2015 Year in Review

In Loving Memory

We started our year out hard with the loss of my family’s matriarch. My great-grandmother passed away in February of this year at the age of 94. As sad as we were to see her go, we know that she is in a much better place.                          
May

Bailey had surgery to remove tubes from her ears. This had been a long 14 month struggle with the tubes but they were finally out of her ears.

We also found out we were pregnant with baby #3 this month. It was a joyous surprise for us all.

July

Joel and I celebrated our 4th anniversary in early July. Our anniversary present was finding out that we were having a baby boy. We shared this news with our families with a fun photo shoot and care package with surprise items. It was a fun way to share this special news.

August

The girls celebrated their 3rd birthday. They had a blast at their princess party with a giant water slide. They are still talking about their party today.

The Holidays

Halloween – the girls dressed up as Elsa and Anna from the movie Frozen. They still talk about their fun costumes and how they got to go trick or treating.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were both small for us this year. It was just us for both holidays as I am not comfortable with traveling. This was our first holiday season to stay at home and not be surrounded with our large families. It was bitter-sweet. We missed seeing all of our loved ones but enjoyed the fact that we did not travel several hours in the car.
Travel

This year we have traveled to Houston, East Texas, Austin, and San Antonio.
Looking Forward To In 2016
This next year we are looking forward to the birth of our son, which could be at any time.

Joel and I have a trip to New Orleans for a wedding in the spring that we are very excited about. It will be our first time away from the new baby but it will be a fun getaway weekend for us. 
May your year be wonderful and a blessing.

Check back for New Years Resolutions and the post on the birth of our son. 

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Elf on a Shelf Adventures: The Final Week

The final week of Elf on a shelf ended like this.

Day 23: Coloring Book: Sunday, December 20

This morning after church the girls found their elf in their playroom with this note,

        “I love to color! I found these coloring books and thought we could color together today.”

We had fun coloring together as a family. The girls wanted to know the names of all the elves on the coloring pages.

Day 24: Christmas Movie: Monday, December 21

This was our first week of Christmas break from school. So our note this morning was a perfect start to a break.

       “I just love a good movie this time of year. Will you watch a movie with me?”

The elf was sitting with Santa is Coming to Town and a bag of popcorn. The girls couldn’t wait to get started on their movie and popcorn. We snuggled up on our couch and watched the movie just mommy and the girls. Elf hung out from afar. 

Day 25: Wrapping Gifts: Tuesday, December 22

This morning the girls found elf being a little mischevious. She had pulled out the wrapping paper and tape, leaving it on the living room floor. Her note this morning read,

      “It is so much fun to wrap Christmas gifts. Help your mom and dad wrap a gift today. You will             love it as much as I do.”

The girls helped me wrap a gift for daddy and later when daddy came home they helped him wrap a gift for me. 

**I’m sorry I did not get a picture of this day.

Day 26: Stockings: Wednesday, December 23

This morning the girls found elf hanging out in Mommy’s stocking. She had a note that said,

     “I love hanging out in the stockings. Everything looks ready for Santa’s visit tomorrow night.                Remember to be your best.”

They giggled at seeing the elf in their Mommy’s stocking.

Day 27: Christmas Eve Note/Christmas Story: Thursday, December 24

This morning the girls woke up with a note from their special elf. The note said,

       “There is nothing better than cuddling up as a family and reading your favorite Christmas book.            Oh, what fun memories this brings back, I just love this one!”

Their sweet elf was sitting with a book to read. We also reminded them that we had to put cookies and milk out for Santa tonight because he would be coming to town.

Day 28: Final Day: Goodbye Letter: Friday, December 25

This was Christmas morning. Their elf left a note for the girls. It was telling them goodbye and letting them know that Santa said they were good and brought them something special.

The girls had a blast with our family elf this year. They were very sad to see her go. We did allow for the “magic” to be lifted on Christmas Eve to allow them to tell her goodbye and give her a hug. This allowed them to say goodbye without the upset of their elf who had been with them for a month and now was gone. The next morning they reminded us that Elf Belle had to return home to the North Pole to be with her family and friends. They were fine with her leaving and there were no tears over her departure.

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White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie Cake

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie Cake

My husband absolutely loves cookie cakes. Every year for his birthday that’s what he requests. When we were planning our wedding he told me he would like a cookie cake for his groom’s cake, that’s

how much he loves them. (No he did not get a cookie cake for his groom’s cake, but it was one he enjoyed).

