Friday, December 30, 2016

The Last Friday {Favorites} of 2016

Long time, no blog! I hadn't planned on taking this much time off but can I just say it felt so good to enjoy the holiday without working on new blog posts each day? I would recommend it to every blogger. Unplug, take a break and enjoy some down time. Heck, I would suggest it to anyone this time of year. But to wrap up a few things before the new year, I have a handful of Friday favorites I want to share with you before signing off again for the end of 2016, beginning of 2017.


{ONE}

Starting next Wednesday myself and 7 other bloggers are kicking off a new book themed series titled What We're Reading Wednesday. As many of you know I'm a huge bookworm and my love of reading is beginning to rub off onto Connor. #momwin One thing I love doing is talking books with those who love to read as well. This once a month link-up allows others to share what they've been reading, what books they've been reading to or with their children, what books their spouses have been enjoying and so on. Books, online articles, blog posts all count as a What We're Reading item so be sure to join us and share what you've been reading so others can discover something new to add to their reading list.

{TWO}


I think this photos sums up our Christmas perfectly. This was the moment Connor realized he was gifted his very own Slinky. I've never seen him so excited! And over a Slinky at that! Christmas came and went far too quickly but along the way I realized that making memories with my guys and with Christ is far more important and precious than any gift under the tree. That's not to say I don't love and appreciate each gift given to me but I truly understand the true reason for the season.

{THREE}


With the new year fast approaching (you know just 2 days away!?) I've been thinking about what I want to do more of in 2017. One thing I've been working on this year, which will always be a work in progress, is my relationship with Jesus Christ and my knowledge of the Bible. To help me learn and grow, I will be working through The Story: 365 Devotions*. This devotional is a quick and simple way to start my day in the Word and in a more positive light. My hope is to turn to this book and scripture before turning to my phone and Facebook/Instagram/email.

{FOUR}


I wanted to share with you my top 5 most loved posts of 2016. While I am not a big numbers blogger, I do love seeing my writing being appreciated and read by so many. My number one most read post had over 14,000 visits. That's huge for a Mommy blogger like me (and I wear the Mommy blogger title proudly; no shame in my Mom game!). I'm not a big name blogger and my reach only goes so far so to see a post that I wrote about the struggles of motherhood and how I find comfort within my faith get so much attention, I am truly in awe.


{FIVE}
Many think resolutions and goal setting this time of year is cliche but I think the start of a new year is the perfect chance to take a look at your current comfort zone and see the ways you can push yourself out of it in the new year. I plan to share with you the goals for our family next week but one thing I'll share this morning is this: next year our family is going to do BIG THINGS. 2017 is going to be the year Casa de Cox takes control and conquers a few areas of our life that we've been slacking in. What goals and achievements are you hoping to conquer in 2017?

I wish you a happy end to 2016 and I'll be back on Tuesday to recap my December by the numbers along with additional posts for the first week of January 2017.

Happy Friday, friends! 
*I received our book for free from BookLook Bloggers. However our love of reading and sharing new books with you is all our own. #bookworms unite! 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Bucket List {UPDATE}

Anyone else freaking out a bit because Christmas is just 3 days away? I feel like December 1st was yesterday and yet we are just a few days away from celebrating Christmas! Because this month is flying by I figured we might want to check in with our bucket list and see what we've accomplished and what we need to do next because if there is something we don't have a lot of this week(end) it's time.


Visit Valley Vineyards
At the beginning of the month we got together with 4 other couples and visited a local vineyard. I may or may not have came home with an entire bottle of sangria because it was just that good. A date night with my guy was exactly what we needed.


Make a Family Wreath
Our trio was supposed to attend a wreath making class but due to weather it was cancelled. Only problem is I already put Make a Family Wreath on my bucket list. So I figured we would make a wreath of my own using our hand-prints. It's not perfectly but it's made from each of our hands so that makes it okay in my book. I hung it in my office and now there's a bit of holiday cheer decking the walls.


Watch The Polar Express
Our family has never watched this movie before but when we discovered the theater in my hometown was showing it we bought tickets and experienced a family first. We all enjoyed the movie and plan to watch it again next Christmas. One more movie grab my attention: Gone With The Wind. I am hoping to go see it in theater later this month.


Have Breakfast with Santa
I registered us for a morning with Santa at a local hotel and it was the most perfect set-up. We had breakfast (Connor had far too much sugar) and we got to chat with the Jolly One. It was the best Santa experience and I am looking forward to doing it again next year.


