December 19, 2014

My Favorite Savory Appetizers for the Holidays

I recently shared some of my favorite sweet treats for the holidays, but I thought it would also be fun to look at some delicious savory foods that might be great appetizers for your Christmas gatherings!

Three Favorite Holiday Appetizers

You will love this Three Ingredient Cheese Ball
You can add anything you like - to make it even more amazing!three ingredient cheeseball

Of all the spinach dip recipes that I've tried! The one from the Knorr's package is my favorite! 
Check out this Super Easy Spinach Dip!

I accidentally made this one day (That type of thing just doesn't happen to me!), and it was delicious! I've never turned back. This World's Easiest Pasta Salad is perfect any time of year~

Are you planning to try anything new this year? I'm looking to change things up a bit this season, so comment below with some of your new ideas as well as your favorites that always work for you and your family! I would love to come across some fresh new recipes!

Today, I am linking up with AndreaFriday FavoritesHigh Five for Friday, and Oh Hey, Friday!

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December 17, 2014

Teaching Your Pre-schooler to Respect Others

Teaching Your Pre-schooler to Respect Others

Character Training

Am I modeling good manners? I try to be intentional about making sure my children hear me say "Please" and "Thank You" to just about anyone and everyone we interact with on a day-to-day basis: the waitress who refills our drinks, the nurse who give them shots at the doctor's office, the barista who hands me my coffee, the grocery store employee that bags our groceries, everyone. In our family, we encourage "Yes, Ma'am"/"No, Ma'am" and "Yes, Sir"/"No, Sir". While we were most definitely encouraged to be polite, my husband and I were not raised to use the titles of "Ma'am" and "Sir". I definitely don't feel that they are a must for everyone, but here in the south, it is typically appreciated. We simply want our children to understand the importance of good manners...kindness...respect.

Do I allow my children to interrupt? This can be a difficult training area, but little ones needs to understand that it is inappropriate for them to interrupt when others are speaking. This is definitely one of the areas where we are most focused right now...especially when Mommy and Daddy are having a conversation....when someone is on the phone...when friends are over for dinner. Yes, we want our children to know that they are valued, and that what they have to say is important to us; but unless there is an emergency, the expectation is that our little ones not interrupt. We are for sure a work in progress on this one! What is our overall goal? To raise human beings who understand that the world does not revolve around them.

What do my children hear me say? While we all have frustrations with our family and friends (and did I mention family?), it is so important that our little ones hear us speak positively about loved ones in our life. We can not expect them to show respect to others if they do not see us modeling this quality in the way we speak about other people. Bad habits and generational patterns of gossip can be difficult chains to break, but it's never to late to break a negative cycle. 

Are respectful responses expected? In our house, everyone seems especially grumpy when they are tired...hangry (angry because you're hungry)...or simply walking around without coffee flowing through their veins. Like every family, we have to be intentional about treating each other with kindness, compassion, and respect. Why is it that the ones closest to us...the ones we love the most...sometimes get the very worst of us? We want to encourage our children to respond to us with respect...even when they are tired and/or hangry; and we want to work to make sure we are treating them with the same honor we expect from them. Wow! This can be tough sometimes - especially on days when I've not had enough coffee (or prayer!). Time and time again, we have failed with each other in this, but one thing that has really helped me is writing this on the chalkboard in our kitchen (where we spend most of our that no one gets hangry): "Love is patient, and love is kind." That does not mean that I let me children by with disobedience or disrespect - We most definitely address those things anytime we see them; but it simply serves as a reminder that our goal with each other should always be patience and kindness. Am I truly being considerate of my I expect them to be with me? 


Learning as I Grow

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy Four Qualities I Want to Instill in My Little Ones

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December 15, 2014

"Do you guys do Santa?"

"Do you guys do Santa?" During the holiday season, this is a question I am asked over and over again~ I have two little ones and (especially in faith circles) people are always curious where other parents stand on this issue.

Do your kids believe in Santa?

