Christmas Planner Printable

The holidays are so chaotic. Staying organized can be a real challenge! Today, I’m offering a great tool to help keep you sane and keep you on task with all the things you have to do during the holidays. My Christmas Planner printable will make your life so much easier this Christmas!

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Get organized and control chaos this holiday season. This planner will help you stay on task of holiday hosting, traveling, baking / cooking, as well as shopping and gift-giving.

WHAT YOU GET:

24 Planner Pages!

GIFT GIVING / SHOPPING:

– Gift Idea List
– Stocking Stuffer Ideas
– Christmas Budget Worksheet
– Gift Idea Profile (for those who are hard to shop for)
– Gift Tracker, Long Version
– Gift Tracker, Short Version
– Online Order Tracker
– Black Friday Wish List / Tracker

MEAL PLANNING:

– Menu Plan with Grocery List
– Recipe Page

EVENT PLANNING

– Christmas Eve Daily Planner
– Christmas Day Daily Planner
– Party Planning Worksheet

OTHER:

– Planner Covers – Bar Style
– Planner Cover – Open Wreath
– Planner Cover – Full Wreath
– Undated November Calendar (Use this planner every year!)
– Undated December Calendar
– Christmas Card Tracker
– Christmas Decoration Inventory
– Travel Plans Itinerary
– Christmas Bucket List
– To Do List
– Notes Page

FORMAT: Letter Size (8.5″ x 11″) in PDF – You’ll need Adobe Acrobat 5.0 or later or some other .PDF viewing software.

** THIS ITEM IS AN INSTANT DOWNLOAD. NO PHYSICAL ITEMS WILL BE DELIVERED **
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Order Now CHRISTMAS PLANNER PRINTABLE

OR order through my Etsy store My Beautiful Mess Blog Etsy Store

THIS PLANNER IS UNDATED ~ USE IT YEAR AFTER YEAR AND NEVER BUY AGAIN!

Disclaimer: Colors vary from printer to printer and also very slightly from web to print.

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Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers & Neighbors

This post, Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers & Neighbors, contains affiliate links. If make a purchase through the link I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

Enjoy these FREE printable Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers & Neighbors

We’re getting closer to Christmas and like me, I’m sure you’re probably thinking about potential gifts for neighbors and teachers. If you’re looking for an easy, inexpensive gift, I recommend some hand soap or hand sanitizer. It’s only a few dollars (normally around $3 or under) and it’s something they will actually use!

My absolute favorite is Bath and Body Works soaps because of the delicious scents and creamy moisture. I always wait until they are on sale. In addition, I use a coupon. If you don’t have a coupon for Bath and Body Works, you can usually find one at Retail Me Not. My next favorite hand soaps are J.R. Watkins and Myers Clean Day. You can find these at various stores, but I’ll leave a link below where you can get them online. Otherwise you can use any soap of your choice.

In addition, keep in mind you can use lotion or even body wash as an alternative. 

Free Printable Soap Christmas Gift Tags

I’ve created a collection of 9 tags that you can print, cut out and attach to your hand soap. No need to wrap. Just tie a ribbon, even bells and attach the tag for a unique, custom gift they’ll use. 

Download your Printable Soap Gift Tags. You’ll need Adobe Acrobat or other .pdf viewing software to use and print. 

Printable Soap Christmas Gift Tags
Preview


Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers & Neighbors

I really hope these cute soap gift tags makes your life a little easier this holiday season. From my family to yours, we hope you have a Happy Christmas!

Looking for more Christmas inspiration? Learn more about how to create your own Hot Chocolate Bar

The post Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers and Neighbors first appeared on My Beautiful Mess.

 

Magic Painting Christmas Cards

This post, Magic Painting Christmas Cards, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through this post, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

Magic Painting Christmas Cards - Usborne Books

If you’re looking for a fun, relatively mess free craft to do with your child, I highly recommend this Magic Painting Christmas activity from Usborne Books. 

This year, we were looking for a quick and easy Christmas themed activity to do with my three year old. It’s really hard to do crafts the way we used to with my infant son. Mommy suddenly doesn’t have enough hands! I also have a need to contain as much mess as possible.

A good friend of mine sells for Usborne books and I so excited to see Magic Painting Christmas Cards as new item and boy was it a great time killer for my little one. We painted all ten designs and then we picked the family members we would send them to. I had my son put on the postage stamps and I addressed the envelopes. Then all three of us walked them to the mailbox (ours is at the entrance of our neighborhood). My son felt so proud mailing his little cards and he loved getting calls later from the people who received them!

About the Magic Painting Christmas Card Set

The pack comes with 10 cards in two designs and includes envelopes. It also includes a paint brush. The only thing you’ll need for this activity is a cup or bowl with water.

