Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday Recap

My where has the time gone?!  It seems like between the baking, shopping, crafting, and family gathering, I haven't had time to sit down and really reflect on this year's holiday season.  I'd have to say that most of it was one big blur, unfortunately, but there were definitely some fun and special moments.  This year was different from most years in the fact that I just couldn't get in the mood for it.  I'm not really sure what happened, but I didn't even start buying gifts until a couple weeks before Christmas.  Usually I'm online right after Thanksgiving looking for the best deals for everyone.

Let's see - where did the holiday season start for us this year?

We bought a droopy little Charlie Brown tree this year - maybe subconsciously, it's just what fit our Christmas mood - but either way, it was cute and it was ours.  Xander and I had a fun time decorating it, as rinky-dink as it looked.  It only took about a week of it sitting in our front room all bare waiting for some clothes.

Xander had his school Christmas program right before they let out for holiday break.  It was definitely a joy watching him this year.  Last year, he basically just froze on stage once he saw all the people in the big auditorium.  Things went much better this year - for the most part.  He did have one narration that he had practiced over and over again, and knew like the back of his hand, that he was supposed to say before one of the little kids' songs.  I thought that maybe this would be the year that he would overcome his fear of speaking in front of others (that he may or may not get from both of his parents).  But this was not the year.  He peeked outside the curtain, looked around at everyone, and basically stood there.  After about 5 seconds, he went back behind the curtain. He wasn't going to do it.  But his friend Sabrina came out holding Xander's hand and said the words for him while Xander stood next to her.  I was happy that he at least stood up there with her and kind of got the feel for it.  But a bit of me was still a bit sad knowing that Xander knew those words so perfectly and that he should have been the one saying it.  Oh well.  Next year!  I'm just happy that the rest of the performance went smoothly.  He knew all the words to the songs and all the movements to the dances they had been practicing for months.

 About a week before Christmas, we bundled up and headed downtown.  We went to Trolley Square to see all the hustle and bustle and pay a certain Jolly man in a red suit a special visit!  I'm not sure what's gotten into Xander this year, but he hasn't really known what he wanted for Christmas this year.  He didn't really know what to tell Santa.  Santa tried asking him what he wanted and then finally asked if he likes cars, and Xander said yes of course, but that's about all he got out of him.  Luckily Santa has magical powers and knows the insides of children's hearts and knows their wishes :)  After visiting Santa, we took Trax down to Temple Square to see all the lights.  But we sure didn't last long.  Tiffani and I were so cold!  Xander didn't complain at all, but Tiff couldn't feel her toes, and I couldn't feel my fingers.  It was definitely time for us to head out and get back home where it was warm!

 This isn't really holiday related, but it's still worth documenting.  We were at a store the Sunday before Christmas.  We were mostly just browsing around and stopped to look at some clothes.  Xander found an empty clothing rack that just looked like it needed to be climbed on.  Unfortunately, I didn't really think much of it.  We were letting him be a kid and happened to turn our backs.  We never could have predicted what happened next.  We heard a thud and a scream.  Xander was standing on it and pulled it over on top of him.  It hit him right on the head and put a pretty big gash under his eyebrow!  10 stitches worth!  Luckily, no broken bones (which was my first concern) - just the stitches and a pretty bruised up eye and nose.   It was pretty traumatic for all involved - Tiff and I couldn't help but spoil the crap outta him all the next day.  Hopefully it won't scar too badly!

Next up is my most looked forward to event of the season.  The annual family cookie bake-off!  My older sister, Jenny, has hosted this event for at least the last 8 years or so.  We take what we think is our best cookie recipe, bake up a batch or two, then send them off to very willing judges (neighbors) to vote for the winning cookie.  This year, I also set up a cookie decorating station to keep the kids occupied.  I made an amazing sugar cookie and frosting recipe that I found through Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  As much fun as the kids had decorating, it definitely didn't take them much time at all.  After about 10 minutes, they were over it and off just playing with toys again.  Oh well - can't say I didn't try!  As for who the winner was this year - let's just say it's a sensitive subject... I hate to say that I didn't even place in the top three! (or 4... or 5...) Ugh - how embarrassing - what does that say about the recipes on my blog?!  I'm not even going to tell you what I made.  In lots of peoples' opinions, it was one delicious cookie.  Unfortunately, the judges weren't any of those people.  So moving right along ...

