Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cruise Day 2- November 2nd

If you are just joining, catch up here to see what I am sharing about in the coming days & weeks!
-Day 1
Day 2, Sunday, November 2nd

                We weren't sure when we woke up if the ship was observing daylight savings time or not. After a call to guest services, we were told they weren’t so we are currently an hour ahead of those on EST. We had an 8:30am get together with others on our roll call and it was 8am when we got up (thinking it was 7am). So we quickly got ready to head down. One of the gals made everyone a door sign with their username and first names, which was a complete and lovely surprise! (many people decorate the doors of their staterooms). The cruise line then holds a raffle for some prizes for the people who are on the roll call. We won 2 free in room movies (that normally cost $13 each!) and after it was over, 2 other people gave us their in room movie prizes so we have a total of 6 free movies if we get a chance to use them.

A glimpse of the rough seas.

                During our get together, the captain shared over the pa system exactly what all had transpired overnight (remember I mentioned things flying around our room at 5 am with closets and drawers flying open?) He said we had had over 20 foot waves and around 5am, we experienced a rogue wave!  Do you know how HUGE & RARE that was?
  1. "Rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, extreme waves, and abnormal waves) are relatively large and spontaneous ocean surface waves that occur far out at sea, and are a threat even to large ships and ocean liners."
                Just to put it in perspective, check out this photo I snapped in St. Lucia of our ship. You can see from a distance the damaged lifeboat. When you see it from this far, you realize just how huge that wave was that hit us!
Click on photo to enlarge

 This wave took out 2 lifeboats, almost knocking one into the ocean. Deck 4 has a deck to sit out on which meant when this wave hit, it shattered the glass doors. They had a stairwell closed down for 2 flights as well as the whole back end of elevators so they could dry out the elevator shaft and recertify that they were safe after at least 4 tons of water came on board.
The glass was shattered from these doors when tons of water came barreling in from the rogue wave.

               I heard some of the lounges experienced damage as well when the wave hit, knocking glassware off shelves. In addition to the rough seas, we were also experiencing 50-60 mph winds. The captain stated due to the rough seas & wind, that no one was able to go outside currently.

The view of the damaged lifeboat that came crashing down onto deck 4.

               After our get together, we ate breakfast then the girls headed to the teen club and we took Erik & Olivia up to register them for their club. Normally their ages would be separated but since there was only 1 other child there, they said they'd keep them together. Kevin took Ava for a walk in her stroller while I finished unpacking.

                In the afternoon, everyone met back in the room and we decided to head up to Dizzy’s lounge (this overlooks the pool deck and provides a great view of the ocean). The kids wanted to play card games that we brought along. When we got up there, we saw all the seats were taken, so we decided to check out the lounge next door and were amazed to find not only the place deserted but filled with a bunch of toys! I had heard that there was a special place for kids 3 & under to play but didn't know where it was. What a godsend this place was!!! There was a table for the older kids to play card games, a place for the littles to play and since it was next door to Dizzy’s, the view was the same!! I was able to finally start working on my journaling of the trip since this room was enclosed, the little ones couldn't run off. I know we will be spending a lot of time here!

The girls looking out at the rough water from their play area.

             I had just got done saying to the kids & Kevin that this is almost perfect when I looked outside and my jaw dropped. Right off to the side of the ship was the biggest, brightest rainbow I had ever seen!!!! It literally appeared out of nowhere. Tears just poured down my face as I KNEW it had to be a sign from Noah! This is our 4th cruise and I have never seen a rainbow over the ocean like that!! In fact, a double one started forming as well! This rainbow lasted a good 30 minutes, I was just in awe. Unlike its instant appearance, it ever so slowly started to fade away. If we had sat at Dizzy’s like we had planned, we never would've seen the rainbow but because this lounge was off to the left, it sat straight in front of our view. I am sure not many people saw the rainbow due to its location. There are just no words to describe how beautiful the sight was!!

This is an unfiltered, unedited photo. The rainbow truly was this bright!

              After letting the little ones burn off some energy for 2 hours, we headed back to our room to start getting ready for our first formal night. We love getting dressed up since we never get to wear formal gowns back home. I helped the girls do their hair, saving Olivia and Ava for last. As we walked to the MDR, the kids got lots of comments on how great they looked.

Notice Olivia's little purse on her shoulder, ha!

Our headwaiter Dario cutting Olivia's food for her!