My son is 3 years old and he had a great time painting. I love these Magic painting books and activities from Usborne. They aren’t nearly as messy as traditional watercolors and we can take them anywhere. The paper appears white. However, there is hidden water color paint in it that is activated by water.

Recently, we went to Houston because my husband had a business trip and we did a magic painting activity on a table in our hotel suite! That’s how awesomely mess free they are. If anything spills, it’s just water!

Our Story with Usborne

Usborne is a children’s book company that is sold through distributors. I actually have four mom friends who sell them! So I don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding them. I have to tell you though, I’m glad I found them. If you don’t know anyone who sells them, I’ve provided a link below where you can purchase it through Amazon (see my affiliate disclosure at the top of the page).

 

They have such a cute line of chilren’s books. My son, much my chigrin, was suddenly disinterested in books when he turned two. Honestly, it upset my husband and I who are both avid readers. My high-energy son just couldn’t stand sitting still to read. But Usborne has lot of options for children who need something to do while reading. They have Lift-the-flap books and my son’s favorite Shine-a-light books. These are books where you shine a light through the page and hidden images appear. If you have a child who is disinterested in reading, I suggest trying these kids of books. My son now enjoys reading and finds books fun! I’d love to hear what fun winter activities you are doing with your children!

Learn more about holiday themed activities in the post The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List

Magic Painting Christmas Cards first appeared on My Beautiful Mess

DIY Christmas Swag

Christmas decorations can be so expensive! Make your own with this quick 30 minute DIY Christmas Swag craft.

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

I have a love-hate relationship with decorating. It’s true. I fret so much about what to put on my walls, that sometimes they end up blank. This year, I decided to do a little something different than my boring old Christmas wreaths on my french doors. So I decided to put up swags. I found some in a store, but they were $30 each! Instead, decided to make them myself. I made these DIY Christmas swags for $14.97 including the suction cup hanger!

The longest part of this DIY Christmas Swag was making the bow. I finished both swags within 30 minutes. If you are using a preformed bow, it will probably take you about 5 mins each!

Supplies

  • Pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Wreath hanger (suction cup hanger if hanging on mirror or glass)
  • 2.5″ Wired Ribbon or Pre-made bow
  • Large floral spray (approx 10-12″)
  • Floral wire or twisty tie
DIY Christmas swag supplies
Supplies

Instructions

Instructions

  1. Gather supplies. Using strong pliers, slowly bend the end of the floral spray to make a circle. This will allow you to hook it to a holder. Make sure it slips onto your holder and adjust as necessary.
Floral spray

2. Make a floral bow with 2.5″ wide wired ribbon. Wired ribbon holds the shape. I used buffalo plaid, but you can use any ribbon you’d like. If you aren’t comfortable making bows, you can simply purchase one at a local hobby or craft store.

3. Once you’ve made your bow (or even if you have purchased one). Make certain that you go through and puff out all your loops in order to make a full looking bow. 

4. Attach floral wire or a twisty tie to the back of the bow. You’ll then attach it to the floral stem. Wrap it tightly and securely.

5. Once completed, attach your finished swag to your wreath hanger.

Learn more about how to make Retro Sequin Ball Ornaments

The post DIY Christmas Swag first appeared on My Beautiful Mess

10 Sanity Saving Products for Your Reflux Baby

This post contains affiliate links which I recommend. If you make a purchase using the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

10 Sanity Saving Products for Your Reflux Baby

Having a baby with reflux is exhausting. I’ve compiled 10 Sanity Saving products for your reflux baby to help you get through this tough season.

Our Story

I should know. Our oldest son was born prematurely at 35 weeks. He didn’t need a NICU stay, but after a few weeks of being home, we noticed something was wrong. He cried every time we put him down. As new parents, you go through the standard reasons for crying. Is he fed? Diaper changed? Hot or cold? Burped? Sleepy? But nothing made him happy. Except for being held.

Even more horrifying is that it was getting worse every week. I felt like the worst mother. I couldn’t comfort my baby. We didn’t know why he would scream and writhe every time we put him down on his back. We didn’t understand why he would arch his back. He’d act like he was drowning when he ate, even on a slow flow nipple. Even after he’d eaten, it would all come oozing back out of his mouth like a faucet. And then….the screaming. The terrible screeching sound that filled our house for hours. We made several trips to the emergency room because the screaming was so intense. I stopped nursing and tried multiple formulas. I bought nearly every bottle type I could find. Nothing helped. I had no answers.

One night, my husband and I were on the verge of tears. Neither of us had slept in weeks. I felt delusional, like I was going mad. In a fit of frustration, I took to Facebook, begging for help, ugly crying with every keystroke. My cousin’s wife responded and asked me a few questions. “It sounds like reflux. Our son had it too.” She proceeded to give me a list of things they used that helped them. We went to the doctor and it was finally confirmed as reflux (also known as GERD).

