Friday, December 31, 2010

what this blog is NOT about.

So, I had the blessed, l.o.v.e.l.y. opportunity to read my dear friend Celeste's blog the other day and catch up on her life. When I happened upon a post titled "it feels like i'm in high school again, and it's my fault" I felt like I'd struck some ever-lovin' g.o.l.d.

This is EXACTLY what I don't want my blog to be about. {Oh, haven't you clicked over and read her post yet? Go do it! Then come back and we'll pow wow.}

I don't want a visit to Housewife on Fire to make women feel like"less" or failures once they are done visiting here. {And, in my defense, I am pretty sure that it TOTALLY doesn't, HOWEVER it's also a great reminder that THAT is not ever something I want it to morph into as time goes by.} 

I feel exactly the same way Celeste feels. It's funny, when I got the opportunity to share some of my ideas on channel 2 news, I sort of freaked. I was like:

"This is so great!"
"I am so excited they want me to share some ideas from the blog!"
"I REALLY need to turn my blog into an AMAZING showstopper of a blog, and it needs to have crafts, and DIY home stuff, and it needs to show everyone just how amazingly well I can copycat ALL of those 'crazy/talented/far-more-popular-than-I-may-ever-be' bloggers out there. And I should probably raise chickens, and I should probably re-do my bathroom {kay, in my defense, THAT has been long in coming and I am still TOTALLY going to "re-do" my bathrooms, however, I will only "re-do" them in a way that makes me happy and not in a way that makes everyone else impressed.} and I should seriously start doing a ton of giveaways because that is a sure-fire way to get friends and loyal readers, and oh, wait, this REALLY is starting to feel a lot like high school... only in high school you sort of HAVE to deal with all that crap, but now as and adult, you totally get to choose what and who you surround yourself with, and you don't have to "hang" with people that make you feel "less than" so WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELF?!

So, Celeste, I am so with ya, love! The fact is, we are not doing anyone any favors {least of all, ourselves} by trying to be something or someone that we simply are not. Free stuff is over rated. So are amazing bathrooms/pantries/insert amazing-blogged-about-DIY-project-you-have-been-beating-yourself-up-over-here _________. 

But being a great wife and mom? Now that is a goal I don't think I will ever regret fully investing myself in. 

And it doesn't HAVE to be over-the-top-and-complicated. 

And it doesn't have to be perfect {kids are incredibly forgiving, have you noticed?} 

And it doesn't have to be done with the intention of impressing someone else. 

It can be joyful, and fulfilling, and it can make you feel amazing at the end of the day rather than leaving you feeling like you are always coming up short.

I've realized, {fiiiiiiiinally} that all I have to offer this bloggy world, is me. The real me. Not the "me" that I think maybe/perhaps you would like to read about. Not the me that is super impressive and so talented that it'll make your head spin. Just me. 

And the only things that are worth sharing on here are:

Not gourmet -20-ingredient-dinners, but dinners we can all whip up in a hurry so that, even on crazy days, our kids can eat something good for them and feel like some things can always be counted on.

Not complicated, expensive crafts that have25 steps, cost $50, and are so difficult that our kids can't be involved in any way, shape, or form. Not only because they can get burned, nailed, stapled, or glued, but also because they are "messing everything up!" {boo to that.}

Not complicated crafts that have to be perfect, but FUN, easy crafts that are enjoyable, relaxing, and much more perfect for all of their imperfections. If it has to be perfect, and I am just going to feel like a failure at the end of it all, then what is the point, honestly?

Not activities {and "big-time" birthday parties - oi, have I seen a few doozies roaming around the blogosphere as of late!} that say "Look at how good, and extravagant, and over-the-top I can be ALL in the name of being the best mom ever!" Nope. Not here. Here, it's about plastic table cloths, shooting from the hip, and using what you've got on hand. Because kids don't remember how much it cost, they remember how your love and time and attention made them feel.

Not keeping a perfect, and immaculate home, but doing our very best every day. Setting ourselves up for success with the use of helpful strategies {think power of ten and shiny sinks!} and being gentle {ahem, SUPER gentle, please} with ourselves on days when, well, it JUST doesn't happen!

So, I just wanted to let you know, that's what this blog is about.

And I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

With love,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Activity at The Cabin


I haven't done the "home-made play-doh thing" since Kort was like, um, three? And boy were we overdue! It was so much fun. I think I can safely say that the boys had more fun making the play-doh than they even had playing with it {but they had a lot of fun doing that too.}

They loved taking turns picking what color the next batch would be, and they became really good assistants as batch after batch after batch rolled out of the pot.

