

Here are some more inspiring yummies.  I hope that you're excited to race to your kitchen now - I know I am!!

A House Divided


"And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." Mark 3:25

    We're all pretty familiar with this verse.  There's a lot of truth to it.  And in general, it's used in reference to the members of a household.  But what happens when the home-maker is divided.  What happens when the mother is divided against herself.
    We live in a super-speed world.  One where we often feel the need to 'do it all.'  Run the home, keep a job, raise the kids, have fulfilling hobbies, look great, please everyone.  It can be exhausting.  But there's a problem with multitasking.  Instead of doing one or two things well, we often end up doing many things halfheartedly.
    I have to admit - I'm finding myself there now.  I know that my primary job is raising my kids and that my hobbies are blogging and making things for my shop.  But lately I've been acting like my kids are my hobby and my blog and my shop are my job.  My mind is in hyperspeed all day thinking about new blog topics, new crafts to sell, and new ways to market my struggling enterprises.  I'll stop mid chop and put down the knife to answer an email.  I'll give the kids an extra 15 minutes of nap time to finish up a project.  And in the background I can hear my conscience shouting "Hello! STOP!  Get your priorities straight!"
    I know that I need to put some things on the back burner and let them wait until I have more time - until all the kids are in school and I've got time to fill.  But when I have so many 'ideas' popping into my head, it's so hard not to rush off to execute them.  And part of me is afraid that if I slow down, I'll have wasted all the hard work I've put into things so far.  In the meantime, I have children who are crying for Mommy to play, for Mommy to read, for Mommy to teach.  I have crumbs on the floor and laundry needing attention (though, frankly, it would be that way no matter what).  I have things that need to get done regardless of what I wish I were doing.  And I missing out on the snuggles while they're still feeling snuggly.
    So here's my strategy to get back on track and stop stretching myself too far. I notice that when I'm divided, when I'm distracted, things get out of hand around here.

1. Get up a little earlier to blog.  Get it out of the way when my mind is fresh.
2. If I have an idea, write it down and file it away.
3. Don't start a new project till the old one is done.
4. No computer while the kids are around. 
5. Think of one sweet, special moment to share with the kids each day.
6. Get my new cleaning schedule down to a routine. 

That's it so far.  Do any of you struggle with this?  Do you have advice on how to balance family life and hobbies?  What's your take?
    My two older kids used a bottle until they were past two years old.  I know, I know - the doctor said "no bottles past 15 months" - but my boys simply refused to drink out of sippy cups! I tried just about every kind I could find, from spouts to straws.  Here's proof:
    Those are just some of the failed sippies we garage-saled this summer.  Our kids hated them all.  Eventually I found a simple, cheap straw cup that my oldest son would use (when we finally took his bottle and he decided it was better than dying of thirst).  But when he got upset, he chewed on the straws.  And before we knew it, the straws were full of holes.  Not to mention their tendency to erupt Vesuvius-like when left out on a counter or table (or in the car, or on the furniture, or in the bed...). 
    Our second boy hated those bottles, too.  We managed to get him one Nalgene bottle that he'd drink from occasionally, but he mostly liked to tip it upside-down and watch the little trickles of water pour out the spout.  And when we decided that it was time to drink from a cup, we thought we'd try these OXO trainer cups:
Nope, no good.  My boys only wanted to drink from 'big boy' glass cups and would either spill these or fill them with their vegetables.  Another cup relegated to the garage sale pile. 
    Then we stumbled upon Kleen Kanteens.  Turns out their sports cap bottles are exactly what my boys needed.  They are sturdy enough to survive a fall from the deck, they come in lots of colors (so each boy knows which is his bottle), and they are stainless steel, so I don't worry about cheap plastic leaching anything.  Even baby girl loves her mini kanteen and she is slowly starting to wean herself from her bottle.  LOVE it.  I just wish I hadn't wasted all that money on the other sippies.  I know that each child is different and that trial-and-error is necessary to some extent when searching for the right cup.  But I've got to admit, it's one expensive journey that I am thrilled is over!  So let us know - what sippy cup did your kids take to the best?
Pretty much every year for Christmas and/or my birthday, my wishlist is topped with Fuzzy Socks.  I'm very cold natured and in winter I need a nice, thick, warm pair of socks to keep my icy toes from freezing right off.  So every fall I unwrap several pairs of footwear - and every spring I wind up tossing them in the scrap pile.  Why?  While nice warm socks are cozy, they aren't very durable.  At least, not the super-soft chenille sort that are all the rage these days.  But my days of tossing socks like tissues just might be over!

I'd forgotten that I have an 'in' with the sock industry, who had seen my Facebook complaints and knew my birthday is upcoming.  My sock drawer is now stocked with these babies:
Cute, right?  Not only are they stylish, but they are super high quality!  These socks from DeFeet are thick, warm and sturdy!  They even have a little extra padding in the toes, which is comfy and will protect against the big toe's propensity to make a run for it and bust right through (which happens on, well, most of my socks).  They are a little pricey, but considering that you won't have to replace your entire stash every year, you'll really save in the end.

DeFeet offers socks in 35 different styles!  The Woolie Boolie socks would be great for wearing outside while shoveling snow or ice skating.  The Aireators are more breatheable for every day wear.  The Levitator is great for runners and cyclists.  There are even lines for skiiers, kids and hikers.  With a sock for every occasion - what's not to love!  I'm sure I'll still have socks at the top of my list - but just because there are so many styles to choose from, not because they've worn out.

Note:  I was not directly compensated for this post.  I simply loved my gift so much, I felt I needed to share.
It's that time again!  Time to link up your weight-loss blog, diet and fitness tips, or great healthy recipe!  How are you doing on your journey?  Me - well, I haven't been doing so well.  BUT I did just post a whole bunch of goals to get myself organized and back on track.  Wish me luck!!
I know we haven't officially passed Halloween yet, but the kids and I have already read all the Halloween books in the library (that weren't too scary) so we've moved on to Thanksgiving.  I'm amazed at how many truly lovely Thanksgiving books there are.  Here are a couple of our favorites:
Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes is a very sweet book of Thanksgiving rhymes.  The verses are short, but the pictures are playful and endearing.  The book follows a pair of children as they count their blessings on a Thanksgiving day.  This book is great bedtime reading for little ones.  My two year old asked me to read it twice in a row. 

The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell is another precious book.  This story reinforces the 'meaning of the holiday' as a family who owns a restaurant welcomes into their private Thanksgiving feast an elderly couple who has burnt their own dinner.  At first grudging, the family learns to embrace and e
The Fontenot Four
Stuff I Love
Little Miss Nerd Girl
Stuff I Love
Sneakers Over Stilettos

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