Monday, December 15, 2014

Soup For The Soul.......

Only 10 more days until Christmas....are you getting a little nervous or excited yet?  I can't believe that December is half way over ugh....time just seems to fly these days more and more.  I'm trying to slow it all down and enjoy everything as much as I can.

I will share some pics this week of holiday things, but wanted to pop in with one of my favorite cold-weather soups that is easy to make and good to put up in the freezer too.  So make a big batch to enjoy on those days you just don't have time to cook or want to be doing other things ;)

For a printable version of this recipe, click HERE!

Have a wonderful week everyone!!!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Few of My Fave Holiday Gift Ideas....


I just wanted to share a few fun gift ideas that I may have picked up this year for those on my gift list or things I saw that I think would make the perfect gifts.  Last minute ideas and nothing is super expensive!  If you have a super gift idea please leave a comment so we can all see as well....I love new ideas! daughter flies in today from college and gets to stay home for a month..whoohoo!

I discovered these a couple months ago and quickly ordered one for myself.  They are a FANTASTIC and trendy version of a fanny pack for anyone on the go.  I use mine for my phone when I'm out walking or at a yoga class.  They have a zippered pocket that can hold money, ID or keys and then your phone/iPod tucks in as well.  They come in tons of styles and patterns (even swimming versions) and run about $24 each.  So for someone on your list that loves to walk, exercise or just go anywhere really..they are perfect!

The Spice House

Love these spices...concentrated, always great in recipes and so many varieties.  The spices come in so many flavors including mixtures you may have never heard of.   The gift boxes make lovely gifts for your favorite chef or grill-fanatic...or just pick up a few bottles to stick in gift baskets or stockings will LOVE them!

Reusable Juice Boxes

I love items that can be REUSED and while my teens don't drink juice boxes anymore, these are a fun idea for a mom or kid on your holiday list.  After seeing what was in the bottom of some of those packaged juice boxes a couple years ago (MOLD)...I don't think I could ever drink one again.  These are cute, easily replenished and perfect for your kids (or grandbabies).

Portable Bluetooth Speaker (splash proof)

These speakers are great quality, work pretty much anywhere you need to listen to your music.  Great stocking stuffer for teens that you know they will love.  Heck, I want one for myself too!  A few different fun colors as well.

Ticket Stub Diary

I have a ton of tickets from events our family goes to every year in a tix, concerts, etc.  Yep, in just a big box..sitting there...but in a box.  So I thought what a great idea to have a ticket book for each year.  If you scrapbook or Project Life you may like to record them another way. For me at this moment in my life..I know I can handle sticking them in a book once a month and being DONE!

Tea Bag Buddy

I love this little gadget myself... perfect for anyone that loves tea, its a great gift for under $6.
It holds your tea bag while steeping & keeping your tea hot.
Then you can use it to squeeze the teabag and hold it afterwards.
Cute little video on all the fun things it does is here...and it comes in other cute colors!

Shea Butter Cream
Coiled Paper Trivet

I'm a huge fan of fair trade items, especially those made by women in other countries...those starting a business or supporting their families.  And I always buy a few things every year from Ten Thousand Villages...each product has a description of who made it, how and why.  So you are buying a gift for someone AND helping someone else as!  These were the two items I purchased this holiday for some folks on my gift list. I have two of the paper trivets myself and I love them...they've held up well for over 5 years and they just look cool on the table :)

Selfie Poles

Super fun idea for your teens or anyone that loves taking selfies with their phones!
This one has a button on the handle to easily click a photo.  I can't take credit for this friend Sally got me one for Christmas this year and I thought it was a fantastic idea!

Personalized Cutting Boards

I love personalized gifts whether they be for a wedding, Christmas, birth or just because.
I got myself a small engraved bar board a couple months ago and I just love it.  You can never have enough cutting boards in my opinion...use them for parties, use them everyday, or use them to display.  Etsy has so many gorgeous options but I liked this store the shapes and sizes and so many ways to engrave each one.  Perfect gift for someone anytime of the year.