Make a Gingerbread House
We started our gingerbread house tradition last year and it's one that I am so thrilled to do. One thing we did differently this year was buy a pre-made house. Doing so will save your marriage, your patience with your child and Christmas won't be ruined. Getting the house together is the hardest part, right? So this eliminates that hassle. We added gingerbread people that were a gift from Amy at Keepin' Up with The Smiths in our stocking exchange.


Have Donuts with Friends
Our North Pole party may have been a bit tricky since we all had some crazy virus but that didn't stop us from sharing some donut joy with friends. I love celebrating the holidays with Connor's friends (and their Mommas).


Have a Movie & Pajama Day
Yesterday was our only "free" day this week so we spent it doing as little as possible. Connor and I stayed in pajamas and had a Christmas movie marathon. In between movies we read books, played games and I did some laundry and cleaning. Days when we get to be homebodies are always welcomed.


Send Holiday Snail Mail
Sending cards is one of my favorite Christmas tasks. Receiving them is a lot of fun, too. I love how much joy and love you see in the photos used on the cards. It's safe to say this time of year makes even the biggest of Grinches a bit of a sucker for some Christmas cheer.


We have just 5 tasks left on our bucket list and I think we will be able to pull each of them off. The only one that is a bit tricky is visiting Clifton Mills. Because of the cold weather and/or rain we are getting it's not the funniest experience. I'm not a big fan of being cold and wet. But we may be able to get a quick visit in. Either way Christmas is in just 3 days and our family of 3 has had the best December!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Three Things {December}

I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm going to hit the pause button on all things Christmas for a moment. With Christmas just a few days away I am in overdrive. What better why to just take a break than to do a fun "Three Things' post. I kicked off this fun series last month and I enjoy the simplicity of this style of "currently" post. So with that being said here are December's "Three Things".


JAMES
1) He just spent a week in Texas but will be home until February. There are a few trips he must take for work but there is one in May he will be going on that I get to join him on.

2) He asked for a bottle cutter for Christmas. Hopefully Santa got his request. Have you seen the cool things you can do with a bottle cutter? Google it. But he is planning on doing a few projects with his new toy (that is if he was on the nice list!).

3) For the first year ever he was smarter than me when it came to shopping for gifts. He had mine shipped to our friends out so a) I don't peek and b) don't talk him into giving them to me early.

STEPHANIE
1) I can't wait for the holiday to be over -- hear me out! I am over all the indulgent foods. If I don't have to ever see another cookie or sweet treat, it would be too soon. I need a full year of sugar detox.

2) Thanks to a few recommendations I am now hooked on reading anything and books by Richard Paul Evans. The best way to describe his novels (the ones I've read so far) is to say that they are feel good Christian love stories. I'm not sure what has me lovin' them so much but not only are they quick reads but they are light-hearted and sometimes I need that. I tend to pick really dark (death/murder/war filled) novels.

3) I am obsessed with drinking Yogi's green tea blueberry tea. I've been starting my day with a cup and when I need a caffeine pick-me-up I've been reaching for this over coffee and soda. I am trying to drink less of both and this tasty tea has made the transition so much easier.

CONNOR
1) He turned 4 and now has an attitude and sass and spends about 2 hours a day in time out thanks to his inability to listen or follow orders. Heads up Momma, 3 is a breeze compared to 4. A BREEZE!

2) While he is the most ridiculous things on two legs, he is always the cutest kid in town. It's really hard to be mad at him for long. He says and does things that you just can't help but laugh at. He knows how to work the room and boy does he.

3) We've signed Connor up for a dance workshop and I'm beyond to see him in action. The dance company puts on some really great hip-hop routines and the little ones are full of such personality and spunk during the performances so I'm eager to see what they do with Connor.

Three things... totally random but a fun way to share a bit of what's currently going on with each of us.

Happy Hump Day, friends!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas 2016 Ornament Show & Tell

Decorating our tree is one of my favorite tasks during the holiday. I love seeing our ornaments again for the first time after they've been packed away all year, reliving the stories associated with each one. Today, I'm joining a group of ladies to host our Christmas Ornament Show & Tell. Here are a few of my most cherished ornaments and why.


Our 7.5 foot tree is covered in ornaments so I had to really narrow down how the ones I wanted to share. If not this would be very long blog post all about ornaments. I feel like so many of them have a story to tell or special meaning. I decided to share just 8. Each mean a lot to me and encompasses something that is very important to me: family.


One of a kind Connor Ornament - Connor made this in preschool last year and it's his very first Christmas craft he brought home from school. Also? His photos cracks me up every time I see it. Just the other day he asked who the little boy was in that photo! It looks nothing like him. 

