Do I really want to simplify this holiday season?


Today we are hitting the tail end of what has been one of the most eventful weeks I have had in a very long time.  I’m not sure why things didn’t end up more spread out this month but events seemed to happen back to back to back this week.  We had birthday parties and band concerts and shopping to do and gifts to wrap and elves to supervise (tons of elf on the shelf inspiration here and here if you need it!) and I joined in on a couple of things I don’t normally do for the holidays.  Plus add in keeping up on the routine things like running kids to the orthodontist, checking homework, cleaning the house, volunteering in Tyler’s classroom, paying bills, running errands, and getting the husband to cook dinner as often as possible…

(I’ve been trying to take at least one photo a day for at least a partial attempt at December Daily so feel free to check out what I’ve been up to on my Instagram feed. )

Among all of this I keep seeing mentions of simplifying the holidays on social media and it has me wondering – do I really want to simplify my holidays this year?  Did I somehow take on too much or do it wrong this time around?

I hate feeling like I’m rushed or stressed and typically I’m pretty good at saying “no” to things that will bring too much of that into my life.  I almost always plan ahead and try to get the prep work done for big projects, parties, etc. days or weeks before they need to be done because I dislike doing anything last-minute.  My goal for Christmas is to have the majority of my gift shopping done by December 1st and here it is the 11th and I’m still missing things and in some cases I don’t even had decent gift ideas figured out.

When I pulled out my calendar Thanksgiving weekend and realized that we had committed to sooooooo many things that fell this second week of December I had a moment of panic wondering how we were going to handle it all.  I’ve been hoping daily that I won’t get sick because things would come to screeching halt if I did.  I have had to keep pretty close track of my time and priorities since then.  And there has been more than one night when my elf alarm (yes I set a nightly alarm on my phone for 30 minutes past bedtime to help me remember those elves) went off and I found myself wishing Tyler was ready to move on to being Santa’s helper along with his big sister (not that I ever want to wish my kids older or more experienced and jaded than they are – they grow up WAY too fast already).


I haven’t regretted a single event or plan we made this week.  Not one.

My son had an awesome amazing birthday and a crazy chaotic joyful birthday party (birthday on Monday, party Friday night. blog post to be determined!).

My daughter shone in her band concert, more poised and confidant each time one of these comes around.

Our Bunco Christmas party was a pajama-clad, gift-stealing, fun tradition.

I got to know a lot of great people in the neighborhood and renew acquaintances with other fantastic people I haven’t seen in a long time while I spent hours helping decorating for the church party (a church I don’t actually attend).  It turned out beautifully and there is satisfaction in that along with the pleasure of watching the party itself happen.  I was busy most of the party as well, playing Santa’s helper and the interactions between Santa and the kids, teens, and even the adults were so fun to watch.  (Santa was really on his game yesterday – it was awesome).  PS – I’ll blog about the party details soon!

And for the first time since high school (I think we hit the 20 year reunion this year!) I took the opportunity to sing with a big choir at the community Christmas concert last night (a much bigger event than I knew it would be when I signed up).

So my take-away from this week?

Sometimes putting in the extra effort is totally worth it.

No matter what you are doing or what you may need to be doing in an hour, be fully in the moment and enjoy that one thing on its own.


Don’t be afraid to say yes.

Do I recommend filling every week to the brim?  Nope.  Do I want to take on every single thing someone asks me to do?  Nuh-uh.  Do I intend to take one day next week and spend it on the couch binge watching a show, drinking hot chocolate and forgetting everything else for an afternoon?  Absolutely.

Life isn’t about doing only the minimum or cutting out some of the hoopla simply because it’s what other people are doing.  I think we need to give ourselves things to look forward to.

You can’t do everything but you can do anything you choose.

So choose wisely but don’t be afraid to push yourself a bit.  I don’t think you’ll regret it either.

Happy December!
We are now off to the big gingerbread house decorating party with the husband’s family…



5 Summer Themed Gift Basket Ideas for Under $25

5 Summer Themed Gift Basket Ideas for Under $25

Happy 4th of July!  It’s ok if I jump the gun a little bit right?  I’m pretty sure the festivities (4 nights of rodeo) start tomorrow night here anyway.

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays.  I love the enthusiasm for it here in my hometown.  The flags all over the place.  So many events to pick and choose however we want to celebrate.  And the red, white and blue – one of my favorite color combinations.  So, when it worked out that it’s my mom’s turn to host our Bunco group right after the 4th of July we were really excited to put together the prizes.  And what better for a 4th of July/summer theme than food-related gift baskets?!

The prizes are supposed to range in cost from about $12 to $24 so all five of these gift basket ideas are under $25.  As a fun twist we not only stuck to a summer food/dinner theme but tried to incorporate as much of the red, white and blue patriotic theme as we could find.  With the 24th of July Pioneer Days celebration here in Utah, we keep the red, white and blue out the entire month of July 😉

Picnic Themed Summer Gift Basket Patriotic Red White and Blue for 4th of July

My favorite basket would have to be our picnic themed one.  We found this adorable insulated picnic basket to use as the base for the gift (from TJ Maxx).  I love that it’s red, white and blue colors but flower-patterned instead of stars and stripes so you can use it any time of year.  We filled the basket with  patriotic themed picnic supplies – paper plates, napkins, those adorable red mason jar drinking cups with straws, a vinyl tablecloth, and red, white and blue tortilla chips to finish it off.

