The day after Christmas

Today is the day after Christmas. If you’re like me, you are recovering from your overindulgence, your lack of sleep, and your over enthusiasm. If you’re like me, all you want to do is take a nap. But I digress.

 

I always feel like the week after Christmas and before New Years is the time to prepare my heart and mind for what the next year will bring.

My next year will bring the greatest moment of my life up until now, my wedding. I am so excited; and so stressed all at the same time. I never realized there was so much to plan for, and we aren’t even hosting 100 people. It will be small and intimate, but still there is a lot to do.

This year also continues my journey with Paleo. My goal is to be in the greatest shape of my life by the time my wedding comes. And that means work. And work is hard (duh!). That means getting up early, and avoiding the foods that I love, but you know; I think I’m finally ready. I think I’m finally ready to make that commitment to myself and my body. I deserve it. I deserve to be comfortable in my own skin. And yes it takes dedication, but I’m ready for the fight.

This year also brings a change for my finances. I will be joining Mr. Right’s bank after our wedding, and I want to have my finances in order by then. It’s not that they are totally out of whack, but I do want to pay off all my debt so that I can start my marriage on a clean slate. So that’s another discipline to take care of.

And you know, there are other things that I would love to accomplish this next year- say writing a children’s book, going back to school, moving into a house; but I know that I can’t do everything in one year; so this is what I propose.

Each week, starting the first week of January, I will be sharing a “small change” that I will be conquering for the next year. It could be anything from walking 30 minutes a day, to flossing, to taking time to do nothing. Through all these small changes, I’m hoping to make a large difference in my health, my mind, and my general well being by this time next year. I invite you to join me on this journey. The small changes won’t be anything too difficult, but if we keep it up all year, we may be one step closer to becoming the person we know we were meant to be.

Will you join me?

With Love,

Amy

Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man.  ~Quoted in Benjamin Franklin’s 1755 Poor Richard’s Almanac

 

from google images

from google images

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A Christmas Letter

Dear Jesus,

I just wanted to write you a note to say, “Happy Birthday!”. Congratulations on the day of your birth. Tomorrow is the day that you were born fully human while remaining fully God. And that’s a pretty big deal.

I must admit, I haven’t always understood your purpose or what exactly the result was, but I just wanted to say; on this anniversary of sorts, now I get it. I finally get it. I finally understand why you came here, in the form of a helpless baby, just to die a terrible death 30 (ish) years later.

Jesus, you know I grew up in the church, and you know I can talk the talk and walk the walk… in my sleep… with one arm tied behind my back. 🙂 but why then did I always feel so guilty?

Why did I always feel like the real me inside was screaming to get out when I was doing everything I was “supposed” to do? You know that’s why I left don’t you? You know that’s why I did everything I could to piss you off.

“Ooo look at me Jesus, I’m not going to church and I just said a cuss word!”

But I have to admit, I think I finally realized what all this is really about.

It’s not about how much biblical knowledge I have or how many Christian bumper stickers are on my car, or that I go to church every Sunday.

And it’s not about knowing all the answers and never making mistakes.

And I know it’s not about what music I listen to, what movies I watch, or that I must vote Republican for goodness sake!

No, that is not why you came all the way here from your mighty throne to be born in a stable, of a virgin, to become a carpenter’s son.

You came here to give the greatest gift this world has never understood- Grace.

Grace is not a normal human response. Grace is not how we are hardwired to think or act. Grace is a gift, freely given, that does not look at fairness or has any scale of measure. Grace looks not at what is supposed to be, what is “right”, or who should win.

Grace is not    of     us.

I was right earlier when I said we were screw ups. We are. We are major, complete, and total screw ups. You know, “to ere is human”. No one is perfect. No one has the ability to live a perfect life.

But you know, to get to heaven to live with God eternally, you have to be perfect. There is no way around that. There is no grey area, no “mostly” good. Heck, there is no “good”; only perfect, and us.

But God created us in His image. He has a soft spot for us. All throughout the Bible God shows His Grace to us; by allowing an adulterer to become a mighty king, a thief to become a prophet, a murderer to become the father of a nation. God has a reputation for taking royal screw ups and using them in huge ways. That is grace. We don’t deserve that. We don’t deserve anything. We are the ones that turned away from Him. We all are meant to suffer for our pride, our hatred, our lust. And a lot of us do. That is justice. That is right. But that is not grace. Most of us don’t know that there is freedom from that which binds us. We aren’t stuck being screw ups forever. We have a chance to be seen as we were supposed to be; perfect, and to live with our Father.

