DC Bound

Posted in: Family

DC BoundSorry for the silence, but it seems 2014 will be another exciting year for our family!  No, not another new baby.  The big new is that we are DC bound!

Last month, we received word that it was time for Andy to take the next step in career and begin a new position in our nation’s capital city.  The news wasn’t a huge shock to us.  We’d always hoped DC would be the next place we’d call home.  Andy and his family lived there for a time while he was growing up, and it’s a place we both love.  We’ve visited frequently in recent years as my father-in-law still travels there for work quite often.

Since we know the area and sensed a move was in our future, we’ve been scouting out the suburbs in search of a new community.   I’m am delighted to say we’ve found a lovely area to begin the next chapter in our family’s life.  Even better, our home here has sold! I am so thankful things are working out smoothly thus far and pray God continues to help guide our way.

We love our beautiful New Jersey neighborhood and home.  We will miss our little town and all the wonderful friends we’ve shared our life with here.  I am sad, but most of all I am thankful for the memories we’ve made.  It has been a wonderful place for our family to grow.

Things are moving along much faster than we expected and with two little girls to love on and care for we are busy (to say the least).  I hope to get back to regular blogging soon.  I have so many things I want to share and there just isn’t enough time in the day.  Until then, be well and I wish you the best.  xo Aleah

 

{Happy Thoughts:} Friday, January 24, 2014

Posted in: Happy Thoughts

Think Happy Thoughs floral

Snow “Sprinkle”

Posted in: Crafting, Eats, Entertaining

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyI can’t believe it’s been almost a YEAR since I hosted this “Snow Sprinkle” for a dear friend.  (Pretty much right after this party took place I got pregnant with Emily, felt pretty sick for a few months…and the rest is history, so I guess a year seems about right.)  Since this party is winter-themed, I didn’t want to let the season pass by again this year without sharing it.  I have to say I had a ball planning and styling this party and I LOVE the way all the details came together.

A “sprinkle” is what you playfully call a baby shower for someone who is having their second (or third, or fourth…) child.  The event was in January and when I saw the amazing “Bundle Up Baby” Printable Collection from HWTM I knew a “Snow Sprinkle” was the perfect theme.  To see all of my ideas and inspirations be sure to check out my “Snow Sprinkle” Pinterest Board.  

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyI used cozy winter and baby elements like yarn, buttons, baby blankets and booties, all in the color scheme of the printables, to decorate for the party.  I also reused my white party frames and galvanized metal serving pieces!

The sprinkle took place around lunchtime, and I planned the menu based on a couple of things.  First, I took into consideration what my friend, the guest of honor and mommy-to-be would like.  I knew what her likes and dislikes were, but I made sure to ask her if she was having any special pregnancy cravings or aversions.  More on this later, but it did really help me create my menu, and I highly recommend it anytime you’re planning a party for someone elser.

Onion Tartlets

I like to have appetizers out as guest trickle in, so to start I prepared my caramelized onion and goat cheese tartlets, a favorite of the guest of honor.  These are delicious and very elegant.  Caramelized onions, puff pastry, and goat cheese, what’s not to love? Another friends graciously prepared classic spinach dip, another known favorite, and accompaniments.  I wish I had gotten a picture because the bread bowl she presented it in was tasty and delicious too!

Because this was a “kids-welcome” event, the second thing I took into consideration when planning the menu was creating a buffet of choices that would appeal to both mommies and little ones.  I always like to try and find dishes that will satisfy both.  With everything else going on when you host a party you don’t want to have to prepare two totally separate meals if you can avoid it.  For me a baked pasta dish is always a winner.  Pinterest has soooo many to choose from and for this party I selected a Three Cheese Pasta Bake from myrecipes.com.

