It’s Beginning To Smell A Lot Like Christmas!

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas! Yup, you read the right! SMELL! Mmmmm! I love the smell of Christmas! Today’s scents are brought to you by Perfectly Posh’s October Splurge. 

A Splurge is a once a month specialty item. It is available until it is sold out and if you don’t get it right away there is a chance you will cry when you no longer can get it.

So what are the fabulous scents I am smelling??

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First up is Nice Ice Glittery Skin Stick. This is so.much.fun! It glitterfies your skin, giving you an icy shimmer! I am in love! I love all things sparkly so this skin stick and I were simply meant to be. Loaded with Shea and Cocoa Butters, your dry winter skin will get seriously moisturized and nourished. It has a light, crisp, peppermint scent that invokes the image of the Candy Cane dance sequence in The Nutcracker. Leap, twirl, and dance your way to glittery happiness!

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This is going to be the best stocking stuffer for the glitter lovers in your life. It is also a great gift idea for teens; my teen has several friends he needs to get gifts for and this is perfect! Super fun, great quality, and the perfect size and price point!

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The second item is Holly Jolly Chunk. Perfectly Posh Chunks are amazing.
*they are huge and last 2-3 months, easy
*tallow free
*free of parabens, sulfates, SLS, etc
*uses moisturizing butters, like Shea and Mango Seed
*amazing scents
*sustainable palm oil
*most are vegan

Holly Jolly is one of the vegan chunks. It is also gorgeous; a deep Merlot color that makes me want to draw a bath and sip a glass of wine while I relax and drink up the intoxicating scents of my Posh products (Falliday Fizis, Bubble Up, and Holly Jolly make a perfect triple combo act!).

Speaking of scents, this glorious chunk is so juicy smelling! It has a sweet-tart pomegranate-meet-citrus scent that reminds me of all the warm and cozy scents of Christmas. I think of cranberry garlands and dried orange slice ornaments and cloves and cinnamon sticks. OK, so there is no cinnamon scent at all, but it is one of the scent memories invoked when I smell Holly Jolly. I love this and need a million!

Again, this makes a great holiday gift. The price point is phenomenal at just $9, so it meets the usual $10 price point for Secret Santa and Yankee Swap! Toss it is a super cute gift bag and the recipient will feel utterly spoiled.

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All I want for Christmas is parcel of Posh! (please tell me you  sang that to the 2 front teeth tune).

~Andrea

If you are interested in Perfectly Posh, I would love to chat! Drop me a line and we can connect!

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year! Or Is It?

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Oh my word … I can’t believe it is October 20. Where did the month go? I am in B-I-G trouble! WHY? Well, to start I don’t have Halloween costumes completely planned. The big ones are the eldest and the middle and they happen to be the 2 not planned. Figures.

However, before Halloween even gets here I have Dee’s 8th birthday, although I am going to have to do her party in November because one of her classmates is having his party ON HER BIRTHDAY! UGH! I know the mom has no idea, but it is still frustrating on my end. Dee could care less (thank the stars), but she isn’t the one who has to re-plan the entire thing.

So are you following? Dee’s birthday, then Halloween, then Dee’s party … and then Thanksgiving and after that is Ry’s birthday. We will do her party in December because I can’t handle 2 November parties …. or maybe I should do a combo? My house isn’t big enough and renting a place is $$$. Hm …. Sorry let me get back on track.

OK, so we get through Ry’s birthday and then it is Christmas and then the 13 year old’s birthday immediately after. Sigh. We get a little reprieve before the next birthday in the middle of January. Zen is my favorite. He is an April baby.

I am exhausted and need a plan. Sooooo …. Anyone want to do all this for me?? Any takers? No? Darn. Well, I tried …

I also need to not  miss the happiness that all of this craziness brings. We are celebrating so much GOODNESS and it is so easy to get lost in the hecticness of it all. My middles are all going to celebrate new milestones (8, 11, and 14)!!!! Halloween is always so fabulous in my neighborhood! Thanksgiving is quiet for us, but it is always nice. Christmas….ah! I love everything about it!

