Christmas Prepping

Some people may scoff, but Christmas is coming. I feel a little like a slacker this year. Last year I was almost done at this point and only had a few small things to pick up. I really think it was all my spring vacations that messed with my master plan. You won’t hear me complain though because Gettysburg, St. Louis and a week at home made for a very nice spring!
Now here we are, it’s the end of August, and I’m launching into full Christmas prep mode! I placed a few orders online for an assortment of products from Amazon. Other than one gift for Arthur’s birthday and a great many Kindle books, I’ve never placed an order on Amazon. I got some great deals on some items to do some Pinterest-y things.
I’m so torn between wanting to post these projects as I complete them, or waiting till after Christmas. There is always the anonymity of not posting the names of who is getting them, but I want them to be a surprise! Grr!
I’m so excited to get started on these projects on Tuesday. The first one I can even enlist the kids to help!
As a kid, you don’t get it when people tell you that it is better to give than to recieve. As an adult it becomes more and more obvious. I love that moment when the perfect gift for someone pops into my head! It’s even better when you can see their face when they realize what it is! 
Any exciting gift ideas for Christmas? Anything you think would make a great gift, that would make a nice post? Something you think I should try?

Picture Layouts

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I’m sure it’s come up in previous posts, but I am a picture freak. It’s not necessarily just the pictures I’ve taken myself either.
We recently pre-ordered The Little Mermaid on BluRay from the Disney store, mainly because I wanted the beautiful lithographs! I already have several sets, Brother Bear, Aladdin, The Emperor’s New Groove and Finding Nemo. I’ve only had Aladdin framed professionally.

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It was beautifully done and it’s been hanging in Chiara’s room since she was born. I’ve got some big plans to have The Little Mermaid’s lithographs framed in a similar style.
Looking at the lithographs, I realized that I may be able to use regular picture frames for some of them. Not the Little Mermaid though because they’re a little goofy in the sizing.
Once we settled on The Emperor’s New Groove for Arthur’s room and I got them framed, I started thinking about how I wanted them to hang on the wall. Usually I just eyeball it when I hang pictures, but I wanted this to make a statement.
My solution: dig out Tony’s laser level, and end up torturing him into helping me. I was super insistent about the exactness of 2″ between each frame and it made him insane! That’s what love is all about after all!
As you can tell, the final result was amazing. I also love the way the simple black frames look against his mint green walls. What’s your opinion?
I realized, after the fact, that I have another pin that would’ve saved a lot of time on this. Oh well, some other time!
Original pin and even more ideas can be found at http://indulgy.com/post/R5DVouiJO1/great-picture-layout-ideas

Banana Bread

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This isn’t a Pinterest item, but my love of bread has overtaken me today, and luck was on my side because I had bananas in the house! If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know I’ve done a lot of bread recipes! This is a recipe that I got from a dear friend of mine from New York. Tom Page, thank you for the many delicious servings of this that I have consumed!
You start by beating 5 large bananas, the more overripe, the better the bread will be, until they are almost liquefied. Beat in 4 eggs until the mixture is well blended. In a separate bowl, cream together 1 cup of shortening and 2 cups of sugar. Once it’s a fluffy combination, add it to the banana and egg mixture. Add in 2 tsp baking soda, 3 1/2 cups of flour and 1 tsp salt. 1 cup of walnuts is optional, I used to leave them out because Tony doesn’t like them, but he hasn’t been eating a whole lot of my last few batches so the kids and I are adding walnuts!
I used to do 1 big pan of bread and that cooks at 300* for 1hr and 15min. Here lately, I’ve been doing 4 small loaves which I bake for 45 minutes at 300*.
You can probably tell by the picture that my bread overflowed a bit. It’s the first time I’ve had that happen, and I’m not really sure why, but we will still eat the heck out of it.
This is the most delicious banana bread I’ve ever had, and that includes the stuff they sell at Starbucks! It’s a great breakfast item too. Slice a little piece off and slather on some butter and you are in for a treat!
Happy Baking!

A Parent’s Homework

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My babies are my everything. Nevermind the fact that my youngest is 3, they will always be my babies. I would do anything for them, up to, and including murder, but parent’s homework is a killer in itself!
It’s been 3 years since we enrolled Arthur in preschool and I do not remember going through all of this! Since he has started kindergarten, I have probably done over an hour’s worth of forms and applications! Some of them seem very, very similar too, so it all feels a little redundant!
Now we’re going through the enrollment process for Chiara, and I’m losing my mind over this! We’ve got our appointment tomorrow, that meant I had to complete my online registration for her tonight! Argh! Then I’m reading the list of all these documents that I need for this meeting tomorrow.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep a copy of my kids’ immunization records at home. Also, Chiara was born in the state of Ohio, and unlike New York, where Arthur was born, you have to pay for the birth certificate. In New York they give you the document for free. Replacements have to be purchased, but the original is free.
So now, while I go to some appointments in the morning, I have to send Tony on a mission to the Department of Health for her birth certificate and, if my appointments run over, to the pediatrician’s office for her immunization records.
Do we ever really understand as children, what our parents do for us? Not the paycheck they bring home, or the dinner they put on the table, but in the amount of time theh invest in us? You spend time with your kids, but you have to put a lot of time into them, even during your ‘me time’ after they’ve gone to bed!
Tell your parents thank you! I’m definitely calling my mom tomorrow! If I have the time between appointments…….

