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Christmas/ Holidays/Parties/ Kids/Family/ Seasonal

Gift Ideas For Teen Girls

Gift Ideas for Teen Girls

I have 3 teen girls.


It is crazy unbelievable how fast my girls have grown up. I am so thankful to be here to witness the growth! I think of these teen years, and I’m pleasantly surprised with how much fun we are having.

Don’t get me wrong, we have our share of dramatic moments, but we are growing as a family and learning how to love & accept each other even when it is hard. Sometimes this takes an exhaling of self and an inhaling of acceptance that we are all a bunch of imperfect humans learning to live closely with one another. I am Mom, learning and growing right along with my teens, and loving every moment of it!


Goodbye Littles, Hello Shopping For Teen Girls

Christmas with teen girls is so much fun. Gone are the days of shopping at Toys R Us during date night with my hubs. Gone are the days of shopping at the dollar store for stocking stuffers, tutu’s and plastic glittery heels & princess tiaras.

I still have my princesses, but they are now growing up at ages 17, 15 & 13.


Amazon Gift Ideas/Wish Lists

My teen girls now make Amazon wish lists, as requested by Mom & Dad, and send us a text to let us know when their lists are updated.  Granted, they do not get everything on the list, but these wish lists sure makes “Santa’s” job by giving a heads up to what they would like, and even the reindeer get a break thanks to free shipping from Amazon Prime!

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Holidays/Parties/ RECIPES/ Sides

Cranberry Apple Citrus Vinaigrette & Eating Plant Strong During The Holidays

Keeping my food intake plant strong during the holidays is a little bit challenging, but not impossible.

How do I plan on doing it?

1. I’m not going to stress about it.

2. I plan on indulging a bit.

3.  I will start my day with a green smoothie, which will give me a big head start on getting my fruit and vegetable servings in, provide all my protein needed for the day, and get in my Omega’s from chia.

4. Most of our Christmas celebrations are pot-luck style, where everyone brings a dish to share, so I am planning on making one that is plant strong, to load my plate with and share with others.

I have decided not to stress about small amounts of dairy and sugar, and just enjoy what the season is about.  I am focusing on getting in my servings of plants each day, and as long as I do that, having a bit of junk along with it seems just fine.  I do notice that I don’t feel too well when I do indulge in foods I am not used to eating (sweets, meat and cheese), so that keeps my portion sizes to a minimum, which is not a bad thing.

One way I plan on keeping plant strong, especially during our FIVE Christmas celebrations coming up, is by bringing a dish that is mostly green.  I want it to be delicious and festive, one that everyone can enjoy, but I also want it to be one I can fall back on, one that I can fill the majority of my plate with, leaving less room for foods that won’t make me feel very good.  The below recipe of Cranberry Apple Citrus Vinaigrette, drizzled on a salad of greens, fruit and nuts is the perfect dish to bring in my opinion!

Another reason I choose to bring a plant strong dish is that I never want to put extra stress on my hostesses due to my different eating habits.  It is amazing what I can find at a potluck- style dinner that is plant strong, as long as I do not stress about small amounts of food that I usually do not eat.

I have been surprised at how letting go of a few of our family traditions involving junk food has been just fine this year.  We have plenty left that do involve tastes of the season, so my kids are not even missing my traditional “Chocolate Andes Mint Cookies.” Neighbors and my husbands co-workers have kept some yummy treats in our home, which we love.  This frees me to “just say no” to doing my own traditional Christmas baking. We did make our traditional sugar cookies, but I kept it very simple and minimal by buying a kit from Trader Joes, which made just enough to enjoy for one evening!  Love that, no leftovers to tempt us. 

So what green recipe am I planning on bringing to at least 2 of our Christmas celebrations?

A Salad of Greens,

Topped with Candied Pecans from Trader Joes, Apples, Pears, Clementines and Dried Cranberries,

Drizzled with Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette! Delish!!

Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette

Cranberry, maple, apple, and clementine make one lovely stand-out holiday dressing. This festive cranberry dressing is sweet with a light tangy aftertaste. Feel free to use more or less maple syrup to adjust to your own taste buds. You can also use any type of sweet citrus that you prefer.
Yield: just over 1 and 1/4 cups
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, or adjust to taste
  • 1.5 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp fresh clementine or orange juice (or use bottled)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
1. In a medium pot, heat the cranberries, maple syrup, and vinegar over medium heat until the cranberries burst, about 7-10 mins.
2. Slightly cool cranberry mixture and place in a blender along with the rest of the ingredients (except salt and pepper). Blend until smooth. Now add salt, 1/4 tsp at a time, to taste. Blend again. Adjust other ingredients to taste if necessary. You may want more maple syrup than I used. I liked this dressing with a bit of tart aftertaste to really let the cranberries shine. Place in fridge to chill. Should keep in fridge in an air-tight container for up to 5-7 days.

