Happy New Year's Eve!

In preparation of the new year, I perused Pinterest for some 'new year' quotes.  Below are some of my favorites!

Whatever happen over this past year, be thankful for where it brought you. Where you are is where you're meant to be.:

Beginning. New Years quote:

"May your coming year be filled with magic & dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to makes some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself". - Neil Gaiman:

14 Pinterest Quotes To Inspire You To Make 2015 Your Best Year Yet!:

New Year quote - cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right - Oprah Winfrey:

New Year's Quotes: Inspirational Sayings To Inspire A Fresh Start In 2013:

I hope you all have a fabulous new year's eve.  Cheers to 2016 - can't wait to see what the new year will bring!

Linking up with Amanda and Annie.

Top Five Reader Favorite Posts

Today I thought I would share with you the five most popular posts this year.  I have noticed other bloggers doing these posts and it made me wonder...what posts got the most attention on my blog?!  These are purely based on the number of views.

5.  Thinking Out Loud.  

Favorite Reminder via Humans of Joy

This is one of my favorites, too.  I am a sucker for good quotes!

4.  November 2015 Goals.  I had a pretty good recap of my October goals, but looking at the goals I set for November, I think I was overly ambitious with it being the start of the holiday season.

3.  Changes....  This was such an exciting time for me this past year.  The graphic I used for the post pretty much sums it up...

Photo taken by @bossbabe.inc on Instagram, pinned via the InstaPin iOS App! (10/05/2014):

2.  Fall About Me.  This post is an all about me, fall-themed.  I love fall and thought this was such a fun post!  

1.  Versatile Blogger.  This was a super meaningful post for me! Tara, over at A Hill Country Heart, nominated me for the versatile blogger award.  The prompt for this post was to share 7 facts about myself.  I love reading these types of posts on blogs, and it looks like you all feel the same!  

What types of posts do you enjoy reading the most?  Leave any feedback in the comments and I will try to incorporate those ideas in my posts this coming year!

Linking up with Jenn and Jessi.

Christmas 2015 Recap

Hey all!  I hope you had a GREAT Christmas!  It was a little hard to get back to reality Sunday and the next morning, so I just decided to extend my break through Monday.

I have to say, I am pretty sad that Christmas is over.  While the promise of a new year is very exciting, I definitely enjoy the anticipation of Christmas more.  I took the week off from work last week and headed to my parents.  The first few days were pretty uneventful, then starting Tuesday things got busy!  

I headed to Chicago with my mom, aunt and grandma to check out the Museum of Science and Industry.  You can read all about that day here.

Wednesday was dedicated to running errands and cooking.  We started the morning with a run...out in the rain.  That was definitely not intentional...the weather seemed fine when we started going, but sure enough it began to rain the further we went.  It actually felt kind of good, although I sure am glad we got home when we did, because it started pouring shortly after!  Which, is when we decided to run errands.  I feel like that always happens.  The rest of the day was spent cooking.  Mashed potatoes, broccoli, cheese and rice casserole, stuffed shells, parsley carrots...the list goes on!  While it seemed like quite a bit of stuff, we were able to fit in a few Christmas movies, too.  Always one of my favorite things to do around the holidays. 

Christmas Eve and Christmas morning were spent with my brother, sister-in-law and Jack (my nephew)!  We had a lot of fun visiting, eating, watching Christmas movies and opening presents.  This year was especially exciting because it was Jack's first Christmas.  Jen received a Santa suit for Jack from a family friend, so we of course had to try it on!  We were able to get a few good pictures, but honestly, he wasn't crazy about it.  He's just so cute in it, though!

After breakfast, we headed to my grandma's for more presents and Christmas dinner.  I really, really slacked on pictures this Christmas, but I did take one of my aunt's Christmas cookies.  Seriously, how amazing do they look? 

I had at least 6 different kinds.  What's even better, is that she sent me home with my own little tin of Christmas cookies.  Thank you!!!  We opened presents, had some snacks, then sat down for the main event.  Everything was just so delicious.  After dinner and cookies, we all gathered round to play one of our favorite card games, Blitz.  I came so close to winning, but lost to my grandma.