Before I became a mom, I was an elementary teacher, and this is a topic that was handled very carefully in my classroom. My experience is mostly with second and third-graders, and in that age group, there is always great variety in how families approach the truth about Santa and his elves. My typical m.o. was to encourage students to save their questions and discussions about Santa for home...I wanted their parents to address this topic in whatever way they had chosen. It was not an area where I felt I should interfere, and I most definitely discouraged students who knew the truth from sharing their knowledge with "the believers". I did not want to be held responsible for ruining anyone's Christmas with their family.

However, I have to say, it completely amazes me that this aspect of Christmas has become such a hot-button topic! When you do not agree with another family's approach to Santa (or Elf on a Shelf), there can be great offense taken.

I hear grown adults saying that they "still believe"....because "If they don't believe, Santa won't come."...and they explain how they insist that their older children claim to "still believe" or Santa will not leave any presents for them under tree. I have listened to countless conversations where parents describe their panic....and the great lengths they have gone to [in the middle of the night] to ensure that Elfie has "moved"....and followed through with his/her late night shenanigans. Friends, I have to admit...this entire thing has gotten unbelievably out of hand.

What happened to teaching children the history of who St. Nick really was? What happened to simply including his character in our Christmas celebrations in the same way we include other imaginative, make-believe creatures such as snowmen, Gingerbread creations, Christmas mice, etc?

Even in many Christian homes, the daily holiday focus is not on the Christ child...It is on elf shenanigans....and telling Santa what you want for Christmas...and scattering magical reindeer food out in the front yard. Social media is full of photos with Santa, letters to elves, presents from Elfie, but what about Jesus? What about the Savior of the World? What about the hope that Christ brought in to the world with Him? What about acts of kindness and generosity that can be shared with others this Christmas season because of Him? What about those things?

Some of you may feel I'm wanting to strip all of the fun out of Christmas, but let me explain. There are few things more fun than a child's imagination. I love the way our children enjoy make-believe. We encourage this type of creativity and love experiencing these kinds of magical things with them, but even at their young age, we are honest with them. When something is real, we tell them it's real. When something is make-believe, we tell them it's make-believe. We want them to be able to easily distinguish between reality and fantasy. This year, we've painted reindeer; we've read books about snowmen that dance at night; we've laughed about a picture we saw where Santa had gotten stuck in the chimney; we've watched a Mickey Mouse Christmas movie; we've waved at Santa in the parade; but we tell our children that it's make-believe...just like Curious George...just like Daniel Tiger.

Which brings me to why - in our house - we don't really "do Santa":

1. From an early age - when our children ask us questions - we want them to know that they are going to get a completely honest answer. We want them to understand the importance of always telling the truth, and we want to model that for them. We do not want to ever have to sit down and explain to them that "Mommy and Daddy were fibbing about____________". We want them to feel that we can be trusted. We want them to know that their hearts and minds are completely safe with us.

2. A nauseating sense of entitlement is raging all around children and adults. We want our children to have a clear understanding that they will not always get what they want. Just because they wish for something to happen, that doesn't mean it will. Just because they believe something with all of their might, it doesn't mean that good things will happen for them. Real life is full of disappointments and unfilled expectations - Even in their early childhood, we want to begin to provide them with realistic expectations.

3. We want to create a family atmosphere that fosters gratitude to the One who gives us all good things and contentment with what God has given us. James 1:17 - "Every good and perfect gift is from above... from our Heavenly Father." He is the One who has provided daddy with his job....He is the One who has allowed us to have a home and vehicles...It is from His hand that we are clothed and fed...It is because of Him that we can give generously to others. We refuse to tarnish this matter the season.

4.  We want the holidays to include an incredibly strong focus on others. We don't ask our children "What do you want for Christmas?" We don't provide them with catalogs, on-line pictures, etc. to use for picking out what they want for Christmas. We don't assist them with setting up gift registries to share with our close family and friends. So what do we do instead? We consistently ask, "What would like to do for (insert name) for Christmas?" "What should we make for (insert name) for Christmas?" "What should we give to (insert name) who is hurting this time of year?" These are the questions we ask - We want to encourage our children to look outside of themselves - even at Christmas - and find the true joy that comes from living an others-focused life. I love Renee Robinson's thoughts on the Christmas Wish List.

