Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shae Butter Salt Scrub

My husband's family was having a Christmas gift exchange and I needed something special to add to the gift basket I was making. Thus, my mind went to a luxurious salt scrub that is cheap and super easy to make. I'm always a promoter of Quick and Easy, "do it yourself," projects and this is definitely one of them. I'm starting to wish that I had made more just to keep around the house. I may just have to whip up another batch soon! 

Items needed:
1. A jar that seals well.
2. Fine Sea Salt or Canning Salt.
3. Olive Oil
4. Moisturizing Dish soap or hand soap. I used Dawn Dish Soap with Olay Hand Renewal (the kind that smells like Shea Butter).
5. A bowl and spoon for mixing.
1.5 cups of salt 
1/2 to 2/3 cup of soap 
1/2 cup of olive oil. 

I didn't really measure things when I made the scrub, so I recommend checking the consistency as you mix. When you are satisfied with the results, pour it into a jar that seals well and decorate! Voila! Now, I told you this was fast!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Marshmallow Pops

Every year I love to make a sweet treat that my family can give to our neighbors as a Christmas gift. This year's sugary gift idea came from a brilliant friend who gave me many creative ideas to use for Christmas. I'm going to borrow one of her gems and show you how amazingly easy (and cheap)  it was to make.

What you need: 

1. Dipping Chocolate
2. Large Marshmallows
3. Sticks (I used shish kabob sticks that I already had)
4. Sprinkles 
5. Empty egg carton

First: I had to cut all of my shish kabob sticks in half so that they would be small enough to use.  

Second: Melt the chocolate in the microwave so that it is smooth and thin enough to dip. This takes about two minutes. Stir briskly.

Third: Mount the marshmallow onto the stick and dip.

Fourth: Top with the sprinkle of your choice.

Fifth: Place the stem of the Marshmallow Pop into the hole of the egg carton. Be sure to balance one on each side or the carton will tip. (I learned this the hard way :) After you get several pops made, place the carton in the freezer for two minutes. The Marshmallow Pops will be perfectly hard and you will have a free carton to continue using. 

Isn't it cute!

I was able to find these treat bags at Hobby Lobby on sale for $.99 and thought that they would be perfect for packaging up the goodies.

After they were packaged up I used wrapping labels to label each gift bag.  

I calculated the cost and time that it took to make these sweet gifts and found that it only took me 20 minutes to make a whole bag of marshmallows into pops and only cost me about $2.00!  I hope my neighbors love a good cup of hot chocolate and a Marshmallow Pop to stir, because they may be receiving these every Christmas!
Enjoy making your own batch of Marshmallow Pops!
Many blessings!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Simple Advent Calendar

   This year my family will begin the tradition of an advent calendar to count down the last 12 days until Christmas. (You can read more about Christmas traditions in my post, Creating Traditions.) The idea for my calendar was inspired by a friend who made something very similar to this. I took her idea and tweaked it a little to be age appropriate for our two and a half year old son. The beauty of this advent calendar is that it can be changed every year to adapt to the ages of your children or just to keep things exciting.  

The main idea: The calendar is made to be opened one section at a time, for the last 12 days before Christmas. Each day a family member breaks open the appropriate hole and reveals a special treasure  and the scripture reference to a specific part of the Christmas story.

The advent calendar is made with: 
1. One new muffin pan (they cost around $4.00 at Walmart)
2. Wrapping paper
3. The card board that comes with the muffin pan (don't throw it away!)
4. Stick glue (because it's washable and won't hurt the pan.)
5. Bible verses
6. Trinkets to symbolize each part of the Christmas story. 

Keep the cardboard that comes with the pan.
1st, I had to decide what would go in each muffin cup. You really can put anything you want in there. Some ideas that my friend had were: candy and a Bible verse for younger children, or instructions for an activity such as, baking cookies for your neighbor, for older kids.  I decided to put the scriptures to a different part of the Christmas story in each muffin cup along with something to symbolize it. This part of the project took me the most time because I was trying to think through the story of Jesus' birth and come up with symbols that wouldn't be too hard to make or find. As you can see, I cheated on one calendar day and just put one of my son's toy sheep in the cup.  It fit, so why not?
Baby Jesus on a straw bed.
A gift from the wise men.

