The Adventure Starts Here

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Color, Craft, Creat | Gift Baskets Galore!

Today I'm participating in a Gift Basket Blog Hop!  I'm a huge fan of themed gifts and putting everything in a basket just makes it that much prettier!  So after you check out one of my favorite gifts to give, head on over to the other blogs and get even more gift basket ideas!  

In our house, Santa leaves Noah's filled Christmas stocking in his room.  It was a tradition from my dad's family that my parents continued on with my brothers and me.  When we woke up, we were allowed to open our stockings until it was time to go downstairs and see what Santa left under the tree.  I'm not sure why my paternal grandparents did it this way, but I know that my parents loved it for the same reason that we continue doing it this way with Noah.  I like the idea of going downstairs as a family and waiting to open gifts.  But with the excitement of Christmas, waiting can be hard on kids.  With the stocking in the room, it buys some time and keeps the little ones occupied.  As a child, I got up super early and then preceded to wake up my brothers.  By having the stockings to open, it gave my parents some time to either sleep in a little longer or take a shower and get dressed before rushing downstairs.  And while Noah isn't waking any earlier in anticipation just yet, I like that it gives me some time to brush my teeth (and take out my retainer), get dressed, and maybe even put some makeup on.  

But leaving the stocking in the bedroom isn't a quick fix, you have to smart with what you fill the stocking with in order to gain the most amount of time.  Our strategy is to fill the stocking with books to read, coloring and activity books, and some stickers and a new box of crayons.  Chris and I then take turns getting ready while the other one stays with Noah and uses some of his new activities.  Noah got this Astronaut Sticker book last year and was obsessed with it.  He almost didn't want to go downstairs to see what else Santa brought because he was having so much fun.  You can bet he's getting another one just like that this year!  Usborne in general has some really amazing books and are perfect gifts!  

Noah is a huge fan of crafts and anything remotely artsy.  So this year, I'm taking it to the next level and making an art basket to give to him along with his regular stocking.  It will be a mix of things he can do immediately in his room with a few more involved projects that we can do another day.  

This art basket is not only a great stocking companion, it would also be a great standalone gift for any young child.  If you are giving it to a child that's not your own, I have two helpful guidelines.  

1.  Make sure that whatever you include in the basket is enough to complete a full craft.  Nothing's worse than trying to make something and realizing you don't have glue, scissors, or crayons.  While you may assume everyone has these supplies on hand, this gift should be self sufficient.  And in my experience, it never hurts to have an extra pair of scissors or a new box of crayons! 

2.  Try to keep the messes involved to a minimum.  While we paint and use play-doh often in our house, I know many moms who want nothing to do with it in their own homes.  So be respectful and stick with things that won't ruin their furniture.  And when in doubt, throw a smock in their just to be safe ;)

Noah loves these and the monster version!  He would happily make all of them at once, but I usually like to spread out the fun and limit him to one a day.  This would also be a great gift for a family with multiple siblings.  They could each make an animal and then have a little puppet show!  

While we have our own supply of watercolors and tempura paints, when gifting to another child, it's not wise to assume that they will have the same supplies.  I love these because there's a sheet of water color paints at the top of each paint.  You just need some water and you can paint a page with the paint provided.  

Noah loves to color, but he especially loves when stickers are involved!  They come in Trolls, PJ Masks, Avengers, Finding Dory, and Disney Princesses to name a few. 

Noah loves these.  He will do them at home and we often bring a few on long car rides.  Just fill the brush with water and go!

They make a variety of vehicles, like planes, cars, and monster trucks.  They also make a princess carriage and butterfly magnets

This is my favorite smock since it covers Noah entirely!  Noah kind of looks like a surgeon when he wears it too ;)

Then head to Target and your local craft store for some affordable coloring books, crayons and colored pencils, stickers, glue, scissors, pom poms, and some foam shapes to decorate.  

My favorite part of an art basket is that you can spend as little or as much as you'd like on it.  You can find coloring and activity books for as little as $1-$2.  You can include a bag filled with pom poms, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners for really cheap.  And I personally love the pads of stickers Michaels sells for 99 cents!  And if you want to spend a little more money, you can easily pick and choose a few of the $5-$10 craft sets that any child would love to have!  

So grab a basket, fill it up, and if you want you can even throw a bow on it.  But trust me, once a child sees all the cool stuff in there, they won't care less if there's a bow on it or not!  