You can find the "World's Best Play Doh Recipe" HERE.

...and I have to say, it really is fool proof. {Not to be continuously self depreciating, but honestly, if I can do it, you really can too!}


Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Bucket List: popcorn & a movie

I think this was, hands down, my most favorite “bucket list” item this year. 

Instead of popping popcorn {the smell of which gives the hubs a headache} we had some “movie style” treats like big boxes of Milk Duds and Hot Tamales.

To make it extra special, we pulled out the couch bed in the living room {Kort’s favorite} and sat together as a whole family {dogs included}.

I can’t even tell you how great this was. The nostalgia of it all was palpable. Do you remember the first time you watched “How the Grinch Stole Christmas?” {And no, not the Jim Carey version, but the charming , hilarious, 25 minute cartoon one?}

Oh. So great.

I actually laughed out loud a couple of times as the film played, and I have to say, I have been doing A LOT of running around this month. I’ve gone to parties, I’ve hosted parties, I’ve made Christmas crafts, I’ve talked about Christmas crafts on TV., I’ve attended Christmas concerts, the list goes on and on and on and on, and I can safely say that {without question} this night together felt the most like Christmas.

Bar none.

I felt all warm and toasty inside as I layed on the couch hide-a-bed {I don't know why, but it totally makes Kort's DAY when we get out the hide-a-bed!} and looked around the living room at "my life." 

*The same Christmas tree that the hubs and I bought as newly weds for our first Christmas {Walmart: $19.99}. Completely over decorated and glowing with hundreds of tiny white lights.
*Ornaments that represent 10 years of collecting, and family growth. {I still cannot believe I have ornaments from my child's preschool, kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade years. There is no way I have a 2nd grader...just no.way.} I love our tree...

* a {needy, mama's boy of a} golden retriever sleeping on my legs, a squealy, grunty, long-awaited 4 month old bouncing in my lap, the Kortmeister's head resting on my shoulder as he stuffs ridiculous amounts of Milk Duds into his mouth and smiles with oozey, chocolately glee as the grinch's little dog sends all of us into stitches...

* A hubs who I love more now than I ever thought possible...even on the day we were married.

Ah, yes. THIS is Christmas. Christmas is here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Tree/Bucket List Hybrid Thing-y


My friend Kristen has one of these, and even though the hubs has deemed it "creepy-cute," I think it is brilliant! She uses hers to celebrate not only Christmas, but Valentine's Day, Halloween, and other fun holidays as well. I LOVE this idea because it is simple, and the tree branches are, {drum roll please} FREE!

{Oh how I love free}


The other thing I love about this idea is that it keeps your holiday decorations to a minimum. You could have a small box {Like, shoe-box size or smaller}with decorations for each little holiday and store them on a shelf in a hall closet. Your kids will love decorating it with each new holiday's ornaments and your home will remain reasonably uncluttered.


I put this one together with:
a branch from my backyard
white spray paint
some sparkly ornaments  
{I got tiny ones at the Target Dollar Spot and glued glitter to them. 16 ornaments for $1 - can't beat that!}
rice {to stick the branch end into} 
a bunch of random ribbons from my ribbon drawer
and some scrapbooking tags with hand cut embellishments. 

I have also done gone made mine into a "Bucket List Tree" Hybrid thing-y. {Yep.}

I thought it would be fun to fuse the two. So, I labeled the little tag ornaments with bucket list activities and now Kort pulls a tag out of the base, reads the activity, we go and do it, then we hang the tag on the tree as a reminder of the fun we've had together.

It's all very special.


Friday, December 10, 2010

North Pole Cupcakes.
I found this darling idea at One Charming  and I think that charming is the perfect word for this cupcake! Wow. I am going to be thinking of an excuse to whip some of these babies up in the next two weeks. Go here to learn how to make them.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bucket List: Cookie Decorating Party!

 Kortland's first bucket list item was to have a Cookie Decorating Party. As I said in the post about the Christmas Bucket List, when it's a big activity, you don't have to do it the same day that it is drawn out of the bucket. Give yourself a few days to plan {we gave ourselves three} and go from there.

