Blogger Valentine Exchange 2016

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and I was so excited to participate in another blogger Valentine exchange.  Elin was thrilled as well.  She has been so eager to open up all the mail that has been coming her way and finally it was time for her to check out all the beautiful Valentines.

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All the Valentines were so creative and it looked like everyone spent a lot of time and effort to make their lovely creations.

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Elin was so excited she was literally shaking and smiling the whole time.

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Of course some of her favorites had edible items.

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After she opened all the Valentines, we chose to display them on some pink baker’s twine, then I used tiny white clothes pins to hang them.  It makes the playroom look so festive.

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Here is a closer look at all the creations.

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Here are the Valentines we sent to everyone and here is the post about how we made them.

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Here is a link to the Valentine exchange from last year.  These have been so much fun and a great way to get toddlers excited with mail.

Check out the posts from all the other fantastic bloggers in the exchange.

Tawnya, Scarlett, & Bodhi @ All of Life’s Little Adventures

Jennifer & Hattie @ And Hattie Makes Three

Ashley, Waverly, & Avalon @ Being Brickner

Jess & Abbie @ Being Mrs. Beer

Elizabeth & Mason @ Chasin’ Mason

Liz & Jude @ Ellie and Addie

Crystal & Mason @ Hall Around Texas

Desiree, Marcus, & Julia @ Macke Monologues

Natalie & Blair @ Nat Your Average Girl

Sara, Mac, & Mim @ Running From the Law

Jess, Cameron, & Louise @ Scott Family of Maine

Jessica, Cameron, & Emerson @ Secrets of a Stay at Home Mom

Sarah, Brantley, & Holden @ Seeing All Sides

Karli, Kaye, & Sawyer @ September Farm

Chrissy & Elin @ Simple Joys Blog

Courtney & Aria | Sweet Turtle Soup

Meghan & Noah @ The Adventure Starts Here

Stephanie & Connor | Wife Mommy Me

Whitney, Kinsey, & Brielana @ Work It Mommy

 

valentine swap

Declutter/Organization

At the beginning of the year I saw that many bloggers picked a word to represent the new year and what they wanted to focus on for the whole year. I didn’t take the time to think much about it, but so far the words I want to focus on this year are decluttering and organization.

My main issue is that I keep a lot of stuff because of sentimental value attributed to the item and I just have simply too much stuff. I always think that even if I don’t use it now, I will someday. We have an unfinished basement, so there is plenty of room to store items and it’s often times a lot easier to just keep an item. However, I want to change my own mindset and start purging items I don’t need. I think I truly want to be a minimalist.

I am so inspired to keep organizing and purging items that I am getting a slight obsession with it. I recently read the #1 New York Times Best Seller, “The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing“.  This may sound like it would be a very boring book, but it was really interesting and had so many interesting stories and tips in there that really stuck with me as I have been working on 0n parting with  items and not holding on to unnecessary items. I highly recommend reading this book if you are trying to motivate yourself or keep yourself motivating in decluttering and organizing.

 

 

My obsession with organizing has also lead me to check out other bloggers and YouTubers who specialize in organization. These are some of my favorites:

I Heart Organizing

Pretty Neat Living

At Home with Nikki

A Bowl Full of Lemons

Let me know if there are others that you recommend.

Since I love seeing how others organize, I will start taking pictures as I go along. I wish I would have done that as I have been organizing for the past couple of weeks.

Here are some products I have recently bought to aid in organizing that I am really excited about. Now, if you follow the rules from the Marie Kondo book above, she discourages from spending money on fancy organization items and baskets. When people buy organizers, they tend to keep items because they “fit” as opposed to getting rid of the items. I can see that logic, but at the same time organizers just help aid in the look and functionality of the items you do keep.

 

 

This spinning lipstick tower is from The Original Beauty Box and I just received mine in the mail. I ordered white to match my makeup area. I can’t wait to go through all my makeup (hopefully getting rid of lots of old items) and organizing it into this compact system. It holds 72 lipsticks and 16 compacts and it spins which is fun.

Large Woven Rectangular Storage Basket - Grey and White - Room Essentials™

This basket from Target is light weight and affordable. It’s only $12.99 and I have bought four recently. I used two in my linen closet organization to put linens in because I cannot make sheets look pretty folded and I can’t stand how they look on the shelves, so I thought a basket to keep them in just looked better. Then I also currently have two in the trunk of my SUV. I use one to hold items I am taking with me to return, or when I buy items I put the bags in there so they are not rolling around in my trunk. The other one has a spare blanket and other items in case of an emergency.

