New Year. New Dreams.

Is everyone ready for 2014?  Ready or not, here it comes....!

I am a total lover of New Years, and especially New Years Eve.  I think what really gets me excited is the sense of fresh beginnings and clean starts.  We all have goals and dreams.  The new year gives many a revitalized outlook and renewed hope to accomplish more, improve, and grow.  Personally, I have never been much of a resolution maker, but I always dream big and reach high.  



I thought I'd compile a little New Years checklist of things I hope I make an effort to do more of in 2014:

1)  Live in the moment -- too many times I find myself thinking ahead and not focusing on the present moment.  In 2014, I hope I can do a better job of dwelling on the here and now, especially with Evie.  She is growing up way too fast!!

2)  Make more time for family and friends -- It's hard to find time to spend with family and friends when you have a husband, daughter, full-time job, and house to take care of!  Needless to say, I am terrible at making time for family and friends and really hope that in 2014 I can do a better job of making plans to spend quality time with the people who make life so amazing.

3)  Eliminate negative thinking (or at least try to minimize it ;)) -- Like most girls, I think WAY too much and usually dwell on negative things.  I often find myself thinking the worst and really aspire to be a much more positive person.  This WILL happen.

4)  Organize, organize, organize! -- I'm not the most organized person on the planet but really really REALLY want to be!  LOL.  I look at catalogs and pictures on Pinterest and find myself saying, "Oh yea, I need to do that."  But do I actually do it?  NO.  haha.  2014 = the year I actually take steps to organize!

5)  Focus on healthy living -- The classic resolution.  It's something that will always be part of my goals - eat better, exercise more, and make health a priority!

6)  Love more -- In 2014, I want to continue to shower my family with my love.  This includes making sure I do the best possible job raising Evie.  I wish nothing more than to guide her well and ensure her upbringing is filled with encouragement, support, happiness, and lots of love!  

Of course, there are always more things, but overall, I hope that in 2014 we can continue celebrating life and counting all our blessings.  I can't wait to see what the new year has in store for us!

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I'm also linking up with a group of bloggers that are hosting a NYE link-up.  Here are my answers! :)


1.  What is one thing you want to change, or a goal you want to set for the New Year & what is your plan for making it happen?  I have alot of goals, but my main one would definitely be to live in the moment more and appreciate all my precious time with Evie!  I will make it happen by putting down my cell phone, turning off the laptop, and really spending more quality time with my little mini-me! :)

2.  Many people chose a word to reflect on, live by or aspire to for the New Year.  Let us know your word, how you decided upon it & how you plan to incorporate it by 2014.  DREAM!  Dreams are what make life magical!  In 2014, I will dream big and hope the stars align to make all our dreams continue to come true! :)

3.  I will make 2014 count by ... Making sure I take time for my family!  Family is the most important thing in this life!!


So, CHEERS to 2014!  I wish all of you only the best in the new year and hope it's a exciting new chapter in your lives that brings lots of big things and happiness your way.  

Dream Big. Sparkle More. Shine Bright.


Monday Loveday

Happy New Years Eve Eve!  Who else is excited to ring in a brand spanking new year?!?  There are so many things that I have been loving lately, and in my usual Monday Loveday fashion, I would like to share them with you!  
Here goes... 

1)  My new Macbook Air!  This thing is just incredible.  Thank you to the best hubby ever for my amazing Christmas gift.  Blogging is so much more fun when you have a fancy new toy to work with! :)


2)  Number 2 on my list today is homemade chicken noodle soup from scratch!  My mom shared the recipe with me a few years ago and I absolutely LOVE making it.  I seriously make the soup at least every other week.  Not only do the hubby and I love it, but Evie loves it too!  It's full of veggies and just so perfect on a cold winter day.  I'll try to post the recipe soon, but if you would like to try it soon, just email me and I'd be happy to share!  

3)  Another recent love of mine is button-up shirts.  I'm one of the gals who has a hard time finding a button-up that fits right, but the ones I've tried on at Old Navy recently have worked out great!  From chambray button-ups like this one, to printed chiffon buttons-ups like this one, I love them all!  From the trend reports I've read, it sounds like button-up shirts are IN for Spring 2014...time to stock up! :) 

4)  For the minis in our lives, the start of January means it is time to start thinking about Valentine's day!  I am loving the Love collection from Gap!  How cute would little Miss Evie look in this heart print shift dress and these heart sunglasses?  TOO CUTE!  

