Friday, November 17, 2017

We've made this Thankful Tree a Thanksgiving tradition for our family. It is an easy craft and a great conversation starter. It reminds us that this is a time for us to come together as a family and talk about what we are thankful for. Afterwards, you have a beautiful Thanksgiving centerpiece. 


You will need:
  • Fall colored construction paper.
  • Sticks.
  • Scissors.
  • Any kind of string. We used twine.
  • Vase.
  • Hole punch.
  • Leaf. (optional)
  • Pine cones. (optional)

The kids went on a nature hunt to find the perfect set of sticks and a leaf to use as a template. The size that you need will depend on how big you want your thankful tree. Pine branches worked out really well for us. The kids found some nice size sticks with lots of little branches. They even picked out a branch with a pine cone on it. I left it there because it was a cute addition to the thankful tree. Then they picked up some pine cones to add in the vase which looks pretty and helps keep the sticks in place.  
We used a real leaf to trace around on the construction paper, cut it out, and then used that one as a template for the rest. 

Next, we all wrote what we are thankful for on the leaves. It made me proud to see that they were writing things like family, friends, our house, and God. But it was fun to throw in ones like Star Wars too. It is interesting to see what they will come up with each year. 
Punch a hole in each leaf and then tie your string on it so it is ready to hang. Tuck your branches in the vase and add your thankful leaves. I added a string of battery-powered LED lights to the branches, too. 

It got hectic at times with a one year old that wants to help, but I am so thankful for that time together. 

Check out the video from last year to get a visual of how we made our tree.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. And send us pictures of your thankful tree.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

This is a recipe that we have tweaked and perfected over the years and I feel like it's finally ready to share. I especially enjoy making this on a cold winter night. The whole family enjoys this one, including the baby.  I was inspired when I used to get this at Ruby Tuesday, before Bear was born. Let's not talk about how long ago that was though. Do they even still serve this? This recipe may not be an exact match to Ruby Tuesday's but it is definitely close.


You will need three or four cans of white kidney beans. I usually use four but this time I used three and there was still plenty.  Four bouillon cubes. Or chicken broth. I prefer the bouillon cubes because they're cheaper and easier. An 8 oz bag of Mexican blend cheese. 1/2 tsp of cumin, oregano, and paprika seasoning. One can of diced green chilies. Shredded rotisserie chicken. I prefer to get my chicken already cooked from Costco so that is one less step that I have to do. Cilantro for topping because you need cilantro on everything. And pretend like a half of onion and 1 cup of sour cream is pictured.


Prepare your bouillon in a large pot, add beans, chicken, seasonings, and canned green chilies.

Stir it all together and simmer on low-medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Easy, right? Yeah, I'm all about easy. While that is cooking, dice your onions and saute them and then throw it in the pot with the rest of the stuff.

Right before serving add in your cheese and sour cream. Stir, top with cilantro, and enjoy!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thor Ragnarok is an awesome movie. Is it in the top 3 MCU movies? Not really. But it's a great film nonetheless, and a must-see for most MCU fans. Why didn't I say all MCU fans? I'll cover that and whether or not I think this is a family-friendly film.

Bear and I went to see Ragnarok today, for his birthday, which was not today. But we did a bunch of stuff on his actual birthday, so this was easier. Now, just like with my Spider-Man review, I'm going to warn you ahead of time: while I won't go out of my way just to spoil things, there probably will be some mild to moderate spoilers. And yeah, there you go.

So, if I characterize Spider-Man Homecoming by saying it had heart, this movie had funny bone. In a whole backstory I won't bore you with, Chris Hemsworth and some other people who aren't Chris Hemsworth decided to make Thor funnier than before. Which is, to say, funny at all.  They definitely injected the humor into this film, and it mostly works. Really, the only time I thought it was a misstep would be when there were some pretty serious things going on on the screen, such as attempted genocide, and then Blam! Thor is being funny. While they didn't literally juxtapose jokes with genocide, the jumps from serious to funny were at times jarring. But really, this would be my biggest complaint about the movie, and it's a minor one. After a couple of minutes, the less serious parts would start feeling totally natural again.

