Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Happy Holidays, Friends!

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. We are off on a secret mission to surprise our children. We have packed our bags and are on our way to the Sunshine State to see both sets of grandparents and to share a Thanksgiving meal with them.

The ultimate in surprises is happening this week and we can’t wait to surprise our kids with a trip to Disney and see their faces when we tell them that we are going there for the day. It has been an extremely difficult secret to keep and I am hoping to capture the big reveal on camera. I have lots of surprises in store for this trip and I am so thankful that we get to do this as a family.

We hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Sending lots of love to each of you this holiday!

Content will resume as normal on Monday. Until then, enjoy ever moment that you can with your precious families!

xoxo,

Amy

Happy Halloween from the Clark Family

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Happy Halloween to your family from ours!  I wanted to share with you a few of the pictures I took of the kids in their Halloween costumes. This year the requests were to be a Ninja and to be Rapunzel.

Last year’s fairy costume that we picked up from Cracker Barrel magically transformed into the perfect Rapunzel dress. After buying a terrible, terrible wig to go with it from the local costume shop, I found myself at the Disney store to pick up the authentic Rapunzel hair that she could play dress-up with all year long. She was so excited when she saw it and was willing to compromise on not having the official Rapunzel dress as long as she could wear a pink sleeved shirt underneath to make it look like the real Rapunzel.

The Ninja outfit I picked up at Walmart for  $12. Of course the only way I could get my son to agree to do pictures with his sister were in full Ninja attack mode.  After we were done with the photos, I couldn’t stop laughing and looking at them. I think my daughter has her mama’s flair for the dramatics. I wonder if I will be watching her on the stage like my parents watched me.

Not to be outdone by our children, my husband and I schemed and dreamed of costumes for months this year.  I don’t mean to gush, but it is moments like this when I look at my husband and think, “How did I get this lucky?” I have been with this man since he was fifteen. Our parents used to drop us off for our dates because neither of us could drive. We were high school sweethearts that really worked out, and I think I know everything a girl could know about him.  Then something like this comes up, and he surprises me.

In case you couldn’t tell from the pictures, we went as Marry Poppins and Bert from my favorite childhood movie.  We both wanted to make sure we got the look right.  The clothes we both already owned. The bow tie I am wearing was his  from our third prom together (I still had it in a box of mementos from our high school days). I tied grosgrain ribbon around my waist and grabbed the umbrella from my husband’s car. We found Ryan’s hat and gloves at Walmart and my hat from a local costume shop.  The broom was an inexpensive broom from Target that he took the stitching apart and spray painted with a $.98 can of spray paint from Walmart.  I got a sprig of daisies to weave into the hat and just took my giant purse that I use daily as my, “carpet bag.” We probably spent about $20 or so on the whole look, but had the best time making these outfits happen.

I did splurge and buy myself a tube of fancy red lipstick. I have always wanted to wear red lipstick, but never felt confident enough to do it.  I am hoping to wear this on a date night or two.  The color is Red Zin from Bare Escentuals and I am really liking it for a little something different.  Maybe this old girl can surprise her husband once in awhile too!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Have a safe and fun night with your family and friends this evening!

Watching Your Pumpkins Grow

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

It was another fun day at the Pumpkin Patch this year. Some of us (ahem) may have had more fun than others. I finally have some photographic proof that sometimes I am a fun mom. Just sometimes.

Every year I take a picture of them doing the same pose at the same pumpkin patch so that I can see how big my little pumpkins are getting. Sometimes I forget how different they look from year to year. Seeing it all side by side… well, it makes me happy and makes my heart ache all at the same time. The differences are quite remarkable to me.

Try doing this at your pumpkin patch and see what results you find. Line them all up in a Picnik collage and marvel at how big your kids are getting. Those pumpkins grow so fast, don’t they?

First Day of School

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

We survived the first day.

One of us…

*ahem*

Barely. Survived.

I hope you all have a wonderful back-to-school day too!  We wanted to share the pictures of our day with our friends here!

xo,

Amy

Back-to-School Round-Up of Tips, Resources, & Project Ideas

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

I can hardly believe that our summer is coming to a close for our family.  I have to say, so far…it really has been the best summer ever. It’s not because we have done tons of vacations or been running nonstop, but it has just been being together and finally have kids at the age where outings have become as much of a treat for me as it is for them.  We have loved every moment of our summer and I am going to really miss the lazy days that we have been enjoying these last few months.