This year he has craved white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Any time I want to bake cookies, those are his request. So when it came time for picking out his birthday dessert, he requested a cookie cake. Knowing that he has loved the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies so much this year, I wanted to find a cookie cake version. Funny thing is that no one sells them here. So I decided this year I would make his cookie cake.
I looked on pinterest, my always go to source, for the recipe. I could not find a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie cake recipe. I found versions of chocolate chip, peanut butter, m&ms, etc… but not the one I was looking for.
So I went to plan B, creating my own cookie cake. I found a white chocolate macadamia nut recipe that was easy to follow. Then found a few cookie cake recipes to see if I needed to change the recipe to make it work for a cookie cake. Plus, I needed to see what size pan to use and how long to bake.
This is what I created based on what I found.
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie Cake
Prep Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Cool Time 30 Minutes
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp cornstarch
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, pieces
2 oz premium white chocolate chips
Instructions
In a large bowl, cream together softened butter and sugar with a mixer. Once creamy add in the egg and vanilla extract.
In a seperate bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Once this is mixed, add a small amount at a time to the wet ingredients.
When the dough is mixed, add in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for an hour.
After an hour passes, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get out a 9″ cake pan.**
Coat the cake pan with oil or crisco so that it will not stick. Add your cookie dough to the pan and spread evenly.

 

Bake in the oven for 18-22 minutes. Mine was done in 20 minutes.
Let the cookie cake cool for 30 minutes before icing.
** I used a 9″ cake pan but think that I should have used a 12″ cake pan because the cookie was rather thick.
I hope that you like how the cookie cake turns out. I will attempt a gluten free version later because I think this would be a wonderful gluten free cookie cake.

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Elf on a Shelf Adventures: Week 3

This was our third week with our elf. The girls were very excited to have something new with the elf each day. They were really getting into the activities. But they were forgetting why the elf was really here. 
Day 16: Family Game Night: Saturday, December 13
This afternoon the girls found the elf in the living room sitting on the coffee table. She had a board game out with a note that said,
          “I love playing board games with family and friends, how about you? Are you up for a game tonight with your mom and dad?”
The girls were so excited to play games with us. We spent the afternoon playing games and eating popcorn. It was a blast! This was really special because they got to share this activity with Joel’s parents. 
Day 17: Days until Christmas: Monday, December 14
This morning the girls found their elf in the playroom. She was sitting on their table with strips of red and green paper and glue. With the art supplies there was a note, 
         “Christmas is getting closer. Let’s make a Christmas chain so that we can count how many days            are left until Christmas.”
We made a chain with 11 days on it. I explained that we would take one off each day that it gets closer to Christmas. 
Day 18: Snow Man Day: Tuesday, December 15
This day when the girls got home from school their was a note and a package of foam snowmen and their accessories. 
                    The note said, “I just love snow. Let’s build a snowman today.”  
Since it has yet to snow around here, we had to resort to foam snowmen. The girls loved “building” a snowman with all it’s accessories. It was a fun activity for after school. 
Day 19: Christmas Music Dance Party: Wednesday, December 16
This morning the elf was sitting on their tv shelf in their playroom. 
          “One of my favorite things to do at Christmas time is to listen to the wonderful Christmas                     music. Let’s have a Christmas Dance Party today and enjoy all of my favorite Christmas                       songs.”
We turned on the tv to the holiday music channel and listen to Christmas music throughout the day. Some of the songs the girls new, others were new for them. It was a good way to celebrate the season.
Day 20: Hanging with Christmas Cards: Thursday, December 17
When the girls came home from school this afternoon, they found their elf hanging out on top of our Christmas mail sign. There was a note clipped to the sign that said, 
       “Look at all of these wonderful Christmas cards that your family has received. I love looking at            all the cards each year.”
Day 21: Santa Cookie Mix: Friday, December 18
This morning the girls found a sign with their elf that said, 
             “I love baking for the holidays, let’s make these cookies together today.”
The elf had the cookie mix, m&ms, and their aprons out and ready to go. They had a blast making cookies and putting the m&ms on them. They made the cookie mix with their Nana and had so much fun. Nana let them stir in the eggs, butter, and m&ms. The cookies turned out great! 

Day 22: Tree Trimming: Saturday, December 19

This morning the girls woke up to find the elf in the tree. She left a sign at the bottom of the tree that said,

     “I just love how your tree looks. So I wanted to get a closer look. I think I will just hang out here          for today and enjoy the pretty lights.”

The girls wanted to sit and watch the lights as well.

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Elf on a Shelf Adventures: Week 2

We have completed the second week of Elf on a Shelf with our elf Belle. We are continuing our theme of family time throughout each week an the different activities. 
Day 8: Polar Express: Saturday, December 5

When they woke up this morning Belle had a big surprise for them. She had tickets to the Polar Express Train Ride for this afternoon. They were really excited about riding the train but did not understand that they would see the “North Pole”. They kept telling us that they were riding on a train with Mommy and Daddy. We told them we had to wear pajamas on the train but they did not understand that.

To see the details from our Polar Express Train ride, you can read it here Polar Express.

Day 9: Message from Santa: Sunday, December 6

This morning Belle was sitting on my computer with a note that said,

             “This morning I have a special message for each of you from Santa.”