Our 2016 Family Ornament - James and I have an ornament from each of the Christmases we've spent together. This year and last we have opted for a family ornament. It's a great way to get our Fall photos used and one day I'll love looking back at when our baby was just that, a baby. 

Memorial Ornament - This ornament was a gift from my Mom to James the first Christmas we had after his mom passed away. Connie was James's best friend and she is missed so deeply. I know that a bit of her lives on in Connor and that she is watching over us, laughing with us at the madness that is parenthood.

Connor's Yearly Ornament Pick - each year we let Connor pick an ornament and this year he went with Rainbow Dash from My Little Ponies. He won't like this ornament much when he is a teenager, or heck, even 7, but for now he loves it. 

Red Bird - James's Grandma had a white Christmas tree decorated with red birds. We don't have the extra space for the tree so I placed a bird or two on our tree. I love having a piece of Granny with us during the holidays.

June 5, 2011 - Our wedding date. We have 3 of these wooden disks on our tree. The dates displayed are when we started dating, when we were married and then the day we became parents. I made them at a Pinterest party and it's fun seeing those milestone dates on display. 

Frankenstein - The very fact that someone offers a Halloween ornament makes me happy. Add in that it's of Frankenstein and I am a sucker for it. I loved this the moment I saw it online and it's such a fun ornament that is a bit different than what's usually on a tree.

Macie's 1st Christmas - I was gifted this ornament with Mae Girl's hand-print on her first Christmas. I can't believe baby girl will be celebrating her 7th (!!!) Christmas this year. For a bit I thought maybe she was too cool for her TayTay but she recently wrote me a lovely letter telling me I was "cool cool" and her "BFF". It's hard seeing her so big these days. 

Do you have ornaments that just hold such precious memories? These are just a few of ours. Like I mentioned before I'd love to share them all with you but that would be a lot of work for me and you'd be reading a really long post. Come share your favorite ornaments with us in the link-up below! 





Monday, December 19, 2016

Teacher's Gift: Manicure Buckets {$10 at Target}

Today is Connor's last day of school till after the New Year. His class is having their Christmas party and the kids are giving their teachers their gifts. This year we wanted to give his teachers something to pamper themselves with. We headed to Target and talked about the different options and finally Connor declared he wanted to pick out some polish for his teachers because they "always have paint on their nails like Mammaw". So with his mind made up we set off to put together manicure buckets for Mrs. Vicki and Mrs. Emma.


I wanted to spent about $10 on each gift and after some creative shopping we spent a little less than that on both gifts. I made sure to check and both ladies do in fact paint their nails so I see this being a very useful gift and not one that gets re-gifted or put in a closet somewhere. Each kit contained a eos hand lotion, a bottle of polish, a pair of fuzzy Christmas socks along with nail kit that contained fingernail and toe clippers, cuticle pusher, nail scissors, 2 fingernail files and cuticle nipper. I arranged the items in a plastic Christmas themed bucket and our gift was complete.


We love spoiling his teachers and I think this gift of indulgence was perfect for both ladies. They can pamper themselves a bit over Christmas break before heading back to school and dealing with 23 kids suffering from cabin fever!

Now it's your turn. Share with us what you scored this month at Target.
Link-up your finds below.




The Best of 2016 - From Our Kitchen to Yours

One area of my domestic life that really grew and flourished this year was my confidence in the kitchen. While I haven't always loved spending time preparing meals I've recently discovered that with a bit of will I can find my way around the kitchen. Today I want to share with you 23 recipes we discovered this year. Ones that have made it on permanent meal rotation. From breakfast, lunch and dinner to snack time and the occasional sweet treat my love of cooking has grown. I'm excited to see what fun recipes are in store for us in 2017.


BREAKFAST

DINNER
White Chocolate Pretzels
PB & Pumpkin Dip


While each of these meals were tasty and satisfying, I'm eager to add more veggies to our meals, add a meatless dish or two to the rotation, step up our breakfast game and even find ways to enjoy sweets that's aren't complete calorie busters.

Be sure to visit Whitney, Katie and Whitney to see the best of their kitchen, too! 

Happy Monday, friends! 


Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Favorites: Books, Photos and 2017

Hello Friday! After 2 weeks in a row, I've found myself looking forward to Friday more and more. Mostly because this week I've been solo parenting and well, it's tough. Our Frank has been ever so present. I want to say now that year 4 is hard. So very challenging. I will say that this week did have a handful of pluses to it and I'm going to focus on those for this morning's Friday Favorites.


