Friday, December 30, 2011

friday fun finds: top workout clothing for keeping resolutions

apparently the number one resolution every year involves exercise and losing weight. it makes sense, right? who doesn't want a fresh, new start to the new year? here are my favorite workout items to help you achieve your goals in the new year. enjoy! what is *your* new years resolution? do tell.

**note: this post is not sponsored by lululemon and we were not compensated in any way for writing this. the opinions are our own. i am simply obsessed with the brand. if you haven't tried it yet, you must. worth every penny. my booty has never looked this good. truly. **

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

i'm pretty sure i've earned a day off

i think that after the "festive" season of the year, mothers worldwide deserve a day off. maybe we should schedule it together...a day we could meet at starbucks and then hit the movies to watch something our spouses would complain about, a day we could meet for lunch and then read books while getting mani's and pedi's. i'm pretty sure we have earned it.

somewhere in the middle of all the holiday bliss, it seems to have fallen on the mothers to create the "magic" of christmastime. i don't know about your own families, but in my house, the burden of christmas shopping, wrapping, organizing, budgeting, decorating, cooking, and cleaning falls on my shoulders. it's not enough anymore either to simply to provide presents for your family on christmas morning. it's now our responsibility to somehow foster in our children a greater sense of the gratitude of the season, create a spirit of giving in the midst of an "i want" society, and to practice traditions that our kids can enjoy for years to come. add the social media onto that and you've got the pressure of reading about mothers who are dressing their "elf on the shelf" up on various barbie type ensembles to add to the allure of the season, creating homemade crafts for each day their children are away from school, and baking the most complicated and time consuming recipes to take pictures of and then post for the rest of us to envy. my own mother told me her "schedule of events" for her christmas week with my siblings. it was like christmas on crack. seriously, could there be any more pressure? add the "joy" of holiday company and it's a wonder we all survive.

i read several christmas day facebook posts and found that the vast majority of those posting "best christmas ever!" were males. it figures. most of the moms were either popping open a bottle of wine, hitting the christmas fudge or were already passed out in bed from utter exhaustion. some may have done all three. no judgement here if that was you.

i'm sure there has to be a study somewhere monitoring the amount of domestic discord that goes on between a lot of spouses around christmastime. i know there has to be an increase in the number of arguments because i've listened to my own friends telling me how frustrated they are. the stress level for mothers universally rises for the entire month of december. add to that husbands who don't understand what all the fuss is about and you've got a recipe for disaster.

so, here's what i really want for christmas each year...a day off. when the tree is packed away and all the visitors have left the premises, when all the new christmas toys have been organized and the house has been re-cleaned, i want a day completely to myself. i want a day where my biggest question is, "what do i want to do today?" and then i want to act on it. i don't want to get out of bed until i feel like it. i want to eat out completely alone (or maybe with a girlfriend) and spend time reading a book. i want to return home when the kids are in bed and spend a few moments with my husband. for one day during the holiday season, i'd like a day to be selfish. i know, that goes against the spirit of the season, but i think for one day, the season will understand. what do you think? who's with me?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: greek lemon chicken soup

we hope that you all had a wonderful day together with family yesterday and that santa brought you everything that you wanted. 

for my family, we decided to forgo the usual feast of ham, turkey and all the fixin's and have a yummy trio of soups. we served baked potato soup, red and black bean chili with cornbread and greek lemon soup; they were all amazing and it was the most simple and satisfying christmas meal to date. you can find the link to the baked potato soup here, if interested (it's amazing). i will post the chili recipe next monday and the greek lemon chicken soup is below. 

greek lemon chicken soup

4 chicken breasts (or 2 rotisserie chickens)
2 cups lemon juice (usually 6-8 lemons)
3 tablespoons lemon herb seasoning (the trade winds brand from smart & final is amazing)
3 qt chicken broth
3 eggs (beaten)
3 cups of cooked rice (i have used quinoa too and it was great!)

boil the chicken in 2qts water for approximately 15 minutes.
shred the chicken with a fork into bite sized strips.
(or you can buy 2 rotisserie chickens and simply remove the meat and cut into bite sized strips)

add chicken to a large pot (either the shredded chicken you cooked or the rotisserie you didn't). 

