Thursday, December 31, 2009

Be Joyful Always

Happy New Year to you and your family!
Love ya, The Semi-Homemades

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How do I.....

Switch out my Christmas decorations?
Okay, let me explain.... oh, probably 8-9 years ago, Mr. Fix-It and I (okay, probably just me, but I'm sure he nodded and said okay!) picked out a Christmas color scheme.... Blues with some white thrown in!

Navy blue stockings for us.... and now white stockings for the kids with their names in navy blue... very classic, in our opinion, but not quite traditional at the same time....

All sorts of shades of blue for our ornaments.... with special ornaments (plus the new ornaments we pick out each year, as a tradition!) sprinkled in between:
(fleur de lis and crosses.... additions within the last couple Christmases!)
...then blue in various other places - velvet table runners, tree skirt, decorations here and there.

Here's the thing... I've been saying for years that I'd like a new look for the tree. And today (while I was leisurely shopping during the day with my kids!) at Target, all their Christmas stuff was 75% off, making it super cheap and doable! So, here's where your advice comes in!
What color scheme should I go with? I love the bronze/browns... but I think that would get outdated quickly. So... I've been thinking of a traditional red and green.... with some whimsical lime-ish green thrown in.... Share what colors you love!

Do I have to replace it all? Here's the thing.... we've gotten a new tree several years back, and we actually need a new tree skirt anyway (our current tree is pretty tall, so the tree skirt is too SMALL!) I guess my only hesitation is replacing the stockings, esp the kids with their names embroidered on them... I could just get new red/green stockings for me and Mr. Fix-It and just keep theirs.... or I guess I could wait til we're for sure done having kids and replace them all for baby #3's first Christmas.... ideas?
Do I go whimsical? Like this?

Or like this? LOVE this Etsy shop! The next 3 pics are from Bim Kreations and they are oh, so cute! This is the color theme I had in my head:

More red & green whimsical fun! (And did you see in the pic above that she does tree skirts, too?)

Not into red? She does other stuff - so cute!

Or something more....traditional?

It's crazy to say.... but by next Christmas we'll be in a new house..... and after doing the blue Christmas in....5 houses and 2 states.... maybe it's time to switch it up!

Input, please!! Pretty, pretty please! :)

I like this gig

Okay, so I'm not so delusional to think that it would be all playdates at Chickfila.... fun playtime with my (well behaved!!) kids in our living room...and baking cookies..... even though we've done all those things this wk.... BUT, I cannot tell you how much I've been enjoying my time off! I've gotten to be a SAHM for the past week, with 4 more days to go, and!!

I'm loving:

~ the patience I'm having with my kids, because I'm not forced to do 8 things at once

~ that a trip to the dentist office for my 4yo can be fun!! when not stressing about how much time it's taking, and how fast can I possibly get back to work?, and what meeting am I missing

~ getting my shopping.... you name it.... done during the week. And during the DAY!

~ getting to cook for my family. I love to cook but right now I only do it on Sunday evenings (that's when I prepare 2-3 meals that we can eat all wk! We don't get home til after 6:30 on weekdays and the kiddos are too hungry to wait for me to cook!)

~ listening to my kids (really listening!), getting on the floor and playing with them (I know it's sad, but I don't usually have much time for that!), taking them on day-to-day errands (we're finally going to go set up G-man's savings account!)

~ getting stress-free sleep! OMG, I didn't realize how stressed out I usually am.... and how it affects my sleep.... I haven't slept this well in years - always 'thinking' (stressing?!) about the next big deadline, presentation, meeting....

Funny thing is that several people I know (mostly in the working world!) told me how bored I'd be... that I'd be dying to come back to work, have some time without the kids.... that I'd go crazy.... but I've been far from it! I've still been BUSY (I think that's just my nature - I'll always be busy, no matter what!), but I've loved slowing down a bit.... spending time at home!
Now.... if only I had another week at home, I could get started on my 'project list.' :) Watch out, Mr. Fix-It! This 'time off' could get addicting! ;)

ETA: Tonight I tried a new recipe (more on that to come - I tried a Pioneer Woman classic!), AND we gave the kids baths, AND settled into the living room to play..... by 6:45, the same time we're usually getting home! INSANE! LOVE IT! :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Semi-Homemade Holiday Teacher Gifts

Merry, merry Christmas to everyone from the Semi-Homemades! We hope you enjoyed the holidays as much as we did! We've done it all.... left TX in a rush to beat a blizzard, got snowed-in in Oklahoma, and even experienced life with no water and very little heat. But you know what? It was one of the best ever! Pics and stories later....

