Hello Monday + Our Weekly Meal Plan Menu

Hello Friends!  Hope you had a wonderful weekend!  We braved the torrential rains and had a productive Saturday, then watched The Girl on the Train (movie was so-so, and per the usual, the book was about a thousand times better).  Sunday we had a great morning in church, and then cheered on our Falcons as they became NFC champions!  On to the Super Bowl!  What a year so far!!  Here’s a few more things we’re saying hello to today…

Hello New Haircuts!

I love when the kiddos get sweet new haircuts, and they like it too! Brantley’s cute little bob makes me want to cut my hair again!

Hello Farmer’s Market

Last weekend we had such a fun trip to the Dekalb International Farmer’s Market, that we decided to go again this weekend, and bring the kids along!  Usually, the market is packed on the weekends, but with heavy rains allllll Saturday morning long, the market wasn’t nearly as busy (though still busy!).  They had fun looking at the whole sharks (!!!) in the fish case, and picking out which fruits they wanted to take home for snacks.  We got inspired to pick up what we needed to make homemade Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), and the girls helped Scott pick out the beef while Ben helped me get all the veggies and spices that we needed.  It might just become part of our Saturday morning routine.  The variety and freshness is just unparalleled, at least until our local Farmer’s Market opens back up in the summer!

Hello BUSY Week Ahead

With my THREE new clients and two events this week (I might have ONE meeting or event outside of my home office each month, so to have two in one week is crazy!), I have a lot on my plate this week!  But, I am far more productive when I am under pressure, so being busy is a good thing for me.  Plus, it’s refreshing to get out and work and network socially from time to time, since 90% of my work is done in my home office with me, myself, and I!

Hello God, It’s Me, Amanda.  Again.

We have been sending up a LOT of prayers lately.  We have a family member that will be having surgery in the next few weeks and a good friend having surgery today (and any and all prayers would/will certainly be appreciated!!).  And between praying for them and thanking the Lord for the good health of my children, and praying for Him to continue to keep them safe and healthy, I have been turning to God a lot lately.  And I’m proud of myself because in the past I would struggle with bad news or worry to death over the health of my kids or the afflictions of my family and friends, and I would get so wrapped up in my worry and anxiety, that I wouldn’t think to pray, or would forget to pray about it.  But I have found that the more I pray, the more I remember to pray during difficult times.  And I used to struggle with what to say to God while I was praying, but I have found too, that the more I pray and the more I talk to God, the better I get at it.  It’s not quite as awkward and uncomfortable as it once was.  I guess it’s kind of like talking to a brand new friend about very personal issues compared to talking to an old friend.  You just feel more comfortable the more mature your relationship gets, and the easier it is to express your feelings, concerns, and worries.  I love the thought that my relationship with God is growing and I am becoming more comfortable turning to him and laying my burdens at his feet instead of struggling with them on my own.

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                                                      Greek Chicken and Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl

I didn’t schedule in much time for blogging last week, and didn’t end up posting my weekly meal plan.  So this week, I’m posting 2 recipes per day- the first one for what we had last week, and the second for what we’re having this week!

Sunday- Last Week- Grilled Chicken, Roasted Beets, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts, This Week- Meatball Sub Bubble Up Casserole and Caesar Salad

Monday- Last Week- Leftovers (Randomness out of the Fridge), This Week- Turkey Chili Taco Soup with Tortilla Chips

Tuesday- Last Week- Chicken and Rice Casserole with Green Beans, This Week- Shrimp and Steak Stir Fry with Udon Noodles and Broccoli, Mushrooms, an Sugar Snap Peas

Wednesday- Last Week- Broccoli, Cheese, and Potato Soup (PS- This was SO GOOD!!), This Week- Grilled Chicken with Three-Bean Quinoa Salad

Thursday- Last Week- Leftovers, This Week- Cabbage and Sausage Skillet with Bacon Roasted Potatoes

Friday- Last Week- Greek Chicken and Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl with tomatoes, cucumber, feta, olives, and balsamic dressing, This Week- Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Bubble Up Casserole with Salad

I hope you have a wonderful start to your week!

Almost-End-of-the-Week Randoms

Hello!  After the long weekend, we have been working like crazy and staying SUPER busy every day!  I can’t wrap my head around an actual post quite yet this week, but how about a bit of a brain dump and some almost-end-of-the-week randoms?

