2015 {one little word}

Here we are. Coming to the end of another year.

2015

Oh 2015, you were a rough and rocky road for me. I’ve learned and overcome much in your time, but I am not necessarily sad to see you go.

2016…..

I am not entirely sure what you hold and will reveal in time….and I am not too sure I really want to know. If it is one thing that 2015 has determined for me, is that nothing is promised and life is so, so fragile, yet incredibly strong.

My word for 2015 was E N O U G H

And I have truly loved this word. It has helped me focus more on what’s really important in our lives. We have continued to simplify and work at it more in all areas of our lives.

It’s not been the easiest, but I’ve enjoyed the process of the challenge of  E N O U G H.

Through the crazy and unpredictable year that 2015 has been, focusing on “enough” has kept me focused on living life. Living now and being present.

It has helped me focus on simplifying more around the house and our lives to help us be more present.

It’s still a constant work in progress, but that’s okay. I’m still learning what E N O U G H looks like, and I am willing to keep going with it.

Now in year seven of choosing my One Little Word, it’s interesting to look back and see the varied words chosen, and how their meanings have woven through the weeks, months and years.

2010 {grow}

2011 {embrace}

2012 {nurture}

2013 {surrender}

2014{gratitude}

2015 {enough}

And now this New Year emerging, my One Little Word is…..

T H O U G H T F U L

Back in October, I started looking forward to what this next year might look like. Choosing E N O U G H in 2015 has really helped me focus and refocus.

In 2016, I want to be more T H O U G H T F U L. Thoughtful about my interactions with people, with plans, with goals and aspirations for the future. For my family’s future.

I want to focus on what “thoughtful” looks like in all the areas of my life. How it will change my perspective on what I see and how I see it.

I want to be more thoughtful with my loved ones close to me, and with people I meet and interact with day in and day out.

I want to be more thoughtful. Mindful. Intentional.

Life brought some serious bumps and bruises along the journey of “enough”. There has been loss and sadness and learning to see life in a completely different setting. New normals once again shifting around and settling themselves into our lives.

And yet, there have been AMAZING moments of new friendships and growing as a person and a mother and wife. All things I hope to share more with you about in the coming year.

So many things.

So, here we are. 2016 will happen. Here’s to a New Year full of many possibilities.

Life will happen, as it always does, and I hope through it all I will continue to focus on what’s important. 

How about you, have you chosen your word for 2016? I’d love to know about it and the story behind why it’s your word! Please feel free to share about your word for 2016.

Meanwhile….HAPPY  {almost} NEW YEAR!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza Muffins {make ahead meals}

PizzaMuffins

Life can be crazy busy and chaotic and not always leaving much time for NOT eating take-out or heading to the drive-thru.

The past few years, as we’ve been working to simplify things a bit more, I’ve become a BIG FAN of make ahead, freezable meals and decided I’d share one of my family’s most favorite ones!

Pizza Muffins.

Super easy and completely make-ahead and FREEZABLE! Have I mentioned how much I LOVE freezable?

I do.

Makes my life THAT much easier.

You can make these up, freeze them, and when you’re going to be out and about, or sporting events/practice and whatnot, grab some of these and heat them up and GO. Simple as that.

Other than helping to simplify life a little more, this recipe also requires no fancy kitchen equipment and gadgets.

I KNOW. I love that. I don’t have time to take out big mixers and the like and then clean it all. I need quick, easy and SIMPLE.

{After all, I have hot coffee to attempt to finish…}

SO, here they are!

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Simple Pizza Muffin Recipe:

For the dough:

(makes enough for 24 “muffins” or 2  12-14in pizzas)

-2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) of active dry yeast

-1.5 cups warm water

-4.5 cups all-purpose flour

-1tsp salt

What to do:

Place yeast in large bowl, add warm water. Give it a gently stir and let sit about 5-ish minutes. Add in flour and salt. Using a spoon, mix together until combined, but still a little sticky.

Once combined, turn out onto clean, lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5-ish minutes. I don’t usually knead it much longer than that. Shape into a round.