I need to not focus on the heart-squeezing panic I feel at what needs to be done. I need someone to walk behind me flicking me and saying “Are you living in the moment? Be happy!” Pretty sure my friend Jess B is up for that job. Good thing she doesn’t live near me!

Wish me luck and I will keep you posted!

~Andrea

A Surprise Gift

Zen Baby got a Secret Santa gift. Unfortunately, the generous person (people?) had no clue that a dishonest person had previously bought and returned the gift. This kind person bought a gift that, once opened we discovered, was used. It was missing pieces, the stickers were already added, and one piece was actually broken. Seriously people, be cool. Don’t return stuff broken and then NOT tell the store!

Zen is 2.5 years old, for those who have lost count. He was disappointed he couldn’t play with his toy. “But WHY, Momma? I want to play!”
Two year old toddlers aren’t always reasonable. I tried telling him it was broken and I was working on getting him a new one.

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Here is a recent picture of Zen. He is getting so big! 

 

I tried to figure out where the toy came from. I still am not sure.
Zen just kept pointing to the box and asking hopefully “I play with that?”
I felt so badly.

During one of my Goggle searches for the mystery toy I discovered Kohl’s has something similar enough that Zen would love. Even better, the item was on clearance. Top it off with the fact I have had Kohl’s Merchandise Credit sitting in my wallet for some time now and nothing important to spend it on.

Off to Kohl’s I went. I quickly found the toy. It was originally priced at $69.99. The website had it listed at $28 (for those wondering, it isn’t on the website anymore. My guess is they sold out).
The store had a clearance sticker price on it for $34.99. I went to the register and hopefully asked if they price match to their site. For the record, they do not. Darn. Oh well.

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Original price and clearance sticker price. 

The cashier rang it up and it came up at $27.99! One penny cheaper than online! Yay! Yes, a penny matters to me and I was thrilled! I also had a coupon for 15% off. This took $4.20 off the sale price. My total, after tax, was $25.60. Not bad considering retail value is $69.99. However, I was not done. I still had my Merchandise Credit to use. That took an additional $22.25 off my total. Out of pocket I paid an amazing $3.35! Can you believe that?

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Zen doesn’t have the original toy, but he has a pretty awesome substitute and he is thrilled with it! So what did I buy? I got him the Vtech Go!Go! Smart Wheels Ultimate Amazement Park Playset. The set we got is a Kohl’s exclusive and included an extra 15 pieces of track! Here it is:

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Pretty cool! Especially since I paid a whopping $3.35 for it! I am going to write another post about putting it together (I grumbled a lot more than I thought I would) and reviewing it. No, I am not being compensated in any way. I just want to review it on my own accord for those who are interested in it. You can get this set, without the extra 15 pieces, at other stores. It looks like the smaller set retails for $59.99, but a quick Google search tells me all the big stores also have this on post-holiday clearance!

Zen knows this is not really from me. It is a special gift from a Secret Santa; someone with a kind and generous heart who just wanted to put a smile on my baby’s face. That person is amazing and we send them our thanks and love.

~Andrea

Old-Fashioned Dairy-Free Butter Mints

I am not a huge candy person. I rarely eat it or buy it for my kids. I much prefer ice cream. Candy, to me, is more of a treat meant for holidays.
Due to the fact we have food restrictions I usually make our candy. There is an online shop I can buy some candy at, but it adds up fast. Besides, there is a joy in making treats that are special for those you love.

I have a few tried and true recipes. For example, every Christmas I make pomegranate clusters (recipe found here). This is a favorite and I only make it for Christmas in order to keep it special.