I never even knew children could have acid reflux. It’s painful and their little sphincters just can’t keep food down. If they are being held up, gravity helps it, so it isn’t so bad. But if they are moving around or laying down, particularly on their back, the acid, bile, and partially digested food makes its way back up.  I can’t stress enough how these items saved us. I don’t know if we would have survived that first year without these solutions.

Our second child had reflux too. I can’t tell you how these products have helped us. Despite having reflux and a club foot, our second little guy is an easy baby. This time we prepared ourselves with the right gear. So if you’re a mom whose child has just been diagnosed with reflux, I sincerely hope this helps. You aren’t alone. Hang in there, because I will also tell you that once they are past the 6 month mark and eating a good amount of solids, you’re almost out of the woods. Believe me when I say, it gets better. I promise.

  1. Fisher Price Rock and Play

Before we found this amazing inclined sleeper, we were “sleeping” in our glider with our son. Of course, we didn’t really get sleep because we were so worried about dropping him. This solved that! We had tried putting things under our son’s mattress to prop it up but nothing worked until he was older. This amazing sleeper is great for under 6 months. It keeps him upright, but maintains a natural sleeping position. Because it is gusseted, they also can’t roll over to their tummy. It includes breathable mesh sides and strap to secure your infant.

2. Dr. Brown Bottles

I’m not joking. I tried every bottle in the early days of my son’s reflux. I spent hundreds of dollars and nothing helped. Nothing, until I found Dr. Brown bottles, that is. I can’t stress enough how good they are for colic and reflux. They have a special vent system that breaks up air and controls the flow. If you have a reflux baby, don’t settle for anything less.

3. Angelcare Movement Monitor

Once your little one outgrows the Rock and Play, you’ll have to make the transfer over to the crib. This is definitely optional, but making the transfer was scary for us. We were worried he could spit up at night. With babies sleeping on their back there is always the worry of choking. So this movement alarm gave us peace of mind. It’s very sensitive and it senses if your baby has stopped breathing. After a few seconds, a sound alarms. It can be used all the way up to toddler years if still in the crib. You also need to purchase an additional wooden board that helps keep it accurate.

4. Owlet Smart Sock Baby Monitor

An alternative to the Angelcare is the Owlett. Again, this is totally optional, but it does help your peace of mind. Your child wears it like a sock and it transmits information to your phone. It measures your child’s breathing, in particular their oxygen levels It also measures his or her heart rate. Any concerning drop in vitals sounds an alarm. It’s extremely sensitive, but it’s also a little on the pricey side. This really helped us sleep better at night.

5. Similac Spit-Up Formula

I would absolutely consult your pediatrician regarding formulas, but this formula helped us tremendously. It was the only formula, my second son would drink. Before that, every feeding was like a battle of the wills. He would struggle and spit up most of what he drank. This formula saved us since he wouldn’t eat the hypoallergenic one. Its available in powder and 32 oz ready to feed bottles.

6. Enfamil AR Forumla

This was my first son’s formula. Like the Similac Spit-Up formula, it is contains a rice starch which makes the formula heavier and harder to come back up. It’s available in powder form and 8 oz 6-packs.

7. Similac Alimentum Formula

Again, consult your physician before changing formulas. Doctors may ask you to try a hypoallergenic formula like Similac Alimentum. Our son didn’t care for it and wouldn’t drink it. It has a vitamin kind of smell and taste. But a friend of mine had a son that did amazingly on it! It may not be tasty, but doctors use this hypoallergenic formula to help manage reflux with great success.

8. Ergo Baby Carrier

One thing you’ll have to accept is that your reflux baby will need to be carried a lot. That can be really hard, especially if you have other kids to tend to. But having a good carrier makes all the difference! This definitely kept me sane. I was really hesitant to spend the money. I actually went through two cheaper carriers before finally splurging on this. It was worth every cent! As your baby gets heavier, you’ll need a quality carrier. Trust me, your back and shoulders will thank you.

9. Dr. Brown Formula Mixing Pitcher

If you plan on using powdered formula, this is a Godsend! It is a pitcher with a built-in manual blender. Because it’s made by Dr. Brown, it’s designed to mix your formula without introducing extra air. Then you just pop it in the fridge and pour from it. It holds about 36 oz comfortably. It’s also dishwasher safe.

10. Extra Absorbant Cotton Padded Burp Cloths

Before I had my son, I had the cutest little burp cloths that matched outfits. But honestly, they were no match for my son’s projectile spit up. They were too thin and not absorbent enough. If your baby has reflux, you’ll soon learn everything will get covered in spit up. These burp clothes are great and they have extra padding to catch spit up and vomit.