I would love to hear how you stay organized and if you have any great tips!

What does Elin think of me?

I saw this really fun survey to ask your kids to record the funny things that will come to their mind. I thought it would be a great way to remember what Elin thought of me at 3.5 years old. I plan to try to remember to ask her these questions again in a year and see how her answers change!

 

1. What is something mom always says to you? Pink Doggie!

2. What makes mom happy? Legos

3. What makes mom sad? Crying

4. How does your mom make you laugh? My slinky (we had just found one in her toy bin a few minutes earlier.)

5. What was your mom like as a child?  A baby

6. How old is your mom? (She asked Phil until he gave her the correct answer)  32

7. How tall is your mom? (She asked Phil again and she guessed 5’5)

8. What is her favorite thing to do? Play with me

9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? Go to work

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? For toys

11. What is your mom really good at? Shows (I’m guessing she means watching shows)

12. What is your mom not very good at?  Listening to me (this one made me sad! I always listen to her! I guess I’m too busy watching shows…..)

13. What does your mom do for a job? Painting

14.What is your mom’s favorite food? Green Beans

15.What makes you proud of your mom? Babies (Not sure if she means when I buy stuffed animals for her or when I play with them with her. She refused to elaborate.)

16. If your mom were a character, who would she be?  Mickey Mouse!

17. What do you and your mom do together? Read stories

18. How are you and your mom alike? We both like to play with the Calico Critter house

19. How are you and your mom different? She would not answer this one.  She was distracted and getting tired from the questioning.

20. How do you know your mom loves you? Kisses

21. What does your mom like most about your dad? Kisses

22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? Grocery Store  (she is soooooo wrong on this!)

23. How old was your Mom when you were born?: 4

“I dig you” Valentine

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Elin and I have been hard at work on making Valentines already. She is passing them out at school this year and we are participating in a blogger exchange.

We made heart shaped crayons for Valentine’s day last year and I loved them so much I considered making them again but thought we should try something different.

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There are so many cute ideas out there on Pinterest that it was hard to just choose one but we decided to make these fun, “I dig you” valentines. I like that there is candy and a little toy involved. I figure the shovel can be used in sand boxes and the beach this coming spring break/summer.

After searching for a printable, I finally found these and they printed great.

Toy Plastic Shovels Red White & Pink, 24 Pack, 7 Inches Tall, 24 I Dig You Stickers

Then I searched Amazon and found these red, pink and white shovels. These were the perfect size and color. I was very happy with this seller. Lastly, I decided on getting the valentine starbursts because they are a wrapped candy and I felt like it was probably better to pass out candy that was wrapped at school.  I will warn you that Elin thought she was helping by just sitting next to me and eating the starburst but I was still happy she was part of the process.

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I love how they turned out and I can’t wait for her to pass them out at school. This was such a fun and easy Valentine idea.

Expecting……April 2016

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2016 is going to be a big year for us because we are expecting in April 2016.

We just told Elin over the New Year holiday and she has been so excited ever since. She was even more excited to find out its a boy because she is dying for a brother.

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She already talks about the baby constantly and asks me all the time if he is coming out now and when I tell her he is not, she wants to know why he can’t just come out now.

She has been loving shopping with us for baby furniture and clothes. The nursery which was a home office before is now completely empty and ready for outfitting and decorating. I am now 25 weeks so we still  have plenty of time to get it ready although I would love to finish it sooner rather than later.

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She is so interested in all the things she will be able to do to help with the baby and she is taking her responsibilities seriously.

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Christmas Day 2015

It’s Jan 5th and I am just now getting around to posting Christmas day pictures. Not a great way to start off the year but didn’t want to skip posting them this year.

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We were up late on Christmas Eve and therefore Elin was up much later and slept in and so she didn’t even wake up until 10am and we had to wake her up! But when she get up, she was very excited to get downstairs and see what Santa had brought.

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She first noticed the doll pram and was extremely excited. She had not asked for one but luckily was thrilled to find one under the tree.

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Then the next big exciting item was her doll house which she calls her Calico Critter house because she specifically wanted a house to go with all the Calico critters she asked for. The house was a huge hit and cute as a button. I love all the little wooden furniture it came with and it fits her Calico Critters perfectly.

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Her other big gift was an American Girl bitty baby. She has been loving pushing her new baby all over the house in her new stroller.

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Santa even remembered Angel and she got some treats and a few new stuffed animals to play with.

