Let the countdown begin! The kids are excited that it’s nearly Christmas Eve and the big day is almost here. They are exhausted from staying up too late at a holiday party but it was so much fun seeing them party like a rock star till well past their bedtime.

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The meal plan for the week is focused on the next two days. One more party to attend and then we are hosting 11 adults and 6 kids on Christmas Day. I’m sharing our Christmas menu today if you need a little last minute inspiration. We have never hosted Christmas Day so the menu is a mix of family favorites. The rest of our week will be filled with leftovers, using up pantry staples and a night out for mom and dad.

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Christmas Day Menu

Appetizers: Cheese and Crackers, Shrimp Cocktail

Main Course: Glazed Ham, Green Bean Casserole, Corn Pudding, Cranberry Sauce

Dessert: Buckeye Balls, Congo Bars, French Meringues, Gingerbread Cookies and Chewy Molasses Cookies.

What are you making for Christmas Day? Is it a tradition or do you mix it up every year?

For more menu planning ideas, visit the Monday Meal Plan at Org Junkie every week!

The kids had a blast at the Royal Sonesta Hotel

I had the opportunity to check out the Royal Sonesta Boston hotel last weekend for a Boston Social Media holiday party. The hotel welcomed a group of local bloggers and their families for an afternoon of fun and great company. From the moment we entered the hotel, the staff was super nice and had the event well organized. I always love seeing hotels decorated for Christmas and took the opportunity to click a quick one of the kids in front of one the many decorated trees at the hotel.

Here are a few fun facts I learned about the Royal Sonesta Boston.

  • The hotel is great for kids. The indoor pool alone is a winner.

    Even the kids straws are special.

  • They have a composting program!
  • Lots of new green initiatives are in work for each hotel room.
  • They buy local when possible. The bar tools were purchased from a local shop in Somerville.
  • They make their own sodas. We had the Pomegranate Lime Black Pepper soda and it was amazing.
  • They give kids homemade play dough at their restaurants instead of paper and crayons.
  • The restaurants partner with local farmers to create farm to table inspired menus.

The event was a blast for both the kids and adults. The kids were entertained with crafts, play dough making, and cookie decorating. The adults enjoyed a civilized lunch while the babysitters from UrbanSitter watched our little ones. Ice cream sandwiches with homemade cookies finished off the  lovely afternoon.

Homemade play dough made in house.

Thank you to the Royal Sonesta Hotel for hosting us, and Niri and Isra for coordinating it all. Go team #BSMHoliday! To hear more about our Boston Social Media parties, here is my friend Lori from Groovy Green Livin’s recap. She shares more about what this group means to all of us.

I also want to mention our group has partnered with three charities for the holidays. Toys for Tots (we packed the bins at Burton’s Grill on Tuesday night!), Pediatric Cancer research and we adopted two families who were devastated by Superstorm Sandy.  If you are a tweeter, if you send out a tweet with the hashtag #Aflackids, Aflac will donate $2 towards pediatric cancer research for every tweet this holiday season.

Disclosure: We attended a complimentary event at the hotel. All opinions shared here are my own. 

As December begins, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the holiday season. Presents to buy, packages to ship, parties to attend…it takes a real effort to slow down and enjoy the littles details that come along with this wonderful holiday of ours.  I took a few minutes today to write down the activities that are really important for me to share with my kids.  When I think back to my own Christmas as a child, it wasn’t the presents I remember best, (although there was that really awesome My Little Pony Castle one year) but the small moments of togetherness that warms my heart. Favorite stories like the Santa Mouse, and making buckeye balls with my mom and sister, are the moments I cherish. In no particular order, here are the things I want to accomplish this holiday season with my family. In the comments, I would love to hear what you have on your list.

Holiday Bucket List

When I first spied glitter slime on Pinterest I was hooked. Such a fun project for the kids with a lasting toy to play with.  This only requires three ingredients: glitter glue, Borax, and water. It’s not too messy and it was easy to make with both a three year old and a one year old.