Yum!  I made this as part of our Thanksgiving dinner and it was a big hit.

I do think my nephews are going to miss my famous Brown Sugar Bacon Wrapped Lil’ Smokies, but I just can’t bring myself to handle all that raw meat.  I am out of practice!

What are you thoughts on eating healthy through the holidays?

FUN/DIY/ HOME/ How-Tos/ Kids/Family/ Seasonal/ Simplifying

A Casual, Un-Perfect Thanksgiving

Mary is Giving Up On Perfect this thanksgiving, and so am I!

I am hosting thanksgiving this year.  I’ve been in a very simple, take- it- easy kind of mood lately, and I am approaching Thanksgiving in the same kind of way.  I’m making plans, but not becoming a perfectionist about it.  I do not want to get pre-occupied with all the preparation and details, then the meaning of it all becomes an after- thought.  Really, it is a precious time to be together as a family and acknowledge the many blessing we have and thank our great God for His goodness.

Here are some of the ways I am planning on making it simple:

Paper Plates

I’ve used paper plates in the past, and looking back at thanksgiving pictures,(above) it really is possible to create a nice table, even using paper plates.  I found the plates in the above picture on sale, they helped give color to the table. I set them on top of some silver chargers, rolled up paper napkins and made a pretty decent table. This year, I am going even more simple and casual.  We will be using disposable cups and utensils.  I rarely use disposable products, but sometimes it just has to be done.  I do not want to spend time washing dishes when my family is over, plus I do not have enough glasses and utensils for 15 people, so I really don’t have much choice.   I had a hard time finding disposable plates that were not cheesey or covered with picture of a turkey.  Maybe its just me, but I don’t want to lift a bite of turkey up to my mouth, look down, and discover I’ve uncovered part of the plate where the turkey is looking up at me as I eat him.  Appetite killer, for sure!:)

I am so happy I discovered the Solo Bare paper product line.  It caught my eye among all the paper plates with the typical patterns, flowers and bright, very un-fall colors. The color of the bare plates were so tasteful, warm, simple, boring and in my opinion, perfect.  Any type of napkin would match, and I quickly found (at Target) some printed fall napkins that will add color to the table. The bare cups are just plain and clear, so much better than bright yellow, red or blue!  I plan on making a cranberry punch so the cups will show off the beautiful color of the punch.  I am also keeping the eating utensils clear, since they are not that attractive I don’t want to draw attention to them, clear will disappear.
I have yet to mention the best features of the bare line,  they are renewable, compostable and recyclable!

Easy Beverages-
For the main beverage during dinner, I am making a simple Sparkling Cranberry Punch.  All you do is put equal portions of cranberry juice cocktail and sprite, then mix.   There are different types of bottled juice, you could do cranberry-raspberry cocktail, cranberry-grape cocktail, whatever.  Pour over ice.  So easy!
The rest of the day while we are hanging out and playing games, I will have soda and some Hot Apple Cider warming in a Crock-pot, ready for guest to help themselves.  Click Here for the Recipe.

Guests Bring a Dish
My family is great about everyone pitching in and bringing a dish.  My oldest sister, Julie, is a great cook.  I told her to bring whatever, and to let me know ahead of time what she was going to bring.   I am so lucky to have her as my sis, here is one reason why…check out this list of food she is bringing!!
Aunt Fannie’s Squash Casserole (we don’t have an Aunt Fannie, but I’m sure it is a great recipe!:))
Cranberry Meatball Appetizer
Jalepeno Popper Dip
Pumpkin Pie
Cherry Pie
Isn’t she great?  Don’t you wish she was YOUR sister?
My other sis is paying the Turkey, bringing Pop and Peanut Butter Pie. Yum. She rocks, too.  How generous to pay for the bird!
I have another sis who is bringing Stuffing and Broccoli Casserole.  Broccoli Casserole!! Oh how I love that stuff.  I could put my face in it right about now.  My baby sis is so great, that just bringing her cute self and her husband would be enough, but her cute self plus stuffing and casserole?  Oooh…its gonna be a good day!
My mommy always bring some kind of delish quick bread and is famous for her Cranberry Orange Muffins.  I try not to let her bring much, because she always comes early and peels the Potatoes, carves the Turkey, makes the Gravy and helps me with the last minute details.  I’m spoiled.
Not much left for me, huh?
I have some of this Harry and David Cranberry Relish Dip that I will serve over a block of cream
cheese w/ crackers to dip.  I will also make Rolls & Butta, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Corn Casserole, Velveeta Shells and Cheese (its for the kids, so why make it from scratch this time when Velvetta makes them smile?) some type of Jello Salad and some type of Chocolate Dessert.

