Thinking Outside the Valentine Box

Valentine Box or Decoration

Yea, we know.  It’s practically Valentine’s Day. Where’s that Lovezilla “love day” post?  Well, here’s a little beauty that will light up your Valentine’s Day porch or a room in your house. We bought some inexpensive packing boxes. 14x14x14. You can purchase them anywhere: Target, Walmart, even the grocery store for about $.75.  Then, using all those 90% off Christmas lights we found (or you already have) we made a light up decoration that was pretty slick and easy. First, decide which design you would like. Because it’s Valentine’s Day we chose a simple “x” and “o”, and the word: “love”, but a heart shape would be great as well. Any month of the year has endless possibilities: A shamrock for St. Patrick’s day, U.S.A. for July, a pumpkin or “BOO” for a Halloween. How about your child’s name, Happy Birthday, or a gender reveal? Hmmmm. I’m rambling.  Anyway, with a piece of chalk or a pencil, sketch a pattern of your choice on the box.  Then, using a small screwdriver or even a pencil, poke holes through the box following the pattern.  The holes should be about one inch apart and large enough to just barely push the lights inside.  Set the box up leaving one side open.  Start with the plug less end of the string of lights and push the lights through the holes from the inside of the box.  Pop, pop, pop.  Easy.  Be sure to leave enough cord to stick out of the box when you close it.  Every so often I had a light that slipped out and wouldn’t stay.  If that happens, use a glue gun to put a tiny spot of glue near the hole.  Problem solved.

Love lights

You can paint the boxes, Mod Podge them with cute paper, tie them together, or stack them.  Put them on your porch, in your family room…. You got this.  It would be THE coolest Valentine box if you used a battery operated light string.  You’ve got a couple days.  Hurry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frozen Party: Some People Are Worth Melting For…

Frozen Cake

Parties are hard, but truly some people are worth melting for…(or having a melt down for).  BUT , “Let it go, let it go”…. and face it.  If you have kids you may be giving a FROZEN party.  When  I told my  5, (soon to be 6 ), year old daughter this was her “not party” year, she was crushed to the core.  She wanted a “Frozen” party.  Obviously, this should have been a, “sorry, but no”, however, there IS this blog thing….

The middle of January was a great time to have a party because Christmas stuff is practically being thrown at you by all the stores. All the party decorations: lights, lights, more lights AND snowflakes, icicles, silver and blue Christmas decorations were all 90% off.  This party was spectacular and totally on the cheap.  We had the party at night because when the children came in and all the lights were on it was GLORIOUS. Really.  It took their breath away.

Frozen Party Olaf poster

We turned a free printable from Disney (found here) into a poster from Sam’s Club and used him as a welcome decoration on the door for the party.

Frozen Party Olaf Welcome

 

Who doesn’t love Olaf?

Frozen Party characters

I made the cake at home with a flower mold ( any shape would be great), and used icing to make a snowflake pattern on top. It didn’t have to be perfect because we used a Frozen character figurine set purchased from Amazon (found here) on top of the cake. I made ice cream scoops earlier and put them in cute cupcake wrappers. They were sprinkled with blue sprinkles. I served the ice cream with cupcakes that were also decorated with blue, white and pink candies and sprinkles.

Frozen Party Cake Display

 

I placed the cake on a clear ice bucket turned upside down.  I put lights underneath the ice bucket  so when the room was dark it would look like a lit up frozen ice castle. The lights I used were similar to these . They are battery powered so there were no cords to worry about.  I used the cardboard scene from the box of figurines inside the bucket to hide the lights and add to the flare.  We also used blue Hawaiian Punch  mixed with 7-up or Sierra Mist in a drink dispenser that had small glow stick bracelets underneath it!  ( I know right?)

Frozen Party Hair Clip

We made beautiful snowflake hair clips.  I cut out the snowflake shapes out of felt and glue gunned them to the clip.  The girls picked colors and assembled their hair clips with sticky gems and glue dots.

