Ornament Show and Tell & RAK Roundup

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... At least IN our house. Outside it's still 65 and rainy, and that does not feel like Christmas. But, walk in my front door and it's cozy, and warm, and cherry and merry. Ahhhh, I love it.

With that said, my friend Sarah over at Our Journey is hosting an Ornament Show and Tell and I couldn't pass this up.
Ornaments are a big deal in my family. It is tradition to receive a new ornament every year at Christmas. When I go home to my parents I love gazing at their tree, spotting all the ornaments I collected before venturing off on my own. Each ornament holds a special meaning: graduation, a sports accomplishment, an ornament to mark a trip we'd taken... I've taken that tradition and implemented it in my own little family. I get little goosebumps as I look at the ornaments I've received that now adorn my tree in my home. There are so many favorites of mine, it was hard impossible to narrow down a single favorite.
I love this ornament. We received it from my mother in law, and it's a beautiful reminder of what The Season is really about.
Family is priority, and here a few of my favorite ornaments from our family.
Upper left: The cake topper from our wedding cake. 
Upper right: Marcus' first Christmas (I hope to have one with his photo in it soon).
Lower left: To commemorate our first Christmas as a married couple.
Lower right: To celebrate the anticipated arrival of our little monkey.
Home sweet home. We miss the Midwest something fierce. These ornaments help bring a little bit of home to our house during the holidays.
Upper left: An actual light bulb from the famous Plaza Lighting in Kansas City.
Upper center: If I click my heels three times... "There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home."
Upper right: Though our favorite football team isn't doing very well this season we still love them.
Lower left: We love our Royals!
Lower center: A tag describing the Plaza Light bulb, and year the bulb was received.
Lower right: Another Plaza Light.
Some of our travels...
Upper left: Lake Tahoe (2011).
Center left: USS Arizona Memorial, Oahu, Hawaii (2012).
Lower left: Hawaii, Hawaii (2012).
Upper right: St. Thomas USVI (2010, our honeymoon!).
Center right: Cabo San Lucas (2008).
Lower right: Vegas, baby (2010)!
Representing our teams. Go State!

And, every tree needs a "husband section."
These are not necessarily my favorite ornaments, but they do reflect the good humor and fun that my husband displays on a daily basis.
The Christmas Story leg is front and center on our tree. We had quite the discussion about the placement of that one...
The Family Guy ornaments are a few of the first ornaments I ever gave Scott. Even though they aren't so pretty they hold a little bit of sentiment for both of us.
Lastly, I'll leave you with this... No tree of mine is complete without a butterfly.
What are some of your favorite ornaments? 
Please leave me a comment if you have your own Show and Tell, I want to see them! If you aren't a blogger you can still join in the fun - just post a few pics of your favorite ornaments of Facebook and let me know, I'd love to see what is hanging on your tree. Don't forget to swing by Our Journey, check out Sarah's ornaments and share yours with her, too!

Be Kind. Be Generous. Be Thankful.
Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Roundup

Friday, November 23
I crashed a wedding! Ok, I didn't really crash a wedding. But, I did crash a wedding registry. I went to an online registry, typed in a few random letters, and a few names popped up. Some random couple is one registry item richer.
I can't even begin to explain how giddy I was when I did this! :)

Saturday, November 24
We were super busy Saturday, but I took a minute to register as a guaranteed organ, tissue and eye donor. If you haven't done so, and would like to, it was super easy and took me less than two minutes to complete the form. Click here to become an organ donor today.

Sunday, November 25
It's never easy for me to donate blood. I have the world's worst veins. But, I signed up to give to the Red Cross. I filled out the required paperwork, had the awful iron test (where the end of your finger is pricked - terrible, right?!), and waited my turn. When my number was up and I was all prepped to go. The nurse checked my left arm, then my right arm, and shook her head. There was no way she was even going to try and tackle sticking me with a needle. I begged to try the top of my hands, even the top of my feet. But, to no avail. I left feeling a bit defeated. If your veins are better suited for giving blood please check this site to find a blood drive near you.

Monday, November 26
I noticed I had several coats and jackets in my closet that hadn't been worn in quite some time. Those coats made their way to a coat drive that was held in a nearby community. There may be a coat drive in your community, visit One Warm Coat to find a place to donate your gently used coats.

Because I wasn't able to give blood on the 25th I felt I needed to do a double RAK. I purchased a fresh meal for a homeless man who can often be found at a bus stop I pass frequently. Something as simple as a sandwich, fresh fruit, and chocolate bar seemed to make his evening.

