Tuesday, March 27, 2012

{Printable} Kids Thank You Notes

Well the party is over.  The presents are being played with.  Cake is looong gone.  Now we "write" thank you cards.

I wasn't sure how many of the blanks my daughter would fill in but she actually enjoyed writing her letters and hand wrote all of them!  We broke it up over three days tackling a few at a each time.  I wanted to mail them out by two weeks after her party. (Isn't that the etiquette?)

So cute!  It says:  Dear (blank)  Thank you for the (blank).  I love it because (blank). From (blank).

I just helped her spell the words that she wanted to put in the blanks.
Her "blanks" were pretty cute.

Click these images for your own printable KIDS THANK YOU CARDS:

I made one with boyish colors for you, too!

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If you have trouble downloading these let me know.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Sea World and San Antonio {Spring Break 2012}

We went to Sea World in San Antonio, TX!!

And I must share...this was the trip of DEALS!

It was a lot of fun!  We all really enjoyed the shows.  And no, we didn't sit in any of the "soak zone" seats!  It was such a great trip to take with the kids at their ages.  We rented a double stroller for the day and it was the best $18 decision we made all day.  We got a DEAL on the admission to the park (as in free...military members can get free admission one day per year!) so I figured I could splurge on the stroller.

After Sea World, we changed hotels and stayed on the San Antonio Riverwalk.  I don't know if the kids enjoyed it as much as I did.  It is really a good thing my husband and I have been to San Antonio tons of times before because the kids were mostly interested in the hotel pool!  We didn't even take them inside the Alamo.   Just a picture out front is all we could manage.

Have you been to San Antonio?  You know the little boat tour that goes up and down the river?  We hyped it up to the kids and took them on it the first afternoon we were there.  I don't think they appreciated it as much as we did though.

Since the fall, my husband has been traveling so much for work that he is already a "gold" member at Marriott hotels...I was so surprised to learn that he earned us an upgraded room, free breakfasts, free wi-fi, and free appetizers-in-the-evenings-that-we-totally-made-into-our-dinner.  So that was the DEAL with the hotel on the river.

The night before we left home, I saw a Groupon for a double decker bus tour around the city and snatched that DEAL right up!  We took that on Friday morning.

We were able to hop on and off to see some sights and there was even free bottled water on the buses.

While we were in San Antonio there was a DEAL on Urban Dealights (similar to Groupon) for a restaurant on the Riverwalk!   I made sure we ate lunch there for half price.

OH and I almost forgot this DEAL:  I checked with the Denny's near our hotel at SeaWorld and kids eat free on Tuesdays!  Found out about this here - a website that has lists of places where kids eat free!

Now we are back home to a leaking toilet, a yard full of weeds, piles of laundry, and an empty fridge.  It will probably take me all week to get back into a routine here!  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Break Baby!


I really thought I was going to schedule some posts for this week while we are on spring break. I changed my mind. I wrote out a couple last night but now I have decided to hold onto them for when we get back. You can wait a week, right?

Thing is, after I post here, I like sharing on several great link parties...and checking out other bloggers' ideas from the parties...and replying to comments...and, well, honestly I just won't have time to do that this week. And that is ok! At the last minute, my husband had his trip canceled for this week so we are getting out of Dodge and looking for some fun family time!

But first we must endure a 7-8 hour car ride. Isn't there "fun" closer to home??

I will try and check in again this week. Happy Spring Break!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 16, 2012

Been there!

Have you all seen this map floating around Pinterest lately?  It is currently on my travel board.  Well, this one is mine!

I will tell you what- this makes it SO much easier for my husband and I to play this game!  Last summer we had a short getaway (sans kids) and in the car I finally wrote our list on paper.  Which I also thought was fun to do because I made myself write all 50 states in alphabetical order.  I think I just lost a few readers with that dorky statement!  Anyway...I saw this map earlier this week on Pinterest and took a go at it.  (Don't think I am some kind of road trip queen, most of this is probably thanks to the military!)

Now, according to the map's rules you mark any state you have been in for any reason.

