10 minute Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Advent Calendar


Due to my inexplicably busy life, I never got around to making the awesome random acts of kindness Christmas Advent calendar I had planned. But because it was so important to me, I decided to do something as good if not as pretty. It took me 10 minutes and I’m ready to go for the season.

I wrote out 24 acts that my family can easily and cheaply do. Then I snipped them and put them into our existing calendar. If I find time I will print out some of the awesome printables that make a nice addition (below). If not, I can do them all without the printables as well.

I had to match up certain acts to certain days due to schedules, traveling and paydays!

My list is below. It requires making cookies, notes/cards, buying candy canes and so forth. I plan to open the act first thing in the morning with the kids so we can see our mission and plan accordingly.

Candy cane bomb parking lot
Call/donate to animal shelters
Tape a bag of popcorn and candy to Redbox
Donate extra books to library/er
Buy and hand out balloons
Leave Change at vending machine
Write/pass out notes saying one nice thing to all classmates
Leave extra diapers/wipes at diaper station
Leave note on bathroom mirror that says “have a grey day!”
Leave note on diaper station or nursing room that says “you’re a great mom”
Leave change at vending machine
Pay for someone’s drink in line behind us
Clean up favorite park/playground
Pick up trash
Take in neighbors trash cans
Return carts at store
Donate food to food bank/fill the truck
Make & deliver card & cookies for mail man
Make & deliver card & cookies for garbage man
Make & deliver cards & cookies for fire station
Make & deliver cards & cookies for Air Force gate guards
Make & send cards & cookies for deployed soldiers
Make & send cards & cookies for injured soldiers

Caramel Corn Thanksgiving Teacher Gifts



  1. Print, cut and hole punch printable (possibly have kiddo sign name/write who it is for)
  2. Fill bags with corn and candy
  3. Use raffia to tie on tag/close bag

Emma’s Take:
I love how even with the same idea source for our craft, Shana and I always seem to end up with completely different results. Gotta love the creative mind! In Shana’s variation she didn’t use any peanuts. Perfect for anyone with an allergy or for schools/daycares that don’t allow peanuts to be brought in. In my version, there are a lot of peanuts!
I started with a regular ol’ family size bag of peanut M&Ms and removed the greens and blues, leaving just the seasonal colors. (Don’t worry, the blues and greens did not go to waste!) Once everything was sorted out I added the box of Crunch ‘n Munch and remaining M&Ms to a bowl and gave them a good toss. I filled three plastic bags with the mix just over three quarters full and secured the top with a twist tie.
I cut around each thankful card from the printable and attached them to coordinating card stock. The raffia was a little tough to work with because it came packaged in a jumbled mess big bundle. But, after some finagling I cut strands into approximately eighteen inch strips and tied six to the top of each group of bags. Before tying the last one I looped the prepared tag onto it and tada! Caramel corn on the husk! Aren’t they cute!?

Thanksgiving Teacher Gift
Thanksgiving Teacher Gift

Shana’s Take:
Even though we are all busy, I still love to do things like this so I have a tangible way to show folks we are thankful for them. I made these for my kids’ teachers and friends-including the ladies who watch them at the YMCA. I chose to use pretzel m&ms due to a peanut allergy at my son’s school.


Pinspiration: http://befickle.blogspot.com/2010/11/indian-corn-favors-and-mayflower.html?m=1

Quick & Easy Kids felt Christmas Tree. Buy 1 Yard Green felt, fold in half and cut out a tree shape. Make ornaments with scrap fabric/felt. Affix tree to wall with thumbtacks, affix ornaments to tree with scotch tape! https://penterestpals.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/kids-felt-christmas-tree-2/

Kid’s Felt Christmas Tree

This felt Christmas tree will entertain your kids, decorate your home and go easy on your wallet!!


  • 1 yard green felt
  • 1/2 yard misc. felt (or scraps you already have)
  • Thumbtacks
  • White 3M tape


  • Fold green felt in half, cut out Christmas tree shape. Watch the height vs width when doing so. Pin with tacks to wall at kiddo height.
  • Cut out star, present and ornament shapes with extra scrap felt. Use glue gun to affix felt to felt. (Genius, I know)
  • Put double sided or looped scotch tape on back of ornaments and place on tree.
  • Stand back and admire your handiwork before it is more creatively redecorated.

