Thursday, December 29, 2011

can i linger here?

Well, we wrapped up Christmas this morning when the last of family pulled out of town.  We returned home, packed away the Christmas decorations, and assembled the $10 bookshelves we scored at Ikea yesterday.

w/the grandparents
with the grandparents on christmas day

We had great Christmas Eve and Christmas day celebrations.  As always I forgot to take photos of the kids opening gifts.  I always feel like I'll miss out on seeing their happy faces.  And they were happy.  They got new bikes for Christmas (they were literally gifts from it when He miraculously provides), and of course, the family spoiled them with Lego sets and art supplies.

w/the aunt & uncle
with uncle brian & aunt arien

It always feels a wee bit sad when Christmas ends.  I love having the decorations up.  I love the excuse to bake.  I love remembering why we celebrate Christmas.  It's a beautiful time.  Hope you also had a beautiful Christmas and that your New Year is happy!  I'll see you back here on Monday.   

Friday, December 23, 2011

christmas crafting here and there

I've really tried to think ahead before this Christmas season started, so I could enjoy it and not be stressed.  It's really paid off (I hope my family would say the same.)  From sewing reusable bags throughout the year to researching and planning gift giving further in advance (which included setting aside review products for Christmastime to help with the budget), I went into this week feeling ready to relax and soak in kiddo time since they were out of school.

christmas cookies

We've tried to bake lots of cookies together, because I do believe cookies should be readily available this time of year.  Sugar cookies, chocolate chip sea salt cookies, shortbread, snickerdoodles, there's still some we missed, however.

snowman potato print

potato print bunting

And of course I can't go a holiday without some kind of craft.  We decided to do some potato prints this year.  A bag of cookies cutters for $1 at Dollar Tree have already proved useful.  We made a potato print banner and the kids made potato print Christmas cards to attach to the bread bags and apple butter for their teachers.

in a bread bag

Yes, it was another year of homemade bread and apple butter to gift to their teachers.  It was such a hit last year that nothing else seemed to be right.  The kids were so excited to hand them out.  I went a little crazy baking 9 loaves of bread without being able to cut into a single one.  That's a sacrifice I was willing to make. :)

the girls with santa

jman with santa

We have never taken the kids for pics with Santa mainly because we just don't really do Santa, but this year they unintentionally had two photo opps with the bearded a local church kid's Christmas event and at Sea Life Aquarium where Santa dove into the tank with Rudolph and they made Christmas ornaments.

scuba santa

I feel like this blog has been a busy place lately, so I'm going to leave it loose until the beginning of the year.  I might pop in after the holidays or I might not.  My number one priority is to beat everyone at games play as many games as I can and eat cookies for at least one meal a day.

Hope you have a beautiful Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior!  Here's a little Christmas greeting from Alvin and myself...

*Santa photos were taken by a gal at the church.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

tj and the time stumblers : oops {review}


I love finding fun books that teach a good value for my 9 year old reader.  Bill Myers' TJ and the Time Stumblers series do just that. Oops is the third book in the series and it continues the adventures of TJ Finkelstein and her "helpers" from the 23rd century, Tuna and Herby.  Tuna and Herby study TJ as she learns valuable lessons that she will need to become a world leader.  This unlikely trio stumble into one catastrophe after another while learning the importance of values such as love, honesty, patience, and kindness.

There's several things about this book that I love.  One, it's about kids on an adventure.  With elephants running through the school hallways, you know the imagination is running wild.  I love that it brings that element to the reader.  Two, there's a soft spot as the book talks about TJ's memories of her mom since she died of cancer a year ago.  It adds humor, though, when talking about dad's attempt at meal making with a menu of semi-frozen foods.  Third, in the midst of all the fun adventures, there's lessons that are learned.  Just like life, God teaches us along the journey.

If your child likes adventure, then I would definitely recommend Oops!  Just be warned...they might start talking about African elephants running around town. :)

Disclosure: I received TJ and the Time Stumblers Oops! for free from Tyndale House in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

fun, happy smiles

A week and a half ago, I took family photos for this lovely family.  They were so much fun to photograph!  These are a few of my favorites...

  with the yellow leaves

looking up




soft smile

hand in hand

Linking up with And Then, She Snapped for Show Off Your Shot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

holiday bokeh

I really like crisp, clear images, but there's something about bokeh that's very, very cool.  Slightly blurred lights make for such a cool effect!  I took these with my 35mm f/1.8 lens.  There's great tutorials at I Heart Faces on capturing bokeh, even if all you have is a kit lens.

christmas tree bokeh

pom pom bokeh

candy cane bokey

eating a cookie

looking through the ornament

Linking up with the I Heart Faces Bokeh Challenge!