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffin2

To keep things simple, rinse out the large bowl you just used to use again for this next part. Dry it out and add some extra virgin olive oil to the bowl (approx 1-2 Tbs), place pizza dough in bowl and turn it, roll it around, to fully coat it in the olive oil. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and place in on the counter (or way up high on a shelf in the pantry so that, if you have toddlers like me, they can’t get to it). Let it rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

Once doubled, uncover and PUNCH the dough down.

{that’s kinda fun, right?}

Divide dough in half and now you’re ready to make the pizza muffins!

For the Pizza Muffins:

{Pre-heat oven to 450}

Take half of dough and roll it out until it’s a decent rectangle approx 12″ x 15″, like so

PizzaMuffins

Then, this is the best, add WHATEVER sauce and toppings you want!

I went more traditional with these, since it’s my kiddos fave, and stuck with pizza sauce, pepperoni and some Monterey jack cheese.

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffins

This part is completely up to you. You can go as simple or fancy as you’d like. Homemade sauce? go for it. Freshly grated cheese your preference? Go for it!

{Another favorite, that my husband likes, is roasted garlic and alfredo chicken. Sounds complicated, but totally not. Leftover shredded chicken, some alfredo sauce and some mashed up roasted garlic spread out and then a little shredded cheese on top and VOILA! }

After adding your toppings, roll it up like so, slice it and place in prepared muffin tins.

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffins

I’ve started using my silicone muffin cups for these. I used to use baking papers, but they’d stick to them a bit and it got to be a pain to unwrap them for the kids. You could simply use the muffin tins without, but I LOVE the silicone cups, because no prep required, I just pop the sliced up muffins in and pop them in the oven. DONE! Then they simply pop right out, no hassle.

Now just pop in the oven for approx 10-12 minutes. Let cool and serve immediately, or freeze them for later!

How To Freeze:

Place in single layer on foil lined plate. Place another layer of foil if needed, add another single layer of pizza muffins.

Place in freezer for 1-2 hours (or overnight, won’t hurt them), then place in a labeled ziplock freezer bag with instructions how how to reheat.

To Reheat: place a couple muffins in microwave, heat in 20 second intervals until heated through. Eat!

NOTES: another awesome option, take frozen muffins out, place in lunches in fridge the night before, by the time lunch time hits the next day, VOILA! Completely thawed and ready to eat Pizza Muffins! Yay!

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What are some of your favorite time-saving parenting tricks that help make things a little less chaotic?

 

The Christmas Book Basket

ChristmasBookBasket{this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience}

 

It happened so unintentionally, our holiday book basket we put by the Christmas tree each year.

When our oldest was just a tot and into ALL THE THINGS, we decided not to even attempt putting gifts under the tree until Christmas morning. It really helped keep everyone a little more sane.

So, instead, I opted to put a few of the holiday books we had in a basket and placed it by the tree.

The next year I did the same thing, and just like that, it became a tradition!

Now, however, I’m a bit more intentional about it and the books that go into it. We like to add one or two books each year, or rotate them out, depending on the year and ages of the kiddos.

When little bitty, more board books made their way into the basket. It’s definitely not a “put all the super cherished books you don’t want mucked up” in kinda basket. The last thing you want to do is add books in that you’ll stress about…nah, this is a meant to be read and re read many times, pulled in and out of basket multiple times and, occasionally, a torn page that gets taped up kinda thing.

This year, I’ve actually added a few more non board books, since we’re mostly past the tearing all the pages stage….mostly. Hopefully.

One of the main things I love about this, is it encourages “reading” and discovering of new things and learning more about the winter season and holidays.

I love how the youngest kiddos will just wander over, sit down and start reading. Sometimes the basket gets picked up and carried around the house, but usually finds it’s way back by the tree and I will occasionally catch a glimpse of 3 out of 4 kiddos just sitting and reading and looking at the pictures.

These are some of our favorites:


Mortimer’s Christmas Manger


God Gave Us Christmas


The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale


One Shining Star: A Christmas Counting Book

Another thing I love, is the family time it helps to create and reminds us to focus on a little more around, what can be, a very busy time.