Three Cheese Pasta BakeIt’s a cross between mac-and-cheese, fettuccine alfredo, and lasagna.  What’s not to love?!?  Along with the baked pasta I served some (Costco frozen) meatballs  and a huge garden salad.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyTo wash it all down I served bottled water, iced tea, juice boxes and hot cocoa.  Check out the adorable bottle wraps from the collection.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower Hot Cocoa Bar :: Just Live Life Happy A simple hot cocoa bar embellished with more yarn balls and printables.

After lunch the kids played, the mommies visited, and everyone enjoyed dessert.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life HappyI styled the dessert table with more printables from the HWTM collection, some yarn balls, and one of Lauren’s baby blankets. I tried to vary the height of the desserts to add visual interest to the table.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
Snowflake Cookies with Royal Icing
"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
Coconut Cupcakes
My friend LOVES coconut and the fluffy flakes on top of the cupcakes really resemble piles of snow.  I love it when things work out that way!
My inspiration for the dessert table came not only from my friend’s favorite treats but also from a couple of very specific cravings. She mentioned to me that she couldn’t wait to have “sushi and a margarita.”  It may not have been exactly what she had in mind, but I loved including these fun and special touches in the dessert table.
Dessert Sushi (Safe for Mommies-to-Be) "Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
I made “dessert sushi” from Rice Krispy treats, Swedish Fish, Fruit-by-the-Foot, and rainbow Twizzlers.  These were a huge hit with the kids, especially the big-brother-to-be."Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy
"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

Before leaving guests wrote notes to the baby-to-be and hung them on our wintery wish tree.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

When it was time to say goodbye, everyone took home mitten cookie favors and mini hot cocoa jars.

"Snow Sprinkle" Winter Baby Shower :: Just Live Life Happy

I reused old baby food jars by spray painting the lids and hot glueing buttons on.  Then I filled them with hot cocoa mix and mini marshmallows, and finally I used more yarn to tie on printable tags.

I hope you enjoyed getting a peek a the sprinkle.  Even a year later, looking back at these photos, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this party.  I think I might be one of my favorites! It also makes me really excited to start planning Lauren’s FOURTH birthday party! And, yes, I’ve already been planning Emily’s FIRST as well!

Stay warm, everybody!

 

 

{Menu Monday:} Week of January 20, 2014

Posted in: Eats

Ah! I still can’t believe it’s 2014! (And, yes, I totally typed 2013 first when I titled this post!)

We’re getting back into the swing of things big-time around here.  Andy was home for a nice LOOOOONG time after Emily was born, and since then we’ve been busy with the holidays and Andy’s been traveling and busy with work.  We’ve been cooking at home, as always, but I just haven’t been good about sharing our menus.  Here goes for this week:

Monday: Buffalo Chicken Salad

This is a favorite.  It’s a salad, so there’s not really a recipe, but Andy makes his special “Olive Oil Chicken” for this, and I should really share that “technique” sometime.

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

I think we are the only people who grill at this time of year.  It’s New Jersey. And it’s FREEZING. Probably below freezing actually, but we love grilled food!

Caprese Chicken :: Just Live LIfe Happy

Wednesday: Caprese Chicken

We call this dish a bunch of different things, “Bruschetta Chicken,” “Grilled Balsamic Chicken,” “Caprese Chicken.”  All those names work because it reminiscent of all those things.  Whatever you call it, it’s GOOD and EASY.  Try it! Click here for the recipe.  

Thursday: {Slow Cooker} Beef Stew

Andy’s not a huge soup/stew kind of person, but I LOVE soup, especially when it’s cold outside.  I’m planning to use a classic stew recipe from BHG, but I’m going to make a slow cooker version.  I’ll keep you posted on how it comes out and how we like it.

Easy "Lauren" Chicken :: Just Live Life Happy

Friday: ”Lauren” Chicken

Our all-time favorite.  Easy, but yummy enough for a Friday night.  Check out the sweet story behind it, and get the recipe here.

Saturday:
Saturday I think we’re going to have “Make Your Own Pizza” Night.  Our local pizzeria sells pizza dough and sometimes we like to buy some and put our own toppings on at home.  Fun!