Shana’s take
I just knew my kids would love this tree as soon as I saw it on Pinterest. Add to that that it was cheap, easy and fast to make and I am a very happy mama! I mean, it took a grand total of, maybe, 15 minutes to make. And the kids are still playing with it! That’s a good thing because Pinterest owed me an easy one (see beer bottle candles).20131205-081959.jpg

Source pin: http://www.solandrachel.com/2011/12/pinterest-christmas.html

12 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain: Click for real tips for real people who are really motivated. You've probably not read these before! #fitspiration

Fitspiration Friday: 12 ways to avoid holiday weight gain

If you have been a good girl or boy lately you might be secretly dreading the holiday season. I’ve lost a fair amount of weight and gained a TON of muscle over the last several months. And here comes the holiday season, ready to ruin it all! I have zero to little will power when it comes to seasonal treats so I am trying to ready myself mentally to avoid a catastrophe.

With that in mind I decided to make a list of 12 things I could do for myself to help get through the season with at least a net zero gained, if not a continued weight loss. Can you think of any other tips?

  1. Always help with the clean up & dishes.  This tip with help you burn calories, speed up digestion and make everyone think you’re a saint. Well, that last one is actually a stretch for me, but I’m sure it will still go over well.
  2. STAY AWAY from the food table.  Do whatever it takes. Go play in the kids room. Actually sit and listen in the work meeting. Go outside and stand by the fire. Find someone playing a game and join in. No matter what, you must not graze (too much). That’s where it gets really dangerous.
  3. Keep track of what you eat.  You might be tempted to just say, “Oh, it’s the holidays,” or, “Oh, I deserve a break.” No, you DESERVE to keep the fruits of all of your hard work. You DESERVE to have a head start on the new year and a new you. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to indulge. You should indulge. But keep track of what you’re doing (your food diary, myfitnesspal, etc). It will help you keep yourself in check and it will give you something to do that is not eating. Yes, this is important for me.😉
  4. Plan your workouts.  Write them down. Print them out. Plan them. NOW. When you get the time in your travels/busy holiday schedule you do not want to spend it thinking of what you COULD HAVE DONE to sweat out a little of that butter. If you arm yourself now, you will have a much better chance at success. Take a jumprope with you. Carry dumbbells in your car. Keep a resistance band in your purse. Print out (or save to your camera roll, my favorite option) some of these workouts. Be ready!
  5. Don’t take home leftovers.  However tempting, don’t bring home leftovers from parties, work or other events. Bring your dishes in disposable (but recyclable!) containers so you don’t feel the need to bring them back home.
  6. Challenge yourself.  Now’s as good a time as any to choose a 30 day fitness challenge. Some days it might be the ONLY exercise you get in the land of a thousand calorie servings. There’s lots of choices. Maybe some squats (they burn the most calories)? Or maybe you’d rather go for push-ups (full body move)? If you’re really committed, do an overall challenge. Print it out and keep it with you so you can cross off each day (that really matters).
  7. Measure it.  Take some measuring cups with you. I am planning on taking a 1/4 cup utensil and maybe a 1 tablespoon utensil. My plan will be that I can try anything I want in those quantities. But that’s it!  With these two items, I’ll be able to try everything I want while keeping the overall caloric count down.
  8. Go for the gold.  When it comes to desserts, everyone has a favorite. So only eat that one. Yes, choose your favorite dessert and only eat that one. Then apply that mentality to every type of food. For example, there is often several types of stuffing, potatoes, rolls (/drool) and so forth. Pick the best one and eat only it.
  9. Be active.  Okay, this is going to sound silly, but hear me out. I don’t sit down at parties, work or (if I can avoid it) even restaurants. Perhaps it’s not doing anything but in my brain, it really helps. I workout in the mornings and then I do my best not to sit down the rest of the day in some form or fashion. I feel that in that way, my body never goes to “rest mode” and can continue burn burn burn fat all day. So, whether you’re hosting or guesting, walk around, chat with folks, offer to refill THEIR drinks, man the fire, offer to help carry in (or out) presents, leftovers, etc.
  10. Be armed with good decisions.  Believe it or not, there are healthy choices to be made at your holiday events. What’s more, there are really BAD choices to be made. For example, eggnog is not only the highest caloric holiday beverage, it’s also the most fattening (and perhaps the most yummy, I know). One cup has almost 350 calories and 19 grams of fat!!! And that’s without the alcohol! So, go for red wine instead (never a bad option, plus it has all of the goodies in it as well). Of course, roasted turkey, sans skin (a crime, I know) is a WIN. Cornbread stuffing is worse (only in nutrition land) than regular stuffing. And, believe it or not, good ole’ pumpkin pie is usually your best bet when it comes to desserts.
  11. Sharing is caring. I have two strategies with this one. First, if your significant other is not in the same food-avoiding place as you are-offer him or her your leftovers/extra food. If that doesn’t work, give it to your child. What am I talking about? My entire family loves pumpkin pie. I’ve made two in the last two weeks and have eaten one slice total. My kids need portion control as well, so I usually split whatever I’m having with them (including the occasional french fry from McDs). No one ever seems to complain. Half the time my husband steals my food anyway! So, when they aren’t looking (or when they are looking, with pleading eyes), slip them half of your roll. Or the marshmallows off of your sweet potatoes. Or half of your dessert. You get the point.
  12. Set a new rule for yourself. For example, I currently have a rule that I have to burn as many calories as I drink running. That goes for sodas, wine and beer. I will continue to do that during the holiday season. But I am going to add this: 10 burpees for every 100 calories I go over my daily goal. If calories are not a concern of yours (oh, how I long for that day) then simply do something like walk a lap for every second helping or add ten minutes of basketball, bike riding or football with your kids every day until the end of the year.

