Friday, January 20, 2017

A Year of Color: White {BAKE / PLAY / CRAFT}

Welcome to the first monthly edition of A Year of Color!

A Year of Color Link Party

On the third Friday of each month,  I will be co-hosting a monthly linkup called A Year of Color with Little Dove, Macke Monologues, and Work It Mommy. Each month will focus on one color and you can link up any post that revolves around that particular color.  Fashion, Recipes, Activities for Kids, Crafts...ANYTHING is welcome! The link will be open for a month, so you can link up any time. We hope you will join us!

The color for the month of January is: 

A Year of Color Link Party

I had so many ideas go through my head for this month, but I decided to focus on a winter theme. I'm going to share a cute cupcake recipe, an easy and inexpensive winter craft, and a sensory play activity for kids. It's unusually warm in Pittsburgh this month, so we are finding other ways to enjoy winter!

Polar Bear Cupcakes

My mom is a baker so she is the one who always gets to wow my kids with her cute baked goods. My creations are seriously lacking compared to hers, but I was able to impress my kids with this one! (For now. My mom has plans to make polar bear cupcakes with Lily this weekend. I'm sure hers will put mine to shame!)

Polar Bear Cupcakes

When it comes to baking, I am all about easy. I don't have the time or the energy for complex recipes. This recipe is really simple and each cupcake only takes about 2 minutes to assemble.


  • 1 box of white cake mix
  • White Frosting
  • White Cupcake Liners
  • Black Writing Gel
  • Brown M&M's
  • Cereal Rings (Fruit Loops, Cheerios)
 Polar Bear Cupcakes


1. Make the cupcakes according to the directions on the box and allow to cool. 

2. Cover the top of each cupcake with white frosting. Don't worry about making it smooth. Texture is good! 

3. Place a cereal ring (I used fruit loops) in the middle of each cupcake to form a nose and two at the top of the cupcake to form ears. 

Polar Bear Cupcakes

4. Carefully cover the cereal rings with white frosting.

5. Place a brown M&M in the middle of the nose.

6. Use the black writing gel to make two tiny dots above the nose for the eyes. 

So easy! 

Polar Bear Cupcakes

These cupcakes turned out really cute and went VERY quickly!

Polar Bear Cupcakes

My girls actually squealed when they spotted these cupcakes, which made this not so accomplished baker very happy!
Polar Bear Cupcakes


Two Ingredient Sensory Play Snow 

Sensory Play is very important in our home, and sensory snow is one of the easiest sensory play recipes to make! It can be whipped up in less than a minute. And when you can't experience the real stuff, this is a lot of fun. It's even cold!

2 Ingredient Fake Snow


  • Baking Soda
  • Shaving Cream


  1. Pour a 1 lb box of Baking Soda into a large bowl. (If you're feeling extra adventurous, quadruple the batch and pour it into an under the bed storage container!) 
  2. Squirt shaving cream into the bowl and mix the two ingredients together. Continue adding small amounts of shaving cream until you get the desired consistency. The "snow" should be crumbly but stick together when molded.
Fake Snow

Not only is Sensory Play Snow quick and easy to make, but the ingredients are inexpensive and you can control the amount.  Kids can play with a small batch and mold it into shapes, or they can use shovels and other sand toys in a bigger batch. This is one of my kids favorite sensory play recipes!

Fake Snow Recipe


Winter Snowball Banner

This easy craft is perfect for kids ages 5 and up (under supervision), is very inexpensive, and is a great addition to your winter home decor!

Winter Snowball Banner

Items Needed: 

  • Cotton Balls
  • White Thread
  • Needle
Snowball Banner


1. Decide where you want to hang the banner and measure the length needed. Add 2 extra feet to allow for draping and tying.

2. Tie one end of the thread to the head of the needle. Tie the other end of the thread into a triple knot.

3. Thread the needle through the middle of a cotton ball, then use your fingers to push it gently to the other end. Tie the end of the string around the cotton ball. This will be the end piece.

Snowball Banner

4. Continue threading the needle through cotton balls and pushing them to the end of the thread until you have the desired amount.

Snowball Banner
Snowball Banner
Snowball Banner

5. Cut the thread and tie it around the cotton ball at the opposite end of where you started. Trim the ends of the thread on both sides.