Verses and Symbols complete.

2nd, Place the cardboard that came with the pan on a sheet of wrapping paper and trace the circles.

Trace the cardboard to make circles.

3rd, Cut each circle out. Be sure to cut a little wider than what you actually traced so that the paper will fit over the edges of the muffin cup.

Cut 1/2 inch wider than the actual circle.

4th, Use a glue stick to put glue around the edge of each muffin cup. Place each paper circle over the muffin cup.

Glue around the edge of each cup.

5th, All you need to do now is number each cup from 1-12. I wanted to use cute scrap-booking numbers but couldn't find any before I started this project, so... I used an indelible marker. 

Number each cup.

Completed Advent Calendar 
The calendar is definitely not glamorous but I'm looking forward to using it with my family this year. 
If you have any advent calendar ideas, I would love to hear about them! 
Merry Christmas, Friends!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creating Traditions

    Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year. I love the glittery decorations, festive songs and, of course, the exchanging of gifts on Christmas morning. My favorite Christmas memories are the ones from my childhood.  Christmas time at my house was filled with anticipation. My mom worked hard to make it a memorable and special day for all of us.   Every Christmas Eve we would watch a very old version of Charles Dickens,  "A Christmas Carol."  Before we went to bed, we would be allowed to open one gift. Looking back, I think my mom strategically made sure that the one gift we opened was not a toy, so that we would actually sleep that night. After I went to bed, I would lie awake for hours listening to my parents wrapping gifts, placing presents under the tree and filling our stockings.  When Christmas morning finally came, I was always the first kid awake. My family is very large, so it took a long time for everyone to make it out of bed. While I waited for my siblings to wake up, my mom would allow me to open my stocking. Our stockings were always bursting at the seams with exciting new treasures. Along with the new trinkets, mom would always include one Clementine, a sample box of chocolates, and a pack of gum. I always looked forward to that box of chocolates most. (Interesting, I still look forward to chocolate the most.)  Once everyone had opened their stockings, we would gather together and listen while Dad read Luke's account of the birth of Jesus. Then it was time to open presents. Yay!
     So, why the memoir of Christmas past? When I look back at my childhood Christmases I see a lot of traditions. Some traditions were purely for the enjoyment of doing an activity together as a family, like watching "A Christmas Carol." Others,  such as reading the Bible on Christmas morning,  were important to us because they reminded us of what the season was really about.  Now the challenge for me, as a mom, is to establish traditions that are fun and create happy memories for our son, but also point to Jesus. My husband and I want our family to spend the Christmas season focused on Christ and on the greatness of the gift He gave to us: His very life. How do we do that? Well, I'm still not entirely sure, but I have some ideas. 
1st: Advent Calendar
This Christmas our son is finally old enough to appreciate an advent calendar. (See how I made this by reading Simple Advent Calendar ) Beginning 12 days before Christmas, we will open the calendar and read a part of the Christmas story.
2nd: Watch a Movie
We want to make watching the movie, "The Nativity Story," a family tradition. This movie is our favorite because of how beautifully and realistically it tells the story of Jesus' birth.
3rd: Learn Christmas Carols
Each week, we want to learn the words to a new Christmas carol. There are many carols that  focus on Jesus and his birth, but right now I couldn't get through more than the first verse if my life depended on it!
4th: Stocking gifts
This year, instead of allowing the gift exchange to get out of control, like it usually does, we will try to limit our gift giving to what will fit in a stocking. Meaningful gifts, but not expensive. And no, putting $100.00 gift cards in the stockings will not be allowed even if they do fit.
    These are just a few traditions that we will be implementing this year.  I have included a list of additional ideas that we may or may not use, but thought you might enjoy. If you have a tradition that your family appreciates, please share by posting a comment. Maybe we will use your idea this Christmas!

