Christmas Commentary, Part 1

While in Wisconsin last weekend, we attended two Christmas celebrations, had two full days to just enjoy our "vacation" by relaxing, and got to visit our newest nephew. We enjoyed it all! Above is the only family picture we've had taken this season. Below is a picture of my mom with my sister-in-law and the new baby - not even 48 hours old at this point.
Here's a shot of my mother and my daughter, with her new Pez dispenser!
Here is my husband and my son, with his new dump truck.

Now we are preparing to host Christmas (for the first time) for my husband's side of the family tomorrow. Not even starting to think about taking down decorations or the tree - we're not done yet! Hence, Christmas Commentary, Part 2 will be coming soon.

Home Again

After spending nearly a week in Wisconsin and "Christmasing" with family and friends, we are now back home in Indiana. Pictures to come shortly.

We had one surprise while in Wisconsin. My brother Brett and his wife Natasha were expecting their 2nd child in early February. Well... this little fella had something else in mind and decided to show up early. So I now have a new nephew, albeit a small one - only 5 pounds and spending his days in the NICU for now. But we were able to visit and meet the little man.

New life and hope for the future - what Christmas is truly all about!

Merry Christmas!

My family is traveling to Wisconsin today to be with my side of the family for Christmas. If I'm able, I'll post some pictures over the next few days. But more likely, my blog will be on vacation until next Wednesday.

I wish a very merry Christmas to all!

Works for Me Wednesday - Candy Wreath

I am not a crafty person, but this was one craft I could handle - a wreath made out of a coat hanger and candy! It's really that easy. Tie candy onto a coat hanger that you've bent into a circle. When you're done, put a bow on it. That's it. You're done!

Tip #1: if you're thinking of making this next year, check out the sales on candy immediately following Halloween.

Tip #2: be as creative as you want to be with this; you could use one color wrapped candy (like white and red swirl wrapped peppermints and then a big red bow) for a very simple Christmasy look. I used candies that weren't Christmas colors, so it could remain up after the holidays.

Tip #3: watch this video tutorial to see the specifics of this craft, then tweak it to fit your style and the materials you have to work with.

I'm excited to give this away as a Christmas gift to a special someone!

Works for me!

Favorite Christmas Things

When I think of Christmas, I think of... my 12 favorite Christmas things! :-)

12. Christmas Crafts
11. Christmas Carols

10. Mmmm.... Christmas Feasts

9. Advent Calendars

8. Children's Christmas Programs
7. Christmas Trees

6. Children Dressed in Special Christmas Attire
5. Christmas Baking
4. Nativity Scenes

3. Live Re-enactments of the Nativity

2. Family Gatherings

1. Jesus - the real reason we celebrate to begin with!
Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Menu Plan Monday

Christmas week is here!! Do you know what you'll be having for meals this week? We have a short week, as we head to Wisconsin and stay with at my mom's Thursday through next Tuesday. Yeah for a break from planning and preparing meals! So I will only be planning meals for 3 nights this week (and some take-along sandwiches and finger foods for the trip).

  • Slow cooker rice and pork chops
  • Smoked sausage coins, french fries, mixed fruit cups
  • Breakfast for supper (waffles or pancakes, scrambled eggs)
My dear friend Kate and her family will be joining us on Tuesday night for supper (they are originally from the area but now live in California, back visiting Indiana for the holidays). Then before we know it, Christmas will be here!

If you're at a loss for what to make this week, check out for hundreds of meal plans and recipes posted as part of Menu Plan Monday!

Family Photo Friday

Another Friday is here again. Can it really be the next-to-the-last Friday of 2009?!?! Indeed it is! Friday to me means the posting of photos from our week.

My son and I did a tractor puzzle together this week. It was a bit over his head, but I knew he'd love to the farm scene when we finished. Well, he put the box lid on his head, for whatever reason. It was a funny moment in my day!

My husband is such a trooper. Home from work after a long day and still enough energy to heft both kids on his back and run and play. I love you, Babe!

My son is a cuddlebug. He loves to snuggle when he wakes up, taking a good 20 minutes to really be awake enough to stand on his own 2 feet and start to want breakfast. On this day, I stuck him in bed with Dad. He loved it!

Happy Friday, y'all!

Cookie Trays to Give Away

I've mentioned before that my 2 local sisters-in-law and I do a cookie exchange, of sorts, creating cookie trays by the dozens to divide up and give out as gifts. This past Tuesday night was the big event.

We started out with cookies spread out on 3 tables. Cut-out cookies on one table (we spent an evening decorating these last week, so they are looking beautiful before we create the cookie plates) We had approximately 120 of these cookies.

Next is a table full of fudge, buckeyes, oreo truffles, scotcheroos, coconut joys and a few random samplings of other items.

The 3rd table is full of oodles of snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies and oatmeal cookies.