I used Portable North Pole to create a message for each of the girls. I have used this website before days before Christmas. Here is the website for the Santa Messages.

Day 10: Hidden Candy Cane Hunt: Monday, December 7

When the girls woke up this morning, their elf had a special game ready for them. They found elf in the kitchen sitting on an open box of candy canes, with a message that said,

          “I have hidden some candy canes around the room. See if you can find all of the candy ccanes               that I have hidden.”

As soon as they finished breakfast, they started searching for the candy canes. They did a great job of finding the candy canes around the kitchen and living room.

Day 11: Christmas Story: Tuesday, December 8

Before the girls went to bed they found their elf hanging out in their room. She was sitting on their book shelf with a and a note that said,

             “There is nothing better than cuddling up as a family and reading your favorite Christmas                      book. Oh, what fun memories this brings back, I just love this one!”

Instead of their regular bed time stories, we read this Christmas story recommended by our special elf.

Day 12: Christmas Card: Wednesday, December 9

When the girls woke up, they found elf in their playroom sitting on their table. She had several pieces of construction paper, markers, crayons, glue, christmas stickers, and glitter. With the art supplies sat a note that said,

          “I love sending and receiving Christmas Cards. Today I would like you to make a Christmas                 card for your grandparents and send it to them.”

The girls had a blast making the Christmas cards. I helped them write their messages and they practiced their writing as well. We mailed the cards as soon as they dried. I know that their grandparents will love having special cards from them.

Day 13: Bad Weather: Thursday, December 10

On this morning, the girls woke up to find their elf in the playroom in a small stocking with a pillow. Next to the stocking was a note from the elf that read,

           “Last night the weather was bad coming back from the North Pole. I think I will be staying in                 bed all day. Can’t wait to see how your day went tomorrow.”

Day 14: Handprint reindeer: Friday, December 11

On this morning the girls didn’t find their elf right away. It was mid morning before they found her hanging out in their playroom on the art shelf. She was sitting with white construction paper and paint. She was holding a note that read,

          “I love to paint, how about you? Let’s paint some reindeer today to deorate this room.”

We painted reindeer using their hands to make the antlers. Both girls wanted to make theirs have red noses like rudolph. We hung them up on their art board to decorate their playroom.

Day 15: Christmas Movie: Sunday, December 12
This morning the girls found their elf sitting in the living room on top of the DVD player. She was holding a note that said, 
            “I just love a good movie this time of year. Will you watch a movie with me?”

The movie that the elf had chosen was Polar Express. The girls were very excited to watch a movie. So after lunch and an attempt at taking a nap, we made popcorn and sat down to watch the Polar Express as a family. We pulled out blankets and snuggled up together on the couch. The elf was even positioned over the fireplace so that she could watch the movie as well. 

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Polar Express

On Saturday our elf on a shelf, Belle, arrived with surprise tickets to the polar express train ride. Two hours north of our home town, a train company takes children and their parents on a polar express train ride. It’s an hour long train ride that takes them to the “North Pole”. 
This was a huge surprise for the girls. When we came across this train ride, we knew we had to go. Brooke had been asking us for weeks, prior to ordering the tickets, to go on a train ride. She had seen a train ride on television or in a book and was obsessed with the idea. Then one day while looking on facebook, a neighbor liked the polar express ride that was only two hours away. I immediately told Joel about the ride and we quickly decided that this was something we needed to do. 
We chose to have their elf on a shelf arrive with the tickets because it fit with our theme for elf on a shelf this year, family. A few days before the surprise train ride, the elf brought the girls their very own christmas elf pajamas. These were perfect to wear on the train ride to the north pole. 
Tickets were on will call at the train station, so I created some golden polar express tickets to present to the girls on that day. 
We had to explain to them what this meant. They were so excited. We had a 2 hour drive to get there so we left our house around 2 pm to make sure that we made it in time for check in. On the drive there we let the girls watch The Polar Express movie so that they understood what was going to happen. 
The train ride lasted an hour and included hot cocoa and cookies with singing and dancing. We stopped at the “North Pole” and Santa and his elves joined us on the train. Santa visited each child along with his elves. The elves spent some time getting to know the children as we rode back to the station. It was a wonderful memory for them. 
Here are some pictures from the train ride and the fun times that we had. 

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Baby # 3 Update: 8 Months

Today’s Date: December 5, 2015
Due Date: January 9, 2016
How far along: 35 weeks
Total weight gain: I have maintained my weight over the past month and a half. I haven’t gained any weight since early October. 
Maternity clothes: Yes
Stretch marks: No
Sleep: Very little. I’m up several times at night. 
Best moment of this week: 
Miss anything: Sleep
Movement: He is a very active baby. 
Food cravings: Sweets
Anything making you queasy or sick: Raw meat
Have you started to show yet: Yes
Gender: Male
Labor signs: A few braxton hicks contractions.
Belly button in or out: In
Wedding rings on or off:  On most of the time
Happy or moody most of the time: Happy but feeling pretty tired
Looking forward to: Only 5 weeks to go! We tour the hospital birthing place on Monday. I’m excited to see where we will have the baby. 


