Mobirise

    



Hi! My name is May. I've been blogging since 2009.

1950s housewife to the bone.

I'm a lifelong foodie, raised in restaurant kitchens and with Sunday dinners at my grandmother's.

I homeschool my three children in Los Angeles with my husband of 17 years.

I drink tea when I knit and coffee when I do everything else.







A Little Honesty For You

Domestic, Home, Kids, Marriage

I know that in a lot of ways being real and being transparent are qualities that are celebrated and even encouraged on blogs like mine but since I’ve always viewed this blog as a teaching blog, it has never really occurred to me to write a post about the other side of things. I wrote recipes or tutorials, basically. I did do a series on marriage many, many years ago that was pretty personal, and another one on making the home a welcoming place that was a little less involving but still more than a knitting pattern. I haven’t taken them down, but I haven’t linked to them in years.

A lot has changed in my life and in my family in the 8 years since I started this blog, and since then there have always been times of ongoing activity and times of extended silence. During those times of silence I wasn’t posting because there was just too much going on for me to find the time to do whatever it was I wanted to do so I could take pictures and blog about it. The reality is, I was doing all kinds of things in those times of silence, lots of things I could have blogged about but at the time I just didn’t see them as ‘blog worthy’. It seems so silly in retrospect, especially in how far I have come in communication with you guys! Instagram especially has allowed more people to reach out to me than ever did in my comments section on this blog, and this communication has really opened my eyes to how oddly uptight I am in what I post. There have been some comments and messages I’ve received in the last couple of months that really make me feel like I should be posting more of our daily stuff. There are so many Instagram posts that should just be their own blog post. A single picture or maybe two with a recipe, done! I’m learning not everything has to be a song and dance. Most of the time when I post a homeschool picture on Instagram or Facebook, I am asked about what materials we need or what we’re doing etc, all easily answered in a simple post, right? Right. So why am I just realizing this now?

Picture my life, really. There are things you know because they’re obvious about me, like having three kids and homeschooling, for example. If you’ve been around for a while, you also know that I menu plan every week and that I am a big fan of scratch cooking and baking, and you also probably know that I run a pretty tight ship when it comes to keeping the house clean. You know I love to knit, but you maybe don’t know that I regularly stay up until the wee hours of the morning knitting beside my husband on the couch while he works away on his laptop. I often pay for those late nights though, because the morning? She comes early. I still have to get up and get my husband out the door, wake the kids, feed them and get school happening for the day. Even if we end up starting late (especially if we start late) I have to get dinner happening early in the afternoon so it’s ready when school is over and that late afternoon/evening part of day rolls around. Then you know, baths and story time and cleaning and prep for the next day and a shower for myself and some down time with my husband.

It’s a lot. There are other things I find time to do, but don’t post about much or even at all because I can’t post about them with the regularity I wish I had time for. For example, I work out four times a week, and I pretty much never talk about it. Why? Well, most of my friends who work out, do so six days a week and I feel like a major slacker for not finding the time to do two more days. Even as I type this I realize how ridiculous it is, that if I can’t find time to do something two additional days a week, I should just ignore that I do it at all? Silly. So in that spirit, I’m just going to relax a bit about the rules I’ve made up for myself about this blog. I’m going to let myself post the ‘other’ stuff that happens around here that, in my mind, wasn’t blog worthy. I’m also going to let myself post a recipe with a single picture sometimes and maybe, maybe I’ll even post some failures!

Usually, at the beginning of a year, I choose a cookbook to cook through that year. Though really, I haven’t actually done this in a few years. It took me aaaages to choose a book, I wrestled between The Cook’s Book (because I love technique), Salt Lake City Chef’s Table (because I live in Salt Lake City), Oh She Glows (because sometimes I eat gluten free vegan), and Brunch at Bobby’s (because I am madly in love with everything Bobby Flay does). I have been so indecisive about it, for just a minute while on vacation in January, I decided on doing both Oh She Glows and Salt Lake City Chef’s Table. Then I started planning it out and changed my mind again. This moment, I’m leaning towards Bobby Flay.

I have been choosing a baking theme every year since 2009. Last year wasn’t my most successful year, I only baked 46 different kinds of cookies when I was aiming for at least 52. However, it was my most fun! The kids really enjoyed baking cookies with me, they’re super portable so I was bringing cookies to meetups and friend’s houses. Pretty much everyone likes cookies. So this year, I’m not changing the theme, I’m doing cookies again!

One of my old blogging rules was to not post rambles like this, but in the interest of full disclosure, it stays. Stay tuned for randomness!

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5 Steps to Keeping Your Home Clean and Organized

Chores, Domestic, Home, Kids

This is the first post in my 10 post series, 10 Areas to Master For Managing a Household. Join me every Thursday for a new installment!

Grab a coffee or make some tea and read this like we are hanging out in my kitchen. It’s a long one, it will probably be the longest in this series, but totally, totally, worth the read I promise.

This is probably the #1 complaint from pretty much everyone. No one likes living in a mess. I know you don’t need me to tell you this because you probably know, but having a messy house makes just about everything take longer. In my Facebook feed I see stories about moms taking ages to leave the house because one kid can’t find socks to wear and another has no idea where he put his library book (or whatever) and mom can’t find her keys, etc. How frustrating. I have friends that tell me they walk into a messy kitchen and decide to order in because cleaning it is such a major undertaking.