Well there they are. Twelve tips that I hope get you mentally motivated for the next 45 days or so of temptation. I wish you all the luck in the world! See you on the other side.


Friday Fitspiration: Everyone has a goal

I am fortunate enough to be able to go to the gym five days a week. One thing I’ve picked up on lately is that there is such a variety of fitness levels, shapes and sizes everywhere I look.

I am currently in the middle of a body challenge and I am trying to lose weight. That’s my current goal. Right there in the mix with me are women who weigh at least 40 pounds less than me and who fit in a size jeans that I haven’t fit in since I was three. But they are working just as hard, if not harder, than I am. That really motivates me.

We all have things we’d like to see improve whether it’s our health, muscle definition, energy levels or even the way we look in a certain dress. And we all have to put in the same hard work to see those results. I hate to sound like Lowe’s, but I think we just have to “Never stop improving.”

So, what is your goal?


Yarn Letter Door Decor

Yarn Letter Door Decor
Yarn Letter Door Decor
  • 1 large letter  (buy one at the store or cut one out of cardboard, foam or any material you like!)
  • 1 kein of yarn, total – can use more than one color if you’d like
  • coordinating felt, as many colors as you’d like
  • Flower fabric (rick rack or felt are good choices)
  • Adhesive
  • Embellishments


  1. Wrap yarn around letter.
  2. Create and affix embellishments.
  3. Attach method of hanging.

Emma’s Take:
Gotta love a super versatile project like this! Perfect for your little one’s bedroom door or even newlywed’s mantle. I have two little girls that are just under two years apart so we have double of just about everything. I made two As to hang on their door and coordinated the colors with their bedroom decor.

I found wooden letters at Michael’s and chose the least script style font to make it easier to wrap and adhere the yarn. I was definitely grateful for that later! Bright white yarn and pretty girly colored rick-rack to make flowers. I spent some time looking at the As and mapping out in my head how I was going to wrap them without having to use a bunch of different pieces of yarn. In theory, this is perfectly feasible. When you have a giant kein of yarn and a tiny opening in the letter, it does not work! Fret not though, I cut pieces of yarn about a yard long and tied them together as I needed them. Whenever possible I dabbed a little hot glue to secure everything.

I followed this pin to make the flowers. Fairly easy to construct and they turned out so cute! With a big ol’ glob of hot glue on the back of each one I smooshed them onto the yarn covered A and stepped back to admire my handiwork. I love how they turned out and think they’re the perfectly cute little addition to their bedroom doors.

Yarn Letter Door Decor
Yarn Letter Door Decor

Shana’s Take:

First thing’s first: I loved this craft! It is simple, check, quick. Add to that it is highly personalizable and it makes a great choice for a baby shower gift or a Christmas gift for your favorite niece. I have about four more to make.

I did not purchase individual letters. Instead, I bought a piece of foam board from wallyworld so that I could use it to create multiple letters. This takes more time up front, but is cost effective. You can’t see what’s under the yarn in the end, so it doesn’t make much difference. That said, if you wanted the letter to be able to stand up on a shelf, for example, you might want to use a different base.

I chose colors for my daughter. They are obnoxiously girly. I also chose very wide yarn. That’s what I decided she would like. I also knew it would pop great against her white door. I plan to make them for other folks and use much less obnoxious colors.

I did an ombre-esque design. I tried to ensure the sections were even throughout.

Next, I created the flowers. I used the rosette technique for felt, but there are a number of different ways you can do it. Check out this tutorial for help. They’re so easy my five-year-old helped! Emma used an entirely different type of material and technique and it came out great. There really is no wrong answer here. I also used buttons as an extra embellishment. When I make one for my niece, I will use polka dot ribbon bows because she loves Minnie. The sky is the limit!