Overall, this is the Thor we all know and wanted to love already, but now he's ready for our adulation. Thor is funny, and also pretty awesome. I've described Thor in the past as "You know, he should be just about the most powerful character in the universe, but he just isn't, know what I mean?" Well, without giving too much away, some of the awesomest (yes, it's a word.  I just made it up. Got a problem with that? Consult the section on Hawkeye in my Spider-Man Homecoming review.) scenes in this movie take place once Thor learns a few things about himself. And you don't have to wait until the very end for anything good to happen. Except to Doug. Nothing good happens to Doug.

Seriously, there are some amazing visuals in this film. In terms of bright colors coming at your face, I'd put it just behind Dr. Strange. Also, the entirety of the planet Sakaar seems to occur in the 1980s, somehow. So there are lots of 80s colors, and synthy music, and a Duran Duran t-shirt. (No, really.) Oh, and the synthy soundtrack was all composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, so that's kind of awesome, as well. This whole segment never gets too serious, and also introduces us to the Grandmaster, who is incredibly evil. So evil, in fact, that Bear actually despised him well beyond Hela, who impales just about everyone in the film  I suspect she has an impalement addiction. He even hates him more than Kylo Ren, who killed Han Solo. (You need to understand, nobody is worse than Kylo Ren, in Bear's eyes.) In many ways, the Grandmaster is the true villain of the picture; Hela serves more as a plot device/force of nature with a whole lot of eye shadow. But possibly still less then Jeff Golblum's Grandmaster, who is so greasy it feels like he's going to leave spots on the movie screen.

Bear's Favorite scene: The hugest bolt of lightning in the history of lightning.
My Favorite scene: Either when Thor does a little self-discovery around the middle of the film, or when similar life-affirming transformations occur in several other characters toward the end.

Okay, so here's the big question- to whom would I recommend this movie?
  • If you're an MCU aficionado, and not quite as picky about writing as I am, definitely.
  • If you're 10 or above, almost definitely.  But this is where things get a bit hairy. MCU films have been sneaking in some swear words, and this is no exception. So that needs to be out there.  Also, as I've mentioned, there are just so many impalings. None of them are ever bloody, but it happens a ton. There is an army of resurrected warriors that show up as skeletons with glowing eyes, which might be scary to younger ones. Thor suffers an injury which could be pretty upsetting to younger viewers.  (OMG SPOILER FOR REAL he loses an eye, and while not gory, it's shown uncovered OKAY SPOILERS ARE DONE NOW.) There is some casual alcohol consumption, which is simultaneously treated as a source of humor, and played straight to explore the consequences of trying to hide in the bottom of a bottle.
  • If you're looking for an "in" to the MCU without having to watch 27 hours of back films, sure, why not?  It's entertaining, and gives you a fair idea of what to expect without leaning too heavily on what's happened in the past to be consumed without all the backstory.
I would not recommend it to:
  • People, (like Beth,) whose interest in the MCU doesn't extend much past Guardians and Spider-Man, (although I did get her to get involved while watching Civil War, much to her chagrin.)
  • Kids who are just wayyyy too girly, (like Bug. Impalements freak her out, unless it's that one time with Olaf.) Be who you are, nothing wrong with that. But if who you are is super girly, this probably isn't the movie for you.
  • Children younger than 10, in general. All the aforementioned reasons. You know your kids, you know what they can handle. But just understand, while the MCU films are no stranger to violence, I think Ragnarok showed considerably more of it than any before. Bear handled it just fine, but it's definitely more than what we've gotten in the past.
  • Cinemaphiles. You know your really annoying friend, who always critiques every movie y'all watch?  This is not the MCU film to start him on. Yes, it's getting tons of praise for the humoristic take on Thor, but well, there are times where it sells the movie out to set up a joke.  The jokes work, but it still weakens the movie just a lil bit. Nothing major, but your friend is a pain in the butt, remember? He'll latch on to this like a remora on a shark.