And check out these other amazing gift baskets!  I can think of someone on my gift list for each and every one of these baskets!  

Hostess Gift Basket - I Love You More Than Carrots
Craft Beer Gift Basket - Ellie & Addie
Coffee Lovers Gift Basket - Chasin' Mason
DIY Money Tree - Seeing All Sides
Homemade Hot Chocolate Gift Basket - Running From The Law
Champagne Gift Basket - East Coast Chic
Spa Day Gift Basket - Secrets of a Stay At Home Mom
Kids' Art Gift Basket - The Adventure Starts Here

*affiliate links may be used... see my disclosure for more information

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Getting Crafty for a Good Cause

Noah and I love to do art projects.  I'm also always on the lookout for ways to give back to the community.  So when I found a way to combine the two, I jumped at the opportunity. 

We have a VA Hospital in our town.  There are many veterans that live on the campus and will be there over the holidays.  Last year our MOMS Club made some handmade holiday cards to give to the veterans.  I am now the community service coordinator for our chapter, and definitely wanted to continue on with this great service opportunity.  This year, they were not only looking for holiday cards, but for some homemade crafts that they could use to decorate the common areas.  I quickly sent out an email to my fellow MOMS Club and then started searching Pinterest for some ideas! 

For holiday decorations, we stuck with a Christmas tree theme.  I loved this idea I found on Pinterest where you cut out a tree, tape it to another piece of construction paper, and then paint the entire thing.  Then when you remove the tree cutout, you have two pieces of art work.  Two decorations for the price of one!   

First, we stuck with painting the tree all one color.  But then Noah got creative and not only painted the tree two colors, but wanted the star to be yellow.  I really love how they turned out!

Next up, was this modern and colorful take of a forest full of Christmas trees that I also found on Pinterest.  While I painted a watercolor sky, Noah preferred using a blue crayon.  We then covered a second piece of paper with glue and tissue paper squares (in a variety of colors).  I then cut out a bunch of triangle trees and added them to our winter scene.  We finished it by adding some paper hole punch snowflakes.  This was Noah's favorite part and is now obsessed with the hole punch!  

Now that our holiday decorations were done, Noah made a few cards.  I gave Noah a folded piece of card stock, some foam Christmas cutouts, and a bunch of Christmas stickers, and he got to work.  I love that we've been using these Christmas stickers for the last few years and we still have tons left!

I am so pleased with how everything turned out.  Noah and I both had a lot of fun making these crafts together, but it makes it even better that we are giving them to the veterans.  I'm really excited to see what the other MOMS Club members come up with!  The veterans have given us the greatest gift of freedom, and making a few crafts is the least that we can do for them.  I hope that we can make this holiday season a little brighter for them!  

What are some ways that you give back during the holiday season?  I'm always looking for new ways to get Noah involved.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Andes Mint Cookies

There are certain flavors that I start to crave around the holidays.  And mint is one of those flavors.  I'm a huge fan of mint chocolate chip ice cream and get strangely excited for the Andes mint chocolates that Olive Garden gives you with your check.  Noah seems to share my love of mint, so I decided now was the time to make some Andes Mint Cookies.  

I usually bake with Noah, but recently the cookie recipes I've been making require me to make the dough and then refrigerate it for a couple of hours before baking.  So instead, I've been having him help me with the measuring and mixing, but then do the actual baking on my own.  While it was a change of pace for me, there was something about baking these cookies at night that made it more calm and relaxing.  Perhaps it was the soft glow from the stove light and the glass of wine I drank while waiting for the oven timer to ding.   

Andes Mint Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies


1.5 sticks of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips


Cream together the butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar until lightly and fluffy with a handheld or a stand mixer.
Add in the egg and cream everything together.
Slow mix in the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt until the cookie dough has formed.
Fold in the Andes Creme De Menthe baking chips.
Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator at for least 3 hours or up to 72 hours.  When ready to bake, the dough may be too firm to work with, so you may need to let sit on the counter for an hour or so.  
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
Scoop 1.5-2 tablespoons of cookie dough onto the cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Since Noah went to sleep before I baked the cookies, he was very excited to see them sitting on the counter when he woke up.  He was so excited to try one that he begged to have one with breakfast.  He definitely preferred these over the dried cranberries in the last cookie we made.  Not surprised coming from a 4 year old ;)   

Now excuse me while I finish off this whole plateful of cookies myself... they are that good!   