As another school year is fast approaching in our house it has been a flurry of activity- uniform shopping, clothes shopping, shoe shopping, backpack shopping, school supplies shopping,  ice cream treating, lots of individual dates with each kid, and plenty of talking about the exciting year to come.

I just wanted to point out a few of my favorite resources for moms that might help you as you ease back into your busy school year! These are my favorite resources for organizing and feeding my family during this busy time!

Back-to-School Breakfast Ideas:

Lighter Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Blueberry Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

Fluffy & Light Pumpkin Pancakes (make and pop them in the freezer for the school week)

6 Amazing Waffle Recipes & Tips for Getting Your Waffle On

Protein-Packed Strawberry & Banana Smoothies

Banana Cream Pie Smoothies

Slow Cooked Oatmeal

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (a great way to celebrate your week at school on Saturday morning)

Honey Nut Granola

Vanilla Scented Granola

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars

Getting Organized for Back-to-School:

One Month of Slow Cooking (perfect for those days filled with after-school activities)

The Essentials for Saving on Back-to-School

Weekly Planner Sheet

Weekly Menu Planner Sheet

Transforming the Paper Clutter

Choosing a Great Family Organizer for Your Family

Simplifying Your To-Do List

Ideas for Celebrating That First Day of School:

Back-to-School Close to My Heart Pin

Back to School Celebration Feasts with Recipes

Back-to-School Celebrations

World’s Greatest Homemade Slushies

Throw a Frugal Pizza Party

For Capturing Those Back-To-School Photos:

Capturing Your Children Through Photography

Making Lunch Special:

How to Save on School Lunches

Ideas for Making Lunch Fun & Healthy

Free Printable Lunch Box Notes

Writing Love Notes to Your Child

Fun with After-School Snacks:

Deliciously Easy Raisin Bran Muffins

Apple Pie Muffins

Deliciously Homemade Granola Bars

Lemony Blueberry Muffins

Simple Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Muffins

Easy Cereal Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Showing Your Teachers Some Love

Creamy Hot Cocoa or Vanilla Chai Drink Mixes

Snickerdoodle Biscotti

Oreo Biscotti

Effortless & Elegant Quick Breads You Can Make

Homemade Peppermint Bath Salts or Oatmeal Cookies & Milk Bath Soak

Rolled Rosette Ribbon Rings

Good luck to each of you that are on this journey again with your kids! I hope you all get off to a successful school year start.  I am sending each of you a coffee cup this size (see above) to get through all of it!

I hope these links to these past entries will inspire you as you prepare for this next school year!

Sweet & Simple Mother’s Day Gift

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day. We really celebrated simply this year and it was still just as perfect. This year I decided to drop the Mother’s Day gifts the day before Mother’s Day so I could really enjoy a day to myself too this year. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing like a fresh bouquet of flowers bought just for me. I know our moms love them just as much so I headed over to the store to pick up a pretty  bouquet for each of them.

Supermarket bouquets can sometimes not feel as special as the fancy florist so I love to add my own little touches to the bouquets to make them a little more special. You can find rolls of tulle over in the craft section of your superstores or in the wedding section of large craft stores. Cut off a long strip of it to tie an elegant bow on your bouquet.

This bouquet was wrapped in pink and I thought this bow matched it perfectly.  Sometimes the smaller bouquets are wrapped in plain plastic. I love to fill the plastic out with colored tissue paper on the outside or have the floral department wrap the flowers for me.  Don’t forget to take those price tag stickers off the outside. After all, don’t we prefer if people don’t know how cheap we really are?

We made little personalized cards that we printed on 4×6 photo paper. I slipped these between the plastic layers and I am sure the little cards were saved as refrigerator mementos, as all personalized cards are. Just like the teacher cards that I made last week, start by uploading your photo to Picnik. Under the CREATE tab,  select EFFECTS, then select the BLACK & WHITE option to change your picture to a black & white image. While still under the CREATE tab, select the option for TEXT. Once you are in text, put in your message for your mother. Make sure not to put your text all of the way to the edge of the photo because it may cut it off when you print it. It is better to get it a little further in to assure that you don’t waste ink, paper, or your time!  The font I choose for these images was Pupcat. You can do all of this with a free membership to Picnik.

We also framed our favorite picture from Easter and then tied it with another tulle bow. I found inexpensive frames for each of our grandmas and I printed out the photos on my photo printer. We knew these would be a real hit with our grandmas. After all, what kind of grandmas would we have if she didn’t love our pictures?