This year I really wanted to try something new. I found a recipe for butter mints and I wondered if I could make it safe for my kids. I managed to successfully change the recipe! Yay! So without further ado here is my recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Old-Fashioned Dairy-Free Butter Mints

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 1 1/4 cup butter substitute (I use Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread)
  2. 3 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar plus 1/4 cup+, if needed**
  3. 1/3 cup Cream of Coconut (this is NOT coconut milk! Make sure you are getting cream of coconut)
  4. 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract*
  5. food coloring, optional (I use natural food coloring)

    **Due to the fact that store bought confectioner’s sugar has corn in it I make my own. All you have to do is put sugar, 1 cup at a time or 2 if you have a high-powered one like Vitamix, in a blender or food processor and make it into powder. Some people will tell you to add a starch but I do not feel it is necessary unless you want to make enough to keep on your pantry shelf. If that is the case here is a good recipe for you.

DIRECTIONS:

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth; about 1 minute-ish on medium-high.  Add 3 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, cream of coconut, and peppermint. Beat on medium-low speed until a dough forms. If the dough seems wet add additional confectioners’ sugar until dough combines; being careful not to add too much. The dough will be crumbly but will come together when squeezed into a ball.

Taste the batter. If needed, add additional mint extract.*Be very, VERY careful how much mint you add; you cannot undo this!!*

This is what the dough looks like pre-color.

This is what the dough looks like pre-color.

If you want multiple colors remove dough from the mixer and separate into smaller balls. I opted for red and green (Christmas colors). Add the food coloring (I started with 8 drops) of your choice to the ball and mix on low speed until the color is well blended. Add more color as needed to achieve the desired look.

Red and Green mints for Christmas! Yes, I realize the red is more pink than red, but I use natural food colors and I think this is more retro looking; very cool.

Red and Green mints for Christmas! Yes, I realize the red is more pink than red, but I use natural food colors and I think this is more retro looking; very cool.

Wash the mixing bowl and the paddle in between each color change and repeat until all the balls are colored. Make sure these are completely dry or they will mess up your dough consistency!

Place a golf ball sized amount of dough in your hands and roll dough into long, thin ropes. I found it easiest to roll all of the dough of one color and place each rope next to each other on the counter. I then used a pizza cutter and cut through all the ropes, creating bite sized pieces. I did have to add a bit of powered sugar to my counters as my house was a bit warm and the dough was getting slightly sticky, but be careful not to add too much!

I cut the mints about 1-1.5 cm long.

I cut the mints about 1-1.5 cm long.

Store mints in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They they will keep for several weeks.

These mints are seriously good. I had to cut my children off or they would have just sat and ate them all! I think 4 at a time is more than enough. I am guessing we got about 200 mints out of this batch.

These mints are seriously good. I had to cut my children off or they would have just sat and ate them all! I think 4 at a time is more than enough. I am guessing we got about 200 mints out of this batch.

*Please note that mint extracts are far more intensely flavored and potent than vanilla extract; You will NOT use a 1:1 ratio! It is more like 1/8 teaspoon of mint extract to 1 teaspoon of vanilla. It is best to add very little and add more as needed since you cannot undo the flavor.
There are different kinds of mint extracts available. You will find mint, peppermint, spearmint, etc.  I used what I had on hand; Watkins Pure Peppermint Extract. Next time I will use Frontier Mint, which has a more spearmint smell to it. Use what sounds, smells, tastes best for you.
I do think I will try other extracts for different holidays. I am thinking that for Easter I will try lemon or orange. I imagine cinnamon, rum, coffee, etc could also work. If you try any of these let me know how they turn out!

If you want to make the dough and walk away for a bit you can store it in the fridge. Wrap it with plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container until you are ready to roll it out.

Enjoy!
~Andrea

Christmas At Our House

Twas the morning after Christmas at quarter past 9,
All the children were still snoring, including the canine.

I could go on and reinvent an old classic, but I think one line will do.

Our Christmas was different this year.

For the very first time ever my children woke way too early. My kids are not morning people. They sleep in. On Christmas, however, they were awake at 4:15! Gah! We told them to go back to bed; they didn’t. Mark, the baby, and I all stayed in bed until a more reasonable hour.

C-Dog tried to sleep under the tree. Silly boy.

