Santa Handprint Ornaments

Every year for a family tradition we want to have our children make a Christmas ornament.  It is tough coming up with ornaments that a newborn can participate in.  This is the perfect ornament for small children to make or help with.

Step 1:  Make the salt dough:
            * 1/2 cup salt
             * 1/2 cup flour
             * 1/4 cup water (a little more or less)
          Knead until dough forms.
Step 2: Trace infant's/child's hand on a piece of cardboard.  Cut out cardboard hand.
Step 3: Roll dough flat and place cardboard hand on top.
Step 4: Trace around the hand with a knife.
Step 5: Poke a hole in the palm of the hand with a straw or pencil.
Step 6: Bake the hand on a cookie sheet at 200 degrees for 2-3 hours.
Step 7: Paint
Step 8: Put some ribbon through the hole and hang.

Enjoy the reminder of how little your kids once were as you hang the Christmas ornaments on the tree each year.

You can also give these ornaments as a gift with this poem:
"This is to remind you when I grow so tall that once I was quite little and my hands were very small."

Simple and Inexpensive Christmas Gifts

I love the Holiday season for many reasons; One being, that I love giving gifts to others.  Sometimes it gets hard when you have a lot of people you want to give gifts to and a tight budget.  
Here are some inexpensive, quick, and easy Holiday gifts.

Present: Brownie or cake mix (can attach wooden spoon too)
Note: Christmas is Jolly, Christmas is sweet.  I'm stressed out so make your own darn treat!

Present: Candle
Note: May your days be happy, your heart be light, your Christmas merry, and the New Year bright!

 Present: Chocolate with gift card

Present: Popcorn
Note: Popping by to wish you a very Merry Christmas
More details here

You can find 6 other great inexpensive gifts here.

Shirley J Review and Giveaway

I received product for review purposes.   My opinions below are 100%  honest.

      I recently had the opportunity to try out Shirley J Mugging and Cookie Mix products.  Shirley J prides itself in "Cooking made Easy".  The great thing about Shirley J is that you are able to whip up a delightful treat within minutes, without a mess, and with quality taste.  

Cookie Mixes:
     Shirley J Cookie Mixes come in five delicious flavors including Coconutty Macaroon, Soft Ginger-Molasses, New York Black and White, Oatmeal Jumble, and Classic Sugar Cookies.  Most mixes only require water and sometimes butter or shortening.  Shirley J Cookie Mixes have the homemade fresh taste without the mess and time.  They make great gifts and are perfect for the Holiday season.

     My family's favorite cookie mix was the Coconutty Macaroons.  Oh my goodness, these are absolutely divine!  They are the freshest and best tasting macaroons that I have ever tasted.  My husband wanted some cookies, so I reached for this Shirley J Coconutty Macaroon mix, when I realized we were out of eggs.  Much to my surprise, it doesn't call for eggs.  Just water.  It's amazing how simple these cookies are to make, for the great quality of taste they deliver.  After the baked cookies cooled, I dipped them in melted chocolate.  The chocolate kicked the cookie taste up a notch.  My 15 month old son loved these. I put them on top of my refrigerator to store them and I finally had to hide them because he was constantly going up to the fridge and pointing to the cookies.

      The great thing about Shirley J Cookie mixes are that it is "Cooking made easy" but the quality and taste don't make it seem that way at all.

      Mugging! by Shirley J is a new concept of baking in your own microwave.  You bake single-serving dishes and desserts right in a mug.  Most take only 90 seconds to bake.  When you put mugs in the microwave the handles usually get too hot to hold.  Shirley J mugs don't get as hot after heating them up in the microwave.

This little guy LOVES Shirley J mugging products!

      Mugging! flavors include Chocolate Brownie Cake, Yellow Cake & CobblerCountry Style Cornbread,
Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownie Cake, Pumpkin Spice Bread, Walnut Bread, Quiche in a Cup,and No-Pan Pancake.
     My family's favorite was the chocolate brownie cake.  Add some whip cream, chocolate chips, or ice cream on top for an enriched taste and look.

Shirley J mugging products and cookie mixes are now available in Utah grocery store (Macey’s, Dan’s, Dick’s, Fresh Market,Lin’s, Lolo’s and Ridley’s).  Shirley J also has a website where you can find other products or purchase if you live outside of Utah.  

Displaying SJ_HolidayAD-UVMag2013.jpg

     Now that I have all of you wanting to try these cookies and mugging treats, one of you lucky readers have a chance to win some wonderful Shirley J products.  One lucky winner will receive 1 Mug, 3 Mugging flavors of your choice, and 1 cookie mix of your choice.  (U.S. Residents Only, no PO Boxes, please)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Popcorn Christmas Gift

I love giving gifts for Christmas, but it can get really expensive once you starting giving more than just gifts to your family.  This is a simple and inexpensive gift to give to friends.  All you need is some paper, popcorn, ribbon, and buttons.  