 

  • I just watched (and finished) The OA on Netflix.  SO GOOD!!!  Especially if you like a little sci-fi nonsense like I do. 🙂  What should I watch next?

 

  • I kinda decided all of a sudden to quit snapchat.  I know, I know, after I said I loved it so much (and I did!), and was on it a bunch!  But Instagram is really my fave, and after giving Instastories a bit of a try, it’s just so much easier to stay within one app and do the same thing I could do on snapchat!  Honestly, I was just getting lazy about switching back and forth when I could just post pictures AND videos on Insta!  So I won’t be hanging around Snapchat much anymore, but feel free to follow my stories on Instagram!  It’s a lot of cooking, and the kids, you know, the ususal. 🙂

 

  • Scott and I had the best kid-free weekend over MLK!  All three kids (and my niece!) went to Blue Ridge with my parents on Saturday afternoon, and we had the house to ourselves!  We went to the Farmer’s Market and got fresh fish and veggies for a great adults-only dinner at home, which was so nice.  And QUIET!  All weekend we kept remarking how quiet the house was, and that it seemed so empty! Sunday morning we went to Athens and had a lovely brunch date, shopped in a few bookstores, and then came home.  I got so many little things accomplished around the house that I have been putting off and putting off, we even got to sleep in a bit on Monday!  It was just the right amount of time- enough to get some good quality time in with Scott, and to miss the kids just a little. 🙂  The perfect parent refresher weekend!

  • The kids are SUPER into reading right now.  They each got a set of books for Christmas, and have burned through them, so during our kid-free weekend, we hit up a GREAT used bookstore in Athens and bought them a ton more.  We’re seeing this kind of sight a lot this week, and it is absolutely melting my heart:

  • I was selected to test out a new women’s pattern over the weekend!  I’ll let you in on more details soon, but it was SO.MUCH.FUN. to sew up a garment for a pattern designer whose patterns I have used and loved in the past!  When the opportunities arise, and I actually have the time to take advantage of them, I LOVE testing new patterns and helping out a bit with the design process.  Plus I have a fun new garment to wear, too!

 

  • We have been doing a pretty good job of eating well since the first of the year (yeah, it’s only been a little over 2 weeks, but it’s something).  One of my favorite meals was this HUGE salad with roasted beets and butternut squash, grilled chicken, kale, quinoa, green onions, a hard boiled egg, and Bolthouse Farms blue cheese dressing.  SO filling, delicious, and so healthy!

 

  • I have been on a home decor DIY binge lately too.  I have recovered our kitchen/dining room/my office chairs, added a counterbalance to our kitchen bench so it won’t flip over when the kids sit on it, and I have been moving tables and pictures, and decor items around.  I like kind of changing things up around the house this time of year, but I don’t want to put a lot of money (or any!) into the changes.  I just like to shake things up with what we’ve got, and I can usually make it work just by moving around things we already have and use them in different places or in different ways!  I have also been just tossing copious amounts of trash, broken toys, old random items, and getting some of this clutter OUT of the house!

And that’s about all I’ve got for today!

Friday Favorites: Instant Pot Recipes

This week going back to school after 2 1/2 weeks off has about killed us all!  It has been a little tough getting back into the swing of things- bedtimes and routines, work schedules and carpool lines, we are all worn out!  But here I am, with one more post this week, about the one thing that has saved dinner this week- my new Instant Pot!

I was so happy to get an Instant Pot for Christmas this year!  If you’re not familiar, the Instant Pot is as an electric pressure cooker, but it does so much more!  You can saute and simmer in it, steam food, use it as a slow cooker, you can make soups, roasts, stews, YOGURT, CHEESECAKE IN IT!!!  And things that typically take all day to cook in a crock pot (like roasts, beans, etc) take half the time or less in the Instant Pot.  It’s an amazing kitchen appliance, and I have been using mine almost every day since I opened it!

If you follow my Instastories on Instagram, you may have seen some of the successes we’d had with the Instant Pot thus far!  Today for Friday Favorites, I’m sharing my 5 favorite Instant Pot recipes that we’ve made so far.

Black Eyed Peas

The very first thing I made in the IP were our black eyed peas on New Year’s Day!  What would typically take all night to soak and all day to cook, took 1 hour in the IP!  I added a bag of dry black eyed peas, 4 cups of water, a few sliced of bacon, and about 4 ounces of ham all to the IP.  I cooked them on manual for 30 minutes, and the I natural pressure released for about 30 minutes.  When I opened the pot, they were perfect!” We don’t eat black eyed peas a lot, but these made me want to eat them a whole not more now!