Board Games
My family are HUGE fans of board/card games...we play them over the holidays, on vacations and any other time we are all together.  It is a fun way to connect without technology and really have some laughs and enjoy each other.  We always have a game night on Christmas Eve after we are all snuggled in our new pajammies, drinking some hot cocoa and waiting for Santa.
This Bounce Off game is pretty popular and for under $15 a good addition to your game supply.
May we also recommend a few of our family's favorites too:  Scattegories, The Logo Game, Wits & Wagers, Say Anything and last but not least....Cards Against Humanity (for older teens & adults please lol).

Chapstick Holders

I got all of Alexa's friends one of these for this Christmas.  I thought they were super cute and filled them with their favorite Peppermint Chapsticks.  Cute stocking stuffer gift for any age.  I bought mine on a flash-steal site but found these on Etsy in the same fun patterns.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bring On The Gold Trees.....

Ok I have a super easy, inexpensive and FUN DIY project for you today.  Its so easy that it will amaze you...prepare to be amazed...hahahaha! Just joshin' with you a bit, but it is very easy to do and it's a fun project that kids can help with too (minus the epoxy part).

These gold napkin rings literally takes less than 30 mins and costs between $12-18 to make 6 or more, depending on what you may already have on hand.


Wood Ornaments
Acrylic Paint
Glitter Paint (optional)
Gold Floral wire (12 gauge)
5 Minute Epoxy

I bought these wooden ornaments at Michaels...they are usually a $1 each but I got them for $0.59 each..BARGAIN!  I got 12 of them but only made 6 napkin rings...I always have extras if I need them right?  They had lots of pretty options for ornaments but I loved these swirly trees and knew they'd be beautiful on the table.

I had gold paint and gold-glitter paint already but you can usually buy them for under $3 at most craft stores.  And in any color you want to match your decor or holiday table.  I didn't end up using the glitter paint but it would be a fun option to add on top of your painted ornaments if you wanted more sparkle...sparkle is always a good thing!

I like to paint things like this on wax paper as the wood ornaments won't stick when they dry. I just squirt a blob of paint onto the side of the paper and paint away.  I painted both sides with 2 coats so they'd look nice from any angle..they dry quickly.

Now I didn't take a photo at this point....I was caught up in watching "When Harry Met Sally" and totally forgot...forgive me!  This gold floral wire can be found at most craft stores and also comes in lots of other bold colors too depending on what you want.  But it's 12 gauge & easily snipped with wire snips.  I wrapped the wire around the paint bottle (clever yes haha) 3 times and then snipped.  This gives you a nice mold for the wire rings.  It retails for around $5-10 depending on how big the spools are...use a coupon if shopping at Michaels, AC Moore or Hobby Lobby.  My motto is "NEVER PAY FULL PRICE" :)

Then you need some 5 minute Epoxy which most home improvement stores have and some craft stores do as well.  You don't need anything stronger than this since the ornaments are super light.  This part I think an adult should do if you are making these with your kids...just for safety's sake ok? Add a bit of epoxy to the backside of your ornament in a couple of places, then press on your wire ring and hold for a few seconds until the glue takes hold.  Put to the side and let them dry.

And you end up with these beauties for your holiday table.  Pretty easy right?  You could make so many different versions, in pretty colors to mix and match as well.....lots of fun options for not a lot of money.  I think a set of these wrapped prettily in a box would make a great hostess or holiday gift as well.

I set up an impromptu holiday table in my kitchen for photo reasons only...usually we eat holiday meals in the dining room.  But I loved the way they turned out & am already thinking of making another set so I can mix-n-match them myself.

Nothing better than an easy & inexpensive DIY craft in my opinion!


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Friday, December 5, 2014

Hidden Blessings.....