add lemon juice, chicken broth and lemon herb seasoning. bring to a boil. 

take some of the hot broth from the pot and SLOWLY add to the beaten eggs, stirring constantly. (this brings the eggs closer to the temp of the soup). 

add the eggs VERY SLOWLY to the hot soup mixture, stirring constantly so that the eggs don't clump.

add the cooked rice and return the soup to a boil. 

serve and enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

friday fun finds-- top christmas cookie recipes

christmas is upon us and i am baking up a storm! here are my favorite recipes of the season. enjoy!

this idea has gone viral and i am not sure where it first came from. you can bake brownies from scratch (as in the recipe link), but my plan is to buy brownie bites at costco, strawberries and icing and simply assemble. they are so easy to make and couldn't be cuter.
(photo credit:

i think that these are a little time consuming, but they were a tradition in my home growing up. looking forward to making them. buttery and delicious.

a yearly tradition in nellie's house. fun and simple.

adorable! what fun to make with the kiddos!

you had me at paula dean. won't this make a lovely hostess gift?


couldn't be cuter!

the fastest desert. to make and eat. they will be gone in a flash.

they are made with no egg so you (or your kiddos) can eat the dough. (not that i have ever done that--hee, hee).

so easy and so good. a great crowd pleaser.

this will be my first time making these....but don't they look heavenly?

what is *your* favorite holiday baking recipe?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

diy -- wall magnetic tray for toddlers

while i love the look of stainless steel, i was disappointed when we had children that we would miss out on all the cool, educational magnetic toys that are available. then along came pinterest (if you haven't discovered it yet, you must. it is so amazingly addicting. but i digress...perhaps we devote a whole post to pinterest?) 

i found a link to a blog where this *brilliant* woman had the idea to use an oil pan (yes. from an automotive store) mounted on the wall as a magnetic surface. 
i promptly went out and purchased two fabulous fridge leap frog items and it has provided my kiddos with countless hours of entertainment. 

if you are looking for an inexpensive way to entertain the kiddos during the holiday break or another inexpensive christmas gift, this is it!

note: you will need to clean the oil pan quite a bit before mounting it to the wall (it has quite a greasy film on it), but I just used some clorox spray and it came off rather quickly. also, we used wood screws to mount the pan directly into the fabulous painted wood paneling in the play room, but the blogger that originally came up with idea used velcro. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: white chocolate peppermint bark

white chocolate peppermint bark
i grew up in a house where both my mother and sister were allergic to chocolate (worst allergy ever, in my opinion). apparently, white chocolate is not the same (it doesn't contain the actual cocoa, that is the culprit) so it was a free-for-all in our home. this white chocolate peppermint bark recipe i can't take credit is from the fabulous paula dean (as are most things of greatness). it would have been a huge hit in my childhood home. looking for something to do with all of those candy canes that have been collecting? this is it. try it. you will love it. enjoy!

crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
2 pounds white chocolate
peppermint flavorings, optional

place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller.

melt the chocolate in a double boiler. 

combine candy cane chunks with chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.)

pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. 

remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

friday fun finds: must-have christmas albums

i have a slight obsession addiction with christmas. it's everything really: the lights, the traditions, the spirit......but most of all i adore the music. i have been under the personal assumption that i quite possibly may have the largest collection of holiday diddies in the entire universe....but it pales in comparison to the one of my dear friend and christmas soul mate, brian. with his help, we have come up with the best (in our self-proclaimed expert opinions) christmas albums of all time. enjoy!

dare i say this may be my *favorite* christmas album of all times? when it comes to christmas music the crooners just dominate.

a beautiful, timeless classic. you can't go wrong with his version of "the christmas song".

throwing a holiday party? this album will have everyone in a happy, festive mood. 

there are certain songs or albums that bring you back to moments in time and help you recall happy memories. this is brian's personal all-time childhood favorite.

a amazing album by an equally as amazing christian group. if you haven't heard their music yet, you are missing out....but certainly don't pass on this christmas album.

i find mr. connick and his voice simply dreamy. all of his christmas albums are fantastic but this happens to be my personal favorite.