My husband and I play this game with the rule you can't just land in the airport/drive through you must DO something in that state to qualify.  And getting gas does not count.  So if those were the rules then I would have to take Rhode Island and Connecticut off the list because I only drove through and got gas on my way from NJ to Boston once.  And Tennessee, too.  I have only driven through  TN.

If you are curious what I was doing in your state...just ask : )

Thursday, March 15, 2012

{Recipe} No Measuring Healthy Taco Filling and Seasoning

Funny, my kids aren't real crazy about meat but they love tacos!  Love tacos!  So this is my chance to feed them healthy ingredients since they will eat well when it's "taco night".

The two things I do:
1.  Add a can of black beans.
2.  Homemade taco seasoning

3 reasons for adding black beans:  it  almost doubles my quantity of filling, it adds good protein and fiber, and it reduces the cost.  (My kids prefer ground turkey but sometimes I use a good ground beef and they eat it all the same.)

3 reasons for using homemade taco seasoning:  I already have the ingredients on hand, waaaay less salt, and I know exactly what is in it.

I need to preface this recipe by saying the amounts of seasonings I use give the meat/beans a mild flavor and is not spicy.  My kids don't like spicy.  This is for a pound-ish of meat plus one can of beans...obviously add more seasoning if you use more meat or want a stronger flavor!

No-measuring Homemade Taco Filling:
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Ingredients:  OH, and I don't measure! (Because you don't have to unless it must be exactly the same every.single.time you make it.) 

  • A BIG palmful of chili powder...
  • Medium size palmfuls of the cumin, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder, and paprika.
  • Just a small amount of salt (unless you prefer more).  I give it a good sprinkle around the pan and use sea salt with large granules. 

I am using ground oregano because I bought it for something and am (still) trying to get rid of it.  Also, sometimes I increase the cumin to a big palmful if I feel like it.


  1. Add everything to meat either during or after it is browned.  I tend to add seasoning to the partly cooked meat and then the beans to the fully cooked meat- in case you were wondering!
  2. If the meat is getting dry (maybe because it is lighter fat), add some water.  About 1/4 cup.  This will help everything mix.

Now with the doubled the amount of filling needed to feed my family, I put the rest in freezer bags once cooled.  And VERY often, I cook up 2 pounds of meat and 2-3 cans of beans.  It is just as easy to cook 2 or 3 pounds of meat as it is to cook one.  I just have to pull out the bigger skillet, that's all!

I cook once and have dinners in the freezer for later!!

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I am entering a contest to win a $75 Amazon.com gift card here:  My entry into Just Something I Whipped Up sponsored by Appliances Online and the Bosch Washing Machines, .

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Operation Smile and CampusBookRentals.com

Recently I was contacted by CampusBookRentals.com and wanted to write this post to tell you more about their company and their affiliation with a good cause.  I have been compensated for this post by Campus Book Rentals, but the opinions are 100% mine.  

Come on, you've heard of Operation Smile, right!?  Please tell me you know of them.  Operation Smile is an international charity that has made its mission to offer free cleft palate and cleft lip surgeries to young children all over the world.  It is sad, but in some countries children are just hidden away if they are born with a cleft lip or palate because of the facial deformity.  But it is not just an aesthetic problem.  These children have difficulty communicating and eating, which is vital.   Ear and dental problems are also likely.

A staggering stat from Operation Smile's website:
Nearly every 3 minutes a child somewhere in the world is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. 1 in 10 children born with a cleft condition will die before they reach their first birthday.
Staggering.  But if they can't eat.  They can't live.  

Operation Smile has performed over 160,000 surgeries in over 60 countries through the help of volunteering medical professionals and generous citizens and organizations.  Today, they are also working to build self-sufficient centers in several different countries.  

So why am I talking about Operation Smile?  Well, Campus Book Rentals, a genius and generous company has pledged to fund 1,000 surgeries for Operation Smile!  A portion of each book rental, will go toward this goal.  Isn't that something!  

Benefits of renting books from Campus Book Rentals are:

  • save 40-90% off of bookstore prices
  • free shipping both ways
  • highlighting is allowed in the textbooks
  • flexible renting periods
  • they donate to Operation Smile with each textbook rented!