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In the afternoon we headed out to see what Elin’s cousins got for Christmas and to have Christmas dinner with the family. Elin enjoyed seeing everyone and checking out all of Max’s new toys.

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I love this picture of the cousins together even though they are not looking at the camera.

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Christmas Eve 2015

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Christmas Eve turned out to be a nice and low key day. Elin was feeling back to her normal self which was such a relief! She spent the day playing and making sugar cookies before time to get over to Nanny and Papa’s house for the Christmas Eve celebration there.

Dinner was first which is always hard to explain to the kids that eating comes before the present opening.

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I was so excited that Elin ate her ham and veggies well. She has not had much of an appetite with her sickness lately.

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This year the kids drew numbers and whoever’s turn it was would go first and open all their presents before moving on to the next person. Elin was last but did such a good job watching everyone else open their presents.

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Elin was so excited to see that the stockings were filled! She noticed the Peppa pig stuffed animal right away and was dying to get to it as soon as she saw it.

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She was excited to see she got her first Calico Critter set. She has been eyeing these for months. Little did she know that Santa would bring several more sets and a dollhouse for them the following day.

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One of the first gifts she asked for was a Peppa Pig house. She was very excited to receive it and needed  the help of her cousin Max to lift it up for pictures.

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One item she didn’t ask for but turned out to be a hit was a shopping cart. She has one at Nanny’s house but doesn’t have one at home. She also received a new cash register to play with and I think is she is going to love playing with those together. For now she has been loading up her toys in it and giving them a spin around the house. Occasionally they fall through the cracks leaving trails of smaller toys in her wake.

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When we got home it was so hard to get her to stop playing long enough to get ready for bed. We were all up late but anxious to see what Santa would bring Elin in the morning.

Chicago Trip

We just got back from a long weekend in Chicago! It was Elin’s first time there and we thought it would be a fun place to visit during the holiday season.

We have all been sick with endless coughing and congestion, but the day before our trip we took Elin to the pediatrician because she was rubbing her eye and sure enough she not only had an eye infection but a double ear infection. Not a fun way to start out on a long weekend trip. We actually debated not going, but ultimately decided that she seemed to be ok and therefore we should keep on with our plans.

We left on a Thursday morning and stayed until Saturday late afternoon/early evening. We stayed at the MileNorth which was nice and close in walking distance to Michigan Avenue and all the shopping.

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Elin was a fan of the room and loved running and jumping into the bed over and over.

One of our first stops was the mall that housed the American Girl store. I knew Elin was going to be excited to explore the store with all the extensive displays. She loved it and we we had a hard time getting her out of the store!

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She is getting a bitty baby for Christmas and I hope she likes it as much as she does in the store.

While I picked up a couple of accessories to go with her doll, she ventured over to the lego store and spent a long time in there playing in their play areas.

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After some more shopping in the mall, we went to Smith and Wollensky for dinner which is one of our favorites. Elin wasn’t feeling up to eating much, so she missed out on some yummy steak which is a shame because she actually likes steak.

The next day we went in the morning to the Christkindl Market. It was very interesting but already very crowded and we got there shortly after it opened. Elin really enjoyed looking at the Nativity there. There was a sign out from that said it was the second largest nativity scene on display.

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I was really impressed that Elin could name off several of the figures. I guess the parochial preschool is paying off.

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Inside the market there were lots of vendors with traditional German food and Christmas decor for sale. There were lots of beautiful hand-painted ornaments.

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After walking around for a bit in the market we had to get over to the Macy’s on State Street nearby for reservations to see Santa and reservations to eat lunch at the famous Walnut Room. Here is a little blurb about the restaurant taken from the Macy’s on State Street website:

The Walnut Room has the distinction of being the first restaurant in a department store, and it’s also the longest continuously running restaurant in the country. Opened in 1907, the popular dining and gathering spot was originally known as the South Tea Room. It became known among the ladies of Chicago as The Walnut Room due to its beautiful Circassian Walnut paneling, and by 1937 the affectionate nickname had become the official name. A chicken pot pie dish that inspired the restaurant is still a standout on the menu. The world-famous 45-foot Great Tree graces The Walnut Room from late November to early January each year.

We had heard that it was very hard to get into the restaurant without reservations and they stopped taking them by phone for Christmas back in November, so the the only way to get in was to show up the day you wanted to eat there make reservations in person. We were lucky enough to get lunch reservations without a problem.

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The tree in the center of the restaurant was gorgeous and we enjoyed the decor as we ate. The food was good as well.