The solution to this problems is to set up routines and a handful of house rules. It will take about a month before they feel like habit to you and your family. You will absolutely 100% have to remind your kids and your spouse and even yourself of new house rules. There are going to be times when you just don’t feel like taking the 10 minutes or 30 minutes or 5 minutes or however long the task at hand will take, but I promise you that if you do it, future you will be so thankful.

We all have different houses, different living arrangements and different trouble spots, but there are some universal issues. We all need to keep some of the same things organized and easily accessible; clothes and shoes, keys, toys and school items, paperwork and our kitchen basics. There will be some specific things in my home that are not relevant to yours, and there will be some things you need to brainstorm solutions to that I have never had to think about. This is the week to do that.

If you are familiar with the Flylady system, you will see some elements of that in here, but that’s all it is, just a few little pieces. Just like you may read this, implement it in your home and tweak it to fit your own needs over the course of weeks and months and years it will become something all together different. I started with the Flylady system back in 2001 and there have been more tweaks and changes than I can even remember. Your approach will also need to be changed every time you move and every time your life changes (the addition of a baby, a job or volunteer work, etc) and that will come naturally to you once you have some kind of structure in place.

In this post, we’ll go over the 5 big things:

Routines, ‘daily’ chores, laundry, house rules and kid’s chores.

1. Create two simple and easy to manage routines, one that happens when you first get up and start your day and one for the evening. Depending on how your evenings work, this will either end with you going to bed or with you doing whatever you do to decompress at the end of the day (more on that in another post).

The concept of morning and evening routines comes (to me) from the Flylady system, but again it has been modified. With a firm evening routine you will never wake up to last night’s dishes or a child claiming to have run out of clean socks or be surprised with an appointment. With a firm morning routine you will never stand in front of the pantry at 5pm with no idea what you’re making for dinner.

Everyone’s routines will look different, but I will give you a basic idea of what mine looks like.

Every morning after I wake up, I make a cup of coffee, brush my teeth, wash my face, do a 5 minute face, get dressed, and then make more coffee. ;) I help my husband get ready for work, make our bed, wake the kids and gather all the laundry in the house and pop it in the washer. Thanks to meal planning, I have already planned breakfast (and often did all the real work the night before), so I warm that up and feed the kids. I usually make a smoothie for myself and then do a super quick (like, I’m talking 5 minutes quick) clean up of the bathrooms. I literally just clean the mirrors, wipe down the counters and wipe down the toilet. Done! I supervise the kids while they do their chores after breakfast and help them get ready for the day. They have some morning chores and some evening chores just like me. Their morning chores include making their beds, feeding the guinea pigs breakfast and cleaning up after themselves at breakfast. Around this time I move the laundry to the dryer and we start our homeschool day with our morning basket.

I like to do my evening routine between after dinner time and bedtime because I like to move on to hobbies once the kids are in bed. The evening chores the kids are responsible for begin after dinner. Our oldest clears the table, rinses dishes and stacks the dishwasher. Our daughters tidy up whatever messes have happened in their room, and tidy up the guinea pig enclosure. We prepare a bedtime snack for our guineas and play with them a little before picking up the common areas of the house. The school area is cleaned up when school is done, but we pick up anything lingering and then one of our daughters will do a very quick vacuum of the open areas in the living room (no moving furniture or anything). While they are doing those things, I give the kitchen a once over. I clear off the counter and wipe it down, I make sure the kitchen sink is empty, the table is wiped down and the sink is empty and clean. I toss that day’s dish towel in the laundry and give myself a new one. When I used sponges, I’d replace them once a week, but now that I knit them, I also put that day’s dish cloth in the laundry and give myself a new one. I also sweep and mop the kitchen floor. Around this time, my littlest one has a bath, followed by my middle having a shower. During this time, I do a light vacuum of the rest of the first floor and I check my planner and wall calendar for tomorrow’s happenings. I will go over planner details in my planner post in this series, but just a glance at your planner will keep you aware of what’s going on the next day. Establishing the habit of checking your planner every night also shows you things that are happening later in the week. Once the kids are in bed and I have read stories and tucked them in, I sweep both bathrooms and if there are any little messes, I deal with them then. Then I have a shower, remove my makeup and do any girly stuff that needs to be done. Maybe a face or hair mask, or I’ll redo or touch up my nails, things like that. From then till I go to bed, I knit, or blog, or work on videos and hang out with my husband. Sometimes we play pool or help each other with our projects or play games together.

Different lifestyles will change this list, if your kids are in public school your list will look totally different and taking the kids to school will be on it and you’ll likely have the rest of the list done after you get home. When I had a bigger house and when I had a small apartment, my list looked different. The idea isn’t to have the same routines as me. I wrote it out to show you the concept. Every evening, set up your day to be great by waking up to a clean house and everything you need and then jump into your day!

2. Identify how many days a week you can give 30-45 minutes to cleaning, and then divide your home up into that many areas. So, if you have a lot of activities on say Tuesdays and Thursdays and you like to have a family day on the weekend, that leaves 4 days a week that you have time to really clean, so you’d divide your home into 4 areas and deal with one on each of those four days.