I'm so sorry but I will have the Christmas projects I promised up next week.  This week I've been battling the horrendous flu, dealing with a husband who hasn't been well himself and trying to finish up decorating the house for Christmas before Alexa comes home next week.  
Phew...suffice it to say, its been a VERY long & exhausting week.  But I need to edit photos and get those typed up for you all and hoping next week is much, much calmer.

I just wanted to pop in with a little post for everyone to ponder over the weekend.  Something that I've been giving lots of thought to myself and thought I'd share...because that's what I like to do is share with everyone.


I wanted to talk about Hidden Blessings....the things that happen that you don't realize until after the fact, or something that you didn't even realize was happening at the time but thought about afterwards. Something that was lifting your spirits, making you smile or easing your pain just a little.  I like to think that these blessings happen to us all but maybe we aren't always so tuned in to what they are or if they even might have helped us.  I think with the busy-ness of our lives, the stress, the long to-do lists, the sleepless nights, our jobs, our families, all those things that pull us that way and this way...I think sometimes we don't notice the little things that have been blessing us all along.

So my hope is that you will stop for a few moments each day or each week and think back on something that helped you in a way that wasn't entirely recognizable at first.  Notice those small things that are bringing you some peace or joy, even if its much later...because when you look back and take notice...that's when the blessing becomes something more powerful in your life.  Similar to a gratitude journal but these are actually blessings you realize later on...not the instant ones although those are always great too.

I notice lots of hidden blessings myself or I try to as I believe that we should focus on the positive more than the negative. It has helped me get through a lot in life..just the simple act of being thankful for the beautiful things and moments in our lives.  And a lot of them are just little things like someone offering a smile & a friendly wave on a day I wasn't feeling well.  Reading a book or story and then later on realizing it helped put a smile on my face or taught me a valuable lesson.  Pondering what to have for dinner when you need to go get groceries and making due with what you have on hand, and later realizing what a simplified & great dish it was.  Taking a quiet walk early in the day and later having a stressful evening, and really being thankful for that earlier time that helped you maintain a level of calm when it was needed most.  Realizing that you ran out of time to get to the store & feeling angry about it, but then found out the next day that there was a terrible accident that closed down the highway while you were out..which would've meant you might have missed your son's school presentation. Lots of these things happen every day but I think most of us dwell on the things that didn't go well, or the stress of an event, or the sadness that we may be enduring. 

Negatives always weigh more than positives....don't let yourself get weighed down by things you can change.

The hidden blessing I discovered didn't even hit me until the other evening.  My husband was teaching a class at Univ of MD and Riley and I were home alone for the evening.  I had the flu and hadn't been able to do much that day other than sit in my chair and sleep.  Riley made me some soup and then he sat with me and watched some sappy Hallmark Holiday movies...not necessarily because he wanted to.  Usually he likes to skype his girlfriend in the evening or play a video game after dinner when homework is finished or watch a hockey game.  So for him to sit there with me and make me some dinner was a blessing...right then and there I SAW the actual blessing.  Of course he complained about how corny the Hallmark movies were, but we laughed and watched them together and enjoyed the always-happy-endings.
 But then I got to thinking later that night and guess what I realized?

I realized that he's been a hidden blessing all along.  Not that he's not been a blessing in my life...that's not at all what I mean, because both of my kids have been.  But with Alexa going to college there's been an emptiness in the house and our lives that I've really missed.  Its really hard to explain unless you've gone through it yourself.  So even though I still have a child at home there has definitely been a "shift" of emotions and things I've missed with having another girl in the house.