Looking for more mom support? Learn more about Resetting Your Day as a Mom

The post 10 Sanity Saving Products for Your Reflux Baby first appeared on My Beautiful Mess


Retro Sequin Ball Ornaments

Learn how to make beautiful retro sequin ball ornaments in this DIY tutorial

diy retro sequin ornament christmas craft handmade ornament

Every year, our family makes ornaments as part of our Advent calendar. Our Advent calendar is filled with holiday centered activities that we do as a family. It’s a fun way to take time out of the busy holiday season and actually celebrate and experience Christmas. My family has grown to love it and each year we each choose our own ornament we’d like to make. This year, I choose retro sequin ball ornaments.

Making this ornament is fairly easy, just time-consuming. Surprisingly, I found it to be a relaxing exercise! I hadn’t made one of these in years, so I was a little rusty. So I’ll share how I made these and what I learned from the mistakes I made!

SUPPLIES

  • Wire, approx 3-4″
  • Styrofoam ball 2.8″
  • Small pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Sequins
  • Craft pins
  • Ribbon / String / or Ornament Hook

handmade ornament supplies diy sequin ornament

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Before you begin, take a wire (in a pinch you can use a large paper clip). Insert the wire in the top of the ball ornament. Push straight through the center. You can do this at any point. However, I’d recommend doing it before you put sequins on. If for some reason you don’t go strait on your first attempt, you may destroy the hard work you’ve done. Therefore, I recommend doing it before you begin decorating. This will create a way to attach an ornament hook or string for hanging.

2. Once through, trim wire on the top and bottom to about a centimeter.

3. Using pliers, curl each wire end into a loop. This stops the wire from sliding on either end and will allow you to hang it.

4. When it comes to sequins, you can choose any that you like. I choose silver and gold since one of my trees is themed that color. You can choose different size sequins as well. I recommend putting them in ziplock bags or containers to control the mess or if you may need to clean off you workspace before you’re finished.

5. You’ll need craft pins. Some come with a decorative head and others have a flat head. I used short pins, but I recommend using larger ones. I found that using short pins are easily pulled out. The longer the pin, the more reinforced it is.

6. You decide on the design and how many colors you use. I did opposing triangle shapes surrounded by gold. If you need to, you can draw an outline on the styrofoam it will eventually be obscured by the sequins.

7. If you’ve never used sequins before, you want the sequins to be placed with the facets facing upwards. This allows for maximum shine. You can choose to layer the sequins as I did. I put the smaller ones on top of the big ones for added interest and texture.

8. Next, add your sequins, making your way around the ball trying to close any gaps you see, to the best of your ability.

9. Once done, add your ribbon or ornament hook. It’s now ready for hanging!

If you’re looking for more fun things to do at Christmas time, see the post The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List

Retro Sequin Ornaments first appeared on My Beautiful Mess

Hot Chocolate Bar

A Hot Chocolate Bar is a fun way to entertain and feed your guests at the same time. It’s always a huge hit at my holiday parties. Today, I’m sharing how to create an awesome hot chocolate bar your guests will love. 

Hot chocolate bar

I love entertaining. I love creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere for family and friends to flock to. But even more specifically, I love when people are actually excited to come. When they start asking me months in advance if I will be hosting something, I know they enjoy it. For the last 6 years or so I’ve done a hot chocolate bar during the holidays. I’ve been shocked to learn how much guests love this. They’re talking about it even weeks after the event. So today I’m going to share how I create a hot chocolate bar.

I will share all the things I’ve learned through (mistakes and) the years. Guests naturally want something to do. They enjoy being entertained. Guests also typically wait to be served and even being the first one to slice into a dish can be awkward. So giving them something that they can’t wait to dig into is a great ice breaker. The hot chocolate bar also get your guests to serve themselves and be happy about it! It takes the pressure off you to constantly refresh drinks. I have found the hot chocolate bar is a total win all the way around! Let me show you how to do it!

How To Set Up Your Hot Chocolate Bar

Slow Cooker Recommendations

I recommend using a slow cooker to keep your hot chocolate warm over several hours. The size of the slow cooker is dependent upon how much you are serving.

There are 4 cups to a quart. Consider that one cup is about 8 ounces. Most mugs and disposable coffee cups are typically around 12 ounces which is greater than a cup. Also consider that guests may have more than one cup. Here is what I recommend:

  • 3-4 qt slow cooker for 8-12 cups
  • 5-7 qt slow cooker for 12-20 cups
  • 8 qt slow cooker for 20 or more cups

The slow cooker can hold more than I’ve recommended, but when the contents are piping hot, it is best not to fill the slow cooker to the rim. Always use caution when leaving hot appliances around your guests.