Fourth of July Patriotic Themed Gift Basket Idea Summer Picnic Gift Basket Idea for Bunco Wedding or other events

Ice Cream Themed Summer Gift Basket Idea Patriotic Red White and Blue for 4th of July

What’s summer without ice cream, right?  We just had to do an ice cream themed basket but the kind of base to use for the theme was a bit of a sticking point.  In the end we went with a basket of sand toys – ice cream and the beach works great, right?  The little sand strainer was the perfect thing to lift the items up so you can seem them above the top of the basket.  The basket is filled with an ice cream scoop, ice cream cones and waffle bowls, and a selection of toppings like chocolate and caramel syrup, marshmallow cream, and of course, some red white and blue sprinkles.

Popcorn Themed Summer Gift Basket Idea

With all of the free concerts in the park, drive-ins, or those fun DIY back yard movie theaters that summer has to offer, we went with a popcorn theme for our third basket.  This one was also a good fit for our least expensive gift basket since it doesn’t take a lot to make this one cute.  We grabbed a blue popcorn bowl for the base and smaller individuals bowls in red, then added some microwave popcorn and a selection of popcorn seasonings.

Hot Dog Roast Themed Summer Gift Basket Idea

Our local grocery store always has these great hot dog roasting sticks in stock and we knew we wanted to use these for one of the gifts (I have a set and we use them ALL the time).  The tricky part was figuring out how to package up something so long and skinny.  In the end we went a similar route as the ice cream but instead of sand toys we tied everything to a children’s bat and ball set  (baseball and hotdogs – totally works).  We also added a set of hot dog baskets (red, white, and blue!) like you would get at the drive-in, condiment squirt bottles and a container of potato chips.

BBQ Themed Summer Gift Basket Patriotic for 4th of July

For our final gift basket we went with a back yard grilling/BBQ theme.  The container is a plastic water pitcher to which we added some grilling tools, kebab baskets, corn on the cob holders, a grill brush with some barbeque sauce and a marinade, and a lighter.

BBQ Themed Summer Gift Basket Idea

I can’t decide which one I would like to win – can you? 😉  I can’t wait for our Bunco party, but first I’m going to enjoy the fireworks this weekend.

Five Summer Themed Gift Basket Ideas for Bunco Wedding gift or other special occasion


Summer Bucket List 2016


Summer Bucket List 2016 Fun ideas for getting out and enjoying summer with the kids AlaynasCreations
Summer is in full swing!  With the Summer Solstice/First Day of Summer this past week I think we can declare it official – as if we hadn’t already.

The kids and I have spent the past couple of weeks getting into our daily summer routine, which includes spending the mornings at the pool for swim team and a lot of lazy afternoons.  It feels very easy to just drift along and let that be all we worry about and that’s been great so far but I’m afraid that too much down time leads to sibling arguments and mommy crankiness (and maybe a bit of jealousy when we see everyone else’s vacation photos).  So it has become our tradition to sit down as a family at the beginning of summer and make a list of all the things we each want to include in our summer – a Summer Bucket List.

Summer Fun with the Kids Make your own bucket list of ideas for summer fun

You know the tradition is a good one when the kids ask “Mom, when are we going to ____?” and that’s exactly what happened this year.  A week or so before school let out my little guy was asking when we were going to make our summer list and that weekend we sat down to compile ideas.  The husband even contributed a couple via chat (though mostly his big goal was to finish this deployment).  We try to come up with a combination of ideas – some easy, some that require more planning, a few goals (last year we wanted to hike to the top of Timpanogos), some that are fun and some that might require a little work.

This year’s list includes:
-lots of playdates/friend time
-family vacation
-family game of Monopoly (Tyler is obsessed)
-Kaitlyn:  babysitting, swim camp, get a state swim time, YW camp, be in the parade, build muscle
-Tyler:  new tricks on skateboard/scooter/bike, 4H Arts and Crafts Camp, Scout badges, change bedtime to 9 PM (his biggest request)
-sleep under the stars
-make a list of things to do on rainy summer days
-night games
-parties:  water fights, treasure/scavenger hunt, end of school party
-Do/see something new
-play baseball with Bambi (the dog)
-regular exercise for all, especially Bambi
-try out a new restaurant
-kids learn to cook a few things
-Sam home!

You can see last year’s list HERE.  And if you need even more ideas to get you started with your own list I have a great post full of Summer Fun Ideas Without Breaking the Bank.

Bucket List Summer Fun with the kids

Once our list is compiled I like to put it on display in a frame where we can easily refer to it and cross things off (dry erase markers work great on glass).  True to form, it took me a while after our family pow-wow to type it and get it up on display.  I suppose that works in my favor since this week I’ve felt like we needed to give ourselves a bit more direction and now all we have to do is pick something from the list and go do it.