1. Cut white paper in half. Wrap around popcorn.  Tape.
2.  Cut hat and glue hat on snowman. Put a button on the hat.
3. Draw face on snowman.
4.  Tie ribbon around snowman.  This is a great way to use up your random small pieces of ribbon.
5.  Write on the back of the snowman, "Popping by to wish you a very Merry Christmas."

Felt Christmas tree

Christmas time is such an exciting and fun time for little ones.  There are so many fun activities for kids this time of year and decorations help children get even more excited.  Some little kids love to help decorate the Christmas tree by putting on ornaments.  Why not let them have this experience all season long.  I made this felt board activity for a Felt swap.  Each person picked a month to make a felt activity and then we swapped with each other . We now have a fun felt board activity for almost each month of the year.  

It is best to buy felt at JoAnns when it goes on sale for 50 or 60 %off.  For the light bulbs I glue the yellow light bulb to the black part with tacky glue.  Everything else, I just cut out.  

Let the kids enjoy decorating the tree all season long!

Hot Chocolate Bar

One of the first things that come to mind when I think of winter is "hot chocolate."  I love sipping hot 
chocolate on a cold winter night.  It always tastes better with a little bit of toppings.  My favorites are peppermints and whip cream.  

We had a fun activity at our church for all of the ladies.  Afterwards, we had a hot chocolate bar.  

Hot Chocolate Bar goodies:

Hot Chocolate
Cream Puffs
Peppermint candy and crushed peppermint
Cinnamon sticks (Bulk at Winco is cheapest)
Peppermint Taffy
Whip Cream
Pretzel bites (pretzels with chocolate)

Recycled baby wipe container + milk jug lids = toddler entertainment

I always wonder why we spend money buying toys when most of the time our young children just want to play with the kitchen utensils, household items, and everything except toys.  When my son turned one years old he became a lot more interested in playing with toys for longer than 30 seconds.  The early toddler age is when they love to fill containers up and dump them out.  
I made a toy that my son loves out of a recycled baby wipe container and lots of milk jug lids.  Since the time my son was born I have been saving all of our milk jug lids for a variety of learning activities and game.  
I was amazed at how interested my son is in this little activity.  My son loves to put the milk jug lid in the hole of the baby wipe container one by one.  He loves to dump the lids out and start over again.  
While making dinner, I have put him in his high chair with the milk jug lids and baby wipe container.  He keeps himself entertained for quite some time.  

100% FREE & 100% TODDLER FUN

Freezer Apple Pie Filling

Did you know that you can freeze applesauce and apple pie filling?  I didn't!  My mother-in-law was in town and we decided to make applesauce and apple pie filling with apples I picked from an apple orchard.  I wasn't in the mood to go through all the work of canning when it would only make about 10 jars of applesauce and pie filling.   That's when I found out that you can freeze applesauce and apple pie filling. I was a little unsure about it, but after tasting my frozen applesauce, I'm a big fan.  Frozen applesauce that has been defrosted in the refrigerator taste the same as if it had never been frozen.  

Below are the instructions for making and freezing apple pie filling.  The recipe I used was from Easy Frugal Living.

24 cups thinly sliced apples
4 tablespoons lemon juice ( used some lemon juice mixed with sprite to keep em white!)
5 cups sugar (I used 2 cups brown and 3 cups white)
1 cup cornstarch 
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 cups water 

1. Peel apples and cut into thin slices.  Place apples in a bowl with lemon juice and set aside. 
2. Pour water into a large cooking pot, over medium heat. Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Add to water.  Stir well.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Stir constantly. 
3. Add apples and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are tender. This took about 30 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes. 
4. Scoop 4 1/2 cups into freezer ziploc bags. Cool at room temperature.
5. Place in freezer.  Apple Pie Filling can be frozen for up to a year.  

I can't wait to taste my first homemade apple pie on Thanksgiving day.  What are your favorite things to make with apples? 

Inexpensive Christmas Party Table Centerpieces

Sometimes I daydream about how I would decorate my home and for parties if money wasn't an issue and there was no budget involved.  However, that is never the case.  I was in charge of decorating for a church Christmas party.  We had less than 50 dollars to spend on decorating tables for 200 people.  With little money and lots of table centerpieces needed, we had to be creative.  Many of the supplies we used for the centerpieces were reused items.
We put wrapping paper squares on top of the table clothes to add more color and variety to the tables.  Half the tables had wrapped presents and the other half had Santa cans with evergreens and berries.

1.  Presents:
     Wrap empty boxes with pretty paper and tie ribbon around them.  This looks great and is very expensive when you have to decorate a ton of tables.

