My Favorite Things This Week 6/24-6/28

Summer is really in full swing in our household. We are going to the pool, kids are enjoying camps, bedtime is later and no alarm clocks.  A few things that I love about the summer is that I can wear less makeup, read more books and the new  summer TV shows.

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Thanks to being outside more often my skin gets a great summery glow. I do always wear SPF on my face. In my birch box this month I got a mineral powder. I have never used one. I normally just dabbed some press powder on my oily spots. Well, one swipe of this magical powder by Youngblood helps control the oiliness on your skin throughout the day. It seriously makes my fresh look so fresh. For everyday I just swipe some of this on, a little mascara and lip gloss and I’m good (Thanks mom for great skin genes!). You can also apply more on your face throughout the day to freshen your look. I have also used it when I am going out and have more make up on and it looks great I love it! To find out more about this great product click here.

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I am only on page 50 of this book and I am recommending it to the world. This is a must read for all teachers and parents. Especially for parents who have a special needs child. Kristine Barnett candidly and thoughtfully shares how her family has dealt with what God has put in their path. She is a pillar of strength and I cannot wait to read the rest! Click here to read more about this book.

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Under The Dome is a new 13 episode series produced by Steven Spielberg and Stephen King. It is based under Stephen King’s book of the same name. I have always enjoyed made for tv shows of his books. Who can ever forget It, (click here if you want to refresh your memory). I first like that it’s 13 episodes. Ever since Lost I have been weary of these types of shows, because I don’t want to invest that amount of time again in that kind of “high maintenance” (you miss an episode you missed so much or you watch an episode and you are more confused than before) type of show. The basic premise is that a small New England town all of a sudden gets shut out from the outside world in a dome force field. This invisible force field showed up out of nowhere, hurting those in its path and encasing those inside it’s parameters. The first episode was really good. It introduced the characters which are now going to have to decide how they are going to survive this situation. There was one subplot I could do without, but other than that this show holds promise for me. The daily beast has a good review. Click here to read, but beware it has spoilers. Click here to view the trailer.

I am going to try to make this a weekly post. Mention a new things that grab my fancy during the week. Hope you all have a great weekend!

10 year old Dance Party

Today is my oldest’s 10th birthday so I thought it would be appropriate to write about the awesome birthday party we gave him about a month ago.  A few months ago we decided to have a big class party for our son, especially since it is his 10th birthday. I asked him what he wanted to do. He said he wanted a dance party and that he wanted to invite the girls from his class as well. I totally thought we could have fun with it. Since his birthday falls in the summer, we decided to do it the Friday before school let out. It also worked because it was the week of their state test and we thought this was also a good way they could unwind and just let loose after 3 days of intense testing.

We first looked for an invitation. I wanted to find something unique and cool. I googled the phrase VIP party invitations. I found some cute ones on printvilla.com. Click here to view the one we chose. For a while we weren’t sure where we would have whether in our garage or in our house. After much deliberation we decided to do it in our great room. Since our floor plan in open with our kitchen and formal dining room, it was easy to just isolate that space. It was also plenty of room for 20 some 4th graders. Once we decided on the space, all the ideas for decorating came very easily. We decided to remove all our furniture in our great room except for the TV. We got black plastic tablecloths that we put all over the walls and windows in the great room, so it would look more like a “dance club”. We made a red carpet VIP area where I took pictures of the kids with my son as they arrived to the party. For the rest of the decorations we got everything in neon colors and we got a ton of confetti for the drink table and present table. We bought this really cool strobe light that really gave the dance club effect. It was on for the entire party.  We also got glow sticks for the kids to wear at the party. They could make them into necklaces or bracelets.

