Category Archives: Kids

Last Minute gifts for Everyone on your list

It’s officially December 14th and I don’t think I have ever come down to the wire like this in regard to gifts. I have almost no gifts so far and I think what that means is that for extended family gifts may just be consumable. By that I mean I may bring extra cookies to our family gathering and hope everyone enjoys them. But I do have some gift ideas to share today from Amazon, so let’s get right down to it.

last-minute-gifts

The good thing is, there is still time guys! All is not lost! In fact, some of the best deals of the year will still be popping up every day of December. Here are some of them, with my affiliate links for convenience!

For the Lego Lovers, I discovered these really fun circle baseplates that are compatible with name-brand bricks. Here’s a cool set that includes tons of pieces and colors for only $29.99. I think all three of my kids would really enjoy these for creating treehouses, buildings, forts and “worlds” with their minifigures. There are tons of different sets available. I always love to give something that will refresh a toy we already have!

DC Superhero Girls. It’s about time they came out with cool girl super hero figures and right now these are way cheaper than Walmart, Target or TRU is selling them.  Particularly, the 12″ Wonderwoman for only $4.24 (add-on price)! (I want to point out that this MAY be a price mistake since the MSRP is listed as the same as the 6″ figures. Good deal either way, but if you wind up with the 12″ doll that’s a steal!) These are approved by all three of my children. You can also pick up Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, or Super Girl.
See the whole line here!

dclineup
Check out the whole DC Super Hero Girl Lineup here!

 

My kids get a big kick out of Little Live Pets and at these prices they are cheap enough for stocking stuffers. My kids have specifically asked for the turtles and a couple are less than $6.

I will be continuing to pop onto Facebook with more deals from Amazon, so follow me there!

 

 

 

 

Budget Tween Room Makeover: Part 3

Twin Tweens

I’m sharing my budget “tween” shared twin room makeover because tweens are a tricky demographic. They want to be grown up, but they don’t bring in their own income! They want all their toys, but they also want their room to look sophisticated. Don’t forget to check out Budget Tween Room Makeover In Progress (Part 1) & Budget Tween Room Makeover Part 2 if you missed them!

purplegoldcollage

Things are shaping up nicely over here. Although we totally had a DIY-fail this week involving a vintage lamp and spray paint, we found some adorable accessories that we are excited to add to the room. As we planned, we sold our Ikea Kura (we will miss it, such a fun versatile piece; but our other Kura is still serving us well in my son’s room) and took a family trip to Ikea for a more grown-up alternative, finally settling on this:

New Bunk Bed, Ikea Mydal

 

I was considering a metal bunk bed (we love the clean lines of this one by Walker Edison), but my husband felt like a wood version would be more sturdy. He was able to put the Mydal together in about two hours with tons of family interruptions. I’m happy to report I didn’t hear any angry outbursts or loud crashes so I think the experience was relatively painless for him. If you ask him, assembling furniture could be his least favorite task in the world. Hopefully the girls realize what a labor of love this was for him to work so much on their room during his “vacation” week.kuramydal

He also installed two picture ledges/shelves for the girls from Ikea. These appear to be the perfect solution for a few bedtime essentials (clock, book, water bottle) without the clutter of a bedside table (or the challenge of height for the top bed). We also bought a couple of these for under-bed storage, which we promptly filled with out of season clothing. (Nine year old identical twin girls sharing a closet is no joke, folks).

Our next quest was for new bedding that would match the new dorm room vibe. I started googling “bunk bed bedding” and here is the resulting shopping rabbit hole I ended up heading down. I will update soon with the bedding that we ended up choosing, but the girls are thrilled with the results.

Pinterest Fail: Spray Painting a Floor Lamp

Next I had this “brilliant” idea to re-paint my old lamp from college that for some reason was still stashed in the attic. We used Krylon Shimmer Metallic Black Spray Paint and I love the color. It’s nothing close to glittery, just black with a little extra “something”. It was a little tricky covering the base because it’s so narrow and I did end up with some paint drips, but keep in mind that I am also fairly careless with craft projects (just being honest, ya’ll). I plan to cover it with a clear protective spray to keep the finish nice.  Sadly, my brilliant plan started to deteriorate when I realized spray painting the translucent shade wasn’t quite possible.  The resulting splotchy light was pretty gloomy and depressing. On to Plan B…

The blogger who never gives up

 

As most folks know, I tend to cling to a project idea until it is pretty much pried from my lifeless, paint-stained hands, so I refused to give up on the lamp (which is really illogical since I know for a fact I paid only $8 for it at Walmart in the year 2000).  I tried purchasing a new shade at Lowe’s only to realize I was the semi-confused owner of two half-circle wall sconces.  (Thank you Lowe’s for easy returns).