 UPDATE (1/21/14):

Due to the return of the “Polar Vortex” and the crazy snow we’re having today, we have in fact, decided NOT to grill.  Slow cooker stew tonight and we’ll go from there for the rest of the week. I’m sure Andy would still grill tonight, but I made an executive decision to save him from the cold.  xo

 
 

Happy 2014!

Posted in: Eats, Entertaining

New Years Resolution :: Just Live Life Happy

I seriously cannot believe it’s 2014! I just can’t.

On to sweeter things…

New Years Cake perfect for New Years Eve :: Just Live Life HappyNot that my New Year’s diet would allow me to eat any of this, but how adorable is this cake for New Years Eve? This photo is from a local bakery, but it would be oh-so-simple to make your own. It’s definitely on my to-do list for next NYE.

Here’s to a happy and healthy new year to you and yours! Cheers!

{2013} Cookie Exchange: The Land of Sweets

Posted in: Eats, Entertaining, Family, Fun

 

I can’t let the holiday season end without sharing one more special post…Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I can’t believe this was our FOURTH annual Christmas cookie exchange! I LOVE this tradition, and we look forward to it every year.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I love that Lauren and I hosted the first one when she was only six months old and that now, four years later, she’s a big three-and-a-half-year-old with a baby sister (who slept through the entire thing).  The best part is that, in addition to new friends, Lauren’s “first friends” who attended the original party come back every year.  They’ve all grown so much, and in fact, they have new brothers and sisters now too!

Every year I choose a different theme for the party.  Previous themes have included Winter Woodland Wonderland and Christmas Candyland.  A Christmas favorite, The Nutcracker, inspired this year’s “Land of Sweets” Theme.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie ExchangeI LOVE this Nutcracker tea towel.  My mother-in-law sent it to me because she knew I was planning this theme.  Isn’t that sweet!?! Thank you!

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I didn’t get many pictures of the food, but I served a simple lunch of salad, baked ziti with meatballs, and, upon Lauren’s request, red and green Christmas jello.  The trick was planning a menu that would please both moms and kids.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

After lunch the moms visited while the kids played and “painted” their own cookies.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

They really got into decorating (and eating) their creations!Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

But really, who cares about lunch or playtime when there are sweet treats to be enjoyed? I planned my dessert table based on each of the four main characters in the Nutcracker ballet.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I served Clara’s Christmas Cupcakes,

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

Nutcracker’s Eggnog Poundcake,

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange(Click here for the recipe. It’s SO good!)

Mouse King’s Candy Cane Mice,

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie ExchangeAnd my personal favorite, Sugar Plum Fairy Wands.

Just Live Life Happy :: Sugar Plum Fairy Wands

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie ExchangeNext to the dessert table I set up the cookie table.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I set out large platters so my guest could display their cookies as they arrived.

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

I should of used a larger table because by the time everyone was finished our table was overflowing with goodies!

Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange Just Live Life Happy :: Land of Sweets Cookie Exchange

Everything was delicious, and all our friends left with plenty of cookies to share!  We’re already looking forward to next year!

Gingerbread Love

Posted in: Crafting, Eats, Entertaining, Family, Fun

This Christmas Lauren was in love all things gingerbread.

We read gingerbread books,

Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Friends

made gingerbread crafts,

gingerbread craft gingerbread craft

played with gingerbread playdough,Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Playdough

gingerbread playdough gingerbread playdough

baked and decorated gingerbread cookies,

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Cookies

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Man Cookies

and made multiple gingerbread houses. 

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Houses

We decided we wanted to share the fun with our friends so we hosted a Gingerbread House Playdate.

In preparation I collected multiple pint-sized cartons…only to find out that they aren’t the right size to cover with graham crackers. Oops!

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Houses

It turns out, as I remembered from teaching, that it’s the tiny school lunch-sized cartons that are the right size to fit graham crackers…

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread HousesWelp, I only had one of those, so onto plan B…

Pinterest to the rescue!  I found this awesome tutorial from Caked Alaska,

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

and Andy was kind enough to assemble about a dozen for me.