I have written before about ‘grown up chore charts’, but essentially all you need is a list of all the tasks to be done in a certain area either laminated or in a page protector sleeve so you can cross them off as you do them. Mine have evolved over the years, and if there is interest in seeing them, I’ll post them. The purpose of them is to walk into an area of your home on the assigned day and know exactly what needs to be done. Some things don’t need to be done every time you clean that area, but they should at least be checked. I don’t wash the curtains in my daughter’s room every week, but I do check them for hair chalk or marker or whatever so if they do need to be washed, I do it.

In my current plan, I like to devote my weekends to school prep and personal projects so I do not schedule must do chores on the weekend. I have some heavy school days and some light school days, but I know for sure that once a week, I am out all day with friends on a field trip. So that leaves me 4 days a week that I really have time to devote to focused cleaning. My current home is divided into four areas; 1 – school room and living room, 2 – kitchen and bathrooms, 3 – girls’ room and the master bedroom, 4 – office and garage (& outside if necessary). I also do family paperwork on Saturdays and call it ‘desk day’. Your lists to begin with do not need t be overwhelming, they can be totally basic, the idea is just to start and add more as you get into it.

When I get into conversations about this, people cannot understand how I do large areas on the same day and fit it into a fairly short period of time. The answer, honestly, is that if you stay on top of these areas every week and you incorporate trouble areas in your morning and evening routines, they are never out of control. Take cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms for example, since I take care of daily messes every night, my kitchen and bathrooms are pretty much always clean. So on the day assigned to them I do not have any messes in the way of cleaning, all I have to do is clean.

Desk day is really just about taming the paper monster, and that is a very personal and different creature for all of us. My general suggestions are to keep a main landing area for family paperwork as it comes into your home and a more involved system elsewhere. A kitchen binder is a good start, one thing that can work in many different situations is to use page protectors in a binder, one protector for each category of paper. For example; bills, utilities, school, medical, work…). You get the mail from the box, bring it to the kitchen and open it. Envelopes and garbage papers go in the recycling and the important bits get put in the binder right away. Every week on desk day, you take your binder to your home office or closet or where ever you choose to build your filing system and file it all away. Your empty binder goes back in the kitchen and voila! You’ve tamed the paper monster!

3. Laundry! This can be partially dealt with in your daily routines and possibly even in the sectional cleaning plan you make in the previous point, but laundry is absolutely not something you can deal with ‘later’.

Personally, I do one load every day of our daily clothes, I do the sheets on the bedroom days and towels on the weekends. Every morning as part of my morning routine, I gather everything from all the bedroom hampers. Since I do this every morning, there is never more than whatever we wore the day before in the hampers, with the possible addition of some pajamas or face cloths and that sort of thing. There is never more than a load between the five of us. The washer runs while I do the rest of my morning routine and then just before I start the school day, I move it to the dryer. When we break for lunch I put it away and I don’t find it as tedious as folding and putting away an entire basket of one person’s clothes because you basically put away a single outfit and move on to the next closet.

Another thought about laundry is less about doing it and more about where your family’s clean clothes go. Most of our clothes are either hung up or in baskets. This also makes it really simple for kids to help put away laundry if that’s a task you want to delegate.

If you have a larger family, you may need to add a second load in the afternoon. You may hate this plan if you like to separate your clothes, but let’s be honest. If you’re having issues keeping up with the laundry, does it really matter if you wash your jeans with your kid’s leggings? I swear, it doesn’t. If you want to do your whites in a hot load with bleach you can modify this to have a basket in the laundry room that you put the white items into each morning until have enough for a load.

4. Set up a few simple house rules for the things that make you crazy. In most homes that’s lost keys, mail/paperwork and library books, but it could really be anything. In homes with babies that use pacifiers, keeping track of those is a big deal. I remember, I swear, and I know it can be maddening.

This is one of those details that is really going to be specific to your life and your family. For us, library books were the main issue. To solve this, we decided on a specific place for them to live and I politely reminded everyone 10,000 times. When one of the older kids was done reading a book, it went back in the basket and they could take out the next one. For my littlest who goes through several bedtime story-style books every evening, I took it upon myself to make sure she’d returned every last book she took out. Why? I did it because after a couple of weeks of this, she made sure that she returned all the books on her own!

Whatever your new house rules will be to keep things in their place, you will not only have to be diligent in enforcing them but you have to follow them as well! This is a point of contention with some parents and I’m not sure why they do not like to take some of the responsibility in this. Children learn by example, and we all learn through consistent teaching, redirection and correction. So when you have allowed your children to leave library books laying around the house for years and one day you tell them that all library books are going to be in a central location, it can’t be surprising to you if your children either forget or assume you will not follow through. So, staying consistent for a decent amount of time will show them that this is something that is important enough for you to follow through over time on. Honestly, aside from your consistency showing your children the rule matters to you, it will become habit over the course of a month or so to just continue following the rule. Seeing you following your own rules makes them more ‘real’, or at least that has been my experience.

5. Delegate age appropriate duties to the children of the house, especially for things they are usually responsible for the loss of or mess making with!

This also ties in with setting some basic house rules that would apply to them. If you’ve read my Positive Discipline series, you know I’m not a big fan of reward charts and the like, but there is nothing wrong with laminating a little chart to help them remember what is expected of them and putting stickers on each task they have accomplished, much like the way I track my own chores.