Finally, I went to Michael’s absolutely determined to solve the lamp problem. I came home with some gorgeous gold washi tape and proceeded to tape and tape and tape. Washi tape lampshades are all over pinterest so I was confident this idea would be a success. (Misplaced confidence is also part of my DIY-er profile).

Sticky to the Bitter End

This was my first experience with Washi Tape and it turns out that it’s not as tape-y as duct tape. Soon I realized that the stick alone was not going to hold this project together. So I whipped out my Mod Podge (this $8 sixteen-year-old lamp was racking up a tab of upwards of $50 but good thing I made nearly $1.40 yesterday on Amazon Affiliates. Blogging my way to the top, ya’ll)

So I started haphazardly slapping sticky Mod Podge all over the lamp and tucking the ends over the edge (forgetting that not everyone is short like me and the inside would be visible to the naked eye). A couple coats later and ta-da! My eighteen  hour, four shopping trips later, simple DIY project was complete! And the results are:

washi tape lamp shade

Ok? Not bad? Better than dumping the lamp in a landfill? Semi-functional? Good enough for now?

Alphabet Train Line at Michael’s 70% off

Our fun find of the week was these two large letters with the ampersand for my “S” girls.  The total for all three was about $7 thanks to major markdowns! We plan to hang them on the wall once we figure out the perfect spot. There are tons of different letters in all colors and sizes for 70% right now at Michael’s from the Alphabet Train line, so check it out in your local store!
sands

I would love to thank Brooklyn & Bailey (teen youtube stars & identical twin girls) for their fun and cute videos about their shared room. I could tell my girls were really impressed to see cool older girls who enjoy sharing a room and can make it look so awesome at the same time. I really appreciate their positive sibling dynamic and great example!

Ice Cream for breakfast

My kids are pretty excited that I let them have Ice Cream for Breakfast. This is an incredibly easy and healthy recipe that really shows how powerful the Vitamix is. So healthy we can serve it at breakfast!

2 frozen bananas (for easy blending, slice and freeze for at least 30 minutes)

12 frozen strawberries

1/2 – 3/4 cup whole milk

1/2 tsp. of vanilla

Toss frozen bananas, then frozen strawberries into the Vitamix, then add 1/2 cup of milk. The trick is to use the tamper constantly to make this recipe. It will be loud and angry, but the results are yummy! Start blending low and then move up to high, constantly tamper-ing the contents down until you get a smooth creamy texture that can be scooped. (Add additional milk if needed).

strawberrycreamcollage

 

 

 

How We Do Dinner Part 2

Welcome to my new blog, Chasing Santee! I’m working on the design bit by bit so thanks for your patience while my content has been on hold. I realized I was becoming more and more frustrated with blogging and that was because I hadn’t been writing as much, I had been researching and tweaking and transferring. But what I have re-discovered in 2016 is that I must write. It’s vital to my emotional health! So I am coming back to posting and trying to tie up the loose ends of some of my two part posts. So, without further ado, here is Part 2 of How We Do Dinner.

In Part 1, I talked about some of our quick meals. For this post, I’m linking to some of our current favorite recipes; some are new and some I have used for the last thirteen years! A few are just quick guidelines (I would like to update with full recipes later). We can really recommend these! (If you don’t have an Instant Pot, some of these may make you want one!)