Monday, December 19, 2011

l.a. at night

Finally, I'm sharing the night shots I took of L.A. while staying at the Four Seasons for the Alvin And The Chipmunks : Chipwrecked press junket.  My 12th floor balcony was a perfect place to set my camera for some fun night photography.   Although, it was incredibly windy (did y'all hear about the recent winds there?) and I was trying very hard to make sure my camera didn't fall 12 stories down.

alvin poster at night

buildings in the distance

l.a. at night

The more I do night photography, the more I actually like it.  Do you see the Alvin movie poster in one of the shots??

Linking up with Communal Global for Sneak Peeks Around The World.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

best chicken tortilla recipe ever

There's days that I absolutely love social media.  A quick question on getting soup ideas for dinner and I got an awesome chicken tortilla recipe from my friend, Kristi.  Now I've made chicken tortilla soup before but it didn't taste near as good as this.  I'm telling you, you have to try it.  Here's the original recipe with Kristi's suggestions in parenthesis which I think are very helpful.

chicken tortilla soup

Don Pablo's Tortilla Soup
Yield: 12 servings

3 Split Breasts (I used 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast)
1 Gallon Water (I use 4 cups low sodium chicken broth & 12 cups of water)
3 sliced Carrots
3 Celery Stalks (I didn't use celery.)
1/2 C. Chopped Onion
2 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
4 tsp. Salt (I usually cut that down about half)
1 tsp. White Pepper
1 tsp. Black Pepper
1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (Omit this if you want it less spicy.)
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1/4 C. Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1 Can Rotel Tomatoes — Mild
1/2 Pint Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 Can Corn, drained
1 Bag Corn Tortillas
12 Ounces Monterey Jack Cheese

Boil chicken, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, salt and peppers in water/broth for 1-2 hours. Remove chicken and let cool. Add Rotel, cilantro, corn, and cumin to the pot. Stir well. Remove chicken from the bone and add to the pot. Add cream just to get color and thickness.

Cut tortillas in strips and fry in peanut oil (I toss them in olive oil and bake them). This is where you can add the spice to yours and not the kids ... I sprinkle ours with cayenne pepper and leave the kids' plain. It adds the cayenne to it without having to have a whole pot of spicy soup :). Put tortillas in bottom of bowl, sprinkle with cheese and pour soup on top.

Thanks so much to Kristi for passing along this amazing recipe!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

pop-arty! beads

Pop. Arty.  I mean, don't those two words together just sound like fun?  Well, they are a bucket full o' fun!  Yes, a bucket that comes with 500 pieces of snap together jewelry including 12 rings and 6 bracelets. Pop-Arty! beads say they are for ages 4-10 but honestly I'm way above that age range, and found them so much fun.

pop-arty! beads

I love anything that inspires creativity which is the number one reason I love Pop-Arty! beads.  They come with a booklet of ideas but with so many different beads, the possibilities are endless.  I also love that you can change pieces out so you can create entirely different looks. 

pop bead bracelet

I've really been impressed with the B. line of toys.  There's something that draws my eye every time I walk past them at Target.  The colors, the simple style of their toys, and their recyclable packaging make me feel like I'm buying a product that my kids will love and I will feel good about giving to them.  I also love that every toy comes with a gift tag, and some even wrap themselves, so they are ready for gifting!
"At the end of the day, our goal is to be bigger than a toy company.
We want to be a voice to children that says it’s okay to be curious, to be pensive, to be loud, to be happy and sad all at the same time, to be generous, to be afraid, to be quiet, to be wild, to be fun, to be open, to be scientific, to be poetic, to be giddy, to be serious, to be smart, to be free, to be you.
Just B. Just you. B. you."

pop beads

And if you know me, you know that I absolutely LOVE buying gifts that give back.  For every B. toy purchased, 10 cents is donated to Free The Children whose goal is to "free children from poverty and exploitation and free young people from the notion that they are powerless to effect positive change."

Check out the line of B. toys at Target and select specialty stores.

B. Toys on the web

B. Toys on Twitter

B. Toys on Facebook

Disclosure: I received a free bucket of Pop-Arty! beads from B. Toys to facilitate this review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, December 16, 2011

hanging in l.a. with the chipmunks

alvin and the chipmunks

While I was in L.A. at the press junket for Alvin And The Chipmunks : Chipwrecked, I was able to "talk" to the chipmunks.  Now I'll just have you know that this was waaaaaay out of my comfort zone!  Which is why I did it.  I am not an actor at all, so when there's people filming you and doing sound and directing you AND people waiting behind you for their turn, well, it's a bit intimidating.  BUT I'm so glad I did it anyway.  I didn't want to get home and wish I would have done it.  It was worth it for the sheer pleasure of seeing my kids smile and laugh as they watched.  So, if you want to smile and laugh today, watch as I got the inside scoop from the chipmunks since I was first on the island...