Hair craft idea from spoonful.com

Frozen Party Ice Painting

As the children were arriving, they colored coloring book pages from the movie. It was a great activity to do while they waited for everyone to come.  After all the children had arrived, they painted snowflakes on black paper with equal parts Epsom salts and water. I found this idea on My Sister’s Suitcase.  The kids loved it.  I told them to look at their paintbrushes and make sure they could see the “ice” sticking to their brush , that way they would know their snowflakes would turn out extra icy and sparkly.

Frozen Party Icicle hats and Sven antlers

 

I purchased “Sven antlers” from JoAnn’s on Christmas clearance. * If it’s not Christmas time, you can find a pattern to make tiaras and antlers here.  The princess ice castle tiaras  and glowing  “icicles” were purchased at Zurchers.

Castle Icicles

We played FROZEN Freeze dance with the “icicles” from Zurcher’s that were: $ .53  yep. (They are really foam sticks with lights).  It was so fun to play in the dark with the glowing icicles.  We played songs from the Frozen c.d. and then turned off the music and yelled,  “FREEZE”!  This is the world’s shortest video of the freeze game.  (We said THE shortest).

Frozen Party "Freeze" Dance

The kiddies left with a lot of loot.  Their hats or antlers, glowing icicles, snowflake pictures and a cute favor.  these favors were actually  “It’s a boy” suckers, from the baby shower section of  Walmart.  They already had the “thank you” stickers to put on them.  Blue and white swirls for a frozen party?  Perfect , thank you.  I used the remainder of the pictures from the figurines to decorate the box.  The children took one as they left.

This party was such fun and truly magical  for the kids.  It was inexpensive and I’ll use all the ornaments and decorations for Christmas next year or other parties.  If you missed the Christmas clearance, you may have to dig around in your basement and haul some lights again, but hey “let it go”!

Frozen party favor

Christmas Light Basket

Christmas Light Basket

Finished product

This picture does not do this basket justice.  It really is beautiful. Beautiful, and super easy to make. This one took about forty five minutes. It would be a fabulous gift and would be a great addition to your Christmas decorations because it adds light and a festive atmosphere wherever you put it. It can be simple, made with just a few objects, or a fun and light-hearted basket with children in mind. You could use lots of colors and ornaments with a theme in mind. These baskets make wonderful “solo” decorations for a college dorm, apartment, grandma’s house, retirement center, small apartment or office even a hospital room. If you make them as gifts, you’ll definitely on the “good list”

Plug in your glue gun so it can heat up while you stuff the basket. To begin, simply loosely roll up a paper grocery bag and push it into the basket to form a mound.

Christmas Light Basket

Pinecones and Lights

Next, begin gluing pinecones to the mound in the basket. Place them 1-2 inches apart until they have filled the basket. Leaving the plug side of the lights outside the basket, begin to wind the lights around the pinecones. Don’t worry about it looking perfect or completely filled in because you will be adding pine pieces and ornaments and berries to fill in.

Christmas Light Basket

Add Tree Branches

 

Now just cut your pine boughs off the wreath and glue them in strategically around the pinecones and lights. Add berries, ornaments, bells, small wooden toys…the possibilities are endless with themes and colors you may pick.

Make one. I make one for someone every year. It’s fun, fast, and easy. Try it. Make it merrily.

 

Putting the Candy in CandyLand

Candy Land

Why haven’t I thought of this before? I’ve asked myself that question 20 times this week. While traveling in San Diego I found and bought a “chocolate” version of the popular children’s game, Candy Land. I bought it from the Candy Bandit in a boutique called: “Lucky U” in La Jolla. Anywho, as the mother of young children I’ve decided this is a great way to use up old Halloween candy or just make the stakes higher in a friendly game of Candy Land. It would be a fun tradition for your family when you have a night at home, or a great activity when cousins or friends come over. It might even be fun to have several games at once for a birthday party. Face it. Candy Land with candy automatically makes YOU the coolest. Candy Land is one of those games everyone seems to have, especially if you have young children. And candy? Sadly I could head in several directions in my home and find a treat. O.K. Treats… With an “s”. The rules of Candy Land are simple and with the added bonus of a treat here and there…I mean come on. My kids are going crazy for it, but it could just be the sugar talking…

Candy Land Chocolate Edition
Play groups, Activity Days, Cub Scouts…Yep and Yum.
Candy in Candy Land

 

Unite To Fight

Unite to Fight

Unite to Fight

We began our last blog entry with the sentence, “We’ve had quite a year “….Well we HAVE.