Now, a little information to give you some perspective: I am clearly NUTS.
Kort wanted to invite a bunch of kids from his class. Like, ten of them. I said no. This is because I really don't think it's appropriate to invite roughly half of his class to a party and leave the rest of the class feeling left out. We've all been in the shoes of "the uninvited" at some point or another, and it doesn't feel good. I just didn't want to feel responsible for having a party {which is intended to create fun and good feelings} that made a dozen kids feel bad about themselves. The uninvited kids are going to tell themselves something destructive in order to explain why their names were omitted from the guest list. They will say to themselves "I didn't get invited because I'm too fat, or too skinny, or too shy, or too loud, or not funny, or not pretty, or not smart, or sort of smelly with too many missing teeth {Oh wait, scratch that last one, have you seen second graders? All of them have too many missing teeth, 7-year-old mouths are downright freaky!}.

My anxiety kicks into high gear as I realize that my little party guest list, if not executed with care, will inevitably be responsible for 20% of all cases of  anorexia, bulimia, overeating, and promiscuity in Springville High's Class of 2020! This is a consequence that I simply cannot live with.  So, I told Kort that we really should just invite kids from the ward and neighborhood and leave the whole school thing out of it...

Well, he really wanted to invite his class. Like, bad. Like, we kept talking about it, and he kept looking at me with those big blue eyes and saying "Mom, PUH-LEASE!!!"

And I thought - "Hey, this party is for him, I'm just going to throw caution to the wind and let him invite his class." That's right. You read that correctly. His. Entire. Class. I also thought to myself, "It's not like everyone will come...I mean, usually half of all of the people invited to any given event will show up, so, like, 15 kids will show will be fine. Then we invited our neighborhood kids too. {Just to review, I have already copped to being certifiable.}

So, I woke up at 6:00 a.m. on the day of the party and baked over 200 cookies. 
{Hint for your own party: DO THIS THE DAY BEFORE! What was I thinking?!}

And it's a good thing I made over 200, 
because 30 kids showed up!  
Thank you so much to the lovely moms who stayed to help out! 
You were lifesavers!

And I decorated a sassy little holiday table.
One of my favorite moments?
When Kort came in and saw his table that morning and said:
"Wow! I can't wait until this place is PACKED!"
Ha ha! He is so much like his mom.
Table Decoration Costs:
Two Icy Blue {plastic}Table Cloths - $1.50 each. {$3.00 total}
Red Napkins {used here as place mats} - $1.50 for 24 {$1.50 total}
Two Packages of Icy Blue Paper Plates - $1:50 each. {$3.00 total}
Two Bags of Peppermint Candies - $1.00 each {$2.00 total}
{All from Wal-Mart.}
So, it cost me just under Ten Dollars total for table decorations! 
{That's pretty darn good, right?}
I have to take a moment to gush about this awesome pre-made frosting by Betty Crocker. It is unstinkinbelievable! Now, to clarify, I made my own cream cheese frosting for kids to use as the main layer of frosting, but I don't have decorative tips and pastry bags of my own, {hint, hint, Santa}so this was a quick solution. CANNOT say enough about how awesome these were. The kids totally rocked them and made the cutest designs and very little mess. At $2.88 a piece, they were worth every penny!
I loved these festive snowflake sprinkles!
Yeah, some of the cookies were a little toasty! {Isn't that a lovely Christmas word for overdone?} Can you tell that I am just getting a handle on the whole "baking thing?"
Yeah, 200 some odd cookies... took forever! {There were three platters like this in all.}
Another favorite part of the day? Seeing the creativity of these kids! Their cookies were awesome!
Best/Most Popular decorating item on the table?
They all started creating marshmallow sky scrapers {with the use of frosting as mortar between each mallow} that shot up out of their cookies! It was so cute! They looked like the kind of thing that little Hoo-Children from Hooville would make.
{Above: Kort's Cookies}
Will I invite thirty  kids again next year?
Maybe {but probably not.}

Best things about inviting 30 kids?
*No cookies left! {Yay for being able to button my jeans for the first time since giving birth to Tennyson!}
*When they all go home! ha ha! {But seriously, having 30 kids in your house sure makes your life feel spacious and peaceful when all is said and done.}

What SAVED the day for me?
Christmas music!
I can't even feel stressed when Christmas music is floating through the house. It was the perfect thing to keep me calm, happy, and focused. I use music this way a lot. The 80s mix the hubs put on my ipod is also a huge lifesaver when I'm working hard, and on a deadline!

