Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day!


Happy Valentine's Day! It's been all about the chocolate and the sweet treats here lately. Here are a few of the goodies we've been making and snacking on.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Truffles
Rice Krispie Treats and Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Sugar Cookies
Every year we give our boys something sweet to celebrate the day. When they were little, we'd give them Valentine themed books,little toys,etc. Now that everyone is older, we stick to edibles. However, I tend to get a bit nostalgic sometimes as I walk up and down the store aisles that are filled with all types of fun items. All of my boys loved Nickelodeon when they were younger, so when I spotted this,I couldn't help myself. I bought it. My youngest is quite the artist/cartoonist, so I think he will get a kick out of it, and I know someone will eat the "Splat" gummies inside for sure. Seriously, who doesn't love the Rugrats?
  
This year, try to take a moment to be intentional about this day. Sure, we all love the candy ,cards ,parties and other fun things about Valentine's Day, but try to think outside the box for a moment. Take the time to do something kind and unexpected for someone else. Use this day to make someone else smile. This year I've donated Girl Scout Cookies to the military and to other charities. I've also sent e-cards to children at various hospitals around the country..it took all of 5 minutes and means so much! I found that idea on Andrea's Momfessionals  blog. We sent a beautiful floral arrangement to a relative who is battling Parkinson's and  made a donation to a high school classmate who has been battling cancer. She had another surgery yesterday and is really going through a tough time. These are just some ideas, but it can be as simple as paying for someone else's coffee,or picking up something sweet for someone who needs a little lift.What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than by helping someone else?

However you choose to celebrate today, I hope it brings a smile to your face as well as the face of many others. For me, I get the most joy when I do something kind for someone else. I guess you'd call that intrinsic motivation...I truly enjoy making others happy. When I do things for others, it lifts my spirits as well, so it's a win-win for everyone!

   I hope your day is filled with love and naturally some chocolate.Have a sweet day!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Valentine Books for Kids

As the seasons change around here, so do the book selections. When my boys were younger, we would read to them every day. Now that they are older, while some of us still read together, they often are off doing their own thing. I used to love seeing the expressions on their faces when they were little and the would come home from school to see a new seasonal collection of books in their rooms. We have an extensive collection of children's books that we've collected over the years and today I am going to share a few of our February favorites with you. Some of them may be older,but you may be able to find them at your local library or on Amazon. I will add links for you where I can. Books make wonderful gifts for children!

   This book has always been a favorite because it is a fun filled collection of silly stories and poems. The illustrator is one of my favorites,Blanche L. Sims, and it has contributions from great authors such as Cynthia Rylant and Judith Viorst. The stories are short and sweet, just long enough for a quick read before bedtime.
  
We've always been fans of books by Wende and Harry Devlin . This is another tale from the Cranberry series. It's a cute story about Mr. Whiskers receiving valentines from a secret admirer after he tells Maggie and her grandmother that he never received a valentine before.  Definitely a fun read for kids.
   
Younger readers will love this story as well as many others in this series.  In Super Secret Valentine, Freddy wants to surprise his best friend Jesse with a special valentine but is afraid the other kids will laugh at him,so he wants to make sure he keeps it a secret. The books in this series are wonderful,especially for young boys, and because Freddy loves sharks, each illustration has the word "fin" hidden in it for readers to find. This was a great series for us ,especially with a shark lover in the house.
 
The Valentine Star, by Patricia Reilly Giff, is the story of first grade classmates preparing for Valentine's Day. Everything is going well until Emily Arrow is appointed class monitor and sees one of her friends leave her desk without permission. A fun read, with illustrations by Blanche Sims(who I love) in the older version. A great series for the younger set.
   
No holiday in our house was complete without a story or two from the Berenstain Bears. Here are a few for Valentine's Day.
Comic Valentine
More fun with this one.
They even have a fun activity book filled with stickers and puzzles. This would make a great Valentine's gift!
 A Charlie Brown Valentine ..always in our collection.

Another fun one.
More great characters for your little ones.We love Clifford!
Junie B. Jones is one of my all time favorites. She is spunky, funny and ever so lovable!
Amelia Bedelia never fails to delight with her literal way of viewing the world.
Nate the Great is another terrific series that will have your kids using their critical thinking skills to solve each mystery.
There are so many wonderful Valentine stories to choose from. I've listed a few of our favorites to get you started, but there are many more available with all of your children's favorite characters. It does not matter what level your children are reading at, let them pick whatever peaks their interest. It can be chapter books, comic books, beginning readers..it doesn't matter! What is important is that they are reading, and even more importantly, that we as parents take the time to read with them! Happy reading!


Here is the link for the Natasha Wing Book at the start of this post. A fun book!

  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

I've Been Shopping (Target & Amazon)

I've been doing a little shopping for Valentine's Day as well as just for a few other things so I thought I'd share some finds with you.
  
The dollar Spot at my local Target is hit or miss, but I did fairly well this week. I found this hot cocoa sign along with these sweet dishtowels..both around $3.00.
 
The mug was not in the dollar section but it was only $4.00.

   My oldest son is studying in Illinois and I plan on sending him some homemade treats for Valentine's Day. These tins are perfect for the goodies. Again..dollar spot find. $3.00 each.
   
