Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 resolutions - a new year, a new perspective.

Last year, you may recall that I set some GOALS -- rather than resolutions.  I'll be posting a little later on how well I did with those goals (there are still a few hours left, my friends)!  But, in the meantime, I thought I would get a jump start on 2012. 

For 2012, I am going to do the same thing -- make GOALS rather than resolutions.  I'm excited to share these with you, and hope that perhaps they can inspire you to do something similar in your life!

So, without further ado, here are my 2012 GOALS:

1.  Participate in Project 52 -- this will be my first year doing this and I am a bit nervous and excited.  I'll post more on this topic later, so you can follow along if you want to.

2. Lose 5 lbs -- since I am down 5 lbs since last year, I still want to get those pesky last 5 pounds off me -- and maybe that won't happen, since I plan on building muscle this year as well.  We'll see, won't we?

3.  Run a 10K -- since I made it through a 5K, I decided that I needed to step it up a notch for this year.  I might even consider trading a 10K for a mini - steps, steps.

4.  Finish painting the rest of the house -- I got the upstairs mostly finished, and now I really need to be working on the downstairs.  I am happy with the amount of progress we have made in 3 short months.

5Save more money -- I am not ready/willing to go all out there and share things like my weekly/monthly budget -- or how much I am putting into our joint savings, IRAs, etc.  We are doing a really good job, but I want to do better.  So, part of this challenge for me will be to stop buying things I don't need, just because they are ON SALE.  I fully blame my Mom for this mentality -- it is not a bad thing, per se, especially since most everything I buy is at a huge savings.  I just want to work on doing less buying overall, and living a more simple life.

6.  Go green with ALL (or almost all) my household cleaners -- I am really excited about this challenge!!  I have made baby steps over the past year experimenting with different combinations of homemade cleaners and I am really excited to share them with you to help you 'green' up your life too!  Some of these combinations work EVEN BETTER than store bought stuff (I was already using mostly green cleaners like Seventh Generation and Method -- but homemade cleaners are even better!  And CHEAPER!!)  So, not only will you be helping the environment, you will be helping your pocket book!

7.  Be more present in the moment -- it is amazing to me how many times I comment on or realize how fast life goes by -- how my youngest is ALREADY 20 months seems like he was just born.  I want to be more in the moment to be experiencing all these moments in their childhood.  It seems silly that I should need to remind myself to be more present, but I do.  There are so many distractions out there -- Internet, magazines, TV, etc.

8.  Take a class or learn something new -- Not only do I want to keep my body active, but I want to keep my mind active too!  So, taking a class is a perfect way to do this -- maybe it will be a pottery class...maybe it will be a writing class....let's see where this year takes me!

9.  Plant a Garden -- with a new house comes a new yard...and this one comes with no garden.  So, my goal is to get out there right after the spring thaw and create a garden.  I already have the spot picked out!

10.  Show the people in my life who are important to me JUST how important they are to me -- certain circumstances last year really opened my eyes (again) to just how fragile life and relationships are.  We really take this for granted!! So, I want to be particularly mindful about what I say, what I do, how I act, and especially how I treat those around me.  It might be something as simple as sending someone a care package when you know they need a pick me up, or flowers when you know they are down.  I used to be really good at sending 'happy mail' and I really want to pick up on this again -- especially since I know how wonderful it feels to open the mailbox and find a package in there filled with love!

11.  Get caught up on all the photos/photo books, etc that I am behind on -- since I am not the best about keeping up the baby books (I do alright, just not stellar), I make the boys a photo book for each year of their lives with milestones, etc.  I am embarrassed that Sam doesn't have one yet, and the last one I did for lil Max is from 2010.  It could be worse, but I want to get caught up again.

12.  Do something for ME at least once a month -- whether that be to read a new book cover to cover, or to go get a massage, or to continue to exercise at least 3 times a week.  Nobody is happy unless the McMomma is happy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

This year we decided that, in honor of the German Tudor style of our new home, we would pay homage and dress up in full German gear.

Lucky for me, my parents lived in Germany before I was born and my mom acquired an authentic dirndl while living there (and I fit into it -- key).

So, I hit up the interwebs and found some lederhosen for my men to wear (big props to my WONDERFUL husband for playing along and helping make my vision a reality).