There is a difference between age appropriate chores your children can do to help within the household and chores you’ll teach them as they get older. The age appropriate chores I’m referring to are the kind of thing they can take off your to do list. I understand that toddlers and under are not going to be much help and that’s a season we all go through, but even preschoolers can do simple tasks. What duties you give them depends on their personalities, their maturity levels, and what they are physically capable of. Kids love to feel accomplished and to really help out, so never assign a child a task they can’t actually accomplish. Some examples of age appropriate chores; very little children love to help put groceries away, older grade school kids may not be able to properly make a bed, but they can absolutely take the sheets and blankets off a bed! You can also make certain chores more child friendly, like using baskets and low hanging rods for clothes so kids can help put away laundry.

They can learn more difficult chores by watching and ‘helping’ you when you do your detailed cleaning. If you make this routine, or you take children aside as they get older and specifically show them how to do certain tasks, you’ll not only be delegating more of your workload, you’ll be teaching your children important life skills. I know a lot of children are not happy about chores, and I think the way it’s gone about is the reason behind that. If chores are just a part of daily life in your family, it’s really no big deal as they get older. If chores are ever used as a punishment or the grown ups complain about them or they are put off for so long that they become overwhelming, of course kids are going to have a negative outlook on helping out.

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10 Areas to Master For Managing a Household

Chores, Domestic, Home, Kids, Marriage

I used to get the occasional email or social media message asking about how I plan my days or how I run our homeschool or how I keep my house clean. I have noticed that in the last year or so, as I have been sharing more of my life online, I am getting more messages about this subject and truthfully, it’s not a short answer. It’s not even one answer, really. There are as many answers as there are questions and I can only tell you how I deal with this stuff, it may not work as well for everyone else. I’ve been inspired to write a series on this topic, and I hope you can pull little nuggets of information from it to help you. I made a list of 10 areas, though I may have missed something feel free to let me know! I’ll cover one a week, every Thursday, starting tomorrow.

This list can seem overwhelming, so hopefully talking about one thing at a time will break it down into manageable pieces. The main thing to remember is that yes, there is a lot going on, BUT you do not need to feel overwhelmed about it all, you do not need to be constantly working. You can work on your time management to meet your goals, but having downtime mixed in there is very important. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning yourself out and not wanting to do anything for days!

1. Keeping the house clean – Taking ideas from several organizational plans, I stitched together a system that has worked for me in tiny apartments, large houses and all the living spaces in between.

2. Homeschooling, field trips, navigating the kid’s social lives – Not everyone homeschools, of course, but even if you don’t homeschool, you do likely find yourself helping with homework, teaching life skills, planning family field trips and setting up events for your kids and their friends.

3. Daily cooking and baking / meal planning – Arguably the most important, and one of the most often dismissed, part of running a household. If you ever open the pantry at 5 and have no idea what you’re making for dinner, meal planning will change your life.

4. Taking care of yourself – With so much else to do in a day, adding yourself to the list can seem unreasonable, or like another chore. Really though, once you start taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, you will feel and see the difference in your life (and believe it or not, you’ll see changes in your family as well).

5. Having a fun marriage – Not everyone who is running a household is married, or even in a partnership and I don’t want to make any assumptions here. Having said that, if you are in a relationship it can be your biggest asset or the biggest drain on your emotions. Deal with known issues or nurture an awesome relationship!

6. Having a social life – I admit that I am a natural extrovert and that I have been known to strike up conversations with random people out in the wild and make friends. I know that’s not for everyone, but there are other avenues to meet like minded friends. Just as important as making friends, once you have friends you love and care about you need to make time for them.

7. Squeezing in hobbies – I have met wonderful, dedicated wives and mothers that literally have no hobbies. In some cases they had hobbies before their families and haven’t gotten back into them, and in other situations they just never really developed any. Doing something just 100% for yourself is not a bad thing, and you don’t need to find hours every day, just carve out a little time a few days a week and after a while, you’ll be trying to carve out a little more time!

8. Caring for pets – This is a necessity, technically, the dog needs to go out, the guinea pig cage needs to be cleaned, etc. However, most of the time it’s just the bare minimum. Dogs are put outside but not taken for walks, etc. This is one of those categories children should be a part of. Not just for the help it provides, but for them as well!

9. Planner basics – My planner is the backbone of my daily organization. I’ve said before that I let my planner boss me around and that is how I deal with time management. There is a little more to it than that of course, but we’ll get into that later.

10. Downtime – Orchestrating your days to get it all done can get a little addicting, especially once you start to see what you can accomplish! Make sure you have downtime to recover from your day and be ready for tomorrow!

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2016 Advent Day 7

Domestic, Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

The girls woke up and looked all over for their elves with no luck! It wasn’t until a little later in the morning when one of them walked back into their room that they were discovered in the girls’ tree!

We have been getting a lot of packages in the mail for Christmas. Some from dear friends and family, but honestly most are gifts I have ordered for the kids and they always ask if there are any pre-Christmas surprises they can have early. The answer is always no, BUT, I did order them each a Christmas sweater they’d love and Lena’s came today! Hers is from Simply Nailogical, a YouTuber / Instagrammer from Canada who does nail art. The sweater says ‘Happy Holodays’, a reference to holographic nail polish and the graphics on the sweater are cats and nail painting emojis! So silly and fun and boy does she ever love it!

