Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Our Most Loved Christmas Stories

Every year as we prepare for Christmas some our favorite traditions like so many people is to decorate the tree, put up the nativity scene, and open all the decorations. It really never gets old getting everything out and putting it up, although I have learned how to make that whole process easier for me. In years past the more children I have had the harder it has been to get excited about putting up all the decorations. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and I love getting ready and celebrating with my family. I just get weighed down by the burden of “stuff” everywhere. I can only handle it for so long and then I want my house back to normal. So last year I decided I wasn’t going to make it a burden, I was going to love it and the way I did that was not haul up bin after bin of Christmas decorations, I was just going to bring up what made us all happy. My home was very festive and is again this year but there isn’t stuff everywhere! I know some people LOVE that but not me for some reason. Maybe later in the week or next I can share how I have decorated, now that I have you all curious. Smile But one thing has stayed the same despite the changes I have made and that is our Christmas story collection which seems to grow and grow each year. Even though it adds some unwanted clutter, all the books come up no matter what and though I cannot share them all with you I want to share some of our very favorites! Out of our 40 some and growing collection I have chosen our 13 favorites!

In no particular order here they are! This first one is a new one purchased this year and was one my mom read to me and my siblings growing up. I was looking for it last year on a few different websites and found it but because the book is out of print it runs $30-$50! Crazy I know! But lucky for me I found it just the other day when I was rummaging through the Christmas books at Goodwill. I found it in almost perfect condition for $1.99! So keep your eyes out for it, you won’t regret it.

Santa and the Christ Child by Nicholas Bakewell

Santa and the Christ Child

Each of my three younger children have received a book for their very first Christmas’. This next one was given to my daughter Adelaide.

Mouse’s First Christmas by Lauren Thompson

Mouses 1st Xmas

This one was given to my son Colton for his first Christmas.

Bear’s First Christmas by Robert Kinerk

Bears 1st Xmas

And this one was for our youngest son Leon’s first Christmas.

The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman

The Spirit of Xmas

This next book we have had since Adelaide was very young and we have read it from cover to cover every single year and the kids never get sick of it. It is really a cute book, it is all about Santa and how everything works in the North Pole and it gives you a lot of Santa’s secrets as to how he makes Christmas work. It explains a lot of the questions kids have about “How does Santa do this and do that”.

Santa Clause by Rod Green

Santa Clause

Here is a book that was mine as a little kid and always loved, it is short but sweet.

Claude the Dog, A Christmas Story by Dick Gackenbach

Claude the dog

Here is one that is more of a winter story but cute.

Skating with the Bears by Andrew Breakspeare

Skating with the Bears

Here is a silly one that is about what our snowmen may be doing while we are sleeping.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner

Snowmen At Night

This story is so beautiful I think we read it a dozen times each year. It is about a Christmas tree at a tree farm who is too large to be chosen anymore and how all the woodland animals decorate him to show him how special he is to them all year long.

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Coleen Monroe

A wish to be a Xmas Tree

This is a really sweet nativity story.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

The Crippled Lamb

Here is a sweet little story about a mouse and his first Christmas and first snow.

The Very Snowy Christmas by  Diane Hendry

The Very Snowy Xmas

This is another book I was always read growing up. It is a really sweet story and has beautiful pictures.

The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger

Donkey Dream 

And last but not least!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss


I hope you have enjoyed going through our family’s list of favorite Christmas stories, I hope there are even a few you haven’t read yet and will add to your family’s collection!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!


Other fun posts from Bonnie

Christmas Cookies

Finding Christmas Spirit

The Gift of Snow

20 Best Children’s Books

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Joy the Simple Gift of Snow Can Bring

It was such a joy to watch my children playing in the first big snow of the year.  There are some years between childhood and parenthood where we forget these little joys of life but nothing brings them back stronger than living them again through our children’s eyes. Sometimes as mothers we forget to stop and watch, nothing else. Sometimes I sit back and just enjoy moments like these knowing they will never be again and I probably won’t even remember them but I just try to cherish it. Other times like this morning I take as many pictures as I can so I never forget the moment. Make sure as mothers, and even father’s, you try to do both, we need to have lasting memories to look back at but we don’t want to see all memories through a camera lens.And never forget to thank God for bringing these little angels into our lives!