The pictures below adorned our Christmas cards this year.  I have no idea how we will be topping this for next year, but I have absolutely LOVED getting emails, letters, texts and FB messages from friends/family who received our cards and have told me how much they loved them.  I even had a few friends tell me that it was the best card they had ever received -- which blew me away because now what do I have to aspire for in future years???!!!  ;)  Still others shared that our pictures inspired them to do something similar for next year's Christmas cards -- I can't WAIT to see what they come up with!! Please follow through, friends!

And now, to start pondering/planning next year's cards....LOL.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to you and yours!

May your 2012 be blessed and joyful.

Our new house -- Nov 2011

Maybe we should've removed that scarecrow...ah, it adds character, right?

Being silly -- poor little Max -- it was pretty cold outside.

And look at Big Max actually look like he is enjoying wearing lederhosen!

LOVE this family.  They ROCK.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Snappy Carrot Dip

A co-worker of mine made this for our holiday potluck and it was TOO GOOD to not share with you.

Seriously...a dip made out of carrots -- a dip that not only TASTES good, but is GOOD FOR YOU??  Bring it ON!

Photo from Taste of Home:(recipe not the same as below)

Snappy Carrot Dip
·        2 pounds of carrots – cut into 3 inch lengths (or use baby carrots and skip peeling & chopping)
·        ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
·        ¼ cup red wine vinegar
·        3 garlic cloves – minced
·        1 ¼ teaspoons chili paste (like Sriracha)
·        1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
·        ½ teaspoon ground ginger

1.     Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add carrots and cook over moderately high heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
2.     Transfer carrots to a food processor. Add olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, hot sauce, cumin and ginger and process to a smooth puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (You may have to process in batches).
3.     Serve with crackers, chips, cheese and olives.

Seriously -- go try this NOW.

**thanks to my co-worker Kerry for sharing this recipe**

Being Three - A Lost Post

I have no idea if the post below ever actually got posted or not, but I was going through my posts and found this one in the draft folder....what a sweet flashback to have right before the holidays -- and after the recent FOURTH birthday of this little man...

I need to post some new 'Maxisms' that equal the ones below...because goodness knows that we here quite a few of them on a daily basis. 

I'll be back later in the week to update with his 4 year stats and info.  It's much too hectic with the holidays right now for me to think in full complete sentences.  So, in the meantime, enjoy!  :)

Max at 3 yrs old.

This year, on Thanksgiving morning, we were all snuggled in the family bed waking up slowly (well, all of us except little Max who doesn't do ANYTHING slowly), and I asked the question 'what are you thankful for?" out loud.  I went first:

Me:  I am thankful for my wonderful family, my two sweet boys and daddy.  What are you thankful for, Max?
Little Max:  Oatmeal

Or last night, we were playing after dinner and Little Max was playing with his flashlight.  All of a sudden, he stopped what he was doing and took a good long sniff of his flashlight.  "Mom, this SMELLS!" he exclaimed.  "What does it smell like?" I inquired.  "A FLASHLIGHT, silly!" he replied.

Or maybe it was the time when he asked me why I was sick after I finished coughing.  I told him that I didn't know, I had just gotten sick.  So he told me "Mom, you are sick because you ate a shirt."  Umm..OK. (Maybe it was the Land's End catalog I was paging through at the time that inspired this will NEVER know).

One thing is for sure, 3 years old is a magical age.  Magical for SO many reasons.  The temper tantrums that come completely out of nowhere, out of something so trying to help someone put on their pair of pants, or getting out the blue spoon instead of the green spoon.  It sure keeps me on my toes, that is for sure!  But, despite the 'terribleness' of being three, it has also been a special age of lots of hugs, kisses, snuggles, spishes (a raspberryesque kish) or smooshes (a smooshy kiss).  Whenever Max is overcome with emotions at something that is happening, he will turn to whomever is closest him and exclaim "I LOVE you, xxx.  I love you SO MUCH."  He has also proclaimed his love for several inanimate objects, such as his flashlight, his fork, his get the picture.  I'd laugh at him for being silly, but he is being 100% sincere.  Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I'm hoping he's like that because we've taught him to be a loving little boy who isn't afraid to show his emotions, or share his love.

I really can't complain about ANYTHING in my life. I have two wonderful boys, a loving husband, and a wonderful support system of friends and extended family. I am a lucky LUCKY woman.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fabric flower necklaces

This year I participated in a craft swap with some of my mommy friends -- people who happened to have babies born or due in November 2007 that I still maintain close friendships with (thank you interwebs!). 