The Hot Chocolate

You may have your favorite hot chocolate recipe. However, if you’re struggling to find a good one, look no further. I have the best hot chocolate recipe you will ever find! It’s creamy and decadent. It’s absolutely delicious and always has rave reviews from my guests. I’m always asked for the recipe, so I’ve shared it here.

I’m going to give you a great tip: Reynolds Slow cooker Liners are the best invention ever! Okay, maybe not the best like electricity or running water, but still amazing. I don’t use a lot of disposable things, but I highly recommend these. They make cleaning your Crockpot a 30 second chore. They fit all slow cookers. No scrubbing or soaking your dirty slow cooker. Just put the liner in like you would a trash bag on a trash can. When you’re done, gather and toss in the trash. Easy! You can find the in the store near the Reynolds wrap and sandwich bags.

Cups and Mugs

For small get-togethers I recommend using glass cups or mugs. In an intimate setting, actual dishes create a cozy, personal atmosphere. Don’t be afraid to pull out your beautiful china that rarely gets used. If you’re saving it for the Queen, I hate to tell you this, but she’s never coming. Don’t save it. The time is now.

Disposable cups are great for large parties. Otherwise you will need to keep a constant supply of fresh cups. If you don’t have many, you’ll end up spending the evening chasing down used cups for washing. After many years of hosting I can tell you, people set their cups down and can’t remember which one was theirs, so they simply grab a new cup. It creates endless work for you if you’re hosting a large party.

If you’re hosting, particularly a large party, prepare yourself for spills. They can and will happen. I highly recommend doing what you can to minimize spills and the ensuing damage they cause. That means, getting disposable cups with lids! They actually do help. I also recommend getting sleeves for cups, because even though everyone knows hot chocolate is hot, burns still occur. Do your part as a host to make things safe. I’ve inserted a link on this page to the ones I use. They aren’t fancy, but the neutral color means I can use the unused cups for any other parties during the year.

Toppings

This is where the fun begins. For whipped cream, I just put the can of spray whip in a bowl with ice. The really fun part is watching your guests pile on chocolate mints, peanut butter, or marshmallows. Cherries, nuts, butterscotch and caramel are all great additions. Adults love when you provide liquors along with the toppings. Great options are rum, coconut rum (Malibu), Irish Cream (Baileys), Raspberry (Chambord), Hazelnut (Frangelico) and Coffee (Kahlua). In my Hot Chocolate Bar Printable, I’ve included different pairing recipes!

Here is a tip: I put the toppings in mason jars. This is especially helpful if you’ll be using your hot chocolate bar for several events. Fill your jars with toppings. Label them, so people don’t have to guess or taste test. Make sure to provide spoons or some utensil for serving and to avoid cross contamination. When not in use, pop the lid on and put it away or just leave it on the set up (if it doesn’t need refrigeration).

Decorations

The theme you do is totally up to you. My personal favorite is galvanized metal, buffalo plaid, and kraft paper, but feel free to try things out. If you are super uncreative and have no idea how to pull it together, look no further. I’ve made a Hot Chocolate Bar Printable to help you! Buy it and follow the instructions. Print the sign on photo paper and put it in a document frame or trim it down to size and put it in an 8×10 frame. Print out the labels on full sheet sticker paper. Then cut out and stick them to your favorite container. Pair with red napkins and accessories.

In the Hot Chocolate Bar Printable, I’ve included

  • A Buffalo Plaid Hot Chocolate Bar Sign
  • Labels for Toppings
  • Adult and Child-Friendly Recipes (to encourage creativity)
  • Shopping List

Other Stuff

  • Use a spoon rest to minimize sticky counters. (If you don’t have a spoon rest, a bowl or bread plate works just fine)
  • Always place napkins at your bar. Spills and drips happen.
  • Place coasters where your guests congregate to minimize damage to furniture. (Liquid and heat damages wood)
  • I suggest using stirs for people to stir their mix-ins. They create much less waste than disposable spoons.
  • Paper straws or wooden spoons also add a special touch.

That’s it! I hope this post inspires you to do something fun! I’d love to hear what fun things you do at your parties!

Learn more about the Best Hot Chocolate Recipe you’ll ever find!

If you’re looking for other tools to help you at Christmas, try my Christmas Planner Printable
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The Best Crockpot Hot Chocolate

I’m making you a promise. This is the best Crockpot Hot Chocolate you’ll ever make. It’s super rich, chocolatey, and creamy. Best of all, it stays hot in the crockpot so guests can serve themselves all night!

Crockpot Hot Chocolate

Christmas isn’t Christmas without hot chocolate. Today I’m sharing one of my most favorite recipes. I make this all the time during the holidays. Sometimes just for us, but mostly, I make it for parties and get-togethers. It never fails. Someone always asks for the recipe. It’s that good. I promise that this is the last hot chocolate recipe you’ll ever use. This Crockpot Hot Chocolate is very rich because it’s made with milk and heavy whipping cream. Semi-sweet chocolate chips are melted into the hot milk and it’s sweetened with condensed milk. The result is steaming cup of chocolatey goodness.