Yesterday morning the kids got ready for school as fast as they could so they could play for a little while before school. Even the baby was excited but not really sure what about. I can’t imagine he remembered anything from last year and knowing me I didn’t let him play out there much anyway. I am a little over protective and didn’t want my baby getting cold. Well this year I can tell already nothing is going to keep this little man contained, not even his crazy mom! He was out there three time yesterday!

This little guy also learned how yummy snow is!


And tried getting mommy with it too!


The dog also loves the snow…….he could jump at snow till he dropped from exhaustion!


I am betting he slept pretty well last night………after playing with the kids and helping me shovel the driveway twice!


Colton attempting to make a snowman…….he may have succeeded if the bus hadn’t come.


She wouldn’t dare!




Two of my little snow monsters coming inside to warm up!


I hope all of your children get a chance to play in the snow this winter! Blessing and love to all!


A few recipes to warm you up this winter!

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

Banana Bread

White Chicken Chili

Crockpot Loaded Potato Soup

Cheese Stuffed Manicotti

Homemade Chicken Dumpling Soup

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Fun, Family, & Friends!

The cold has set in and we have even had a few snow flurries here in Wisconsin but the nasty weather held off for our fun day at Honeydew Farm on Saturday! Honeydew Farm is owned and operated by our dear friends who kindly opened their home to all their family and friends on Saturday to share in food, fun, and how they are living a healthy lifestyle. I always love visiting our friends farm, I always feel at peace when I am there and forget any troubles in my life. Maybe it is being outdoors, maybe it is the animals, or maybe the wonderfully kind people but I always feel happier when I leave there. Late this summer I even got to have my first experience at chicken butchering. Despite the kind of grossness of it, it was a very interesting time, I may even do it again next year!

At Honeydew Farm they raise chickens for meat and eggs, pigs, and even a few cows. They also have a dog, cats, and rabbits and are going to even try raising rabbits for meat. On top of all the animals they have an enormous garden that they grow all their own veggies to freeze and enjoy all winter long.

My children had a wonderful time, their favorites were horseback riding and riding on a homemade train behind a 4-wheeler. In between fun we enjoyed delicious homemade soups, muffins, and deserts. Here are some of the pictures of our great day!

Here is my little girl Adelaide looking like a pro!


Leon riding for the first time!

Mommy was just a little nervous…… Confused smile (Daddy and I walked along on each side)


And our oldest Haley looking like a natural.


And here is our oldest son Colton on the train, he isn’t as willing to try new things so he chose not to horseback ride, but loved riding on the train!


And Leon and Daddy having fun on the train too.


Since it was a day of homemade food and all natural living I was invited to share my Shaklee products with everyone. I made protein smoothies using Shaklee 180 protein powder for everyone to try and met lots of new people, including a new friend there sharing her business too!


We left Honeydew Farm with full bellies and completely exhausted, the sign of a fun filled day!

Have a happy day!



Other great posts by Bonnie:

5 Steps to Getting Kids to Eat Healthy

Green Cleaning

Homemade Applesauce

Bonnie’s Home Tour

Chicken & Biscuit Casserole

Oven Makeover

All Natural Fruit & Veggie Wash

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

Every busy mom needs wants to feed there family a yummy and healthy meal and a lot of the time we need it to be a quick to put together meal. Whether you work or stay home with your kids we are all busy mommas! On some nights I have time to spend to make dinner and others I need some that is easy to whip together. So today I am going to share with you a delicious recipe that takes about 15 minutes to put together. I have made this many times and it is pretty forgiving, I am going to share with you how I made it the other night, I had run out of a few things I usually use to make it and did a few substitutes and liked it even better.
You will need:
1-2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Olive Oil and Chicken Seasoning
Cream of Celery Soup
Frozen Veggies, mixed veggie, peas/carrots mix, peas, corn…….what ever combination sounds good to you. I like just peas best!
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Egg
1. Preheat oven to 350*. Heat oil in skillet on med high heat. Cut chicken breast(s) into small cubes and put into heated pan, add chicken seasoning to taste.
2. In a pie plate combine veggies and cream of celery.
3. While chicken is cooking, in a small bowl add 1 cup of bisquick mix, 1/2 cup milk, and egg. Mix until moist.
4. After chicken is completely cooked add it to pie plate and mix together veggies, cream of celery, and chicken.
5. Pour bisquick mix over the top of chicken/veggies.
6. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes or until top is lightly brown.
I hope you enjoy it as much as our family does!
Other great recipes by Bonnie