5)  Even though it's fun to think about Spring and warm weather fun, the truth is, we still have snow here in Illinois!  In fact, we are due to get hit with up to a foot of snow by New Years day!  We have been taking advantage by taking Evie sledding!  I love seeing her eyes light up as we pull her along in her little red sled (similar here.)
    

6)  Finally, I am loving the wooden toys from Ikea!  We took a trip this weekend and picked out this bead roller coaster for our little munchkin for just $7.99!  They have a whole bunch of really great classic wooden toys that are too great to pass up.  Just another excuse to head over to the wonderful world of Ikea. :)

Our Christmas Story

Where should I start?  It's really hard to believe that Christmas has come and gone already!  We had a truly amazing Christmas this year, filled with lots of love, laughter, and memories to last us a lifetime!

On Christmas Eve, we did a little last minute shopping then spent most of the day with my parents, helping then cook and bake and just enjoying each other's company.  Later in the day we headed to my in-laws house for Christmas Eve dinner.  I absolutely LOVE Christmas Eve.  To add to the excitement of the day, mother nature didn't disappoint by giving us a WHITE Christmas.  It was absolutely PERFECT.

My mother-in-law always outdoes herself with all the amazing food she cooks!  I should have worn something with an elastic waistband!  We were all stuffed.  Evie spent most of her time running around looking at the beautiful ornaments on the Christmas tree and twirling around in her pretty red Christmas dress. :)


Evie and her cousins all had a blast playing and running around, until it was time for all the kids to get tucked snug in their beds...while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads. ;)

While Evie was sound asleep, mom and dad got to play Santa and assemble her gift - a play kitchen!  After a few hours (and a few glasses of wine for me and beer for the hubster) the kitchen was complete!  I couldn't wait for Evie to wake up so she could see what Santa brought her!!!



On Christmas morning, little Miss Evie woke up at her usual 7am.  We headed downstairs and immediately told her that today was the day that Santa came!  I don't really know if she understood, but we led her down to the basement where we had our second Christmas tree up and she immediately ran for the kitchen!  It made my heart melt to see her so excited.  There really is nothing more amazing and magical than seeing a little child's face light up on Christmas morning!!  After she opened up a few more gifts, we headed upstairs for a fun Santa pancake breakfast and to get ready for Christmas Day mass at church. 


We spent the remainder of our day with family and later watching a Christmas Story on TV.  I am so happy that we were able to capture so many great pictures and video of our Christmas.  Last year was definitely great since it was Evie's first Christmas, but this one was even better since she is older!  I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.  This truly is the most wonderful time of the year!!!

I hope everyone had a Christmas that was merry and bright and filled with lots of love and great memories!  Now we look forward to the new year and all the new and fun experiences that await us!!  :)

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!  I skipped my usual Monday post yesterday because our household has been turned upside down as we prepared for Christmas.  I may have mentioned this before, but we had SIXTEEN kids to buy presents for this year!  Needless to say, I was up to my chin in wrapping paper the last few days!  Although it's a lot, and I have been known to complain a bit about it, there is nothing that compares to the excitement on a child's face when they unwrap a gift.  In general, kids is what Christmas is all about so it makes all the running around well worth it! :)

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve tonight.  I'll be sure to recap it for everyone in the next post, but for today, I wanted to leave you with a few pictures from around our home.  I wasn't able to do all the decorating I wanted to this year, but it was enough to make our home feel festive and warm this holiday season.  I hope everyone has an amazing Christmas with family and has created memories for years to come!!! :)





Proudly displaying our beautiful nativity set - an amazing reminder of the true meaning of Christmas!

Friday Fun Post - Favorite Elf Quotes!

Elf is seriously one of my favorite Christmas movies ever.  Will Ferrell literally NAILED the performance of Buddy the Elf.  I can't wait until Evie is old enough to watch it with me and enjoy the hilarity as much as I do! 
During the last few weeks, I have found myself quoting the movie and I thought it would be fun to share my favorite quotes with you all on this last Friday before Christmas!