Then we shocked them with our elegant flower deliveries. I don’t know who enjoyed that part more.

Happy Mother’s Day to our moms. We love you both!

I had a fantastic Mother’s Day. We went to church, I mixed up the waffle batter, then climbed back into my bed to be served. The kids loved serving breakfast to me in my bed and were very professional about checking on me often to see if anything else might be needed. I finished a library book, climbed out of bed for a half price frappe at Starbucks, and then climbed back in bed for the rest of the day. I got lots of hugs, kisses, storytelling, and tickles in with my children. I did not cook anything all day. I did not do one chore. I did not move from my bed hardly at all. It was perfect. It cost $2.22 for the whole day. It was just what I needed.


What did you do for Mother’s Day? Tell me what you did to celebrate YOUR day and Mother’s Day for your family & friends?


Creating a Fun Easter Basket for Less

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Editor’s Note: Many apologies that I didn’t get this up sooner for you all! Our web host had some issues this week which halted my progress on this project. I hope that this will still be beneficial to those last minute shoppers or reference for you all next year too! Happy Easter, everyone!

It is almost that time for the kids to dig into their Easter baskets again. Each year I try to do something a little different with our baskets and try to keep a theme in mind. One year it was a basket filled with fun stuff to do outside (bubbles, jump ropes, water toys, sidewalk chalk). Another year we did all arts and crafts supplies (construction paper, watercolors, pencils, markers). Last year was the year of board games (Connect 4, Trouble, Operation).

You see, I am not a big fan of buying a bunch of junk food for my kids to consume and with all of the Easter egg hunts and dinners, my kids still manage to consume a ridiculous amount of sugar without a basket from the bunny at our house.  If you saw my children on sugar, you would understand why this is a mom survival tactic!  Instead I consider Easter baskets an opportunity to stock up on using their imagination and a tactic to survive the long rainy days ahead for spring.

This month I got the opportunity to create a basket out of supplies from Walmart. It is always fun to see what I can create and this year I did a glamorous basket for the diva princess in our house and I filled my son’s with a fun Bakugan toy & an Etch A Sketch to help him use his imagination.

Here are some ways that I have learned to make creative baskets for less:

Free Refills, Please- Every year I would buy a new basket to leave from the Easter Bunny. A few years ago, I wised up and now the kids leave a basket out for the bunny instead.  The kids really look forward to seeing what the Easter Bunny has put in their baskets and this helps to cut down on the expense of buying a basket every year.  If you do need to buy a basket, check the yard sales and thrift stores for baskets. With a bottle of spray paint in a pretty Easter color, you can freshen up dingy baskets and give them a new spring look.

Ditch the Fillers- Easter fillers can be quite a mess and also are an added expense to your basket. Instead of Easter grass, opt for shredded paper in a fun Easter color, a little pastel tissue paper to line the basket, or fabric in Easter shades that you might have in your craft supplies. Scrap ribbon tied to the top of your basket will add to the fun Easter theme without breaking the bank.

Wander Away from the Easter Aisle- While there is a great selection of great stuff in the Easter aisle, it also is a blast to wander down other aisles to look for fun additions to your Easter basket. My daughter’s princess glam basket was filled with fun dress-up gloves and a fun dress-up brush that were around $3 each. Sticker books in princess glitter and glam were also a fun filler for around the same price. Visit the health & beauty aisles for fun bath soaps, visit the gardening section for fun accessories to get your garden started,  and visit the snacks aisles for healthier alternatives to the Easter candy. By wandering away from the seasonal items, you can really find a lot of fun items to add to your baskets.

Stock Your Baskets With Imagination in Mind- As much as a new electronic game would be fun for the kids, I really try to stock up on things that will help them use their imagination rather than the television. Art supplies, new beach or sand box toys, a family outdoor game, and board games are all great ways to get them to use their imagination.

What are some ways that you save on your Easter baskets? What has been your favorite theme for an Easter basket for your child! I would love to hear your ideas!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

Crafting Fun: Marbleized Easter Eggs

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

One of our favorite Easter activities is decorating Easter eggs. Every year we try to do something new with our eggs. The first year I ditched the boxes of Easter egg dyes and created our own out of pantry ingredients. Last year we had a blast trying Kool-Aid egg dying which really made beautiful and vibrant eggs without any effort.

This year I ran across a fun idea for creating marbleized eggs from common items in the pantry. If you have food coloring, vinegar, and olive oil…you have the makings for beautifully marbled eggs. Pictured above are the eggs that my children created this year. This was a lot of fun because each egg could be so different and unique!