So, I realize I didn't get around to this til AFTER Christmas... but I know there are those of you (like me!) who start thinking of NEXT year/holiday/birthday/etc, the day after the other is over, so... this is for you. ;)

For the teachers, I wanted to put together some semi-homemade sweets with some custom touches, so our teachers would know how much they mean to us! I started with some Peppermint Bark (got the recipe from one of my faves - The Idea Room!)

I have the recipe at the bottom, but basically, you melt some choc.... then put it in the fridge to firm up!

And then melt some white choc (I kinda put together a semi-homemade double boiler... but next time, I'll just do it in the microwave, I think!)

It's a tricky recipe only in that you have cooled the chocolate bottom layer... so you've got to cool the white choc enough that it won't melt the bottom layer.... but not so much that you can't spread it. Well, I'm impatient. And I guess I didn't wait long enough for the white choc to cool.... and the milk choc started bleeding thru. So, my tip for all the impatient gals like me:

Drip a few drops of red food coloring onto the white choc as you're spreading it.... swirl it around. It hides the bleed thru and looks really pretty & festive!

You'll put crushed candy canes on top and throw it back in the fridge to harden.... then break it up into pieces (and honestly, you just don't want the pieces very big - it's rich!)

I used the leftover take-out boxes from Big Sis's Nutcracker Birthday party..... added the Peppermint Bark.....

and a gift card to Sonic (a little Sonic happy hour, anyone?)....
Then for the cusotmized part - I tied on a couple tags with some red & green tulle!

I loved this pic so much, I decided to use it for our teacher gifts! And I love this verse and thought it fit the picture and was a good thought, as we go into a new year. The front tag looked like this:

And on the back tag I listed the recipe, in case they wanted to make more! (And it was good, if I don't say so myself! A coworker who is addicted to the Williams Sonoma version said this semi-homemade recipe was just as good. Wow!)

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend! I'm on vacation all week (and home with the kids!) so I'm hoping to catch up on a few blog posts that are half written.... but for now, I've got to go! We're still in OK and about to take Big Sis to see the Chipmunk movie for her birthday!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Big Sister's Semi-Homemade "Nutcracker 'Sweet'" Birthday Party

Say that FOUR times fast! :)

Big Sis and I had so much fun planning her 4th birthday party together! This was a first in several ways.... first time she got to invite her own friends (instead of the kiddos of OUR friends!)... first time she had a say in what we'd DO at her party and WHERE we'd have it....
the inspiration: practically the day after she turned 3, she told me that at her next party, she wanted to have her friends over to decorate cookies. there are so many ways you can go with that, but in the end.... I decided to embrace the time of year (which makes it soo much more difficult in party planning, btw!) and go with a nutcracker theme.... Big Sister's Nutcracker 'Sweet.'

the sweets: I'll tell you this much.... once you do one dessert bar (like my spooky Halloween one!), you're hooked - it's addicting!

My favorite new addition (addiction?) to the sweet bar is this fun colored popcorn! It's from this super cool nearby little shop.... Mom and Popcorn Co. They have 45+ favors and ANY color in the rainbow! They make it so easy - I told them I needed a mix of red (strawberry), pink (watermelon), and green (green apple) popcorn, and I had an instant centerpiece that was as yummy as it was cute & coordinating! (Don't worry if you don't live in TX - you can order it and they'll ship it to you!)

All the sweets had fun little names.... like elf ears (ignore that these red & green marshmallos are still in the bag - this was obviously taken pre-party!).... santa stir sticks (choc-dipped peppermint sticks for stirring your hot chocolate!)...... And the hot chocolate was a huge hit! I had a crock pot full of it, along with the Santa sticks and marshmallows. I served hot toddies for the moms (and they were an even bigger hit! We drained an entire crock pot of the stuff!)

.....reindeer food (mnm's! decorated with tulle, of course!) And I love, love these new cannisters that my siblings got me as an early, early birthday present!.....

.... and north poles (red, green & white marshmallow sticks - kids love 'em!)

Big Sis's ballet shoes added that girly nutcracker ballet feel we were going for! And don't you love the little nutcracker embellishments I used? Where else can you get ANYTHING you'd ever want? Etsy, of course! I worked with Debbie at Paper Quick. She can literally do anything (in any color!) and super fast! And at $3 for 8 little toy soldiers.... I was able to decorate everything for cheap!