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IMG_2440 IMG_2443 IMG_2444 IMG_2445My main concern for a while was, “What are we going to do with this kids for 2 hours?!”. I made a fun playlist (all clean versions of course), but I knew they were not going to dance the entire 2 hours. We decided to purchase a karaoke machine (which our son decided to pay for with his own money, because he wanted to contribute to his party). I wasn’t sure whether the kids would want to sing, but I figure we could ask. That karaoke machine made the party. That is what they did for most of time. I had other games planned (limbo, stomp and pop, name that tune), but the kids were having so much fun playing and signing that we only played musical chairs. Let me tell you that even at 4th grade they had a lot of fun with it. Another thing the kids loved were the loose balloon and beach balls we put on the “dance floor”. I bought one of those mini helium tanks. Let me tell you it was so worth the $30 we could fill up about 36 balloons. So much cheaper than if I bought them at the party store. The kids had so much fun running around playing and kicking the balloons.  Thank you to my friend Meagan that came and helped blow up the balloons!

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All the hard work, time and money we put it was worth it when our son came up and told us it was the best party he could have ever had! His classmates also had a fantastic time. A lot of memories were made. I was really happy we did this for him!

10th birthday party play list

Harlem Shake-Bauer, Jai Ho, I Gotta Feeling-Blackeyed Peas, Runaway Baby-Bruno Mars, Sweet Nothing-Calvin Harris (feat. Florence Welch), Fight For Your Right -Beastie Boys, Call Me Baby-Carly Rae Jepsen, Forget You-Ceelo Green, Titanium-David Guetta&Sia, Good Feeling-Flo Rida, On The Floor (feat. Pitbull)-Jennifer Lopez, Don’t Stop Believin’-Journey, California Gurls-Katy Perry, Cha Cha Slide, Party Rock Anthem-LMFAO, Thrift Shop-Macklemore, Can’t Hold Us-Macklemore, ABC-Jackon 5, Thriller,Wanna Be Startin Something, P.Y.T, Don’t Stop’Till You Get Enough-Michael Jackson, What Makes You Beautiful-One Direction, Give Up The Funk-Parliment, Give Me Everything, Feel This Moment-Pitbull, Gangham Style-Psy, We Found Love-Rihanna, Don’t You Worry Child-Swedish House, I Knew You Were Trouble, We Are Never Getting Back-Taylor Swift, OMG-Usher, Kung Fu Fighting, Glad You Came-The Wanted, Scream and Shout,#thatPOWER-will.i.am, Runs House-Run DMC

A Night of Music

We are really lucky to have the Carolina Philharmonic in our small town. They do wonders for our local community, not only bringing us wonderful music, but also funding programs that cultivate musical interest to children. My oldest was lucky to participate in the Junior Orchestra class the Philharmonic sponsored this past school year. Like many schools, his elementary school fell victim to  spending cuts, unfortunately shutting down the orchestra program.  To the fill that void, the Philharmonic sponsored a weekly class to 3rd and 4th graders free of charge. My husband and I strongly believe that our son’s musical education doesn’t just end with practicing at home and going to his class once a week. Being exposed to live music and seeing other musicians play their instruments is a key element to that education. He and his classmates had the special opportunity to actually play a long side with the Carolina Philharmonic last month. It was a very special moment for all involved.

I was happy to find out that for their June concert the Philharmonic planned on doing their concert outdoors and play movie scores. This bode well for our younger son who is currently OBSESSED with Star Wars.  This concert was also in conjunction with opening a new memorial park in our town.

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Since the tickets were free (another bonus), it was first come first serve basis. We got there early so we could get good seats and also enjoy a picnic dinner. The weather was gorgeous we couldn’t have asked for a better night.

IMG_2556The selection of music was from notable movie scores from the last 50 years of cinema. They played scenes from the movies as they played the scores, which provided a really nice touch. It was a very well done classy performance. There was a lot of talent on that stage. It’s really nice that even though we live in a small town, we still get big city talent.

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Sometimes the best memories are made when you think outside the box. I was a little hesitant to take our 5-year-old, but he really surprised us on how engaged he was throughout the entire performance, and not just merely the Star Wars portion. We all had a great time and look forward to attending more performances in the future.

 

The Easiest Pizza Crust

A few years ago we found a great pizza crust recipe, through my older son’s Tessy and Tab’s monthly readers. My husband and older son made it together the first time. It turned out to be easy and delicious. Since that fateful day, my husband has been designated pizza maker of the home.

