Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Batty Halloween!!!

     I love making treats for my kiddos classes and for my youngest this is the treat we made...

Be Awesome,  Julia

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Yummy Mummy

       I teach the 4-5 year olds at church and can I tell you one of my favorite callings at church bar none!!!!!  This week they have their big Primary Program(where all the children share what they have learned this year)  and it can be a bit intimidating for some of the younger kiddos.  Some adults have a hard time speaking in front of big groups so I can imagine as a child speaking in front of over 200 people can be quit scary.  For their bravery I feel like they deserve a special treat.  Not to mention it is just before Halloween and I love Halloween goodies!

     To make these easy treats all you need is:

Miniature Hershey bars(this can be anything rectangle shaped)
crepe paper cut in half length wise
googly eyes
glue stick
double sided tape
black card stock cut into 4ths
white marker

     These go together very quickly once you have everything prepared.  I start by cutting a long piece of crepe paper and then folding it without creasing it in half and then cutting length wise in half.  Then using a paper cutter cutting the card stock to 4x5.5 pieces.

     Now you are ready to get busy.  You take a Hershey bar and start wrapping it in the crepe paper from the top until it is entirely covered.  Take your glue stick and put some glue on the bottom back of the bar which will be covered in crepe paper and then glue the end of the crepe paper to the back and trim off any excess.  Flip it over and glue the eyes on.  Tada you have a mummy!!!  Set it aside and repeat until you have made all you mummies.

     On the back of the mummy place a strip of double sided tape and tape the mummy down onto one side of the card stock.  Again repeat until all the mummies are attached to the cards.  Then you can write with the white marker anything that comes to mind.  It can simply say Happy Halloween!

     Enjoy I know your little ones will!!!

Be Awesome,

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp {and a little experiment with the kids}

     I love how Heavenly Father gives us little gifts...the one I am grateful for currently is that rhubarb and strawberries grow in the same season.  I find it incredible that this happens over and over again within the growing season that things that go together beautifully are ripe at the same time. 

     Anyone that knows me knows I like to experiment in the kitchen.  I rarely follow a recipe. I often will look up several recipes of the same thing, look at the ingredients and the processes and then make my own version.  I don't know if that is cheating but that is how I work in the kitchen.  

       Today I am sharing my version of Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp and my kiddos left their comments at the end of the recipe...ENJOY!!!  

The Topping

1/2 Cup Butter Softened
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Oats
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon of cinnamon

Combine above ingredients in a bowl and set aside

Turn on oven to 350 degrees to preheat

The Filling

3-4 stalks washed rhubarb cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 quart(roughly a pound) rinsed strawberries hulled(taking the leaves off) and halved
1/2 Cup Sugar(you can cut this amount down if desired)
1 Tablespoon Flour

Place those 4 ingredients into a 2 quart baking dish and stir in the sugar and flour to coat the strawberries and rhubarb.  Place Crisp mixture over the top and place into the 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, the crisp should be golden and the juices from the fruit should be bubbling at the sides.

If you have picky eaters like I do(I will say it is getting a ton better...perseverance is the key, don't give up) this is a good way to get a new vegetable into them!!!

THE EXPERIMENT:  My younger children have never had rhubarb before and so it was time for them to try it(my kiddos are great now at just trying something).  I gave each of them a half of a slice of rhubarb and the cute little sour faces that proceeded were priceless.  I then gave them the other half I had mixed with some sugar, still sour but they all ate it.  Then we talked about how they thought it would taste cooked with strawberries and sugar...they all thought it would be great...and here are their words about the crisp:


NaBelle: (lets start by saying she licked the bowl clean and she is not one of my picky eaters)
it was delicious because we all helped make it!

Jens: I loved the crisp!(he gave it a big thumbs up)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jewels and Her Gem

Conversation in the car while we are running errands:

Me: my period is weird

Him: I always thought the semi colon was odd

Me: (with the exasperated wife look)

Him: (with the look of the little boy in third grade who is going to pull your pigtails) but what has always interested me is the ampersand but it never really comes up in conversations

Me: (still with the look) perks up and says we need to blog these deep conversations

Monday, June 10, 2013

{simple} Teacher Gifts

 I so LOVE this idea for teachers gifts.
I happen to read with all of the children in all of my children's classes 5 times a week and I can tell you the books in the classroom take a beating for sure. 
 When I was thinking about what to get the teachers for an end of the year gift my mind went immediately to the tattered pages of those loved books.
 I  bought 2 of my children's favorite books from that school year and tied them into cute little bundles using bakers twine(about twice a year they have a fab deal on it at pickyourplum.com so worth following them on facebook). 
I added a gift card to our local book store onto a piece of cardstock with glue dots with a little saying on the top: {Some books for the kids/A book for you/ Just saying thanks for all you do!!!}
Then I just put a hole in the top corner using a hole punch and tied it to my bundle of books!
Closer look at top of tag:
So simple and I wish I would have taken a picture of my children's faces when I told them they were giving these books they so love to their teachers....
it was priceless and such a genuine joy filled their souls!!!

End of School Year Treat Bags


     I volunteered to make treat bags for the 4th grade End of School Year party.  With 27 students and the desire to keep the cost to a minimum and to encourage them to read over the summer I came up with this little note to the children:

You spent all year becoming a SMARTIE
and maybe a little NERDy(in a fabulous way).
Summer is no time to become a DUM DUM.
Take time this summer to grab a book and a drink.
POP down under a tree and take a SIP before
you take your mind on a wonderful adventure,
MARKing your path as you go on amazing journeys
to the most awesome places!!!
     I printed them 4 to a page in a word document with a simple font so the younger children would be familiar with the text.  I then cut them out along with colored cardstock a bit larger to create a frame.
     Oh and remember what I said about 27 children that rapidly grew to 96 because if you do it for one child around here you do it for all and so we made a little assembly line:

Here are the items we put into the bags:
SMARTIE= smartie
NERDy= nerds
DUM DUM= dum dum suckers
POP= a frezzy pop(unfrozen)
SIP= smoothie straw
MARKing= a bookmark

     I made the book marks by simply cutting cardstock 2X5.5 inch strips.  I use the clear stamp blocks to add stamps too so you can see precisely were you are stamping and Michaels has several to choose from that are fabulous for $1.00. then stamping the word read onto each one and then stamped on the series of arrows.  I did this separately because the two stamps were different thicknesses.