Additional Tradition Ideas: 
1. Christmas Pajamas- Every Christmas each member of the family receives a new pair of      pajamas. Consider taking a picture of everyone in their pajamas.
2. Visit a nursing home on Christmas Eve.
3. Go Christmas caroling. 
4. Read Luke's account of the Christmas story.
5. Learn Christmas songs.
6. Let the kids set up a nativity.
7. Send out a family Christmas card.
8. Starting around Thanksgiving, hang a stocking, in your home for a needy person or family. Family members can start depositing gifts or money in the stocking to be delivered to the needy family on Christmas day.

Update on 12-7-11: Here are a few of the ideas you passed on to me after reading my blog.

1.  Baby Jesus is missing from the nativity until he appears Christmas morning. Also, the wise men start at the opposite end of the house and "travel" back to the nativity.

2.  Memorize Luke 2 and quote it on Christmas morning.

3.  Read Luke 2 on Christmas Eve, and then at the moment in the story when Jesus is born  light a  "Christ Candle" - a large pillar candle. Keep it burning until after the kids go to bed and  light it again, before they're up on Christmas morning. Keep it burning all day.

Remember, I would love to know what you do to celebrate the birth of Christ with your family! Merry Christmas and God bless!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bee Healthy

At the beginning of every winter I always began searching for a product or vitamin that would steel me and my family against the barrage of germs that the cold season brought. Last winter a few friends introduced me to the health benefits of bee products, specifically propolis and bee pollen. After taking these natural products for a year, even my husband, who was skeptical at first, believes in their health benefits. In fact, after staying healthy through the last horrible cold that came through our home, he insisted that I write and tell you, "This stuff really does work"!
Bee Pollen
Bee pollen is the pollen that bees harvest from flowers to use as food. Bee pollen contains protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. It has been claimed that if bee pollen is taken on a regular basis it can relieve seasonal allergies. Because of the high levels of carbohydrates and protein found in bee pollen, it has also been used by athletes as a sort of "super food" to provide energy and endurance. We mix one tablespoon of bee pollen in a small amount of water and drink it down once a day. Our son is too young to take much so I started him with just a few granules (to make sure he wasn't allergic) and slowly increased the amount. I sprinkle a small amount on his peanut butter toast and he eats it up! Because people can be allergic to bee products, be careful to start with a small amount and slowly increase to the the appropriate dosage.
Propolis Tincture
Propolis is a dark resin like substance that bees use to seal and protect their hives. Because of its antibacterial properties, bees use propolis to keep their hives free of bacteria and fungus. Medicinally people have been known to use propolis on surface wounds, mouth sores, and for preventing illness. My husband and I take a propolis tincture with water at the first symptom of a cold, or whenever our little guy gets a runny nose. We continue to take propolis until all signs of any illness are gone. The tincture we take contains alcohol, so I am not able to give it to my son but I have read that there is a propolis tincture made with water that would be better for children to take. 
Bee Jelly
Another product that we love is a jelly made with honey, royal  jelly (the honey reserved for the queen bee), propolis and bee pollen. If your ready for an energy boost, this will do it. Before I go for a long run I usually will consume a large spoonful of bee jelly or I will pack some to take later on my run. This tastes so much better than the gel packs that athletes are sold and I feel like it works better and lasts longer!
Once I started researching bee products I was surprised to find how many businesses make and sell a large variety of bee based merchandise. There are creams, soaps, jellies and yes, even  a product that uses ground up, dead bees (personally, I'm not ready to consume dead bees quite yet!)
Not only am I convinced that bee products are beneficial to boosting your immune system and killing germs, I love that they are a natural way to heal your body. I am looking forward to not having to scour the stores for vitamins this year!
Have you used natural products to aid in healthy living? Tell me about it... I'd love to know!
God bless!

Deciding to Learn

Recently I have discovered that I love to learn! No, I'm not talking about math and science (I highly doubt that I will ever develop a love for math. This girl and math will always be at odds). What I am excited about are things that I can learn that would be useful to my life as a mom and as a wife. Ideas that I stumble upon that help me become more organized, thrifty, creative or healthy are just a few things that are on my list to learn and accomplish. I've decided to intentionally learn and to improve upon what I already know. My goal with this blog is to pass on what I find so that you can also learn from my successes and, more likely, my many mistakes.
For now, this is all. I will be back soon with a new discovery to share!
God bless!