6. Use your fingers to space out the cotton balls evenly.

Snowball Banner

7. Hang out of reach of toddlers and young children. Trust me on this one. This is a delicate banner and my toddler tornado took the cotton balls off the first one we made in approximately 30 seconds!

This craft is a lot of fun and all the threading helps strengthen those fine motor skills that are so important for so many tasks.

Snowball Banner

The snowball banner is quick, cheap and easy to make and it looks so cute hanging up!

Snowball Banner

It may not be white outside right now, but we had so much fun with these winter-themed activities!

Please join us for A Year of Color next month on February 17th!  February's color of the month will be:

A Year of Color Linkup

Link up your color white themed posts with us all month long! XOXO

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Best Christmas Moments of 2016

Christmas was only 3 weeks ago, but it feels like a lifetime! It's funny how quickly the busyness of life takes over and makes recent events seem like they were so long ago.


We finally took down the Christmas Tree and decor over the weekend, so I figured it was time to get the Christmas recap out of the way, too. I debated skipping it entirely. I put all of my favorite Christmas photos in a folder to crop and upload, and it was unknowingly deleted. (LIAM!!!) I emptied my recycle bin without realizing it, and now all my favorites are gone. I was so upset, but decided to move forward with the photos I DID have and there wasn't much of a shortage...they're just not as good!

Christmas wasn't perfect this year, but it was really, really good! There was a lot of schedule adjustment due to last minute time changes, so we didn't get to spend as much time with certain family members as we had hoped. But the fact that our holiday was filled with so many perfect memories made up for it!

The Best Christmas Moments of 2016

I loved the fact that Christmas Eve was on a Saturday! Grant usually has to go into the office for a few hours on Christmas Eve, but this was the first time in many years that he was home all day. It definitely made it feel more like a holiday! 

Christmas Eve was thrown off quite a bit. We were supposed to spend Christmas Eve with my family from 4-7, then spend Christmas Eve with Grant's family from 7-10. Unfortunately, the time changed for my family so we only had an hour with them before we had to go. That was a definitely a bummer, but it was still nice to see them!

Family Christmas Eve

At Grant's Nannie's house, we followed our usual Christmas Eve traditions. 

We always start with a gift and new pajamas from mom and dad. That way the kids have something to play with and they can change out of their dress clothes!

Christmas Eve Traditions

Every year, since Dylan was born, Grant's mom has given each child a new ornament to put on our tree. She always chooses based on their interests and activities. They love this so much and one day they will have a bunch of ornaments to put on their own tree. This year, Dylan got a basketball, Lexie got a rabbit, Lily got a tiny ballerina (and an extra), and Liam got a monkey hanging on a number 3. They were perfect!

Christmas Eve Ornaments
Christmas Eve Ornament Tradition

After visiting with Grant's family for a few hours, which included a few special out of town family members whom I have never met, it was time to head home. Despite the scheduling snag, it was a happy night with our loved ones!

The Lucky Few

Lily fell asleep on the 5 minute drive home, and refused to wake up for our Christmas Eve tradition of putting out reindeer food and milk and cookies for Santa. Trust me when I say that she was NOT happy about missing it! 

Reindeer Food
Christmas Eve

While the big kids were getting ready for bed, Liam stole one of Santa's cookies and made a huge mess on the floor!

Nothing Down About It

Shortly after, all four rugrats were snug in their beds.

Christmas Eve

A very exhausted Santa Claus was FINALLY able to visit our house!

Christmas Eve

On Christmas morning, at 8:30 AM, I was unable to intercept Lily as she raced to wake her sleeping siblings. It was our earliest Christmas morning to date!


Our Christmas morning tradition is to put on Christmas music, and let the kids open gifts one at a time. Liam goes first, then Lily, then Lexie, then Dylan, then we rotate back through over and over again until all of their gifts are unwrapped. As you can imagine, this takes forever but they love savoring each gift!

Although I won't share a picture of each gift, they all got everything they asked for (their lists were very reasonable) and a few extras, so they were thrilled. It was a lot of fun this year, because Liam was really into it and oohed over each gift!

Dylan Christmas Gifts
Lexie Christmas Gifts
Lily Christmas Gifts
Liam Christmas Gifts

Needless to say, the hit of the day was the Hatchimal. It was all Lily asked for!