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Do It Yourself Family Photos

Welcome back to 31 days of Being a Stay At Home Mom! I am so glad you stopped by! Today I am going to share with you a way I save HUNDREDS of dollars a year! Since my children were born it has been extremely important to me to capture every moment. I had pictures done of my children for 3mon, 6mon, 9mon, 1yr, 18mon, 2y and every year after. Not to mention random holiday photos (I didn’t do them for every holiday) and if I wanted a picture of the kids together. So if you are anything like me you can see how this really adds up over time. I don’t regret having had their pictures done, I cherish every single one and I will still occasionally have professional pictures done in the future, just not every time I want them done and for every birthday. Instead I am taking my own pictures. Now I am by no means a photographer but I am finding ways to make them look really nice and saving a lot of money in the process. So I will give you a few of the tips I have learned in the last year or so I have been doing this.
1. First of all the best place to take pictures is outside. A really sunny day isn’t so great because the kids just want to squint the whole time so choose a day that is nice out but not really sunny. I just did my kids pictures a few days ago because we finally had a warm sunny day and they did pretty good but it was a little too sunny, you will notice in the pictures I show you that they are a little squinty.
2. Talk to them before hand about what you want to do, “Hey kids mommy wants to take a few pictures of you and I need you to be really good for me. I want you to listen and give me really big smiles”! I have found this works wonders and my kids will almost always cooperate.
3. Have realistic expectations. If you have 2 or more children and you want to take individual pictures of each of them and group pictures don’t attempt to do them all in one sitting. They just can’t do that for that long and will not cooperate. When I did pictures this week of my kids I did the 2 yr old before the other two got home and I did them for about 3 minutes. I only got about 10 pictures but for a 2 yr old that is a realistic amount of time. Then as soon as the other two got home I told them what I wanted to do and said I would be real quick but I needed them to be really good for me. So I took pictures of them for about 3 minute each and then got a quick group shot. So I actually did them all and a group in one sitting but I only spent about 10-12 minutes total doing it and it was spread out.
4. Also if it isn’t working out one day try the next or wait a few days. Maybe they are just having a bad day.
So now you say “I can do all that but how do I make them look good, I don’t know what I am doing”?? Well here is what has been working for me.
1. Make your child/children the focal point of the picture. Use nature and fun places as a background but really focus on your child.
2. Take lots of close ups. You do want full body shots but focus on the face.
3. For something different offset your child in the photo. Like the ones below.
4. Have your camera handy and capture moments you didn’t plan. Like this one below, we went to the park for a picnic dinner one evening and we went for a walk and there was this really cool bridge (I love bridges!) and I told them all to hold hands and walk across the bridge and this is what I got! I didn’t even have my camera with me just my phone! 
The last tip I will share with you is have fun with photo editing.
This is my favorite part! You don’t need some fancy, expensive software, there are lots of free ones online. My favorite is picmonkey, I use this for all my photo editing. There is a free version with lots of good stuff on it and also a small yearly fee if you want some extras.
Here are some fun things I did with the picture from above.
Turned a color photo into a black and white photo.
The same one into a sepia color.
And then did some softening of the picture, a hazy border, and a sweet quote about family.
The possibilities are endless! Just play around, have some fun, and make some amazing memories to last a lifetime!
Thanks for stopping by, come visit me on Facebook too!
Other great money saving tips from Bonnie:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Relieving Stress As A Stay At Home Mom