In the end, I'll say that this was a great film. Bear and I both really enjoyed it. Not flawless, and I think that, like Age of Ultron, a bit of time will show that more, but I'm also finding that its charm is growing on me, even as I write this. It has tons of appeal, great effects, good action bits, and an uncharacteristically deep undercurrent of self-exploration that I don't think even Dr. Strange managed to touch.


Friday, November 3, 2017

We have a huge Harry Potter fan in the family. A Harry Potter fan that is actually turning 10 today! What better way to celebrate than a gift guide that includes gifts that he actually received?

I'm sure I'm not the only one with an elementary aged Harry Potter fan so I'm going to show you the most wished for Harry Potter gifts for kids. These gifts would be perfect for Christmas.

(This post does contain affiliate links. We receive a small commission if you choose to purchase anything through the links, but it does not cost you any extra. Read our full disclosure here.)

Harry Potter Fidget Spinner

Fidget spinners are all the rage right now. It seems like every kid has one, but not quite like this one. We'd actually been avoiding getting one for Bear, but we had to give in with this one.  This unique fidget spinner looks just like the golden snitch from Harry Potter. It is a bit higher than most fidget spinners, but if you're going to do it, do it right.  This thing is worth every penny.  It's solidly constructed, and spins approximately forever.  Any Harry Potter fan would be thrilled to unwrap this little doodad.

Check out more unique gifts for kids at Just Mommin Around.

Chocolate Frog

This is actually from last year's birthday, but we had to mention it, because they are so cool.  You can order the Chocolate Frog online, but we prefer to get them from the source, because then you actually get to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.  
The box is a really neat keepsake, and will be reusable, if you want.  The frog itself is very tasty, huge, and made of solid chocolate.  There was enough for Bear to share with the whole family, so I liked it.  Finally, each frog comes with a Wizard card, just like in the book/movie.  Bear got Salazar Slytherin.  While these, again, are a bit pricey to try to collect them all, it's a neat surprise that really adds value for your HP fan.  

Science Kit for Wizards

This idea is great for the kids that love to learn. We went through several different magic/wizard science kits, including some branded ones, but we settled on the Magic Science for Wizards Only for a few reasons. First of all, it was substantially cheaper. Yes, we pay extra for quality in some areas, but Jacob's wallet can only take so much of a beating. Also, it contains every ingredient you will need to perform the experiments. Nothing will take the magic out of your child's Christmas like a frenzied rummaging through the cupboard only to find out you are out of baking soda. Finally, since this is a science kit, this one seemed to have a good focus on the science aspect of things, which is important, even with the wizard theme.

Visit Pennies & Playdough for more gifts to inspire a love of science and engineering

Harry Potter Board Games

There are actually quite a few themed board games for the Harry Potter fan in your life.  We wound up choosing the Harry Potter Triwizard Maze game because the Trouble-style game is easy for children of different ages to play, and also because this is the one Bear actually asked for.  Some of your other options are the Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle, which we haven't played, but it looks like fun.  Also, there is Harry Potter Wizard Chess, and finally Harry Potter Pictopia.  And this is just naming a few.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition
This book is beautifully illustrated. Even if your child owns every copy ever made of this book, you need to add this one to the collection. It's full of full-color illustrations, that bring the classic tale to life in an entirely different way than even the movie did.  It's one of Bear's most treasured possessions, and he chooses to read this version every time he re-reads the series.  

Also, check out The Quiet Grove for educational gifts your kid will LOVE

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list? What will you be getting your Harry Potter fan for Christmas? Leave a comment letting us know.

This gift guide is in participation with a gift guide blog hop. Be sure to check out the other blogs to find the best gifts for elementary and school age kids

Have fun shopping!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The sparkling of lights, glitter shining from every surface, soft jingle bells being heard through the halls. Everything just feels magical around Christmas time. I did a rustic Christmas tree last year and I will be continuing with that theme this year. I visit the fancy stores, my cart fills up, and I can hear my bank account screaming. But decorating for Christmas doesn't have to be expensive. I'm going to show you two DIY rustic ornament ideas for your Christmas tree.

(We were compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and we will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on the links. You can read our full disclosure here.)