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread Houses

We used hot glue to assemble them, so they were very sturdy but not 100% edible.  If I had more time (and I wasn’t making these for preschoolers who might not be so gentle) I would have used candy melts or royal icing (see recipe below) to assemble the houses.  (As a related note, I’m still finding hot glue strings in my kitchen! My counters may never be the same.)

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

We cut rectangles from leftover foam core (like what you use for science fair displays, avaliable at craft stores) to mount the houses on.  We also attached a sugar cone “tree.”  We covered the ugly jagged edges with red Christmas ribbon.

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

I LOVE the way they came out!

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House PartyFor the playdate we set up a child-sized table and chairs and put out a variety of goodies for decorating (and eating).

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

I gave each child small cup of white royal icing and a popsicle stick for glueing on their candy.  I also gave them a cup of green royal icing for the trees. The royal icing is SO easy to make, and it worked great!

Royal Icing

2 egg whites

1 Tablespoon water

1 pound powdered sugar

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites and water until foamy.  Add powdered sugar and whisk until thickened to desired consistency.

(I used my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, but I think you could even do this by hand.)

All in all, it was a really fun day with friends.  Surprisingly, it was not too messy either. Seriously! Andy and I  enjoyed decorating our own gingerbread houses too, so it definitely a fun activity for all ages.  We think these little houses are so much cuter than the store bough kits and so much easier than my usual 100% homemade house.  I’m sure they’ll become a yearly tradition in our house, and to me, family traditions are what make Christmas special.

Just Live Life Happy :: Gingerbread House Party

Elf on the Shelf 2013 {Update 2}

Posted in: Family, Fun

Here are a few more photos from Rainbow’s visit this year.

Just Live Life Happy :: Elf on the Shelf IdeasJust Live Life Happy :: Elf on the Shelf IdeasJust Live Life Happy :: Elf on the Shelf IdeasJust Live Life Happy :: Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Just Live Life Happy :: Elf on the ShelfJust Live Life Happy :: Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Read more

Elf on the Shelf 2013 {Update 1}

Posted in: Family, Fun

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life HappyOur Elf on the Shelf, Rainbow, is back again this year.  Just like last year, she arrived at our house on the morning after Thanksgiving, and she brought a special “North Pole Breakfast” and a few treats with her!

Every morning since then, we’ve awoken to find her waiting for us in a new place! Sometimes she’s simply hanging out…

Hanging out with our Toy Soldier

…like with our toy soldier,

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

 our Christmas Book Advent,

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

or watching a Christmas movie.

Some mornings she likes to have a little fun…

Elf on the Shelf Playing with Blocks

playing with blocks,

Getting Ready to Take a Bubble Bath

or taking a bubble bath.

Sometimes she does things to based on the official Elf on the Shelf Calendar.

Elf CalendarFor example, she wanted us to make brownies on “National Brownie Day,” December 8th.

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

We found her in the freezer eating ice cream on “National Ice Cream Day,” December 13th.

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

I wonder what she’ll be up to on “National Maple Syrup Day?” (December 17th)

Sometimes she brings treats…

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

…like Magic Elf Seeds that grew into these amazing Christmas Tree Cookie Pops,

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

or Gingerbread Cookie Mix,

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

or a dozen candy canes that she hid around Lauren’s bedroom.

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life HappyElf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

We really like treats!

Other days she bring crafts…

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

…like this paper chain so we can countdown the day until Christmas.

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

One morning we even found her covered in Christmas stickers.

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy  Silly Rainbow!

But by far, the coolest thing Rainbow has done so far this year, was set up this fun Half-Birthday Breakfast for Lauren.

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life HappyShe hung streamers

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happyand filled the floor with balloons.

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life Happy

She even set the table for a special breakfast of “North Pole Birthday Cake Batter Pancakes.”