Hope you enjoyed reviewing my ridiculous debut cookie party as much as I enjoyed putting it together! Thanks for stopping in.

In case anyone is interested, I will be posting my sugar cookie recipe {which is awesome} and the cream cheese frosting recipe{which is awesome-r} in a post of their own very soon!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Bucket List.

I made a Summer Bucket List for myself and Kort last summer, and it was honestly one of the best things I have EVER done. We made so many incredible, special, FUN memories that summer... It was a great motivator to get out there and be an active, "fun mom" instead of the mom that's pushing her kid in front of the t.v. for hours on end to get through the summer! (I mean...not that I've ever done that...of course not. No, not me. Not ever...nope, wouldn't dream of it! ;)

The Christmas Season comes and goes SO QUICKLY and it's easy to lose track of time. It seems like the holidays always end well before I get the chance to do all of the Christmas-y things that I had "good intentions" of doing. Well, NOT THIS YEAR! I've put together a Christmas Bucket List to keep us on track.

To make the bucket list, I simply typed up all of the activities I wanted to be sure that we do, printed them out, cut them apart, folded each separate piece and put them all in a Christmas-themed Bucket. Now, we draw out a paper every day, or every other day, depending on how many activities we have to do within the time allotted.

If it is a big activity that needs extra planning, we do it within 3 days of drawing it out. For instance, Kort drew out "Have a cookie decorating party." We needed time to make invitations and get them out to friends, so it is scheduled for this Wednesday. We're going to decorate cookies and make Christmas puppets. I'm really excited! This is exactly the sort of thing I would have put off until it was too late. I LOVE bucket lists!


Another fun approach is to slide a slip of paper into the slots in your advent calendar instead of using a bucket. This gives you a two in one. Each day, when kids mark the countdown, they can also get a bucket list assignment. 
My good friend, Natasha, came by for a visit last week and was lovely enough to brainstorm with me. Here are some ideas we came up with:

1. Straw for Baby Jesus (At the very start of the month, set out an empty nativity and challenge your children to fill it with straw for Jesus' bed by Christmas Eve. They earn a piece of straw {raffia or cut up yellow paper} by doing a good deed. The more good deeds that go on in your home, the softer Baby Jesus' bed will be when you lay him in the manger on Christmas Eve.) *I LOVED this one.

2. Build a snowman, and make a snowman kit.

3. Wrap up a bunch of your Christmas books and put them under the tree. Have a few of the bucket list days say "Unwrap and read a Christmas book together"

4. Pop popcorn and watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

5. Pop popcorn and watch "A Christmas Story"

6. Make reindeer food (Granola and magic glitter and anything else you want to put in it) then put it in individual bags for all of your children, {labeled "reindeer food" of course} save it, and then sprinkle it all over the yard on Christmas Eve. {Make sure the kiddos understand that it won't ALL be gone in the morning because reindeer just nibble a little at each house!}That oughtta save you some clean up!

7. Have a family snowball fight.

8. Go sledding.

9. Do a family "secret service santa" day. Draw names in the morning and do good deeds anonymously throughout the day.

10. Go caroling with friends. Come home and have chili and hot chocolate.

11. Assemble and deliver neighbor gifts.

12. Have a Christmas Cookie Party!

13. Decorate a fun cake (have everyone help) and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Then have everyone in the family give a gift (of service/love to others) to Jesus.

14. Have an elf treasure hunt. At the end of it, kids can find their new Christmas pajamas.

15. Drive around and look at Christmas lights, or go to a fun light festival in your area.

16. Make gingerbread houses.

P.S. How exciting is it that you can make a stinkin' cute Christmas tree card with strips of brown paper, and green polka dot paper cut into simple triangles? I love how these turned out and they only took about an hour from beginning to end. {This includes a LOT of time spent designing the font and layout of the info in Word.

Do you have any awesome Christmas Activities your family loves? I'm all ears. My bucket list could stand to have a few additions!

Advent Calendar.

Just got mine made and hung up...
{Better late than never I guess.}
Read on to learn how make one in 10 easy steps!

1. Get a cork board {on the smallish side}I got mine at D.I. {thrift store} for $2

2. Paint the frame if you prefer a different color.
3. Get 25 cellophane party favor bags {got these at Xpedex} and put a small treat (one for each child) in each bag.{I used Halloween candy so that I didn't have to go out and try to find 25 different tiny candies. My friend, Kristen, also had a great idea. She bought the candies in the "bulk candy" section of the grocery store. It was a little time consuming, but she was able to get 3 pieces of 25 different candies for only $3:00 total! Awesome.