Once the bags were filled I simply stapled them shut with card stock and little note to the top.

The thought of doing 96 bags including making 96 bookmarks seems like a daunting task but to be honest it was a fabulous time spent as a family.  To better understand, this is how this project went down:  While I cut the first several pages of bookmarks my hubby was doing the dishes and so we were chatting and the kids were picking up their toys.  Once David was done with dishes he came over and finished the cutting while I began to stamp and then he cut the little notes out too.  We finished at almost the same time and then we set up the table for an assembly line while the kids got jammies on.  Then the assembly line began and we soon found out that my job took longer than everyone elses so whenever I got backed up by 10 bags they would stop and run and tidy up a room in the house until I was caught up.  This continued until we were done.  The whole project probably took about a hour but in that time the dishes and toy area were picked up and every room on the main level of our home was picked up.  The kids were excited to get the bags done for their parties, I was happy I wasn't up all night and that the house was picked up as well.  I think so often as moms we do get so overwhelmed by life and kids and things we need to do or feel we need to do or want to do but if you really think out of the box and go with the flow of things you can accomplish so much if you work together!!!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer Bucket List - 2013

I am one of those mom's that can't wait for school to get over with and am getting super excited to see the end getting closer and closer.  My children have requested we skip the rest of the school year and I am right there with them. 
When they woke up this morning and came downstairs all their papers they are so proud off were gone and in their place was the.....

I printed off a list of things my children love to do from a word document onto plain old printer paper and then cut out the words and then glued them with a glue stick onto leftover scrapbook paper.  Then I cut that out leaving a small frame.  Like so....
(sorry for the pics, no natural light down in this area of the house) This is where I have the kids put their school work they are most proud of during the school year.  I removed that and added all the cards for our bucket list and added a bucket too.

I wrote the list first and then asked the kids what they would like to do this summer...guess what I nailed the list...high fives for me!!!  We need them as moms sometimes, whose kidding all the time!!!
Parts of our bucket list are very specific for our area and my children so if there are park days on Monday that is on the card as well.  I will put the entire list at the end of the post so those that do live in our area can take a looksy and join us if you want and so can everyone else if they need some ideas.

I have three very different younger children and so to make this work without tears or fighting or hearing, "I never get to do what I want to do"...you can hear that right moms, please tell me it is not just me!!!   We will rotate who is picking(they will NOT forget it is their turn believe me) and we will pick one card per day during the week and place it in the bucket.  When we run out of cards we will put all the cards back and start again. 

This is a great way for us to do something fun everyday after we accomplish our lists and school activities and I am hoping I will not hear, "I'm Bored!" all summer long!!!
Bucket List 2013
Science Experiment
Art Project
Dow Gardens(picnic Wednesday)
Whiting Forest
Bike Ride
Farmers Market(Wednesday morning)
Play a Sport
Outdoor Movie Night with friends
BBQ with friends
Go to the Track(yes we have runners0
Cooking School
Walk to get Slurpees
Fun Zone
Chippewa Nature Center
Center for the Arts
Pool Day
Park Day(Mondays)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Water Wall

 It is hard to believe that for us school will be out in one week and so I  started getting ready for that blessed event about a month ago. 
Writing down ideas, coming up with plans, doing some research and ordering a couple of items to enrich our summer days.
 We live .1 miles away from the city park and diagonally from a church with a cute park, which is what attracted us to this neighborhood in the first place was all the fun things we could walk or ride our bikes to.  This being said I don't feel like we need to have a big play structure in our yard, I promised a friend long ago I would never get a trampoline(his brother broke his neck on one), and having a membership to a pool crosses that off the list.  I love out yard being open for games of tag, croquet, the kids gardens, kicking a soccer ball around, etc....
I do though want some fun things for our children to do in our own yard so I let them go through my board on pinterest and pick something fun to add to our yard and they chose a water wall!!!
I had 2 pallets and I could see how I could make them work for the water wall and then headed to the dollar store to get some lemon and lime containers and tubes to add to our water wall, we also used some recycled containers as well. 
Onto the how to via pictures:


and viola a water wall has been created and ready for some summer fun:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring Cleaning for Kids

     Some ideas just come to me but most ideas are sparked by seeing something.  I have always had some sort of something FUN for the kids to help me clean up with...remember the googly eyes on the dustpan???  They however are getting older and so they are capable to help more.  I was in the Dollar Tree recently and as I was running out something caught my eye but I had no time to ponder there usefulness then.  Fast forward a couple of weeks and the idea sparked by a glance at these was complete. 

     I bought all coordinating items and baskets to match along with little clips that match as well.  I also bought Method green cleaners for safety for my kiddos hands.  Each basket has different cleaning jobs attached to it using the clip(lists not done at time of pictures). I love the cute little bee, ladybug, and frogs on these cleaning tools...ADORABLE!!!

    Here are the lists(I just hand wrote them on index cards, nothing cutsie)
 that coordinate with each basket:

Green-baseboards, floors, walls  Red-sinks, tubs, vacuum(its red)  Yellow- windows and walls too 

We bought a small vacuum cleaner just under 2 years ago for about $35.00 at a local big box store
and it has been perfect for the kiddos to use to vacuum their rooms. 
The plan is that we will work room to room together getting them all clean and fabulous.  The first part of the process is underway it is called cleaning out!!!
Funny little note...the morning after I put these together I had them sitting on the table ready for me to add cleaners to them.  When I came home from the gym this is what I saw.  Yes fun cleaning supplies do work.  I don't know what it is but they love them.  Everyday since this picture at least one of the baskets has been hauled off to do some cleaning by each of my kiddos. 