It was pretty hard to get going on Saturday, after all the food and traveling the past few days.  My mom and I did fit in a little shopping, although it didn't go quite as planned.  I have to vent just a bit here...I received one of The Pioneer Woman's cookbooks for Christmas.  I loved reading it and knew I wanted the others.  We headed to Barnes and Noble, only to find out that the online price was half the price of that in the store.  How does that make sense?  So instead of paying twice as much, I went home and ordered it online.  Note to self - always check online to compare when shopping there.  We had my dad's side of the family's Christmas that evening.  It was SO awesome to see everyone.  My dad is one of ten, I have a ton of cousins, many of whom have their own kids now, so it is often hard to get everyone together.  A lot of people came and it was really nice to catch up.  Next year is going to be so much fun - three of my cousins are getting married!  Family weddings are always such a blast, so I cannot wait!

Unfortunately, Sunday was back to the real world.  Laundry, grocery shopping, unpacking all were on my to-do list.  I was able to make it through most of my laundry, but then my dryer went kaput.  Monday equaled work, which is always so hard to get back into after being gone, especially during the holidays.  Luckily it is a short week!  And...maintenance came and fixed my dryer...thank you, thank you!

Hope everyone has a terrific Tuesday.

Linking up with Sweet Little Ones for Tuesday Talk.

Merry Christmas...Eve!

"Glory to #God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." #Luke 2:14 #Quotes:

Growing up, my church would put on a performance of the Christmas story during service.  My role was of the angel.  I still remember my part...glory to God on the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill towards men.  That has always stuck with me, so I thought it was only fitting that I leave you with that as I sign off to enjoy Christmas with my family.  I hope you all have the best time, celebrating however you may be this year.  Merry, merry Christmas!    

Christmas Field Trip!

Yesterday was such a great day!  I spent it with my mom, grandma and aunt, taking a little "field trip."  My grandma calls her outings with my aunt "field trips," so I felt my title was appropriate for our adventure yesterday!   

To start off the day, my mom and I met my aunt at my grandma's house.  From there, we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  The main reason for the trip was the see all the Christmas trees.  Every year, the museum has a bunch of Christmas trees, all decorated for different countries.  It was super neat to see how they were decorated, as well as read a little bit about the country's specific Christmas traditions.  

Czech Republic

Czech Republic again - representing my mom's side of the family!



Belgium - the waffles cracked me up!

We also had to check out the train exhibit, old Main Street and one of my VERY favorites, the fairy castle!

I hadn't been the museum in so long...it definitely was as neat as I remember.  There is so much to see - we could have spent all day there!

For lunch, we headed to one of my grandma's favorite places, Riverside Family Restaurant for some Bohemian food.  I had never been before, so I was super excited to try it out.  It was delicious!  I had the beef noodle soup, roast pork, dumplings, red cabbage.  I was a little worried about trying out the red cabbage - it is a sweet and sour cabbage - but my grandma assured me I would like it, because "it is in my blood."  She was right!  We all ended the meal with kolacky.  This was by far the highlight of the meal for me.  

Afterwards, we headed back to my grandma's, but took the scenic route.  We headed by my grandparents' old house.  While they moved many, many years ago, I have some really great memories at that house.

The afternoon ended back at my grandma's, cooking.  We helped her make one of her signature Thanksgiving/Christmas dishes, a turkey roll.  It was so fun to all be in the kitchen together.  We also sampled some of my aunt's Christmas cookies...she brought over a little sampler plate for us.  They were delicious, per usual.  

These are the days I truly cherish.  Spending time with family, is always nice.  Especially days like this.  I think I appreciate the time together even more so not living close to everyone.  

Only two days until Christmas...bring it on!

Linking up with Jenn and Jessi

Snowball Surprise Cookies

These are my one of my very favorite Christmas cookies.  My aunt has made these for years for Christmas and I always look forward to having them.  It's basically a sugar cookie with M&M's and powdered sugar...how can you get much better than that at Christmas?