Tuesday, November 27
While doing a little Christmas shopping for my monkey it really struck me how fortunate we are. My little man will have plenty under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, Santa may not find his way to all the little munchkins out there. To make sure Santa is able to find a few more kiddos this year I made a donation to Toys for Tots as I was checking out with my big guy's gifts.

Wednesday, November 28
In high school I remember how exciting it was to go prom dress shopping with my mom. It was such a mother/daughter bonding moment that I looked forward to each year. After a bit of research I found there  are organizations in the LA area that collect gently worn formal dresses. I rummaged through my closet and found some formal dresses that I will no longer wear or need and I sent them to the Cinderella Project with hopes that another girl will have her moment and feel just like a princess. To find a dress drive near you click here.
Thursday, November 29
Things got busy around the house, and before I knew it the day had slipped away (the Holiday season is officially upon us)! I took a few minutes online to find several ways to give back.
~With a few simple clicks, and just a few minutes of my time to watch a few advertisements, I was able to provide almost three weeks worth of clean water to those in poverty - and it didn't cost me a dime. Click For Your Charity will allow you to do the same.
~To keep the ball rolling I went to The Hunger Site where one simple click provided food for the hungry world wide, and also helped with relief efforts that are still ongoing due to Hurricane Sandy.
~Because I couldn't stop there I made my way over to Ripple where with three simple clicks I was able to provide access to clean water, help a village to feed itself, and gave two days of access to education. Ripple has also pair with Google as a search engine. Every time I use Ripple for an online search a donation is made.

Friday, November 30
I wanted to do something for the men and women who serve our country, but there is a budget that needed to be adhered to. With a bit of searching I found Operation Shoebox; currently our servicemen and servicewomen are in need of travel-size hygiene products. Easy enough! I rounded up some products and sent them to those good men and women who are keeping us safe. Some of those who will receive the products are away from their families this Holiday season so that we may be with those dear to us. For that I am forever grateful and thankful.


Corn Chicken Chowder

It's been cool around these parts and I'm loving it. I think it is safe to say the summer clothes have finally taken a back seat to all those cute fall and winter clothes that have patiently been waiting their turn.

With the change of season and clothes comes a slight change of dinner menu items. My slow cooker will be making more of an appearance (can I get a hallelujah for the slow cooker?!), and soups will be added back into our evening rotation.

Last night it was rainy, our tree was up and lit, and nothing could cap the night better than a piping hot bowl of creamy soup.
Before we go to much further with this I feel I need to give a bit of a heads up. This soup, in the slow cooker, takes a good 8 hours on high. You'll want to make sure you have everything prepped and ready to go in the morning if you want this ready by dinnertime. But, it's worth it, so, so, so worth it.

Corn Chicken Chowder
6-8 potatoes peeled and diced (I used 9, as my potatoes were on the smaller side)
1 can cream corn
1 can whole kernel corn
3-4 chicken breast
1 cup diced onion
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup butter
2 cups half and half

Place potatoes, both cans of corn, onions, chicken broth, and chicken breast in slow cooker.
-- I placed my partially thawed chicken breast on top. 30 minutes prior to serving I shredded the chicken breast and placed them back in the slow cooker.
-- If you like your chowder more soupy do not drain the whole kernel corn. If you like your chowder a bit creamier drain the whole kernel corn prior to putting it in your slow cooker.
Cook on high for 7-8 hours.
Shred chicken, and add back to chowder.
Add butter and half and half.
Mash potatoes to your desired consistency.
-- I simply used a wooden spoon to mash the potatoes against the side of the slow cooker.
Cook for an additional 30 minutes, on high.
The smell that permeated through my house all afternoon as this was cooking was almost too much. Because I didn't start my slow cooker until almost noon we had to wait until after the little man was in bed to eat. Torture.

This dish was the epitome of comfort food, and a hit in our house that will surely be repeated several times during these cooler winter months.

Source: Adapted from The Crockin' Girls



We were so fortunate to have both sets of grandparents visit us these past two weeks.
Marcus certainly did not want for any love and attention.

Scott's folks were here the week before Thanksgiving.

My folks were here the week of Thanksgiving.

Scott and I are so thankful for all the help we received while our parents were here. We miss our families like crazy and can't wait to get home and celebrate Christmas!

Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future.
~Gail Lumet Buckley


Chicken Broccoli Rice Bake

Now that we're well past Thanksgiving I think it's safe to move away from all the "what to do with your Turkey Day leftover" posts.

Not sure about you, but I for one, did not have many leftovers. We shared Thanksgiving with 17 family and friends, so the pickin's at the end of the day were pretty slim.