And that’s where you come in, is it not Jesus? That’s where you take your place, as the perfect human that dies the worse death; suffering, so that we don’t have to. Dying in our place. It’s not fair. It’s not right or just.

But it is grace. It is what God is best at. Our loving Father wanted to be with us so badly that He sent His son, down to Earth, to live a lowly life, and to die an excruciating death. We are not deserving of such a gift, such love.

And I finally understand. It’s not that being a Christian gives me a list of rules to follow to be good. It’s not that I have to look, sound, or act a certain way. Being a Christian merely means that you know you will never get it right, that there is nothing you can do to earn your passage out of hell, so instead you accept the offer that God laid down; grace. There is nothing to do, because it has already been done. Just acknowledge that and your mistakes will be wiped out of history; past, present, and future.

That amazes me.

It’s not like my sin magically disappears and all I want to do is sing hymns and read my Bible; not at all. But I do know that I’m never going to get it right, and that’s alright.  I’m human, a screw up but my God has saved me, through His grace, so that I may spend eternity with Him.

So thank you Jesus, thank you Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, angels, and star.

and Merry Christmas.

Love,

Amy

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

The Non-Crappy Gift List for Children :)

For as young as I am, I’ve worked for a long time with children. I’ve worked with a wide variety of ages, in different settings, and with all types of kids. And, I’ve been to a LOT of birthday parties. It’s Baby Miss’ 2nd birthday party this weekend, which has gotten me in a “present” state of mind (pun completely intended) :). It always baffles me how many absolutely terrible presents kids get. And no, I’m not talking socks and underwear. I’m talking toys. There are a lot of ridiculous toys available today; mountains of plastic, no creativity needed, and poorly made. It drives me bonkers.

But, I am here to save you from all craziness. I’ve put together a list of fabulous toys for all ages, as well as list of my favorite retailers so you can find your child’s new favorite toy!

There are five different types of toys; Dramatic Play, Active Play, Puzzles and Games, and arts and music, and sensorial. I’m going to give you some ideas in each category. Ready? Here we go!

Discount School Supplies Animal Hand Puppets

Discount School Supplies Animal Hand Puppets

Dramatic Play: So important for kids to be able to engage their imaginations 

Melissa and Doug

Melissa and Doug

scarves, stuffed animals, puppets, pretend food and kitchen supplies, dolls (of all cultures), dress up clothes (my favorite place to get these especially for school age kids is Goodwill or Salvation Army), play house, doll house, cars and trucks, mailbox, plastic or wooden animals and barn (or equivalent).

Active Play: Indoor or outdoor, kids need to move! 

bikes, trikes, jump ropes, balls (of all sizes, materials, textures, etc), tumbling mats, hoops, tunnels, scooters, bean bags, bowling sets, horseshoes, hula hoops, ribbon dancers, balance boards, mini trampolines, cones, domes, hopscotch mat, mini parachute, yoga mat and book or dvd, skates, etc.

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

 

 

 

Puzzles and Games: Great for fine motor skills, problem solving, and turn taking

Candyland, Tic Tac Toe (travel set), The Storymatic, Charades, Tangrams, Colorforms, 3D puzzles or models (for older kids), Twister, Guess Who, Connect Four, memory games, dominoes, Chutes and Ladders, Go fish, puzzles of all sorts, etc.

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Arts and Music: Let’s your kid’s creativity shine with art supplies and musical instruments

Music of all types, instruments of all types, twirly skirts (as Little Miss calls them), scarves, ribbon dancers, playdough and rollers, cutters,etc; stamps and ink, markers, crayons, paper, watercolors, glue, construction paper, paint, art smocks, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, glitter glue, foam, felt, con-tact paper, scissors with all different edges, paper plates, beads, pom poms, stickers, rhinestones, popsicle sticks, chalk, etc.

Melissa and Doug

Melissa and Doug

You could make your own “craft kit” by throwing lots of different supplies in a super cute basket or box. Trust me- they’ll love it!