Finally, because it was so light, I used teeny little velcro circles to hang mine.

Yarn Letter Decor
Yarn Letter Decor

Source pin: Catchmyparty.com

Cafe Rio Pulled Pork With Rice And Beans

Cafe Rio Shredded Pork With Rice And Beans
Cafe Rio Shredded Pork With Rice And Beans

Source Pin: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/264586546831662999/

Ingredients Used:

  • 2 lb pork roast (I used a center cut roast)
  • 2 cans cola
  • 14.5 oz can pinto beans
  • 14.5 oz can medium enchilada sauce
  • salt and garlic powder to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided

Emma’s Take:
This was a super easy and quick meal. Hubby even gave it a 7 out of 10 on the YUM Scale. Even for a crock-pot meal it didn’t take that long to cook, only 4 hours. I made a few adjustments to suit what I had on hand, instead of garlic salt I substituted garlic powder and salt and instead of two cans of coke I used one coke and one dr pepper. Also, we don’t particularly care for green chilies so I didn’t add those in. Still turned out delicious. I will say though, it is definitely a very sweet pork and I think the recipe can be tweaked a little to suit your personal taste. Next time I make this for my family I will not drain the juice the roast cooks in and only add 1/3 cup of brown sugar with the enchilada sauce, no need to add in another 1/3 can of coke. Maybe this would change it from turning out just like Cafe Rio’s recipe, but I think for us it’d be just right. The combination of pinto beans and rice with this pulled pork was perfect. Leftovers were great as well, in fact even better than the night before.

Cafe Rio Shredded Pork With Rice And Beans
Cafe Rio Shredded Pork With Rice And Beans

Two hour cleaning checklist: PinWin

For the next few weeks I am going to be testing cleaning checklists to find out which are awesome and which are not. I hate to clean but I love lists and a clean house, so this really is a win-win!!

Checklist: Money Saving Mom’s 2 Hour House Cleaning

I would rather be lazy most of the week and then hit the house cleaning hard on Friday afternoon in order to set the tone for an awesome weekend. This checklist fits perfectly with an afternoon nap! It also times things pretty effectively and places them in strategic order.

I really liked the laundry basket/trash bag idea. It made the process of straightening and deck uttering much simpler.

Finally, the added dimension of the timer really spiced things up for me.😉

It only allots for completing one load of laundry-and no mama ever only has one load!! Also, half of my house is tile, so it isn’t clean without mopping.
Also, 3 minutes is certainly not enough time to clean the “main glass” in my house!!

Things I’d change:
Add a note at the top to remind you to gather all of your supplies before hand-makes it much easier. (Gloves, Broom, windex, rags, vacuum, mops)

Definitely need to add in mopping time. With a few tweaks, I could make it fit!!


Clean Your Dishwasher Naturally

Source Pin:http://www.pinterest.com/pin/264586546831665605/

Naturally Cleaned Dishwasher
Naturally Cleaned Dishwasher


  • white distilled vinegar
  • baking soda
  • dishwasher safe cup


  • empty dishwasher
  • fill a dishwasher safe cup with approximately 1 cup of white distilled vinegar
  • run cycle on highest heat setting possible
  • sprinkle approximately 1 cup of baking soda inside dishwasher
  • run a second cycle on highest heat setting possible

Emma’s Take:
Your dishwasher cleans your dishes, so it has to be clean. Right? Look closer my friends. Any bits and pieces of leftover food that wasn’t completely removed when your dishes were pre-rinsed have been living in the bottom of your dishwasher. And every time you put a new load of dishes in there, not only does new food debris find its way into open crevices, but it’s mixed into the “clean” water your dishes are being “cleaned” with. I think we can all let out a collective YUCK!
I admit, I’m guilty of living with a dirty dishwasher. I moved into a brand new home not that long ago with brand new out of the box appliances. Of course they had to be clean. Well, for someone who loves to cook as much as I do, my dishwasher really earns it’s keep and that didn’t last long. So today, I got to scrubbing. With two small kiddos in the house it’s especially important to me to not have a whole bunch of harsh chemicals around. Natural cleaning solutions have been a wonderful option for me and they have always provided great results. I followed the Pin’s easy instructions and added in some elbow grease once the baking soda was sprinkled inside. That definitely pulled up some grime. Again, YUCK! In the image above, the top two pictures are before I ran the first wash load and you can see how murky the water collected in the measuring cup afterwards. Success!
Going to add this to my monthly cleaning routine. Think we’ll all be able to sleep better at night knowing the dishwasher, and everything put into it, is actually clean.