I accidentally posted our advent gifts to Instagram and not Facebook this afternoon, so there is a little hole in our FB advent adventure. ;) That’s ok, documenting it on the bog is where it really counts, right? I had them looking all over the house with no hints aside from being ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, it was pretty fun and they are so good about not telling each other when they find someone else’s gifts. It’s very obvious whose is whose considering their themes this year! So today, Richard got a wooden canvas block! It’s so cool, it can be used with several different mediums, and I have no idea what he’s going to end up using it for, but it’s cool. It’s 3″ x 3″ and has a spot in the back to hang it up! Helena got the second book in the Divergent series today, Insurgent. I have no doubt she will be finished this by tomorrow afternoon! Daphne got a tiny Figaro (the kitty from Pinocchio) and a mini Daisy Duck!

Our advent cookies today were meringue cookies! I love the texture of meringue cookies and thankfully our elevation in Salt Lake does not affect making them at all, but they take about an hour to properly dry in the oven which, of course, can be worked around. Today’s cookies are called Mint Meringue Wreaths, my kids all like mint but you can always leave that out if you’re not a fan. The cute picture in the cookbook had the cookies hanging from ribbons, I love it!

 

This afternoon’s advent activity is one of my favorites and I look forward to doing this with the kids every year – making marshmallows! It really seems so much harder than it actually is. Your Kitchen Aid does most of the work! You whisk a sugary mixture on the stovetop while your gelatin sets up in your mixer. Then you add the two together and let that mixer just mix and mix and mix. It’s pretty amazing what happens really. Then you just spread it out, dust it with sugar and corn starch and wait it out! Voila!

 

Coffee advent has been kicked up a notch tonight with the arrival of my teeny tiny espresso maker. It’s so cute and little, I am obsessed with it. I’ve never had one like this before. You fill the bottom chamber with water, add some coffee to the filter area just above the water and screw the (empty) top part on. Then you set it on your heat source. As the water boils in the bottom chamber, it is forced up through a pipe in the center of the device. This pushes the hot water through the coffee and out into the top chamber. So neat! I was so into it I Snapped the whole process! I made Americanos with Brazilian coffee tonight!

 

Advent is always fun, but this year it just feels even more fun!

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2016 Advent Day 6

Domestic, Holiday, Home, Homeschooling, Kids, Utah

Today was one of those perfectly perfect days that was so full of Christmas cheer we could have been a Hallmark movie. Cheesy and sweet! We kicked off our day with a trip to The Capitol Theatre to see The Nutcracker! We listened to Tchaikovsky while we got dressed up and ready to go, Daphne was dancing around the kitchen to make her dress twirl and it was just the sweetest thing. Our elves greeted us first thing in the morning in the kid’s bathroom on one of their cabinets in there. It was a busy morning with a lot primping going on, so they chose a good spot to see all the morning action!

This was our first time at the Capitol Theatre, and it was decorated for not just Christmas, but for The Nutcracker. What a perfect time to go! We went to one of the few daytime showings courtesy of our homeschooling charter. We didn’t really go ‘with’ a class, but we were technically part of the school board’s group. That afforded us access to amazing seats we may otherwise not have been able to get, and it allowed us to go in the middle of the day when the kids are at their best and not later at night when they would rather be at home in their PJs. What a great opportunity!

 
 

When the ballet was over, the girls picked a ballerina ornament from the Ballet West gift shop as a souvenir and hung it on the tree in their room. So cute!

Instead of heading straight home, we stopped at a cute French bakery a quick walk from the theatre called Eva’s Bakery. The girls got ham and butter sandwiches on crusty bread and chocolate chip cookies with hot chocolate. I chose a turkey panini with marmalade and it was perfection. We ordered some festive macaroons to go (eggnog and candy cane) and headed back home.

 
 

I hid (& the kids searched for their) advent gifts of the day when we got home. I was a little laid back about it today since we had been out all morning and everyone was curious to know what they got. Richard got 3 more copic markers, Helena got a hilarious and very silly book about zombie guinea pigs from a book series called Undead Pets, and Daphne got a tiny Daisy and a mini Belle. Helena finished her book in just a couple of hours before she passed it along to Daphne, who also got a kick out of it.

Our advent cookies were super fun today! The kids got into it and made most of them themselves. Today we made Candy Cane Cookies, and judging from the comments and messages we got about these when I posted them, it seems these cookies are an annual tradition for many families!

 

Our advent activity for today was a Christmas movie marathon and that was an easily accomplished mission! We watched Mickey’s Magical Christmas, Barbie Christmas Carol (this one is my fave), The Polar Express AND Alpha and Omega’s Howladay (which really isn’t very Christmasy at all, but Daphne insisted and it did have ‘howladay’ in the title).

We are managing the balance of festivities and school fairly well, I think. The rest of this week we have normal schoolwork and my husband’s company’s Christmas party is this weekend. Then next week we have three fun field trips planned, and one more week of regular schoolwork before Christmas break officially begins!

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2016 Advent Day 5

Domestic, Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

Day 5 of our advent started off as a normal school day, and we had an online class on grammar! Once we were done with school for the day, the girls and I ran a quick errand before we came home for Christmas fun. Our elves were found in the most ridiculous place today – inside the bread machine! The first thing I said when the girls showed them to me was ‘what if I wanted to make bread today?!’ Of course, the elves knew I wasn’t planning to make bread today, because the elves are smart like that. ;)

For advent gifts today, I basically hid their surprises in plain sight! I didn’t give the children any hints at all and I just put their surprises where I figured they’d end up! So Richard got a ‘shorty stick’ pencil, it’s essentially a mechanical pencil that can accommodate different sizes of lead. It’s pretty neat. I put this on his desk, slightly askew so he wouldn’t notice it immediately. Lena’s book today was the first in the Maze Runner series, she’s already read it, but just like with all her favorite series, she wanted them for her collection. I literally just put this on her bookshelf, but naturally there were enough books there to camouflage them. Daphne’s tiny Tsum Tsum was a little ornament with a space for any of her tiny Tsum Tsums! Sooooo cute! Her mini today was Piglet, and I just put her on her bedside table, with about 5 or 6 other mini Tsum Tsums so it took a minute for her to identify which was the new one.