During this meal, we finally met our head waiter (each table has a head waiter, waiter and assistant waiter). He is a very personable guy from Croatia and spent a lot of time talking to the kids. Usually the head waiter just makes a stop by the table to check in but he went out of his way to serve us personally!

Olivia giving her ketchup smiley face a thumbs up!

               In fact, he drew a smiley face with ketchup on a plate to go along with Olivia’s food that he also cut up for her! This time when it came time to hand out dessert menus, the waiter automatically gave Olivia one! Ha I had buttered, garlic scallops for my appetizer and a yummy salad topped with grilled salmon for my entrée.

              After dinner, Kevin, Olivia and I headed out to the promenade which is a 3 story, open area that spans a good length of the middle of the ship on deck 5. There are shops, lounges and a little café in this area. Tonight was the captain's welcome speech. For a brief time, they hand out free champagne and you have a chance to get your photo taken with the captain.

Olivia & I talking to the captain

            The older kids had taken Ava back to the room as they wanted to change to get ready to head to clubs. Olivia was such a hoot walking around, all dolled up carrying her little purse. In fact, we got stopped by an older British couple who asked to take her photo. She and I also had our photo taken with the captain.

             By this time it was around 8pm and we headed back to our room. The girls left for clubs and I went and got my nightly snack of sushi to bring back to the room, ha! Erik attempted to go to his club again tonight but there were only 2 younger girls there. Normally when there are a few more kids, the clubs are a lot of fun but it’s hard for the staff to do many activities with hardly any kids there. Tomorrow we will inquire to see if he can be bumped up to the teen club because of this.

All photos can be clicked on to enlarge. The photos I am sharing are a combination of ones I took as well as my kids and husband on a variety of cameras and iPhones, hence the varying quality.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Do NOT Throw Out the Turkey Carcass!

For the love of all that is good and healthy, PLEASE refrain from throwing out the turkey bones and junk on Thanksgiving!!!

WHY you are asking??

What if I shared with you how easy it is to save money in making your own broth. BUT not just ANY broth. A HEALTHY broth that will help boost your immune system and give you a whole bunch of other health benefits!

I've got your attention now! Who doesn't want to be healthier, especially using something that most people will just throw out this time of year?!

Have you ever heard of bone broth? No? Well let me just share a few benefits that come from consuming bone broth.

  • Bone broth is an excellent form of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, all in an easy to digest form for your body.
  • This broth produces a gelatin that is healing to the mucous lining of the digestive system, especially good for those with intestinal issues.
  • If you have inflammation due to autoimmune issues or inflamed joints, this broth contains chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine which helps reduce inflammation and calms the body.
  • There is also collagen in this broth which is good for your skin, hair & nails!

Ok, enough with me listing the health benefits (and if you don't believe me, just google "bone broth" and you'll find lots of articles and people recommending it!)

Bone Broth

After you picked off all your meat, grab your crockpot. Put the bones and skin in it. Chunk up the following into big pieces:

2 carrots
1-2 onions WITH the skin on
3-4 gloves of garlic (cut or smashed)
4 or so stalks of celery (with leaves is fine)
2 bay leaves
some parsley (if you have it, I've made it without)
2-4 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar, the higher amount if you have a large crockpot (this is the KEY to extracting the nutrients! I personally use this apple cider vinegar due to the great health benefits it provides)

Once you have everything in the crockpot, fill it with water and turn on low. Let this simmer for a good 24 hrs. I typically start this in the evening after our meal and cook it about a day & a half. I'll even ladle out a few cups to drink (with a few pinches of celtic sea salt added in). Just replace with some additional water if you do this. It is SO delicious to drink!

Let it cool then strain. I fill lots of small containers and freeze it then to use for soups and casseroles. This broth tastes much better than anything you'd buy in the store, plus it saves money AND is so good for you! A total win!

You can also do this with beef bones as well as chicken bones.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cruise Day 1- November 1st

If you are just joining, catch up here to see what I will be sharing about in the coming days & weeks!
Day 1, Saturday, November 1st

                As typical, I didn't get much sleep Friday night as I had so much on my mind before we left for vacation. In addition, Ava didn't sleep well and was up 3 times, probably due to teething. I ended up being up for the day at 2:30am. The older 4 kids were awake before 6am and the littles were up by 6:30. We finished up some last minute things and loaded up our van. I was surprised that I was able to condense our luggage to 2 large suitcases, 3 small suitcases, 1 garment bag, 1 duffle bag of shoes and a small box of consumables like diapers, wipes, etc (that way I could throw the box away on the ship and have 1 less piece of luggage to drag home). Not bad for 8 of us for 15 days!