Side note: I was so incredibly sick on Thanksgiving that I didn't have any desire to go back for seconds, or thirds, or dessert. By 5:30 I was in bed while my guests were polishing off pumpkin pie and copious amounts of wine. Who gets sick on Thanksgiving?! I'm still bummed about it. :(


If you're looking for a dish that will fill you up, warm you up, and is more than easy to put together you've just hit the jackpot. And, odds are, you probably have most of the needed ingredients on hand. Double jackpot.
This creamy, savory, simple dish should leave even the pickiest palate pleased.

Chicken Broccoli Rice Bake
4 large chicken breast, seasoned, baked, and diced into bite size pieces (I used my Perfect Chicken recipe, delish!)
3 bags long grain wild rice
3 cups broccoli, chopped up into small bits
1 cup mushrooms (I had to leave these out, someone in this house refuses to eat mushrooms, or anything that comes into contact with mushrooms)
8 oz cream cheese (I used 1/3 reduced fat)
1 cup skim milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 + 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Fresh cracked pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 400.
Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl (do not cook the rice or broccoli), save 1/2 cup shredded cheddar.
Spread mixture into a 9x13 baking dish.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheddar over top.
Bake, while covered for 40 minutes, or until dish is heated through.


Source: Never Trust a Skinny Cook


Happy Marcus Monday!

Yep, this just happened.
Using objects to get to the standing position.
And, doesn't his little face just say, "trouble." 
Happy Monday!


8 Months Old! & RAK Roundup

Look who is 8 months old today!
Height (unofficial): 29.5ish inches
Weight (official): 24 pounds
What I've learned in the past month...
~ Going from army crawl to traditional crawl happened in about 2.5 seconds. Child proofing the house happened overnight.
~ The monkey is now standing, with assistance from couches, tables, etc. It seems walking is in the very near future. Yikes!
~ Keeping the little man to sit still (especially for the photos you see above) is a near impossibility. If my big guy is awake he is non-stop movement.
~ Little man seems to have a picky palate. Lunch and dinner are often the most stressful times of day for Mommy. The only thing Marcus eats consistently are bananas, cantaloupe, and honey dew.
~ Besides the aforementioned fruits, the Chunky Monkey seems to have a sweet tooth. He will eat whipped cream like it is going out of style.
~ The dog and cat are often some of the most entertaining items in the house.
~ A walk outside can still cure any bad mood.
~ Some days Mommy wonders what the point of toys are... Mommy's phone and the TV remote are often favored items by the big guy.
~ Teething isn't something Marcus does well. The five teeth that have poked through have been less than fun to deal with.
~ Babbling, screeching, giggling and "talking" happen all the time. Often, Marcus' ramblings happen at the most inappropriate moments, like when it's dead silent in church.
~ It's hilarious to hear Marcus when he thinks something is funny, his little giggle/screech kind of resembles that of an actual monkey. :)
~ This mommy is still trying to wrap her head around the fact that her baby is already 8 months old. Every day brings new smiles, surprises and joy... More than I had ever dreamed possible.
Someone is not impressed with Drake's photo bomb. 

Be Kind. Be Generous. Be Thankful.
Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Roundup

Friday, November 16
While loading my car after a grocery shopping trip I noticed several rogue shopping carts in the parking lot. Many of the carts were taking up perfectly good parking stalls. I rounded up all the stray carts I saw and brought them to the cart return. Yay for more open parking stalls!

Saturday, November 17
While we lived in LA we spent many a Saturdays volunteering at a food kitchen. Now that we're out of the city and have the little monkey it isn't as easy as it used to be to volunteer. Our food kitchen hosted their annual Thanksgiving dinner and we contributed mashed potatoes, enough to feed at least 25 people.

Sunday, November 18
Our neighborhood is full of dogs. Sometimes pet owners don't always pick up after their dogs. I went around our neighborhood and picked up after those that had left little "land mines." There is nothing worse than getting home after walking the dog to find out you've stepped in something worse than a mud puddle.

Monday, November 19
Those red kettles are out in front of grocery stores, and volunteers are ringing the bells to encourage donations. I dug a bit deeper into my pockets than I usually do and dropped in my donation.

Tuesday, November 20
Our church distributes Thanksgiving meals to families in our community who might otherwise not be able to have a dinner. We assembled just over 100 meals, complete with whole turkeys, fresh fruits and veggies, and all the fixin's to make Thanksgiving complete.