2 hours later, we had 90 plates/boxes made for family, friends, neighbors and coworkers.
Ever wondered what 90 plates of cookies looks like?!

Works for Me Wednesday - Familyman

I am not a man. But my husband is :-) and he is a big fan of Todd Wilson, aka The Family Man!

Not only is Todd from Indiana (woo-woo), but he is a homeschooling dad who travels across the country speaking to homeschoolers about real-life challenges... and he takes his family with him when he travels - packing his wife and 8 kids in the RV and doing a serious road trip! Todd publishes a weekly "You Da Dad" e-newsletter that is very real, very relevant to any dad trying to make a real difference in the lives of his children.
Well, The Family Man has many products available to purchase. TO BETHLEHEM is a Christmas board game all family members can enjoy. We received the game last year as a Christmas gift. Didn't play it until the last few weeks. My 6-year-old daughter wants to play it every night now. Very fun. Very easy for even young children to understand. And this game will get you talking about the meaning of Christmas, as well as Christmas memories. Almost guaranteed that you'll learn something new about your family as you play this game together!

Last year a few days after Christmas, The Family Man had his Christmas craft kit on sale for a crazy low price so I bought one and stashed it away. Pulled that out this week and again, my daughter is loving the simple and fun Christmas crafts! Here she is with one finished product:

I am not being paid in any way, shape or form by The Family Man for this plug. We simply have enjoyed these products and enjoy Todd Wilson's encouragement... and thought you might too.

Works for me!

Tuesday: CVS Deals

It's been a while since I've blogged about it, but I have snagged some great deals at CVS in recent weeks.

This picture shows my purchases from CVS's Black Friday Sale (which I only do because CVS starts their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, so I can get the good deals at 8:00 am Thursday without having to get up early and fight any crowds on Friday). All of the above items cost me a total of around $5.00 and I walked away with $14 in Extra Care Bucks (like a gift card to use at CVS in the future). It's almost like being paid to shop there and take these items from them! 4 candy bars, 2 razors, 2 shampoos, 2 hair gels, 1 body wash, 1 ipod earphones, 2 lotions, 3 toothpastes, 2 deodorants... yes, $5!

One thing I love about CVS is their Rain Check policy. If any regularly-carried item is sold out, you can get a rain check THAT NEVER EXPIRES! Recently I used a rain check from many months ago that I coupled with coupons to get 12 Glade candles for free!

This week CVS has just a couple of good deals. You can check them out here. I was able to pick up Christmas tissue paper, bows and gift tags for around $1.00 out-of-pocket.

If you are brand new to shopping at CVS and are wondering how to save major money shopping there, go here for a quick tutorial.

But whether you shop at CVS or not, be encouraged! There are deals out there and legitimate ways to save money on everyday items you already use! How motivated are you to find those deals?!

Menu Plan Monday

Is it just me or are the days flying by even faster than usual?! Here it is the start of a new week once again. My weeks always run smoother if I have a menu plan. A few minutes of thought now saves major time and mental energy later! So here is what we'll be eating this week:

  • Breakfast for supper (scrambled eggs, waffles/pancakes)
  • Homemade beef and noodles
  • Ham / green beans / onion skillet
  • Smoked sausage and french fries
  • Sliced turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade biscuits
  • Crispy country chicken, potato wedges
  • Herbed tuna sandwiches

We have been on a self-imposed "how low can we cut our food budget" challenge! So far, so good! Our food budget for December is $300, which is already lower than usual for us (our food budget includes any expenses for eating out - which is extremely rare for us - as well as Christmas baking ingredients, diapers, toiletries, cleaning supplies, over-the-counter meds, etc.) But we're trying to get by on even less this month. We have taken inventory of everything in our freezer and our pantry. Then we're finding creative ways to use what we have without having to buy additional items. My husband also made a quick trip to the grocery store on Friday and found "manager's special" milk for $1 per gallon and some meat for less than $1 per pound. Good finds!

How about you? Do you plan a menu for your week? Does it help you? If you need more menu planning ideas, check out for hundreds of other menu plans posted each Monday.

Family Photo Friday

Friday, December 11th - just 2 weeks until Christmas! Wow!

Fridays around here mean the posting of family photos. Here are a few of the best pictures of our week... and what a week it was!
Since my son received a set of building blocks for his birthday last week, my kids have been in building mode. Here my son had "stolen" 3 erasers that his sister was using for school work and he then stacked them up to make a tower in the living room. He's all about building these days!

But my daughter too is in on this fun - many wonderful towers were created this week!

This picture was classic behavior for my son. I planned to do a craft with my daughter so I had my hot glue gun out (not plugged in). My son found, took it and wandered the house looking for something to do with it. He found a small bead near our Christmas tree that had fallen off a homemade ornament. He proceeded to try to glue it to the carpet, over and over again. Anything that looks like a tool is a magnet for my son!

Happy Friday to you!

Cookie Decorating & Friends

One of the best Christmas traditions is that of Christmas baking, which includes the decorating of Christmas cookies!

My friend Leah, along with her son and daughter, came over one morning this week to help us decorate some cookies. The kids didn't last long at it, but they did enjoy themselves.

My son and Leah's son are just a few months apart in age, so it was fun to catch them playing together during their visit.

I'm looking forward to seeing some other friends during the upcoming holidays. My good friend Kate (and her family) will be visiting from California. And my family will be traveling to Wisconsin to spend time with extended family and friends up there. More and more every year I seem to enjoy the reconnecting part of the holidays. Family, friends, fun - a great combination!

Works for Me Wednesday - Table Runners

I'll admit up front that this idea came from my mother. A few years ago she made a set of table runners for me and my sisters-in-law as Christmas gifts! The idea is so simple and the runners very versatile.

She simply made table runners all the same size, using different patterned fabric for different seasons/holidays. Each one is reversible.

Let me show you what I'm talking about:

One side of one runner, with 4th of July theme

The other side of the same runner, with a fall look.

Here are pictures of the others, so you can see the themed patterns. But these are simply ideas - you could make these out of any pattern, color or style of fabric.

Ladybug / Summer theme

Birthday or "just for fun" theme



Hearts / Valentine theme

A simple way to decorate for numerous seasons or holidays and a creative gift idea...

Works for me!

Big 2-Year Old

We had my son's birthday party this past weekend. It was a small family affair, just the way we wanted it! We are so blessed to be able to entertain now in our home. Our living room is larger than what we used to have, we acquired another chair or two for seating, and our dining room table has extra leaves to seat 8 adults comfortably (the kids had a little table on the side). Thank you, God, for our home!

Opening a gift, shipped all the way from Wisconsin.

One of the gifts my son received was a 100-piece set of wooden blocks. He absolutely loves building, stacking, sorting so this toy was an immediate hit! Even with his chubby fingers, he was able to stack the towers in this picture.
Birthdays... how fun!

Menu Plan Monday

Wow, can it really be Monday already?! The weekend went by very quickly. But Monday is indeed here again, so at our house that means a plan for how meals will play out this week.

  • Potato Soup
  • Tater Tot Casserole
  • Homemade spaghetti, side of cheese bread
  • Breakfast for supper (fried potatoes, waffles or pancakes)
  • Crockpot Porkloin, mixed veggies on the side
  • Baked potatoes with cubed ham, cheese, sour cream, etc. for toppings
  • Church Christmas Banquet on Saturday night!
That's it! A simple way to make the week run MUCH smoother!

Family Photo Friday

It is the little moments during our days that make up our years and our lives. Here are some snapshots into my life this week.

My husband took this picture of my son and me playing the piano. I am not a great pianist, but I sure do love to play Christmas carols. My son enjoys plunking away with me and singing his little heart out. The way he says "Jee-tuh" for Jesus is sweetness to my soul.

Here's my daughter peeking out a hole in a box she decorated as a little house. She loves to color and draw these days.

Here's my son, who hopped into a laundry basket. He's all smiles.


Lastly, my daughter - the big 6 year old. She amazes me with the things she says and does.

Happy Friday, everyone! We're hoping for the first snow of the season to fall this weekend and make for some snow fun. Whatever your weather, make your weekend a good one!

Works for Me Wednesday - Budgeting

It's the start of another month, which means a Budget Committee Meeting is needed at our house. My hubby and I find one evening at the start of the month to review the previous month's spending and look at the month ahead. This meeting doesn't have to be lengthy, but it's important for both husband and wife to be on the same page with how "our" money is divided up. The budget reflects our values. And if we disagree on how to spend it or what to buy, then we need to talk through those things until we come to an agreement.

I keep our budget on an Excel spreadsheet that I created. I plug in figures from our online bank account statements and receipts. I keep track of how we spend everything. We know where it all goes.

Dave Ramsey says that budgeting is telling your money what to do. This is so true. Otherwise, it just slips through your fingers. The budget tells it exactly where to go. Every dollar spent on paper before it's really spent.

If you find that you don't have enough money left at the end of the month, I strongly encourage to start budgeting, tracking down where the money goes. Then become intentional about how you're going to spend it from this point forward. If you need help, go to or for loads of advice and tips.

Budgeting - works for us!

My Son's 2nd Birthday!

Exciting times these are - my son is turning 2 this week!

As alwa
ys, time just goes by too quickly. A baby one day seems to be a toddler the next. So many of those first milestones are already behind us with this little guy who just isn't so little any more.

These are some of my son's 2-year portraits.


This last one is the one we liked for ordering reprints. It's so him!

Happy Birthday, Little Man!

We sure love you!