To add to the fun, I'm going to try to incorporate these quotes into my emails, phone calls, and conversations from now until Christmas!  Would it be ok to start answering my phone with, "Buddy the Elf, What's Your Favorite Color?!"??  How fun would that be?!! :)   Hope these make you smile!!!  Enjoy!! :)

FAVORITE QUOTES FROM ELF:
1) "SANTA! I KNOW HIM!" - Buddy

2) "I'm a cotton-headed ninny-muggins." - Buddy

3) "I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel." - Buddy

4) "You did it! Congratulations! World's best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It's great to be here." - Buddy

5) "I'm singing … I'm in a store and I'm singing … I'M IN A STORE AND I'M SINGING!" - Buddy

6) "I love smiling, smiling's my favorite!" - Buddy

7) "You stink. You smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa." - Buddy

8) "It's just nice to meet another human that shares my affinity for elf culture." - Buddy

9) "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup." - Buddy

10) "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear" - The Elves

11) "I think you're really beautiful and I feel really warm when I'm around you and my tongue swells up." - Buddy

12) "He's an angry elf." - Buddy

13) "Francisco! That's fun to say! Francisco... Frannncisco... Franciscooo..." - Buddy

14) [phone rings, Buddy picks it up] "Buddy the Elf what’s your favorite color?" - Buddy

15) "First we'll make snow angels for two hours, then we'll go ice skating, then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie-dough as fast as we can, and then we'll snuggle." - Buddy


Citrus Lane December 2013 Review

Happy Wednesday everyone!  Can you believe there are just 7 days left until Christmas!?!  Santa is coming!!! :)  Just in time for the holidays, we received our third box from Citrus Lane yesterday!  Citrus Lane is a subscription service.  For $25/month you get a surprise box every month filled with products tailored to your child's age.  This is our third month receiving the box and it's always fun to see Evie open these (while mommy snaps pics!) ;)

Here's Evie opening up her December box!

And here's a closer look of everything inside:

Contents spelled out:

1)  Melissa & Doug Rainbow Stacker ($7.99) -- This was the first toy Evie grabbed for upon opening the box.  She already has a few stacking toys, but they are plastic and not nearly as cute as this set!  I'm also a huge fan of classic wooden toys, so I'm sure this will last us a very long time! 

2)  Pearhead Handprint Canvas Wall Art ($9.99?) -- I couldn't find this exact product online (only the set of 4 canvas set) but I'm guessing this would retail around $9.99.  I LOVED seeing this in the box this month!  We did the Pearhead handprint ornament last year and were thinking about doing handprints again this year, so this is perfect!!!  It will also be a great keepsake for years to come. :)

3)  "I Took the Moon for a Walk" Paperback Book ($7.99) -- I LOVE when we get books in the boxes!  This book looks absolutely adorable.  

4) BabyTime! Snuggly Lotion ($11.99) -- We are pretty attached to our current lotions but I still like that we got this.  During the dry winter months you can never have too much lotion on hand.  This will be great to throw into my diaper bag for dry skin emergencies! :)


The verdict:  This was definitely one of my favorite boxes!  Citrus Lane did a great job this month including fun, functional, and keepsake items!   Plus, I'm calculating $37+ retail value on this, so I definitely feel like I got my money's worth on this one.

Thinking of signing up for your own Citrus Lane subscription?  Click here to use my referral link to get $10 OFF your box and I'll get a $10 credit too!  I would greatly appreciate that!! 

Monday Loveday

Happy Monday everyone!  I'm posting a little late today, but I definitely wanted to get it in!  Here we go...

1)  First and Foremost, I am loving THIS picture with Santa.  Bwahahahaha.  My little Evie was NOT a fan of Santa during a recent visit. 


2)  Leggings and slippers.  When I get home from work, it's the first thing I throw on.  Any kind of leggings and these amazing slippers I picked up from Target.  I have seem similar styles all over blogsville and had to get them.  The hubby calls me an abominable snowman, but I think they are the best thing ever! :)


3)  Target's Christmas section.  It's like an explosion of awesomeness every time I hit up the Christmas section at Target.  From this awesome reindeer to this festive berry wreath.  I LOVE all their new designers and all the awesome decor!  I want to get it ALL for my house!!  