1. Hard boil your eggs as desired. In shallow bowls, mix together three cups of warm water with two tablespoons of vinegar and ten drops of food coloring. I used the Betty Crocker Neon Food Coloring that I found in the baking aisle. Whisk the ingredients together well.

2. Submerge your eggs and leave them in there until they reach the desired color. One thing we learned is that it is better to have a lighter color as the base color so the second layer of color will take well on your eggs.

3. Dry your eggs with a paper towel.

4. Repeat the process with the rest of the eggs. Rest them gently on your inverted egg carton to allow them to dry.

5. To the dye that you have already prepared, add one tablespoon of olive oil and then, using a fork, run your fork through the oil to break the oil into pieces to create the solution to roll your eggs. As the oil swirls, roll your egg once through a contrasting color. Allow the oil to pick up & create another round of color on your eggs. Blot gently with paper towels. (Editor’s Note: Many apologies for the lack of pictures after this point. We just really got into it and it was getting a little crazy with eggs dropping rolling)

6. Admire your beautiful eggs!

Don’t forget to turn those eggs into delicious deviled eggs for a fun addition to your family dinner!

What is your favorite Easter tradition?  Are you trying anything new and exciting with egg dying this year? Would love to hear what Easter crafts you are working on!

Family Meal Planning Ideas & a Fun New Appetizer

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

One New Year’s resolution that I hear many families are making is to get back to eating around the dinner table together as a family and developing menu plans that really work for them. Meal planning happens to be one of my most favorite things to do in the world so I was excited to share my thoughts and ideas on menu planning this month with Snackpicks.

In this post, I detail five easy ways to make menu planning simpler and cost-effective for your family. One of my favorite ideas in this list is to incorporate a theme night into your routine or even for planning all seven days of the week. It definitely doesn’t need to be fancy, in fact, my favorite night is Sunday when it is a Seek-And-Ye-Shall-Find night (also known as eating the leftovers from the week’s meals).

Another fun theme night that we love to do is an Appetizer night. Who can resist a table full of fun small bite foods for a new take on the family meal? Luckily, Chef John is creating a Deviled Shrimp Bite appetizer that would be a fun new way to try a little seafood on your appetizer night or for your next get together. This spread incorporates the flavors of  delicious shrimp, roasted red peppers,
anise-like-flavored tarragon and pungent paprika. You definitely don’t want to miss this fun video tutorial on how to make this simple and quick appetizer for your family! Paired with my favorite spinach dip and honey barbecue wings, you would have the makings for the perfect fun food night or get together with your friends.

How often do you meal plan for your family and what tips/tricks can you offer on streamlining the menu planning process? Please share!

New Year’s Goals: Embracing a New Workout Routine

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Over the next few weeks, I will be republishing a few of the posts that I did last year on goals for the New Year.  This year I decided to take the plunge and get a gym membership in town, now that my daughter is a little older and enjoys going with mommy so she can exercise. A recent writing gig is paying for my gym membership and has afforded me the luxury of indulging in new classes and ways to stay fit.   You can learn more about my fitness confessions and how staying healthy has transformed my own life here.

I have great motivation to keep a healthy lifestyle which is what fuels me to continue to exercise and keep up with my active lifestyle. My motivators might be different from yours, but I am sure there is something that motivates you. For me, I find myself less depressed when I exercise, the aches and pains that I have seem to subside with regular exercise, I am trying to avoid the health problems that have plagued my family,  but most of all… I have the energy to keep up with my two energetic children.

I used to attend the gym regularly before I had children. On my lunch hours, I would head to the gym and take difficult kickboxing classes, pilates, power yoga, and aerobics classes. I had college weight to lose and the time to think about just me. The longer and the harder the class, the more I loved it! I would spend my afternoons at the gym and the evenings doing community theater and just thinking about me. It was just all about me all the time and it was glorious.

Those days seem a lifetime ago. My workouts have to be quick and effective,  crammed between two kid’s extracurricular activities, homework, laundry, and daily life.  I find myself trying to figure out how I can just find twenty minutes to myself. In fact, my workout routines are mixed in with children trying to exercise rightwithme and a cat that insists on rubbing against me while I am doing my ab work. Kids are crying for computer time or needing help in the bathroom and I am pausing the DVD and running back, hoping to continue my little burst in energy. What a far cry from an hour at the gym for just me.