It’s definitely become a loved tradition and one the bigger kids have looked forward to each year. And as the littlest ones become more familiar with it, I’m hoping it stays a well loved tradition.

What are some of your most loved holiday traditions?

Once Upon a Crafty Time { a Stocking Story}

stockings

Once upon a time, I used to be known as a creative crafty person. I still fall into the creative category, but I jokingly said when I was pregnant with the twinnies, that they were draining all the craftiness outta me!

And I honestly think they kind of did.

Not that I don’t have a creative moment here and there. I do. And I still create and dream and design and plan out projects, just not like I used to. And most of that creative energy it seems is focused towards the kitchen with baking and cooking, along with taking photos of my kids, writing, and house renovation stuff.  More recently, though, I have been adding in some fun craft time with the littlest ones when the bigs are at school.

In my once upon a crafty person time, I used to sew jammies for my older two kiddos, starting when my oldest was 1 year, EVERY christmas. I loved it. Sometimes they were christmasy, sometimes just something they liked a lot and were interested in like guitars, owls, etc.

Last year was the absolute last year I decided I would do that. Because there are four of them now. And they keep growing, which means new patterns have to be drafted or bought….and well, I no longer have a dedicated sewing and crafting room to myself. So yeah, just no. It became more hassle than fun and I had to start in like October and my kids would surely grow between the time I started and finished them. As much as I once loved making them, I decided it was time to let this tradition go. At least for the time being.

{Even though my oldest STILL wants me to make him some….this year though, he agreed to let me surprise him with actual store bought ones}

I’ve become really good at hunting for awesome things and clicking the “buy now” button when I see a great deal or find an awesome handmade item that would be great. And I am all about supporting small biz and mamas and dads in the handmade community.

With all that being said, this year I did manage to pull out enough craftiness to design and make our new family stockings.

It was time and something I’d been wanting to do for a few years now. Especially for my oldest girl.

You see, our last set of stockings? With the exception of adding two more when we found out the twins were to join us, they had been picked out and bought for a different family.

{stay with me….let me explain}

When I had chosen them, we were still in the adoption process and were literally waiting for the call to go back to Russia and complete the adoption of a child we’d already met and fell in love with. She had been expected to join us before Christmas of that year, so I wanted to have a stocking for her.

Well, Christmas came and went, and we were still waiting. It wasn’t until 5 months later, we’d learn that she was never officially going to join our family.

{You can read more about our adoption story HERE}

So, the next holiday season was approaching, and fearing the same would happen, I couldn’t bring myself to pick out a different stocking. I convinced myself, since it had never been used, that surely it would be OK for our newest family member to use. So we did.

By the time we’d arrived back home on Thanksgiving Day that year, and hunkered down in our little family cocoon….I’d never gotten to picking out a new stocking….so we used what we had.

I didn’t think it’d bother me. And that year we were too in the beginning trenches and post adoption emotions to really think about it, so I packed the stockings away with the rest of the Christmas things that year and didn’t think much about it.

Until…..

The following year when I took the stockings out, I burst into tears. I was caught completely off guard by my emotions. I felt devastate and heart-broken all over again.

{Sidenote: this is something I know will never go away. Loss is loss….I will always miss this child. Always.}

We used those stockings that year, but I could hardly ever look at them. And, honestly, I felt so stupid about being so emotional about it.

The following year I decided I’d make some! Uh…yeah, that was a comical thought. I had itty bitty baby twinfants…..totally didn’t happen. And we’d decided to put the house up early-ish the next year, so we hardly did anything for Christmas decorating that year.

Next year. I was determined to make them!

{I’ll save you a long story there….didn’t happen}

This year, I decided I was going to set out early in the year and get to work on them. I had designed them with each family members personality in mind, searched pinterest for fabrics and ideas. Decided, at one point, I was nuts and should just go and find some that would be perfectly acceptable.

Told my husband I should totally just find a handmade shop and buy them. Oldest overheard and pleaded I make them.