You have heard us mention Dollar Tree many times. It is our go-to stop before a DIY project. They finally took our hint and sponsored a post. Totally kidding. This is a sponsored post, but without hint throwing. Thank you to Dollar Tree for this opportunity.


In order for some beautiful rustic decor, you will need burlap and twine. Lots of it. I may have gone overboard with it. But that's okay, because it's only $1 per spool. You will need a pack of ornaments. It doesn't matter what they look like. You can get the ugliest ones you can find. We are just going to cover them up so it doesn't matter what they look like right now. Ribbon. Pretty jingle bells. I picked silver. You have your choice between silver, gold, red, or green. Glue gun.

Crafting Time

First up, I did a burlap covered ornament with twine. Cut strips of burlap and then hot glue them to your ornament. 
Cut strips of burlap

This doesn't need to be perfect. Those imperfections add to the rustic theme plus most (if not all) will be covered with twine. Next take your twine and start wrapping it around in different directions, making sure to cover any of those imperfections. They have red and green twine available. So I made one with red, one with green, and one with both. Then use some twine to tie on it for a hanger. 

Burlap and Twine Ornaments
Next, a ribbon covered ornament with jingle bells. Thread a couple jingle bells on some twine. This will be used to tie the ribbon on the ornament. Also use some twine to make a hanger for your ornament. 
Supplies needed for your ribbon ornament

 Take two strips of wide ribbon. Wrap your ornament with the ends sticking up at the top of the ornament. Make sure your twine hanger is sticking out. Tie the ribbon at the top with your bell twine. Glue won't be necessary. 

Ribbon Ornament

You can change both of these ideas up with different ribbon, color twine, and accents to create a completely different look for each ornament. The possibilities are endless.


We explain a little more in detail and show you the step-by-step process in the video. 

There you have it. You just made some beautiful rustic ornaments and no one will ever know that you didn't spend a fortune on them.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

This Halloween, let's make things a bit less spooky, and a bit more pukey.  Follow our guide, and you've got yourself a pukin' punkin.  Or, for the easily offended, a pumpkin volcano.  Which is throwing up.  But hey, it's Fall, it's almost Halloween, and we're homeschoolers, so we have to find a way to make this weird educational.  However, since this is a family blog, we're going with the volcano option.

(You will find some affiliate links in this post. If you decide to purchase something, it will not be any extra cost to you and it shows some support to us. Read our full disclosure here.)


Now, to achieve the proper pumpkin volcano, you will need a few things:

  • Baking soda.  
  • Vinegar.  Which is amazingly hard to spell for such a simple word.
  • Food coloring.  Specifically yellow and green food coloring.  To properly make the... lava color.
  • A pumpkin.  I cannot stress this enough.  If you combine your ingredients in nothing, you'll just have a mess.  Instead of a glorious mess.
  • A knife.  
  • One of those flimsy pumpkin saws that you have to re-buy every single year because they're so flimsy.  But you can't just buy the saw, which is all you really want.  You need to overspend on a kit with a book of patterns that you won't even use because if you actually even try they don't fit on the pumpkin anyway plus a whole pack of plastic instruments of torture that you can't figure out how to work.  What, am I a pumpkin dentist?  Do I need to perform a pumpkin root canal?  Can I charge as much as the actual dentist charges?  In that case, I will go out and buy like, twenty of those kits right now.
  • Umm... there wasn't much of anything else, but I just really wanted seven bullet points, so... outside?  Yeah, outside.  Because it's really messy.  So don't do this if you don't have an outside, or like a bathtub or something.  
Now that you have all of your ingredients together, it's time to make that pumpkin volcano that's going to throw up. 

Carving Your Pumpkin

First off, you need to carve the pumpkin.  If you want a proper vomiting effect from your volcano, you should carve the mouth a little bit bigger, and the eyes and nose a bit smaller.  However, you don't want to make the mouth too big.  Then the foam won't come out of the top, and what kind of volcano doesn't have lava coming our of the top?  One that's throwing up, that's what.  