Elf on the Shelf Just Live Life HappyHappy Half-Birthday Lauren!

With more than a  week until Christmas still we’re looking forward to even more fun and surprises from our favorite scout elf! Merry Christmas!

Autumn is Apple Time

Posted in: Fun

Here are some of the other apple activities we’ve done over the past several weeks.  I had planned to do more detailed posts, but I figured I’d at least share a few pictures and links…

Apple Oatmeal Fall Sensory Bin : Just Live Life Happy

Once again, this year Lauren enjoyed playing in an Apple Oatmeal Fall sensory bin.  You can read more about it in my original post here.

Cut Paper Apple:

Lauren is really into cutting right now.  I had originally planned for this activity to be done with torn pieces of red scrap paper, but it was a good time to practice cutting.

Cut Paper Apple Craft : Just Live LIfe Happy

First, she cut lot and lots and lots of red pieces.Cut Paper Apple Craft : Just Live LIfe Happy

Then, she used a paintbrush to spread glue onto a paper plate.  Next, she covered the entire plate in red.

Cut Paper Apple Craft : Just Live LIfe Happy

Finally, she added a brown piece and a green piece for the stem and leaf.

Marble Roll-Painted Apple Garland:

I was really excited about this painting activity. I though Lauren would be too since she LOVES painting, but I think she found getting the marble to roll a bit too challenging.  We’ll definitely try it again soon.

Marble Roll Painted Apple Garland

Place paper in a shallow cardboard box.  Roll marbles in paint and then roll them around on the paper.  Allow to try and display.

Marble Roll Painted Apple GarlandWe used an apple-shaped template to cut our’s out and strung them like a garland.

Marble Roll Painted Apple GarlandLauren preferred painting her own apples.

The last three activities are inspired by the blog Oopsey Daisy‘s “A is for Apple” MommySchool Packet. All the wonderful printables used are from this amazing packet.  I highly recommend you go and download it for yourself and your kiddies.  You’ll be glad you did!

Apple Hunt:

The MommySchool packet contains apple cards for each (uppercase) letter of the alphabet.  I printed our set off in color and laminated them.  After me trying to teach her for the past couple of years, Lauren is (finally) really into identifying all the letter right now, so this was perfect for her.

Alphabet Apple Hunt : Just Live LIfe Happy

When Lauren woke up from her nap, a basket and the first card were waiting for her at the top of the stairs.  Alphabet Apple Hunt : Just Live LIfe Happy

She searched down the stairs…Alphabet Apple Hunt : Just Live LIfe Happy

…and around the first floor for the rest of the alphabet.  She loved finding each letter and calling it out.  The possibilities for what you could do with these cute cards are endless!

My Apple Book:

I love this little apple book printable. It’s perfect for counting and one-to-one correspondence thru five.

My Apple Book : Just Live LIfe Happy

Lauren colored each page… My Apple Book : Just Live LIfe Happy

…and then she added the corresponding number of apples.  (Thanks to Granny, we had these cute apple stickers, but colored dot stickers or a BINGO marker would work great too.  You could even draw apple on.) I wrote the numeral on each page to help reinforce her recognition.  She was so cute, she wanted to try too! It made me really proud.  She’s SO motivated to learn and I love it!

The next day at school look at what they made…

Dot Sticker Apple Tree : Just Live Life Happy

 

I love this simple activity that reinforced the same math skills and also helped with cutting and identifying the circles (tree tops) and rectangles (tree trunks).

Apple Counting Cards:

These are another great download from the MommySchool Packet.  Again, I printed in color and laminated.

Apple Counting Cards : Just Live Life Happy

Lauren counted each set of dots and then added a colored “apple” pom-pom to show the total.  We practiced writing the numerals on with a dry erase marker at the end.

Did you see my other apple posts?

Stamped Tissue Paper Apple Tree

Check out my Stamped Tissue Paper Apple Tree here,

M&M Apple Sorting : Just Live Life Happy

and my  M&M Apple Sorting Activity here.