We’re two sisters.  We don’t live particularly close to each other.  My mom would call us “G.U.’s.” which means: “geographically undesirable”.  I’m Laura, the oldest, the youngest is Christi.  We are 15 1/2 years apart.

My kids are nearly grown:  High school, college, and a college grad.  Christi’s are still medium to bitty.  When we first started this blog, I kid you not, we checked the stats every 10 minutes.  We called each other jumping up and down like heroes when a new person logged on.  I think we went to lunch when we had a hundred hits. Truly.  Looking back on it now, it’s a little embarrassing.  Now, hundreds of thousands of hits later we go to lunch on a regular basis to “plan” which really means “eat” and sorta-kinda make plans.  But, like I said before, we’ve had quite a year.  Today at our “planning” lunch, Christi mentioned that we’ve slacked off quite a bit and that our blog doesn’t seem personal enough.  It’s true.  Let me tell you why.  Some parts are hard, and some are happy.

Last November I felt some pain under my armpit.  It started to hurt enough to wake me during the night.  I was a breast cancer survivor.  8 years.  My husband made an appointment with a doctor in March.  The doctor didn’t seem worried and said she could feel something, but was pretty sure it was my surgical ridge from the surgery 8 years earlier.  We looked uneasy, and I had pain so we proceeded just to be safe.   A week or so later I had a two-hour mammogram.  Four days after that an ultrasound.  By then I knew the drill.  Lots of clicking around in the same place.  No one said anything to alarm us, but… been there, done that.  I have already had a mastectomy, hysterectomy, reconstruction and two pulmonary embolism that caused me to go “man down” out of the shower and bust my eyebrow open. “This ain’t my first rodeo”.  My sweet sister died of a brain tumor almost 18 years ago.  We understand cancer.  We’ve been the recipients in this family.

Anyway, the next Friday, I had a biopsy that sent me through the ceiling.  I shook all day.  I’d never had such a painful procedure, (and I’ve HAD that very procedure).  The doctor told me not to leave the office without selecting a surgeon, because no matter what was happening, my nerves were involved and I needed surgery.  They weren’t kidding.  They wouldn’t let us leave without a consult appointment.  They handed us a pamphlet with names, faces and bio’s so my appointment could be scheduled that Monday.  Names and faces of people I knew nothing about.  They asked me who I wanted.  I said, ” An Ivy leaguer who didn’t cheat on the tests”.  My husband scanned the pamphlet and knew a surgeon.  He’d grown up on his street as a boy.  Done.  Selection made.

My husband picked me up at work the day of the appointment.  I could tell by the look on his face he had already called for the result.  I asked him if my cancer was back and he said, “Yes”.  Yes. I was numb.  Not again.  The bald head, the sickness and vomiting, pain, the sores in my mouth, feeling sooo tired all the time, trying to act brave so your family isn’t terrified.  We won’t talk about expense, that’s a given.  I’m 8 years older. 8 years whimpier.  I didn’t know if it would be easier because I knew what to expect or more difficult because I did.

How would it turn out this time?  Was I filled with cancer because it had been growing for 8 years?  Was it too much to ask to be spared again?  Was I praying harder when I needed something?  That’s what I was thinking.  What would I tell my kids, my family, my friends?  I was quietly panicking as I thought to myself: “Good job girl, you did it again, you’re officially a professional service project.”

I  had surgery the last day of March.  They removed two tumors.  One the size of a racquetball and the other, half the size of a hotdog bun.   That’s how I can justify my fat arms.  (However, I do have ANOTHER fat arm with no Cancer).  My chemo would start in a week or so.  Six times with two weeks in between.  They had to leave a bit of cancer in my arm so it wouldn’t lose abilities, so there would be 6 weeks of radiation 5 times a week after that.  Okay.  Armor on.

It sucks.  It does.  I’m not brave all the time.  I cry and get grumpy.   I rag to my poor husband who never complains and takes me to every appointment and chemo.  He listens to me bellyache.  The whole family does.  I do my best, but I am tired of it.  I hate the way I look because I’m bald and a bit chubby.  I use false eyelashes so I can slap a hat or wig on and push trough the day without too much pity.