one might not immediately think of christmas when you hear the name garth brooks, but this album and his version of "home for the holidays" is divine.

james taylor + christmas. enough said.

a terrific instrumental that brings back childhood memories.

mariah carey--merry christmas
i realise that people either love or hate mariah carey....especially when it comes to christmas. we are in the "love" camp. she wrote "all i want for christmas is you" and it is still one of my all time favorite christmas songs. some may call it a little boppy or cheesy, but i adore it.

phineas and ferb holiday favorites
if your kids are big disney channel or phineas and ferb fans buy this album. it is funny and cute and bottom line is that the kids *love* it.

both brian and i are giant muppet fans (it may be a major reason of why we are friends) that aside, this album is a personal childhood favorite. i remember watching the special air on television and i have tried in vain to find a video recording of it somewhere in existence. the version of "12 days of christmas" that is on this album is hilarious.....seriously. miss piggy belting "5 gold rings"? you had me at miss piggy.

you just can't go wrong with steve tyrell....and his christmas album is no exception. his voice makes me swoon.

there is just something about karen carpenter's voice that is so soothing and hypnotic. her voice + christmas tunes = pure magic.

i had this album growing up and it is one of those that i know every word to every song. the words simply evoke so many memories for me.

the beautiful harmonies that this christian group creates are a not-miss.

personally, i am not a part of the josh groban fan club. now don't get all worked up and leave a bunch of mean comments....i think he has an amazing voice. really, i do. i wouldn't purchase and listen to his albums in general.....but his christmas album is down right beautiful. 

they are the "it" group and their christmas album does not disappoint. a perfect gift for that country fan on your christmas list.

did we forget about *your* favorite christmas album? please. do tell. leave a comment. we would love for you to help enable our christmas music purchasing addiction. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

birthday blessings...

today i turn another year older. chach has a december birthday as well. i am officially eleven days older but we have a remarkable thing in common. each december we get to celebrate not only another calendar year ending and a new one beginning, but another year of our own lives that has come and gone as well. after spending a day reflecting on the year that has come to an end, i feel the need to share a few things i'm thankful for. perhaps it can spur on a moment of thankfulness of your own.

i'm thankful for health. this last year, one of my good girlfriends passed away from cancer. another friend lost his life in a tragic car accident. other amazing girlfriends are battling hard against cancer. friends have faced sick children beyond what i can even comprehend. the young parents of my friends have passed away from various illnesses. i will never take the health of my family for granted. each day that i wake up and find that my biggest health complaint is another child with an ear infection is a day worthy of rejoicing. sometimes i have to stop myself from thinking that my life is difficult because i have two kids with colds at once. may i always have eyes to see things from a proper perspective and remember to be thankful for the huge blessing of a healthy family.

i'm thankful for this new baby and the kids and husband i already have. sure, i joke about my "never-had-a-baby-body." i have shared frustrations with people who have said things perhaps they shouldn't about this fifth pregnancy. there are days when my own children push me to limits i didn't think i could handle. here's, however, what i thought about today. my friends who have suffered miscarriage after miscarriage have been the biggest supporters of my fifth baby. one friend who had a complete hysterectomy in her 20's wonders what it would be like to lose her "never-had-a-baby-body." having a handful of children to care for at home is a dream for some women who would give anything to be mother at all. no matter what sacrifices are made, what difficulties are faced, or how much work is involved, these kids are my greatest blessings. having an amazing husband to share this experience with is an fantastic bonus.

i'm thankful for an amazing place to live. i love my house. i love my neighborhood and my current hometown. this, however is not what i'm referring to when i say i live in an amazing place. i lived overseas for over five years. my first three children were born while living in a foreign country. i know what it is like to live in the murder capital of the world. i know what it is like to look behind my back as i walk with my children in the evenings to make sure we're not being followed. i've fought in the grocery store over a bag of sugar and a carton of milk. i've been medically evacuated out of a country due to poor medical care. we've ridden in armored cars and traveled from one town to another only with large assault weapons accompanying us. i've been on email lists that tell me when a butcher has meat to sell, which grocery stores have been stocked with basic food products, and when the u.s. embassy will be able to provide food that we can't purchase elsewhere. i've lived in places where freedoms we daily take for granted are beyond what is currently possible. we live in an amazing place and we're amazingly spoiled. we find so much to complain about, from leadership to politics to economics, to a grocery store being out of a specialty item we are looking for. we need to learn to be thankful. the line to get into this country is still long. we are blessed enough to call it home. that's something to be grateful for.