That being said, I wouldn’t have it any other way and as the kids see me exercise, I know that I am modeling for them the importance of taking care of the body that God gave you. I could join a gym, but I have found that driving over to a gym takes more time and more energy than popping in a DVD or using the workout equipment we own at home. That being said, it requires a great deal of discipline to maintain a workout routine on your own. Thankfully, interacting online with my real life friends and internet friends keeps me motivated enough to do it all on my own.

What I have discovered is that moms need to find a solution that works best for them. The gym might be for some, but it might not be for you. Workout equipment at home might not be helpful to you, but for others they find motivation in having what they need right at their fingertips. Realize that as long as you are moving, you are doing exactly what your body is intended to do.

1.    Make it quick and convenient. Try aiming for just twenty minute sessions and do what fits best with your schedule. If going to the gym doesn’t work for you right now, stick to a workout DVD. If you can’t manage either, try a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Whatever you do, make it something that is easily doable and can be done in a short period of time.

2.    Make an appointment with yourself. Find the times that work best for you and do it every single day. If something gets in your time slot, push it back, but do not push it off.

3.    Schedule your workouts when it is best for you, not when you think you should workout. I can admit it; I am not a morning person. I have tried being a morning person and I just can’t do it. I will no longer apologize for not being a morning person and will understand that maybe I will come to a stage in my life where morning workouts work better for me, but for now I am content on being groggy in the morning and doing afternoon workouts instead.

4.    Get pumped up. Find what motivates you to get moving and incorporate that. Music is a powerful motivator for me and I love to get music from the local library and play that or load fresh music into my iPod for working out.

Others are pumped by community sites that help them track and login their workout times. SparkPeople is one resource where you can track your caloric content and exercise schedule while chatting with others through forums. Others are motivated by having a workout buddy or making a daily date with a girlfriend at the gym. Whatever it is, find what motivates you and get your body moving.

5. Challenge your spouse. My husband and I decided to challenge each other one month to an exercise challenge. I did a workout routine for 30 days straight and he did did sit-ups every single day. Both of our bodies were transformed by the experience and so was our mindset. Adding an element of competition encouraged me that I could totally take him on and added another level to my workout routine. Adding a little trash-talking in our dinner conversation also helped with our friendly competition that not only ended up rewarding ourselves with a more active lifestyle, but even added a little bit of spark back into our relationship!


5.    Get some workout gear. I don’t know why, but I have a hard time spending money on workout gear. The year 1997 called though and they wanted their workout clothes back so I knew it was time to make an investment. Buy a few good workout pieces for yourself and try washing your tennis shoes to freshen them up. Just slip off the laces and throw the shoes in the washer. Wash them on a warm setting with a little laundry detergent. After they are done, stuff the interior of the shoes with newspaper (to help hold its shape and also to absorb any lingering odors) and let them dry outside in the sunshine. Fresh workout gear can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself and can help you commit more to making exercise a priority.

6. Reward yourself. Rewards to myself are exactly what keep me motivated and what you might find keeps you motivated too. It could be something simple like a glass of wine in the evening, a bubble bath with a good book, a new pair of jeans after reaching a certain weight, a new DVD that will keep inspiring you to workout,  or a protein-packed smoothie that can only be drank if a workout is complete.

7. Switch it up. I need new routines each day to keep things fresh and keep myself motivated. I love to visit our local library and check out workout DVD’s for free and add variety to my workout routines without spending any money. If your library doesn’t offer a great selection, try pooling your workout DVD’s with friends and trading with one another to add different elements to your workout routine. If you have a movie membership, use that for a workout DVD instead of another couch potato night.

Dust off that old treadmill, use the Wii Fit that you told your hubby you would use regularly, but quickly gathered dust in your family room, grab those DVD’s that you just had to have to keep your workouts fresh, and put those five pound weights and mat that are still wrapped in their packages to work.

Do it for you, do it for your kids, do it for your spouse, do it for your body,  do it because YOU DESERVE TO BE HEALTHY! Do it for whatever motives you, but DO IT!

This is my motivation. I want to see them go to high school. I want to watch them at graduation. I want to meet the loves of their life. I want to watch them walk down the aisle. I want to hold my grandchildren.  I want to hold my great-grandchildren. I don’t want to miss a moment of any of it. I know I can do all of that if  I take care of myself and the body that God gave me.

(I am continuing to work on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin I recommend you read it too!)

What motivates you to exercise? What routines have you found to be effective for your busy lifestyle?