Snowball Surprise Cookies
3/4 cup of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 3/4 cups of flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds, or until softened.  Add sugar and salt, then beat until fluffy.  Next, add the egg and vanilla, beating well.  With the mixer on a low speed, gradually beat in flour until well mixed.  Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls, placing on an ungreased cookie sheet.  This recipe should make about 36 cookies.  Next, add the surprise - M&M's - to each cookie by pressing the candy into the dough ball and reshaping so that you can't see the candy.  I used two M&M's per ball.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until edges are golden.  Place powdered sugar in a bag.  Transfer 2 or 3 cookies at a time to the bag of powdered sugar, gently shaking until the cookies are coated.  Cool cookies on a wire rack.  Once the cookies are cool, shake them in powdered sugar again.  Enjoy!

A big thanks for my aunt for sharing the recipe.  I was searching for it before making these...she sent it to me in 2008!  Crazy to think how long ago that has been!

Weekend Recap

Hey all!  I hope you had a great weekend!  I am so excited that it is almost Christmas!  This past weekend has been really nice and I am so excited for the week to come.

Friday was pretty busy at work.  I had my annual review, which is never one of my favorite things.  I understand the purpose, but in my opinion, I would much prefer if my boss rated me, and I commented on that, rather than rate myself and hear feedback on my comments.  The good thing is that it is done and over with!  The evening brought a movie and dinner.  No, I didn't go to Star Wars, but saw Sisters with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  Those ladies are seriously hilarious.  The movie was funny, somewhat inappropriate (in a funny way), and also heartwarming.  We laughed out loud at it a lot.  The theater was full of older people (it was a 4:10 movie).  I am not sure if they appreciated it as much as we did.  It was crazy heading out of the theater...SO MANY PEOPLE.  Everyone was in lines for Star Wars.  I was disappointed, though, I only saw one person dressed up.  We did a quick dinner and I made an early night of it...I could not keep my eyes open!

Saturday was spent watching more Game of Thrones.  Next up is Season 4!  That shows just kills everyone off.  And usually some of the characters I really like!  I packed and got my apartment ready - I always like to clean up a bit when I leave, that way when I come back, I don't have to worry about cleaning my apartment, on top of unpacking.

Sunday was a super early start to head to my parents.  I took this whole week off, which is going to be so nice!  We did lots of Christmas things yesterday...baked cookies, watched movies, started on the Christmas puzzle and drove around looking at Christmas lights.  One of the local banks has a light/music display, which I thought was really neat.  By that, I mean they have the lights moving in time with music.  There is also a house in town that always does one, too.  It kind of blows my mind...I can't quite figure out how that works?!

home sweet home!

Christmas cookies!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Linking up with Biana.      

Friday Favorites - Christmas Traditions

Happy Friday!  I am so excited that it is finally Friday.  Can you believe Christmas is one week from today?  The time really just has flown by.  In keeping with the Christmas theme, I will be sharing five of my favorite traditions.

The first one I have mentioned before - having monkey bread Christmas morning.  My mom has been making this for us as long as I can remember.  It is always a special treat, as we usually don't have this on a regular basis.  As the years have passed and we have gotten older, more items have been added to Christmas breakfast.  However, we always have monkey bread.  You can find the recipe here.

Opening a present on Christmas Eve.  My brother and I always open each other's presents on Christmas Eve.  I love that we do this, it is so fun to have one present to open.  Last year was EXTRA special, though.  My brother and sister-in-law told us through gifts that they were having a baby.  I opened a Wizard of Oz ornament (Auntie Em!), my dad got a super small, baby wrench and last, my mom's present was a onesie.  How cute were their gifts?  Definitely a highlight of the Christmas season for all of us.

Gingerbread cookies.  In the past few years, my mom has ordered us gingerbread cookies from a local bakery, Pfaff's.  This place is the best.  Not only are the cookies awesome, they have delicious donuts.  This is something I look forward to every year.  I kept asking my mom if she had ordered them yet, because I didn't want her to forget!

Christmas puzzles.  This is a newer tradition, but one that I am so glad we started.  My mom gets a puzzle before Christmas and once everyone is home, we start putting it together.  We lay it out on the kitchen table and various times throughout the days we will all disappear to work on it, either individually or together.  One of my favorite puzzles we have done is of different Christmas doors.