C-Dog tried to sleep under the tree. Silly boy.

Really, it all started on Christmas Eve. The children and I carefully followed Santa’s course on NORAD. The anticipation was heavy and the chatter was nonstop as I made the last of the Christmas goodies. Each child opened a gift; a new ornament for the tree. We read Christmas stories and THE Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. Bug played his guitar and the others sang carols. We put out cookies and celery (we figured the reindeer are sick of carrots) and the kids went to bed. They were so anxious and filled with excitement though! They had trouble settling. How fun to be a child and have such wonder!

Zen tracking Santa on NORAD

Zen tracking Santa on NORAD

My children get stockings that are not filled with candy for allergy and cost reasons. They were happy to receive bouncy balls, silly putty, bookmarks, and holiday socks.
They each received a toy, a useful item, and a special gift from Santa. Santa gifts were pretty amazing this year. They all had a hand-crafted element. Santa took great care.
C-Dog got his reindeer bell. A very heavy and solid bell that Elf declared as genuine. They also got one gift each from my parents (much needed clothes) and a group gift from Mark’s parents (Magic Fort for all our indoor and outdoor building needs, lol). The family got a new game. This year it was Scrabble. Sunny Day got a new Frisbee. The minimal Christmas is far less stressful and clean-up is a breeze. They were all happy and the day went on quiet and peaceful as they happily played. The weather was pleasant so they spent time out back. mid-afternoon Elf sat down and before we knew it she was sound asleep! We had to wake her for our meal.

Santa gifts!!!!

 

 

Elf zonked out on the couch. This is what happens when you are too excited and can't sleep at night.

Elf zonked out on the couch. This is what happens when you are too excited and can’t sleep at night.

Zen was an utter delight. Last Christmas he was too little to know what was going on. This year he was wide-eyed and filled with awe. It has been fun to watch his reaction to decorations and lights. He spends a portion of every evening simply sitting in front of the tree and just looking at it all lit up.

Through out Christmas day we nibbled on the many goodies I had made through the week. Gluten-free chocolate crinkle cookies, fudge, coconut crack, coconut shortbread cookies, chocolate pomegranate clusters, and dairy-free old fashioned butter mints (Oh my stars these are insanely yummy!).

Mark and I spent the day in the kitchen. I found a delightful bread recipe that is safe for every single person. We also made spinach lasagna; traditional and gluten-free. Elf loves spaghetti, but we never make it. Her safe spaghetti is very expensive for the entire family so we save it for special times like Christmas! She was thrilled. For dessert we had Peach Crisp.

It was a quiet and peaceful Christmas. This was probably one of my favorites. How has your holiday season been?

~Andrea

Gingerbread Train

In an effort to make memories many families make gingerbread houses for the holiday season. I saved up and opted for a train. I also opted for a pre-packaged kit because, even though we can’t eat it, it is cheaper than trying to make a gluten-free version that might not even work.

I brilliantly opted to set up the train station (hee hee, see what I did there) while Zen napped. He usually naps, at the very least, an hour but usually 2-3 hours. My plan was perfect.

The kids and I set out. I squirted out the Royal Icing and the kids built the train. We started decorating and the train was turning into a masterful work of art. Our hands were sticky with sugar and we were laughing and suddenly Zen was in the kitchen with us. No one heard him wake up. No one heard him make his way over to us. He is stealth-like. Next thing we know his hands are grabbing all the candies faster than we could say “Stop eating our gingerbread train!”

Our peaceful decorating turned into a crazy scene of “Fast! We need to finish this before he eats it all!” Between squirting frosting, flying shreds of coconut, and candy being pried from chubby baby hands we finished the train….mostly. It sure isn’t pretty any more. It is wilty and a bit sad, but it was fun and we laughed a lot. Score 1 for memory making!

Sure Zen made the moment crazy, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. He made us laugh a lot. He got to be a part of the process. It is OK he pulled wheels off and took the roof off and made the train tip over. We all had a fantastic time and that is really the point.

Merry Christmas!