Our advent cookies today were a hit – again! These cookies are called Double Chocolate Chewies, but the meringue is totally left out of this title! These cookies are those wonderful airy, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside meringue cookies, with chocolate chips! They come together very quickly, and with the power of your Kitchen Aid they come together with very little effort. These cookies are dangerously good though. I had to pack some up to deliver to friends and get them out of my house!

 

Our advent activity today was baking cinnamon ornaments, and we ended up making a cinnamon air freshener instead! We’ll attempt it again tomorrow and I’ll take pictures and post a recipe as well.

Coffee tonight was sampling an espresso roast I had never tried before. I’m really digging these pourovers at night. Originally, I had planned for this coffee advent to be about making fancy coffee recipes, but we are really more interested in straight up coffee so I think I will focus on trying different kinds of beans and brands of roasters.

Tomorrow I am taking the girls to see The Nutcracker! They are both so excited and honestly, so am I! The main reason for our errand this afternoon was to get tights and shoes for them since when we tried on our outfits for the ballet their shoes were pinching them – it has been a while since they had to wear dress shoes! Off we went and they picked some very cute shoes, I will show them all off tomorrow night!

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2016 Advent Day 4

Domestic, Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

So, we’re on day 4 of our Christmas countdown, and we kicked it off with an adventure at Storybrook Play Cafe! Our day started bright and early as we got ready for a pancake breakfast with Santa and Mrs C! I really need to document the adorable Mod Cloth dress I wore to this occasion.

Such a fun time! We always love to go to events (or even just an afternoon to play) at Storybrook, but this was especially fun! They had set out a pancake buffet in their cafe with pancakes (duh), fresh fruit, maple syrup, raspberry syrup, whipped cream and juice and milk (and coffee, of course).

 

After breakfast, we headed downstairs to meet Santa and Mrs Claus! Lena and Daphne sat with them and chatted about what they had been up to so far this season, and what they were hoping for. They asked for a bike and a scooter, which was a little hilarious, because last week they were asking for a guitar and drums. Keeping me on my toes, that’s for sure! Do people do bikes at Christmas? Isn’t that more of a ‘passing gift’ summer thing? We’ll have to have a chat about that! We got some cute photos and I took a Polaroid and Mrs Claus gave the girls each a little reindeer plushie with a candy cane. Super cute. We didn’t stick around for story time, the girls were ready to head home, it was a really cute and fun event.

As soon as we got back home, the girls were off to find the elves! It took some searching, but they turned up in my Pioneer Woman cake stand eating those Pfeffernüesse cookies from yesterday!

Advent gift hunting was a little lame today. We do chores before the daily advent scavenger hunt, and chores were a little slow going today. My littles are not morning people, so even getting up early to see Santa is draining. Once they got everything on their lists done, they gave me a few minutes to hide their surprises. The twist today was, they asked for no hints, just what room their surprise was in! Richard got 3 copic sketch markers, he found their fairly quickly hidden in his monster feet slippers. Lena found today’s book after a whole lot of searching. I put it on the windowill in her room, behind the curtain, facing outside. It was kind of hilarious because after a while she was asking me to tell her if she was hot or cold and she couldn’t get how walking into the middle of her room was cold, but walking towards the wall was hot. Funny! Today, she got the first in a series called The Paladin Prophecy and just like with every book she has received in the past 3 days, she devoured almost all of it in one day. Daphne originally requested no hints, but after searching the living room for 10 minutes she asked for little hint, and then a little more haha. She eventually found her mini Pascal in her purse and her advent calendar produced a teeny, weeny tiny Dutchess cat. Sooooo cute, it’s my favorite so far.

Advent cookies today were amazing, and baked pretty much right after we got back from breakfast with the Claus’. ;) Day 4 was Malted Milk Chocolate Cookies and for the first time this week I made a substitution. Instead of using plain malted milk powder, as the recipe called for, I used chocolate malted milk powder to dress them up a little. Naturally, once they were cool I decided to go ahead and cover them in melted chocolate as per the instructions anyway, even though they clearly did not need them. They were a hit with the kids, even the one child that is not as into chocolate as the other two. The chocolate monster (aka Miss Daphne) was mad for them, so she had to be rationed. ;)

 

Our advent activity today was to bake bread, but we ended up going with buns instead. Same idea, right? I found the recipe for these scrawled on an index card in my kitchen, so who knows where it came from? Pretty standard recipe, make the dough, let it rise, punch it down, shape it, and let it rise again before baking.

 

Tonight’s coffee advent was some Ukrainian coffee I have come to love this year, called Kaba. I’m sure it’s very run of the mill in Ukraine, but for me it tastes stronger than most coffees without being overly bitter. I do love some strong, bitter coffee for sure, but sometimes I’m looking for some strong, smooth coffee and this is it. I just brewed it as a standard pour over, my new go to since I got a cute kettle a while ago.