 Chicken Tortilla Soup 

My first try at soup in the Instant Pot was a great success.  And so easy!  Chopped up an onion and bell pepper, added diced tomatoes and black beans, FROZEN chicken breasts, a bunch of chicken stock, and a few other things to the pot.  I set the pot to manual and 8 minutes.  Once the pot came to pressure (it has to heat up enough to make the liquid in the pot create steam to create enough pressure in the pan to cook the meal), which took about 30 minutes, it cooked for 8 minutes, then I quick released the pressure, shredded the chicken, and DONE!  I will say that I have made soup faster than an hour (start to finish, about how long it took), BUT…this tasted like it had simmered on the stove for hours.  And the good thing about the pot is you can throw your ingredients in there, set it and pretty much forget it!  Here’s the complete recipe if you want to try this one out:    https://gfdoctormom.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/instant-pot-chicken-tortilla-soup/

Steel Cut Oatmeal

Typically, I don’t even like oatmeal.  And the kids don’t really love it either.  But I wanted to try steel cut oats since it’s a great breakfast option, and healthier than cereal for the kids!  I tried this recipe, and we all loved it.  It was just slightly sweet, thanks to the honey, and we added walnuts and dried cranberries for a little crunch.  It takes a little longer than pouring a bowl of cereal on a weekday, but it would be great for a Saturday or Sunday morning!

Quinoa

We’ve been making quinoa a lot lately to go in salads or instead of rice.  And it’s so easy in the IP!  Toss in the quinoa and some chicken broth (more flavorful than plain water!), and perfectly cooked quinoa in no time!  Here’s the recipe I used: http://www.rebootedmom.com/2016/06/11/how-to-make-quinoa-in-the-instant-pot/

Shredded Chicken 

You can put chicken in the crock pot with a can of chicken broth, and you’ll have cooked chicken easily shredable after 8 hours or so on low.  OR, you can have it in 30 minutes!  From FROZEN breasts!  We’ve done this twice in the past two weeks just because it’s SO EASY and SO FAST.  The first time I made the chicken for the Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip  shown above (bottom right), and then I made the chicken again last night to put in Chicken Street Tacos  (both recipes SO GOOD, by the way).  It’s really so easy, and shredded chicken can be prepared once or twice a week and then used in so many preparations!  Here’s the recipe I used.

If you have an Instant Pot, show your successes and recipes!  I am dying for more!!

Hope you have a great weekend!

Hello Monday + Weekly Meal Plan

Hello Friends!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and if you live in Atlanta, that you survived Snowpocalypse 2017:

All in good fun… 🙂  We were predicted to get snow, and we got a good sleet, and that was about it.  I even went to the store like the crazy Georgia fools that we are and stocked up on the neccessities.  You know, like wine, haha!  But, I will say, that when we had that freak snow/ice storm two years ago, we really were stuck inside, and ain’t nobody got time for that, so it was better to be prepared and disappointed than not prepared and snowed in for a week!

Anyway, I thought I’d change up my Monday posts a bit, and combine my old Hello Monday posts with my Meal Plan Monday posts, and do a little bit of both.  So here’s what we’re saying hello to today!

Hello National Championship!

Our beloved Clemson Tigers and my Dad’s beloved Alabama Crimson Tide are playing in the National Championship Game tonight!!  Now, I don’t ever want to see my Dad disappointed, but I gotta pull for the Tigers!  We’ll see how it turns out.  Scott will be pacing the house and counting down the minutes all day long…

Hello Back to School!

Today is the kids first day back to school from Christmas break.  It has really been a GREAT break, and I really am so sad to send them back!  They have played so well together, and after we traveled a bit before Christmas, we have really taken it easy, stayed home, relaxed, and enjoyed ourselves together for the last two weeks.  Doesn’t Christmas seem like it was months ago already??  I am glad to get back into our routine, and our normal schedule, but Christmas break is probably my favorite time of the year.  I’m sad for it to end. 🙁

Hello Trader Joe’s!

We have been going to Athens more often lately, and hitting up Trader Joe’s on the weekends.  The kids love it because they have a big table with coloring pages and crayons, free lollipops, kid-sized grocery carts, and they give TONS of stickers.  I could spend hours and millions of dollars there, and always find the greatest foodie treasures!