Missing from photo is the garment bag.

                Around 8am, our friends Dolly & her husband Shawn arrived at our house. They graciously gave us their time to ride with us to bring our van home. Typically we leave our van at the port in NJ but since this was a repositioning cruise (one that starts at one port and ends in another), we couldn't do that. We left our house a little after 8am. It was an overcast, rainy day. I was really hoping for a sunny day for sail away. We made great time getting to the port as we arrived by 10:30 am. We had a bit of a wait in the car line but once we parked, we unloaded our luggage and said goodbye to Dolly & Shawn. Our luggage was loaded into a huge bin and we headed to the terminal to start the boarding process.

                During our previous 3 cruises, we got through this process very quickly with little waiting so we were surprised at the amount of time we had to spend in line. Once we got checked in, we sat in the terminal waiting for our number to be called so we could hop on the bus for the short ride to the ship.

                Prior to our cruise, I participated in an online roll call where you can meet people online ahead of time that will be on the same cruise as you. Many of these people we've sailed with before and we've kept in touch over the years, even sailing together again on other cruises. We also got to know some new people in the months prior to today. So while we were waiting to board, several people from our roll call came up to say hi to us and finally meet in person after talking for months. (they knew to look for the family with all the kids haha!)

                We finally boarded around 12:30 and headed to the Windjammer, which is the buffet dining on the ship. After a little bit of a wait, we finally got a table and some food. We all just sat there saying wow, we are FINALLY here! We sat there eating with a cloudy view the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty can be seen slightly to the left of the center of the photo.

                Once our rooms opened up, we went there to leave the few things we carried on. We have 2 interior connecting rooms which is what we've done in the past so we knew exactly what they would look like. At 3pm we had our muster drill which is where each person reports to their emergency station to go over the life jacket process and what to do in case of emergency.

This is the view of our room looking in from the door. There are 2 bunks that fold down from the ceiling. Our room connected to this and looked identical except our beds were connected and we had a pack-n-play squeezed in.

View from the bed looking towards the door. Desk & closet on left, bathroom door on the right and a single chair just barely seen in the corner of the photo.

The tiny bathroom where you could practically shower, brush your teeth AND use the toilet all at once. HA!

                We were supposed to sail away at 4pm but we were delayed until 5:10. We had been on a semi-enclosed deck outside but after all that waiting, the little ones were getting cold and antsy. Both hadn't taken naps since the cat nap in the car so Susan & I stayed on deck and the others headed back inside. We tried waving a big towel so those watching us sail away on the webcam could see us. But according to the texts I was getting, we were too tiny to see. Ah well, I looked like a goof waving a towel for nothing then!

The teardrop memorial as seen from the ship. It's from Russia in honor of the 9/11 victims.

Sailing under the bridge.

Just as we are under the bridge.

Short video clip as we started to go under the bridge. There is about a 6 foot clearance from the highest point on the ship to the bridge.

                Once we had finally left and sailed under the Verrazano Bridge (with only about 6 feet of clearance!), we headed to dinner in the Main Dining Room (MDR). We had the perfect table, right by a huge window and in a corner which I was hoping for. I knew the little ones would be more content if we weren't in the center of the dining room.

The clouds were finally lifting by the time we sat down to eat so we were able to catch a glimpse of the sunset. And since we didn't observe daylight savings on the cruise, we got to experience sunsets many evenings during dinner!

 Dinner each night consists of an appetizer, main course and dessert as well as a choice of rolls from a basket that the waiter brings around. When it came time for dessert, the waiter passed out menus to everyone and skipped Olivia. She gave the waiter a funny look and he asked her if she wanted a menu and she said yes please and proceeded to take the menu and act like she was reading it!!! When he came around to take orders, she held the menu like she was contemplating what to order and said, “I will have ice cream, banilla (vanilla) please.” The waiter was almost in stitches!!!

                After dinner, we headed back to the room so I could start unpacking the few pieces of luggage that had been delivered. The girls had a meet & greet in the teen club at 8pm with a party following at 10pm. I had gone down to guest services earlier in the day and while there, I had inquired about the number of kids on board as I knew there weren't going to be many. They said there were 19 teens and only 8 children!!! Out of those 27 kids, 6 of them are mine, ha!! In fact, Ava & Olivia are the youngest on board with the total number of people being 3,031.