Final Menu:
Cranberry Relish Dip W/ Crackers
Jalepeno Popper Dip
Sausage Appetizer Balls
Cranberry Meatballs
Main Meal
Turkey, Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Squash Casserole, Broccoli Casserole, Corn Casserole, Mac n Cheese, Rolls, Jello Salad
Cranberry Orange Muffins
Pumpkin Pie
Cherry Pie
Peanut Butter Pie
Somethin’ Chocolate
Sparkling Cranberry Punch
Hot Apple Cider
Wow-ie!  I’m ready to EAT! (as you can see, healthy eating in this family goes right out the window on a holiday, otherwise, it just would not feel like a holiday!!)

Buffet Style

No passing the turkey around here!  I like the table without the clutter of food, and it is just easier for everyone to help themselves.  The kitchen becomes our buffet.  I have counter space and a glass table, which is plenty of room to hold all the food. We start with prayer, then the mom’s help the kids get their food, then its our turn!  It  is so smooth, and you don’t get interrupted while you eat with “please pass the…”

Casual Clothes
I am going to encourage my family to come comfotable and cozy.  Fuzzy socks are welcome!  I don’t want added pressure to have my girls all dressed to kill, just so they can stain their nice clothes with Sparkling Cranberry Punch. They will look decent, but I am so NOT about to go out and buy special outfits just for one day.  Looking perfect is not what the day is about, my kids don’t need to look like a gap commercial.  Its about being thankful for what we have, not spending money on things we really do not need

Simple Decor

I have a lot of fall decorations, (remember this post?). For my table decor, I am simply going to grab from what I have.  Maybe these brown paper pumpkins from my sunroom windowsill, a few fake leaves sprinkled about and some candles.  My plates have an earthy, organic feel, so these would keep with that theme.
The kid table is always fun.  I love to get on and get new ideas.  I used these cute ice cream cone cornucopias a couple years back.

The kids just loved them!  This year, my girls have made little toilet paper roll people.  They so very cute!  I will label them with the kids names, and set them on their plate so they know where to sit.  I thought about doing the same for the adults, but they are smart enough to know they are made from toilet paper rolls, which may be another appetite killer!

“Good Enough” House Cleaning
My house will be picked up and clean enough.  NOT carpets steam cleaned, windows washed, tile grout scrubbed, floors hand cleaned, “perfect” clean!!  Just toilets cleaned, sinks wiped, rooms vacuumed in the middles, quick dust, quick sweep, quick mop, “no- sweat” kinda clean!!  There will 15 people here, so the floors will be un-perfect within minutes, and we are not eating off the carpets so they don’t need to be steamed!  Nobody’s perfect, why try to fool each other into thinking we are?  Especially family, who knows we are DEFINITELY not!:)

Easy Fun
It doesn’t take much for my family to have fun and entertain ourselves. All it took one year was a camera and each individual willing to make a turkey out of themselves by making a crazy face for an individual portrait.
Some years I will have an organized craft for the kids to do, and  sometimes I have lots of game ideas.  This year, I’m not really going to plan anything.  We have a ton of board games, we will have our annual 1,000 piece Christmas puzzle sitting out to be worked on, and we can just sit and enjoy each other.
We may have to pull out the turkey feather game.  The kids love it, because they get to play it with adults and see adults act like dorks,  and adults love it because we get to watch the kids excitement, and join in on the fun.
 How to play:  You’ll need  a turkey feather (any feather) and everyone in the same room.  Send the “finder” out of the room to count to 30.  When they are gone, hide the feather somewhere in the room.  When the ‘finder’ comes back in, help them find it by saying hot or cold.  Or, you can take it up a notch like we do, and make very annoying beeping sounds as a group, getting louder and faster as the finder gets closer, and slower and quieter when they turn away from where it is located.  It’s quite funny! (at least we think so, but remember, it doesn’t take much…)
Happy Thanksgiving!

Well there you have it, my Casual Thanksgiving plan. I so look forward to seeing my un-perfect family in my un-perfect house, hanging out in our fuzzy socks drinking hot apple cider, beeping annoyingly in a chorus for the hide-the-feather game, and just simply being… thankful!