Hello Bike Riding!

Ben and Brantley got new bikes from Santa (Gracie got one on her birthday last May), and so we’ve been outside a lot (not this past freezing cold weekend) riding bikes in the neighborhood.  They have so much fun and are doing a great job!

Hello Osmo!

The kids got an Osmo Gaming System for Christmas, and have loved playing with it too.  It attaches to an Ipad and allows the kids to play several different learning games for reading, math skills, creativity, and even coding!  All three can play together or separately, and have really been enjoying it.

Hello Healthy Meals

We did our fair share of overindulging this holiday season, so we’re back to light, healthy recipes for the start of the new year!  Above is what we had on Saturday night (the spoils of our Trader Joe’s trip)- Sauteed Tilapia in a soy broth with bok choy, and stir-fried broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and zucchini.  It was delicious and very filling!  And a perfect segue into what we’ll be having for dinners this week!

Sunday- Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Monday- Pickle-Brined Baked Chicken Fingers, French Fries, and Side Salad

Tuesday- Kale Salad with Grilled Chicken, Butternut Squash, Beets, Quinoa, Walnuts, Cheddar, and Cranberries with Apple Cider Vinaigrette (recipe to come for the vinaigrette!)

Wednesday- Steamed Spaghetti Squash (pasta noodles for the kids) with Meat Sauce and a Side Salad

Thursday- Chicken Street Tacos and Mexican Coleslaw

Friday- Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup

What are you eating this week?  And what are you saying hello to today?

What We’ve Watched Over Christmas Break + More Suggestions on What to Binge Watch

I have to be honest…we are BIG time TV people (if you’ve read this blog for long enough, you know this already :)).  When I was up sewing every night a few years ago, I used to watched Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, as I sewed.  Even now, I love watching Netflix and Scott and I DVR tons of shows to watch after the kids go to bed.  There is a bunch of junk on TV, but there are SO MANY GOOD SHOWS TOO!

Since we have had a BUNCH of time off for Christmas break, we have watched some good TV and good movies.  So here are a few things you might want to check out that we watched and give our two thumbs up:

  • Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath- I know very little about Scientology (other than I thought it was a little weird), but WHOA!!  This show is unbelievable.  What the “Church” of Scientology subjects it’s members and those who leave the “church” to is horrible.  It’s more or less a cult that tears families apart.  The series is a MUST see!!
  • Sully- AWESOME movie!  It tells the tale of “the Miracle on the Hudson” when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed his US Airlines plane in the Hudson River in January of 2009.  It’s such an amazing story (that *might* make you want to steer clear of the airport for a while) that reinforces the fact that Sully is a straight up HERO for saving the lives of 155 passengers and crew members!
  • Woman in Gold- Such a moving and true story of a Jewish woman that escaped Nazi-occupied Austria during World War 2, but not before all the art was stolen from her family’s home by the Nazi’s.  The movie stars Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, and tells how they fought to get the treasures back, and one in particular, The Woman in Gold, a portrait of the woman’s beloved aunt.  Is really is an amazing movie, and the story is one that ought to be told over and over again for us never to forget.  The part showing how Mirren’s character escaped occupied Austria is especially tense, but shows just the amount of courage and bravery she possessed!  Two thumbs up.
  • Twilight Zone Marathon on SyFy- I am a HUGE Twilight Zone nerd and watch the New Years marathon every year on SyFy!  I saw my first Twilight Zone episodes in elementary school, and have been hooked ever since.  Some are a little hokey (they were filmed in the 50s and 60s), some are really thought-provoking, and some truly haunt my dreams and scare me to death!  If you miss the marathon, you can watch them on Netflix.  My favorite episodes- “Eye of the Beholder,” “Time Enough at Last,” “The Shelter,” and the one that literally gives me nightmares- “Twenty-Two.”

 

And even if you go back to work or your kids go back to school this week (or you are as lucky as us and still have one more week off!!!!!), this is the perfect time of year to binge watch some good tv before the regularly scheduled shows come back on the air.  I have watched A LOT of great TV series and have some great suggestions for you if you’re looking for something to binge watch in the upcoming weeks!

