Tags Posts tagged with "holidays"


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Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and although most of us look forward to a big Thanksgiving feast with family, the prep work and festivities can feel overwhelming at times!  It takes a lot of planning and patience to have a stress-free holiday.  Here are some tips to make it a truly enjoyable season for everyone involved!



1. Get organized. As Meghan Trainor says, “All the right junk in all the right places”.  A stress free Thanksgiving starts with a clean and organized home.  If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, hire someone a week before to come in and least do the deep cleaning for you, or ask a friend to come in and help.  Clean and organize your fridge, as well as your oven and kitchen areas.  Put stray papers and knick knacks away so all of your prep surfaces are free from clutter.  Wash linens for guests, and make sure necessities like toilet paper, paper towels, and toiletries are well stocked. You don’t want to have to make last minute trips to the store for your guests.

2. Plan your meals.  We put a lot of emphasis on Thanksgiving dinner, but make sure your other meals are planned out for the week as well, especially if guests are coming into town.  Make casseroles, or meals you can prepare easily.  Don’t break your back slaving over fancy meals for your guests, because you’ll be on your feet enough on Thanksgiving day!  Write down a menu and ingredient list for the week, and stick to it!

3. Don’t wait until the last minute.  Start preparing now. Buy your turkey and all the trimmings ahead of time.  You’ll be glad you did when the grocery store lines are a mile long next week!

4. Delegate responsibilities.  Typically family and friends are happy to help. If you have a large guest list, ask Aunt Norma to bring the green bean casserole, and cousin Sally to bring games to keep the kids entertained. Ask each family/guest to contribute in some way and everyone will feel needed and appreciated, and you’ll feel less stressed.  It’s a win-win situation.

5. Plan your menu.  Pin down your guest list first.  It’s key to know how many people you are cooking for. Figure out how you’re going to cook your turkey, how long it will take, as well as all the side dishes you want well in advance. Pinterest is a great tool for finding new recipes, but so is asking friends for their tried and true Thanksgiving side dishes!  Consider having a Thanksgiving recipe swap party to share and try your favorite Fall recipes!

6. Budget wisely.  Hosting Thanksgiving can easily become expensive. Asking everyone to bring something helps with this, but also make sure you have enough silverware, dishes, chairs, etc. to accommodate everyone.  If you don’t, consider borrowing these items to limit your cost. Simplicity is key.  Remember that your guests are there to spend time with you.  We want our home to be welcoming, but that doesn’t mean it has to look like a Pinterest board or break our budget.

7. Make a plan for the kids.  Adults are happy to just to sit and chat, but kids may need a little more direction with how to spend their time on Thanksgiving Day. You’ll be busy cooking, so make sure to designate another adult or older cousin/friend as caregiver/wrangler. Make sure the kids have activities, games and/or crafts to do to keep them busy while you’re busy.

8. Don’t forget the leftovers.  Make sure you have plenty of storage baggies and take home containers on hand for leftovers.  Sending your guests home with some leftovers frees up space in your fridge and ensures you’re not eating turkey until Christmas.  It will also make clean up a breeze!

What are some Thanksgiving tips you would recommend? We’d love to hear from you! 

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I’ve asked lots of mom friends what their absolute-must-have Thanksgiving side dish is, and there were quite a few votes for Green Bean Casserole!

I love it too, but it has to be creamy and flavorful! One of my favorite recipes is this one from Handletheheat.com – it’s amazing, because it also happens to also call for bacon and cheese. Umm, and you just can’t go wrong with that THAT…. so enjoy!!




4 strips bacon, diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 (16 ounce) packages frozen cut green beans, thawed
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup French’s French Fried onions


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium skillet set over medium heat, add the bacon. Cook, stirring often, until most of the fat has rendered and the bacon is beginning to crisp. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Remove the mixture to a paper towel-lined plate.

Sprinkle the flour over the bacon drippings and whisk to combine. Cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk then add the sour cream and bacon mixture. Stir until the mixture has thickened to gravy consistency. Remove from heat and season with black pepper to taste.

In a large bowl combine the bacon mixture with the green beans, tossing to coat. Spread evenly among a greased 9 by 13-inch baking pan. At this point you can cover and refrigerate the unbaked, untopped casserole for up to 2 days. Top with shredded cheese and fried onions. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.



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Most of us look forward to the holidays, because who doesn’t love family, food, and fun?! But if you’re in charge of Thanksgiving dinner, you know how things can get a little chaotic and dare I say stressful… because let’s face it, it’s not easy getting a huge meal prepared on time for a whole bunch of family and friends! Here are some practical and easy Thanksgiving hacks to make your day go a little more smoothly!