Summer Fun Witouth Breaking the Bank Sprinklers

My biggest take-away from my chat with the kids was that they wanted to spend a lot more time with friends.  I get that.  During the school year we have very little time between school, homework, and activities and they were feeling socially deprived.  No one wants to be bored or lonely or to feel like our friends might be out having fun while we sit at home, especially during the summer.  But it does take some effort to turn that Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) into Getting Out More Often (GOMO), doesn’t it?  I’ve found, however, that the effort and planning is worth it.  And once I get past some of the roadblocks like trying to coordinate with friends with busy schedules and that whole Jungle-Book-esque mind-set of “What do you want to do?”  “I dunno, what do you want to do?” (don’t tell me I’m the only one that pictures those buzzards every time we have a hard time coming up with a plan?!), it’s really not that hard to get out and have fun.

Still need a bit more inspiration or ideas for things to do?  Check out websites like Eventbrite – it’s like TicketMaster but for smaller events, and can be used to coordinate your own events like a local 5K.  I hadn’t heard of this website until a few weeks ago, then coincidentally a few days later my son brought home a note from school about 4H opportunities this summer and wouldn’t you know it – online sign ups were available through Eventbrite.  Tyler was excited about the Arts and Crafts workshop so I had my first experience personally using the website and it was pretty easy and user-friendly.  I could see this being a great resource since you can search for events by area or even create your own events (oh how great would that have been when we were putting together our own version of Paint Night?!  Oh wait – I haven’t blogged about that one yet.  Remind me to do that soon – it was awesome! 😉  )

Other great resources include your local community events (4th of July plans, anyone?), summer workshops (Kaitlyn just had a blast at swim camp at a somewhat-nearby university), outdoor concerts and plays (we gave my mom tickets to Peter Pan for Mother’s Day and the play was on Tuesday.  It was so much fun – one of my favorite plays to date and I’ve seen quite a few), and so on.

No excuses, right?  I’m off to call a friend and make plans for a picnic at the park for next week.  Or research a nearby hiking trail the kids and I haven’t had a chance to explore yet.  So tell me, what’s on your Summer Bucket List?


Linking to:  Home Matters Party, BFF Open House,

Week in the Life 2016 – Sunday’s Words and Photos


Sunday was the final day for my Week in the Life photo project – a full week of taking extra notice of all the routine things in life and documenting them (a fun project spearheaded by Ali Edwards.  More info on her blog).  It was a fun week and I snapped a lot of good photos I might not otherwise have taken, but it’s intense to put that much concentration into something every day all day so it’s been nice to take a step back and get back to my more natural photo taking practices (which still means plenty of photos).

I truly do want to finish up the entire project this year, which for me means pulling together the photos and the journaling here on the blog – getting it all down in black and white while the memories are still fresh – before putting it all together in an album.  I have done this photo project 3-4 times in the past and I do well with the photos and note taking during the week and pretty good putting most of it on the blog but I have yet to get an entire Week in the Life fully in an album yet.  This week is going to be the year I do that!  (Someone remind me of that a week from now when I am still procrastinating on ordering the photo prints!)  So to keep myself on track – here is the journaling and photos from my final day of Week In the Life – Sunday:


Started this rainy Sunday out slowly getting inspiration for the last day documenting #weekinthelife #documentyourdays (caption from Instagram Post)


Bambi was excited to go outside first thing until I opened the door and she realized it was raining.



9:00 AM sorting through the kids’ summer clothes before we go shopping. Tyler has a lot that still fit from last year, Kaitlyn needs an entire new wardrobe


10:15 AM  Kaitlyn and I are ready to head out the door for some shopping but there was no hurrying Tyler.  I guess I could have let him put off his weekend chores until later but I had already let him out of it on Saturday morning so this is Kaitlyn impatiently waiting for Tyler to finish vacuuming.



Today’s plan: shopping for summer clothes for the kiddos. Easiest thing to find – tank tops for Kaitlyn. Hardest thing: finding Kate shorts…and keeping the little guy from complaining. (caption from Instagram post)


First stop was Justice where we had lots of choices for Kaitlyn with Tshirts and tank tops but didn’t love any of the shorts.



11:30 AM  Old Navy resulted in a couple of pairs of shorts for Tyler, this Minecraft Tshirt, and flipflops for both kiddos.  Children’s Place yielded a pair of shorts for Tyler and I had to talk him out of a new tie and baseball cap.  Still on a quest for denim shorts for Kaitlyn, we struck out at Aeropostle before taking a break for lunch.


12:30PM lunch at Panda Express.  Choosing a restaurant always a hard thing when eating out with Tyler (not so much with Kaitlyn anymore – yay) so we over-use Panda Express (and Taco Bell).  Oh well – everyone ends up satisfied so it works.  PS – his time in the high chair only lasted for a couple of minutes before he switched to a regular chair.  Sometimes being a little silly is ok.


When we pulled into the driveway after shopping today Kaitlyn got out then immediately turned back to the car and grabbed my phone so she could get this shot of the robin. #weekinthelife may be teaching them more than how to pose for photos without complaining 😉


2:15 PM  Home with all our loot.  A stop at TJ Maxx yielded a couple of pairs of shorts for Kate from the Juniors section (not sure how I feel about her transitioning to adult sizes!  Right now it’s super hard to find things that fit her but it’s also another sign my little girl is growing up) and a trip to Wal-Mart gave us more cough medicine for Kaitlyn (thank goodness the cold never turned really horrible for her) and a gift for one of Tyler’s classmates for the party next weekend, and Kaitlyn and I treated ourselves to new pens.