Wouldn't it have been GREAT to rent textbooks in college instead of buying them?  Campus Book Rentals would have been so awesome!  That's why I'm telling you about it.  You will want to remember this one day...for you or your kids or somebody who wants to save money on college textbooks!

But is it really that simple?........YES!
With Campus Book Rentals, you just order the books you want to rent and then return them in the prepaid envelope when you are done.  Easy-peasy.  They rent on whatever semester/quarter/term you need, too.  If you need it longer, just use your manners and call them.  They market themselves as very lenient and understanding.  See here for one example of the possible cost savings.

I wanted to share what I know about Campus Book Rentals- a company that can help you save money while going to school also supports Operation Smile to transform lives!  This is something to feel good about!

Want to help Operation Smile?  Here are a bunch of sewing and no-sew items that you can make and donate to Operation Smile.  Here are other ways to give.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What I Did About Nicks in Wood Trim Around Our House

You are going to think that this is a product plug, but I can assure you, it is not.  I was not asked to, no did I receive any sort of compensation for writing this post.  Just sharing a "duh, why didn't I know this sooner" moment with you!

I know that one day in the next year or so we will have to move.  It's the military's way.  In the past, I have always had a good idea of when we would be moving.  Then we knew approximately when we should put the house up for sale.  This time, however, I really don't know!  Which drives us crazy at times because we are big planners.  Huge planners!  I do know whenever it is, it will be a lot of work to get this house in shape to sell.  I know some things that have helped in the past to make our house(s) look their best.  One thing we did that had a big impact was clean the wood cabinets in our kitchen.  A product like these is good for cleaning wood cabinets.

So I decided to get a jump start on our current house and thought I'd start with the kitchen cabinets.  (I mean why not- that's what huge planners do, right?)  In the past, I used Murphy's Oil Soap and it worked great!  Our 15yr-old kitchen looked brand new!   I didn't see it at the store (it was probably there)  so I picked up some Pledge Revitalizing Oil.  It has an orange scent that I can tolerate.  Well, after I wiped down cabinets, I thought I would take it to some areas that are really beaten up...the kids room!  Just to see what might happen.

Check out these before and afters!

We seriously thought we would have to replace this window sill...guess not!  Whew!  A little Pledge oil did the trick!

I can't believe it's the same wood!  I love you Pledge oil!

I really had no idea that a product like this was capable of results like this!  And that is why I am sharing this info with you.  (Plus I got nothing else to yap about today- ha!)  I just thought this stuff was only good for cleaning my cabinets.  Well, it just saved us a lot of money because we were planning  to sand and restain all the wood.  OK, we would have paid someone to do it (like chumps) so we wouldn't screw it up.  You probably already knew about this stuff, huh? (You're like "duh, Kate!")

Well... that crosses "Repair Wood Trim" off our list!  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday {5}:: Awe-inspiring Places I Have Been

I started a new Pinterest board a few weeks ago.  It is called Awesome Places I've Been.  I like to spend my Fridays sharing fun or random bits of info.  Today, it's a bit about me that you otherwise wouldn't learn via me talking about crafts and stuff.

I don't know...it's a way that we might find some commonalities between us!

Various Sources on my Pinterest board.  Click photo to go to board.
Here are {5} (international) places I have been that have made lasting impressions.
For me, this list is more about the "experience" I had from visiting each place that you just cannot get from a picture or staying at a nice resort.

1.  Tahiti
I truly felt like I was on the edge of the earth.  Incredible beauty and an island lifestyle that I found most intriguing.  Heaven on earth!

2.  Thailand
Bangkok was wow.  Chaing Mai was mystical.  But I think what was the best part of the trip was when my friend and I brought food to the monks on the first dawn we were in the country.

3.  Boracay, Philippines
I was young and adventurous.  I traveled with a backpack and no reservations.  It took two planes, a filthy 2-hr van ride, and a outrigger boat ride to get to the island.  There we walked up the beach and chose a hotel that luxuriously offered a/c and running water and we paid extra for hot water.  No phones.  No TV.  It was like $35 a night or something crazy! My friends and I were there for simple relaxation but we left with memories that we can't forget.  Leaving out so many incredible details here...We met a family at a neighboring island.  It was life changing.  It was moving.  Special.  Eventful.  Their children sang to us.  We ate mangoes that were freshly whacked down (with a machete) from their tree in front of their house.  And we were lucky they shared an afternoon of their life with us outsiders.