 

  • Shameless- Like a carwreck, you can’t help but watch!  The characters are flawed but great, and you will fall in love with them.
  • Game of Thrones- Totally not my typical genre, but it’s addicting and SO GOOD.
  • Homeland- I have been a huge fan from Day 1, and the next season is about to begin!
  • The Affair- I typically do not like shows that glorify adultery or divorce, etc., but this show certainly doesn’t glorify it.  It shows how much choices and actions can affect marriages, families, and everyone around you.  Great show.
  • The Crown- I’m a total Anglophile anyway, but I found this SO fascinating and I was immediately sucked in.
  • Downton Abbey- Same as above, haha!  You’d think that it’s typical stuffy, boring British Masterpiece Theater, but it’s a wonderful show.  I cried watching the last episode I was so sad it wouldn’t come on anymore!
  • Black Mirror- The modern and more techy version of The Twilight Zone.  Really makes you stop and think about your own life and how tech-obsessed we are and the effect on our lives.
  • Stranger Things- The hit of the summer, and I was just as obsessed as everyone else!
  • The Tudors- More historical drama, both of which appeal to me.  Another one I was sad was over!
  • Peaky Blinders- OMG!!!  Only 3 seasons, I think??  And not very many episodes per season.  Totally do-able in a weekend.
  • Sons of Anarchy- Who’d have thought one of my all-time favorite shows would be about a criminal motorcycle gang??
  • House of Cards- Once you watch it, you’ll never look at Washington politics the same.
  • Breaking Bad- You have no good reason to have not watched this by now.  One of the best shows ever!  Go queue it up now!
  • Mad Men- The fashion, the workplace, Don Draper… a must watch series!
  • The Fall- If you watch this dark series, you’ll understand why I just can’t agree with Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in 50 Shades of Grey…he is much more convincing as a serial killer.
  • Friday Night Lights- I cried when this one was over too.  Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.
  • Orange is the New Black- Such a strong female cast!
  • One Mississippi- A dark, funny show about Tig Novaro’s real life experiences after surviving cancer and her mother’s death.
  • The Killing- Another dark drama (I have a think for dark shows, I guess?) set in the Pacific Northwest.  LOVED how the series ended.
  • Narcos- The story of Pablo Escobar and the DEA’s role in his downfall.  I really knew nothing about this bit of history, and it was so interesting!
  • Californication- David Duchovny is extremely believable as a womanizing author and father.
  • Mr. Robot- I guess I also have a thing for techy shows!  I was sucked into Mr. Robot and loved the twists in Season 1.
  • Parenthood- One of mine and Scott’s all-time favorite family dramas.  UGLY CRIED pretty much every episode of the last season (Have a feeling the new This is Us will be the same way)!
  • True Blood- Never thought vampires were my thing.  I was wrong.
  • Bloodline- Super dark family drama.  I *gasped out loud* at the end of the second season.  SO. GOOD.
  • The Walking Dead- You have six and a half seasons to catch up on before the rest of season 7 debuts later this month.  WATCH IT!

So what have I missed??!!  Not much, right, haha!!  But I am always willing to stay up too late and watch some Netflix in bed.  What are your favorites??

Favorite Recipes of 2016

We made some serious food in 2016.  Between the dinner meal planning (and most recently lunch planning), parties, holidays, potlucks, snacks, weekend breakfasts, indulged cravings, challenges, and wild ideas, I was in the kitchen a lot this past year, and loved (almost) every minute!  I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes that I made in 2016 today, instead of a meal plan for the week (we are still kind of in a holiday fog, eating New Years leftovers and this and that here and there:)).  These are all dinners, lunches, appetizers, etc. that were popular with the whole family that may inspire an idea for you in the New Year!  And as always, share your favorites with me!  I am always looking for new ideas!

Street Corn-Style Grilled Zucchini 

Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Chicken Stew with Quinoa and Butternut Squash

BBQ Chicken Taco Salad

Garden Vegetable Pie

Red Beans and Rice with Sausage and Roasted Okra 

Fajita Chicken Salad

Shrimp and Grits

Chicken Gyro Salad

Saturday Steak Nights!

New Year’s Day Collard Greens, Black Eyed Peas, Ham, and Cornbread

Fried Green Tomatoes

Crock Pot Smothered Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, and Green Beans

Chicken and Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Beets, Cranberries, and Tomatoes

No-Mayo Broccoli Salad

Asparagus and Mushroom Carbonara

Loaded Hummus

Summer Vegetable Plate

Pork Tenderloin and Kale Salad with Apples, Butternut Squash, Parmesan, Almonds, Cranberries, and Balsamic Vinaigrette 

Summer Squash, Bacon, and Mushroom Quiche

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs and Spaghetti

Blacked Fish Taco Rice Bowl 

Teriyaki Glazed Tilapia and Fried Rice

Banh Mi Rice Bowls (the BEST!!)