First Day of School

First Day of School

More and more kids are going back to school as we get closer to September. So often with Pinterest, I find amazing things after an event has passed. For instance, if I was to get married now, instead of 7 years ago, my wedding would’ve been a whole different party. It was beautiful, but Pinterest is such a great way to expand your own ideas by seeing other people’s ideas.
Arthur has been in preschool since he was three so he could have his speech therapy. I have always taken a picture on the first day of school, mainly because I’m a picture freak, but also for posterity. This idea from Pinterest has stuck with me since I saw it and knew I had to do this!
The picture in the frame was the first day of his last year of preschool and, as always, he looked so very handsome! I printed the picture off myself the night before school and used a frame that normally holds one of his baby pictures. The baby picture went right back into the frame, this was a just a quick borrowing!
I put him in the same location in our house, no special background, just found it amusing to have the same items in the background. I also found it amusing to have him wear his Hard Rock Café fedora again this year. I told Tony I am probably going to pick up some ‘backup’ hats while they still carry them and we can continue this theme up through high school!
He’s such a sport about having his picture taken, and he doesn’t ham it up the way Chiara is prone to do.
Don’t worry too much if it’s not the EXACT first day of school, in my mind, just put them in their ‘first day’ outfit and no one but you will know!
Happy picture taking!
Original pin goes back to http://www.thesuburbanmom.com/2012/08/13/10-first-day-of-school-picture-ideas-printables/

CrockPot Zuppa Toscana

CrockPot Zuppa Toscana

This recipe excited me because I’m learning to love my crockpot. My mom gave us one of her crockpots around the time we got married and Tony and I went the first 5 years without using it once. Yikes!
Tony started making chili in it and then here recently, I decided that this would be good for starting dinner early, then digging in at dinner time.
I have another Zuppa recipe from Pinterest that was amazing. This recipe is very similar, actually identical, except for the red pepper flakes, which I will add next time!
You start by browning 1lb of Italian Sausage, I usually go for mild or medium, so it gives it a little kick. Take
2 large russet baking potatoes, I used regular potatoes and it worked just fine, sliced in half, and then in 1/4 inch slices. 1 large onion , chopped, recipe says you can add 1/4 cup of bacon bits, but I did not because Olive Garden has no bacon in their soup. Mince up 2 garlic cloves and throw everything you’ve got so far into your crockpot with 16oz of chicken broth and 1qt of water. Directions on the pin said 3-4 hours on high, but I was going to be at work all day, so I did low heat for 7-8 hours and it worked like a charm.
Once you have cooked yours for whichever time frame you go with, you turn your crockpot off and add in 2 cups of coarsely chopped kale. Put the lid back on and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Kale is great because it doesn’t turn into a soggy mess with the heat! After the five minutes have passed, stir in 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and serve. Next time I make this, I will be adding in red pepper flakes with the kale. I’ll start with 1tsp and go from there. The original recipe was good, but I felt it needed the kick.
Original pin can be found at http://getcrocked.com/2011/10/23/crock-pot-zuppa-toscana-copycat/
Also check out my previous Zuppa pin at https://superstevied.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/zuppa-toscana/

Disney’s Planes

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This movie was amazing! Once again, some may question my ability to guage a movie’s greatness, to you I say, phooey!
I have a better opinion too. That of Arthur and Chiara! They both also loved it. Arthur has been collecting some of the planes, starting with the ones in the picture. These particular planes are only available through the Disney store, but my mom loves taking the kids there, so he got quite a few. The day after seeing the movie, we realized we were missing the main character!
The story starts with Dusty, a small crop duster, that dreams of being a racing plane. Right from the start, you can’t help but love him because he’s such a friendly and nice plane, one who is not afraid to dream big.
After trying out, Dusty manages to qualify for the ‘Wings Around the World’ race. The other competitores are a range of planes, from a range of countries. There is Bulldog from Great Britain, Ishani from Morocco, El Chu from Mexico and the list goes on.
Dusty struggles as he realizes this dream may be too much. He learns the hard way that not everyone can be trusted. He also learns that your heros aren’t always what you think.
You are obviously going to draw similarities to Cars. The biggest difference I noticed is that you like Dusty right away. Lightening McQueen was kind of a tool in the beginning and he learns to be a nicer car. Dusty is nice from the get go and he actually influences those around him to be better. The exact kind of role model you would want for your kids!
This movie is still in theaters so I would definitely rate this a must go. We liked it enough that this one will be adding this to our BluRay collection when it comes out!
Original pin to Fandango at http://mobile.fandango.com/linkjsp?m=163843&a=12240&WT.mc_id==163843