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I'm linking up with Chasin' Mason, Work It Mommy, Seeing All Sides, and Sweet Turtle Soup for their Foodie For a Year Linkup.  Head on over to check out a bunch of other Holiday Goodies!   

Stephanie at Wife Mommy Me | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram
Becky at BYBMG | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram

Monday, December 5, 2016

Santa 2016

Noah has an interesting relationship with Santa.  He's a huge fan of him... from afar.  He loves to talk about him and even watch him from a safe distance.  It's just going near him that he isn't interested in.  As he grows up the more I'm learning how much of an introverted personality he has.  I don't want to push him into unnecessary situations that make him anxious.  So while we did take him to Santa, when he wanted Chris and I to go up with him, we happily obliged.  Noah didn't cry or anything, but he barely said a word to Santa and wouldn't even give him a high five.  Sitting on his lap or taking a photo with him by himself was out of the question, so we got another family Santa photo this year.  He asked Chris to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas and only spoke when we almost forgot to tell him one of the items on his list.  He still didn't speak to Santa directly, but rather spoke to us to remind us before we left.  

While Noah is hesitant about meeting Santa in person, he's more than happy to write him a letter.  I found this "letter to Santa" on Pinterest and had Noah write his wishlist.  While he's only asking for 4 things, they are all really long words.  I was impressed that he stayed interested and was able to write everything himself... with help from me on spelling ;)

On Noah's list:
Stellosphere (from Miles From Tomorrowland) - it's massive but it's the toy he's most excited for
Batman Helicopter (Imaginext) - when writing this on his list, I told him to write it on two separate lines (since I wasn't sure he'd fit it all otherwise).  He was really concerned that Santa would think he wanted a Batman and a regular Helicopter.  I told him not to worry, Santa would know!  
Lion Guard Lair - There are two sized lairs.  I was worried he wanted the big one, but thankfully talked him into asking for the smaller one!
Lion Guard characters - He loves playing with little figurines.  I'm surprised most by his request for Lion Guard toys since he doesn't even watch the show, but he's set on it.  

Once his letter was complete, we headed over to Macy's to drop it off in the Santa mailbox.  He was very excited to put it in the big red mailbox!  Macy's sells little red mailbox ornaments with the year on it, so we of course had to get one!  This will be his 2016 ornament so we can always remember this was the first year he wrote his own letter to Santa!

How do your kids feel about Santa?  What's on their list this year?

Visiting Santa 2015, 2014, 2013

*affiliate links may be used... see my disclosure for more information

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Buddy the Elf Shenanigans 2016 - Week One

Last year was the first year we did the whole "elf on the shelf" thing.  We decided to wait until Noah was old enough to really appreciate it.  While our elf doesn't cause problems or make messes, he does move around each night and get himself into some pretty funny situations.  And while I would love to take credit for Buddy's creative shenanigans, I can't... it's all thanks to Chris.  As soon as we started talking about starting the elf on the shelf tradition, he was vocal that he wanted to have creative control.  He comes up with all the ideas, executes them, and then sends me nightly photos of what Buddy is up to.  Every morning, I record Noah looking for Buddy.  Even though Chris can't be there every morning, he at least gets to see his reaction (which is usually pretty funny) on video... and I get to have a month's worth of videos for documentation purposes!  

Over the next few weeks, I hope that by sharing Buddy's Shenanigans, I can give you some inspiration, or at the very least put a smile on your face :)  And if you want to look back at past Buddy posts (from this year and last), you can see them all here.  In addition to my weekly recaps, you can also follow along on Instagram (hashtag #buddytheelfshenanigans2016 )

Buddy arrives for our North Pole Breakfast...

Buddy takes a sweet bath...

Buddy practiced his building skills...

Buddy's helpful even in the bathroom...

Buddy helped us kick off the first day of our Advent calendar...

Bedtime is the right time to fight crime... I can't think of a rhyme

Buddy wanted to be tall just like Noah...