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Over the years he has experimented with this recipe and has created even yummier crusts. You can’t go wrong with this basic crust and you can make it as healthy as you want. We trade-off with wheat flour some times. Just depending how we feel. Click on the link below for the recipe.

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The recipe calls for cutting the dough up into 4 parts, but we just do 2 parts. That makes 2 14 inch pizza’s. Sometimes he doubles the recipe so we can freeze the dough. Most recently he substituted half of the water with beer (so 3/4 of a cup) and instead of salt he added garlic salt. We normally use Trader Joe’s pizza sauce. We generally make one cheese and one pepperoni, but on some occasions like this past Friday we made a veggie pizza (we also made a cheese, since our boys won’t touch the veggie one)

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What’s good about this recipe, is that your kids can help you make it. It is fun for the whole family.

Do you have a pizza recipe you turn to regularly?

Holiday Traditions

My 4th grader recently had a homework assignment prompting him to write about his family holiday traditions. This inspired me to write about our family’s Christmas traditions on this blog. None of them are super unique or even that spectacular, but they are what makes this time special for us.

The weekend after Thanksgiving we decorate the house, buy and put our tree up. My hubby and I always set-up the tree, launching our annual “putting the tree in the stand” argument. Even though every year I make a promise with myself that I will be patient and not fight, it always ends up happening. In the end it’s worth it. Nothing beats the smell that a fresh live Christmas tree brings to the house.

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I also load up all the fabulous Christmas CD mixes my BFF makes in the car.  She makes a new one every other year. The kids and I have fun all season long singing along. The first Christmas song I traditionally listen to every year is:

I can seriously write a whole blog post on the awesomeness of this video!

My husband and I take time sometime during that weekend to watch “Love Actually” after the kids have gone to bed. We enjoy watching it with a hot cup of gluwhein (A mulled wine that is traditionally drank in Germany during Christmastime. We drank it while we shopped at the Christmas Markets).

On December 6th we celebrate St. Nicholas feast day. The boys leave their shoes out the night before and in the morning they are filled with goodies. That night I make a German meal.

The week before Christmas, we drive around and out and look at Christmas lights around our neighborhood. We also try to attend local holiday events in our town. Nothing is better than a hometown Christmas parade.

We have our big celebration on Christmas Eve. That is what I did growing up and thankfully my hubby was ok with making it our family tradition. My parents normally visit us during this time. We sometimes have friends and their families over as well. We normally go to the Children’s Mass, which is in the late afternoon. Afterwards we have our Christmas dinner. The dinner itself has consisted of many things over the years. I have cooked Italian, Salvadoran, Spanish, and American. I like it to be different every year. This year, we are leaning towards surf and turf. After dinner, we open family gifts.

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We then watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” while enjoying dessert.

Before we put the boys to bed, we sprinkle reindeer food on our front yard and put out Santa’s treat. We have started to leave him whatever we had for dessert. We figure having cookies a billion times in one night can get old. Last year, he had Guinness chocolate cake and the year before flan.  My hubby then reads them T’was the Night Before Christmas. Once they  are dreaming of vision of sugar plums, Santa’s elves go to work (powered by festive libations, of course). Our Santa does not wrap; all the toys are ready for play. SO whatever their presents are, they must be in working order and have batteries in the morning. A few years it has been a breeze, but the Playmobil Christmas year was really a pain, especially once the said libations kicked in!  The year Santa brought the life-like cardboard bricks was also hard. I was surprised all 60 of them fit in such a small box. Silly me! They had to be put together!!!

Christmas morning is very low-key in our household. We have a nice light breakfast and we really just watch the kids play with their presents. We also don’t travel on this day, no matter what. That is the only rule my hubby has during the holidays. During his childhood they did a lot of traveling on Christmas Day. He hated that he didn’t get a chance to really enjoy his presents that morning. He doesn’t want our boys to have to go through that frustration. We spend the rest of the day eating leftovers and hanging out. If my parents are visiting, my hubby and I sometimes sneak out to the movies. Some years we have gone to friends houses for lunch and dinner.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year we will be surrounded by a lot of friends and family that we normally don’t see during this time of year. I am so excited for all the new memories and possibly new traditions that we will make this year.