Tomorrow is a regular school day, our first Monday in this advent countdown, hopefully the excitement of advent surprises and cookies will encourage them to get their work done and not derail them. ;)

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2016 Advent Day 3

Crafty, Domestic, Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

Our third day of advent happened to be our first Saturday of advent, so it was a somewhat relaxed start. We have had two house guests for the past two weeks and one of them left this morning! Every morning he asked for 3 hard boiled eggs, I have little doubt that my muscle memory in the kitchen will have me reaching for my Dash egg cooker before I think more and realize he is not here! Tomorrow morning is actually an event for us, the girls and I are going to Storybrook for breakfast for Santa and Mrs. Clause! I can hardly wait! I admit I am excited for my outfit choice, which involves an adorable vintage-style dress from Mod Cloth and darling earrings from Polly Danger. Of course, I’ll document the adventure.

First up, as usual, were our elves. This morning they were found *in* my Santa head cookie jar, nibbling at yesterday’s advent cookies, I’m sure! They could have just asked. ;)

Advent gifts today were especially fun, I think. Richard’s was two little sets of textured, multimedia canvases, one set was 2″ x 4″ and the other set was 3″ x 3″. His clue was about setting up Chromecast, so he went straight for behind the TV and found them! Today, Lena got Matched, the first book in a three book series that I am madly in love with. When I first read them she was too young for them, so I am happy she has reached the point where she is into them. Her favorite genre right now is YA fiction about a dystopian future, so these are right up her alley Her hint asked her what she looked forward to most about our weekly family meetings, and she headed for the board games! Daphne got two of the cutest little Tsum Tsums today! Her Tsum Tsum tiny was Bambi, but it was made even cuter by the crazy small and totally adorable Santa hat headband that came with it! What?! She can put this hat on any tiny Tsum Tsum! Her mini today was Lady (from Lady and the Tramp, of course) and it’s even cuter than I thought it would be. Her hint was about the Christmas tree, and she was hidden in there. They all showed each other their scores and then scattered to use / read / play with their advent treats.

Our advent cookie experience today was something I knew we would run into eventually, and it actually happened on day 3. We made a cookie we didn’t really love. Ok, ok, full disclosure? I sort of hate it. The upside is these little balls of ground almond reminded me so much of my Thea Rika’s kourabiedes, which I honestly think are a better version of today’s cookie. Anyhoo, today’s was Ginger Pfeffernüesse, it was a flour and almond meal dough with just three eggs and spices. You pinch off pieces and roll them into balls, bake, roll the baked balls in confectioner’s sugar, let cool and roll them in confectioner’s sugar again. They were kinda spicy and not really my thing. I’m more about the chocolate and the obvious sugary cookies. However, I am sure someone will love them and thankfully most of my friends are into trying new foods. I know Erin, Jessica, Wendy and Kaelee will all be down with trying them out. These will not make it back on my to-bake list, though. We actually ended our kitchen adventures today with some edible cookie dough that Lena loves making because we knew we’d love it and the kids were not having today’s cookies.

 

Today’s advent activity was to make paper chains! Lena especially had a blast with this activity! We made chains for all three kitchen doorways and Richard remembered all the paper chain countdowns we have made over the years. I LOVE that he is 16 now and remembers fondly the silly things like that from his childhood. So fun!

 

I also mentioned yesterday that I’d post pictures of the paper snowflakes we made, so here’s one of those too!

Coffee advent tonight was a bit of a throwback for me because it was a Cafe au Lait and I literally have not made one since I was a teenager living at my parent’s house! I used the same Starbucks espresso roast I have been using this week, but I am going to invest in a frother because my froth was pathetic. The coffee itself was really good though!

I am off to bed so I can get up bright and early so my daughters and I can have breakfast with Mr. and Mrs. C in the morning!

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Advent 2016 Day 2

Domestic, Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

Our second day of advent started off a little bumpy, with an emergency trip to the dentist for my husband. Dental pain is awful, no matter how well you deal with pain, so we spent a good part of our day dealing with that. He’s feeling a whole lot better than he was, though of course he is still sore. We ended up squeezing in a little Starbucks date this morning as well, so it wasn’t all bad. I snapped a few pictures of the mountains while we were out, and they always amaze me now. I was telling my friend Kelly today (hi Kelly), that I was so blinded by missing California when we moved here last year that I couldn’t see just how magical these mountain really are. I mean, just look!

 

Once we got back, he went to work and the kids and I got into our day. We found our elves pretty much right away today, they were very obvious from the front door, but less so if you were already in the house.

So today, Richard’s surprise was a tube of violet-grey oil paint, I hid it on the windowstill in the living room and gave him a hint about checking for Dad’s truck when he hears a big engine. He found it right away. Helena’s surprise was the Hello Nature activity book, it is amazing. There are so many cute and fun activities in this book, I hid it between the grates and the chloroplast of our guinea pig’s home. Her hint was about what area of the living room is her responsibility, and she of course knew I was referring to our guinea pig’s enclosure, but it still took her a minute to find it because the chloroplast was blocking it. Daphne did her Tsum Tsum calendar and she got a tiny star with a hole for the face of another little Tsum Tsum to fit through. Her mini was a Randall, remember the purple guy with all the arms from Monster’s Inc? Yeah, that guy. I tucked him a little under my sock yarn beekeeper quilt on her Little Passports chair, and asked her where her favorite place to be in the living room was and she walked right over and sat on him! Whoops!