The idea of the craft swap is to replicate the '12 days of Christmas' and have 12 gifts to open on the 12 days preceding Christmas.  We had so many participants this year that we split up into 3 teams of 8 -- so it became the '8 days of Christmas'.

I had a lot of fun figuring out what to make and making it -- on top of everything else going on in my life, I didn't have a whole lot of time to be participating...but I am glad that I did.  I think they turned out pretty nice in the end...

I spent a few hours scouring the interwebs and Pinterest and came across THIS TUTORIAL.  Then I saw THIS ONE.  So, I decided to combine the two into my swappie gift.

It was MUCH more time consuming than I had anticipated, but after I had the first one completed, I knew that I had to make 6 more.  I ended up making them with leftover fabric from my headboard remodel project - I really liked how the yellow/gray combo turned out!

The only thing I would do differently next time is to actually learn how to make jewelry and have a clasp at the end -- since I couldn't figure that out, they all had chains long enough to go over your head (except in one person's case...sorry Keri). 

It's a fun project, so if you have a few hours on your hands, some extra fabric and a glue gun...get crafting!!

And if you want to check out ALL the gifts exchanged for all 3 teams and all 8 days -- check it out HERE.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Santa 2011

A little better Santa picture this year...remember last year's?

Max was being 'shy' again this year -- but I convinced him to stand next to Santa rather than sit on his lap (I won't even get into how many 'wrongs' I think there are into MAKING a child sit on a complete stranger's LAP...).  Sam was unsure of the whole situation (again) and was staring intently at the jingle bells over the camera. 

Some of you might even notice that Santa is the same Santa from last year (but it looks like he was off the sauce this year).  He was much more 'Jolly' this year. 

Max also told him about this guy:

who snuck in the house with our Christmas tree last weekend.  Little Max has named him "Fernie McBottom", and he is definitely keeping us all on our toes about being 'nice' and not 'naughty' this year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Xmax 2011 Music Winners!

Well well.  Seems like there weren't a lot of comments on my Xmax 2011 music post.  Sniff sniff.  And here I was SO PROUD of all the music I pulled together for you guys.  Whatevs.  :)

Maybe it was because there was so much FREE music that you all just went to go get it for yourselves -- I hope so, because these artists are great and you SHOULD check them out!

Since as of today, Dec 7th, I have only 8 comments on the post, I am going to go ahead and declare you ALL winners!  I'll burn you a copy of the playlist and pop it in the mail to you.  Please go ahead and email your addresses to livinthemclife dot gmail dot com.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Xmax 2011: Holiday Tunes - and a GIVEAWAY!!

I am SO super excited to share my 2011 Holiday Xmax playlist with you guys.  I found some REALLY great NEW music this year that I have been rocking out to the past week while I test-drove the playlist.  I've listened to it at home, in the car, at work and even in my sleep! (HAHA, just kidding on that last one).

This year, I am going to include links to some songs where you can download them for FREE.  YES, FREE!!!!  Through this wonderful new service I discovered called NoiseTrade.  Please check them out -- and for more than just holiday music!  It's a really great way to discover new music (and the free part REALLY doesn't hurt either!

And now, without further adieu, I give you........

Xmax 2011 - songs to put you in the holiday spirit

1.   No Stars Can Outshine - Epic Songwriters (this song is one of my most favorites this year on the playlist -- I could seriously listen to this one on repeat). Want their whole album for free?? Get it HERE

    Self described as Acoustic : Indie

2.  Angels We Have Heard on High - Folk Angel (I really love the beat on this one -- toe tapping good!)   Another great find from Noise Trade -- you can download their whole album for FREE HERE

From their NoiseTrade page: "Folk Angel was formed on a cold night in October of 2009. Our desire is to make known the greatness of Jesus Christ and to exalt Him through the music that we create. We write and rearrange traditional Christmas songs, and through that creative process we retell the Gospel story that illuminates all things."

3.  Please Come Home for Christmas - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals 

Rock Genre, has been compared to Janis Joplin.  Great music and I think I'll be checking out some of their non-holiday stuff.  If you like this song, you can download it HERE.

4.  There's Still My Joy - Indigo Girls (I was SO stoked when someone told me that IG had a holiday CD out -- I rushed out to get it immediately -- Amazon had it the cheapest, FYI).

5.  In the Morning - Jack Johnson (Jack Johnson's label, BrushFire Records released Vol 2 of holiday tunes this year -- the whole CD is great in my opinion, but this one is one of my favorites)

6.  FaLaLa - Jim Brickman (a seriously lucky iTunes find, this one has a great jumpy beat to it!)  I think I might be downloading the rest of his album now too!

