Friday, December 16, 2011

You've Got Mail!

In this computer driven society, emails, Facebook, Skype, and IM have almost replaced regular old United States mail.  I love this time of the year when I open up the mailbox and see Christmas cards instead of just junk mail and bills.  The monkeys like it too.

The other day, while drinking some hot cocoa with the air conditioner cranked down in our house (because that, my friends, is about the only way to get winter in Florida) I had a thought.  What if we could have fun mail all year long?

So, I went to the store and found:

A tiny little mailbox.

Some gorgeous flower stickers.

Then I fussed over the mailbox and decorated it all up.

And finally, it was all pretty and ready to provide many smiles and hours of joy. 

This will be our family mailbox, where we can leave each other little love notes and such.  Wouldn't these make great gifts for Christmas or even Valentine's Day?



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Florida Christmas Cookies

Truth be told, I really do not like baking Christmas cookies.  The mixing, the icing, the baking, the hot kitchen, the cleaning, my sudden weight gain...

Really, the only thing fun about it is the finished product (and maybe the tiny bit of cookie dough that I consume...per minute).

But my kids love the whole baking thing, so I do it for them.  Ah, the things we do for love.  

I wanted to do something very different with our Christmas cookies this year. Something fun.  We always receive the loveliest Greek cookies from our Greek neighbors and the most spectacular Italian cookies from our Italian neighbors. So, being the swamp-loving, Florida Cracker that I am, I decided to make Florida Christmas cookies.  

I rounded up all the ingredients and then bribed my oldest daughter and her girlfriend to mix up the dough.  

I should have bribed them to clean up too.  Just kidding, they did a fabulous job with the mixing and the cleaning. 

Next came the cutting.  We used PlayDoh cutters in the shapes of a fish, a dolphin, a lobster, a starfish, a sea horse, and my favorite - an alligator.  

Then we frosted them in bright, fun Florida colors.

It was like an art class was going on in our kitchen.

 Florida lobster

Florida monkey

More Florida monkeys

And finally, after the icing dried, we boxed the cookies up and sent them out to our friends and neighbors. 

Aren't they cute? I love them all, but the gators are my favorite.  Perfectly Florida. 



And the Winner Is...

After careful consideration of how best to randomly select the winner of the Yankee Candle basket, we finally concluded that it would be prudent to let our youngest monkey boy decide.

So, we put out 5 numbers (number candles are the monkey boy's latest obsession) numbered 1-5 since we had five fantastic stories from five awesome ladies.  Based on the order in which they were received, I assigned the first story a number 1, the second a number 2, and so on.

And the winner is...

Number 4, Monique C.!!!!  You have been randomly selected by a monkey boy to win this:

I will bring it to you on Sunday ;-).  



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

If...Then - A Christmas Giveaway!

If you want your house to smell like fresh baked sugar cookies, but you don't want your kitchen to look like this:

Then, enter This and That's Christmas candle giveaway.

Hurry though, the giveaway ends at 9 AM EST tomorrow morning (12-15-11).

What are you waiting for?



Magnolia Wreath - A Two Second Tutorial

I love Magnolia trees.  They are a true Southern delight.

We have a Magnolia tree in our yard.  It is always giving to us. Its large ivory blossoms are stunning in the spring and summer.  I cut them and put them in vases around the house. They are so fragrant!

The leaves of the Magnolia have long been utilized to make Christmas wreaths and garland.  I have always wanted to purchase one for my front door, but they seem to be quite costly.

So this year, I had an epiphany, and decided to make a Magnolia wreath.  Here is how I did it:

I had my big strapping son cut some bottom branches off of our Magnolia tree:

I used an 18 inch wreath form.

I hot glued the leaves onto the wreath.  The trick was to work in small sections and I used a heavy mug to hold the leaves in place until they had a chance to adhere to the wreath.

Here is the outer layer all dried and ready.

For the inner circle, I tilted the leaves slightly and worked in small sections gluing and pressing.

It took me about 30 minutes to complete one wreath.  Not to shabby for a beginner. 

And here is the finished product all dressed up with a red ribbon.  Isn't is pretty?

I used the extra branches to make a garland for the top of the hutch.  



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Miniature Garden!