Ingredients
1 large glitter glue bottle (glitter glue pens are too small)
1 teaspoon Borax
1 cup of water plus 1 tablespoon

Instructions
1. Empty glitter glue bottle into a large bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon of water and swirl around to thin out the glue.

2. Mix 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon of Borax. Add to glue mixture.

3. Let the kids swirl it all together and it instantly becomes slime!

Madison was really excited to find pink glue to make for her and a friend. It was a great sensory experience for both children.

We are storing our slime in reused glass jars. Large baby food jars are a good size too.

Easy peasy. Here is a cute Google + album sharing pictures of our experience making this project a reality.  Happy Halloween everyone!!

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I love to hear your feedback and comments. Stop by and visit FacebookPinterest or Twitter for more conversation!  Or get posts delivered via Email or RSS Feed. This post is shared with Green Your Way.

Source: More Design Please

I love this idea for Memorial Day. So did a lot of other people when I noticed my pin was repined almost 500 times in one day.  There are so many fun holiday decorating ideas I want to do, but I hesitate sometimes because of my goal to reduce our intake of synthetic food dyes. Check out my earlier post on why it may be important for your family to make the switch.

If you are looking to make the switch to natural food dyes, I found a few options online that look good.

The India Tree Natural Decorating Coloursis a good option for coloring frosting or a batter.

The India Tree All Natural Nature’s Colors Decorating Sugars Variety Setis an investment.  The price we pay for natural ingredients I guess.  The blue should work for making these patriotic strawberries. Maybe lighten it up with a little white sugar.  You can make them for both Memorial Day and 4th of July parties!
Check out more Summer Holiday inspiration on my Pinterest Board! What are you making this weekend?

I am in love with holiday decorating. Easter included.  Time to decorate those eggs!  This year I finally took some time to do some egg dying with natural ingredients.  Everything came from what I already had in the house.

I bought generic white eggs.  I went with hard boiled instead of blowing them out because I was wasn’t sure if my kids could handle something so delicate.  Cook for at least 15 mins on a simmer to avoid cracks.

I did some clean out of the fridge/freezer and cabinet to test out a few options.  The blueberries soaked in water for about an hour.  Others were boiled for about 20 minutes to draw out the colors.

Once the liquid was ready, I divided it up into smaller containers and added about one teaspoon of vinegar per one cup of liquid.

Cover the area with a large cloth or newspaper as this got messy when the eggs were dropped in!

We got used the following and let the eggs sit in the mixture overnight.

Spinach~ light green
Cranberries~ light pink…I would strain in a cheese cloth before doing this again.  I got funny bubbles on the eggs
Pomegranate tea~ turned green over night!  Originally was pink
Carrots~ light yellow
Red wine~ brown, almost prehistoric looking.
Beet juice~ (very) light pink
BLUEBERRIES~ dark blue. Favorite of all the eggs by far.

We drained them on a cookie cooling rack.  I didn’t care about little marks as it just adds to their character. This was an easy kids activity when adult can make the natural dyes at the stove ahead of time.  The eggs are safe to eat as long as they are refrigerated.  Find more egg dying ideas on my Pinterest Board.  Next up for me are some chalkboard eggs!

Happy Easter and Passover to all!

A little red pancakes anyone?  I had some leftover beets and needed to use them up since the kids were not into them plain.  I found the Red Beet Pancake recipe from Weelicious and tested it out this weekend.  Madison ate 3 hearts before we even got to sit down together. This recipe was a winner!

Here is the recipe, with a few of my tweaks.  I altered the flour ratio so there is a higher amount of whole wheat instead of white flour.  I have found that most baked goods have a better end result when I keep some of the white flour in the recipe.  It adds a little more gluten to the mix and helps with the leavening.