The album is titled 'All is Calm' and it definitely has a calm and peaceful vibe to it.  In his non-holiday life, Jim Brickman is a talented pianist who sticks to the jazz genre.  He also released a holiday album in 2009.

7.  Hope for Me - Joshua Pearson (I really like his voice) 

Self-described as Folk/Pop -- For fans of:  Ryan Adams, The Swell Season, Feist, Bright Eyes, Coldplay.  This guy is a serious crooner -- you can get two of his songs HERE.

8.  Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel - Laura Cooke (I really wanted to throw a few traditional songs on this collection since I have so many non-traditional songs this year). 

Self-described as Indie/Folk, you can get three of her songs HERE.  She sticks to the Christian & Gospel scene outside of the holidays...

9.  Winter Night - Little & Ashley (this one was a free download on Amazon when I first got it, but it is a great song!)  Apparently they were featured in a Kindle commercial and they have a great positive and joyful feel to their music.

10.  All I Want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey (Ok I lied -- not all of my songs are new this year -- this one is an oldy but goody...and I just couldn't resist.)

11.  Snow Globe - Matt Wertz 

I originally downloaded this song on iTunes (don't know if I paid for it or not, but it is also a bonus track on a full album of his on NoiseTrade, so you can score it for FREE right now.  He's got a great catchy folksy voice, so check him out!  Warning -- he does say the word "Candy Cane" in his song, so if you have a 4 year old in your house who is obsessed with Candy Canes, you may want to limit his exposure to this song otherwise he will be asking you for candy canes repeatedly (not like I speak from experience or anything...)

12.  The Heart of Christmas - Matthew West - another great iTunes find that might have me buying the rest of his album because I really like the sound of his voice...

13.  It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas - Michael Buble (um, all I have to say is....Michael Buble) - and that is why he gets TWO entries in my 2011 playlist.  :)

14.  White Christmas - Michael Buble and Shania Twain

15.  Winter Moon - Mindy Gledhill
16.  Little Soldier - Mindy Gledhill

I only bought two of the songs off this album originally and then had to go back and get the rest of it because I am so in love with her voice.  Her non-holiday music is also outstanding.  She is going to be one of my new favorites, I think...

17.  Christmas Wish - She & Him - HERE
18.  Silver Bells - She & Him

Because I already knew how much I adore She & Him I purchased this entire album -- and that is also why my playlist features two entries from this talented duo.  If you haven't listened to them before, you NEED to.  I mean seriously -- it's actress Zooey Deschanel and M Ward -- need I say more??!!??

19.  Snow, Snow and Mistletoe - Shelley Adams - from another great NoiseTrade find -- a full compilation CD that you need to check out this album called a RareBird in a Pear Tree Vol 2.  Rarebird records is an independent record company whose style ranges from Americana blue-grass to indie folk rock, and singer-songwriter pop to soul infused art-rock.  There is also a Volume 1 available on Noise Trade.  :)     

20.  Snow - Sleeping at Last -  A group out of Illinois that describes themselves as Alternative/Indie -- you can download their entire album HERE.

21.  Hear the Bells - Vanessa Carlton

The bonus to this holiday album is the awesome acoustic version of A Thousand Miles -- but you won't regret listening to the three holiday songs on this album, either.  And, it's only $3.99 on iTunes, so I totally recommend just getting the whole thing -- she has such a great, relaxing voice!

So, there you have it!  21 songs of holiday cheer and joy brought to you by yours truly!  I am super stoked that most of my selections this year are FREE TO YOU -- but since some of them are not, I am going to stick with tradition and give out a CD to 5 lucky readers.  Just leave a comment on this post with YOUR favorite holiday song for 2011 -- it can be an 'oldie but goodie' like my Mariah Carey addition -- or a brand new one that you just discovered this year! 

I hope you like the songs I picked this year -- I had the playlist set late last week and I have been 'test driving' it all week like I mentioned before.  I really like to do that because sometimes certain songs that speak to me at first quickly get annoying (or vice versa, other songs grow on me).  I could've made a two disc set this year again with all the great music to choose from thanks to NoiseTrade...but I had to cut back because burning all those discs last year was killer.