Now this didn't happen over night nor is my house the cleanest thing around but I have taught them to have pride in their home, that you can feel the spirit more fully in a clean environment, you feel better in general when your home is more put together, and we should have a "house of order".   I want to state again our house is NOT the cleanest or most organized.  I do have weeks like spring break were we did nothing but have fun and the house(the basement playroom in particular) took a back seat to FUN!!!  I paid for it so did they it took 2 weeks to pick it all back up but that time together was worth it.  I also choose fun over cleaning most of the time...I will have a perfectly clean house when they are gone until then I will make cleaning together as fun as possible!!!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My 5 Year Experiment

     Over 5 years ago I became more serious about being more prepared in case of an emergency, in particular in cases of a long term emergency. I had always been a person that bought items that were on sale in bulk thanks to the teachings of my grandmother, so having a 3 months supply of foods we ate regularly on hand was a habit I had from the time I moved out on my own when I was 18 so that part of storing food for my family was taken care of. It was the long term storage of food that I needed to work on.   I first started by getting a years supply of wheat, beans, and rice and 2 weeks of water.  Once I was done with those items I added oats, dried apple slices, and soup mix. You can read about the importance of emergency preparedness in regards to food here.

     As I was doing research into emergencies and in particular children in emergencies, I noted a trend.  The words familiar and comfort occurred over and over again.  In emergencies we need to keep things as the same as we possibly can.  I never in this time or since came across a 72 hour kit for children without some sort of sweet treat in them.  In times of crisis those sweet treats can become an uplift and familiar thing to a life that is thrown out of whack.  In our personal 72 hour kits we have sweet treats but in our long term storage we had nothing and as I did more and more research there really was nothing that lasted on your shelf for more than a few months.  I decided I would have a couple of snack bins that would rotate snacks for the kids but I still desired a long term solution.  I am not talking 20 years, I would be happy with 5 years.  I then started researching MRE's and the desserts they have.  They can last up to 7 years but lets be honest they are not that good and this would not be a familiar treat.  I can not tell you which MRE website I was on when I took note of something they had a chewy chocolate treat that was wrapped in a mylar wrapping but for $2.00 a pop I was not sold.  I looked into that chewy treat a bit more and it seemed to me it was a tootsie roll.  This is when I had an idea, an idea that might just work.

     I went to Wal-Mart and picked up 2 huge bags of tootsie rolls for about 4.50.  I had some mylar food grade pouches and oxygen packets already(I recently found some mylar pouches(see picture below) and oxygen packets at Amazon and the great thing about the pouches they can be sealed shut with a household iron) and so my 5 year experiment began.  I dumped the tootsie rolls in the pouch added 2 oxygen packets for good measure(1 could work) and sealed the bag up.  I wrote the date on the front of the pouch with the item and then promptly hide them in with the pouches of beans(who would look there for tootsie rolls...haha).  I had no idea if this was going to work 5 years ago when I tried it but I thought it would be fun to see if it worked.

     It is funny I forgot all about those tootsie rolls hidden in my beans for years, then we moved and with us came our food storage and the rediscovery of my little project...a little over 3 years had passed at that time and so back in with their friends the beans they returned again to be forgotten.  Then out of no where this past February I remembered the Tootsie Roll Project and was excited to realize March was a few days away and that would mark my 5 years and then I forgot about them again until one night last week I remembered them with great excitement so I ran down dug them out and ran them up the stairs(okay my hubby did that) and I relished in the moment of cutting that bag open to see what I would find.  Would they be hard as rocks?  Or loose their flavor?  Would they be a gooey mess?  Or in all hopes would they be perfect and I had discovered my long term treat?  I was so surprised they looked just like the day I dumped them into that mylar pouch. They were still the perfect tootsie roll chewy firmness.  Now for the taste...they tasted just like tootsie rolls taste.  My experiment worked.  I had found my long term storage sweet treat and my kiddos were excited too!!!

Be Awesome,


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Be Prepared For {April Fools}

     I always have sooo much fun getting my children on April Fools Day and this year was no different.  Our plans came together magnificently and this by far was my favorite.  It was hard for me not to do anything ALL day and wait for my hubby to come home but it was so worth it. 

    He is the actor in the family my husband, I could barley keep it together.  He comes in the door after work and emergently calls a family meeting.  As some were lagging behind he exclaims this is an emergency family meeting and everyone needed to come right now.  As we all gather and me about ready to burst into laughter he tells the children that he just heard on the radio that all the homes in our neighborhood need to be evacuated because the water tower had a structural problem.  He explained we had 10 minutes to get our things together and leave.  He gave them specific instructions about packing an outfit and grab a blanket.  I can tell you the looks on their faces couldn't believe it and then a bit of panic began.  He then says this is not time to panic this is time to just get this done and panicking only makes it worse.  They packed their bags super quickly and came back within 2 minutes and asked what can we do to help.  They filled water bottles, grabbed snacks, and packed the car and we left in roughly 5 minutes from the announcement we needed to leave.  Like I said my hubs is the actor in the group he pretended like he called the elders quorum president to let him know we were okay and as we were driving he was flipping through the am channels to see if there was any news.  As we were driving they had a ton of questions like what happens if our house is flooded?  What happens if our furniture is all wet?  Etc...  We drove to our local pizza place and of course the kids asked why we were there and we just said we might as well eat and have a family meeting to decide what to do next.  This made sense to them because this was not the first time we had a family meeting at the pizza place.  We all sit down and we tell them how proud we were of them and how they worked as a team, how they didn't panic, and how they were big helpers and that we are so glad we are safe on this April Fools Day!!!  The looks on their face PRICELESS as this marinates in their minds.  We got them and we got them good...one of the kids exclaimed, "You guys always do some so great on April Fools Day!" 

    With the relief that our home was fine we had quite a enjoyable evening with our kiddos.  I really loved this April Fools Day joke because it was more than just a joke we learned a ton about how prepared and not prepared we were in an emergency.

    What we learned  is:

1.  We need to move water onto the main level. I spent time filling water bottles because it was faster than dragging them out of the basement. 

2.  Need more cash on hand...we are not cash carriers and so we had very little cash when we left and if ATMs aren't working we would have been in trouble.

3.  Our camping bins needed to be better organized and better labeled so we knew exactly which ones to grab to throw into the van.