4)  Plaid for Evie!  I've been eying so many cute holiday outfits for Evie and am loving so many items in Plaid!  There is just something so sweet about a little girl in a red plaid skirt at Christmas time!  One of my favorite outfits has to be this cardigan paired with this skirt from Janie and Jack!

5)  Vintage toys, especially anything wooden!  Evie recently inherited this awesome wooden rocking horse from grandma and grandpa (an awesome find at the Goodwill store) and I am obsessed!  I totally need to go thrift shopping ASAP! 


6)  Finally, I am loving  our new basement!  We FINALLY got carpeting in this weekend and started moving some items down there.  Once we get it looking a bit more pulled together, I will be sure to share some pictures!  For now, we have a sectional couch down there, blankets, and plenty of toys for Evie!  It's our new favorite family hangout!  Can't wait for more family fun times down there! :)

Hope everyone has a great week!  Just 8 days until Christmas Eve. Woah baby! 

Winter Activities for Toddlers!

The forecast in Chicago this week consists of temps in the teens and 20s and overnight lows in the negatives! In other words, Antarctic weather. :)  Poor little Evie has been staring out the window in despair,  knowing that it's too cold to play outside.  Because of this, and because I'm sure some of you are facing the same problem, I wanted to share a list of indoor activities to keep your little ones entertained this winter!  Here are 20 ideas!  

1.  Go to a children's museum
2.  Have a baking party and let your little one help!
3.  Make some music!


4.  Take a trip to your local library or a bookstore to pick out some new books
5.  Have a playdate with other kids
6.  Go to an indoor play gym or play center
7.  Put down some newspaper, dress your little one in old clothes, and do some painting (with non-toxic/kid-friendly paint of course!) :)
8.  Put on some fun music and do some silly dancing together
9.  Gather all kinds of cardboard boxes, lay them out, and see the fun that unfolds!
10.  Have a pool party in the bathtub - complete with bubbles, glow sticks, toys, and more
11.  Indoor bowling - get a kids bowling set up make an impromptu one with household items
12.  Take a car ride - during Christmas time go at night and look at the lights!


13.  Build a fort with couch cushions or blankets
14.  Go to an Aquarium so your little one can marvel at marine life!
15.  Take some time to "smell the roses" at an indoor conservatory or green house
16.  Buy some long twisting balloons and make balloon animals
17.  Visit a toystore and get toys - one to play with and one to donate!
18.  Build a castle from legos or visit Legoland (if you have one nearby)
19.  Take your little one to a kid-friendly diner for a fancy breakfast
20.  Stay at an indoor waterpark for a night or two and enjoy some splish-splashing fun!


Did I miss any good ones?  I'd love to hear your indoor toddler activities below! :)      

Not too hot, extra chocolate, shaken, not stirred...

Happy Monday everyone!  I'm skipping Monday Loveday again this week and instead focusing on something more important - hot chocolate.  HA!  As I've mentioned in previous posts, lately I've been drinking hot chocolate like it's my job.  This morning, on my drive to work, I heard that they just released a study that hot chocolate is good for your brain!  There you go. :)

I've been trying to experiment a bit with my toppings, milk vs. water, etc.  Below is a picture of my classic favorite - Hot chocolate with steamed milk, whipped cream, and chocolate drizzle! 



In addition to this wonderful classic, I thought I would share some of my other favorite hot chocolate recipes that I have found online!  I was further inspired to look for the "perfect" recipe after watching Tim Allen guzzle down the perfect hot cocoa in "The Santa Clause" this weekend.  So, without further ado...  

1)  White Hot Chocolate:  I found this one from the loveable Paula Deen.  I haven't tried this one yet, but anything with white chocolate sounds AMAZING to me.

2)  Nutella Hot Chocolate:  I don't think this one requires a description.  Perfection.

3)  Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate:  I'm a sucker for anything with caramel on it, so this was a no-brainer.  Heavenly and tastes just like Starbucks!!