1. Put newspaper under your tablecloth

If you’re using your best table for your Thanksgiving feast, you can protect it from heat stains, spills, and cutlery dings by laying down a layer of newspaper before putting down your tablecloth. You’re welcome!

2. Use a cheese grater to grate cold butter for pies

Homemade pie is the best!! But the very best pie crust calls for super cold butter, which is hard to cut! Grating it with a cheese grater gives you the perfect size pieces to form your dough with.

3. Use paper plates as splash guards

Gravy and whipped cream (and other recipes) that may call for a handheld mixer can also be messy! Lessen the splatter by poking a hole in a paper plate, fitting it on your mixer and over the top of the mixing bowl. Voila! Your very own cheap and easy splash guard!

4. Keep food warm in a slow cooker

Make mashed potatoes ahead of time and keep them warm in a slow cooker until it’s time to serve them. You can also keep your turkey warm and moist this way!

5. Keep gravy warm in a Thermos

Keep your gravy warm the entire meal by storing it in a Thermos! Less stress and more room on the stove!

6. Invest in a Turkey Lifter

Sometimes the trickiest part of Thanksgiving dinner is lifting the cooked turkey out of the pan! Instead of fumbling with forks and utensils, you can buy a turkey lifter which cooks with the bird, easily lifts it up and can be thrown into the dishwasher.

7. Have the kids make place cards

Keep the kids busy by having them make place cards for the guests! Give them some crayons, stickers and other craft items that they can decorate the cards with. They’ll have fun, and the adults will be able to chat and enjoy visiting.

8. Make a “Gratitude” door

Another fun activity for everyone! Cover one of your doors on the main floor with butcher paper and leave a bucket of crayons close by. Every guest can write all the the things they are grateful for on the paper. It makes for a great visual.

9. Drape dish towel over your KitchenAid mixer

Things can get a little messy when you’re using your mixer. Simply drape a dish towel over your KitchenAid when using it to avoid unnecessary splatter!

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Yes. Aren’t you glad we live in a world where stores now offer Christmas ornaments in the shape of lady parts?! Because who wouldn’t want to adorn their tree with a vagina? I’m all for girl power, but definitely undecided when it comes to including “ya-yas” in my holiday decorating. If anything, I’m sure they make amazing conversation starters…or gifts.




You can purchase your own custom made felt vagina ornament complete with a jingle bell…. through the Etsy store Feltmelons. They come in different colors, and since each and every ornament is hand crafted, there will be slight variations in every ornament. Just like the real thing.

The ornaments are the brain child of Canadian, Suzanne McAleenan who operates her Etsy shop out of her home.

“Each ‘vaginament’ is my own design, and each is endearingly cut, assembled, and entirely stitched by hand in my dining room in Burlington, Ontario, Canada,” she writes.

“No vaginaments are exactly the same…it’s all part of their charm.”


If ornaments like this are a MUST-have on your Christmas list this year, you might want to order them early since they are shipped from Canada.

Suzanne is currently trying to keep up with a massive amount of orders, but you can sign up through her store to receive updates when more are available.

You know, since it’s not likely these will be sold at Hobby Lobby any time soon…



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It’s that time of year!! You can’t walk into a store these days without running into “Pumpkin Spice” something! I’m not sure how a candle scent and bread/cake flavor transformed into a flavor avalanche of ALL things pumpkin spice…. but it’s become an epidemic of sorts! Now don’t get me wrong, I do occasionally enjoy the scent and flavor of Pumpkin Spice during the Holiday season, I just don’t know if I need it added to everything. Check out some of these crazy Pumpkin Spice products that have been spotted…and let us know, yay or nay??




Pumpkin Spice….milk




Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini 


Pumpkin Spice Pringles


Pumpkin Spice Jell-o


Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter 


Pumpkin Spice Condoms (ok this one is fake, lol)


Pumpkin Spice Kale Chips


Pumpkin Pie Protein Powder

Pumpkin Pie Protein Powder is a vegan protein supplement that can be blended into a smoothie or stirred into breakfast oatmeal for a protein-packed punch of pumpkin flavor. (Photo from AI Sports Nutrition)


Pumpkin Spice Dog Shampoo


Pumpkin Spice Gum


Check out this hilarious Pumpkin Spice Everything parody!

What crazy pumpkin spice products have you seen? We’d love to hear about them! 