Baby's First Christmas ornament.  I have a small obsession with my Baby's First Christmas ornament.  It is the sweetest little bell-shape Precious Moment's ornament.  I always make sure that it is front and center on my parent's Christmas tree.  My perfect place is right in the middle of the tree, towards the top.  I asked my mom to send me a picture today, and when she did she let me know the back story behind the ornament.  I didn't actually have an ornament for my first Christmas.  My brother received a bunch of ornaments for his first Christmas, so my mom assumed the same would happen for me.  Therefore, she didn't buy one...and neither did anyone else!  My first Christmas was ornament-less.  After the holiday passed, my mom and grandma went shopping and found my perfect ornament.  

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?  I have been reading so many different ones, I think I am going to have to adopt a few for myself!

Linking up with AndreaApril and Amanda.


All Is Bright DIY Ornament

This DIY ornament is seriously one of my favorite ornaments made to date.  I am so excited to share it with you today.  

Here is what you need:
a vintage Christmas light bulb (found at a flea market)
18 gauge wire
a large marker
long nose pliers
thin garland of faux greens
kraft paper card stock (2" long)
hole punch
bakers twine

To begin, take the wire and wrap around a large marker with long noose pliers to create the curve/hook part.  Use the pliers to create a little curly q at the end of the hook.  Once you have that done, wrap the wire around the top of the light bulb to secure the hook to the top.  

Circle your faux greens around the top of the bulb, twist and cut off the excess with nippers.

nippers on the left, long nose pliers on the right

Either print or write on kraft paper card stock "all is bright."

Cut to 2" long.  Punch a hole in the left middle edge of the tag.

Take a piece of bakers twine (10" long), and tie around the bulb, directly under the greens.  Add the label to the bakers twine, tying into a knot to secure it to the bulb.  Cut both pieces of the twine together to the desired length.

All that is left to do is hang this ornament on your tree and enjoy!

What's Hap-pinning 12.16.15

We made it to the middle of the week!  Thank goodness!  Before I get to my Christmas pins, I just wanted to share this.  Yesterday, I finally registered my new car and transferred my license plates.  I have been putting this off for awhile, like I literally only had a few more days to get it done before the fines would start to apply.  I always get nervous about going there - will I have all the information I need, will the DMV associates be nice if I don't, things like that.  And of course, how long will I have to wait?!  However, yesterday I was in and out in probably 20 minutes.  The place I went to allows you to set up an appointment online, which is fabulous and cuts the wait time to almost nothing, and the lady I worked with was SO nice, too!  I was just so excited that it went well so I had to share!  If your local DMV allows you to set up appointments or get 'in line' virtually, I highly recommend taking advantage.  Definitely a game changer for me!  Ok, back to Christmas!

I love pinning for Christmas.  There is just SO MUCH out there and you can really get some great ideas for decorating, gifts, and food.  Below, I have rounded up some of my favorites!


The Christmas Nook:

Christmas Card Display:

DIY snow globe.:

The historic Woodstock Inn in Vermont is simply gorgeous during the holidays.:

Linking up with Jenn and Jessi

Reindeer Food

Today I have for you a recipe for the reindeer!  My mom used to do this with her school kids.  I thought it was just too cute not to share!  The idea is to make this, then sprinkle it outside on the lawn Christmas Eve.  Such a fun and cute 'recipe' for kids!

Reindeer Food
1/4 cup of oats
2 teaspoons of green sugar
2 teaspoons of red sugar
1 teaspoon of Christmas sprinkles

Combine all ingredients together.  

Store until Christmas Eve.  Make sure to include a label with the following:

Sprinkle on the lawn at night
The moon will make it sparkle bright
Santa's reindeer fly and roam
This will guide them to your home.

I think this would be a great project for kids, or it would make a super cute party favor.  

Linking up with Sweet Little OnesFull Time Mama and Pinky.


Weekend Favorites

I decided to take a break from my Christmas-themed posts and highlight some of my favorites from this weekend.

Days off.  I had one day of PTO left to use before the cut-off, so i took Friday off.  One of my favorite things is not having to wake up to an alarm.  It is SO nice.