Everything was leading up to this day, and what a great Christmas it was!  We spent Christmas Eve over at Tiffani's mom's, where we ate a yummy dinner, dessert, played games, and exchanged gifts.  I made a yummy (and VERY easy) Broccoli Bake to go with dinner and Joy the Baker's aMAZing peppermint chocolate roll for dessert.  Both were hits!  We stayed until about midnight playing a new game called Logo with Tiff's siblings.  We didn't do so well on our team, but it was still a fun time.
When we got home, I still had to get the egg casserole into the crock pot, and then wrap presents!  Oh my, it was a late night. We were up until about 4:00, and Xander got up bright and early around 8:30.  Just about 4 hours of sleep just doesn't cut it for me!  We had a fun morning spoiling each other around our Charlie Brown tree, then we ate a yummy breakfast that I didn't have to fuss over at all since it had been in the crockpot all night.  After breakfast, we took Xander over to his dad's and it was off to my parents' for us.  I made mashed potatoes for dinner and actually made a second peppermint chocolate roll for them as well.  It was ALSO a hit there!  I think this one's a keeper!  

All in all, it was a crazy whirlwind of events, but there was a lot of great time spent together as a family.  I was very happy being able to spread out our Christmas events by doing the bake-off one night, Christmas with the in-laws another day, and then Christmas with my family on another day.  It was a lot less rushing around and time spent driving than what we've had to do in previous years.  I vote for the new relaxed version of celebrating the holidays.

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas season, and I hope the New Year brings all that you hope for.  Have fun and be safe!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pretty Cash System Envelopes

So, if you know me personally, you know that I'm a pretty big advocate for Dave Ramsey's cash envelope system.  The basic run-down is that you budget all of your income down to the dollar, and you don't spend more than you make.  Sounds simple, right?  It really is. But you would be surprised how many people are budgeting and spending much more than they actually have coming in.  How does that work, you ask?  Credit cards.  America loves their credit cards.  It's easy spending... but there are many consequences that come with that convenient 'right now, gotta have it' mindset.  
So the deal is that you pay with cash.  Obviously, there are bills that you pay online, and that's fine.  But things that you physically go to the store for (groceries, dinner at a restaurant, movies, etc) should all be handled with cash.  Each category is then divided out into separate envelopes.   Once the cash is gone, it's gone.  No using a credit card to last the rest of the month (because you really should cut those things up anyway!).  You learn real quickly what's important to you. For example, do you really need to go out to eat tonight, because if you do, you know you won't have much 'restaurant' money left over for when your friend comes in town later this month. You really stop spending so spontaneously and actually think about what your money is doing for you and where it is going.
Oh, I could go on and on about how Dave Ramsey's system has changed our lives.  After just a little over a year, we have paid off about $10k in debt and don't have much further to go.  We paid for our entire honeymoon in full with no credit cards and no bills that are following us around afterwards.  Christmas has been saved for all year, so we won't have to go into debt in order to give this season.  It's a very freeing feeling.  This is coming from someone who has had some major money woes.  I couldn't get a loan or a credit card even if I wanted to, so this cash system has been a blessing to us.
Well, so the real reason for my post, besides putting the word out there is this:  I was getting really sick of flimsy and boring white envelopes for our cash.  They were falling apart about every month or two, and we were always having to replace them.  So when I came across this cute and simple solution on Pinterest, I knew I was going to have to put it into action.
I bought so cute and heavy-duty scrapbook paper.  I didn't want these to tear easily like the white ones had been doing!  Got the template downloaded.  A little tracing, cutting, and gluing, and this is what I came up with!  Ta-da!

So simple and very aesthetically pleasing!  I just pop them into my accordion coupon organizer that I use just for filing these envelopes, and I'm good to go!

Oh, and another annoyance I was having with the white envelopes is the flap.  When you're paying with cash for everything, you're having to get in the envelopes constantly.  Over time (or not so much time), the flaps wear out and rip and fall off.  Really they're just in the way.  So I decided to revise the template a bit by omitting the top flap, so it was just open. 


I think this will work so much better for us.  And I'm just really happy to have something so pretty in my purse.  Especially because I hardly ever whip my wallet out anymore, I gotta have some sort of pretty accessory!  Ah, when did I turn into such a girl!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Big Announcement!

Two Hens and a Monkey is now branching out! I have a brand-spankin' new food and recipes only blog called Mama Hen's Kitchen that I couldn't be more excited about. I'm so excited to have a place that's dedicated to all things kitchen related.
And now I can go back to writing about family and every day things over here at Two Hens. I hope you follow me over at Mama Hen's and I don't lose anyone in the move.

Please check it out and let me know what you think. I think you'll be happy with the first post - it's a yummy seasonal cookie that is sure to please all your cravings. See ya over there!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Stay Tuned

exciting new changes are coming this way! stay tuned!