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Have a great weekend!  I hope your elf stays out of trouble :)

Friday, December 2, 2016

2016 Christmas Home Tour

Welcome to my home!  I'm so excited to share how I decorated our house for Christmas this year.  As I've mentioned many times before, Christmas is my FAVORITE holiday and therefore I love everything that goes along with it... especially decorating!  This will be our third Christmas in this house.  I feel like each year is a learning experience where I try out new things and figure out the things I love or not so much.  The first two Christmases, we were making some pretty large purchases in order to start our Christmas collection.  From our artificial tree, to the garland and outdoor wreaths, none of it is cheap.  This was the first year we didn't make any large purchases and instead just added a few new smaller touches.  

First up is our living room.  For the most part, this room is very similar to last year.  The tree is still filled with sentimental ornaments and has the same star and tree skirt.  I once again lit the tree with a combination of small and large bulbs to give it some dimension.  I used the same beaded garland and red bows that I added last year.  The only difference is that I added some sprigs of red berries... and I love it!  

The biggest change in this room is my Christmas village collection.  While the houses aren't new, how I displayed them keeps changing each year.  While I can never be sure, I think I've officially found my favorite way.  The first year, we had them lit up and displayed on our dining room buffet.  Last year, we had them on a bookcase shelf, but they weren't plugged in and lit up.  This year, since Noah is now old enough to be careful with our decorations, I decided to display them on our sofa table. Noah has been really good with not touching the houses.  We did have a few broken pieces, but that was my fault when I was taking them out of the box.  Nothing a little super glue couldn't fix.  Noah does however like "driving" the red truck ornaments to the different buildings ;)

I love that they are in our living room but can all be lit up.  And just as I did with our tree, I have plugged them all into a power strip (using some extension cords) so that I can leave each individual switch on and control it all with the power switch on the power strip.  I love that with one switch, I can turn all the houses on and off each day.  We have the same set up with the tree lights, star, and the garland.  It makes life so much easier!   

 houses from Michaels 

I also added a new pillow to the mix this year and switched up the garland on the stairs.

 pillow from Home Goods

Speaking of the garland on the stairs... this was my biggest annoyance this year.  Originally I had planned to upgrade my garland.  I had contemplated using real garland, but after getting some advice, went with some artificial garland from Costco.  The garland was absolutely beautiful, but the lengths of the garland made it a little tricky.  One strand wasn't long enough to do the stairs, but two strands was too much.  I ended up buying three, hoping that we could make it work on the stairs and the landing, but it just looked funny.  While the Costco garland was much cheaper than other stores I've looked at, it still wasn't cheap.  So instead of hanging something that we didn't love, we opted to return it and stick with our old garland for the time being.  We did however hang our garland a little differently this year, and I'm liking it a lot more.  I'll spend the next year brainstorming for next year!  

 Mistletoe "ornament" (old Target)

Next up is the kitchen.  This is the first year I really decorated the kitchen other than adding some festive dish towels.  I added some artificial branches and hung some mini boxwood wreaths from the windows.  Right now they are attached with ribbon and painters tape, but I think I will pick up some 3M command hooks for a sturdier hold.  I love how some simple touches add a big impact to our kitchen.  

A Christmas candle, poinsettias, and some wine always help me get in the Christmas spirit!

Last but not least is our dining room.  It's a nice mix of keeping some of the decor the same from last year while adding in a few new accessories (Target is my weakness!).  Just like last year, we won't be hosting a Christmas dinner this year.  So instead of setting the table, I opt for a casual table that is ready for whatever board game or puzzle we want to do.  I love adding a few decorative touches to the gold tray that can easily be moved out of the way if we need to use the entire table.  

gold tray | poinsettia | snowflake napkin holder | reindeer (Target)

I displayed my favorite nativity set on the buffet again this year with some artificial trees on either side.  I love the addition of this felt Merry Christmas banner that I found at Target.  I am obsessed with red buffalo plaid, so I just had to get it!  But this isn't our only nativity set, Noah also has his own.  He's learning all about Jesus' birth at school, so it's nice for him to come home and be able to play with his own set too, since mine is definitely off limits!  He's already excited about being a shepherd on Christmas Eve when we act out the nativity with his cousins!


While I've tried to decorate our house with a mixture of old favorites and just enough new touches to keep things interesting, one thing will always be the same.  This right here is my favorite spot to sit at night.  Now that it gets dark so early, I love spending the evening hours, curled up on the couch, looking at the glow from the Christmas tree!  

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I'm linking up with Our Pretty Little Girls and Wife Mommy Me for their Holiday Home Tour!

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