                While unpacking, we noticed the ship was starting to rock more than usual. The captain had said that we were heading into rough waters, so we weren't surprised. Typically when we sail out of the north east in November, we experience rough seas until we are past Cape Hatteras. About 8 pm, I ran up to the Windjammer for a snack of sushi that I took back to our room. I was up on deck 11 for that (our room is on deck 6) and boy did I really notice the ship rocking! Everyone was swaying as they walked

                Overnight, we had a rough night in more than one way. Ava was up for about 2 hours and just would not go back to sleep. Looking back I am wondering if she was feeling seasick as she has never done that before.  We heard the wind howling (and we don't even have a balcony!) and the few times I was out of bed with Ava, I had trouble walking. Eventually Ava fell asleep in bed with us around 3:30am. I happened to be awake around 5am when I felt the ship slam around in a way I never experienced in all our cruises. You could feel the whole side of the ship rise up and then crash back down (before this, the rocking was side to side). At the same time, all our drawers came flying open then slammed shut, which happened about twice. Anything that was on shelves and wasn't secured went flying off. It wasn't until the next morning that we heard about what all had happened during that time!

All photos can be clicked on to enlarge. The photos I am sharing are a combination of ones I took as well as my kids and husband on a variety of cameras and iPhones, hence the varying quality.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Vacation Overview

If you saw my post the other day, I eluded to a 2 week vacation that we just returned from a few days ago. We were gone November 1st-15th on a repositioning cruise on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. This was our 4th time on this ship. She was making her last trip from New Jersey and we were thankful for the deal we got that allowed us to sail on her one more time.

Our itinerary included the ports of:

  • St Maarten
  • Antigua
  • St Lucia
  • Barbados
  • Curacao
  • Bonaire
  • Aruba
4 of the ports were new ones for us. We also had a mix of days spent at sea which we enjoy as well. The 2 weeks honestly flew by and before we knew it, we found ourselves sadly back in the cold weather with half the month of November gone.

I journaled our adventures each day while on vacation and will share each day in it's own post along with photos here so stay tuned!

Love Letters from God: Review and Giveaway!

We love books in our house and are always on the look out for new ones to read. I was recently sent a copy of Love Letters from God to review. It is written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Sophie Allsopp.

What is it?

Love Letters from God is a beautifully written book that takes 18 well known Bible stories from both the Old and New Testament and shares them in a way that makes the stories relatable to children. Each story has a title with the scripture reference listed right underneath as to which Bible story is it about. The stories talk about the Bible character and what situation they are going through or facing and how it got resolved. There is even dialogue written out as to what they might've even said or prayed which helps bring the Bible stories to life for children.

At the end of each story is a box called "God's Wonderful Words to You" which shares a Bible verse that sums up the story you just read and give an assurance of God's love & promises that ties into the story.

In addition to the well written story, beautiful illustrations and Bible verses is also a "Love Letter from God" in the form of a flip up section at the end of each story. Before you open it, it looks like a letter received in the mail with a stamp & postmark on it. Once you open it, it starts out with saying Dear ________ which allows you to write the child's name on it to personalize the letter. Each letter sums up the story that was just read as if God was recapping it to the child. The letter also encourages and reminds them personally of His love while reminding the child that they too can strive for the same characteristics each Bible hero had (strength, wisdom, faith, etc).

At the end of the book there is a personal invitation that is written out just like an invitation would be. In it, it invites the child to become part of Jesus' team, assuring the child that they can always have Jesus with them. On the opposite page is a blank letter that allows the child to write their own love letter to God.

My thoughts:

This was such an enjoyable book to read with my youngest 2 children. The target ages for this book is 4-8 but I felt like children both younger & older than this would enjoy reading it. I found that the stories were scripturally sound (in that they didn't add or take away from the Biblical account). Sometimes reading the Bible stories straight from the Bible to younger children makes them difficult to understand or relate to for a child but this book bridges the gap and helps them relate and understand the story better. I did make sure my children knew that the love letters weren't truly written by God himself but rather what someone thinks God would be saying to them if he was sitting right by them talking to them in conversation.