5:00 PM  Rainy, cold and overcast all day meant it was not a day for the dinner over the fire that Tyler had requested but we went with the hot dogs anyway.  The marshmallows will have to wait for another day.


Final sunset for this project.  Rainy days make the best sunsets.


I thought it was nice to mirror the first photo from this morning.  This is the end table in the family room next to the chair where I usually hang out.  I managed to finish that book (one I’ve been reading all week) while drinking hot chocolate after the kids went to bed.  Good night.

The day in numbers:
-total photos taken:  26 with my phone and 41 with the DSLR
-5647 steps taken
-48 miles driven

If you’ve missed any of my earlier Week in the Life posts feel free to check them out or follow me on Instagram as I’ve been posting photos as I go along this week.

-2016 – Monday’s Words and Photos
-2016 – Tuesday’s Words and Photos
-2016 – Wednesday’s Words and Photos
-2016 – Thursday’s Words and Photos
-2016 – Friday’s Words and Photos
-2016 – Saturday’s Words and Photos
-2015 – Main Post with links to Words and Photos for each day

Week in the Life 2016 – Saturday’s Words and Photos


I put aside the blogging the last two days of my Week in the Life photo project (and attempt to capture some of the everyday details we often overlook, a concept I ran across on Ali Edwards’ blog) and concentrated on just living life for a couple of days.  I think that’s the lesson I am constantly learning/making myself aware of – finding the balance between what I want to do, what I “should” do, and what my body, energy, motivation or emotions are telling me they want to deal with at any given time, when to push past it and when to step back.  I think once the intense energy and concentration of taking a lot of photos for an entire week was past I ended up wanting a little breathing room, a day or two to put my focus on other things.  So I took the time and let myself get back into a more normal mind-set and now I’m ready to put the journaling and photos together for the final two days of the project before I forget any of the smaller details.

Saturday’s Words and Photos:

IMG_9547“Are you taking a picture of my messy hair?”  Of course I was.

I was awake at my usual time (around 6), grabbed breakfast and read for a while.  Kaitlyn was up at 7:00 and said she slept great.  That must have been true because she easily and eagerly got dressed, fed Gma’s dogs, did her chores (dusting the basement this week) and took Bambi outside to play all before 8:00 AM.

IMG_9548AThis is how we found the kitchen table this morning.  Obviously Tyler had been wearing his cowboy hat while out with Grandpa the night before and had also picked the single tulip from the front berm (I had spotted it yesterday while taking out the garbage and do have a photo of its lonely self).  We have tulips in other parts of the yard, but not on that hill and I’m not sure how it got there in the first place.


Dishes.  Again.  Not many, thank goodness.


Kaitlyn wasn’t the only one with motivation.  I cleaned the bathroom then took a shower while Kaitlyn was doing her morning stuff.




She even practiced her piano!  (something I often have to remind her about)
This photo also demonstrates the state of her room.  She may have a lot of my own habits/leanings but her tolerance for “visual clutter” is all her.  She also has a tendency to just drop things thinking she will take care of them later (never does) or come back to use them in a while and doesn’t put them away.  Typical kid, I know.


8:00 AM woke up Tyler.  I had a hard time getting him moving and had to keep nudging him, plus we had to have a talk about complaining vs having a good day.  He really wasn’t on board with my plan to take him with us when I took Kaitlyn to swimming practice.
I took this photo to compare/contrast to Kaitlyn’s room.  Sure, Tyler’s room was completely clean but it usually has a lot less clutter than hers and always has.  The clothes that were taken off but not put in the basket, the book on the floor, the unmade bed.  Tyler has taken to reading for a while after bedtime and I’m ok with that as most mornings he doesn’t seem like he needed more sleep and I don’t have to nag him to get his reading time in.


8:40 AM #carselfie Off and running on this bright #saturday morning (caption from Instagram post)


This is one of my favorite views on the drive to Heber – as you come around that final bend at the top of the hill and the valley opens up before you.  Since I was on my 4th trip there this week I figured I may as well stop and get a photo this morning


9:25 AM we dropped Kate off at swim practice then took Tyler to the park. That kid never has trouble making friends and b within about 5 seconds of our arrival he had a new buddy and they played happily the whole time we were there. I just sat there reading my book and enjoying the weather thinking “good choice mom” as my debate this morning had been whether or not to bring Ty or leave him home (to spend a couple of hours oh his tablet I’m sure)
#weekinthelife  (caption from Instagram post)







10:30 AM #weekinthelife#groceryshopping
This is the face I got when I told him we would not be getting jello at the store. Forget about the fact that I had already agreed to hot dogs and marshmallows for dinner and Transformers fruit snacks (caption from Instagram)


It was after 11:00 when we picked up Kaitlyn so I had Tyler pick out something for lunch while we were at the grocery store.  Lunchables with nachos for him, Lunchables with turkey sandwich for her (not one she had tried before but she compliment Tyler on his selection for her), and sushi for me (this has become my standard when I want to grab a quick lunch from the grocery store.  I’ve very happy that a couple of my favorite grocery stores have a good selection made in-house).  Tyler and I ate our lunch while waiting for Kaitlyn in the parking lot of the pool and Kaitlyn ate hers on the drive home.  Kaitlyn was still in a good mood after having a good time at practice.