Blackened Fish Tacos

Sauteed Shrimp with Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Tomatoes

Mother’s Day Feast!  Crab Legs, Lobster Tails, Salad,a nd Garlic Bread

Tuscan Pasta

Everyday Meatballs with Caesar Salad and Garlic Bread

Salmon Thai Crunch Quinoa Bowl

Vietnamese Pho 

Greek Salad with Chicken

Black Bean Burgers and Mexican Chopped Salad

Mushroom and Zucchini Risotto

Mexican Street Corn Nachos

Southern Living Caramelized Onion Dip 

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, Red Onions, and Thyme Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Thanks for the Memories, 2016, Hello 2017–Happy New Year!

Everyone keeps talking about how 2016 was such a horrible year, and everyone is so ready for 2016 to be over, but 2016 was a great year for our family!  Did it have it’s challenges?  Absolutely (what year doesn’t?).  But, 2015 was a HARD year for us, and we worked really hard through 2016 and made it work, and are now that much more excited for the year to come!  Not because 2016 was bad, but because it was GOOD, and we know 2017 will be even better!

Here are some memorable moments from our lives from 2016:

January- My handsome nephew William Ramsey was born!  Cannot BELIEVE he is about to turn one!!

 Also in January, my Dad beat cancer for the SECOND time.  Take that, cancer.

February- Scott took Brantley to her second Father-Daughter Dance at school.

Then Gracie got a special date night out with Daddy too!

March- Three cute kiddos started the church soccer league!!

And we had a very special Easter in March 2016, when all three kids were Baptized in our church.  Definitely a highlight of the year.

April- We planted our annual garden!

We went to Blue Ridge for a few days during Spring Break and went to the fair!

We ate until we were stuffed at Food Truck Friday in Monroe!

May- We kicked it off by celebrating Mother’s Day. 🙂

Scott took Ben to his first Braves game!

Gracie Girl turned FIVE!

Scott and I went out to eat at Five & Ten in Athens (our fave) to celebrate my birthday!

And we finished off the month having a joint birthday party for Brantley and Grayson with an outdoor movie!


 June- We went to the Monroe Farmer’s Market almost every weekend!

We took our 7 YEAR OLD on a special weekend away to Louisville, and loved every moment (on her 7th birthday, she had been to 7 states!).

We went on our first beach vacation of the summer- to Edisto Beach, Sc with our Luton family!

Scott and I had a fun date night at a gala at the Georgia Aquarium!

July- We had a wonderful Fourth of July in the mountains!

Then we went on our second beach trip of the summer, to St. Augustine/Ponte Vedra, FL with our Midkiff family!

The girls and I started cheerleading with Cheer Camp.

We went to the Laser Show at Stone Mountain (which MUST become an annual summer tradition!).

August- Grayson started Kindergarten…

…and Brantley started 2nd grade!

Scott and I celebrated our 10th Anniversary with a fun weekend in Asheville and Charlotte.

Then Bennett started 3 Year-Old Preschool.

We threw a surprise party for Scott’s 40th birthday (which was a HUGE success!!).

September- We celebrated Labor Day with a fun trip to the zoo.

We went to Legoland for Ben’s 4th Birthday!

Scott and I took a (business) trip to Washington, DC!

October- We went to the Monroe Fall Festival (even though it definitely still felt like summer!).

And went apple picking in Ellijay over fall break!

We had an awesome Halloween as Anger, Joy, and Sadness from Inside Out.

November- I VOTED!!

We watched the cutest little turkey in the Kindergarten performance. 🙂

Spent time with both sides of the family for Thanksgiving.

December- We had breakfast with Santa!

We celebrated with our Luton family…

…and rode the train in Blue Ridge and celebrated with our Midkiff family!

We had the best Christmas to date, at home. 🙂

And not only all these things, but Scott started a brand new job/adventure/opportunity that has been a lot of work, but so fulfilling and such a wonderful blessing for our family.  Big things are on the horizon for him in 2017.  And I started a brand new company half way through 2016, and have experienced a lot of growth and a lot of success.  I have two additional clients on the docket for 2017, so 2016 was a great start, but 2017 is going to be a game-changer!