The Experiment

After your pumpkin is properly carved, you need to add the ingredients for the lava,  I tried a couple of different ways, such as pre-mixing everything.  Turns out this doesn't really work.  So, put ten drops of yellow and one drop of green food coloring to get your proper puke green lava color.  Right into the pumpkin.  Then pour some baking soda into the pumpkin.  This is very important.  Make sure you add exactly some.  Okay, honestly, it's going to vary based on the size of your pumpkin, but as you can see in our video, we did several different tries (three, to be exact,) and I used about a half a box of baking soda.  On the other hand, I used the entire bottle of vinegar, so you will need more of that than you expect.  So add your bacon soda, then add some dish soap.  Oh yeah,  you need dish soap.  I guess that could have been the seventh point.  A tablespoon or two of dish soap will do it.  Don't mix anything, don't stir anything, just pour a cup or so of vinegar into your pumpkin, and it will start puking its guts up erupting like there's no tomorrow.  Attempt two in the video shows the result of this method.  It was quite successful, and also really gross.  Because volcanoes are gross.  


And there you have it.  No need to over-complicate things.  Pukin' punkin.  Because let's face it; it's totally puking.

- Jacob


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It is no secret that I love Halloween and I want to make the most out of it.  So I came up with a countdown list of activities that can be enjoyed each day leading up to Halloween. I made sure that most of the activities are easy, because I know how busy things get around this time of year. These suggestions are for the 13 days leading up to Halloween and will begin on October 18th.

(There are affiliate links in this post. If you decide to click on them and purchase something, it does not cost extra for you and shows some support to us. These are products that we enjoy. Read our full disclosure here.)

Pick out or make costumes.
You need to prepare for that fun night of trick-or-treating with a costume. Plan a special trip to the store with your child or get them involved in making their costume. If you are looking for a DIY Lilo or Incredibles costumes, we've got you covered.

Halloween Mad Libs.
Mad Libs is a fun activity anytime of the year, but when you add in some Halloween magic, you've got the perfect ingredients for a fun Halloween activity.

Make Halloween cookies.
A lot of people have a tradition of making Christmas cookies. Why not make a new tradition of fall or Halloween cookies? They don't need to be fancy or time-consuming. You can even find easy kits at the store.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles - yum!

Make a boo kit for a neighbor.
A Boo Kit is just a fun little treat box (or bag) with some goodies, candy, maybe stickers or an activity book, depending on who it's for.  Leave it on their doorstep with a note that says, You've Been Booed!

Go to the pumpkin patch.
I look forward to this all year. The pumpkin patch is a perfect place to pick out your perfect pumpkin and make some family memories. 

Pumpkin Patch Fun

Carve your pumpkin.
It is time to take that perfect pumpkin and turn it into a perfect Jack-o-Lantern. Don't forget to save those pumpkin seeds so you can roast them.

Do a Halloween craft.
Make coffee filter ghost lollipops, paper Jack-o-Lantern chain, hand print spiders, etc. Pinterest has so many great options to choose from. Or you could let Night In Boxes handle it for you. They have a Kids box option. If you didn't catch the Halloween box, be sure to check out the next box. 

Kids Night In Halloween Box

Read Halloween stories.
Get ready for bed, snuggle in, and read some fun Halloween stories.

Watch a Halloween movie.
There are so many good Halloween movies to choose from. Take it a step further with our tips for a Charlie Brown movie night.

Charlie Brown Movie Night

Glow in the dark fun.
Grab some glow sticks, Halloween lights, and your Jack-o-lantern for a glow in the dark dinner. Add in some Halloween music and you've got the perfect setting for a Halloween family meal.

Try on costumes and have a photo shoot.
Let's be honest. This is more for me than the kids. It is best to get that perfect costume photo before Halloween night when they aren't all hyped up about candy. Be creative with it.

Camping in the backyard.
Combine carved pumpkins with some battery powered candles for a safe Halloween light source.

Playing in the leaves.
The leaves are starting to fall. Turn that chore into a family activity. Rake up the leaves, jump in the piles, and then put them in a pumpkin leaf bag. You just cleaned up the yard, created some special moments, and created a cute decoration for Halloween.

Use these tips to create a magical Halloween!


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