This book is a hardback book with a cover jacket that looks just like the outside of the book. Each story spans 2 pages so it makes it easy to see everything all at once while you are reading. It would make a wonderful, personalized gift for your children or grandchildren!

Want to win your own autographed copy?? Enter below! Giveaway ends November 25th at 5pm EST.

I was given a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion. No other compensation was given. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ahh Back to Reality!

Things have been a bit quiet around here at TLB and my Facebook Page for the last month or so. In addition to the busyness of daily life, I was preparing our family for a 2 week, international vacation. As you can imagine, there is a LOT to do to get ready for vacation for a family of our size. That alone could be a blog post all in itself, ha!

Missing from photo is a garment bag. Not bad for 8 of us for 15 days where we can't do laundry!

We are home now and working on getting back into the swing of life while trying to adjust to the frigid temps we came home to. As we were on vacation, I journaled our adventures. Over the coming days & weeks, I will be sharing here on the blog each of our 15 days we were away as well as photos from our trip!

So stop back and find out where all we traveled, what we did and the sights we saw!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I'm not sure when or how I tripped across this song a year or so ago but it left me in tears. The beginning of the song mentions about a baby being taken from his mother while she prays for healing that doesn't come. It goes on to speak about us being held by the only one who can hold us as everything falls around us and reminds us that we can still survive.

It sums up a lot of my life these last 4 years since Noah died.

I was and am still held, and by God's grace, I'm still surviving.

by Natalie Grant

Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling

Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
Were asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it's unfair

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

If hope if born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our savior

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

My life verse since I was young:

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pumpkin Pancakes

Ahhh yes that time of year.....apples, pumpkin in many forms (coffee & cappuccino anyone?) as well cool, fall nights. We've been itching to make some goodies using pumpkin and one of our latest creations was pumpkin spice pancakes. These were a hit with everyone. The pumpkin isn't strong tasting for those who don't like an overwhelming taste of it. The hint of spices rounded out this yummy breakfast and it couldn't be complete without the dollop of whipped cream on top!

pumpkin spice pancakes

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
1 cup milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices and stir with a fork to combine.  Mix together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg and oil or butter in a liquid measuring cup.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together just until combine.  (The batter may still have a few lumps – that is okay.)

 Heat a greased skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Once the skillet is hot, add a 1/3 cup scoop of batter to the pan.  Let cool until bubbles begin to form on the top surface.  Carefully flip with a spatula and cook the second side until golden brown, a couple minutes more.   Repeat with the rest of the batter until it has all been cooked, regreasing the pan as needed.  Serve with cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, and/or whipped cream.

*note, I doubled this recipe with my family which gave me a few left overs. These also freeze well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Clued in Kids

Clued in Kids, treasure hunt

My kids love games and treasure hunts so they were excited when we were recently asked to review Clued in Kids. They have a variety of scavenger hunts available in both a physical book as well as PDF downloads. We received the Slumber Party Clue PadPrincess Treasure Hunt Clue Pad, and the PDF download Winter Treasure Hunt.

What is it?

Clued in Kids is not just your typical treasure hunt with simple clues. This company has taken a unique approach to an age old game and gave an educational twist to it.Throughout the clues, kids will find themselves using logic to complete puzzles or unscramble words, math to solve problems that unlock letters, telling time as well as other skills that are incorporated in to helping them solve each clue.

There are a wide variety of themed scavenger hunts to choose from. You could either order the physical product online, or purchase a PDF file that can be downloaded immediately and printed to be used right away.

How it works:

For our Princess & Slumber Party treasure hunts, it was simply a matter of tearing each clue out from the book and reading at the bottom of each clue where to hide it. Each hunt contained 12 clues as well as an answer sheet of where each clue is hidden.

Setting up the PDF Winter Treasure Hunt was easy. I was given a link to download the PDF that I then saved and printed the 8 pages it contained. Each page contained 2 clues that I had to cut apart. From there, it was the same as using the physical product in that I hid the clues where it stated to on the bottom as well as having an answer sheet of where each clue was hidden. These scavenger hunts do not come with a prize to be found at the end but that's ok. It allows the parent to be creative in what they hid as the treasure!

Once I figured out what treasure I was going to hide, I worked on setting up the scavenger hunt. I had the kids all go into one room so I could hide the clues. Examples of hiding places were in the dishwasher, by a doorbell, by eggs, near toothbrushes, in towels, under the couch, etc. If by some chance you don't have a hiding place that the clue suggests (say a microwave), you can just hold the clue and make your child do an activity (like jumping jacks) to receive it when it comes time for that clue. It only took me about 5 minutes to set up the entire treasure hunt.