Later this week, I’ll be sharing how I set up a Crockpot hot chocolate bar to entertain your guests (Sshh….it also gets them to serve themselves – don’t tell anyone). I’ll show you how to set up toppings so that it is a fun, entertaining activity that gives your guests something to do. Here is a preview to my Hot Chocolate Bar Printable available for sale on Etsy and in my blog store.

 

 

Crockpot Hot Chocolate

The best hot chocolate you'll ever make, this easy recipe is made in the crockpot - perfect for entertaining or crowds. 
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 5 mins
Course: Dessert, Drinks
Keyword: chocolate, crockpot, entertaining, hot chocolate, slowcooker
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 Condensed Milk 14 oz can
  • 1 1/2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 Cups Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 6 Cups Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in to a slow cooker. 
  • Heat slow cooker on low setting. Cover and let chocolate melt.
  • Stir frequently until chocolate chips and condensed milk are fully incorporated. Allow 2 hours to reach full temperature

The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List

Get into the Holiday spirit, by completing the Ultimate Christmas Bucket List.

The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

When my husband and I got married, we decided to start a tradition. We started an activity Advent calendar. Instead of stuffing our advent calendar with sweets or small toys, we fill it with activities. This has really helped us bond as a family. It creates memories for our children and encourages us to spend time together. Starting December 1, we do a Christmas or Holiday themed activity every day as a family.

It’s a wonderful way to get you out of your rut and into the Christmas spirit. We use an actual advent calendar with the activity written on little slips of paper. These are easily moved around if our schedule changes. Every year, I rotate a few of them out. If you don’t have an advent calendar, you can simply write them on your calendar. Alternatively, you can put the slips of paper in a jar or you can use the FREE Christmas Advent Calendar printable I’ve made for you. Just cross them off as you complete them. I’ve listed 75 different activities you can do to complete the Ultimate Christmas Bucket List. Some require planning, while others can be done in a moment’s notice.

 

advent calendar

Our Advent Calendar

The Ultimate Bucket List

1. Bake Gingerbread Cookies

2. Watch Home Alone

3. Trim the Tree

4. Make a Christmas Wreath

5. Take a Family Christmas Photo

6. Make Christmas Candy

7. Watch It’s a Wonderful Life

8. Build a Gingerbread House

9. Make an Ornament

10. Visit Santa

11. Read the Polar Express

12. Watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas

13. Go to a Holiday Party

14. Drink Hot Apple Cider

15. Go Sledding

16. Visit a Christmas Market

17. Build a Snowman

18. Watch Elf

19. Read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

20. Bake and Decorate Sugar Cookies

21. Enjoy Eggnog

22. Go Christmas Shopping

23. Send Christmas Cards

24. Watch A Christmas Story

25. Wrap Gifts

26. Listen to Christmas Music

27. Attend a Performance of The Nutcracker

28. Make Paper Snowflakes

29. Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater

30. Watch Love Actually

31. Drink Hot Cocoa

32. See Christmas Lights

33. Go Outside and Make Snow Angels

34. Make a Popcorn Garland

35. Watch The Polar Express in Your Pajamas

36. Host or Attend a Cookie Exchange

37. Mail a Letter to Santa

38. Hang Mistletoe

39. Watch White Christmas

40. Go Ice Skating

41. Find a Fun Way to Display Christmas Cards

42. Give Gifts to Your Neighbors

43. Make a DIY Gift for Someone

44. Watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

45. Cuddle by the Fire

46. Read the Nativity Story from the Bible (Luke 1-2 & Matthew 1-2)

47. Do a Random Act of Kindness

48. Watch or Read How the Grinch Stole Christmas

49. Attend a Tree Lighting Ceremony

50. Watch or Read A Christmas Carol

51. Make Sugar Plums

52. Send a Care Package to Someone in the Military

53. Watch Miracle on 34th Street

54. Roast Marshmallows

55. Donate to a Toy Drive

56. Go Christmas Caroling

57. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas

58. Thank a Mail Carrier

59. Hang Stockings

60. Volunteer at a Homeless Shelter

61. Watch Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

62. Make Mason Jar Snow Globes

63. Attend a Holiday Party

64. Attend or Host a White Elephant Gift Exchange

65.  Make a Christmas Centerpiece

66. Create an Advent Wreath

67. Watch Christmas Chronicles 

68. Attend Christmas Mass or Church Service

70. Research and Share How Other Countries Celebrate Christmas

71. Make Fudge

72. Watch Jingle All the Way

73. Cut or Choose a Christmas Tree

74. Make Your Own Gift Wrap (kraft paper & paint)

75. Decorate Your Porch for Christmas

 

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Perfect Spanish Rice

Perfect spanish rice

When you’re Hispanic, like me, there is rarely a single meal that goes by without Spanish rice. It was a staple growing up. It’s flavorful, filling and savory. Lots of people are intimidated by making rice. Let me tell you, you don’t need a fancy rice cooker. There are two rules for making perfect Spanish rice. Your water to rice ratio needs to be correct and you don’t touch it! Don’t worry, I’ll explain that in just a minute. Today, I’m going to share my family’s recipe for perfect Spanish rice.