2. Evergreen Santa Cans:
    I got emptied number 10 cans (large metal cans that contain food) from an elementary school kitchen.  I spray painted them red.  It took 2 coats of paint.  Then I cut a long strip of black felt for Santa's belt and attached it with glue to the can.  Next, I cut out a gray square with an empty square in the middle for the belt buckle.  I glued the buckle on top of the Santa's belt.  That's all to make the can.  For the greenery, I used the extra pieces from our Christmas tree that we cut down.  We still didn't have enough greenery for all the tables, so we went up to the mountains and collected some more evergreen branches.  I bought the berries from Michaels craft store.  

 What do you do with all the centerpieces when it's done?

       I took all of the wrapped presents to the elementary school I taught at.  They put them under their huge tree which is used for kids to throw gloves and scarves on that they are donating to people in need.
I emptied the Santa cans and used the cans to put gifts in.

Caramel Apple Snickers Salad

     I went with a friend and picked apples from an orchard.  I was lucky enough to get about 5 grocery bags of apples.  With these apples I made applesauce, apple pie filling, caramel apple snickers salad, and ate lots of fresh apples.  Caramel Apple Snickers Salad is the perfect summer or fall dessert. It is not only quick and easy, but so delicious. 

* 3 apples
* 12 fun size Snickers or 6 full size Snickers 
* 1 cup milk
* 1 large package vanilla instant pudding (not made)
* 1 16 oz. Cool Whip (I like a little less cool whip in mine)

Mix milk and pudding in a large bowl.  Add cool whip.  Cut the Snickers and apples into small pieces and add to the mixture.  

This dessert is best if you make it close to when it is being served.  I wouldn't recommend making it the night before.  

Enjoy!  Don't feel bad if you go back for seconds.  It's just that good.  

3 Ingredient Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

      My friend hosted a Pinterest party.  For the party, everyone is suppose to make and bring a food item they found on Pinterest to share with everyone else.  I looked on my Halloween Pinterest board and I didn't find anything that I really wanted to make or had time for.  I remembered one of my favorite fall cookies and decided to make them instead.  I love these chocolate chip pumpkin cookies for many reasons.  

(1.) They are so simple 
(2.) They only take 3 ingredients 
(3.) They are the perfect Fall and Halloween treat
(4.)They taste delicious
(5.) They are so moist
I started these cookies an hour before the party and they were done before I had to leave!  


15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
1 spice cake mix
1-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (depends how much chocolate you like in your cookies)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix pumpkin puree and spice cake mix together.  Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Place spoonful of dough on  greased baking sheets. 
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and let cool.

Simple as that!

Banana Cream Pudding Pie

I love easy desserts.  It isn't worth it to me to spend half the day slaving away in the kitchen to make a yummy treat.  It seems like whenever I make a dessert that takes a long time and dirties a lot of dishes, I am exhausted afterwards and am not really able to enjoy the treat.    In the past I would feel more accomplished and a better homemaker if I made desserts 100% from scratch and spent a lot of time in the kitchen making it.  I am getting smarter the older I get, and I now realize that my time is precious and you don't have to make everything from scratch to have food taste delicious.  The simplicity and taste of this banana cream pudding pie is what makes this dessert so perfect.  Banana cream pudding pie takes less than 10 minutes to make and not much longer to set.  

   2 Bananas
   Ready Graham Cracker Crust
   5.1 oz (large) box Instant banana cream pudding
   2 cups Milk
   Whip Cream

   Slice bananas and put a layer of bananas on the bottom of the ready Graham Cracker crust.  Prepare banana cream pudding as directed on the box.  Pour instant pudding into crust, on top of bananas.  Refrigerate until firm (about 20 minutes).  You can put sliced bananas on top of the pie right before you serve if you would like. Top with whip cream.

That's all?  Yep!  You now only have one pan, one spoon, and one knife to wash.  :)  You also probably have some extra time to yourself with your kids.

What are your favorite simple desserts?          

Birthday Pancakes

For my son's first birthday we wanted to do something special for breakfast.  My creative husband came up with a birthday cake pancake.  He put the pancake batter into a plastic squirt bottle and took the lid off and poured the pancake batter on the frying pan.  Once the pancake was cooked we put homemade strawberry jam on the candle.  We used a slice of banana for the candle's flame.

Our little one admiring his pancake.  
He loved his birthday breakfast.