They had North Pole fairies visiting the tables with children. The fairy that stopped at our table told Elin all about living at the North Pole and knowing Santa. She sprinkled some magic fairy dust and had Elin close her eyes to make her Christmas wish. Elin’s face cracks me up with how hard she was closing her eyes and concentrating.

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She also gave her a tiny marble that was magical and anytime Elin wanted to talk to Santa or send him a wish, she would just wish on her new magic marble and the fairy would hear the message. Elin was pleased as punch about this and I worried the whole day that she was going to lose that dang marble. By the grace of God we made it home with it.

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After our lunch it was finally our reservation time to go meet Santa. This Macy’s was so festive and they made everything so cute with their displays. There was whole fun little Christmas maze we walked through to get to Santa. There was so much to look at with little replicas of Santa’s house and cute decor.

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Finally it was time to see Santa and Elin had a lot of fun talking to him.

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He gave her a little pin as a gift that she loved

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She was just too happy and excited to be talking to him.

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After seeing Santa, we went out into the children’s section where they had lots of fun activities going on. They had someone making balloon animals, an ornament making station, characters walking around, and of course the red mailbox to mail a letter to Santa. Even though she had just seen him, Elin thought she should go ahead and send him a a letter with her list.

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We couldn’t leave the store without visiting the snoopy display inside and out side the store.

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After some more walking around and shopping, we went back to our room in the later afternoon to let Elin rest a bit and then went to dinner at a nice Italian place and walked around the city some more. We were blessed with very nice weather during our whole trip.

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I don’t have any photos from our last day but we walked around the city and enjoyed all the beautiful Christmas sights.

On our drive home Elin was sleeping and she she woke up, got into a coughing fit, and vomited a few times all over herself in the car. Not a great end to a trip. Luckily we were able to pull over at a rest stop and get her all cleaned up and new clothes on and there was no more sickness in the car after that. We were lucky I guess that she wasn’t sick during the trip and got to enjoy herself.

Elin’s First Nutcracker and Pottery with Santa

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Two weeks ago we took Elin to see her first Nutcracker ballet. She was super excited and I got some cute shots of her in front of her little tree in her room. Her dress is from Christmas last year but I couldn’t resist using it again since it still fit her.

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When we got to the ballet they had a beautiful tree in the lobby.

Elin did so good during the whole performance. She sat quietly and watched perfectly. She was so cute and clapped at the end of each dance. When I asked her after about the story, she seemed to understand it well and explained it all to me.

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The performance ended very late since it didn’t start until 8 pm and she feel asleep almost immediately once we got to the car.

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The next day we went to a Santa and Me painting experience at a new pottery painting place in town. Elin has already been a few times with her Nanny so she seemed to know exactly what to do. We meet up with her friend Kelsey and she had fun talking to Santa with her.

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These two seemed to have a such a good time together. I have no idea why they started laughing so hard but they sure were cracking each other up!

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As soon as we finished up there we went to Home Depot for another Kids Workshop. This time Elin made a little stacker toy and she loves it. She plays with it all the time. We are looking forward to see what projects they have lined up in 2016.

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Spreading Cheer with Cookies

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We are now well into December and the holiday season and Elin and I have already been thinking about baking and making cookies. She has really been talking about it a lot and so I finally thought it was time to make good old sugar cookies–frosted, of course!

Those have always been my favorite kinds of cookies at Christmas and Elin loves getting to cut the shapes out of the dough and putting the frosting on.

I wanted to be fast and efficient this year since we have so much going on that I just picked up Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie mix and their vanilla frosting. As well as some their decorating icings.

Here is a coupon code if you would like to get some this holiday season.

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Elin was so good at putting in the ingredients.

As we were making the cookies, we discussed who she would like to give them to as a surprise and to spread cheer and she picked her Nanny and Papa. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that she realized if she picked them as recipients she knew she spends time at their house and might get to eat some of the cookies with them.

No, I’m sure that never crossed her mind.

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I got brave and let her stir. Thankfully she kept it all contained and in the bowl.

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Here are a couple of our creations. I must say they turned out so delicious!!!

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Here they are all packaged up and left on Nanny and Papa’s porch for a sweet treat.

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We have enjoyed giving Betty Crocker cookie mixes a try and we hope you enjoy this coupon.

Also, Betty Crocker would like to give one reader a $20 gift card for the holiday season. Rules:
• Create a #SpreadCheer basket and post an original photo of it on your social channels with the hashtag #SpreadCheer (and also nominate your friends by tagging).
• Confirm your entry by commenting on your blog discussing who you chose to #SpreadCheer to AND a link back to your social post.

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