Yet, even with everything I am grateful.  So grateful. I’m grateful because all that cancer stayed in the same place.  It grew for 8 years and didn’t metastasize.  Thank you Heavenly Father.  I’m grateful because I have it in me to fight, to straighten my crown and walk like a boss the heck out of that infusion room.  I’m grateful for family.  I’m grateful for friends who are like family who have helped us in so many ways and means we couldn’t list it and get it right.  We won’t forget though.  Not ever.  These good people have touched us to the depths.  August 16th, 2013 was my last chemo. TADA!  I’m half way through radiation, it’s just now starting to feel pretty miserable.

A week or so after the surgery to remove my cancer, my dad and mom were on a walk together when a neighbor backed out of the driveway, and hit my mother.  She was knocked backwards and received a head wound that took her life.  She was probably killed then instantly.  My dad tried mouth-to-mouth and CPR.  A neighbor called an ambulance and firefighters who all tried tirelessly to revive her.  She was rushed to the hospital with my father following behind them in the car.  He called me and asked me to call all my brothers and sisters and their spouses and told us where we should meet.  We were put in a room together.  She was taken to an emergency brain surgery, but she didn’t survive.  We were, are, and will always be devastated. She is such a part of all we are as a family.  An accomplished artist, with beautiful paintings permanently displayed In Colleges, libraries and homes.  She was a tireless volunteer.  She taught children to read for over twenty years.  She is an incredible person.  She was a giver of all she had, to all she knew, all the time.  She even gave in the end as an organ donor.  Still giving as others live on.

Life isn’t easy. We have and then we don’t.  People, healthy bodies, life, things…  It’s a lot.  Everyone behind every door, is suffering somehow, maybe not out in the open or in ways that are obvious, but they are.  It’s devastating to lose someone you love.  But it does give you a perspective you can’t get any other way.  It can help you grieve for others and empathize in a way you couldn’t before.  It’s a perspective that can help you along in life as you remember the things in life that matter the most.  The little things, that are really the big things.  You know what and who they are. Sickness does the same thing. Perspective.

In your life if you are struggling, if the people around you are too, straighten your crown, walk like a boss, and keep going.  You can do it.  You can.

Before any of the hard stuff happened, and then during it all, these two sisters started working on an App together.  It is called: “Tic Tac You” by lovezilla.net. THAT was fun and happy.  THAT was another reason to go to lunch.  It’s a family friendly App that’s available in iTunes.  Because  we take fighting personally, we will donate 20% of all sales during the month of October to Huntsman Cancer Institute for cancer research.  We would love to make a dent in this world.  We know and love the fighters, we are in their corner.  We will win!


“Tic Tac You” Is Finally Here!

Tic-Tac-You App Icon

After much waiting, Tic Tac You is FINALLY here.

We’ve had quite a year.  Really.  We LOVED starting a blog and creating ideas.  We loved other people’s ideas and meeting together to plan what we’d do next.  We don’t live particularly close to each other.  My mom would call us G.U.’s. which means: “geographically undesirable”.  Who knew when planning what we’d do next, it would include developing an App?!

After many months, blood, sweat and tears, our App is finally available for purchase in the iTunes App store.  We are really proud of the finished product.  It is a completely family friendly game that your kids will LOVE!  Let me tell you a little bit about it:  We put a spin on the classic game Tic Tac Toe.  You play the game with your friends and family featuring pictures instead of the standard X and O’s .  Tic Tac You is a game starring YOU with anyone or anything as your opponent. Tic Tac You is an easy strategy game that can be played by the whole family. This game is so simple and fun, anyone can play! To begin a game, take a snap shot of yourself, others or objects with our in app camera or use existing photo’s from your camera roll. There is a warping feature that can turn it into a hilarious masterpiece.  You can play multiple games at once, or use the “Pass and Play” option. Search for friends via Game Center and let the fun begin.  Click here or on the icon above to be directed to the iTunes Store to buy it…go ahead, we’ll wait…

 