{he really likes mama made things…}

I had found this awesome matryoshka fabric the year before that I’d snatched up and planned to use for Sunshine girl.

This year. I was determined. It was GOING TO HAPPEN.

I really wanted a brand new especially made JUST FOR HER stocking for my Sunshine girl. She deserved it.

SO. FINALLY, I decided on the design, found the fabrics, found an awesome and easy to follow free stocking pattern {found HERE}, ordered fabric and got started.

I did a little chunk here and there like an assembly line.

My goal was to have this accomplished BEFORE Thanksgiving. And I finished BEFORE Halloween!!

{I’m honestly still in shock about it}

When I finished my Sunshine girls, I cried.

{caught off guard by those emotions again….}

I love love LOVE that she has one. JUST FOR HER!

And my kids? The oldest ones anyway, LOVE that they are mama made. I thanked my oldest for encouraging me to make them. I’m really glad I did.

And I love that each year, no matter the crazy, they will always have something handmade from their mama in the form of their stockings.

{the rest of the handmade love will have to come from all the awesome handmade greatness shops out there}

Do you try to add a little handmade into your holiday gift giving?

How Not To Lose Your Mind Over Advent

AdventBox

It went it little bit like this…..

I decided to try and tackle some of the {very} simple holiday decorating for Christmas.

We’ve been slowly leaning towards simplifying the holidays more and more each year, and this year is probably the first I felt like I truly had a decent handle on.

For at least two seconds.

I found the advent candles, and mistakenly, put them down within reach of two busy and very curious toddlers.

Before I could even blink, they swiped them and decided to have a tot sized fencing match.

Yeah. Candles are broken. I don’t have backups.

I searched Pinterest to see what quick and simple DIY ideas there were and could maybe assemble something together before Advent was officially to begin.

Let’s laugh together, shall we? Because. Seriously.

I did, indeed, find some awesome and amazing ideas…..that I plan to use next year.

This year? I’m letting it go. We are doing a modified Advent.

I did manage to get our Night Before Advent Box put together with new pjs for each kiddo, coloring pages printed out for each day of Advent, colors and our Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

A day late. Because that’s just sometimes how life goes….

And, in an effort of keeping things real and full disclosure, a little confession:  The day we were to do our “day before advent” loveliness, I was in a no good grumpy mood.

No idea why really. Just a funk and mama bear was more like grumpy bear.

By bed time, it was literally, EVERYONE GO TO BED LIKE NOW. But without the yelling {I know, impressive isn’t it?!} And I put myself in time out.

And by time out, I mean I plugged in my earbuds, put on some Sufjan Stevens {holiday edition} on Pandora and started painting.

What did I start painting? Why the Night Before Advent Box, naturally.

An hour later, when my husband walked into the kitchen, I’m pretty sure he thought I’d lost my mind as I was painting and adding some touches of glitter. Because, GLITTER.

Or he just knew that I was processing and this is how I seem to do it best.

So, those advent candles? Not gonna happen this year. Even though my oldest commented that he really missed seeing them. I agreed, but was all “NOPE. Next year though….next year”.

And because I really mean it, I created a pin board JUST for a little Advent inspiration . I’m really loving some of the more modern and simplistic set ups some have going on.

So, all this to say….our best intentions can go completely wrong. And LIFE happens and candles get broken, and the ideas you might have had are just not.gonna.happen this year. And I am here to say, it’s absolutely, completely OKAY.

Sometimes, taking a more simple approach during the holidays is really whats best. And sometimes, depending on what season your littles are in {like underwater toddlerhood…}, it means maybe not so much with candles, but more with reading the Advent story. And having a simple advent calendar.

And enjoying the time we do have with family.

Our Night Before Advent Box and evening happened. A day late, and more simplified.

And if you’re one week in and are going “crap! this advent thing is kicking my butt! and I totally forgot XYZ!”….it’s OK. And you still have three more weeks to turn it all around.

Lets say it together…..

It’s ALL going to be OKAY. Really.

Do you celebrate Advent? What are some of your favorite ways to keep things more simple during, what can be, chaos and crazy of the holiday season?