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Sensorial: Great for fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, and so much more

Blocks (wooden, foam, all colors and types), moon sand, playdough, construction sets, legos, magnet sets, threading boards, lacing beads, a light table and accessories, water and/or sand table, water toys, felt board and accessories, wooden pattern blocks and picture cards, clay, Floam, etc.

Discount School Supply

Discount School Supply

Uncommon Goods

Uncommon Goods

Now there are two other gift ideas that I have that don’t fit under either category. One is, books. I can not say enough about how important it is for you to read to your child every day… ok, end of my speech. 🙂 Second, would be activities. These could be coupons for ice cream, ice skating, trips to the zoo, museums, and more. Children love getting out and exploring new things as well as spending time with their parents.

Here are some of my favorite retailers:

http://www.discountschoolsupply.com/ Great for art supplies, manipulatives, dramatic play, and more

http://www.melissaanddoug.com They have amazing puzzles, games, pretend play toys, blocks, and tons more.

http://www.uncommongoods.com/ They have toys, books, puzzles, and great gifts for teens; things that you can find no where else!

And let me just say: I am not paid by or sponsored by any of these websites or products, I just really like them.

Please let me know if you have any questions. 🙂

Love!

Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow!!! (In my best White Christmas rendition)

For some reason today, my mind has been very “snow” focused. I have no idea why. It’s not like we get snow here, in sunny California, but apparently my mind didn’t care.

It all started when I took Baby Miss to ArtBeast this morning. ArtBeast is a FABULOUS kid’s art studio that we try to go to at least once a week. We participated in their toddler story and art time this morning. The craft was to use painter’s tape and create letters or shapes on a canvas. Then the little ones sponge painted over it. When the paint dries, you peel the tape off and voila!, a beautiful piece of art.

I decided to make a snowflake on Baby Miss’ canvas. She covered it in blue and purple paint and once dry, we peeled the tape off. It came out super cute! It’s now hanging on the wall and she’s getting a kick out of seeing her art up there. Love it!
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Next, on the way home from preschool today, Little Miss asked, “Are we going to do anything fun today?”. To which I quickly responded, “Of course not, we never do anything fun”.

She did not find the hilarity in my sarcasm. 🙂

I had been trying to think of something all morning to do with Little Miss when she got home from school, and I finally remembered a  “snow” paint recipe I saw on Pinterest. It looked easy, and lots of FUN. All it needed was shaving cream and white glue (the glue is supposed to help it dry puffy). I added some tempura paint too, for color.
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Little Miss loved it! She thought it was hilarious how the paint stood up. I had a bowl for each color and a big stack of construction paper and gave her free reign. It was neat to be able to create a somewhat 3D picture. I think they turned out pretty cute. What do you think?
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And you know what? There is even enough shaving cream left over to have some really fun sensory play with Baby Miss tomorrow. Oh boy I’m excited!

Lastly, during Baby Miss’ nap, I created these “counting snowmen”. She has started to mimic her sister’s counting, so I thought, why not put that to good use and teach her some numbers. I wrote a number on the bottom of the snowmen and put that number of buttons down his front. They turned out adorable!
Now she can count the buttons, and see the corresponding number. We can even work on sequencing the numbers once she gets the hang of it. Yay!
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What will my obsession be tomorrow? Lord only knows. 🙂

Love!

Sugar high!

I have to say, as much as I’m trying to obstain from sweets… it really isn’t the holiday season without doing some form of baking. Yesterday my mom and I had our annual cookie baking extravaganza! We bake gobs of cookies, sing along to Christmas music, and watch Christmas movies that we’ve completely memorized. I love it. It’s one of my favorite parts of the whole season, heck, the whole year!

Poor Mr. Right got stuck in the middle of it. He and Rocky-the- wonderdog watched football in the other room. Of course they had to come and taste test everything. 🙂 Hard life, huh?

Here’s Mom and I with just some our “load”.

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I also mixed a batch of sugar cookie dough to bring to the girls today. I baked them off this morning and Little Miss and I decorated them all after lunch. It was a lot of cookies, and I only made half the batch!

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You can find the recipe I used here.

So good! I made her simple cookie glaze too and put it in squeeze bottles for easy decorating for the girls.

I had so much fun sharing my love of baking during the holidays with Little Miss and Baby Miss. It was great to one day enjoy a yearly tradition with my mom, and the next see that same tradition afresh through youthful eyes.