11:50 AM again taking advantage of the urge to just stop and take a photo we pulled over at the #jordanelleoverlook on the way home. I told the kids#pretendyouratourist and got this pose.#illtakeit


11:55 AM spur of the moment decision to go wander the boardwalk at #rockcliff and see how high the river is. The kids couldn’t remember being there before though I know we did some exploring just last summer.#ministaycation
We wandered around for 30-40 minutes until I started worrying about sunburn and remembered we had groceries in the car. The kids thought it was great so this day definitely goes in the #momwin category










On the way home we stopped at the Rec Center to sign the kids up for Pre-comp swim team then again at the Post Office where Kaitlyn ran inside to get the mail.  She likes to get the mail while Tyler prefers to let me do it.


1:30PM  The kids helped me put the groceries away then headed out to the back yard to play baseball with Bambi’s help.





The kids played outside, then on screens, then outside, and so on the rest of the afternoon and evening.  At the end of the day I realized Kaitlyn was looking a little pink but it was too late at that point.  Dad and I insisted she put on some aloe but though the sunburn was obvious it didn’t hurt her at all that night or the next day – got lucky with that one.




I would have to say this was the best day of the week – beautiful weather, happy kids, enough to keep us entertained but a slow enough pace to feel relaxed and easy.  This may have been the day I took the largest number of photos as well – so many things to document and enjoy.  I love Saturdays.

The day in numbers:
-total photos taken:  99 with my phone and 55 with the DSLR
-6782 steps taken
-53 miles driven

If you’ve missed any of my earlier Week in the Life posts feel free to check them out or follow me on Instagram as I’ve been posting photos as I go along this week.

-2016 – Monday’s Words and Photos
-2016 – Tuesday’s Words and Photos
-2016 – Wednesday’s Words and Photos
-2016 – Thursday’s Words and Photos
-2016 – Friday’s Words and Photos
-2015 – Main Post with links to Words and Photos for each day

Hello 2016

hELLO 2016 Snow and sun flair behind the trees AlaynasCreations

Hello 2016.

I didn’t intend to take a three week break from blogging – it just kind of happened and I suppose it was a natural break.  Once again we are in a transition phase, kind of closing up a chapter of our lives and starting in on a new one and it works out nicely that it coincides with the new year.  My husband will be leaving on a military deployment SOON so I will be shifting into “single parent” mode and all that goes along with it (as well as putting together some AWESOME care package ideas so stay tuned!).  Since the husband was my carpenter for the laundry drying racks we are also putting the Etsy shop into hibernation.  I’m not sure yet if that is temporary or permanent, but I do know that it is a relief to be able to put my concentration and energies more fully into everything else right now.  In November we did a massive build with the rest of our supplies and I am happy to report that as of last night the last lonely drying rack in our inventory is SOLD.

My husband was out of town for training most of December so when he got home a couple of days before Christmas we enthusiastically jumped into Family Time mode and have been having a blast.  If we had a Winter Bucket List we probably would have checked off most of it in the last few weeks.  We did all the Christmas festivities and parties, took the kids snowmobiling, had sledding parties, ice skating, tubing, enjoyed many cups of hot cocoa and learned the importance of wearing ski masks in subzero weather, saw the much-anticipated new Star Wars movie, have had more than our share of yummy meals out, shopping, date nights, and even ran away for a night for some extended one on one time with the husband. It’s been fun and wonderful and…exhausting.  We have another four day weekend coming up (geesh, already?!) and I have no idea what’s left on the list of family fun and entertainment ideas but I suppose we will figure something out.  Then I’m pretty sure I will willingly and happily jump into our “new normal” routine.

In among all of that I really have been putting a lot of thought into shifting gears and doing some of my typical end of the year introspection.  I realized I had hit the end of my 101 in 1001 List time frame (wow time flies!), and will be posting a new list soon.  And, of course, I have chosen my Word for 2016 and signed up for another round of Ali Edwards One Little Word workshop (the One Little Word concept is something I’ve been doing for quite a few years now.  For those of you not familiar with it, as opposed to setting goals or resolutions, it is simply selecting a word for the year that resonates with you and using that to focus and explore in your life) and have put a lot of thought into where I am heading this year.  I know 2016 is going to be a big one for personal endurance with Sam being deployed for at least the first half of the year and really wanting to get the approvals for the new house going (all by myself).  I foresee plenty of work, plenty of frustrations, and I want to be able to stay centered and calm – and happy and peaceful despite anything I may be dealing with.  The giant list of To Dos will get done (mostly) and the time will pass, but I want my efforts to be not on making it to some sort of finish line but on my state of mind.  To not spend my time wishing for something different.  To not be overwhelmed with the big picture but to know that I only have to take it one step at a time and I can handle that. I also know that I really want to focus on the people in my life.  To give them more of what they may be needing – love, kindness, attention, time.