There are variations to Spanish rice. I’ve seen people add peas, even corn to it. I do neither. The recipe I make is my grandmothers and then my mothers. The smell of the rice frying immediately takes me back to childhood.

For extra flavorful rice, I suggest using chicken stock in lieu of water. Alternatively, you can also use water and bouillon. Comino (Cumin), is a very strong spice. Too much of it and it will make your dish bitter. Therefore, use it sparingly if you experiment with it in recipes.

Here is the secret for perfect rice. First, white rice should always be cooked in a 1:2 ratio. One cup of white rice, 2 cups of water. Brown rice is 1:3 ratio. One cup of brown rice, 3 cups of water. Brown and wild rice require much longer cooking times. Too much water leaves rice mushy and waterlogged.

The other secret to perfect rice is to leave it alone while cooking. Therefore, this means no stirring. Stirring breaks up the starch and and makes it clumpy and just a big pile of mush. Once you put your ingredients in, just give it one stir around then cover and leave it!

Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice is a flavorful blend of cumin, cilantro and tomato. Learn how to make authentic, perfect Spanish rice.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Cumin, Mexican, Rice
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Long Grain Rice
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Small Roma Tomato Chopped
  • 1/3 Cup Yellow Onion Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Tomato Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Cilantro Chopped
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • Salt
  • 1 Tsp Pepper

Instructions

  • Chop tomato, onion and cilantro.
  • Prepare rice in a medium deep skillet with a lid
  • Heat oil on medium heat. Add rice and stir gently.
  • Allow rice to brown, stirring only a few times. 
  • Once browned, slowly add your chicken stock at the side edge of the pan. Be careful, as it will produce hot steam. 
  • Add cumin, garlic powder, cilantro, tomato, tomato sauce, and onion. Give one stir around the pan.
  • Bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid until all the liquid is dissolved, about 15-20 mins. 
  • Once cooked, fluff with fork. Add salt if needed. Normally the chicken stock is salty enough. 

Looking for other delicious recipes? Try Zuppa Toscana a delicious rustic Italian soup.

Setting Healthy Boundaries in Your Marriage

Setting healthy boundaries in your marriage might seem like an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but setting expectations and limitations can help minimize arguments, affairs, and even potential divorce.

Setting Healthy Boundaries in Your Marriage

(Photos courtesy of Unsplash)

I’m going to tell you a secret: I failed miserably at my first marriage. I married my first husband on my 20th birthday while living in the UK. At that age, I had the life experience of a fruit fly. I went into the union with absolutely no boundaries. I can’t recall a single time we talked openly or seriously about what we would and would not tolerate. Three short years into the marriage, we were falling apart. My ex-husband had a very lengthy affair with a co-worker. She was also married and had a child.

I’m now 15 years post divorce. I’m remarried to an amazing man and we have two beautiful children. At nearly 40 years old, I can tell you I’ve learned a lot about setting healthy marital boundaries and why they are so important. First, let’s take a quick look at what boundaries are and are not.

Boundaries are:

  • An imaginary line in the sand that you and your partner agree not to cross
  • A clear picture of what you will and will not tolerate
  • A definition of what you consider right and wrong
  • A  way of saying “no” in advance to something deemed inappropriate
  • A way of protecting yourself

Boundaries are not:

  • A way to manipulate your spouse
  • A way to “keep score”
  • An uneven balance of power between spouses

Sexual Boundaries

My mother had a saying. “The devil will do anything to get you into bed before you’re married and he’ll do everything to keep you out of bed once you’re married.” It’s true. As soon as you’re married it feels like there is something working against you, particularly with your sex life. Children, responsibilities, work can all get in the way of having a healthy sex life. You’ll have to prioritize date nights and intimacy.

I don’t believe in setting a bunch of boundaries when it comes to sex except to keep it loving, safe, secure and respectful.

What boundaries might look like:

  • We will keep our sex respectful and marriage bed pure
  • We will make intimacy a priority
  • We will be honest with each other about our sexual needs
  • We will not weaponize sex or use it to manipulate
  • We will not engage in sexual acts that degrade or shame our spouse

Relational Boundaries

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if parents, in-laws, and friends never involved themselves in your marriage? Yes, it would, but sadly whether intentionally or unintentionally, it still happens.