I can’t wait till I have my own kids that can join me and my mother, covered in flour, singing super loudly, and giggling uncontrollably!

What’s your favorite family holiday tradition?

Love!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Tonight Little Miss and Baby Miss’ parents will be picking out their Christmas tree. I thought I would help with the festivities by having the girls decorate their own trees today. 

I cut out two trees from green construction paper (one for each girl) and helped them glue the trees to another piece of paper (any color).  

For Baby Miss, who is two, I gave crayons and stickers. It took her a while to figure out exactly how to get the stickers on, but once she got it, she was in heaven! She kept asking for more and more (stickers are great for fine-motor work)
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For Little Miss, I put some paint on a tray and handed her q-tips. She used the q-tips to dot “lights” on her tree. She really liked making the lights, but her favorite part came when I gave her the glittery puffy paint. I showed her how to make dots and then let her go-to-it. She loved how it sparkled. 
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Both options were simple, and relatively mess free. Love it! 

And now their trees are decorating the house while they wait in anticipation for the real thing. 🙂 

Have I said how much I love this time of year?!? Yay Christmas! 

 

Love!

Do you have 5 minutes?

I’m continuing to decorate for Christmas this weekend and I wanted to share an easy seasonal craft that I came up with. There was some blank space on my kitchen wall that I was wanting to fill, and instead of putting in family pictures or something similar, I decided I would use that space seasonally. I bought two inexpensive frames from the craft store, and also a pack of seasonal scrapbook paper.

I printed out a holiday silhouette from my computer, a bell, and traced that shape onto solid scrapbook paper. Then I cut printed scrapbook paper to fit in the frame. I glued the bell onto the other paper and slid it in the frame. Easy peasy!

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I want to try and change these out for each season/holiday. It takes 5 minutes and is super cute. I could do leaves for fall, a bunny for Easter, and flowers for the summer. The possibilities are endless!

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I love simple, easy, and inexpensive ideas that make a great impact.

Love!
xoxo

Fa La La and Yum Yum Yum

Ah Christmas. I love it. I mean Fall is my favorite season, but Christmas is my ultimate favorite thing in the universe! Now, no, I’m not the type to put up my decorations right after Halloween, but let’s just say the moment I’ve eaten the turkey and downed a glass of bubbly apple cider, all my thoughts fall to Christmas.

Mr. Right and I are going to pick out our tree next weekend, and tonight starts the super exciting “decking of the halls!” or hall… seeing as my apartment only has one. 🙂 We even started watching Christmas movies this week. It’s just not Christmas without, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Rudolph, or the Grinch.

And I am so excited to share my love of Christmas with Little Miss and Baby Miss. Last year I was able to do lots of fun things with Little Miss, but now Baby Miss is old enough to get in on the fun. Yay!

Today, while Little Miss was at preschool, Baby Miss and I created Rudolph, complete with shiny nose and all!

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Isn’t he cute?

All I had her do was color a paper plate brown. Then we added big googly eyes, and a red pompom for a nose. The antlers are her hand prints on brown paper. We poked a hole on the top and stuck a pipe cleaner through. It may end up on the Christmas tree when it arrives, otherwise, Rudolph looks pretty cozy hanging on the kitchen cabinets. 🙂

Little Miss and I made our first batch of Christmas cookies today. (Yes, I know cookies aren’t exactly Paleo… but they are very much Christmas, and I only ate one…ish.) ;-p

We had planned on making peanut butter cookies, but realized we couldn’t find any peanut butter in the house. EEk! So, we opted to create Nutella cookies. They turned out fabulous. All I did was slightly tweak the peanut butter cookie recipe.

The recipe we followed came from America’s Test Kitchen, found here.

I changed a few things in the recipe. Because Nutella is much sweeter than peanut butter, I halved the sugar (both white and brown). The first batch also came out slightly salty, so I decided to halve the salt too. The dough is quite sticky, so I recommend refrigerating it for a bit to make it easier to form balls. Then just roll out tbsp size balls, and bake 10-12 min at 350. They are fabulous! Feel free to sprinkle raw sugar on before baking (it gives them a great texture) or mix in nuts, chocolate chips, or anything else you fancy, into the dough.

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That’s it! Easy peasy. Hope you love them as much as I do.

Love!

xoxo