On my quest to produce some fun and thoughtful gifts for Christmas this year, I came up with these little beauties:

And since I made quite a few of them, I have been experimenting with how to present them as gifts.  I liked the idea of arranging the candles on a modest glass tray with a little beach sand.  Then, to make it really special, I added a small conch shell and an air plant.  Ta da!!! It's a mini-garden!

Air plants are very interesting and make really great gifts.  Especially for someone like me who kills every plant I touch.  Black thumb!  I will be posting more about air plants this week. Stay tuned.

I think that this little garden would look darling on a patio, beside a big bathtub, or even as a stunning centerpiece on a dining room table.

And once the candles are used up, you could place tea lights in the shells or turn them over and enjoy their beauty.

Wouldn't this make a really fun gift?  Speaking of gifts, don't forget the awesome giveaway going on right now!  Yankee Candles anyone?



Monday, December 12, 2011

Share and Share Alike - A Christmas Giveaway!- CLOSED


So, I have never done a giveaway on this here little ol' blog, but today I am just feeling all Christmasy and I want to spread the joy!  I promise it is not the pain killers speaking :-).

Here's the deal-e-o.  We have a super festive, really cute gift basket full of yummy smelling candles from Yankee Candle to gift to someone.

Isn't it sweet?  The candles smell just like sugar cookies.  Mmmmm!

What I would love for you to do is to leave a comment in the comment section of this post.  Tell me what your favorite Christmas memory is.  It is that simple.

Please submit your comment by 9 AM EST Thursday, December 15.  A winner will be randomly selected and announced on the blog by Friday, December 16.  Please remember to include your email address so that I can contact you and send out your gift (hopefully to arrive by Christmas).

***Winners from outside of the U.S. may not receive this gift by Christmas. ***

This is not a paid advertisement or sponsored in any way by Yankee Candle.  It's just that I really like you and want your house to smell like sugar cookies :-)



Recovery Room

On Friday, I had my wisdom teeth taken out.  The procedure was pretty cut-and-dry :-).  My wisdom teeth were not impacted or sideways or anything crazy like that.  I was in and out of the oral surgeon's office in less than an hour.  No problem.

Then, I spent the rest of the weekend slurping soup, watching movies, and trying not to laugh too much, or talk to much, or eat too much ice cream.  I even went to a Christmas party...I figured I could pretend to be Alvin the Chipmunk with the puffy cheeks.

The best part of the weekend was spending time in my recovery room where:

My sweet friend, Wendy, came to visit me with flowers, ice cream, and something fun to read.

My man, read to me and put up with all of my issues (I have many you know).

I read this and mentally redecorated every room in our house.

 I read these classics with our youngest monkey girl.

I got lots of visits from this little monkey.  Who kept asking me, if I was okay.

What a sweet little monkey!



Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

A few weeks ago, I planted our Paper Whites and Amaryllis.

And today....

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Have a wonderful weekend!



Friday, December 9, 2011

Silver Bell

When do you officially feel like the Christmas season has started?  Is it when you get the tree set up and decorated?  As soon as the first batch of Christmas cookies are in the oven?  As you are reading the first devotion of Advent with your family?

For me, Christmas officially begins when I take my grandmother's Christmas bells out of their special cabinet and place them around the house.  I love to give each little bell a gentle jingle and listen to the sweet tinkle each one makes.  It so reminds me of my childhood Christmases at Grammie's house.

Grammie would always ring a special silver bell on Christmas morning to wake us up.  We were convinced that it was Santa's sleigh bells.

When I was in graduate school and doing my fellowship, I lived with my grandma for a semester.  We had so much fun together being room mates.  I told her how special she always made Christmas and how I loved her bells.  One night, right before I had to go back up to school, Grammie gave me a beautiful red box.  Inside the box was a silver jingle bell just like the one that she had so sweetly rang each Christmas past.  It was and still is one of my most treasured possessions.

Not long after Grammie gave me the bell, she went home to be with Jesus.  Her legacy lives on though in so many ways.  Each of her children and grandchildren have a little tinkle of Grammie in their hearts.

And in keeping up the family tradition and honoring Grammie, each Christmas morning our monkeys are roused out of bed by the jingle and tinkle of that very special silver bell.  They think that it is Santa.  I know that it is Gramdma...



Thursday, December 8, 2011

You're Not Santa!

I love the movie Elf with Will Ferrell. One of the funniest scenes in any Christmas movie ever happens in Elf.  Buddy the Elf gets attacked by the mall "Santa" after Buddy accuses him of being a fake.