4.  Need to keep our gas tank more full.  We had in between a half and quarter tank which is fine but in an emergency is not going to get you very far.

5.  Our children are great in an emergency.  They kept calm and collected not only that they were a huge help.

    It is funny how a simple thing as a April Fools Day joke turned into this huge learning experience for us as parents and for our children as well.

Be Awesome.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Finding Books for Children

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     We have all been there, even as adults when we can't find a book we want to read, something that interests us and grips our attention so we don't want to put the book down.  It is the same way with children.  Over the years I have come up with some tried and true ways to find new books.

1.  Ask your child's teacher they are a wealth of knowledge about books for their reading level and interests.

2.  Every year our schools have what they call battle of the books.  I choose 1 book from the battle of the book choices to read out loud to my children.  These books are always great!!!

3.  Visit the library or bookstore and read a few pages of a new book that has come out.  I have found several fabulous new books this way and what is better if they are in a series you have now found several new books.

4.  Talk to your friends with children your child's age.  Ask them their family favorites. 

5.  Google, google, google!  Yep their are other blogs out there with lists of books for kids...google it, there are some great lists.  Also if you child has a topic they really love you can google for books on the topic. 

6.  This is my absolute favorite resource...there is a book called Honey for a Child's Heart(there is a teen version too) by Gladys Hunt and Barbra Hampton. This is a book with different chapters and categories to help you find books for your children.  If you want to find a book on honesty there is a category for it.  If you want to find a book about sports or non-fiction again they have chapter with lists of books, good books, books that will build character and spark imagination.  These books are my number one resource books I own and am so grateful I found them, through a friend(see number 4) actually and they have certainly been a huge blessing!!!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Books For Children- The List

     I could write lists and lists of books to read with children but I thought instead of saying here is the card catalog for the national library I would narrow it down to our families absolute favorites, a couple of categories, and a quick why and some of the whys are going to be written by my kiddos it should be fun, fun, fun! Then on Wednesday I am going to share how I find new books for my children to enjoy...ONTO THE LISTS...

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Picture Books and Early Readers

A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon (any mom with a girl should get this book and own it, a great reminder to be yourself)

A Growing Story by Ruth Krauss (the story and illustrations are darling)

Any book  by Dr. Seuss (its Dr Seuss enough said)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle  (childrens ability to retell this story and how proud they are...priceless)

If You Give A Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff  (this book so reminds me of how my mind works)

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson (you know there is no such thing as a Gruffalo or maybe there is...very clever)

Lu and the Swamp Ghost by James Carville (touching..you only need family and a one good friend)

I'll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (warms my heart)

I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak (teaches you love your kids no matter what)

Someday by Alison McGhee (again warms my heart)

Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff (I love how this book brings out the imagination of a child, just imagine a dinosaur coming and spending the day with you)

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor (for all the little girls out there that love to be fancy)

Any Book by Sandra Boynton (I am a very visual person and I love the illustrations and it helps that the stories are funny and sing songy)

Oh What a Busy Day by Gyo Fujikawa (again the illustrations and the wanderings of the imagination)

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst (we all have them)

How do Dinosaurs... by Jane Yolen (again the illustrations of these books crack me up and they teach something too)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (this book is like science on a canvas...love I

It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw (the use of a childs imagination is a wonderous thing)

Mud by Wendy Cheyette Lewison (silly and fun)

Down on the Funny Farm by P. E. King (again just silly and makes the children want to read it again and again)

Buzz Said the Bee by Wendy Cheyette Lewison (repetition and funny illustrations)

Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant (a book about a boy and his dog how could you not love them)

Biscuit goes to School by Alyssa Satin Capucilli (the illustrations again are the cutest)

No David by David Shannon (again with the illustrations and the sweet message at the end)

Princess Princess by Penny Dale (the poetic flow of the book is enchanting)

The Big Orange Splot by  Daniel Manus Pinkwater (this is truly the book when I was a child that had me think out of the box with my imagination and creativeness)

The Empty Pot by Demi (a book about honesty and its importance)

Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud (Are you a bucket filler or dipper, teaching kindness)

Chapter Books {*denotes a series)

Dragon Keepers* by Kate Klimo (very interesting and well detailed)

Harry Potter* by J.K. Rowling (I will tell you I had a 10 year old when these books first came out and he had no desire to read them...then he was about 15 the first few movies came out and that was it..they are imaginative and a fabulous read for young and not so young)

Little House on the Prairie* by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I read them my daughter is reading them they are just good story telling of a time not too long ago)

Diary of the Wimpy Kid* by Jeff Kinney(I will tell you I was not a fan of these books at all until the latest one came out The Third Wheel.  I read with the 3rd and 4th graders 3 times a week and this book just came out I heard so many portions of the book that I finally decided I needed to read it myself because I was honestly just laughing and grinning the whole time they were reading to me...they are funny and such reminders of the ridiculous of even our own childhoods)

Ramona* by Judy Blume (Ramona is silly)

The Boxcar Children* by Gertrude Chandler Warner (they are creative, liked how they made the boxcar, ingenuitive)

Nancy Clancy*(these are the new Fancy Nancy chapter books) by Jane O'Connor ( I was so happy to see these chapter books.  My daughter LOVED the fancy nancy books but was getting too old for them and so these have been great for her with a character she is familiar with)

Theodore Boone* by John Grisham (John Grisham is my FAVORTIE author and so when he started the Theodore Boone series of books I was thrilled to have a law book I could read with my kids)

The Giver by Lois Lowry (imagine living a happy life, no strife no trials...what a life right or maybe not)

Willawaw by Tom Bodett (this is just good writing period and he takes right to that place with his descriptive writing style)

Secret Agent Jack Stalwart* by Elizabeth Singer Hunt (loves the gadgets and  visits different countries)

The Magic Tree House* by Mary Pope Osborne (I stated in my last post about my child who thirsted for knowledge well these books fit the bill for him, full of knowledge and adventure)

Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (just plain funny from beginning to end)

Freckle Juice by Judy Blume (for the bit of gullible in all of us)