It may not be pretty, but it was lots of fun!

It may not be pretty, but it was lots of fun!

Christmas Decorations on a Dime

OK. OK. I spent more than a dime. However, I did manage to take the first step in achieving the holiday decorations I have always wanted. I see pictures of all these picture-perfect houses that look so joyous and beautiful. I am realistic though. I would simply like to achieve a coherent theme on a budget. There are so many color schemes that are gorgeous; blue and silver, red and green, gold and white….
I decided on a traditional red and white. It feels happy and festive to me.

First up was pulling out what I already had and taking inventory. Next was a trip to the local dollar store and last was a trip to a discount fabric store. I went with the attitude that I would spend under $20 because that is what I had very carefully saved over the last few months. I also went knowing that this was just a start. Next year I will add more.

Kitchens are hard to decorate. At least for me they are. I do not like clutter on my counters. It overwhelms me. That means nic-nacs are not an option. My kitchen is very small with very limited wall space so wreaths and pictures are also out. I decided to dress up the cabinets. I used ribbon, tape, and flowers. This was by far my most expensive decoration, however, it also was a complete room. I spent $12. I could have bought bunches of flowers and used wire cutters and cut them, but I really liked that these flowers came with clips on them. These will last longer and, to me, was worth the expense. My kitchen is a red and white festive zone and the only thing I did was decorate the cabinets! So simple!

2 rolls of wired ribbon and 10 flowers with clips. I opted for the sparky red poinsettias and white magnolias

2 rolls of wired ribbon and 10 flowers with clips. I opted for the sparky red poinsettias and white magnolias. This was where most of my budget went. Total $12.

Next up was our window seat in the living room. I have 3 pillows on it and I wanted Christmas pillows. Instead of buying new pillows (a huge expense) I found this idea on Pintrest. I only looked at fabric that was $1 a yard. That seriously narrowed down my choices, but I found some nice fabric that works perfectly. I needed a bit more than a yard each for my pillows so the cost was just under $4.

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Under $4 for a completely different look and a festive feeling!

We have an electric fireplace in the livingroom. I love the idea of a gorgeously decorated mantel, but I only had $4 left to my budget so I used what I already had on hand. I will tackle the mantel next year; something to look forward to.
I am still quite pleased with how cute it turned out though. The village was a Christmas gift years and years and years ago from Mark’s grandmother. The table cloth is a vintage piece my mom handed down to me. I added a large silver star ornament and my nice hard cover of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to give it a more complete look.

Next year I will work on decorating the fireplace.

Next year I will work on decorating the fireplace. Total cost $0

I have a bookcase in the livingroom and there was one major design flaw; it is home to 2 purple vases. Vases I refuse to put away because I love them. I already had white, silver, and blue florals arranged in them; red did not look good with purple. I used my white Christmas table runner that is embroidered with red poinsettias and the snowmen someone gave me 11 years ago. I added crystal votives from my wedding and my grandmother’s picture (removed for this post and for privacy). It may not be a red and white showcase, but it works so nicely and is so beautiful I will not change it next year.

I used items I already had on hand. Total cost $0.

I used items I already had on hand. Total cost $0.

Years ago my very talented aunt made me a gorgeous bottle. It is displayed on a shelf across from my couch so I can look at it every night.

My favorite Christmas decoration; hand-painted by my talented and beautiful aunt. Cost $0

My favorite Christmas decoration; hand-painted by my talented and beautiful aunt. Cost $0

The stockings are hung with command hooks (spray painted gold to look nicer) on the wall and out of reach from Zen and Sunny. There is a simple “Merry Christmas” sign on our front door. The trees are decorated. We have a few other random decorations hung about. I spent less than my budget but taxes ate that up, so really I spent exactly what I planned and a lot less than most people do. I achieved a coherent look and the house looks lovely and inviting. I can’t wait to add to it next year! Who knows, maybe one day I will have a picture-perfect Christmas house. For now I am happy and content.

Merry Christmas!
~Andrea