Altoids Tins Are Curiously Helpful

Headphone holderI am a runner.  I love saying that.  There are no requirements to be a runner, other than actually running.  There is no test to pass.  When I run I HAVE to listen to music.  It helps my mind not listen to my body trying to talk itself into turning around and crawling home.  I love my little Altoids tin turned headphone holder.  It’s perfect for throwing in your gym bag or putting in your running shoes so you never leave home without them.  And what’s better than not leaving them at home is not having to detangle them!  I used Mod Podge to attach an inspiring saying.  The instructions are the same as the Tooth Fairy box found here.  Just so we are all clear, you don’t even need to exercise.  Not having tangled headphones are always a bonus, but if you do exercise, happy trails!

Emergency Fire Starter

Fire Starter 

In the last 4 months, we’ve had: ( no lie), no power, frozen pipes, two floods and a broken water heater. Obviously it’s time for another emergency preparedness tip. This ones a cinch to put together and hopefully will NOT be needed anytime soon.
This emergency fire starter kit can be kept on hand in your storage or garage or thrown in with your camping gear.
We used a plastic container simply because it’s not breakable. This container originally held miniature marshmallows, but any jar will do.

INSIDE THE JAR:
Wooden “strike anywhere” matches
Cotton balls or make-up removing pads dipped in wax*

We cut a piece of sandpaper to fit under the lid for a quick match strike pad, but you could just put a piece inside the jar.
The wax dipped pieces insure something dry to start a fire in your fireplace or campfire and they are great fuel! We made several to put in different locations in the house and out. We hope we don’t need them but they’re there.
These kits would be fun to make with a group of scouts or as a family if you pick a night to discuss emergencies. You could even make some as gifts for your family member’s emergency kits.
Be prepared. Not scared. That’s our motto.

* We dipped the cotton balls/ pads in melted scented wax that was ready to be dumped.

Sixth Sense Cookie Butter Brownies

Brownies

Cookie Butter Brownies

These are delicious and very easy to make. We got the recipe from Lauren’s Latest and from the moment I laid my eyes on these babies, it was like I knew they were going to be sinfully delicious.  I highly recommend the frosting.  Another use for the Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter besides eating it with a spoon.  Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour

for the cookie butter frosting-
3 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons cookie butter {or peanut butter}
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a glass 9×9 square pan with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
In a small pot, melt butter, chocolate chips and cocoa together over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Stir in eggs, 1 at a time and vanilla. Gently stir in all dry ingredients until just incorporated. Pour into prepared pan and bake 20-30 minutes or until just set. Mine was done right at 20 minutes, but my oven is also hotter than the sun. Set aside to cool.

For the frosting, stir butter, cookie butter, vanilla and powdered sugar together until a thick paste forms. Stir in milk carefully and then mix vigorously to smooth out any lumps. Spread over brownies, cut into bars and serve.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate Chip Cookie

 

Look closely at this picture. Is this cookie literally winking at me? Yep, and it tuns out I am quite smitten as well…Now get inside my belly! This chocolate chip cookie may be the best we have ever come across. We make every recipe before we put it on our blog, so obviously we MUST eat everything too. It’s tough on us, but we live to serve. Try it. It’s a classic.

We got the recipe from Mom’s Who Think.

Ingredients:

2 cups + 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature*
1 Tablespoon milk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips**

*Melt the butter if you prefer chewier textured cookies. (We melted the butter for our cookies)

**Increase chips to 2 cups (12 ounces) if you like a lot of chips in each cookie (this will also increase the overall sweetness of the cookies)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda, set aside.

3. Using a mixer; cream together the butter, milk, brown sugar, and white sugar until thoroughly blended.

4. Add in the egg, the egg yolk, and vanilla and mix until well blended and smooth (about 1 minute).

5. Slowly blend in the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Do not over-mix.

6. Add the chocolate chips, and mix until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter (about 30 seconds).

7. Drop by rounded 2 Tablespoons (use a cookie scoop or combine 2 Tablespoons of dough into a rounded drop) onto the prepared cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Repeat until all dough is used.

8. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes in the preheated oven. The cookies should have golden brown edges and soft centers.

9. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.