  • Easy Cheesy Veggie Lasagna: Delicious and freezes great. We really like this better than traditional lasagna.
  • Salad for the win: Our favorite product from Sam’s Club is their huge tub of Organic Spring Mix.  We also grab the big bags of sliced almonds, craisins, crutons, and real bacon pieces. I used to make salads in bowls for each person, but I finally gave in and started tossing my salad together with dressing and tons of toppings in a big bowl. It is JUST BETTER, trust me. There are a million variations, obviously, but we have found keeping those ingredients available with different fruits and veggies means the salad actually gets served….and eaten, rather than languishing in the produce drawer. If some of the spring mix needs to be finished up, I throw it in the freezer for smoothies.
  • Balsamic Chicken Thighs: You will need an Instant Pot for this, but you will love the results. Tender, tangy and perfect with jasmine rice.
  • Wrap it: One of the fun things I realized when I worked at Tropical Smoothie was that almost anything makes an awesome wrap. Flour tortillas are cheap and last forever in the fridge, so I always stock up at Aldi. Try: Chicken salad with fresh spinach and onions, breakfast burritos, leftover turkey, cranberries & dressing (even gravy tastes delicious), and chicken Caesar salad.
  • Mac & Cheese: Ok, I have obviously shared this before, but it’s good enough to repeat. SO easy.
  • Oven Roasted Veggies: These easy instructions work for pretty much any veggies, and the olive oil and balsamic vinegar make them extra irresistible.
  • Healthy Chili: So easy the kids can make it!
  • Homemade pizza: We love the pizza dough sold in the Publix bakery cooler. This way you can really load up on the veggies and cut down on the grease.
  • Taco Soup: One can of chicken, one can of corn, one pack of taco seasoning, one pack of ranch dressing, one can of beans. Dump all together (no can-draining) in a pot,  bring to a boil and simmer for like 20 minutes. Awesome camping recipe! (I imagine….I have never slept outdoors in my life). Serve with chips, sour cream, and , of course, cheese.
  • Copycat Chick-fil-a Sandwiches: It’s fun to try copycat recipes and the pickle juice marinate and powder sugar in the breading bring this pretty close to the real thing. Honestly, we’d rather just go to Chick-fil-a but there is something empowering about re-creating a restaurant favorite!
  • Quick Chicken Pot Pie: Saute your chopped veggie trio (onions, carrots, celery), add some chicken broth and bring to a light boil, add a spoonful cornstarch and stir until thickened. Throw in a bunch of chopped cooked chicken (or make it easy on yourself and use a store-cooked rotisserie chicken. ) Season by preference. Pour it all into a crust (DIY or buy Pillsbury), top with a second crust and bake.
  • Beans & Rice: I have mentioned this recipe before because it is one of our favorites and it literally takes three minutes to throw in the Instant Pot.
  • Stir-Fry: A big bag of broccoli slaw from the grocery store makes the quickest stir fry ever. Throw in whatever veggies you have and lightly saute with EVOO. Add some rice or pasta and leftover pork or chicken. Don’t forget to serve with kid-friendly chopsticks! It makes the whole experience 10 times better (the rule is parents must eat with chopsticks also).
  • Cabbage & Buttered Noodles: This may not sound great, but trust me, served with savory kielbasa (we just buy these from Hillshire Farm) it’s a crowd-pleaser. This was a recipe we started making when we were over-run with cabbage from our CSA and we still love it!
  • Chicken Salad: Chopped Rotisserie chicken or canned chicken plus mayo, salt, pepper, & seasoned salt makes a great chicken salad. Add any of the following: chopped celery, craisins, raisins, grapes, chopped apples, or sliced almonds (again from Sam’s Club) and you’ve got an awesome meal.

That’s it for now! What are some of your go-to family favorites? I’d love to try them!

Sibling Day

Sunday was Sibling Day, and on that day my sister and her husband gave me an unexpected gift. They let me join them for the birth of my nephew. It was a scary, sweet, and breathtaking moment that I will never forget. The experience gave me a new appreciation for almost EVERYONE. I appreciated my mama, for going through that four times. I appreciated my dad for being with her and caring for her. I appreciated my sister for letting me step into that private moment and for her amazing strength and calm. I appreciated her husband for being there for her with so much love. Also, my appreciation for my husband is magnified because I truly didn’t understand the enormity of experiencing childbirth as the support person (I wasn’t even in that role myself, just observing it really). Now I understand a little bit better how that must feel.

hanlove

I am sure I will soon post again about my sweet nephew Han. I am overwhelmed with amazement. He is so precious, beautiful, smart and strong. I am also amused at my desire to tell everyone, even strangers, about this new addition to our family. (I have seen this second hand, but never experienced this myself.) Happy Birth week, dear baby Han! And thank you Caroline for the best sibling gift ever!

Flour-Free Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

We have had a fun spring break that has been full of relaxing, family time, waiting around for a nephew to be born, and playing at the park. Before school starts tomorrow, we thought we would have one more treat-fling. These are crazy-easy, surprisingly delicious, grain-free cookies! I stumbled across an easy recipe for peanut butter cookies nearly thirteen years ago, and have repeated it ever since. Tonight I tweaked it a bit and we think it’s the best version yet!