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St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner, and it’s a fun holiday to get creative with. Most people associate the color green with St. Patrick’s Day, and for good reason. I can’t imagine Leprechauns and clovers being any other color!  However, I personally love the rainbow theme of this holiday.  It’s much more colorful and fun, and the perfect inspiration for some fun crafts with the kids.   Here are three rainbow themed crafts perfect for the season.
1. Pour-painted Rainbow Pots use 6″ terra cotta pots and 8oz bottles of acrylic paint. One bottle for each color of the rainbow!  Have plenty of newspaper or cardboard on hand to collect the paint drippings. First, tape up the hole in the bottom of the pot with masking tape.  Sit the pot upside down on to your covered surface, and start pouring!  Pour a bit of your first color directly in the middle of the pot, followed by a little bit of every color.  The colors will start sliding down the sides creating a very cool effect!  Let the pots dry over night, and you have a new colorful planting pot to use in the house or your garden.  You can trim the excess paint simply by peeling it off, or using an exacto knife.
2. Melt a Rainbow.  My daughter and I did this craft, and it was so cool!  All you do is hot glue crayons evenly across the top of a canvas and start blow drying!  As they melt, they create a really beautiful “painting”.
3. Rainbow Button Monogram. The craft store sells wooden or paper monograms.  Choose your child’s initial and help them glue different colored buttons of various sizes.  You can use hot glue, but glue dots are definitely more safe.


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I was very close to posting a recipe for Chocolaty Chex Mix tonight.  I even took meticulous pictures as I moved through each step of the recipe.  I gathered the ingredients and positioned them on the counter…(camera click.)  I melted the sugar and butter in a saucepan…(click.)  I slowly poured the caramel mixture over the cereal…(click…click.)  And then I created a festive representation of the Chex Mix in a white bowl with a plaid kitchen towel underneath it…(click, click, click.)  Then I had to sit for a minute, as I often need to, because my body was hurting and I felt dizzy.  It was in that moment, as I sat quietly in my family room, by only the light of my Christmas tree, that I accepted the reality that I just didn’t have the energy to write about chex mix.  I barely had it in me to keep my eyes open.  I had officially reached the point where the only thing I cared about was surviving the holidays.

Surviving the Holidays?”  Since when is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” something to just survive?  I’m pretty sure every frazzled mom, and every exhausted retail employee, and every underpaid teacher can relate to this to some degree.  But I’ll tell you what takes holiday stress to the next, sometimes unbearable, level.
Chronic Physical, Emotional, and/or Mental Pain
If you’re a generally healthy person, I’d like to encourage you to try and remember a time that you felt truly rotten. Imagine your last bout with a stomach virus, the flu, a kidney stone, a migraine headache, or a toothache that hurt so badly you were completely incapacitated.  Now I want you to imagine that while you’re suffering, the entire world suddenly says to you, “You still have to get out of bed!  It’s the Holidays!  It’s time for shopping, presents, baking and cooking, parties, and socializing.  There’s no time for you to be sick.  You have to get up now and be happy, and pretend that you don’t hurt. You have school parties to get to. You have company coming- you better start cleaning your house. Oh, and by the way, you need to make 57 Pinterest-worthy treats to take to your neighbors, friends, and teachers.” For people that are chronically sick or in pain, the holidays present the problem of trying to find energy resources that may just not exist.  Often the month of December is a painful reminder of all the things we desperately want to do, but can’t.
After years of forcing myself to do it all, and working hard to make everything so magical that I literally made myself sick, I gained some wisdom and realized it doesn’t have to be this way.  As much as it feels like it, there really isn’t a gun to my head, requiring that I do more than I can handle during the holidays.  I have put a list together of suggestions that will hopefully ease your burdens a bit and remind you that Christmas really is something to look forward to, and enjoy.
Talk About It
Patricia Fennell, MSW, LCSW-R hits the nail on the head when saying, “Holidays act like a lightning rod where all the physical and social concerns around chronic illness get really highlighted.  The demands and expectations around holidays can “out” people whose conditions were hardly noticeable. During the year, they spend so much of their energy working and handling the daily chores of living that they have little time left for socializing.  Come the holidays, they’re expected to show up and contribute.  Many chronic illnesses are ‘invisible.’  People go to work or volunteer or shuttle kids to school.  Most of the time, they don’t look sick.  When illness flares up, their pain is invisible.  Or they have bone-numbing fatigue, so bad that they can’t take a shower and go to the store in the same day.”  Unfortunately there’s a cultural misconception that says you’re not sick unless you look sick. This perception isn’t going to change unless we speak up.  I have found that most people would do anything to ease your burdens- but they can’t help if they aren’t aware that there is an issue.
Plan Ahead
I can’t stress this one enough.  Since unpredictability is the nature of the invisible illness beast, planning in advance and preparing for all contingencies is imperative. When preparing for parties or traveling, we may need to bring medication, mobility aids, fluids, and special foods.  Don’t be afraid to discuss your needs with the host or your family members.  We all want to participate in the holidays the way we always have- including cooking, decorating, and hosting gatherings.  To do these things, we will just need to prepare over the span of a few days or weeks.  If we rush around and try to do it all in one day, we are less likely to enjoy ourselves and we could even end up bedridden.
Ditch Unrealistic Expectations
In fact, get rid of all your expectations.  I once had a friend tell me that expectations are the root of all evil because they encourage you to pine over things that aren’t real, and ignore all the beautiful things in your life that actually do exist.  Of course it’s fun to create a beautiful table for Christmas dinner, or trim a picture-perfect tree- but only do these things if you truly enjoy them, and certainly not at the cost of your own health and sanity.  If you can’t do what you once did, you can still make new traditions that accommodate your limitations.  Whatever your idea of how Christmas is supposed to be, just remember that it doesn’t have to be like that for you to enjoy it and be truly happy.
Ignore Other’s Insensitive Comments
Louise, from the blog “Diseased, Divorced, & Dangerous says it best, “People often have their own ideas about what you should be doing with your life and this is none so evident as it is during the high stress month of December.  It’s when people’s opinions that should probably be kept to themselves come streaming out with a little shove from one too many drinks.   Whatever the unfortunate comment, it’s a good idea to remember their opinions are a reflection of them and not you.  When you’re sick you can’t win no matter what you do, whether you’re working and so you’re ‘not that sick really’ or not working and so you’re ‘exaggerating and not even trying to get better.’  As you can’t win, you may as well just do what makes you happy, and what you need to do for your health, even if it means missing a party or bringing your own ‘free-from’ food.  Embrace being the weirdo that leaves early, only drinks sparkling water, and has a handbag full of medication.
Respect Yourself
Respect your limitations.  Respect your right to enjoy the holidays.  Respect the fact that you are enough today, simply because you are a living, breathing person.
Serve Others
I can’t think of a better way to embrace the holiday spirit than to jump beyond ourselves to help others.  Just because we’re sick doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do.  Get on the internet and order flowers for someone that is struggling.  If you’re having a particularly healthy day, offer to help with childcare, or housecleaning.  Spencer W. Kimball reminds us that, “Service to others deepens and sweetens this life while we are preparing to live in a better world.  It is by serving that we learn to serve.  When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective.  When we concern ourselves with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves.”  Talk about warm fuzzies!
Above all, let us remember what this time of year really means to us, and let’s focus on that.
I wish you warm, happy, and healthy holidays!

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Chances are your social media feed is filled with photos of little kids sitting on Santa’s lap these days.  Some of them are super cute, with kids happily smiling and obviously enjoying their time with Santa; while others are crying/screaming and look truly horrified to be in the situation they’re in.  One disturbing trend I have also noticed is parents posting these photos of their terrified children with Santa, and laughing about it.  Others commenting how cute it is and making light of them being scared, as if it’s some rite of passage that all kids need to endure.  I recently saw one relative’s picture with Santa where two little girls were screaming on Santa’s lap, one desperately trying to break free from his arms.  The comment section had comments like “Love it!”….”So cute!”….”Priceless!”



Children who are scared, are truly scared.  These seemingly “innocent” encounters can actually have lasting effects on certain kids.

A recent article was published by Katie Hurley LCSW, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting educator in Los Angeles, Calif. that lists the potential consequences of forcing children to sit with Santa, and she encourages parents to be mindful of them during the holiday season.

1. It’s traumatizing. Your child may love characters in costume on TV, in the movies or in a book, but in real life these characters can be larger than life and quite intimidating. Some children can be so frightened by a forced visit with Santa it can trigger nightmares for weeks after the encounter, and even cause the child to develop a fear of men with beards and/or glasses.

2. It sends mixed messages about stranger danger. We teach our children from a young age about stranger danger, and then we sit them on a stranger’s lap and expect them to have a magical moment. It sends mixed if they aren’t prepared.  Have a chat with them beforehand about what to expect when they visit Santa, and if they aren’t having it, consider focusing on other traditions.  There are lots of other ways to make memories at Christmastime.

3. It triggers the worry cycle. Some children are natural worriers, and seemingly “fun” situations to one child, may be quite overwhelming to another. Only you know your child, and if they are naturally timid, shy, or have anxiety you might want to avoid high pressure situations like visiting Santa.

4. It breaks trust. You are your child’s world.  They trust you will be there for them when they are upset or frightened.  Leaving them crying or struggling on a stranger’s lap while you laugh and snap pictures can absolutely break that trust and leave them feeling very alone and confused.  It’s not worth a cute picture with Santa.

5. It minimizes their feelings. Part of raising independent children is teaching them that they own their own emotions, and that thier feelings are valid.  When we ignore their feelings or downplay their fears by saying sitting on Santa’s lap is “no big deal” we are teaching them that their feelings don’t matter.

6. It lacks empathy. We try to teach our children compassion by listening and caring for the needs of others, yet parents who force a crying child onto a stranger’s lap are teaching them the opposite. The bottom line is, no picture or tradition is worth your child being frightened.

Winter Break is right around the corner, and I am already stressing a bit about keeping my three kids busy and productive!  One perfect activity is to have them make Christmas tree ornaments!  These can be put on your own tree to display or be made as gifts for others.  Either way, it’s fun for the whole family!






1. Cinnamon Stick Tree Ornament


What you need:


Pine garland


cinnamon sticks

glue gun

get the full tutorial here


2. Paper Towel Stars

diy-paper-towel-roll-stars-5 (1)

What you need:

Paper towel or toilet paper roll

ribbon or string

5 clothespins

mod podge


glitter glue

get the full tutorial here


3. Peanut Snowmen


What you need:

Peanuts, in-shell

Paper bags or newspaper

Acrylic paints

Paint brushes


A hot glue gun

Glue sticks

Twine or wire

get the full tutorial here


4. Cupcake liner Christmas trees


what you need:

Cupcake cases
Glue or adhesive tape
String or ribbon for hanging
Glitter, sequins or other embellishments (optional)

get full tutorial here



5. Homemade cinnamon ornaments




What you need:

  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1-1/2 cup ground cinnamon (look for the cheap, off-brand stuff, you aren’t gonna eat it)
  • 2 tablespoons craft glue, optional (I think this makes the ornaments a bit more sturdy, but you can do without it)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Drinking straw
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rolling pin
  • Baking racks and baking sheets
  • Cookie cutters
  • Sandpaper
  • Oven, food dehydrator, or just a spot out-of-the-way (for drying)
  • Glitter, puffy paints, rhinestones, etc. for decorating, optional
  • Ribbon or hooks for hanging

get full tutorial here.

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With the holidays fast approaching, I start to get anxiety over the need for more space!  With three kids and extended family that like to spoil them with gifts at Christmas, I am constantly having to figure out ways to purge toys and make room for new toys…






Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the generosity of others, but too much is too much and has caused me to reflect on ways we can all simplify gift giving for children. I realize the newest toy, or the cutest toy can be irresistable, but there are so many other non-toy gifts we can give! Sometimes it’s the non-toy gifts that have the greatest impact.

Children soon forget about all the toys they got, and most of the time they can’t even remember who they got them from! What children do value is time and memories. I know my child can’t list off the gifts he got last Christmas, but he can give vivid details about our trip to St. Louis over a year ago. Instead of giving toys this year, why not give memories instead?

Here are some great ideas for alternative gifts this year:

1. Gift cards for ice-cream/frozen yogurt. What child doesn’t love picking out their own treats? (And you can’t trip over it)

2. Memberships/passes. What are their interests? Get them passes to a local amusement park, mini golf place, museum, YMCA or a membership to the zoo. Colorado is full of awesome places that kids love to visit.

3. Concert Tickets. Find out their favorite bands/music and pick up some concert tickets. What events are coming to the area? Purchase tickets for anything from the circus to the symphony. Lots of ideas to choose from!

4. Recipe/food items. Get them a gift basket full of ingredients to make a favorite meal or dessert. Include the recipe, and offer to come help and spend the afternoon with them.

5. Crafting supplies. Find a fun art project or idea online and purchase the supplies for it. Wrap it up in a box with instructions on how to do it. Maybe even do it together.

6. Outdoor supplies. Get a gardening gift basket, fishing gear, bug catcher. etc. to encourage being outdoors and exploring nature.

7. Books. You can never go wrong with a good book! They are for every interest, genre, and age. My son still reads books he got four years ago, but I can’t say that about toys he got that long ago!

8. Coupon book of 12 one-on-one dates for the year. One coupon a month. The activities don’t have to be expensive or extravagant but should focus on making memories and spending time together. A trip to a favorite ice cream shop. An evening walk or bike ride. An early morning breakfast out when everyone else sleeps.

9. Movie Tickets! Purchase a gift card to your local theater and wrap it up with some popcorn and candy.

10. Gift card to their favorite restaurant, and make it a date night!