Because some of these clues required multiplication and unscrambling of words, I had my older children help my little ones. It's a great way to teach teamwork! There is also a spot at the top of each clue that you could write in a childs name to assign specific clues. I left those blank as I wanted my kids to do each clue together.

My teens thought they would breeze through the clues but they found some of the puzzles took them a little bit to figure out. My only suggestion would be to have an answer sheet for these for the parent to reference as I admit there was one or 2 that I wasn't sure of right away.

To my childrens surprise, there weren't just riddles & puzzles they had to figure out but also silly activities they had to do! I could only get my 3 & 11 year old to do them as my teens didn't want their photos or videos taken while doing it but they did have fun watching. Some of these silly activities involved snorting like a pig while reading, dancing on your front porch in your pjs, make headgear out of toilet paper and walk the catwalk, walk around the room balancing a book on your head, etc. Many laughs ensued as they did these activities.

Watch this video to see some of the activities in action!

It took my children about 20 minutes to complete each hunt though I imagine if you were doing this with a larger group of kids and only had 1 child complete each clue, it would take a lot longer. I think these treasure hunts would be great for birthday parties, sleepovers, playdates or something to save for a rainy or cold day.

Finding the "treasure", which was a rare treat of candy! And no, that wasn't all for her!

Even though each hunt is done in similar fashion (puzzles to solve, activities to complete, etc), each treasure hunt had clues and pictures that went along with it's theme. The slumber party hunt used objects and clues that would go along with a slumber party as well as silly riddles that you can imagine a group of kids giggling over.

The winter treasure hunt included cold weather items such as snowflake pictures, riddles that have to do with winter activities, hiding clues with pjs and using winter clothing for a funny dress up dance.

The Princess Treasure Hunt used pictures of knights & jewelry to solve clues as well as having the child practice their best curtesy or bow. This would be a fun hunt for a princess themed birthday party!

Clued in Kids can be used with children as young as 4 and can be adapted for older children as well. While 1 child could do the treasure hunts, it certainly is a lot of fun with multiple kids & ages. Stop by their website and check out their free puzzle maker to make your own scavenger hunts as well as check out their Christmas Products available.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gluten Free Molasses Oatmeal Bars

I was recently looking for a new recipe to try using blackstrap molasses and coconut oil. Why those 2 things? Well, the health benefits of both are great!  

Blackstrap molasses is a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and a whole host of other essential minerals. Seriously look it up some day. One of the simple ways I consume it is to heat a mug of water up, add a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses (it sort of tastes like black licorice) and squeeze half a lemon into it. Makes a great morning tea! 

Coconut oil is also great for your body, both inside and out! You can use it on your skin as a moisturizer as well as using it in cooking. It helps boost your immune system, contributes to weight loss, kills viruses, helps digestive issues and so many more things! You can use coconut oil like you would butter in cooking. Or if you enjoy coffee, make a cup of bulletproof coffee using coconut oil.

Back to my newest recipe. I know most recipes calls for baking molasses so I set out to try using my blackstrap molasses and this recipe turned out great! I used blackstrap molasses & coconut oil from Golden Barrel. If you don't have these products in your local store, no worries! You can order them online. 

My other challenge for this recipe was to make it gluten free. AND I did! To make sure it's gluten free, use gluten free oats, gluten free flour and make sure your baking powder is aluminum free.

If you've never used coconut oil, it is typically solid. Once temperatures reach about 75 degrees, it does turn liquid which is perfectly normal. (that's how I knew my house was warm over summer time! Ha!) I simply melted it down for this recipe which made it easier to blend. You could measure it out like you would crisco.

Once your ingredients are combined, it does produce a thick batter which you need to spread out. These molasses oatmeal bars come out thin like you would expect a bar to. I would imagine doubling the recipe in the same size pan would give it more of a thicker, cake-like texture. Either way, these bars came out so soft!!! They tasted good both warm and at room temperature. It reminded me of a mix of gingerbread and molasses, it felt like Christmas time on my tastebuds, yum!!