Wednesday, November 21
I needed my coffee fix, and a Starbucks was calling my name. We don't have drive through coffee joints like back home, so instead of paying for a car behind me in a drive through line I purchased a gift card for the amount that would cover a drink, turned around and gave it to the woman behind me. With her two little girls watching I wished her and her family a Happy Thanksgiving. As I left I could hear the little girls asking, "Why did she do that mommy?" And the woman replied, "She was being nice." Made my heart smile.

Thursday, November 22
We were supposed to run a Turkey Day 5k. The little monkey passed his terrible cold to me, so I stayed in bed while Scott ran. It was still good to know that my entry fee went to help a woman in our community who is recovering from cancer, the proceeds from the run will help to pay her medical bills.
We also hosted a Thanksgiving meal for our friends who weren't able to spend the holiday with their families. In all, there were 17 people feasting in my kitchen. What a sight! We are so blessed.

Just had to share a photo of this little guy. He was the recipient of a RAK last week. How cute is he?!


Mini Turtle Brownies

My kiddo is sick. Runny nose, congested, teething, not sleeping, the whole shebang. Bedtime last night was nothing short of brutal. Eventually we ended up driving around for 30 minutes trying to get the monkey to fall asleep. He did. Then, back at home he was screaming bloody murder the minute we tried to get him back to bed. Lesson learned (next time he's sleeping in the car seat all night).

I refuse to let exhaustion set in. Turkey Day is TOMORROW! There is a house to clean, folks to pick up from the air port, and food to be made. With an ill child and little time on my hands a quick dessert fix is in order. A lil' somthin' somethin' to get me through today and keep my focus on the awesomeness that tomorrow will bring.

If you're in charge of Thanksgiving Day dessert and procrastinated (not that you would ever do that), or you want a little variety from the pumpkin and pecan pies, these little bite sized bits would be the perfect ending to any feast. Or, in my case, the fuel to keep on keepin' on.

Mini Turtle Brownies

1 box brownie mix (or use a homemade brownie batter if you have one)
1 jar caramel topping (NOT caramel sauce)
1 bag halved pecans

Spray mini muffin tins well with non-stick baking spray.
Mix brownie mix according to box directions.
Fill mini muffin tins with brownie mix, approximately 3/4 full.
Bake according to box directions (I baked mine for about 12 minutes). Immediately remove from oven, spray the bottom of a shot glass with non-stick spray and press down in the center of each brownie. Be sure to respray the bottom of the glass ever other brownie, or the glass will stick to the brownie and leave you with a mess.
The shot glass should leave a nice divot.
After the brownies have cooled a bit, fill each with caramel topping.
Add a pecan half.
Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the caramel topping to stiffen up.
Store in the fridge.

Sweet tooth indulged, and all is well in the world - or at least until the next wave of runny nose and unhappy temper flares up (...in 3, 2, 1... cue crying baby). Or, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your ever impressed friends and family who love the new poppable dessert that you've cleverly crafted.


Source: Iowa Girl Eats


Date Jar

Often Scott and I want to get out and do something different, snag a date night (or day) when the opportunity (rarely) presents itself.

Many times we are working with limited time, trying to stay within a budget, only have time to ourselves when the little man is sleeping, or occasionally we can't agree one what we should do (occasionally being the operative word, wink, wink). Finding new and different things to try and do that fall within those premises can sometimes be tricky.

Insert Date Jar, here!
I did a little scouring of the www to see what I could come up with. Who knew there would be literally hundreds of ideas floating around out there? Activities ranged from indoor-at-home, to romantic, to outdoor-sporty. I had a ball reading through all the ideas, and had a tough time picking the 77 ideas I thought we best be suited for Scott and me.

The assembly of this little pre-made date capsule is pretty self-explanatory.
And, seriously, what better way to utilize an adorable Mason jar?! 
A) Write date ideas on Popsicle sticks
B) Place Popsicle sticks in a cute container (like an unused Mason jar)
C) Create a fun little tag
D) Attach tag to container with ribbon
E) Draw dates as often as desired
F) Enjoy random dates :)
Obviously we won't be drawing a stick every week, but we hope to dip into the date jar once a month or so. Other factors to consider with our date ideas: everything is dependent on location and availability of ideas, weather and time of year, child care, and whether or not our budget will allow for some of the dates at any given time. With all that said, this will hopefully bring a little creativity to our outings, and perhaps give you a few ideas as well.

Below is a list of date ideas that I came up with and put in no particular order (there is a good chance I was pulling sticks out of the jar, just to see what it will be like when we start this practice for real - hehe).