Spend Quality time with your young children and babies with these Free Activities

I have always been a very busy gal.  I have a hard time sitting down and relaxing.  Even if I am sitting in front of the television, I have to be do something else like folding laundry.  I taught second grade for 4 years and 2 weeks before my first son was born.  As a teacher you never have a moment to sit down.  You are teaching, moving all over the classroom helping and interacting with students, or gathering materials for upcoming lessons.  Once my son was born I had to learn that it is okay to not be moving constantly.  With a newborn that really just naps, lays around, and cuddles, I learned that it is necessary and okay to just sit and relax.  It is also critical that we spend lots of quality time with our little ones.  However, I am not one to just sit around.  I have a really hard time staying in my house all day.  I need fresh air, people interaction, and a change of scenery.  Also, my little guy is and always has been a busy, social, and active boy.  He must get that from his momma.  Although, as a child I was as shy as can be.  After a few months, I got really bored and tired of staying at home and having zero interaction with the world.  My husband is always busy studying or at school and my days started to drag on and I knew we needed change.  We needed social interactions, fresh air, change of scenery, exercise, and quality time together.  That's when I started coming up with things to do; me, as a new mom and my busy baby.  Here are some great activities to do with your baby or young children to keep your spirits high, stay active, interact with others, and spend quality time together. Another bonus, they are free!

1.  Library: I knew there were story times for young children, but did you know there are baby classes too!  At many libraries they have "Mommy and Me" story time.  Babies come with an adult for lap time.  We sing, have a short story, and then there is playtime.  This is a great way for parents to learn songs and activities to do at home with their baby/toddler.  It is also a good way for babies to start to learn how to play with other children and a great time for moms to socialize with other moms.  

2. Walks: Walks are phenomenal.  When my son was a newborn he would have moments during the day when he cried a lot.  Walks always calmed him down.  They were a great opportunity for me to spend time with my son but also have some time to "myself", get some exercise, and be outside.

3.  Parks: Many parks are for older children.  But there are quite a few that have infant swings.  Most babies love to swing.  I know my little guy does.  Slides are also fun for little ones to go down.  If your baby is too small to slide down, have him or her go down with you.  I love sliding down with my son and watching his huge smile.  Even just sitting on the grass for your infant to feel the grass, hear the birds chirp, see the dogs go by, and watch the kids play is a great learning opportunity and fun refreshing experience.

4. Malls: Many malls have play areas for kids.  These are great because they have cushioned floors (at least all the ones I've been to) to protect your child as they are developing motor skills.  Many of these play areas have small slides, tunnels, things to climb on, mirrors, and other interactive activities.  They are enclosed to help keep track of your kids.  I know it can get challenging with more than one child to keep an eye on.  The mall is a great option once the temperatures drop and the weather becomes gloomy.  You can also bring the stroller along and go for a walk in the mall.  Many malls open early for people to walk around.  This is a great way to get some exercise once the weather isn't optimal.  

5. Play Groups: My son is the only child.  He is also the only grandchild on both sides.  Thus, he doesn't have a lot of interaction with other children unless I put forth the effort.  My little guy is a social boy.  He loves interacting with other children and gets so excited when he sees other kids to play with.  Once I realized how much my son (12 months) loved to play with other kids I decided to start a play group.  I handed out flyers to friends and people at church.  I set a specific day and time each week.  We meet at the same park for a few weeks and then go to another park.  Once the weather gets to cold we will meet at our church.  You could also meet at someone's house.  Play groups are great for children to have the opportunity to play with other children their similar ages and for moms to get some girl time too.  

6.  Exercise Groups: When my son was about 6 months old I started going to a dance/aerobic class at our church.  Another mom started and taught the class.  Women were invited to come for an hour to exercise while the children played in the back of the gym or did tummy time on the side.  I loved this opportunity to exercise, get out of the house, and my son loved seeing other babies and watching other children play.

7. Wheeler Farm: Wheeler Farm is a farm that is free to go to and is open every day of the year.  You are free to walk around and look at all their animals.  They also have a park and area to eat lunch.  Their address is 6351 South 900 East, Salt Lake City, UT.  Check out Wheeler Farm's Website.


8.  Outside Play Time: Take your baby outside and let him or her sit on a blanket or in a high chair.  Blow bubbles, play with a ball, or let him or her finger paint.

I hope we will all put forth a little more effort to spend quality time with our little ones.  It is important that we do things with them that helps them learn and develop.

If you have any other great ideas of what to do with your baby or young children, please comment and share! 

Quiet Book Cover

I had a really hard time trying to figure out how to make the cover for my quiet book.  I had all of my pages completed for almost a year, before binding them.  I bought a plastic binder that is flimsy/bendable.  I then cut out material and sewed it to make a binder cover.  This way the cover of the quiet book is cute and I can still change out the pages of the quiet book if I ever want or need to.  


Check out the finished product
and all of the individual pages.

Colorful Fruit Kabobs

I absolutely love fruit.  I think I passed on my love of fruit to my son who is now one years old.  For his birthday I wanted to have a variety of fruit.  Fruit kabobs are a great party food.  They are easy for guests to grab and go and no utensils are required.  They are simple to make.  Just wash and cut up fruit, and put on a skewer.  It's just that easy.

Some great fruits to use are:
* cantolope
* watermelon
* whole grapes
* quartered strawberries
* pineapple
* kiwis
* blueberries