My husband and I, while both Christians, are different denominations. Early in our engagement, we had to decide whether to practice his Baptist faith or my Catholic faith. Of course, both sides of the family felt it was their place to tell us how we should worship and how we should raise our kids. The truth is, you will receive lots of unsolicited advice from family members and friends, but you decide how to deal with it as a couple. Don’t be afraid to shut it down, especially if it creates tension in your marriage.

Early in our marriage, my husband struggled with setting boundaries with his family. Honestly, I think everyone does. That’s because boundaries have the potential of disappointing others. Boundaries say “no.” For him, the breaking point came when we couldn’t make his sister’s wedding. I was 4 weeks post c-section and suffering from post partum psychosis. He just couldn’t leave me still healing from surgery, overwhelmed and suicidal. His family was disappointed, judgmental, and resentful. They were quick to tell us how we should have handled it (to their benefit, of course).

The situation got incredibly hurtful and toxic, but it was one of my husband’s proudest moments. Not only did he defend me, but he also shielded me from further mistreatment. He swore we would not return to see them until his family was willing to forgive and treat me better. I’m glad to say our family has healed from this, but sometimes you have to be courageous when it comes to protecting your marriage from anyone that might hurt it, even family.

What boundaries might look like:

  • We will defend our choices to others as a unified front
  • We will share holidays with both sides of the families
  • We will not allow toxic people to influence or divide us
  • We will protect and defend the reputation of our spouse to others, choosing to cover faults instead of exposing them
  • We will adopt traditions from both sides of the family
  • Our parents can not tell us what to do in our own home
  • We will make seeing extended family a priority
  • We will commit to peace with in-laws even when we disagree
  • We will not accept our family badmouthing our spouse

Fidelity

As I mentioned earlier, in my first marriage, I had no boundaries with my ex-husband. He was free to go to lunch with whomever he wanted, women included. My ex-husband’s friendship with a female co-worker didn’t alarm me, after all, she was happily married too. Over the years, I’ve seen so many marriages destroyed and families torn apart by infidelity. There is one truth I’ve seen in most cases: they were just friends, until they weren’t. Most good people don’t intend to have affairs. They befriended someone and it grew into feelings akin to fondness. Fondness developed into deeper romantic feelings. Once someone else is fulfilling the role of your spouse, it’s easy to justify your actions. Worse, your loyalty and love shifts to the outsider instead of your spouse.

That’s why in my second marriage my husband and I decided to set healthy boundaries when it came to the opposite sex. Transparency is our mantra. This means lots of accountability and absolutely no secrets. (By the way, if you are struggling from broken boundaries, I highly recommend Affair Recovery.)

What boundaries might look like:

  • We will disclose private messages, text messages and conversations with the opposite sex
  • We will not engage in one-on-one activities with the opposite sex
  • We will not travel alone with the opposite sex
  • We will give access to our phone, email and social media accounts
  • We will not keep secrets from each other
  • We will not engage in pornography

Fighting Fairly

Fighting is inevitable in marriage. No matter how much you may seemingly have in common, no two people are truly compatible. You have to agree to agree or agree to disagree. You will always have stark differences. Learning how to navigate fights before feelings are invested, will help you tremendously. It’s also important to note that how we cope with discord is different. The two most common defense mechanisms are fight or flight. We either become combative, defensive, and unreasonable or we avoid it or worse – physically leave the argument. Neither of those produce good results.

Create between you, rules for fighting fair. Consider it a rule book for how fights will be dealt with, particularly when emotions escalate.

What boundaries might look like:

  • We will never call each other names in the argument
  • We will never become physical
  • We will never mention divorce
  • If it becomes too intense, we will take a time out and revisit the topic later
  • We can leave the room, but not the house
  • We will never have heated arguments in front of the children
  • We will never argue in public
  • We will seek out a mediator, such as a pastor or counselor if we become stonewalled

 

There are lots of different topics with which you might place boundaries. Some of these could be financial, religious or job-related. Perhaps they include how to discipline children. They key to setting healthy boundaries in your marriage, is to set them through honest and open discussion. I suggest never asking your partner to do something you would be unwilling to follow yourself. For example, I asked my husband to disclose one-on-one conversations with the opposite sex. But I also hold myself to the same standard. If one of my male friends reaches out privately, I tell my husband and give him the opportunity to read the text messages, etc if he chooses. Healthy boundaries protect both the marriage as a whole and both individuals equally. What are some of the healthy boundaries in your marriage? I love to hear why and how you set them.

 

Looking for other topics on marriage? Read She Does Him Good