1. Para sail 
2. Frisbee golf
3. Visit the Science Center
4. Wii game night
5. Make a time capsule, store it safely, open on 10 year wedding anniversary
6. Go to a professional sporting event 
7. Play a game (or two) of Twister - if it's just you and your partner there is an App, Twister Commander, that calls out the commands
8. In-home movie night (don't forget homemade popcorn)
9. Backyard picnic
10. Go Go-Carting
11. Living room dance party (play your favorite high school/college songs and bust a move together)
12. Paris night - grab a baguette, wine, and cheese and enjoy Paris at home
13. Take SCUBA lessons
14. Star gaze at the observatory 
15. Go on a hot air balloon ride
16. Take in some live Jazz/Blues music
17. Utilize our Entertainment Book, only do things, eat at places that have a coupon in the book (are you like us and sometimes forget you have that book?!)
18. Visit a local Farmer's Market
19. 20 Questions - click here if you want a free download of some good questions to ask each other
20. Restaurant hop - go to one location for drinks, another for appetizers, another for the main course, and don't forget dessert
21. Hit a bucket of balls at a golf range
22. See a play at a local/community theatre 
23. Test drive your favorite vehicles
24. Visit a bakery - pick out a tasty treat for each other
25. $5 Thrift Store (or Dollar Store) date - each has $5 to spend on the other at the store; person with the "best" find wins :)
26. Attend a one-night class a local community college (cooking class!!)
27. Head to a batting cage and get some swings in
28. Visit the zoo
29. Take a factory tour (many factories hand out freebies, yay!)
30. Rent a paddle boat
31. Attend a community festival 
32. Wal Mart BINGO (make up bingo-esqe sheets with things you may find on shoppers; example - mullet, white ribbed tank top, "No Fear" t-shirt) first to get BINGO wins - loser buys winner Hot Pockets for lunch/dinner :)
33. Visit a palm reader (I'm not a believer of this, but it's always fun to hear what is made up- out here there are palm readers all over the place!)
34. Build and fly a model rocket
35. Go camping
36. Go ice skating (indoor or out)
37. Have a bonfire on the beach
38. Stay at a bed and breakfast
39. Create a "beer garden" (go to a store specialzing in adult beverages, each pick out three or four single bottles of specialty beers - have a taste-testing session at home)
40. See the LA Philharmonic
41. Fondue date (either at home or at a fondue restaurant)
42. Go for a tandem bike ride
43. Get a roll of quarters and head to an arcade - with tickets won buy prizes for each other
44. Kiss challenge: 100 kisses in 3 hours
45. Go out to a movie (if there's a drive-in theatre go to that instead!)
46. Food Truck Thursday (in our area on Thursday nights food trucks gather in one location - some of that food is the best!)
47. Head to a dueling piano bar
48. Visit the botanic garden
49. Watch the sunset from the beach (or lake, or top of a hill) - don't forget to pack a bottle of wine, or some champagne
50. Go to one of those paint-your-own-pottery places and paint a piece of pottery for the other
51. Rock climb
52. Go to a comedy club
53. Mini golf
54. Visit a local winery
55. Kayak 
56. Put together a jigsaw puzzle together
57. Head to an apple orchard/pumpkin patch/strawberry patch (whatever is in season)
58. Play tennis
59. Have a water gun fight
60. Coffee date - actually sit down at the coffee shop and enjoy each others company
61. Visit a local brewery
62. Go to a shooting range, see who has the best cluster (there's not a snowball's chance in Hell I could ever win this one)
63. After the sun goes down get a pint of ice cream, light up the fire pit, throw on the Christmas lights that surround the patio, enjoy
64. Recreate very first date
65. Go whale watching
66. Go bowling
67. Head to Catalina Island (if you are landlocked, visit a nearby town that has always intrigued you)
68. Bust out the board games (Sorry, Clue, Guess Who, Monopoly!)
69. Go paint balling
70. Fly kites (the dollar stores are usually good places to find these on the cheap)
71. Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing, if you've never heard of this it sounds like it could be a TON of fun - click here for more info)
72. Take a trolly or train tour
73. Grab a bag of glow sticks, head to your nearest park (at night, for obvious reasons), and play Hide and Go Seek
74. Head to an amusement park
75. Attend a concert
76. Make s'mores over candle light
77. Go on a horseback ride
Hope you can take some ideas from the list above (or tweak ideas to fit your own likes, geographic location, budget)!


Happy Marcus Monday!

Of all the smiles, giggles, and milestones, these moments are some of the best.
 There is nothing better than bedtime snuggles with the little man.
Nap time cuddles are good, too.
We hope you are able to sneak in some snuggles and cuddles also!

Happy Monday!