"You're not Santa!  You smell like beef and cheese!  You sit on a throne of lies!", Buddy exclaims.

Every time I see this scene it cracks me up.  It reminds me of my kids and their skepticism each time we pay a visit to Santa around this time of year.  They are always asking questions.

Questions like:

How is Santa here at the mall when we just saw him at Target a few minutes ago?

Did Santa lose weight since we saw him yesterday, because he looks skinnier?

Why does Santa have on Uncle Al's tennis shoes and glasses?

How does Santa get into our house if we do not have a chimney?

And the list goes on...

But I have to wonder, does Santa have questions too?

These are some pictures from last year's visit to Santa:

As I look at this picture, I like to imagine that Santa is asking himself, "How many more hours of this insanity do I have to take?"

And in this picture, it is quite possible that Santa might be pondering where the nearest tavern is and what time Happy Hour starts. 

While our middle monkey boy is clearly wondering, "Why? Just why?" "I am a teenager for goodness sakes!"

As for me? Well, I was just thankful that my children had a Santa who actually looked like Santa and not like an escaped convict that smelled like beef and cheese. 

Me with "Santa"



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tacos and Tantrums

I worked in the restaurant industry throughout my college career.  It pretty much stunk.  Nothing builds your self esteem more than rude customers.  I once had a lady that left two pennies on the table for me after her meal.  I guess she gave me her two cents worth!

Another customer thought that it would be cute to poke a fork through a coffee creamer that he had hidden in his hand by his eye.  I had just come to his table to take his order and suddenly there was coffee creamer spewing everywhere and he was holding his eye and moaning in agony.  When he saw the horrified look on my face, he laughed like a hyena.  Fun times!

But my favorite types of customers were the ones who let their darling children behave badly in the restaurant. Some customers would let their kids run rampant through the restaurant.  Let me tell you, there is nothing like carrying a 50 pound tray loaded with piping hot plates of food across a restaurant, and having to dodge kids.  Piping hot heavy plates and little people do not mix well.  Other parents would let their little ones wail and cry throughout the entire meal.

Now, I am a mom of six kids, and we have definitely had our "moments" with one or two of the monkeys in a restaurant.  We are not perfect parents and our kids have their issues.  Whining at the table? Yep.  Rude bodily noises during dinner? You bet.  Horsing around and spilling stuff?  It happens (sometimes multiple times during the same meal).

Let's face it, kids are kids.  They are learning and we are their teachers.  As our kids' teachers, my husband and I have always tried to teach by example.  Monkey see monkey do, right?

But there are instances when our kids have totally crossed the line in a restaurant.  Take for example, this past weekend when our littlest monkey decided to have a full-on temper tantrum at our favorite taco joint.  It actually started with some whining and protesting, then it escalated to an attempt to jail break from his high chair.  Whining turned to wailing.  Protesting turned into pitching a fit.  It seemed like everyone in the usually loud restaurant, suddenly stopped talking and started staring.

Take a look at these gawkers!

That was our cue to promptly remove the screaming banshee.  Tacos to go please!

And I am quite sure that I heard everyone in the restaurant breathe a sigh of relief as we exited.

At least these people seemed to be relieved. Until they had to get in the van with the howler monkey...



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to Make Candy Cane Bark and Not Gain Twenty Pounds in One Evening

The monkeys and I decided to make Candy Cane bark tonight.  It is easy to make.  The hard part really is not eating it all once its done.  I can tell you how to make it, but your on your own after that :-).

First, take a dozen peppermint candy canes, place them in couple of sealable baggies and crush them up with a rolling pin.

The monkeys loved this step.  And as long as they didn't try to club each other with the rolling pin it was all good.

Next, melt a package of white almond bark in the microwave.

Mix the crushed candy cane with the melted almond bark.  Save some candy cane crumbles for the topping.

Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet.

Warning: Do not lick the spoon! I repeat, do not lick the spoon! You will be unable to stop yourself from eating the entire tray and gaining 20 pounds!

Sprinkle the remaining candy cane crumbles onto the top of the thinly spread mixture and place in the refrigerator to cool.

Once it is cool, you can break the bark up into pieces, wrap it in wax paper, place it in a cute container, and get it out of your house and to your friends and family before you  eat anymore than you already have.

Enjoy (but not too much ;-) ),