The word I have chosen for this year is


I want to give love, give kindness, give joy, to actively decide that whatever I am doing with my time and energy at any particular moment is something I am giving freely, willingly, and happily.

I love that the word give can be used in so many ways – give it all you’ve got, give it a chance, give yourself a break – and that all of them are positive.  I also love that it can be applied to the physical as in actually giving gifts (and I have oh-so-many ideas for that already from Rand Acts of Kindess to big guestures) and to the less tangible things like time and acceptance.  It’s a big concept and I’m looking forward to exploring it this year.

What’s even more fun is that my 12 year old is really into the concept this year too.  She has chosen her own word and already made a magnet for the fridge as well as led a conversation with the rest of the family and insisted they all choose words.  It’s fun to see her take some initiative an to see her enthusiasm, no matter how much or how little time she spends exploring her word later on.

Do you have a word for this year?  A goal or list of goals?  I would love to hear more about it – please share!  And feel free to check out the Pinterest board where I will be saving all my quotes and ideas for Giving this year.  (Who doesn’t love Pinterest right?!)

And as always, have a Happy Wednesday! 😉

Linking to:  Lou Lou Girls,

Deployment Survival Kit


Happy Veteran’s Day!
Yes, I do know it was yesterday and that is when I started this post but sometimes life gets in the way.  I got interrupted, then distracted, then had to take care of a bunch of things so we could make it to the Veteran’s Day assembly at the elementary school (which was really well done. Very glad we went), then well, I just didn’t finish but I didn’t want to just let it go at that as I was reminded time and time again yesterday how important the day was to a lot of people.

When I was young I didn’t think much about Veteran’s Day – it was just something the school taught about and seemed to only apply to guys that were in Vietnam or something.  That is no longer how I view Veteran’s Day or the military.  In fact, the military is now a huge part of my life and that of my friends and family.  The photo above was taken at the airport when my husband returned from his second deployment to Iraq, almost 8 years ago (my kids were so little!).  My husband says he knew he wanted to be in the military since he was around 9 years old.  There are some people that are drawn to that life, and while I may not still fully understand the calling, I am behind them 100%.  It is a hard life for those in the military (and their family and friends), but it’s an important one.

With that in mind, this felt like the perfect time to share the Deployment Survival Kit

Deployment Survival Kit gift basket for military wife

Though he is back now, it doesn’t seem that long ago that the husband of a good friend deployed.  The day he left we knew she would have a hard time, so another friend and I  went over to her house for a Girl’s Night of hanging out.  We didn’t go empty-handed either.  My friend and I had a lot of fun putting together a Deployment Survival Kit for her.

Deployment Survival Kit gift basket idea DIY

Seriously, we went overboard.  It’s all my friend’s fault for picking a giant bucket for the container 😉

Gift Basket Idea for spouse of a military member being deployed Deployment Survival Kit

We decorated the container (yes, it’s vinyl lettering) and whipped up some fun tags for all the items in the basket.

Deployment Countdown Blocks Let the kids count down the days or weeks until their beloved military member comes home

Inside the basket:
-countdown blocks
-wine glass that reads “Deployment Survival, One Sip at a Time”

Custom Wine Glass for Deployment Survival Kit Deployment Survival One Sip at a Time

-tissues “to wipe away the tears”
-gourmet chocolate “because chocolate just makes everything better”
-decorative toothpicks “to help you pick out the good in every situation you encounter”

Deployment Survival Kit gift idea includes clever sayings for items in gift basket

-flashlight “to remind you there is a light at the end of the tunnel”
-margarita “for when you just need a DRINK”
-duct tape “to fix whatever is broken”
-lollipop “because deployments suck”
-hand sanitizer/soap “to clean your hands after doing all the manly work”
-paperclip/binder clip “to help you keep it together”
-bottle of wine “for when you feel like wine-ing”
(some of you that know me are probably thinking, “wait, what?”  No I don’t drink, but some of my friends do and I’m ok with that)
-cute pens “to sign your Xs and Os”
-nail polish “remember to take care or even better pamper yourself”
-yellow ribbon “to show the world you support your soldier”
-disguise (I did printable photo prop but it would have been cute with those eye glasses w/ mustache ones too) “for when you just want to hide out”
-coffee drink (energy drink would work well too) “for when you need the energy to make it through the day”

Deployment Survivial Kit Flag for military spouse

-flag “to remind you what the sacrifice is for”
-notebook/magnetic To Do list notebook “to keep your To Dos in order”
-nuts/trail mix “for when you feel like you’re going nuts”

Deployment Survival Kit ideas for items to fill the gift basket and tags with clever says to explain each item

-bubble wrap “to help relieve some stress”
-sewing kit “for when things are falling apart at the seams”
-rope “for when you reach the end of yours, this will keep you going a bit longer”
-Hershey Kisses “until you can kiss your soldier again”
-yo-yo “to remind you there will be ups and downs and it’s OK”
-manicure/pedicure kit (or just nail clippers/file) “for when you hit a snag”

Deployment Survival Kit Framed Keep Calm Printable

-funny/motivational quote (excuse the language – it’s not how I usually express myself but it fits her perfectly)

Rather extensive list, right?  Completely over the top. (no surprise – that’s how I often do things!)  Five to ten items would have been plenty.  For any of you that want to use the idea, now you have plenty to pick and choose from!  And, as always, if you are inspired by this idea I would love to hear about it.