I realize that for many parents, the long-time traditions of Santa and the new experiences with Elf on a Shelf are simply viewed as fun traditions...experiences from their childhood that they want to share with their children. I realize that the enthusiasm for these things is not out of any intention to harm or be deceitful. I understand that many families who encourage belief in Santa [and his elf helpers] always throw birthday parties for Jesus and very much focus on the Savior as well throughout the holiday season. I understand that you know your children...their personalities...what they're able to handle and when....

....but when asked whether or not we "do Santa", we really don't, and I wanted to share a little bit about why.

Thank you for reading, and as always, thank you for your respect and kindness.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy Four Qualities I Want to Instill in My Little Ones

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Our Recipe for Fish Tacos (Special Sauce Included)

When out at a restaurant, we love to order fish tacos, so I decided to give them a try at home! 

Recipe for Homemade Fish Tacos
Special Fish Sauce Included

I started by throwing some tilapia in the oven, and then got to work on some of my other ingredients.

I knew I wanted a special sauce, so I mixed up some Marzetti's Ranch (I'll never eat any other kind of ranch dressing - Yum!) and some Wild Oats Salsa (We found this salsa at Wal-mart...It's super cheap, and probably one of the best ones we've ever tried!). After mixing these two things together, I tossed the sauce in the fridge to cool for a bit.
Since I've mentioned Wal-mart, I must not leave Target out of the picture. Have you tried this Chipotle Cheedar Cheese by Archer Farms? I decided to grab a block of it and give it a try, and I am so glad I did! It is delicious!
The Pioneer Woman is adamant that when you grate your cheese, everything will just taste better - and you know what? She's right! She is actually right most all of the time. 
I used the griddle to warm our chips and tortilla shells~ If you want the tortilla shell to become more like a tostada, just leave it on the griddle a little longer. 
After the tilapia had finished baking, I shredded it up~ 
On each tortilla shell, I layered fish, grated cheese, some sliced avocado, and the special sauce I made at the beginning!
These were really yummy! I'm sure we'll try them again soon - maybe with a different kind of fish...just for fun. 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like taking a peek at my Ham & Spinach Quiche 

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Linking Up to The Modest Mom and A Mama's Story~

December 12, 2014

All Kinds of Things' Friday Favorites

Just popping in today to share some recent favorites with you! 

{One - Cute Tennies} 
Y'all, I need to cut it to you straight! I don't run...I have no interest in running...I have told the neighbors that if they ever see me running they need to call 911, because there is an emergency. However, I do feel that it's very important to have cute workout clothes and fun tennis shoes. This makes it appear to onlookers that you exercise regularly...whether you do or you don't. So without further adiue, may I introduce you to these Merrell Running Shoes? (...and in an effort to be totally honest, let's call them "walking shoes"- because they are perfect for walking...and I love to take walks.) 
These beauties are super comfortable - more so than any other brand of tennis shoe that I have ever loved. I may never go back~ (I also bought my oldest the Merrell Proterra Sport Kid's Tennis Shoes in Skydiver Blue - They're adorable!

{Two - Yummy Recipe} 
Speaking of healthy living (*smile*), did you see my twist on Lasagna Roll-Ups?
Head over and pin these yummies! They are delish!

{Three - Holiday Decor} 
I am loving pears and pine cones together! 
There's just something about the combo that says "winter"!
For more rustic decor, check out more of my holiday decorations.

 {Four - Christmas Crayon Tin} 
Speaking of the holidays, do any of you remember this tin? I posted this picture on Instagram, and there were so many friends over there who still had this exact same tin. I just love it!

{Five - Holiday Fun with Kids} 
I am having so much fun with my little ones this Christmas! Over on Pinterest, I have found loads of great holiday ideas, free printables, and more! I have been pinning a variety of fun kids stuff to this board.
 Though I've found loads of fun things to do with my kiddos, I think my favorite activity to do with them is color. My oldest loves when we color together, and my youngest is going through an odd stage of biting all of the tips off of our crayons. Looks like big brother may need a box of Crayolas in his stocking. 

Friends, mark your 2015 blogging calendar for every Tuesday! Join us for "Tuesday Talk" where you are free to stop by and link up your favorite posts from each week - We are excited to make Tuesdays  a day for new connections!

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