The highlight of this Christmas, however, was Lexie's surprise Christmas gift. I can't even talk about it without tearing up! 

This year, just a few weeks before Christmas, Lexie unexpectedly found out the truth. She was a great sport, but obviously had a lot of questions.

Lexie's Christmas list was very small, and she also added a Hatchimal to her list. We already had one, thanks to a best friend's mom's generosity, but as you know, they were impossible to find, especially at a reasonable price. We finally explained to Lexie that we were unable to find one, but we promised her an IOU, so she could get one right after Christmas. Lexie took it well, thankfully, but we still felt terrible, especially since it was her first year not believing.

Two days before Christmas, Grant texted me to say that I would never believe what's in his car. I had no idea, so he finally called to tell me that a dear friend found one and bought it so we could give it to her. He paid double the price, but refused to take any money for it. We were incredibly touched by his thoughtfulness and generosity, and knew that it would make Lexie's Christmas. It definitely did.

We hid that extra gift under the tree and didn't "find" it until the kids were done opening gifts. I got choked up before she even opened the gift, because she was so surprised there was one more just for her. As she realized what it was, the joy spread across her face.

Hatchimal Surprise

30 seconds later, she was crying, because it meant that much to her. She truly wasn't expecting it. She hugged Grant and I, while crying, and kept whispering, "Thank you. Thank you so much."


I will NEVER forget that moment!

Moving on...

After the kids opened their gifts, they exchanged gifts with each other. Dylan, Lexie and Lily bought gifts for their family at their holiday shops at school, and Liam picked out gifts for his siblings.


Sibling Gift Exchange
Sibling Gifts

Grant and I got some extra special gifts, too. Those little trinkets are always my most treasured gifts!

Gifts for Mom

We also received some special handmade gifts from Lily and Liam. I love the presents they make at school!


We ended Christmas morning with stockings and a gift exchange between Grant and I. By the time we finished it was after 11 AM!

Christmas Traditions

We had our traditional Christmas Day brunch, then spent the next hour hatching Hatchimals. I thought they were so dumb and overpriced, but I was pleasantly surprised. The hatching process was really cool and the girls play with them everyday!

Hatchimal Excitement
Hatching the Hatchimals

Early in the afternoon, my parents stopped by for our gift exchange.  My poor mom was really sick, so they didn't stay long. It was definitely nice to see them, even for a short time. This year, we gave my dad an engraved JORD watch and he loved it!


The kids loved all of their gifts, too!

 Gifts with Nina and Papa

After my parents left, an exhausted Liam fell asleep on the floor amidst the messy Christmas aftermath and the older kids happily played with their new toys.


That evening, we went to my sister's house for dinner with some of my family. It was nice to spend a bit more time with them and since there weren't as many people there, it was much quieter than Christmas Eve.


After dinner, we went over to Grant's mom's house to celebrate Christmas with her.  It turned out to be a fun, relaxing evening! We got to see some of Grant's family and a friend joined us for a game of cards.

Christmas fun

And then, things got crazy! 

We arrived home around midnight, and Lexie was dealing with an allergic reaction.  It had started on Friday night, at a Christmas party, after she came in contact with a real Christmas Tree. We got it under control with Benadryl, but you can see the faint spots on her face in the pictures.

Shortly after we got home, Lexie started scratching and saying how itchy she was and that her skin hurt so much. The rash kept spreading and her eyes started to swell. She kept sobbing, "Take me to the hospital! I need help!"

Lexie has never been to the ER, which, ironically, we had just discussed at Christmas dinner, but there's a first time for everything!

At the ER, she was diagnosed with an allergic reaction, and while we were there, they discovered she had strep throat. That surprised us even more, because she wasn't even sick!

We were in the ER until 4 AM because they didn't feel comfortable releasing her until she started to improve. It was definitely a dramatic end to Christmas!


There's definitely more to this story, which I will save for another time. Short version: Lexie appears to have developed a nut allergy! She had several more allergic reactions since then, all following times when she ate nuts. We finally put two and two together and allergy testing is in her very near future!

Despite its dramatic end, Christmas 2016 was full of wonderful memories! It was definitely one of our best Christmases ever!

The Lucky Few

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