I know it sounds cliche, but we are beyond blessed.  It’s true, and I am not ashamed to admit it.  Our children are healthy, beautiful, smart, and kind, our marriage is not perfect by any means, but it is stronger than it’s ever been with more love and mutual admiration than ever.  We have an amazing church home and a small group of amazing people that we “Share A Life Together” with.  We have amazing families, and wonderful friends, a couple of so-so dogs (haha!), and we truly thank God every day for the many blessings in our life.

So Happy New Year to you and yours.  No matter how 2016 treated you, I pray that 2017 brings you all the joy and love and happiness in the world.  Here’s to 2017!!


A Very Luton Christmas

Hello, Friends!  I hope you all had such a wonderful Christmas!  We spent a few days with my family and got home before lunch on Christmas Eve, spent a few hours at home, then headed to church for our first Christmas Eve service.  It was, in a word, magical.  The kids sat with us in the sanctuary (I brought coloring books and crayons, which was a life-saver), but by the end of the service, the families to the right of us and behind us, both told us how well-behaved the kids were (I nearly cried and hugged them I was so proud, after stressing through the whole service!).  We sang a few of my very favorite Christmas carols, and then lit candles to sing Silent Night.  There is absolutely nothing that will stir your soul as a parent more than seeing your child raise their candle in the air, unprompted, while singing about the birth of Jesus.  Nothing.  I cried the entire time (haha, no surprise), but it was such a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas.  We headed home, ate our traditional Christmas Eve lasagna, put cookies out for Santa, threw reindeer food out in the front yard, and sent those kiddos to bed!  Then Santa got busy putting together two bikes, a playhouse, a lego table, wrapping a few straggling presents, stuffing stockings, then drinking wine, haha!

Yesterday was probably my favorite Christmas Day in recent memory.  The kids got up about 7 am (not bad, given my brother and I used to start knocking on my parents’ bedroom door around 3:30 am!), and saw that Santa had come!  Hooray!  They opened and loved their gifts, and we just played and played all day.  I never changed out of my jammies.  #perfection.  Our tradition is to make Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast, and then make Vegetable Beef soup to eat on all day, and that’s exactly what we did!  I made a cheese ball too, that we snacked on, but the kids ate when they wanted it, and so did Scott and me, and we played Kerplunk, Chutes and Ladders, and Connect Four, the girls played with their American Girls and Barbies, Ben and Scott had light saber fights, and Ben played with his legos, we watched movies, Brantley read, Gracie napped, and a wonderful day was had by all.  And now we are (still) in the process of cleaning it all up!  Here’s a bit of photographic documentation of it all:

Before we boarded the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad (it was bright)!

Photo Op with Santa and Mrs. Claus!

Brantley was really into her new shoes and new legos hahaha

Brantley and I in church on Christmas Eve

Me and Gracie!

Brantley loved reading the bulletin

Gracie and Ben were much more into coloring, haha!

Christmas Eve Lasagna!  Four year old tradition.  And it made enough to eat Christmas Eve, one more night, and two other lunch-sized portions!

Ready for bed in their mama-made Christmas jammies!

After a few hours of assembly, Santa came!

Opening presents!

Barbie movie!

The first of many light saber wars 🙂

This was the first year my big girl actually asked for clothes and shoes for Christmas.  Her big girl boots and booties *might* have been her favorite gifts.

Gracie really liked the yoo-hoo in her stocking, hahaha 🙂

Brantley loved her new clothes, booties, and new purse. 🙂  She won’t leave her bedroom without that purse!

We get each of the kids a new game every year.  This is the first year that they can all can play all of them!  Kerplunk was a big hit.

So was Connect 4!  Spiderman Chutes and Ladders was the other one 🙂

Gracie is not much fun to play with unless she’s winning.  Then she’s awesome.

Lego helicopters

We did it!  Now let’s drink some wine!

Our new Ipad and Osmo has been a HUGE hit.

There’s been LOTS of this going on the last few days, haha!

I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas.  We’ll keep our tree up until after New Years to keep this lovely, lazy, cozy feeling going as long is as socially acceptable, haha!  The lights of our Christmas tree have been so, so lovely this year, and I want to enjoy them as long as we possibly can.  Plus, we need some extra twinkly lights for our extra-fancy dress up New Years Eve party coming up!  But more on that in a few days.  I hope you enjoy the remainder of your Christmas break, whether you only have a few more days or a week and a half left.  This truly is the best time of the year, and we have made the most of it with our blessed family.  Merry Christmas, friends!