What are your favorite Holiday family traditions?

Remember Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark?

Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark and More Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark both are retold by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammel. They were some of my favorite books when I was a kid. I totally forgot about these great anthologies of scary folklore tales until my older son recently asked me to tell him scary story.  I told him the story called “The Hook.” You might remember that one;  two teenagers riding around in the night, they stopped to park (I made it PG and in the book I believe it’s PG too), and on the radio they heard a news announcement stating that a hook handed inmate had escaped from the local prison. The reporter said to be careful and stay vigilant. Once the teenagers heard the report, the girl got scared and wanted to go home, but her boyfriend insisted they stay and “talk”. While they were “listening to music” they heard a scratching sound outside. They got freaked out and decided to go home. When the boyfriend dropped off his girlfriend at her house he screamed when he went to open the car door for her, because there was a hook in the keyhole!  An oldie but a goody right?!

There are some great scary stories in both these books. Who can forget “High Beams,” “The Girl Who Stood on a Grave” or “The Babysitter?” These were the stories we told at sleepovers and camp outs.  I was happy to find that both books had new editions. They were re-released for their 30th Anniversary. I bought them for my 4th grader. I was around his age when I started reading them, and he has really enjoyed them. If a story is too scary, he stops reading it. I find it nice that he is enjoying something I liked so much when I was his age. The new books have the same stories, but the illustrations (they are by Brett Helquist, the illustrator of “The Series of Unfortunate Events”) are different.

I volunteer at my 4th grader school library once a week. I help re-shelve books. When I was there this week I notice that the first book (original edition) was in the re-shelve cart. It made me happy to know that this book is still being read. It made me even happier when a 3rd grader asked me if I knew of any scary story books. I just handed her the book and said, “Try this one.” As the book passed from my hand to hers. I thought, “I really hope this doesn’t give you nightmares kid.”

If you want to buy your own click here. Or go to this website which has some of the stories.  If you are a parent and want to introduce this to your kids please use your judgement  I wouldn’t be reading this to my 5 year old, but my 9 year old seems to be enjoying them. He also doesn’t scare too easily.

What are some of your favorite stories or urban legends?  Have a great weekend! xoxo

Pete the Cat the Grooviest Feline Around

For our 10 year wedding anniversary a couple years ago, my husband and I took a kid free trip to New Orleans.  We stayed in the French Quarter near Jackson Square. On our walk to and from our hotel we would pass by the Robin’s Gallery in the window they had these vibrant colorful paintings of a blue cat. They also had some really cool looking kids books about this so-called Pete the Cat.

Unfortunately, the day we set aside to pop in and look around and buy a kids book for our youngest son, they were closed. When we came home I frantically searched the internet to find out more about this feline named Pete.

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An artist named James Dean saved a black cat from the shelter. He named him Pete. He would sit on his lap while he painted. He sometimes drank James’ coffee when he wasn’t looking.  His first sketch of Pete was him drinking coffee. He decided to paint him blue, because he thought black was bad luck. If you click here you can explore all the Pete the Cat art. We have two Pete print’s in our home. My favorite are Pete with the masters series.

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We really got to know Pete through his children’s books. James Dean collaborated with writer Eric Litwin and the Pete the Cat books were born. My little guy just loves Pete the Cat. He has all 3 books mesmerized. What is great is that they are so interactive,colorful and fun. Pete also has such a great out look on life. Whatever happens to him he just, “Keeps walking along singing his song, because it is all good!” The books are geared toward more of the younger ages I would say 2-6. Click here to get a copy of your own. Now that school is coming back in session I highly recommend this one.

 

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Here are some fun sing along Pete songs that you can jam around the house with your kids or even by yourself I won’t judge. I hope you all enjoy  your Wednesday! xoxo