As moms we all need to find ways to relieve stress in our busy, hectic lives but as stay at home moms we sometimes face different challenges. We are around our children 24 hours a day, we are always on call as I like to say! It definitely has its benefits but today I want to talk about its draw backs and how we can manage our stress as stay at home moms.
Some days start out amazing and just fall apart slowly and some days just start out crazy and never stop!
Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of good moments and those are what carry me through my days but they are only just moments, rarely an entire day. Being with our children day in and day out finds most of us stressed to our max and when the hubby finally gets home we are a hot mess! Usually throwing our children at them and saying “you need to take him, I am going crazy”!
What if we were to find little ways, little moments throughout our day to relieve that built up stress so when our husbands come home we are mostly calm and happy to see HIM not relieved because it is someone to take the kids for us? I don’t know about you but I am so grateful to my husband for working so hard every day to support our family so I can do what we feel is best by me staying home with the children. I don’t want him thinking I hate what I do and can’t wait for them all to go to school, because I really don’t feel that way I just have moments. Well I want to share with you a few of the ways I find time in my day to unwind, de-stress, and recover from the craziness of my dear children! Sometimes it is only a moment, or 5-10 minutes but let me tell you sometimes that is all it takes to get you back on track.
  • If you are going nuts and just need to take a shower or just breathe for a few minutes take your infant or toddler and put them in their crib with a few toys and books, turn on some music for them and let them play while you shower, get dressed, empty the dishwasher alone, switch the laundry………whatever it is you need to do without help for 10-15 minutes. This is what I always did with all three of my kids so I could take a shower alone everyday. I started at a young age and they never complained but if they are older and not used to doing it just kindly explain to them what you are doing and just go and do it. Even if they fuss and cry, as long as you know they are in a safe place for a short time it won’t hurt them, they will eventually get used to it and it truly will be relaxing. If they are no longer in a crib, gate them in their room, just make sure it is safe.
  • Have someone you can call! This has always been huge for me! A friend, your mom, your sister, your husband, although for me a female is usually a better option as they understand us a little better. We do not need to do this alone, lean on your family and friends! A support system is key, in my opinion, to surviving motherhood. Even a 5 minute conversation with another adult can leave you feeling calmer, give it a try, make time for you!
  • Take a bath. Put the kids to bed have your hubby be on call for a little while and go take a hot bath and relax. I like to turn on some relaxing music so if the kids are having trouble sleeping I don’t have to hear everything that is going on. Just let go and let dad take control for a little while. This may be something that only happens once a week but put it on the schedule and take some time for you!
  • My last tip is just something I enjoy and helps me relax at the most stressful time of the day for me. Have a glass of wine. I enjoy a glass when I am preparing dinner some nights. I don’t know what it is but it calms me, and no it is not because I am getting drunk Smile I only have a small amount, I still need to function at tip top shape for several hours yet. 
As busy moms we always put everyone and everything else before us. Find what works for you and take a few minutes each day to put your well being first. We cannot be good wives, mothers, or people if we don’t take time for us. Everyone around you will appreciate this not look down on you for thinking of you! Be kind to yourself, you deserve it!
I would love to hear from you! What do you do to de-stress? How will these tips help you be a better mom? Comment below!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan

As a busy mom I love anything that makes my life easier and saves me time and effort. One of the things I still hate to do after nine years of marriage and over 8 years of motherhood in make dinner. Its really not so much the making part but deciding what to have. I can’t really get out of that part of it but anything to cut down on the amount of time I spend in the kitchen cooking in invaluable to me. So for me the crockpot is one of my best friends when it comes to meal preparation! Today I want to share with you a delicious recipe that your whole family will love, especially if they already love spaghetti. This meal literally takes 5 min to prepare and another 10 or so shortly before eating. We are going to make Crockpot Chicken Parmesan!
What you will need:
1-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I say 1-3 depending on your family size)
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce or homemade if you are really ambitious!
Grated mozzarella cheese, about 1 cup
Seasoned bread crumbs, about 1/2 cup
Parmesan cheese, fresh is best but powder will do
Italian seasoning, to taste
*Notice how everything is about, or how you  like it, or depending on your family size? There is no set amount of each ingredient, just what looks good to you and what your family enjoys, alter it to your family’s liking.
1. Start by placing the chicken in your crockpot, frozen is fine it will just need to cook longer. Then put on top of the chicken your Italian seasoning, bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese.
2. Next pour your jar of marinara sauce over the top and then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
3. Then I finished it off with a little more parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.
Chicken parm1 
 Chicken parm2
Chicken parm3
Shortly before you eat boil some water and cook your favorite pasta, we usually use spaghetti noodle but any kind will do.
Serve your delicious chicken parmesan over past and enjoy!
Chicken parm4
I hope you enjoy this recipe and I hope it makes a really easy meal for your family on a busy night!
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Other great recipes by Bonnie: