Monday, December 31, 2012

4 Simple Goals ... from A Beautiful Mess

A Beautiful Mess has challenged its readers to set four simple goals . Their challenge started at the beginning of the fall season, but better late than never right? In their post they emphasize that the goals be positive and action oriented, i.e. not all about the End result. Although I am not much of a resolution person ( why throw all your chips down on one day?) I am a goal-setter. So, without further ado, my four simple goals.

1. Disconnect. I am completely guilty of spending WAY too much time plugged in. When I get home from work I I often check my email within five minutes of walking through the door. I then check it at least three times an hour until the boys go to bed (addicted much?). Then, after the boys' bedtime my husband and I sit side by side in the couch on our laptops for at least two hours a night (usually more). I know, it's sad. I know it is not possible to completely disconnect, but I want to hold those hours when the boys are up as special time or them. I also would like at least an hour at night for hubby time (Get your minds out of the gutter!) where we are actually talking instead of synchro surfing.

2. Do more projects! they make me happy and I think that I really like creating something concrete. It took the creation of the train and Lego table and giant chalkboard for the boys for Christmas that made me come to this realization. I was simply happy to have a project (not work related) to work on. I don't think that they necessarily have to be big projects, just something for me to be creative with.

3. Be positive/find joy in everyday things. I have been working on this one for a while. No one who knows me would call me an optimist. But I am really, really, trying to get better. So, this goal will be to find one positive thing each day to appreciate and be happy about.

4. Live healthily. I have recently begun running again. At the same time, my healthy eating has completely fallen off the radar. What I need is some balance. Find quick, easy ways to eat healthy and chisel out some me time for exercise.

Looking at this list I am a little saddened by the fact that my goals are 100% unoriginal (yes, there is that positivity for you) but at the same time they are goals that I think will help me, and my family, embrace happiness!

So, there you go. I will keep you updated as the year goes on.
:) A

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Up to our ears in... Ham

A day or two before Christmas, my husband came home with a ham that was easily the same size as my 18 month old. (No, not really.) After hours in the oven we enjoyed a traditional ham dinner. Yum!

We quickly realized that one dinner was not going to take care of the plethora of ham. (We had five gallon size bags and one jumbo Tupperware container left.) Since then we have had frittata with ham, ham and cheese sandwiches, a ham and cheese appetizer platter, ham panini, ham hash, and ham and egg scramble. Yes, I am completely sick of ham!

Tonight, I made ham and cheese soup from Taste of Home. I have to say that it was delicious and one of my favorite ham leftover recipes so far. Here is the recipe if you want to try it. The entire family cleaned their plate.

Sadly, after making the soup, I realized that we still have three gallon size bags of ham left. Ugh! I am so SICK of ham. Which is kind of sad because I usually love it. If anyone out there has any recommendations of ways to use up the ham, please let me know! I hate to throw it away but I am running out of ideas.

Happy Hamming
(I don't know, I may be delirious from all the ham)

:) A

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Yup, it's another chalkboard post (and a new addiction methinks)

My second "project" for Christmas was this giant chalkboard. It was super simple to put together. I used a board that I had stashed in my basement. I then used magnetic primer to prime the board. Helpful hint: shake the crap out of the can of magnetic primer. If you don't all the parts of the paint that makes it magnetic settles at the bottom of the can (in one ginormous clump) so that you are basically priming with black paint. Because I didn't shake/stir the paint enough, I ended up having to do five coats of magnetic paint instead of the three that the can recommended.

Once you are done priming, paint on a coat (we did two just to be safe) of chalkboard paint and, voila, you are done. SO easy! The boys love that the chalkboard is taller than them and believe me we have quite the piece of art created all ready.

The best part, I have more than three fourths of the can of chalkboard paint left and tons of ideas of places/things that need to become chalkboards.

Happy painting!
:) A

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Choo Choo Train...Table (and Legos too!)

I will be the first to admit that I sometimes over-do things. When I saw the train table that John and Sherry Petersik made on their blog Young House Love I immediately thought, "the boys would LOVE that."  

Immediately thereafter I thought, "can I make it even better for them?" (Picture plotting, complete with the finger thing that evil plotting guys do). My five year old is currently into Legos so hey, why not add that to the train table? At the same time I was working on a chalkboard project so I had some extra chalkboard paint laying around and boys need roads to drive their cars on, right? So chalkboard roads and Lego lands were added to the design.

Here it is in all its glory. Yes, it is a little much, but the boys love it and there is a little something for everyone. 

You may be asking, "how did she do that?" (Maybe you're not asking, but I will tell you anyway. You're welcome!) First I figured out how to get the tracks to fit on a random board that I found in my basement. Once I figured that out, I traced the plan on the board. 
Then I came up with a plan for where I wanted water, grass, beach, etc... At one point I thought a nice lake would work perfectly, but I was trying hard not to overdo it. (Obviously my self-restraint didn't hold out.) 
It took three coats to cover the board. Here is coat one: 
And coat three...I purposely made it textured to look like treetops and waves in the water. 
At this point I also put the tracks back on, just to check. Guess what? They didn't line up. I know, shocking! I had to do some paint touch up to line up again with the tracks. I then figured out where the Lego land should go and glued it down with Crazy Glue and Gorilla Glue. (Why the combo you may ask. I ran out of Crazy Glue and found Gorilla Glue in my basement.) 
I then figured out where I wanted the roads and painted them on with chalkboard paint.

The final step, creating all the Lego buildings, took the longest. My husband and I were "constructing" the sad little buildings for over three hours. This is what we ended up with. We used all the Legos that we already had which is probably why it took so long. If we had just bought kits it would have gone MUCH faster, but it also would have been WAY more expensive!

The boys LOVED the train/Lego table! It was (still is) a huge hit and TOTALLY worth all of the effort.
P.S. See that big chalkboard in the background? That was surprise Christmas project number 2. More on that one later!

Merry Christmas to All!
:) A

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Welcome to the Cookie Factory

Every year I decide to make cookies for the holidays. Seems like a simple decision, right? Let's just say that every year, after the cookies are done, I COMPLETELY regret this "simple decision." I am not sure why, but the cookie making turns into a day-long (sometimes weekend long) event. Unfortunately, I usually end up getting mad annoyed frustrated with my son and sometimes even my husband. Luckily, the goodies are usually delicious so it makes it worth it enough so that I forget the frustrating parts, and only remember the lovely holiday memories by the next December (and stupidly repeat the entire thing again).

In years past my go-to recipe has been simple and ABSOLUTELY delicious Rolo caramel yumminess. (I don't think yuminess is a word, yet we use it constantly in my house.) Here is a recipe - if you can even call it that because it is SO simple - Pretzel Turtle Recipe. Really! All it is is window pane pretzels, Rolos, and pecans. Heat the pretzels with the Rolos on top until they are shiny, take them out of the oven and put the pecans on top. Let them cook and enjoy the amazing sweet, salty goodness. SIMPLE! They are a hit and I recommends them to EVERYONE.
This year, I attempted to be a little bit more adventurous. The first new recipe that I tried was Nutella fudge. This recipe was also simple (are you sensing a trend here?) and also delicious. All it is is sweetened condensed milk, butter, chocolate,  Nutella, and a sprinkle of sea salt at the end. Here is the recipe that I used: Incredible Nutella Fudge
Thanks, "Not Your Mommas Cookie!"

The next "cookie" that I made was a no bake Oreo Chocolate Balls. Once again, absolutely simple. There were all of three ingredients: Oreos, cream cheese, and chocolate. And, since it was no bake, the most time consuming step was melting the chocolate to cover the Oreo balls with. (Yes, I am tee-heeing at the whole balls thing too. It is actually a running joke at my job. Oh, and if it didn't make you giggle, I apologize. That is about where my maturity level it right now.) My son helped make the balls (after washing his hands of course) which was a great and easy way for him to help.

Finally, I made good ole' sugar cookies. This is my son's favorite, so he helped throughout the entire process. Here is where the stress came in, I always decide to go for that second batch, which inevitable takes more than double the time of the first batch, and leads to squabbles among my family. Here are some pics of our process. Sadly, I have not yet decorated the cookies because I needed a break. Something to look forward to tomorrow. :)
Those strange looking cookies are actually Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and Piglet. I know, strange, but I only have so many cookie cutters. In fact, the circles are actually made out of the rim of a glass. I figured they could look like ornaments, or be a good background for pictures of Christmas trees or snowflakes.
Here is batch #1. At this point I still had six more to go. I think it may be time to invest in a second cookie sheet. Oh, and I was trying to be a little creative by taking out the middles of the circles. I figured that I could always fill the cookies with something (maybe some more Nutella?) and then use the cut out circles for the tops. It may be pretty...

Did anyone try to capture the Christmas spirit this weekend? I know that I did my best to be in the moment and create as many happy memories as I could with my kids. Even when I am completely frustrated, I realize just how lucky I am and am thankful every day.

:) A