We can't go to Target without picking up some snacks. These pretzels are always a favorite in my house. I always buy them around Halloween when they are shaped like bats and pumpkins. Found these cute X and O shapes that I couldn't pass up.
  
My son Mikey loves lollipops and gummies so these fit the bill. I try not to buy them often(we want to avoid cavities), but for Valentine's Day, I'll make an exception. The fact that they are organic is just an added bonus.
   
I also did a little Amazon shopping this week. I saw these bags on this blog and thought they were adorable. They make great snack or lunch bags for little ones, but I think I am going to use them to leave sweet surprise treats around the house for my boys. So cute!
 
Using a lot of plastic is always a concern for me so when I saw these recyclable bags, I ordered a box. They are self adhesive, made of glassine and aren't bad for the environment. Did I mention how cute they are? They come in different designs and are made by the lunchskins company.
  
We love hot cocoa around here, so when I read about  this snowman from Kate Weiser chocolates, I had to get it.  I bought one for the boys for Christmas, but since I shared it on my instagram page, so many people have asked about it. I'm sharing the link for anyone interested. It is a bit pricey, which is why I gave it as a special gift, but it was definitely fun and delicious. If you enjoy real,dark, rich cocoa, then you will like it .
 
Well, those are a few of my recent finds.If you are dealing with frigid temperatures,please stay safe and warm! Don't forget about elderly neighbors and outdoor animals!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Houseplants For a Healthy Home Environment

January is typically the month when my son and I start planning our spring vegetable garden. We pick out and order any seeds we might need and decide what will be planted where. Gardening is a hobby we started quite a few years ago, and it has just grown into a wonderful thing for our entire family. Along with our outdoor garden, we started purchasing a variety of houseplants as well .Today, I want to share some information about them and why having them in your home is a great idea.

   Houseplants are a wonderful way to improve your home environment. Not only do they look nice and add to the decor of a home, they serve an important purpose as well. Many plants actually improve air quality. This is extremely important during the winter months when our windows are shut throughout most of the country.  They absorb gases through both the leaves and roots, which is called phytoremediation. Without getting too scientific, they can help in the removal of some toxins from the air. Now, houseplants certainly aren't going to completely transform the air quality in your home, but they help a bit and can improve health in other ways. Caring for plants has been shown to lower stress levels, make people happier,and have a positive effect on moods overall. In fact, some studies have suggested that  that the smell of soil may ease some symptoms of depression.

   I've compiled a list of plants for you that are considered healthy for the home environment.

Golden Pothos:
Spider
Snake Plant
Philodendron
Boston Fern
Dracaena
Peace Lily
Rubber Plant
Fiddle Leaf Fern(not to be confused with fiddle head ferns)
Garden Mums
Aloe
Garden Mums are considered one of the best air purifying plants, and the Fiddle Leaf Fern is all the rage right now. These are just a few common houseplants that can easily be found at your local nursery or even on Amazon. With the exception of the Boston Fern,which can be tricky to grow, these plants do not require a tremendous amount of time or care, but can add both beauty and benefits to your home.    Many people claim they do not have a green thumb, but I promise you can grow some of these. A little care goes a long way. Don't be afraid to try ...you will be happy you did! The addition of plants to your home is a great way to start the New Year!
   

Friday, January 4, 2019

Christmas



























Maybe it is just me, but I feel as if Christmas came and went quickly this year! It was a quiet one for us, with a few visits from friends and relatives,which was very nice. Today I am sharing a little bit of our holiday and favorite goodies with you.

   Earlier in the week I went to Costco and picked up these beautiful floral arrangements.

 

 I also stopped by our favorite bakery to pick up a few things, including these bell shaped gumdrops that my boys love. I set them out with some flameless candles and candy shaped ornaments  on my new tray( a gift) from Hearth and Hand.




Christmas Eve was a day filled with baking and eating.Naturally,cookies were on the menu.I made quite a variety of treats because I was assembling platters to give as gifts.Here are a few of them..

 Wreath cookies about to go in the oven.
Peppermint sticks
A cookie board for us to nibble on.
Lights,mittens and assorted goodies.



I had to stop myself from eating these crackers from Trader Joe's while I was baking...so addictive! Fortunately, they are a seasonal item, so now I won't need any will power when I go shopping.
These seasonal themed ice-cream flavors from ecreamery were a hit in our house as well.
When it comes to giving gifts, I always try to find something fun and different and I love to give edible gifts..This year, I gave my son Timmy this gift from Butter, Love and Hardwork in Beverly Hills. It was a bit of a splurge to say the least, but he never really asks for anything and he loves all things gingerbread.It was made of chocolate and came with a mallet to smash it open. Inside were gumballs,peppermint candies and handmade truffles. He and my son Sean had fun smashing and eating it. One thing to note..when I originally ordered,I received one that was scratched and broken. When I contacted the company, they sent me another immediately . The customer service was excellent!
 
It was a nice, quiet night, filled with family,sweets and loads of gift wrapping! My only complaint was that it was over in no time at all. I hope you enjoyed your holiday as well!