Game of Thrones.  I don't have HBO, but recently got my hands on a few seasons of the Game of Thrones.  I really, really like it!  I can't wait to keep watching and see how the story progresses!

Nice Walgreens workers.  Sunday I had a bunch of errands to run...my last stop was Walgreens.  The check out lady was SO NICE.  I was tired from running all over, the weather was super crappy, but this lady was so sweet, it turned my mood around.

3 year olds.  I helped out some friends this weekend by watching their kids while they were at a Christmas party.  The kids were SO cute.  Just very sweet.  We spent the time counting, discussing what words started with which letters, naming shapes of everything around, reading books and playing Pop the Pig.  While I love my nephew being a baby, I can't wait til he gets to that age so we can do some of those same things together.

Having just enough wrapping paper.  I officially have all my presents wrapped and ready to go.  And I had exactly the right amount of wrapping paper to do it!  Knock on wood...hopefully something else won't pop up that I am forgetting about!  It would be just my luck to jinx myself.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!  Linking up with Biana.

Friday Favorites - Christmas Albums

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Time for another set of Friday Favorites - Christmas album edition!  Last week I shared my top 5 Christmas movies.  This Friday I have for your my favorite Christmas albums.  Christmas music never fails to put a smile on my face.  I normally try to refrain from listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving dinner.  I feel like waiting to bust out my favorite Christmas CDs until then, makes the start of the season seem more special.  Before I start my list, I wanted to mentioned Jessie James Decker's This Christmas album available for download.  I decided to get it a few days ago, and while I haven't listened to it enough to list as a favorite right now, it definitely gets an honorable mention.  She has such a beautiful voice! 

This Christmas

'If Everyday Could Be Christmas' and 'This Gift' are two of my favorites.  They also have a few of my favorite classics on there as well.

The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection

Merry Christmas

Her version of 'All I Want For Christmas' is one of my absolute favorites!  

Home For Christmas

Let's be real...who doesn't love this CD?  I was so sad when I realized a few weeks ago that my CD was skipping.  However, someone was paying attention, because I recently had a present in the mail.  SO excited about that.

A Christmas Album

This is by far my favorite Christmas CD.  I remember listening to this growing up.  I had forgotten how much I loved her music, until last year I came across it while listening to a Christmas station.  I immediately went and bought it.  When I hear these songs, along with others of hers, there is such a sense of nostalgia.  I just absolutely love it.  And I don't love it just for that, I still think the songs are classics still today, too.

There you have it - my top 5 favorite Christmas albums.  I am also a sucker for all the classic, traditional Christmas songs.  It's just such a wonderful time of year!

Linking up with AndreaApril and Amanda.

Christmas Bag

Happy Thursday!  I am excited that it is Thursday, not only because it is actually my Friday at work, but also, because I have another great Christmas DIY to share.  Last Thursday I posted about  homemade Christmas tags.  Today, I have Christmas bags!  

First, a list of what you need to create this festive bag!
Small bag (found in the Target Dollar Section)
Styrofoam ball
Faux greens/sticks
Thin twine
Jingle bell
Kraft paper tag
Small hole punch

Once you have all your supplies, begin by adding the styrofoam ball to your bag.  

Grab your faux greens and sticks, insert into the stryofoam ball.  These faux greens were found at a local grocery store, and the sticks were from a bush in my parents' yard.  I also think that Michael's or Hobby Lobby would have a great selection of items to use, as well.  When you have your greens/stick arranged how you like, pull the bag closed tight.  Create a festive tag, using whatever phrase you like.  I went with 'Merry Christmas' on kraft paper card stock but you can switch it up however you like.  The tag was made using a tag hole punch that my mom already had.  

However, if you don't want to go out and purchase a tag punch, cutting one would work just as well!  Add a small hole at the top of your tag, this will be how you attached the tag to the bag.  Thread the twine through a jingle bell, then through the tag hole.  Tie the twine to the string around the top of the bag in a knot.  Cut bakers twine to the desired length.  Hang and enjoy!  

These bags can be hung on a door knob (pictured above), dresser knob (where mine is now!), peg board or can even just be set on a shelf.

Check back next Thursday for an ornament DIY!