My Favorites Gift Guide

Otherwise known as a gift guide for the woman who likes girly things, loves hats, can’t resist an Agatha Christie novel, collects and makes quirky art, pours over cookbooks and is constantly getting her family to try her new recipe ideas. So me. Enjoy!

 Favorites Gift Guide[1.MAC Rebel][2.Sunday Suppers][3.See by Chloe][4.Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case][5.Bowtie Abstract Print][6.Michael Stars Hat][7.Starburst Stud Earrings][8.Boot cuffs][9.Vintage Arrows]

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The Boys’ Gift Guide

When thinking about toys for the boys each year I always consider four things: 1. What did they ask for?, 2. What will keep them entertained for more than five minutes?, 3. What will hold up through the play of two boys?, and 4. What will encourage them to learn and connect with their interests? While J still isn’t “asking” for things, A definitely has a list this year. We always make sure to explain to A that he will not get everything on his list and he will get surprises as well. With that in mind I am sharing some of my favorites for gifts for the boys. Some of these we already have, some of them we are getting the boys for Christmas, and some of them we are saving for J’s upcoming birthday. Enjoy!

Boys Gift Guide1. A little wooden fire truck set that looks as cute sitting on their dresser as it is functional in imaginative play.

2. A castle that A got when he was three and loves so much that we are buying J the updated version for Christmas so he will have one of his own. This castle is used to play with ninja turtles, Gi Joes, the imaginext men it came with, and lego people. It seriously is one of the very best toys we have ever purchased.

3. A beginning train track set. The investment of a wooden train set is always worthwhile. They will last through all of your kids and then you can box it up and save it for grand kids.

4. I received a bed tent (I believe it was care bears) when I was around four or five and I pretty much thought it was the best thing ever. A tent is like your own little room within your room. It’s a reading nook, a place for stuffed animals to live, a place to hide when playing hide and seek. Which is the reason both boys have one.

5. A drum set with rubberized heads so it is not crazy loud, but still lets them play.

6. A bucket of Legos. Don’t get me wrong both boys are getting Lego sets this year and A is a bit obsessed with collecting different Lego sets. However, my favorite things are what he makes with all of his extra Legos (for example, he has made a complete collection of Mario battleships based on the game).

7. Monster building blocks, because not only are they silly they have a great design that encourages unique construction. And you can’t knock basic building blocks.

8. Books that encourage them to explore, to imagine, and to laugh.

For the boys past gift guides check here and here.

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A’s Christmas Cookie Competition

Christmas Cookie CompetitionSo A has been making a long list of cookies he wants to make over the holidays. He has lots of cookie combination ideas (some crazier than others). He decided that he wanted to turn it into a “cookie competition” and he is the judge. Seriously. This kid. We are making a chart and everything. So may the best cookie win!
First up, A wanted to make a berry white chocolate chip cookie. Thanks to the benefit of Pinterest that exact cookie practically fell into my lap.

IMG_7059 IMG_7067These cherry vanilla chocolate chip cookies definitely lived up to A’s expectations! As it was stated in the recipe, these are definitely cookies that get better with age. The first day they were great, but the second and third day? Even better. You’re going to think the vanilla extract amount is crazy, but it works perfectly. The tartness from the cherries balances the sweetness of the white chocolate chip. You’re going to love it! Until the next cookie enters the competition!

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Favorite Christmas Books

Christmas Book FavoritesOne of A’s favorite parts of Christmas is getting to read a Christmas book every night and sing a Christmas song before he goes to bed. I thought I would share a few of our favorite Christmas books (most are ours, but some we check out from the library as well to enjoy!).

The Elf on the Shelf

The Night before Christmas

Llama Llama Holiday Drama

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Snowmen at Christmas

A Perfect Day

Twas the Night

Little Owl’s Orange Scarf

The Christmas Quiet Book

Bear Stays Up for Christmas

Curious George’s Christmas Surprise

Merry Christmas, Mouse

Welcome Winter


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The joy of the Christmas show

I have to say I am a sucker for Christmas movies. I get excited about the anticipation of re-watching classics like Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and White Christmas. A is the same way and every time we see a commercial for a Christmas cartoon, he asks if we can record it. Can I just take a moment to say how weird it is that our children now ask if we can DVR a show, not “can we watch it when it comes on?”. Anyway, some of their favorites have been the Frosty the Snowman special, the How the Grinch Stole Christmas cartoon version, and of course, Curious George’s Christmas special as they are viewing here:

Christmas MoviesApparently best viewed closely.  HA!

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Snowflake monograms

This craft is literally the easiest, ever. It was great for J’s very short attention span!

All you need is

Wooden snowflakes (I got them from Hobby Lobby for 50% off…never pay full price for anything at Hobby Lobby! It will be on sale the next week).