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white all-purpose flour
3 Tbl brown sugar
1 Tbl baking powder
1/2 Tsp kosher salt
1 can of beets (original recipe calls for roasted beets…canned was fine.)
1 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 egg
3 Tbl melted butter
1 Tsp vanilla

Instructions
-Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
-Drain beets. (I saved the beet juice to use as food coloring for Valentine’s Day cookies this week.)
-Puree the beets and measure out 3/4 of a cup.
-Mix all wet ingredients together. Combine with dry until well blended.

Someone woke up in time to help stir the batter

-Drop a 1/4 cup of batter onto a buttered griddle plan. Cook for about 3 minutes per side.

We used heart cookie cutters to celebrate Valentine’s Day once the pancakes were cool enough to handle.

I served it with some of the leftover Wallababy Greek Yogurt for the little guy. The Greek yogurt is great for spreading as it’s thick enough to adhere to pancakes, rice cakes or bread.

He was awfully happy about his breakfast.

If he eats more than what’s on the floor by the end of the meal, it’s worth repeating.  Plus he like playing with the yogurt.

How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day?
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Disclosure: I was provided samples of the new Wallababy Organic Greek yogurt.  The opinions shared here are my own.  This post is shared with Seasonal Celebrations, Tasty Tuesday Tidbits and Your Green Resource.  

10 Non-Candy Valentines Day Ideas

Guess what.  Valentine’s Day is coming upPe.  You may not make a big deal about it, but your kids classroom might.  That means getting an updated class list, making sure you have enough Valentine’s Day cards that work for the boys and the girls.  Then you have to decide if you are going to give candy in a cute little gift bag.

As I try to limit my kids exposure to the synthetic food dyes, I’ve tried to come up with a fun list of candy alternatives for the classroom.  This list is geared to the preschool/elementary age.  If you have other suggestions, I would love for you to share them in the comment section.

  • Stickers~ get a couple of packages and give a sheet for each child on your list.  We go through stickers so fast in our house, I’m always happy to get something new to decorate paper (or people.)
  • Craft supplies~ new Crayons, Markers, Chalk.
  • Bubbles~ spring is just around the corner!
  • Temporary Tattoos
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Musical trinkets~ little kazoo?
  • Healthy Snacks~ Annie’s fruit snacks come in fun-size packages, or pretzels. (better than candy!)
  • Homemade Cookies or Granola Bars 
  • Play dough
  • Pencils. (love this cute printable!)

At my daughter’s school, the choice was made easy this year.  There are so many food allergies that there is no candy allowed.  The kids will celebrate with a big party on Tuesday and pass out Valentine’s Day cards. (see my Pin for the card I’m going to make.)  I will be making sugar cookies, and I think I’ll just pass on the Red Dye #40 sprinkles. 😉

If you have a little free time and $2.50 to spend, this owl printable sheet is adorable! Print on sticker paper and cut out using a circle punch.  So cute!!

Source: Etsy via CherryClipArt

 

Do your kids pass around Valentine’s Day cards?  

Creative uses for excess wrapping paper ideas
As the holidays come to a close, do you have piles of random wrapping paper scraps? Maybe it’s time to create some storage space in the attic and use up some of the random pieces you have been saving.

There is a great picture gallery on the now defunct Whole Living.com full of ideas of what else you can do with the leftovers. It also serves as an inspiration to buy prettier wrapping paper that is less holiday specific so you can get more life from it, and use it year round. Some other easy ideas are:
  • Cover your table with the opposite side of the holiday wrapping paper and let the kids go to town coloring such a giant canvas
  • Laminate some flat pieces and create cute placemats for the kids
  • Create a banner to use in the winter or save for the next holiday season
  • Line your drawers
  • Shred for packing needs
  • Build a Christmas cone pine tree
  • Celebrate holiday photos and use wrapping paper as a mat
If you need ideas of how to organize your gift wrap and tissue paper, I shared an easy project of how to sort through it all and make it so much easier to quickly wrap a gift before the next party.