PBcupcookies

Flour-Free Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

1 cup Peanut Butter

1 cup Almond Butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup milk chocolate chips

4 tbls. additional sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 °F
  2. Beat 1 cup Peanut Butter, 1 cup Almond Butter, 2 cups sugar and 2 eggs together thoroughly in a large bowl.
  3. Gently stir in 1 cup chocolate chips
  4. Form dough into balls and roll each in additional sugar.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes and allow to cool thoroughly.
  6. Enjoy! Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

How we do Dinner: Part 1

  • Omelettes: We do a lot of breakfast for dinner:eggs/grits/fruit or omelettes & fruit (I spent a long time googling omelettes and finally found a perfect photo tutorial on how to make them easily, but they removed the link). Options: sausage, bacon bits, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, broccoli etc. I have also made omelette kits and put them in the freezer with small bags of fresh veggies/shredded cheese/cooked sausage/onions and put it all in a big ziplock to grab in a hurry. This makes it crazy easy and  cheap because you have just enough of everything right when you need it.
  • Oatmeal Bar: Sometimes we even do a “gourmet” oatmeal bar with tons of toppings. Yes, I give my kids a bowl of oatmeal for dinner but if they have a small sprinkle of chocolate chips and some sliced strawberries they say “best dinner ever”. The secret to delicious oatmeal is a big plop of real butter and a drizzle of half and half or whole milk/cream. Options: fruit, brown sugar, nuts (huge bag of sliced almonds from Costco lasts forever and goes into lots of our recipes), coconut, rainsins/craisins, chocolate chips, peanut butter.
  • Nacho Night: This is also an effort free meal that somehow gets my kids very excited. We often do Nacho Night on a blanket on the floor and have movie night, so that could be a big part of the appeal! Aldi has tortilla chips for like $1.20 a bag so we are never without these. Options: shredded chicken (canned works), beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, veggies, ground beef. Nachos “outside the box” can include breakfast toppings (my friend Katy does sausage, eggs, cheese on nachos), or chicken salad with chips (super delicious and lower carb than chicken salad sandwiches).
  • Just add a smoothie! When we have slim pickings for dinner (the end of leftovers, or something my kids aren’t thrilled to eat), we add a smoothie to round out our meal. After years of smoothies, my kids still LOVE them and I can make it healthy to add  to a not-so-fab meal OR decadent to add to a healthy but not exciting meal (big spinach salad with tons of toppings is great with a chocolate peanut butter smoothie on the side). This is when having a vitamix is 100% worth it for us. Seriously, it’s like a magic bullet at our house: “We are having salad…..AND A SMOOTHIE” *big cheers* (affiliate link).
  • Fruit side/treat: Another thing we have been doing is swapping a side out for fruit. So say we have grilled chicken and rice as our main course. Instead of adding broccoli, we add fresh pineapple which is a big treat for us. Suddenly our meal is exciting and  I have found this really helps me not feel like I need dessert also, so it’s a win/win.

Like I said, these are not original ideas or revolutionary ones, but they are in our current rotation and are working for us now. Cooking for a family gets so tiring with all the other obligations of parenting, so anything that makes it easier is valuable in my book! I’d love to hear any ideas you have and I’ll be adding Part 2 soon!

What’s on my Kindle

I was delighted to discover one of my favorite books from childhood is available for free for the Kindle: Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter.

This is a beautiful, soulful story of an orphan who finds his home in the Limberlost and falls in love with an “angel”. The theme of redemption is moving and the vivid descriptions of the swamp creatures, birds, and foliage are mesmerizing.

The book is free, but I discovered that you can purchase the audio for many of the free classics for a few dollars (in this case $3). The girls and I have been listening to this together and the narration is wonderful; the reading level on this is probably 7th grade and up but younger listeners will enjoy. You have to grab this book for the incredible vocabulary if nothing else! Also check out these titles (and many more) by the same author:

Freckles

A Girl of the Limberlostfreckles

The Harvester

Nothing can quite take the place of the gorgeous antique copies of these titles that I was lucky enough to be gifted, but I do love digital books also! Remember that you can download the Kindle app for free for your phone or right now Amazon has some great prices on Kindles, check them out here!