4. Fold the bag over {so it will fit under your countdown papers}
5. Cut off the excess.

6. Cut 25 rectangular pieces of Christmas paper to fit over the candy bags

7. Print out numbers, {or use stickers, which is what I did} and attach them to each rectangle.

8. Pin candy bag and number to the board with a push pin.

9. Add the ribbon of your choice.

10. Hang on your wall, and
A VERY inexpensive, simple advent calendar.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Where have I been?

Hiding from you.
Ha ha!
I have been such a lazy little turd this week!

I am a bit overwhelmed by the leftover Thanksgiving Day mess, and the basement is half way finished, and Tennyson has NOT been sleeping all that well. So I am kind of a tired mess.


I am about to turn over yet another new leaf, and get back on track. I HAVE been getting up and dressed everyday, my sink has remained shiny (okay, for the most part) and I actually HAVE made dinner every night this week! (YAY!) So there's that.

I've decided that for the month of December, the focus of this blog is going to shift to family Christmas Traditions. I am REALLY excited about it! I am in the process of making an (overdue, late, tardy) Advent Calendar. It will be getting its own post in the next little bit. It's going to be like a summer bucket list, only Christmas-y and Advent Calendar-y.

I've also decided to do my first remodeling project here on Housewife on Fire! I am a huge believer that EVERYONE can have beautiful home. Whether they live in a 300 square foot apartment or a 6,000 square foot house and whether they have a budget of $10-or several thousands. I am in the process of re-doing my entire house, and my first project is going to be....(drumroll please) My main bathroom!! Here is what it looks like right now.

 When we bought our house, we originally intended to fix it up and flip it, so we painted it a nice taupe-y, gray-ish, green color that everyone seems to like (except me). But when we got to know our neighbors, our school, our ward, and our community at large... we decided that there was no way we were moving! We love it here. So, the bummer is, we have to re-do everything again, and this time, do it for US, and not some unknown buyer we are trying to cater to. So, here is the inspiration for the new bathroom:

 I know, right!? I love this shower curtain! I found it here and ordered it, and it is perfect! I am going to go with a dramatic black and white theme in there. And yes, I am even painting an entire wall black (which feels pretty scary, but hey, I'm all about the risky business when it comes to paint!)

I will be tracking my progress here and will share the finished product when I have it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

a good reminder.

While I am definitely excited about taking better care of myself and making a daily effort to put my best foot forward, it's nice to have a reminder about what's truly important at the end of the day. Don't you just love the wisdom of Marjorie Pay Hinckley? 

"I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking the kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."
~Marjorie Pay Hinckley~

Sunday, November 28, 2010

what I learned while hosting thanksgiving:

{Me, posing with my wrecked table decor. ~Thanks Nancy~}
{My cute in-laws.}
1.  Cooking a turkey, while intimidating, is totally doable. (That is, IF your mother-in-law completely preps, packages, and seasons said turkey, and then drops it off at your house with instructions to cook it at 350 for four hours.)
2.Chocolate brown table cloths with sparkly gold runners and earthy zen stones and lots of little candles are really pretty for a thanksgiving table.
3. Little children coming to your Thanksgiving dinner will likely blow out the candles, throw the rocks, and smear mashed potatoes into your gold runners and chocolate brown table cloths.
4. Little kids don't care that your tables are (excuse me, I mean, WERE) pretty.
5. Adults don't really appreciate it either because it just gives them one more thing to try to keep their kids out of.
6. I'm still happy I did it, because, to me, a beautiful table and a lot of effort put into making an event beautiful says "I love you." And that is exactly what I wanted to say. So there. I said it.
7. Saying "No problem! It's just a table cloth." (and meaning it) is an even better way to say I love you. Love is so nice. 

In other news... this week the goal is:
*Keep up with all of the other goals.
*Try to cook dinner...MORE.

I was going to say "cook dinner every night," but since the name of this game is achievable, and I know that there is no way I will be organized enough to cook dinner every. single. night. right out the gate, we are going to go with "MORE." I am going to baby step my way to success!

So, PLEASE, I need two things from you:
1. More recipes. (Easy ones. Like, 3rd grader easy mmmmkay?) and 2. More great ideas for Family Home Evening! Don't hold out on me now...