i'm thankful for the freedom to be me. i get to blog whatever i want and, not only am i allowed to, but there is a select group of people who actually want to hear what i have to say. i am grateful. i get to go to church and worship without persecution. martyrs are being made the world over and yet i am able to attend services completely unharmed. i am thankful. i have girlfriends who are selfless and kind and who encourage me on a daily basis. i don't have to be someone that i am not when i am around them. they love me for me and i love each and every one of them. they are some of my greatest blessings.

along with the big things, i'm pretty content in the small things of the day too. i'm thankful that i was able to shower, wash and dry my hair, and shave both legs, all on the same day. i'm thankful for a starbucks chai tea latte, something that brightens any day. i'm thankful for love and hugs and kisses from my family. i'm thankful for facebook and a litany of happy birthday wishes from people who span my entire lifetime. i'm thankful for the haagen dazs ice cream bar that is waiting for me in the freezer once i finish writing. most of all, i'm thankful that today begins another year of this amazing life i have been given. while my journey may be different than i ever imagined it would be, i am blessed beyond belief...and indescribably grateful.

birthday love

sending out a little birthday love to the other half of the third boob, nellie! so thankful for you and our friendship. xoxo chach

Monday, December 12, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: christmas wreath rice-krispie treats

i'm a big fan of rice krispie treats...partially because i love them and partially because they are so simple and can be made into so many different things. here's one for Christmas.

Christmas wreath rice-krispie treats

1 cube (1/2 cup) of butter

1 bag of mini-marshmallows

several drops of green food coloring

12 cups of rice-krispies

red m & m's or red hots

tube of red icing

melt the marshmallows and butter over medium hit until smooth. add the green food coloring. add the rice-krispies and mix well until all of the cereal is coated in the green marshmallow mixture. spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. (it also helps to spray your hands as well). form the mixture by cup fulls into green rings. once cool, decorate with the red icing as bows and attach the red candies with bits of frosting. enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

friday fun finds: perfect gifts for the person who has everything

i don't know about you, but i always have someone on my gift list that is exceptionally hard to buy for. i have heard of beer, wine and cigar of-the-month clubs.....but this is the first i have stumbled upon a beauty product of-the-month club. not only do i think that it is the *perfect* gift for the gal on your list that is hard to shop for, but I want them for myself as well (of course). enjoy!

every 3 months, test tube subscribers will receive four different exciting tubes filled with 10 deluxe samples of the latest and best beauty products. the value of the samples you’ll receive will always significantly exceed the subscription price. you will be charged $29.95 (plus $8.95 for shipping and handling) as each new test tube is sent to you. not only do you get to try many fun products, you will also receive the new beauty magazine and a $20 gift card to spend at

i personally received a test tube in the mail and am *in love* with many of the products and know that i will be purchasing several in the near future. what a great gift to give yourself or someone at the holidays.

glossybox is delivered to your door monthly in a beautiful pale pink box and is filled with 5 high-end samples of fabulous beauty products. it is a fantastic way to try new products on the market as well as timeless classics. the cost is £10.00 per month (plus shipping and handling) and not only do they have a monthly box for women, but they now have introduced a quarterly version for the men in your life as well. 

i think both options are swoon worthy and simply divine. stop going to the malls during this insane time of year and treat your gift list to a tube or a box of beauty.....i pinkie promise that you won't be sorry you did.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas traditions continued...

last week we posted some of our favorite Christmas traditions. this truly is our favorite time of the year and we are thrilled to share a few more activities that get us into the holiday spirit. if you have any other amazing ideas, please share them with us. we'd love to spread great ideas on with others. here are a few more of our favorites.