As I was thinking on all of this I started remembering how much TIME I've gotten to spend with Riley by myself since mid-August.  Usually its just him and I till the hubs comes home, and if he's working late than Riley and I have dinner together too.  We watch hockey and football games together, we get to watch Colbert & discuss it during dinner, he runs to the grocery store with me, adds more food to the cart (lol) and helps carry in the bags. He brings in the mail every day and we discuss his day at school. I talk him into taking walks around the neighborhood with me even when he groans that he's tired. We have movie dates and pizza nights. He shows me funny videos or memes on his phone.  I cringe at the mess when I go down to his bedroom as he laughs and helps get it cleaned up. Without having Alexa in the house we've gotten to spend more quality time together that wasn't always available with his sister being around.  With more than 1 child you are always divvying up your attention and time as much as possible and sometimes you don't get all the 1-on1 time that you want or need.  So with Alexa having gone off to college now, Riley and I have been able to find that TIME which is I believe is my biggest hidden blessing. Something I hadn't really thought about much until the other evening.  And as our little boys grow into teens its so hard to find that time especially with their MOM...with sports, friends, girlfriends and other things that I like to call "teen boy attitude" absorbing some of that time.  For me its a way to establish a "new" relationship with him as a young man and not a little boy...for me to recognize who he is NOW and find joy in that. To hear all the stories and ideas he feels passionate about even if some of them make me groan inwardly a little hahaha!  Its basically just the joy of having the TIME with him that I won't get back and to really embrace this moment in our lives without sadness.

Because in another year he's off to college as well and to start his new independent and grown-up life. But for me, in the here & now I'm so very, very thankful for this time I've been given with him.  So instead of focusing on the emptiness I feel with my daughter being gone, I am instead concentrating on this hidden gem of a gift I've been blessed to have.  

Even in the darkest shadows I do believe you can find some light.....

So my Christmas wish for all of you this month, which can sometimes be the most stressful time of the to have many hidden blessings.  And most importantly for you to have a moment to recognize them all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Curl Up In Your Chair.....

Holiday Curl-Up-In-Your-Chair Books

Just popping in real quick....I promise to type up a post tomorrow on another holiday project.  I've had some ongoing things that have sucked my time the past 2 days but they're coming I promise. Today I'm off with my friends for a Holiday Tea at the looking forward to visiting, laughing and just some good times with my girly friends :)

I wanted to post a couple of Christmas Books that I thought you might enjoy.  These are a mix of brand new books and some oldies...and all are heartwarming, easy and light reads that will warm your soul!  Enjoy!
The "Christmas Tin" is my BookEndz bookclub pick for the month.  It was my favorite holiday of the 14 I've read and its free if you are a Amazon Kindle Unlimited member...or $2.99 reg price. Worth every penny I swear.  If you want to see other bookclub picks or other book recommendations you can join our club on Facebook HERE...everyone is welcome.

There are not enough words to describe how I feel about this book...I enjoyed every moment and page and was sad to see it end. A real page turner that makes you smile all the way down to your feet.

This is a good, one-sitting read while curled up next to the Christmas tree and enjoying a hot beverage. Page turning and heart-warming....

The Santa Letters
This is an oldie but a goodie...I found it on my bookshelf and wanted to mention it because I enjoyed it so much when I read it.  Its not available on Kindle but you can probably find it at your library.
This book showcases the true spirit and meaning of Christmas. I might've teared up a couple of times but don't let that deter you because its worth the read.  Filled with lots of love & Christmas joy too!

And how can you forget a good & enjoyable read by Debbie Macomber?  This time she's written a Mr. Miracle story...if you are familiar with her Mrs. Miracle books then you will definitely want to read this one as well.

Enjoy your holiday reading!!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving.....

For those celebrating the holiday, I hope you enjoy every minute of your family, friends, football watching, food & dessert eating, holiday shopping and whatever else you may do the next few days!

We are headed to the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor for the holiday.  Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday (gasp..I know) so I prefer to spend it somewhere and just relax and be with my family.  We are having dinner in Alexandria and then movies back at the resort...Friday we will see the ICE "Frosty the Snowman" show before we come home.  

And on Saturday we will be hunting our family room Christmas tree at our local tree farm, decorating, drinking homemade hot cocoa, and watching ELF :)
Good times.....