Our cookie advent was equally simple to yesterday! We made Stamped Peanut Butter Cookies today, and I used a part of my cheese grater as the stamp! These cookies did not come out quite as chewy as the ones I usually make, but I’ve been tweaking and perfecting that recipe for years and years. These ones have a little crunch on the outside but are still chewy on the inside. The kids loved them and Lena thought the pattern the cheese grater made was pretty cool. I liked how kid-friendly this recipe was, the kids could easily make these themselves.

 

Our advent activity was to make paper snowflakes! I got a decent before shot, but not any action shots. I will post some tomorrow of all the snowflakes we made hanging in the kitchen!

Coffee tonight was a straight up Americano, because that’s what we needed after this day. There wasn’t much sleep last night, I was worried about my husband’s tooth pain and once he finally fell asleep while I was writing last night’s post across the room, I was so happy he was sleeping (and therefore not in pain) that I was nervous to get in bed and wake him! Anyhoo, an Americano is just an espresso with hot water, it’s my favorite because I love the bold, bitter flavor of the espresso cut with water to stretch it out. I maaaay have had more than one of these – which of course means I had more than one of these.

I’ll post a week in review this weekend because we’re up to all kinds of fun stuff around here that is unrelated to advent! Tomorrow should be a little more laid back, being the weekend and hopefully my husband will be feeling much better. I’m hoping to catch up on editing school videos so I can finally get those up to date and then get to work on some fun new ones!

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Advent 2016 – Day 1

Holiday, Home, Kids, Utah

It’s advent time again already somehow! I know it happens at the same time every year, but it still feels like it creeps up on me! I am pretty much done all my Christmas shopping. Everything but one thing for the children, and pretty much all the stocking stuffers. I have to finish putting together boxes to send to family, but that’s really not that much. All of our advent preparations are done though – and that’s the most important thing for now!

Each child has their own advent theme again, we are doing a cookie advent as well, and this year instead of Chris and I making little advents for each other like we did last year, we are doing a coffee advent together! Some days will be obvious styles, like a latte or an Americano, and other days will be a little more interesting like Greek coffee or breve. We’ll see how this shapes up. Generally, we have coffee together after the children go to bed, so that will likely be when we’ll sample these little treats. We will also do our traditional advent activities that I first put together a couple of years ago, the link to that breakdown post is here.

The little issue with my advent choices for the children this year is the gifts do not fit in the cute little pouches and mittens I’ve made! So, I have put little scavenger hunt clues in them instead and then the kids go and look for their advent surprise. Richard’s theme is art supplies, Lena’s theme is books and Daphne’s theme is Disney tsum tsums.

Today, I hid Richard’s first surprise, a battery powered eraser, in the fridge on the eggs and his hint was ‘when you make yourself breakfast’. I hid Lena’s first book in plain sight on one of the bookcases in the school room, and her hint was ‘I put it with all the others’, she ran to the bookcases and found the one book that was out of place immediately! Daphne’s is a little different because I got her the cute little Tsum Tsum advent calendar, but since her brother and sister were getting larger advent surprises, I added a mini plush Tsum Tsum for her each day as well. So, she opened the #1 box on her calendar and got a cute tiny Minnie, and also got the hint ‘this isn’t where science is usually done, but it’s where you can be found doing science’. It’s a bit of an inside joke with our family because Daphne loves to play with vinegar and baking soda in the bathtub, so she knew what that hint meant right away and found her Max plush on the counter in the kid’s bathroom.

Our first advent cookie was fun because it was a standard chocolate chip cookie (Daphne’s favorite), but it was rimmed with melted chocolate. They were just a little messy, but worth it! I made the cookie according to the recipe in the book, and once they were cool I melted chocolate in a makeshift double boiler (stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water) and carefully dipped each cookie in all along it’s edge. It was painful for the kids to wait for the chocolate to dry, of course, but they made it! The recipe made about 4 dozen cookies (using a generous teaspoonful of dough for each cookie).

  

Today’s advent activity card was pretty easy, it was ‘write letters to Santa’ day, and they actually filled out a scrapbook page letter for Santa that I came across at Hobby Lobby last month that was so cute I could hardly stand it. The best part is the check box area that asks if you were Nice, Naughty or Maybe Both. Hehe, they both checked off ‘Maybe Both’, and I told them they got bonus points for honesty. :P

  

Finally, for our coffee advent tonight I made simple lattes. Very simple lattes, and they totally hit the spot! I just did a pour over with some Starbucks Espresso Roast coffee. I did buy a little Italian espresso machine specifically for this countdown, but it’s not here yet. Close enough! I steamed the almond milk on the stovetop and then used my Ninja blender to whip it into oblivion. I should really also get a milk frother – I wonder how well they work on non-dairy milks. I suppose I could just use lactose free milk instead if it becomes an issue.

  

There you have it, that was day one of our 2016 advent. We also listened to Christmas music, some good (Michael Bublé) and some awful (Alvin and the Chipmunks) but all very festive, I wore my Christmas apron pretty much all day and we found our elves within minutes of the kids waking up, ooooof course. Follow me on Instagram (@soverydomestic) for annoying elf updates and inspiration!

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