advent calendars - there are so many cute advent calendars out there. i love the ones you can fill with your own special treats each year. i love the idea of not just filling the little boxes up with candy but also adding personal and meaningful touches for each day. one friend of mine shared the idea of putting little coupons in some of the days. she does a coupon for a hot chocolate night, a Christmas movie night, a cookie baking day and other fun activities for your children to enjoy. as you are doing these in advance, you could also include fun day or night trips that you typically do at Christmas time to coincide with the perfect day for the planned activity. another friend put little nativity ornaments in certain days with the baby Jesus arriving on Christmas eve. as the ornaments are pulled from the calendar, they can be placed on the Christmas tree and then reused the following year. regardless of what you put in the calendar, this activity can build excitement for the holiday the whole month through.

Christmas train - wherever you live, chances are that somewhere, somewhat nearby there is a santa train. for our family, this has been a great opportunity to spend some time together as a family and enjoy a moment with santa as well. we are big "polar express" fans so this brings out the excitement in the youngest and oldest kids alike. search for a santa train in your area and made a new tradition out of it. most tickets can be purchased in advance and you'll love adding another magical outing with your kids at Christmastime.

Christmas cards - this is one activity that i alone take part in but where we all reap the benefits of. taking pictures for a family Christmas card can be exhausting and enough to pull anyone out of the Christmas spirit. still, every year we force ourselves to get some pictures together and make a card. the printing of the cards can be an added Christmas expense and the stamps can about push you over the edge but we have made giving Christmas cards a priority and we haven't been sorry. having lived in many different locations since we've been married, we have friends literally sprinkled across the globe. this is our one chance each year to let all of our friends know that, regardless of where they might be, they are not forgotten. that is worth every penny. when we receive cards in return, the kids love to see all the faces of people they once knew and to hear the stories about how we know our friends, near and far. it's a way to bring everyone a little bit closer during the holiday season and we will forever be thankful for that.

Christmas movies - i grew up watching Christmas movies from november on. i love to sit and watch them still and some of the classics are my all time favorites. my all time favorite movie that tells the Biblical Christmas story is "the very first noel." this sweet little movie with the entire nativity story set to rhyme is perfect for kids from toddlers on. it never ceases to make me tear up. there are so many other great holiday films from "elf" to "miracle on 34th street" that you can literally watch an new movie every night and not run out of options. make december a month of family movie nights and let the festivities begin!

Christmas lights - we are fortunate to live in an area where there is a small (and i do mean very tiny) town nearby that is completely dedicated to decorating with Christmas lights. this place is magical and is definitely worth sitting in traffic for a half of an hour or more to get through. if you have any place nearby that goes "all out" with the Christmas lights, make the trip. there is nothing like seeing the wonder in the eyes of kids as they are exposed to the sparkle of millions of little lights. you can't help but get wrapped up in the beauty of it all.
Christmas lights/Christmas tree lanes

now it's your turn to share. what do you do to celebrate with your family during this festive time of year?

Monday, December 5, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: oreo balls

let the holiday baking begin! this recipe actually doesn't involve baking at all and is pretty amazing any time of the year. still, i tend to throw these into a cookie box for our friends each year and they are always a favorite of everyone who tries them. really, the "oreo balls" title just isn't sufficient...there should be something totally obscene in the title of these little treats...they are just that good.

oreo balls

one package oreo cookies

one 8 oz. block of cream cheese

white chocolate or white candy coating for dipping

place the oreos (i do one sleeve at a time) into a food processor or blender and blend until they become a fine powder. pulverize the entire package and place into a large mixing bowl. add the 8 oz. of cream cheese, softened. mix the oreo puree and the cream cheese with your hands until thoroughly mixed together. there will be no oreo crumbs and the mixture will form a soft ball.

pull off quarter sized clumps of the mixture and form into 3/4 inch to one inch balls. place on a large cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator to harden slightly. after about 30 minutes, remove from the refrigerator and dip each ball in white chocolate. place back on the cookie sheet and cool again in the refrigerator until coating is set.

if you're feeling creative, you can add Christmas sprinkles to make them more festive. i'm not sure it's necessary as they will be eaten in about five minutes. seriously, try to eat just one.