The Heros Guide To* by Christopher Healy(this is a new series and we are on the countdown right now for the second book to come out my 10 year old son LOVED it and can hardly wait, he even said today ,"That April 29th is going to be the longest day ever", because the book comes out on the 30th)

Whatever After* by Sarah Mlynowski(this is a relative new series as well and my daughter loves them...great twist on old classic fairy tales)

Anne of Green Gables* by Lucy Maude Montgomery (one word ANNE she is fabulous and such a character you just want to keep reading about her)

Choose Your Own Adventure* by R A Montgomery (these actually used to be my husbands favorite books as a child because as you read you get to make choices of how the story is going to go and they take you on grand adventures from down in the depths under the sea to the rainforest to outer space...fabulous concept and the story can change every time you read it)

The Last Newspaper Boy in America by Sue Corbett (mystery, suspense, and humor...a winning combo)

The Classroom Series* by Robin Mellom(this is also a newer series but let me tell you hilarious, from the random illustrations to the real life antics that happen in middle schools all over the country)

Flat Stanley* by Jeff Brown (who doesn't love books about traveling the world on grand adventures)

Dinosaur Cove* by Rex Stone (likes the idea of traveling in time)

    I truly could go on and on about fabulous books for children but these our some of our very favorites..enjoy!!!

Be Awesome,


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reading with Children....Where to Begin?

    This post and several others about one of my favorite topics reading and specifically reading with children has been on my mind.  I had the posts all set in my mind what they each were going to be about and then I started running a fever.  If you do not know this after you have pneumonia when you get sick the next time you get really sick and luckily for me I did not get pneumonia again but I did run a fever for 5 days and then had a little reprieve for a few days and then a fever again for 2 days.  Now that I am back to feeling a bit like myself and caught up around here, well as much caught up as someone who avoids housework like the plague and has 3 children at home can be...I feel like I can write my next post about reading with children.

     This is just the basics to get you started on a path to reading with your children and cultivate children that LOVE to read or at least tolerate it!!!

     As parents we want our children to be at the same level as their classmates at the very least when it comes to the world of academia but not all children are the same so that is note one...children are NOT all the same.  One of my children before they were 2 knew all the letters in the alphabet, upper and lower case and knew what sound they made.  Now notice I said one.  One of my other children at that same age barely spoke 50 words.  Even in homes children are vastly different and that is okay.

     Now that we are okay with where our child is at, the next question I ask myself is what do they love?  One of my children hated reading and to this day is not a huge fan but you could get him to read anything about animals, another one loved a field trip to an old homestead and books in that era became her favorites, another one has a thirst for knowledge so anything non-fiction is right up his ally, and the other one doesn't care as long as it is not too hard for him and he likes to read about things that are familiar to him.

      You know what they love and so now is the fun part finding books to match their loves.  Your local library is a great resource but you can also find inexpensive books at used book stores, garage sales, and even amazon.com has great deals at times. 

     Have the books available to them, in a basket, on a shelf just for them, a bin, a cabinet, somewhere in your home where they can have access to them whenever they want. 

    Not all children are drawn to books so set aside some time everyday to read to them, with them, or have some time for them to read by themselves once they are old enough.

    If you really have a child that hates reading...reward them for it.   I do have a 2 fold reward system for my own children and they don't hate it but it has been a huge blessing for me as a mom.  1. They earn computer or TV time on Friday and Saturday for reading(I will blog about that little system at another time) and  2. They earn a book worm(gummi worms) for meeting their goal time everyday, I have this system in place for a long time and  . I like that one is a immediate reward and the other is more long term earning.

   To kind of wrap this whole thing up remember children are not all the same and that is okay, find their love and find books to go with it, have them easily available to them, set aside time everyday, and reward them in whatever way works best for your family.

     Teaching your children to love reading is one of the best gifts we can give our children.  There are a million adventures out there and they all can start by turning a page in a book!!!

    On Monday I am going to share some of our favorite books around here!!!!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cooking with the Kids{Asian Pasta}

Our family loves Asian food or should I say American Asian food as well as they should.  My husband lived in Hong Kong for a few years as a child and has fond memories and that culture holds a special place in his heart to this day.  We find ourselves quite often eating food with an Asian flare and this is one of our faves...
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Lots of grating, dicing, and chopping for this one.  So my 10 and 9 year old got to it.  While my 7 year old helped with adding water to the pot and oil to the skillet, he also made the sauce-he loves to whisk!!!

16 ounces uncooked whole wheat angel hair pasta
2 cups diced cooked grilled chicken breast
2 cup fresh snow peas
1 cup shredded carrots
6 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoon sugar or honey

Add oil and garlic* to a large skillet, making sure to coat the garlic with the oil and let sit on no heat.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Once pasta is on in the large skillet, sauté the snow peas, carrots and onions in oil until crisp-tender add chicken and cook one minute longer.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce and sugar.  Drain pasta. Add pasta and soy sauce mixture to skillet and toss to coat. Heat through. Yield: 6 servings.

*I have taken my fair share of cooking classes and I always learn something new.  Did you know if you throw garlic into a hot pan with oil you seal the flavor in, you virtually are deep frying your garlic?  If ever a recipe says to add garlic to a hot pan DO NOT do it...add it to a cold pan with the oil and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  The oils from the garlic release into your cooking oil and give your food a wonderful flavor not to mention a super yummy smelling house.

Be Awesome,


Monday, March 4, 2013

Reading {A Tradition}

With reading month under way I wanted to share my thoughts about reading with my children and the impact it has had on us.    

Years ago I heard a talk given by President Thomas S Monson  entitled Hallmarks of a Happy Home .  The portion of this talk that left the deepest imprint was the 2nd hallmark: our homes needed to be a library of learning.  I love this little poem he read in this talk:

Books are keys to wisdom’s treasure;
Books are gates to lands of pleasure;
Books are paths that upward lead;
Books are friends. Come, let us read

 From that moment on my home became filled with good books, tools for learning, and a focus on learning about the world around us.