4)  Frozen Hot Chocolate:  With our freezing temps lately, I have not had a chance to try this one yet, but it looks delish!  Christmas in July drink??  Sign me up!

5)  Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter Hot Cocoa:  Leave it to Ms. Martha Stewart to kick things up a few notches.  This one takes some time to prep, but is so worth it!!

6)  Peppermint Hot Chocolate:  I'm personally not much of a peppermint person, but if I was, this recipe looks awesome!  And how cute would it be to garnish it with a cute little peppermint stick!?

Hope everyone is staying warm and toasty.  Happy hot chocolate sipping! :)

Baby It's Cold Outside...

The Midwest has gotten a blast of cold air and we are hovering in the 20s for the next couple days!  BRRrrrRRRRrrrr!!!  Wouldn't it be nice if we could just be like Bears and hibernate through these cold days?  The family and I have been trying to stay warm and cozy.  Nowadays I'm living in leggings and fuzzy socks and drinking hot cocoa like it's my job.  I've also become obsessed with baking things in our oven in the evenings.  From cinnamon rolls, to crescent rolls, to oatmeal raisin cookies...this is the one good thing about winter!  Curling up on the couch with a mug of warmth and some tasty goodies!  

Below are s'more of my favorite winter items! See what I did there? ;)   

Stay warm everyone!!!
T-19 days until Santa comes!
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Thanksgiving Recap

Our lights and tree are up and the only remnant of Thanksgiving in our house is the bag of Tupperware that I need to return to my mom (from all those leftovers she packed for me.)  HA!  It's been almost a week since Turkey Day but I wanted to do a quick recap of our day for you all!  

We started Thanksgiving day with our usual tradition - grabbing the newspaper and attacking the Black Friday ads! :)  We love sitting around our kitchen table and laying out all our favorite ads (usually Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us for me ;)) and circling the items we want to purchase.  

After our newspaper tradition, I put on my apron and started prepping to bake my apple crostada!  I didn't get a chance to do a test run earlier in the week so there was alot of pressure for a successful outcome!  Either it turned out, or I would be driving to Baker's Square to pick up whatever pie they had left!  After about an hour of prep, my pastry was in the oven baking....just in time for Evie's nap. :) I spent the rest of the morning making some pretty flower arrangements in mason jars and packing up our bags for the drive to grandma and grandpa's house.  Just as Evie woke up, my oven timer beeped - apple crostada was DONE and smelled AMAZING! :)
   
As far as how we dressed little Miss Evie, I went with a midnight purple velour dress from Gap, a silver glitter bow hair clip from the Children's Place, white tights, and silver ballet flats from Target.  She looked like such a sweet little girl in her fancy dress!!


We had a really nice low-key Turkey Day with just a few of our closest family.  Evie LOVED the turkey leg we gave her and it made for some hilarious pics.  

Hope everyone had a equally wonderful Thanksgiving!  Now we wait for Santa!! :)  



Our Favorite Christmas Movies!

Happy December!!! Let the countdown to Christmas officially begin! Instead of a typical Monday Loveday list, I thought I'd do something different today in celebration of December.  One of my favorite things about this time of year is all the Christmas movies! 

There's nothing like curling up on the couch and enjoying some Christmas classics.  From "Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal" to "You'll Poke Your Eye Out Kid!," all the Christmas movies on TV in December get me so excited for the holidays!  Evie and I already watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas last night and can't wait to watch more!  


I'd like to share with you our top 15 favorite Christmas movies!  In no particular order...

1. Home Alone 
2. Home Alone 2
3. Elf
4. It Nearly Wasn't Christmas
5. A Christmas Story
6. A Very Brady Christmas
7. Garfield Christmas
8. Christmas Vacation
9. The Santa Clause
10. Polar Express
11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
12. Charlie Brown Christmas
13. Love Actually 
14. Mickey's Christmas Carol
15. Jingle All The Way

I'm super excited that 25 days of Christmas has kicked off on ABC Family. To see a listing of Christmas movies on TV this season click here

And let's not forget the goodies!  We kicked off December with some yummy fresh-baked cinnamon rolls! Happy watching and snacking! :)



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