Looking forward to hearing YOUR favorites this year!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fourth Birthday Party #2: UP! and Rainbows! (the friend party)

invitation custom made on Etsy

When Max first told me he wanted to have an UP! party, I was ecstatic.  I love themed things, and there are so many fun things with that movie!  I started googling for ideas, and there weren't that many out there.  Luckily, this is about the time that Pinterest came into my life -- so I scoured there for ideas and even had my own board dedicated just to Max's 4th UP! birthday party!

When it became apparent that I was going to have to branch out a little bit beyond just UP!, little Max suggested we do rainbows also.  What a great idea!  And, there were LOTS of rainbow ideas to choose from!

We decided this year to have his party outside of our home -- for several reason:  1) we had just moved; 2) he wanted to invite 16 kids, and I really didn't want that many kids in my house; and 3) cleaning up after 16 kids and their adults is not my idea of a good time.  So, I searched around and remembered that we had gone to another of his classmates' party at a place called Flabbergast.  We had also gone there a couple of times beyond that party just to blow off some steam and have fun.  It's a great place to have a party and the kicker was when they were running a promotion for a HALF-OFF party.  Those of you that know me, know that there's nothing more I love in life (well, maybe besides my family and friends) than a good deal. How could I pass up on a party for 16 kids that was LESS THAN the cost of a party for 8 kids?  I was sold.

Flabbergast was great with allowing me to bring in some outside decorations and food beyond what they offer their parties (pizza and drinks, mainly). Knowing that my little man is not the biggest fan of pizza, I decided to bring a fruit tray along...rainbow, of course:

I think it turned out really cute.  In hindsight, I wish I would've bought mini clear plastic cups and pre-made 16 little fruit salads for the kids because I spent a long time going down the table and dishing out fruit to all the kids.  Kind of a pain especially since Flabbergast didn't have a serving spoon so I had to use a small plastic spoon.  :)

But, what I was most proud of and had the most FUN doing were the UP! themed goodie bags -- 16 of them, no less!  (and 5 more little kiddie bags because we had some little guests as well at the party).

Here is what the bags looked like all assembled.  Don't you just love the Ellie badge pin?

These were so much fun to make.  I got the template on Etsy here and then printed them out, used a circle punch and mod-podged them onto a bunch of beer caps.  It was a really hard task emptying all those bottles of beer, but I stood up to the task -- and conquered it!  :)

Here's all the loot taken out of the bag -- a door hanger, a book mark, a neon-glow stick (seriously, my kids LOVE these things), a "My Adventure Book", playdoh, a compass ring, balloons and dum dums (because what is a treat bag without an actual TREAT inside?).

These books were also a lot of fun to make.  I found the template HERE on the Disney website.  I scaled it down to fit the little journal notebooks I found at the store and then mod-podged the cover to the cover of the journals.  So cute!

The template for the door hanger and bookmark were also on the Disney site.

And now, some photos from the actual party.  Flabbergast is a huge indoor play area for kids -- a big jungle gym and tons of inflatable slides, bouncy houses, etc.  Sam wishes he was big enough to participate, but he's still just a little bit too little....

So, we entertained him with balloons, and our old neighbor Heidi got some snuggles in while the kids blew off some energy on the play equipment.

Max's little girlfriend, Kaitlyn, from school.

Another one of Max's friends from school, Cole.  Cole is the sweetest little boy ever.

Max's other girlfriend at school, Grace also has a younger brother, Tommy who is in Sam's room!  Here's Grace and Tommy's mom with him. 

Max climbing up in the jungle gym.

Look how high I am, mom!

The don't set out any of the drinks until you are ready to eat your pizza, so the kids kept cornering me and telling me they were thirsty.  Of course, getting water out of the bubbler wasn't good enough so here I am being convinced that I should buy them a juice box... I am such a sucker....

The UP! cake done by Cakes while you Wait in Pewaukee -- seriously such a delicious cake -- and look at that design!!!!??!!!  How awesome is that? (a side note -- if you click through to their website their 'cake of the month' also happens to be an UP! themed cake -- in Dec 2011).

Here's our party room all full of the kids and moms and dads who tagged along.

Handing out the fruit salad to the kiddos...

It was a full house of kids -- the more the merrier!

Sam even enjoyed a piece of pizza or two!

Overall, it was a great party -- Max got WAY too many presents (as always) and I ended up squandering some of them to give to him later.  Having a November birthday makes xmax time so much harder because you feel like your house is just swimming in toys!!

Max and Sam both came home and took 3+ hr naps -- I took that as a sign that it was a GOOD party.  :)