     I still remember the first time I read a book to my children that was a book they could not read themselves.  We were camping and every evening as the fire was being built I would read one of my childhood favorites Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.  The children sat in their little camp chairs hanging on every word and giggling in the funny moments and rolling on the ground in laughter at the thought of cereal being dumped over Fudges head.  Of all the things we did that camping trip the one they still talk about to this day is reading around the fire and having grasshoppers and worms for dessert.  A tradition was born on both accounts.   No matter where we go on vacation they know there is going to be a book to be read.

     I am always reading with my children.  We read our scriptures and they have things they need to read to me for school.  I go to their classrooms 5 times a week and read with them and their classmates for 7 hours. We have 20-30 minutes set aside after school for them to read.  l felt like I was doing a good job as a parent with the whole reading to my children thing.

     Last fall on a whim I bought tickets to a play for our family to see-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  My children actually love plays and so I was super excited to surprise them with a night out.  As I was buying these tickets I noticed they were also selling ticket to 2 other productions I thought my children would love-Anne of Green Gables and The Jungle Book. I was super excited to buy my first Christmas gift.   Along with buying tickets for these shows I bought the books as well.  They were so excited as they unwrapped their books Christmas morning but imagine their surprise when they opened up the front cover and discovered theater tickets too!

    Something however from the time of buying those tickets to Christmas morning happened, a thought that just would not leave my mind was, I needed to start reading to them everyday starting now.  Not just on vacation, not just the scriptures, not special books to read before we attend a play, not the homework books but books I love and I need to do it everyday.

      Now I pick a book and I  read as the boys doodle or play with Legos(read the book The Mind of Boys and you will understand why allow my boys to play or doodle while I read) and my girl is always  snuggled right next to me.  Have we done it everyday, no life gets in the way sometimes.  Have I picked books that have epically flopped(Oliver Twist) and I would have to stop reading it and pick a new one, absolutely. We have made adjustments here and there but we gather we read. 

     These sweet moments filled with the spirit with my children all gathered around me as I read has been and will be one of the moments as a mother I will cherish in the deepest part of my soul forever!

Be Awesome,

  *by the way I am reading Willawaw by Tom Bodett to all of them and Julianna and I are reading Anne of Green Gables in preparation to attending the play shortly.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Foyer {before/after}

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After redoing the stairs, I impulsively redid the foyer, the very next day. Nope it is not a misprint, I know right me impulsively did something to my home but I did. I usually think it through, debate it for months, come up with a plan...this was completely different. I am usually very safe with my decorating, don't get me wrong I am an out of the box thinker but I consult pinterest, the web, magazines, other blogs and then combine those ideas into my own.  This time I went with my gut, what I love, what is me(I of course considered my hubs loves too).
Lets back ups a couple of years.  I decided I need to figure out what my style was.  This did not happen over night it was a couple of years in the making.  It first started when I read an article describing New Rustic which I will say does sum up my decorating style but not completely so I did some hands on research...
 I have always had a home budget but I juggled some numbers around taking from my personal clothes budget and added it to my home budget for a few months(yes so if you have seen me wearing the same clothes and they are looking a little worn out you know why) and then I started collecting.  If I saw something I loved I bought it.  Once I had a collection of about 10 items I realized I love color, fun and playful, and something unexpected. I loved these things but was I brave enough to incorporate them into my home...I didn't quite know.
Then I started following a couple of blogs Vintage Revivals and Makely School for Girls.  They are bold decorators and inspired me to not be like them but to be myself do what I love so to  Mandi and Lindsay   I say Thank You!!!
Here is my Foyer before...yep safe, unloved really....I just didn't love it so with the new stairs {which still make me smile} complete,  the space near the stairs need to make me smile too.  I actually have 2 foyers like spaces one straight ahead from the front door and one to the right of it.  I redid the foyer to the right when we first moved in so I we could be organized when school started. It is more utilitarian but still has pops of color and unexpected too. Back to the Foyer that is straight ahead from the front door..in its sad state of unhappiness and unfun.  Yep you have to feel so uplifted when you walk into your home and see a basket full of stuff to take car of....

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I first started by painting which makes the biggest impact.  I used the color Rich Navy by Glidden, I used that color on the stair risers and fell in love with it.  For some reason when you take a picture of it, it looks more true blue than navy but it is navy trust me and here are the after shots with some of the items I purchased in my discovering my style shops:

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I had this chalkboard cabinet I found at Hobby Lobby elsewhere in the house and decided to do a swap a roo with the table and it has found its new home.  The cabinet holds some of our favorite games in it and is in a perfect spot to grab a quick game to play before bed.  Next I grabbed some of my Ball canning jars which I have been collecting from antique stores and as my luck would have it a garage sale that was selling them for $2 a piece and added them to the top. 

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I had this rustic gold picture frame and framed one of our family pictures.  If you look closely this is not a posed picture, it is at a point where we were taking a break and letting the kids make silly faces and it is by far my favorite picture because it is just us being us!!! 

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The letter K I found at Marshalls, it is made out of pieced together scrap metal and when I saw it I knew my hubby would love it(he does by the way)

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I found this fabulous framed key at Marshalls as well as the large starburst mirror!  I love the mirror and key for their color, rusticiness and utility in the space.  How many times do we hunt down our keys?  Well this framed key has secret it holds out spare keys for emergency use ONLY(yes I am talking to a certain someone)!
Here is the wall in its almost completed state.  If you see to the left of the K there is a piece of paper taped to the wall..well we are waiting for a special order piece to arrive in the mail and I am super excited about it.  I also didn't address this larger than life tag and when I saw it I knew I needed it in my home. I stared at it for over 10 minutes and figured out exactly what I would need to buy to replicate it. Then I remembered that my time is important and spending the amount of time I would have needed to make this little gem of awesomeness in the end would not be worth the time away from my kiddos and so I spent the money.  In the end I probably spent $15 more dollars on it than I would have needed to get the supplies to make it and so I feel like it was a steal!!! It is hanging from a knob from the lovely ladies at Pick Your Plum...I love their grab boxes and I found that little treasure nestled in one of them.