Monogram letters (I got metal hanging letters from Hobby Lobby)

Paint (I used kids’ paint in red, green, and white).

Paint brushes


Paint the snowflakes:

IMG_4096 IMG_4097

Let them dry:


And then hang them up looping the monogram over the snowflake string (that comes with the snowflake!):

Snowflake MonogramsAnd hang them from little command hooks! So easy!

A few side notes:

I could only find black monogram letters, and I wanted them to be white for the snowflakes, so I removed the original hanger and I spray painted them white. It will take the spray paint about an hour to dry.

We used sponge paint brushes and regular smaller paint brushes.

I used just one snowflake on each door, and then used the rest of the snowflakes for other decoration in the house, but you could attach all three in a line with ribbon to make a fancier hanger (I could not do this, because J can reach it…and would pull it down for sure!).

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Mint chocolate chip cookies

Mint chocolate chip cookies. They all started because I saw this:

Cupcakesandcommentary - mint chocolate chocolate chip cookieswhile shopping at Target. As you can see I used most of the package to make the cookies (there are none in the see through spot, ahhh!).

If you love mint chocolate chip, you will love these cookies. They are a combo of cookie/brownie texture and they will make your day!

Cupcakes and commentary / Mint chocolate chocolate chip cookies

So here is the basic recipe (it makes about 22 cookies, using a tablespoon size cookie scoop):


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/8 tsp of salt

1/4 cup plus 2 tbs of unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghiradelli’s….cause it’s fabulous)

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 to 2 cups of winter mix chocolate chips (dark chocolate and mint morsels)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa. Set aside.

3. On medium speed cream butter and sugars together (using a mixer) until smooth (about three minutes). Add in the egg. Add in vanilla extract. Mix until blended.

4. Slowly add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix until flour disappears. Stir in mint and chocolate chips. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoon-fulls onto prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.

5. Bake cookies for 9 minutes, or until the cookies are set around the edges, but still soft in the center (don’t over bake!). Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely. Store in an air tight container.

Mint chocolate chocolate chip cookies

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Christmas Morning Re-Mix

Happy New Year! Here is our Christmas morning with the boys. I am happy to say that A was delighted by Christmas this year (versus the meltdown of all meltdowns in 2011). He loved opening each of his presents and was most excited about his stocking and that Santa left cookie crumbs behind on the plate!

I told you before about the tradition of the Christmas mug…my husband did not disappoint:

IMG_0988Checking out the bins from Santa: IMG_0993Already mesmerized by the muppet that is Elmo: IMG_0999 I included this next picture so you could see how J sits:IMG_1001 Opening his present from J (a miniature Lego death star…to be immediately put together during J’s nap):IMG_1012A helping opening the present he got B:  IMG_1016 Checking out J’s little book of names and faces:IMG_1019 Opening his new lighting repair lego set:IMG_1031And the most fabulous of them all…his new Imaginext Castle: IMG_1042The boys talking to each other on J’s new phone from A: IMG_1050 IMG_1051“Why hasn’t he called me back?” 🙂

Hope your Christmas was as Merry as ours was! Family Christmas pictures to come!

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The Christmas Countdown: Last Minute Gifts

Ah, last minute shopping. Especially this year when Christmas falls on a Tuesday (what is up with that? I mean besides the calendar being what is up with that…), shopping that weekend before Christmas happens. Here is a list of gifts that are good ideas whether you buy them the weekend before or weeks before.

Christmas Countdown91. You can never go wrong with getting someone a new movie…and The Dark Knight Rises is a good choice. You can find it at Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy….pretty much anywhere that has a movie stand area. Shopping for kiddos? Try Brave.

2. A satchel. Cute, has multiple purposes (work bag, baby bag, carry-all). This one is from Target, but you can find them at Kohls and all major Department stores.

3. A board game. Settlers of Cattaan is on of our favorites. You can find it at Target, Barnes and Noble, and possibly Wal-Mart (but don’t hold me to that one).

4. A Compilation Series for the author enthusiast. You can find these mainly at Barnes and Noble and Books A Million, however sometimes you find them in really random places (like Hobby Lobby). I have Edgar Allen Poe’s Series listed here, but you could also go with Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes (or for a fun twist try Roald Dahl’s Ghost Stories). The best thing about these? They are incredibly inexpensive.

5. A pajama set. Everyone always loves a nice, new pajama set. The one I have listed is from Target, but you can find them at Victoria’s Secret, Wal-Mart, and of course any department store.

6. A new pair of gloves. These are “glittens” from J Crew, but I have found lovely pairs at Target and Kohls.

7. A throw blanket. The one shown is from Target, but don’t count at Wal-Mart…they have lovely Better Homes and Gardens ones.

Happy Shopping!

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