This girly got back on Tuesday night and we are thankful we flew her home early because of the weather and snow issues.  First thing she did was come in and snuggle with all the cats...and of course Winston was first!  Its her first time home in 4 that was way too long. She flies home Sunday morning and then she will be back Dec 11th for a month...yay!

Tuesday night I made Alexa's favorite dinner and there was lots of rowdiness during and after dinner....just like ole' times LOL!

Wednesday we woke up to this white stuff...yeah can you feel how thrilled I am? NOT!
Thankfully it started raining a bit and most of it is gone today but still pretty chilly.

And Wednesday Alexa's BFF Grace came over for the night.  Lots of pizza eating, watching Home Alone and playing Cards Against was lots of fun!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Dean Family!

I hope you enjoy your holiday!  I will be back on Monday with more Holiday projects for you...stay tuned. But for rest of week & weekend I will be enjoying spending time with my family!

Hugs & Love!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Painted Snowy Mason Jars....

Over the weekend while the boys were away & I had the house to myself I worked on 7 different holiday projects...yes 7..and all but 1 are actually completed hahaha!  Sometimes its easier to do a lot at once when you already have a good mess going right?  And I watched "Sleepless In Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally" while crafting....two of my most favorite movies so it was all good.  I think my dogs might've gone to bed with glittery fur that night too...hmmmmm ;)

So first on my project list to share with you today are my Painted Christmas Mason Jars.  I've seen these painted mason jars ALL over the web and I've been biding my time to make my own version. I had everything in my craft supplies for this project except for the paint so the total for this cost me a nice $4...can't beat that!


Jars (cleaned & dry)
Paint (any acrylic or chalk paint works)
Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
Sand paper or block, emory board
White Glitter (I used Diamond Dust)
Clear Glitter (I used Tim Holtz Distress Glitter)
Modge Podge or other thick glue
Chipboard Letters
Snowflake punches, thick white cardstock, or pre-made snowflakes
Paper Dimensionals

Mine aren't even mason jars...they are spaghetti jars I've saved and washed out...I cannot throw out a perfectly good jar like these ya know.  I used Martha Stewart's paint in Cloud (satin finish) and just painted it all over the clean jars making sure to paint from top to bottom each swishing it in every direction. (Chalk Paint would work great too) 
Let first coat dry and then add second coat..then let them dry overnight.

After they are thoroughly dried, then you can sand them to your heart's desire.  I used an emory board to get in the letters a bit more and then the sanding block for the larger areas.

I wanted the tops of my jars to have a fun, glittery & snowy look.  So I used a heavy modge podge glue and dabbed it along the top and dipped each jar into some of the Diamond Dust (which is a thicker white/clear glitter).  After dipping I patted it on to make sure it was coated well.

Then I used my snowflake punches and punched a variety of sizes out of some thick, white cardstock.
Then each snowflake got a coating of glue and both kinds of glitter as well.
The chipboard letters I painted white and then added glitter to them as well...this time I only used the Tim Holtz Distress Glitter in Clear Rock Candy.

I hot glued the snowflakes in layers and then glued them directly on my jars.  But I wanted my letters to POP out a bit more from the jars & really stand out.  So I used these dimensional stickies (if you are a papercrafter they look familiar)...only I hot glued them on the letters and then the jar so they'd stay stuck really well.  Otherwise they would probably fall off easily on the painted jar since they are meant more for paper.

I added some twine just to the first jar and tied in a bow...I liked the contrast.
You could also punch snowflakes out of kraft paper and have a variety of colored snowflakes.
Lots of fun options....

And this is what you end up with...I just love how they turned out and the pretty soft gray-aqua color.  They will look beautiful in my finished basement rec-room (its all choc brown, black, white & aqua).
I put flameless battery operated candles in each so they will glow softly when the lights are dimmed.

I would NOT recommend using real candles due to saftey burning stuff down folks!!


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