 

#NoodlesSprinklesandSparkles: Elf on the Shelf Recap

Hi Friends!  We had a big time with our elves, Noodles, Sprinkles, and Sparkles this year.  Thought I’d share all the adventures they went on, the treats, they brought, and the fun we had!

On Day One, the elves brought a letter, they introduced their new elf door, and brought chocolate advent calendars for the kids.

Day 2- The elves and their friends had a sack race through the kitchen!

Day 3- Noodles, Sprinkles, and Sparkles brought fun Christmas socks for the kiddos.

Day 4- The elves hid 12 candy canes throughout the den, and the kids had to hunt to find them (this was a BIG hit!).

Day 5- We caught the elves playing poker (AWESOME elf cards free printable found here)!

Day 6- The elves brought the kids donuts, and brought elf-sized donuts for themselves (elf sized donut box free printable here)!

Day 7- The elves brought cute little trees for the kids to decorate with Christmas stickers!

Day 8- Noodles read the original Elf on the Shelf book to a bunch of toy friends (another AMAZING free printable of the elf-sized Elf on the Shelf Book!  Easy to assemble with a glue stick)!

Day 9- The elves brought the kids cute Christmas stationary to write letters to Santa

Day 10- Those crazy elves were rolling down the stairs in toilet paper rolls!

Day 11- They caught a little extra sleep in our stockings!

Day 12- The elves brought a Christmas popcorn tin- one of my favorite treats!

Day 13- Another treat- Christmas coloring books!

Day 14- The elves tried to help pack lunches (with only candy!).

Day 15- Sprinkles and Sparkles got a Frozen photo session with Noodle the photographer (great free Frozen photo booth printable here).

Day 16- The elves packed themselves in the presents so we wouldn’t forget them on our trip to visit family!

Day 17- We were sick and got a late start on our trip, and the elves crash landed into the tree on their way back from the North Pole. 🙂

Day 18- The elves brought the kids and their cousins a reindeer headband making kit!

Day 19- The elves thought a Gingerbread Nativity Set would be a different spin on the Gingerbread House!

Day 20- The elves were kicked back watching a Christmas movie when we got up!

Day 21- The elves were playing a game of Elf Twister with their friends (another cute free printable here)!

Day 22- As per our tradition, the elves brought the kids matching Christmas pajamas!

Day 23- The elves were playing in sprinkles and cookie cutters, ready to make cookies for Santa!

Day 24- On Christmas Eve, the elves brought the kiddos their very own personalized elf cookie!

***

I really did have a lot of fun with the elves this year.  It does take some time and a bit of planning (I get a lot of the treats from the Target Dollar Section and the Dollar Store), but I have accumulated so many ideas from Pinterset that even when it’s late and I hadn’t moved the elves yet, I had a lot of options to draw from.  And even so many fun things that I didn’t get around to!

And it may be overkill to some, but it really plays into the magic of Christmas for us.  Also- my kids are next to impossible to get up in the mornings (#notmorningpeople), but the first mention of seeing what the elf brought them/is doing/got into each morning made my kids hop right out of bed the whole month of December!  That pretty much made all the effort worth it, haha!  Now, just to figure out what to do until May!!

I hope you can find some new ideas to tuck away to use for your elves next year!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

Hi Friends!  We have been in full-blown holiday craziness-mode around here!  We went to Aiken last weekend (after the kids got sick last week), and we’ve been school party hopping, present giving, and wrapping up all our loose ends before school gets out today (WHOOP WHOOP) for THREE WEEKS (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) before we go back to school in January.  We’re headed to Blue Rigde tomorrow for a quick trip, and then coming back to have our family Christmas here at home.  So, needless to say, we’ve been busy (who hasn’t?!)!!  I wasn’t sure if I would have another chance to stop by the ole blog and say Merry Christmas, so here I am!  I hope each and every one of you have a very Merry Christmas.  I hope you are able to sit down for a moment with a big cup of (spiked?) eggnog/hot chocolate/cider/coffee and watch your kids play, or watch a movie by the fire, or relax doing whatever gives you joy.  I’ll be posting here and there through the first of the year, but not very regularly until the kids go back to school.  Things have been so busy around here that I feel like I need to refocus myself in the upcoming weeks and give my family the attention that they deserve!

So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and everything in between.  Lots of love from my family to yours.

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