Update: I found out that I have Gestational Diabetes last month. I have to monitor my glucose levels two times a day. Fasting first thing in the morning, and two hours after lunch or dinner. 

Weekly Pictures

Week 31: Baby is the size of a butternut pumpkin. (Sorry no picture)
Week 32: Baby is the size of a papaya. (Sorry no picture)
Week 33: Baby is the size of a pineapple.

Week 34: Baby is the size of a wombok.
 
All belly and starting to drop. 

Week 35: Baby is the size of a wintermelon.

Sneak Peek at his cute face.

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Elf on a Shelf Adventures: Week 1

This past week we introduced our elf on a shelf. We wanted the elf to have a family focus during this special season. It was really important for us to have a nice family oriented holiday with it being our last as a family of four. 
Another goal with this elf on a shelf was to make this time special for the girls. With the new baby coming, we wanted to make them feel special and let them know we love them. This is in addition to the elf’s main purpose of supporting good behavior. 
I decided to leave a card with details each day with what the elf was doing that day. Once the elf received it’s name, I was able to add it’s signature. 
Day 1: Introducing the Elf on a Shelf to the girls: Saturday, November 28
For this day, the girls woke up with a big breakfast. The dining table was decorated in Christmas theme with their breakfast waiting for them. They had reindeer pancakes with powdered sugar and bacon strips. On the table waiting for them was a package from Santa Claus. 
The girls opened the package during breakfast. Joel read the story to them which explained the rules of their new elf on a shelf. They were both really excited and needed to be reminded that they couldn’t touch the elf. They did not like this part. They didn’t understand why the elf would come to them but they couldn’t play with it. 

The elf moved once during the day to follow the girls into their playroom. She was keeping a close eye on them during that first day. 

Day 2: Naming the Elf: Sunday, November 29
This day we took the time to come up with a name for our new elf friend. I had found a list of names to help the girls name the elf. The message on the card reads, 
            
             “I need a name, please pick a name for me and fill out my certificate to send to Santa.”
I went through the elf names I found on the internet and they could not agree. Any name Brooke liked Bailey said no to. I had to remind them that it had to be agreed by everyone. So we went through the names again. This time they both agreed on the name Belle for our family elf. 
I wrote the name on her offical elf document and put the certificate in with her box for storing. 
This day we had to remind them several times that the elf was reporting to Santa. This did not stop the fighting or arguing that happened throughout the day. 
Day 3: Elf on a Shelf Pajamas: Monday, November 30
On the third day, our elf surprised the girls with a gift and a message that said, 
           “I love wearing my pajamas. I found a special pair just for you two. I want you to wear them                  tonight as a special Christmas celebration.”
The girls were very excited to have new pajamas, especially ones that matched their special elf. 
Day 4: Toys Ad: Tuesday, December 1
This day started with a message from their elf, who was sitting on a Toys Ad. The message read, 
           “One of my favorite things to do during Christmas time is to look at all the toys ads. Look at                  the toys ads with me today so taht you can pick ou tthat special gift to ask Santa for.”
The girls had so much fun looking at the toys. Of course they loved everything they found. They had a hard time remembering that they couldn’t touch their special elf. 
Day 5: Write a Letter to Santa: Wednesday, December 2
When the girls came home from school, their elf was waiting with two letters to fill out and a note telling the girls, 
           “Yesterday you picked out a toy in the ad. Today I want you to write your letter to Santa                        asking him for your gift. Your mom will mail it for you.”
The girls really liked picking out toys the day before. They were really excited to write their letters and put them in the mailbox to send to Santa. 

Day 6: Elf Cocoa Party: Thursday, December 3
When the girls woke up this morning they did not see the elf around. She was hiding from them in the morning. After they got home from school, the elf was back for them to find. She was hanging out in the kitchen ready for a special party. Her note read, 
          “One of my favorite things to do is drink cocoa with Santa. Let’s have a cocoa party but don’t                 forget the marshmallows.”
The girls were thrilled to have a cocoa party with their elf. They love to have hot cocoa. It was a special day for them. We even let them add their marshmallows. 
Day 7: Marshmallow Bath: Friday, December 4

When the girls woke up this morning they found their elf hanging out in their playroom. She was sitting in a bathtub full of marshmallows. Next to her was a card that read,

            “I know that you like to have bubbles in your bath. But for my bath, I like marshmallows                           instead of bubbles.”

They thought this was hilarious. They told me that they had a silly elf, which I had to agree.

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