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After the paint dried over night.  It took me about 1 hour to finish it!  It really just came together quickly, as I stood back admiring my work and as days went by and I was walking through it I realized it came together so easily because I loved it!  It was me on the wall staring back at me and I actually teared up like I am right now. 
I said it when I talked about the stairs.  Love it!!!  Truly love it, have it be you on the wall, floor, couch.  When you look at it is it representing you.  I promise you will never regret it.  You won't waste money on fads, whats in right now.  You also won't be wasting time either because you will love it and want to leave it that way, for awhile anyways!!!
Be Awesome,


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snow Days, Rainy Days, or Any Day {Make a Memory}

     We have not had a full week of school since before Christmas break and can I tell you I LOVE it!!! But and yes there is a but when it is an unplanned day off of school and I need to change my plans for the day even though I love it I go into a bit of a panic for a moment.  I like to take advantage of having the kids home and I like to have a plan of something fun to do, even though it might be a simple plan, a plan is something I find comfort in...what can I say I am a planner!!!  To appease my planner persona and go with the flow of the unexpected I have come up with a list of go to activities that are simple, don't require a lot of preplanning, and also don't require things I don't have around the house(because I have them now, yes the planner in me is prepared...AHHHHH)

1.  Snow Day Donuts...a simple tradition and all it requires is oil, refrigerator biscuits, and powdered sugar(frosting and sprinkles if you would like too).  Heat oil, stretch out dough, put a hole in the middle with your thumbs, place dough in hot oil, approx. 30 seconds, remove from oil, place on paper towel lined plate and dip into powdered sugar or frost and sprinkle.  Easy and the kids LOVE it!!!

2.  Build a Fire...in our old home we did it outside...ahhh hot chocolate and smores around a fire while playing in the snow outside can't be beat in my book except by building a fire in your fireplace and doing the same thing in the warm indoors after playing outside building forts, snowmen, angels and I have been known to start a snowball fight or 2(ok I always start them).  Our new family favorite is to gather around the fire and I read the children a story..right now we are reading Willawaw, yes I gave up on reading Oliver Twist it made my brain hurt.
3.  Painting....I love to paint and so I always have paper(you can get end rolls from a local print shop and usually for free) and paint available in our art/science room. 
 4.  Window Art....my kids love to be able to draw all over the windows and lets be honest I know I don't wash them enough anyway, this is the perfect time.  We use Crayola Window Markers and they work fabulously!!!

 5.  Popcorn...pop some up and snuggle with your kiddos and watch a movie.  Turn the phone off, computer, and snuggle with your kids.  They LOVE it!!!
6.  Balloon Projects...decorate them with a crazy face(use permanent marker), make them into a rocket(tape a straw to the top of the balloon, blow up balloon and hold air in, cut a long  piece of string, thread through the straw, have 2 people hold each end of the string or tie it to something and let go..weeee , blow them up in an unexpected way(vinegar in a pop bottles add baking soda, put balloon over top to seal it up and see what happens), or bat them around with PAPER PLATES.
7.  Paper Plate Crafts...you can go online and search paper plate crafts and I tell you, it is a bit overwhelming.  There are a ton of fabulous ideas out there and all you need are paper plates best $2.00 you will spend!!!
 8.  Picnic...throw a blanket on the floor and eat your lunch...it is so simple but so memorable and no table to wash off just pick up the blanket and throw it in the washer!!!
9.  Games...our family loves games and remember that fire I was talking about this where we play our games on snow days right in front of the fire...some of our families current favorites are...BANG!, Apples to Apples, Settlers of Catan Jr, and Uno Roboto!!!
10.  Play..just play with them with the toys they have, be on the floor and play!  I am guilty, I don't do this enough but when I do this is when we have our best talks and bonding moments.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cooking with the Kids {crunchy black bean tacos}

I love a good Mexican recipe.  In matter of fact my very first cookbook that I received when I was 14 was a Mexican cookbook and so my love of cooking began. 
 I am sure, in matter fact I know my mom was so tired of having tacos for dinner when I was a teen because I would make them all the time.  
 One day while on Pinterest I came across this fabulous recipe.  I however considered my children's taste buds which can be picky at times and changed it quite a bit.
The reviews were unanimous they LOVED them, absolutely loved them...there was not a crumb left and if you know anything about picky eaters you know this is a miracle. 
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This is Cooking with the Kids and they really did everything when doing this recipe,
even down to tasting and adjusting the spices. 
  I have found that when you cook with children they all want to help
 but letting them all help at once is difficult and to be honest dangerous at times so use good judgement when cooking with children.   
Assigning the jobs ahead of time and considering their strengths is key
 for no craziness in the kitchen. 
This way they all know they are going to get a turn and are prepared to help when it is their turn.
 This keeps their little fingers and other body parts safe.
  I divided the job amongst the 3 of them and so I had the one with the most sensitive taste buds be the spice adjuster and to say enough is enough. The oldest did everything with griddle.  My youngest mashed and measured while the middle child grated and sliced. 
 Was this their first time doing these jobs in the kitchen absolutely not.   I pull each one of them individually during the week to help make dinner at least once and I have a couple that would help every time if they could.  This allows me to know what they are ready to tackle with little help from myself and the more they can do by themselves the more confident they feel about their abilities and this makes for some very happy kiddos!!!

Crunchy Black Bean Tacos

Makes 10 tacos (serves 5).Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

2 C. black beans, cooked
½ peeled onion, grated (I grate the onion because my children DO NOT like chunks of onion in their food, you can dice it if you would like)
 1/2-1  tsp. cumin
 1/2-1  tsp. paprika
 4-6 ounces cheddar jack cheese, grated
2 Tbsp. olive oil
 Pinch of salt and pepper
8 corn tortillas

 Hot sauce
1 avocado, sliced
Sour cream
snipped cilantro

1) In a medium bowl, add beans and grate onion over beans, add spices. Add a pinch of salt and lightly mash all of the ingredients together with a fork or pastry blender. Grate your cheese and have it ready as well.

2) In a large, non-stick skillet or griddle add a few tablespoons of oil and heat over medium-high heat or 350 for the griddle

3) Add one corn tortilla at a time and let each get hot in the oil for a few seconds. Then add about 1/4 cup of the bean filling to one half of the tortilla. Top with a sprinkle of grated cheese.