I also talked to Alvin exclusively and did my best to sound like a chipmunk.  Much harder than it "sounds." :)

Alvin And The Chipmunks : Chipwrecked comes out TODAY!  You can read my full review at Today's Mama as well as interviews with director, Mike Mitchell, producers, Ross Bagdasarian and Janice Karman, and actor, Jason Lee, aka Dave Seville.  Did you know it's the only G rated movie out this holiday season?  I think it's a winner for both kids and parents!

To celebrate the release of the movie and because I think it's amazing how well the chipmunks harmonize, I have the movie soundtrack to give away!  It's a really fun mix of songs.  Shipping is to U.S. addresses only, but feel free to leave a comment no matter where you live.  If you don't want to enter or you live internationally, please just put that you are not entering in the comments section.  Otherwise I'll count all entries.  Giveaway will end Monday, December 19th at 9 pm CST when random number generator will choose a winner!  Please make sure I have a way to contact you should you win.

While in L.A. I also attended a screening of We Bought A Zoo.  Read my review on Today's Mama and enter to win a $25 Fandango gift card!


Linking up with Jennifer @ Studio JRU for Sneak Peek Friday, because my creativeness went beyond my borders for a day. :)  Also, if you were visiting last week and saw my reusable gift wrap post, you might want to go here and enter to win some!  The giveaway ends tonight!

The Alvin And The Chipmunks : Chipwrecked soundtrack giveaway is now closed.  The winner is #12, Jennifer @ StudioJRU!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

three cups {giveaway}

We started giving our kids an allowance several months ago.  It's been a great way to teach them about what things cost and being responsible when they want to buy something.  It has eliminated a lot of, "Will you buy me this?" questions.  The next step, was to teach them about saving and giving.

reading three cups

I was extremely excited to receive Three Cups to review.  From the back cover, "Three Cups offers a simple method and an easy-to-read story with beautiful illustrations that will guide kids in the key principles of good money management."  The book is a sweet story about parents challenging their five year old to divide his allowance into three cups, one for saving, one for spending, and one for giving.  They promised it would take him "on many adventures."

give, save, spend

We had a family meeting this week, and Jeremy read the story to the kids.  We followed it by a discussion on the importance of giving and saving.  We talked about the three cups idea and the kids got really excited.  One of the things I love about the book is how it highlights how happy it made the little boy to use his giving cup to help buy food for families who needed it.  The kids are ready to implement the idea.  Emma Grace even told her teacher about it the next day at school!

The Giveaway

Are you looking to teach your kids about giving, saving, and spending?  Tommy Nelson is giving away one copy of Three Cups!  Check out the flipbook to see how great it is.  Giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only and ends Monday, December 19th at 9 pm CST when random number generator will choose one winner!

three cups


1st Entry  Leave a comment answering the questions, "Do you already incorporate these principles in your house? If so, how?"

2nd Entry  Become a follower.  If you already are that's fine, too!

3rd Entry  Tweet and / or share on Facebook the following...

Want to teach your kids about giving, saving, & spending? #Win Three Cups #giveaway from @TommyNelson via @jenprice77!

4th Entry  Follow @jenprice77 on Twitter.

5th Entry  Follow @TommyNelson on Twitter.

6th Entry  LIKE Tommy Nelson on Facebook.

Be sure to come back here and leave a separate comment for each entry!  Also make sure I have a way to contact you. 

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Three Cups from Tommy Nelson in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own. 

Comments are now closed.  The winner is #3, The Bauman Family!   

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

insane courage

insane courage

My favorite quote from the film, We Bought A Zoo.  See my movie review at Today's Mama!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

head shots & new music

A couple of months ago, I took head shots and family photos out in East Texas.  Remember the cute kids with the lollipops?  Well, they belong to this sweet couple...


This was my favorite family photo from the shoot...

family kisses

Both parents are musicians.  Isn't that so great to have two incredible musicians in your home?  I also took head shots for the upcoming release of Toby's album.  I LOVED the colorful brick wall.

toby's head shot

standing w/guitar

We Sing Hallelujah is now available for download!  It's a beautiful compilation of worship songs that will draw you closer to God's heart.  You can take a listen to We Sing Hallelujah and download for as little as $5!

we sing hallelujah

Toby Baxley on the web

Toby Baxley on Twitter

Toby Baxley on Facebook

Note: Toby mixed Jeremy's EP, Acquired Taste.  We, and especially Jeremy, are grateful for the hard work he put into it!

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