{ONE}


Connor has been working through this Berenstain Bears Hugs and Kisses workbook*. Filled with puzzles, activity pages, 50+ reusable stickers and coloring pages, the 32 page book allowed for Connor to work on his problem solving skills, pattern making, following directions and his motor skills via use of a pencil and picking and placing stickers. I also like that this book talks about Jesus and His love. It's the perfect hands on book for learning about Jesus in a fun playful way for little ones. While I had hopes on keeping this for CJ for Valentine's Day he discovered it in my office and insisted we read it right away. I'm glad we did because it's one of my favorite workbooks thus far. I've already visited Amazon for similar activity books.

{TWO}








I am still going strong on the Christmas photo challenge that kicked off December 1st. We've been really busy week but thanks to the daily posts I am pushed to take at least one photos a day. I am thrilled to report that as of last evening we've had 538 photos added to the challenge which is the most of any of the Christmas challenges I've hosted. THANK YOU FOR JOINING THE FUN! I love that so many of you are joining in the fun. The last 7 days of the challenge included the prompt family, tree, secret, elf, green, sparkles and messes. 

{THREE}


Fun fact: white chocolate is my weakness. Add in anything mint or peppermint and I'm going to eat every last bite. At our MOPS Christmas party I brought in this tasty Christmas Snack Mix. There are so many variations out there but this is my favorites. I am not a fan of the the mint M&M's that are out this time of year - I think they are a bit too strong - so I like using crushed peppermints in their place. The combinations of cinnamon and vanilla with the chocolate and peppermint is perfection. Make a batch this holiday than come back and thank me! 

{FOUR}


I stumbled across this on Instagram and thought to myself "THIS! This is what I want for 2017." I know we have a bit before we ring in the New Year but I've already been doing some planning and thinking of what I want for myself and for my family in twenty seventeen. Does anyone else look forward to a new year just to see how much you can accomplish in a single year? I've realized that while it seems like a lot, 365 days, but it isn't. It goes by so fast and it's up to us to make the most of it. I look forward to a fresh start and to sharing what my 2017 goals will be. 

{FIVE}


Speaking of 2017, I've already starting filling in my new planner. One thing I plan to do is blog less in 2017. I am going to go from blogging 5 days a week to just 4. I'm not sure what I will do with the extra time on my hands but I can promise you it won't be wasted. I have a few projects I want to focus on and I think blogging a bit less will help with that. I also plan on getting back to the gym. It's been a while since I've dedicated any real time in the gym and that's about to change. And I'm sure I'll spend time relaxing (reading or binging The Real Housewives of OC - just being honest!). 

We've had a busy week and our weekend isn't too full of plans. We do have a Christmas brunch to attend on Sunday after church but other than that, that's about all of our "must do's". Hope your weekend is full of fun and maybe a moment or two of relaxation. But is that even possible this time of year? 

Happy weekend, friends!

*I received our book for free from BookLook Bloggers. However our love of reading and sharing new books with you is all our own. #bookworms unite! 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

SNOW -- Winter Themed Storytime and Crafts

You guys... the high today is forecasted to be 12 degrees. T-W-E-L-V-E! This is ridiculous on every front. I can't believe we choose to live somewhere it's 12 degrees. But we are rolling with it the best we can by staying home and having an "us" day with movies, cuddles and a day of relaxation. To fill our days (because let's face it cabin fever sets in quick) we've been doing a lot of reading and a bit of crafting. This weekend I shared the new book Bear Stays Up for Christmas with you along with a bear craft and today, we are talking about snow. Here is Snow by Manya Stojic and then a few ways to make snow enjoyable from the comfort of your warm home.


Manya Stojic looks at how animals respond when winter weather hits in Snow. Bear yawns and hibernates, Fox grumbles about losing his camouflage, and the geese head south, honking ""So long, snow."" In the pages filled with acrylic paintings, Stojic's brushstrokes emphasize the animals' snuggly allure and how they prepare for the upcoming snowy season. 

After reading Snow we sat down to do 2 super simple crafts. First up we created a snowflake canvas. Using an 8x10 white canvas I created snowflakes with painters tape and let Connor go to town on painting the sky blue. He wanted to use yellow which lead us to a talk about how yellow snow is never fun. 


While our canvas dried we moved on to making a snow covered tree. This was pretty much the cutest creation we've ever tackled together. I used a tree outline made in PicMonkey to get the bases of our tree. Connor then used his fingers to create snow on the branches, ground and sky. 


We let both pieces of "artwork" dry while we watched The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! Told From the Cold DVD we picked up from the library with a few other snow/cold weather books.



Oh and Connor's artwork is perfection! Once the we take down our Christmas decorations I plan to decorate a bit for winter. I'm thinking blue, silver and white.