4) Using a spatula, carefully fold the tortilla over so it forms a shell. Press down lightly on the tortilla so it stays folded in half

5) As the first tortilla cooks, move it to the side and do a second one. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to get 2 or 3 tacos at once or on a griddle 6-8.

6) Cook each taco for about 3 minutes per side until they are nicely browned and crispy. As a note corn tortillas are very forgiving and are resilient to heat so don't worry about burning do the 3 minutes per side to get them nice and crispy

7) When flipping the taco to cook on the other side, use a spatula and flip the taco toward the fold so the filling doesn’t fall out.

8) Serve tacos with toppings like hot sauce, salsa, avocados, sour cream and cilantro.



Friday, February 22, 2013

The Stairs : AFTER

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They are finally done and can I say it has definitely been worth the wait.  If you want to read about how the stair project came to be you can go here to read all about it. 
Once I realized the stairs needed to be completely redone I went online and did some research to decide what I wanted to do.  Did I want to be out there, or not so out there but super  colorful, or did I want to play it safe.  I went around and around about it for months, when I say months I mean from June until November..5 MONTHS.  I finally took the plunge and called  a friend that happens to own a building company and I know they do beautiful work. I knew this was something I did not want to tackle on my own.  We met went over the details, my vision, and then I waited for a bid. 
December came about we had a bid and now I needed to meet with the finish carpenter.  In the midst of this my mom was admitted to the ICU and so a lot of phone tag happened.  We finally came up with a time to meet and  can I tell you I absolutely love him.  I am sure we will be working together again someday soon.  He really understood what I wanted and so we were ready to start but first ordering some special order pieces had to happen.  Once everything was in it went quite quickly.  Jason came did super precise measurements of everything and left me with the risers to paint while the treads would be finished at the shop.
Here is the before:
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Before the work could proceed I need to paint the trim up the stairs and the banister.
We chose Glidden Duo white on white in satin for the trim and banister(which means now I am locked into painting all the trim in the house).  This was a long process it took three coats and several hours over many days.  Next on my list painting the risers. 
I honestly had the hardest time with this and not the painting, the painting was a snap but deciding on ALL of the colors. I knew I wanted to do 3.  
 I had my red color( cocktail dress by Valspar in satin), this was a color decided long ago for another project and to help with the flow of the house it will be in every room on the main level somewhere, have I mentioned I LOVE red!!!  Yes, yes I know green is the color this year but I don't love green, I love red. When it comes to home décor and projects you need to do what makes you happy not what is in trend...what YOU love, what puts a smile on YOUR face!   
 I had my light blue color(arctic blue by Glidden in satin) which is the color I painted my family room and eventually my kitchen will be painted this color as well.  When you walk in to the family room you just go AHHH and want to cuddle with a blanket in front of the fireplace...I think this blue is named wrong I think it should be named serenity.
 I knew I wanted to do a beige color and this is where I hit a wall.  This is the color I will eventually paint the living room, foyer, the walls up the stairs, and the hallway upstairs and so I felt very overwhelmed by this decision.  I even had considered grey.  I have a grey I love and have painted other rooms in my old house grey but I am over grey even though it is everywhere right now.  After several trips to the paint stores around town and research online I decided with antique beige by Glidden in satin.  I know, I know beige is boring but I am one that wants a blank canvas to fill with colorful accents and so a nice neutral is what I wanted.  I don't know if I love this color or not.  It is paint after all and if I end up not liking it I guess I will tape it off and paint over it.  The luxury of paint...you can fix it.
I assigned each color a number 1-3 and put it through a  random number generator.  This is a free handy tool when you want true randomness in the order of something.  Humans tend to put things in a pattern and this is not what I wanted at all I wanted it to be random.  I however I  ran my numbers through several times because yes I did want it random but I did not want any colors that were the same touching. I took over 21 tries to get them all separated but it is as simple as clicking on a button to redo it.  Now I was set to paint.  I had my paint colors, I had the risers, and I had the order.
  I decided at the very last moment and when I say last moment, I was putting the paint on my tester riser and I decide to go with 4 colors...WHAT CRAZINESS!!! My husband thought I lost my mind.  Here I had fretted over this project for months, debated over style, color and had it all planned out and at the last minute I made a change to my well thought out plan.   Yep I did and can I tell you I am so glad I did.  The fourth color I added was rich navy by Glidden in satin.  I left my practice painting and ran the number generator with 4 numbers instead of 3 and came up with a new pattern.  Then I got to work painting the risers.  I use a cabinet roller when I am painting wood, it leaves a smooth finish when it dries.
As I was getting everything done here, it got really cold and remember the stairs that were being finished in the shop they were taking forever to dry between coats and so it was pushed back a week and then Jason had a baby girl so we were pushed back a bit again, no worries because I was having a case of the nerves about the whole thing.  I am a very visual person.  I want to see it and even touch it before I buy and so here in my head was this vision and I didn't know if it was going to work out how I saw it in my mind.
Well the morning came and the stairs were going to be done and can I tell you I was a ball of nerves still and then the first 3 stairs were done and I was getting super excited.  David and I left for lunch which was a good thing because I was hovering.  What can I say I like to see my vision come together and when someone else is doing the work, I still want to see it come together. When we came back all the new stairs and risers were in.
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Can I tell you I stood and stared at those stairs for 5 minutes and I could not quit smiling not for one second.  I just stood there and stared at that vision in my head right in front of me. I could taouch it too, and I did!!!   It is so hard to explain that feeling when you see your vision in a very tangible form in front of you. 
Here they are my fabulous, fun stairs:
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What I am learning about creating a home you love, it truly needs to be what YOU love.  Trends come and go.  Black walls are popping up all over, green accessories, chevron stripes, yep it is all over the place but if you do not absolutely adore it don't do it!!! You will change it in short order. You will take time unnecessarily away from your children, your spouse, you will waste money, and effort.  Do what inspires you, what puts a smile on your face, what you love!!!  I promise if you do what you love you will be happier for it and love your home and it makes all the difference in your everyday life when you love where you are most of your days!!!