The centerpiece of the whole set up was this girly tree - decorated in pink & green ornaments with a pink tulle bow and green tiara topper!

And, of course, we must have a nutcracker keep watch over the goodies!

the land of sweets: in the ballet, the prince escorts Clara to the Land of the Sweets, where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. At the Semi-Homemade house, I escorted tons of hyper 4-year-olds to Big Sis's land of sweets (the dining room) for cookie decorating!

Store bought frosting, a mixture of homemade and store baked cookies, and sprinkles everywhere!!

This cute sign announced that you'd entered the Land of Sweets. Cathie from Custom Parties to go (who did G-man's fab pirate party items!) worked with me on some of the custom, creative touches.

Here's a pic of some of the action.... Big Sis and a few of her pals, making a mess (I mean, decorating cookies!)

Miss Priss is sampling some yummy choc chip cookies while Mrs. Everything supervises!

The intent of these cute lil boxes was for the party animals to box up their cookie creations and take 'em home! But..... most of their artwork was eaten by the time they left the Land of Sweets!

the land of dolls: in the ballet, Clara dances with the Nutcracker in the Land of Dolls. He wants her to stay there forever with him! For Big Sis's birthday party, kiddos got to paint (yes, paint! in my house!) wooden nutcrackers. Each one was so unique and cool!

The Land of Dolls sign is another of Cathie's creations! And I love that these nutcracker ornaments are something we can hang on our tree every year and remember this special party!

the cake: because, really... isn't it all about the cake? Cupcakes were so easy at G-man's party that we did it again! (I love that you don't need forks or even plates!) If Big Sis had her way, they'd have all been chocolate with pink frosting. But in the interest of different tastes.... and party planning... we had a mix of choc and white cake.... with pink, red, and green frosting!

The toppers are from Cathie at Custom Parties to Go! The beauty of these great toppers is that you can order super simple, super cheap cupcakes ($12 for 30 at Sam's!)

Happy Birthday to you.... happy birthday to you... happy birthday, Big Sis!!

She may be all grown up (at 4!), but she needed momma's help with the candles!

the preparation: I created a custom list for each child, so they could get prepared for their visit with the big guy.

And this 'lil Santa kept watch over the party.... reminding kids they only had 13 days left to impress (and reminding parents that they were running out of time!)

the surprise: the looks on their faces.... this exact moment was what I was waiting for. And it was incredible. Santa has arrived!

the visit from the big man: the chaos of a crowd of 12 4-year-olds and a few kids of assorted other ages... and their parents.... settled as Santa took a seat. He had a scrapbook, filled with pictures and explanations of kids' most common questions. (Where are the reindeer? Where's your sleigh and how did you get here today? What's the North Pole look like?)

Each kiddo got a turn on the big guy's lap. It was so cute to hear what they wanted! G-man.... was not having it. Big stranger in a red suit? Uh, no. So... this was as close as he was willing to get!

the goodies: here are the favors in their nutcracker bags!
Inside: a winter-themed ring pop, a cookie cutter (tied with red tulle!), playdough, candy canes, and a nutcracker soap and ballet slipper soap from Mommy's Little Critters. Heather will work with you on themes and designs - she can really do anything! Check out her classroom sets (25 soaps at a deal!)

The bags had custom stickers (Custom Parties To Go - again!) Each said:
Thank you for making my party so sweet!
and had details like her monogram or her new age (4), etc....

the birthday girl: here she is with Santa! He had a special gift for her (and gifts for all the children, of course!) and even sent her a postcard the wk after her party. When she got mail from Santa, she said to me (in a Southern drawl):
Mommy, I loooooove Santa!

And here she is with her line up of nutcrackers! After the party, she painted every.single.nutcracker that was left! ;) And I let her. Because she's the birthday girl!

the thank yous: I love being creative (and I have a bad habit of overcommiting!) so I created custom thank you notes for each child, featuring a picture of them with Santa. This is the one I did for Big Sis's bff:

Big Sis celebrated her birthday at school today with cupcakes with her class. Saturday we'll have her Oklahoma birthday, as we celebrate with family. And in 7 days..... we'll celebrate her actual birthday (if there's anything good to come of a Dec birthday, maybe it's that you celebrate it all month long!) And then I'll be the momma of a 4yr old!

Happy Birthday, sweet girl!

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