Gluten Free Molasses Oatmeal Bars

Gluten Free Molasses Oatmeal Bars

1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses (1/3 cup if using regular)
3 Tbsp of coconut oil, melted
1 egg
3/4 cup gluten free flour (or use regular)
1/2 gluten free quick cooking oats (or use regular)
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8x8 pan with non-stick spray. Mix together brown sugar, spices, molasses, oil and egg. Add in oats, flour and baking powder. Spread in a baking pan and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Disclaimer: I was provided a jar of both products in exchange for coming up with a recipe to share using their products. All honest opinions are my own.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumpkin Pretzels

Ah fall is definitely in the air and with it, comes the fall crafts and food. I came up with a fun and easy project in the kitchen to do with the kids. We made pumpkin pretzels!! (no, they do NOT taste like pumpkin, they just look like pumpkins!)

Pumpkin pretzels

mini pretzels
green M&M's
a bag of white chocolate chips
1 Tbsp of shortening
food coloring

Lay a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet. Place your white chocolate chips into a microwave safe dish with the shortening. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each time. Do this until the chips are melted. Add food coloring to achieve orange color (this is a mix of red & yellow). Dip pretzels in the orange-colored chocolate then lay on the cookie sheet. Place an M&M at the top of the pretzel for the "stem". Once you have your dipping done, place the tray of pretzels in the fridge to harden up.

Pumpkin Pretzels

I also have other holiday inspired pretzels! Check out my Shamrock Pretzels and Santa Hats!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Preschoolers and Peace

When I first started homeschooling, my children were close in age (4 children in 3 years) so it wasn't too hard when we started homeschooling as they all worked together. But we went on to have more children. Now I have preschoolers all the way to high schoolers and I'm finding myself in new territory. I recently heard about Preschoolers and Peace and was quite intrigued. Kendra Fletcher started the blog and went on to compile her best tips in the ebook Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling older kids with success while loving the little ones at your feet.

Preschoolers and Peace

This 47 page ebook is an easy read for the busy mom. She broke the book down into 13 chapters that include:
  • What a Homeschooling Mom Needs
  • Preparing Yourself to Homeschool Older Kids With Little Ones Underfoot
  • Planning Around Preschoolers
  • How Do I Keep Them Busy?
  • What Does a 2 Year Old's Day Look Like?
  • How Do I Get Any Pre-schooling Done?
  • How Not to Just Kill Time
  • Circle Time, or How We Pull the Little Ones In
  • Preschool Boys
  • When All of Your Kiddos Are Preschoolers
  • Preschool Chores
  • Planning for Preschool
  • When Mama is Worn Out (or Pregnant)
At the end of the book you'll also find a menu planning guide, a word of encouragement and a resource page. The resource page ties in with many of the chapters throughout the book by having clickable links that take you to the authors favorite resources which I found quite invaluable!

The author is a mom to 8 children ranging in ages 20 to 5 so she truly gets what homeschooling is like in the trenches with a broad age of children. I love how she not only shares her tried & true suggestions and tips but she also shares her heart.

She hit the nail on the head by stating that preparation is the key to successful homeschooling! One of the first steps to preparation she said is simply starting your day with prayer. I loved her suggestion of a prayer box by taking all those photo Christmas cards you receive and pulling them out during circle time to pray for those families.

Kendra also shares how she teaches her little ones to get into habits to start the morning off well. She feels that starting a routine when they are young, will help them once they get older in becoming more independent. She goes on to even show what a schedule looked like for each of her children with their ages listed.

I think one of my favorite sections of this book was when she shared ideas of how to keep toddlers busy! Some of the things she shared we already do (like rotate toys, helping mom with chores, make forts, etc). But I also gleaned some new ideas which I needed.

Have you heard of Circle Time? I hadn't known there was a term for this but this is something we do that is also talked about in Preschoolers and Peace. It's a time when you can gather all the children no matter their ages and do things together as a group such a prayer, memorization (which could be of planets, Bible verses, poetry, etc). We also use this time for a short devotion and right now we also do history as a group. Kendra also said she wrote an ebook about Circle Time that comes with planning pages.

We are big fans of starting our children out very young with simple chores and I appreciated how the author highlighted this same thing. She went on to list ideas of chores that a 2, 3, 4 & 5 year old can do.

I only scratched the surface of sharing about this wonderful resource. Preschoolers and Peace was an encouraging ebook to read and one that I know I will continue to reference the next several years. It's available to purchase for just $2.99 for the ebook. This book is geared towards moms!

Connect with Preschoolers and Peace at:
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