Deployment Survival Kit Gift Basket Idea

Again, to all of our military and the family and friends who make it all possible, we thank you on Veteran’s Day and every day.  Keep up the good work!

Linking to:  DIY Sunday Showcase, Pretty Pintastic Party, Learning from Each Other, Snickerdoodle Sunday, BFF Open House, Merry Monday, Made By You Monday, Tip Me Tuesday, Lou Lou Girls,

November – Now that it’s here what do we do with it?

Fall Leaves on the Trees in the Marsh North Carolina Alaynas Creations

I was flipping through the radio stations yesterday while I was out running errands and I ran across one playing Christmas music!  CHRISTMAS MUSIC!  I had to stop and listen for a minute just to see if it was an isolated song or if they were truly playing Christmas tunes.  Nope – it was followed by another Christmas song, and another.  And while I love some Bing Crosby crooning, I’m not quite sure I’m completely on board with the Christmas-free-for-all that starts the second we see Halloween in the rearview mirror.

There is a bigger part of me that likes to plan things weeks ahead and appreciates the fact that I’m obviously not the only one that does so.  I have already had conversations with friends about what we will be getting our kids for Christmas and I see so many great family photos being posted on Facebook that I’m sure are portrait sessions in preparation for Christmas cards.  Sometimes I think the planning and preparation are as much fun as the event itself.  A quick glance at the calendar and all of the things that are starting to get packed into November and December has me realizing that, once again, time will be speeding by much more quickly than I would like. So in the quiet moments I have here this morning (after waking up at 4AM because my internal alarm hasn’t adjusted to the time change yet.  And yes, waking up by 5AM and spending it enjoying the dark, quiet house is how I spend most mornings.) I’ve been taking stock of my November and (mostly) looking forward to everything that will be happening in the next couple of months.
1 – my little guy has a birthday the first week of December and party plans are in the works.  Stay tuned for a peek at the invitations in the next week or two.
2 – the first snowfall of the season is predicted this week.  I am hoping to start a new tradition with the kids and grabbed a few things for it yesterday.  I’m sure I will blog about it 😉  Celebrate the small things, right?
3 – Thankgiving is ours to coordinate this year, though my mother-in-law will be holding it at her house.
4 – It has become my tradition for to join in with being Grateful in November and will be sharing one thing I am thankful for every day this month.  You can follow along with me on my Facebook Page.
5 – Christmas prep!  For a number of years now, it has been my goal to have the majority of my shopping and planning done by the 1st of December and since I have started that I have found the process to be so much more enjoyable and less stressful.  That means not only making up a Christmas list, but also deciding on the gifts for everyone on the list, the budget, staring work on anything craft-related, etc etc.
6 – Christmas cards.  Photos (check!), design, order prints, compile the address list
7 – Elf on the shelf ideas list and supplies prep.  We start this on Dec 1 and the husband is going to be out of town most of the month, which means I need to be even more prepared without him around to help.  Same applies to advent calendar – I have an idea for a new DIY one this year.
8 – trying to coordinate a night out with some friends.  Not Thanksgiving or Christmas related – just because I want to.
9 – Keep up with normal life!  Carpools, swim meets, karate testing, laundry drying rack orders (these are going to be in short supply soon – if you’ve been eyeing them you might want to order ASAP), dinner prep and bills and upkeep on the house…

It’s going to be quite a month.  What are you planning or working on right?

November Fall leaves along the road change in seasons landscape

Week In The Life 2015 – Sunday’s Words and Photos

Wondering about the Week in the Life photo/documenting project?  You can find more about it in THIS POST.
WITL Sunday

Sunday!  If any day was made for a low-key start in the morning it’s Sunday.  9:00 AM found everyone awake and hanging out in the living room reading the newspaper.  I had been on a cleaning kick earlier, straightening up the kitchen and super-mopping it then lost steam when everyone started migrating to the kitchen/living room.



After this week’s photos of Tyler driving the 4 wheeler and the backhoe, I’m sure you’re not surprised to see him on the lawn mower.  My mom says she loves mowing with the riding lawn mower and won’t let anyone else do it, except Tyler, who occasionally gets a turn on the biggest part of the yard after Mom has mown around the edges.  He has his own method.  Instead of going back and forth or around and around he does swipes, will miss a few strips, then go back and get them.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but in the end it was all cut and looking good.


Lunch is usually Fend For Yourself during the weekends or any other day we’re all home.  Kaitlyn has gotten really good at prepping her own meals, including cutting things with the sharp knife.  Yet another sign she’s growing up (too fast!).


The motorcycle.  On the weekends in good weather Sam will find an excuse to ride the bike.  Today he was installing a new DVD player for my mom and didn’t have an HDMI cord for it.  So off he went to Walmart on the motorcycle.


King of the smoker – that’s my guy.  When we don’t have plans or an agenda, Sam will often fill a day off with cooking.  Today he is smoking a pork shoulder and he also made rolls from scratch.
Those are his warm weather motorcyle-riding duds.