Friday Favorites: Fancy Edition

This week Friday’s Favorite is a flashback favorite to one of our favorite authors, Jane O’Connor.

I try not let my prissiness get out of control, but I’m really a girly girl at heart. Fortunately, my children seem to be a little more well-rounded; loving animals, sports, books, and still playing with dolls and wearing tutus occasionally. We all love the Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Conner.Fancy Nancys

The illustrations are beautiful and the stories sweet. Not only does the series tickle a little girl’s pink funny bone, but it teaches a lot of great vocabulary words, even some basic French, while encouraging kindness and empathy. In Fancy Nancy we meet the Clancy family, and Nancy who feels it is “hard being the only fancy person in your family”. In Fancy Nancy Bonjour Butterfly Nancy apologizes to her mother for her behavior and learns that you must choose to have a good attitude even when faced with disappointment. The Clancy family learns about responsibility in Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy. One of our favorites, Fancy Nancy and the Splendiferous Christmas talks about the importance of family and establishing traditions and memories.

The series isn’t just about glittery boas and lacy accessories, Fancy Nancy Explorer Extraordinaire delves into plants, insects, and exploration from a “fancy” perspective. I love how it shows girls can be strong and feminine at the same time. We love these books and recommend you look to Jane O’Conner’s many titles for your daily fancy fix!

Name Bubbles Coupon Code

Even though we homeschool, we have been using Name Bubbles personalized stickers for years. With identical twins, we tend to have issues keeping tracking of whose items are whose and these perfectly solve the problem. Name Bubbles has several combo packs that include laundry safe and dishwasher safe labels. I have never had a label come off or even start to show wear, even after dozens of trips through the dishwasher or washing machine. As a matter of fact, I have even pulled the laundry stickers off of outgrown items and re-used them on the bigger size with success! That’s impressive. If you think you don’t need name labels for your child’s stuff, I invite you to take a look at our Homeschool Lost & Found. The mountain of hoodies and lunchboxes says it all! Today only get 17% off with code LUCK!

Friday Favorites: Health & Comfort Edition

This week has decidedly not gone how I’d hoped. I was nauseous all day Monday until Monday night, when things went downhill, but I’ll spare you the details. Thankfully, no one else seems to have been infected, and thankfully I am finally feeling nearly normal today. On top of the vomiting, (whoops, I said no details), I was feeling truly horrible because I couldn’t stomach coffee (or anything much) until this morning. If you know me at all, you know that a lack of coffee is not compatible with my lifestyle.

But no one wants to hear about that, so I thought I would quickly share some of the things that help me feel better when I am under the weather. In the interest of full disclosure, please realize that I have become an Amazon partner, so I will receive a small (really, minuscule) compensation for any items purchased through my links. As ya’ll know I have been shamelessly raving about my favorite things for years, I just thought I would finally try to get a little cash flow from my role as consumer enabler. 

be kool

One day I was having a horrible migraine and couldn’t keep any meds down. My husband ran out and brought home these and they have been a life-saver. They aren’t recommended for kids, but there is a children’s version (which I have not purchased). I admit I have cut the adult size ones in half for feverish kids and they have helped but that’s obviously not medical advice from me. You would never receive medical advice from me. Never.

I am also a huge fan of a good heating pad, and I really love this one. Is it weird if I admit I use it like everyday? I don’t truly have chronic pain thankfully, but as a busy mom I feel like I am always in some kind of pain and this thing gets hot, fast. I actually ruined our bed because I used a heating pad too frequently when I was pregnant, but that’s a story for another day. For the kids, we like rice filled heating pads that you can make yourself and heat up in the microwave. Little Blue Boo has a great easy tutorial and if you haven’t checked out her blog-world, it’s amazing! If you want to make these heating pads therapeutic with Essential Oils please check with my friend Jessica, she can definitely help you! They also love this stuffed bear that we were gifted and it has held up great for three years of use. Thanks, Diane! These  Anti-Stress eye pillows are also fantastic and I keep one by my bed (if only the microwave was there I’d be all set).

I have never used Goody’s powder until this year, but I will always keep a stock of it now. Especially for those with a caffeine addiction, this is amazingly effective and quick. I thought it was weird to take powdered pain reliever, but results are results. We really have a lot more health related recommendations, but my morning blog time is coming to a close and it’s time to face our homeschool day. Thank you Lord for coffee and beautiful Fridays in the springtime! 3 John 1:2 “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

Have a great weekend!