Pinkie promise.  He agreed to not only be good today but to also try the shredded pork for dinner in return for us lifting his No Screens ban long enough to watch a movie with the family tonight.


In the course of getting Netflix set up on the new player for my mom, they discovered it has then entire Star Trek Next Generation series on Netflix.  So they immediately watched an episode.  I am amused by them bonding over Sci-fi.



Paying bills.  Or playing Candy Crush Soda Saga.  Or both 😉



Short people problems – I never find jeans that don’t puddle on the ground at my feet.  And look at those poor dried out and neglected feet.  I decided to do something about that so Kaitlyn and I did a pedicure session.  We lock ourselves in the bathroom with the polish and the sugar scrub every month or so.  It’s another one of those Mom & Me pre-teen things Kate really enjoys lately.




Shiny pink toes, the little guy on the pogo stick (this happens about 5 times a day when he has no clue what to do with himself), and some WITL inspiration.


She was teaching him some tumbling.  I was then asked to help spot him doing back flips.  Should I put this kid in gymnastics or just let Grandma teach him stuff once in a while?


Sam’s famous rolls fresh from the oven.20150823_173956

Family dinner.  This happens a couple of times a week when all the schedules work out for a sit down dinner.  The rest of the time we manage to get my little family of four all together around the table.  I make the meals at least 5 times a week so they are available for anyone who is around at the time and feels like eating what I have cooked.


Wyatt.  He does all his meal prep in Mom’s kitchen since he hasn’t replaced the broken stove at Gram’s house.  So we see him a couple of times a day, usually, and often he whips up one of his protein treat concoctions for one friend or another (he rarely eats them himself as he has a bodybuilding competition coming up).


Haircut time.  I’ve been cutting Tyler’s hair myself for a few years now.  I’m just not good at getting him in for a haircut, nor did I really trust the ones we found in NC so I had a hairdresser friend teach me how to do it.  This time around he requested that we change his style a bit so he could spike it on top.  I was happy to oblige as he hasn’t wanted to change his style in years, despite not really being sure if I was doing that particular cut correctly.  I think it turned out ok and he was pretty happy with it.

IMG_6671 IMG_6675


My pretty girl.  She was all ready for bed but I made her get dressed again so I could take a few portrait-type shots of her.  I know I have quite a few of Tyler from earlier this week and wanted to make sure I had some good ones of Miss Kate too.  Thankfully she was in an indulgent mood and gave me a few minutes of posing before telling me she was done.



He’s all showered and insisted that I wrap him up in the blanket before we all settle in to watch a movie.


Aren’t they cute?  It’s rare that they willingly hug each other, but they do love each other and get along pretty well.
After this point I set the camera down and we all watched a movie together on the couch, ending the weekend with some family time.

Total photo count for Sunday:  31 photos on the phone, 80 photos on the DSLR, all unedited at this point.

That’s it!  End of the week!  It’s kind of bittersweet.  I have enjoyed the process this week of documenting the small details of our everyday life and have some great photos I might not have taken otherwise, but it does get a bit intense and by the end of the week I was ready to put away the camera and just let life flow by unrecorded for a few days.  And now that I’ve got all the words and photos up on the blog I can start pulling itall together in the album.  That’s the fun part, right?

Week In The Life 2015 – Saturday’s Words and Photos

Wondering about the Week in the Life photo/documenting project?  You can find more about it in THIS POST.

WITL Saturday

Ahh the weekend.  Here’s a look at my Saturday:


7:10 found Sam awake (I had been up about an hour) and wanting to go to the gym so I tagged along.  He likes to run on the treadmill (that’s him in the red), which bores me silly.  So I did a leg workout with some run/walking intervals on the track.



Calf raises on the stairs.  It never gets easier.  This poster is perfect motivation for that spot.

Then in celebration of getting to the gym on the weekend and because Saturdays are for indulging we stopped and picked up donuts at the Chevron.


Saturdays are for cuddling in pjs.


Saturdays are for projects – we attempted installing the screen door but decided it wasn’t going to work for our purposes and returned it, then I spent half an hour in Home Depot debating about which tile to get to fix the hole in the shower.

And when no projects are on the agenda, Saturdays are for running errands just to give us an excuse to get out of the house.


Grocery shopping as a family isn’t something we do as often as we used to.  It’s easier for me to just get it done during the week by myself but it’s not bad as a family outing.  We usually get talked into adding a few extra things into the cart that weren’t on the list.  Sam is the biggest culprit for this 😉


Some days are for trying new recipes.  Ran across this one while doing comments on the blog link party last weekend – pancake tacos.  Kaitlyn was super excited to try it.  Total hit, except with Tyler he got his all put together then wouldn’t take a bite.


I needed a few more steps to hit my step goal (10,000/day) so Kaitlyn joined me for an evening walk on the farm.  Wyatt had found some apples in one of the condos he manages and asked us if we would feed them to the horses and Kaitlyn was happy to oblige.





All in all, it was a nice easy-going Saturday.

Total photo count for the day:  48, all taken with my cell phone.  I can tell I’m winding down a bit with the photo taking, which is probably a natural thing with a project like this.

One day to go!  Then I can order prints and start putting together the album!  Who’s with me?!