4.  South Korea
I spent a year here.  It was all an awesome adventure- the food, the smells, the language, the customs!  But what stands out the most is a trip to the DMZ in South Korea (De-Militarized Zone is also the border with North Korea).

5.  The Great Wall of China
Still amazes me that people built that.  With their hands.

Do you have any places you have been that made you FEEL something?  Made you realize how lucky your life is or how small we really are?  Any awesome experiences you have burned into memory?  You know I would LOVE to hear about it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Party Favors: A Crafty Treat Bag

I thought I would do one last post about Stella's 5th birthday.  'Cuz these little party favors were pretty neat!

Each partygoer got a treat bag that had a pack of fruit chews, some M&M cookies and a blank canvas & bag of craft supplies.

I bought the 4x4 canvases from Michael's in a 9-pack with my 40% coupon (twice!  I needed two packs).  That made each canvas about $1.33 each.  Then the craft supplies, well, it was part Wal-Mart craft aisle and part Kate's de-stash!  

There were sequins, beads, feathers, papers, ribbons, gems, buttons, felt, and a glue stick.

I printed a little note for each bag.

I thought this party favor was quite representative of Stella, my crafter.  And then by giving the kids the canvases, I thought they might have a chance of staying out of the garbage can at least a little longer than the typical party favor.  

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

And Then, There Was the Party..

As if that sad attempt at a rose cake wasn't enough!!

WE had to have a party.  This was really our first big party that we have thrown for any of our kids.  By that I mean, inviting the classmates- typically we celebrate birthdays with us and our "immediate friends".  We don't have family parties because we don't have family here.  Just friends.  And some good ones at that!  They are our "immediate friends"!

But I had to make these and mail them out in time...

Then I had to figure out what to serve.  We opted for donuts instead of cake.  Stella is a donut girl anyway! 

I also made Jello popcorn.  It is becoming a birthday tradition around our house!  I like it because I can make it the colors of the party.

The bunting is the same paper bunting I made for our house.  Just paper sewn to a ribbon.

I had to come up with a "special" donut on the spot.  This is the best I could do.

Milks to drink.  

Favor bags with a couple goodies and a small bag of the popcorn to say "thanks for coming"!

And I used the circle garland (from my last post) as table decorations.  I just laid it down the center of the tables, the way a table runner would go.  It was cute.  I was surprised how much it brightened an otherwise dull and generic room.  I really wasn't sure what to expect either.  Truthfully, I just brought a bunch of stuff and hoped it was going to work.  And well, it did!  It probably took me 5 times longer than the party even lasted to make everything...but I don't care!  It's my kid!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Today is a Big Girl Day!

My little girl is 5 today!  Where has the time gone?!  We all say that, don't we?

I have had so many half-done crafts and half-written posts to put here this week, but, birthdays come first!  So instead of showing you my t-shirt embellishing projects, the glitter shoes, the beaded necklace I made, a top for me I am working on, and all the other goodies in pause-mode right now.  I will show you what I HAVE been doing this week:

Paper Bunting:

I just sewed paper triangles to a ribbon using a zig zag stitch.  

And Paper Garland:

I broke down and bought a circle punch (I don't have a fancy paper cutter- just my scissors!).  Then I stacked two circles so it would be pretty on both sides and sewed together with a straight stitch.

And cupcakes for school:

Just regular box mixes and my homemade buttercream frosting.

Lots of it!

And yes, this is my attempt at the Rose Cake...except when you realize at ten o'clock the night before that you don't actually have Wilton tip #1M!!!!  

In that case you do the next best thing...improvise with tip #30.  
It is more like a swirly carnation cake!
However, I told myself that if she didn't think they looked like "roses" then I would redo it in the morning.  That is, if trying to convince her bribe her didn't work first.

What's up with the resolution of these pics anyway?  I don't have time to fix 'em now...they aren't too bad, I hope.

Off to the school in about an hour.  I am clearing off the video camera as we speak.  I am still in PJs.  Pizza and swirly carnation cake and chocolate ice cream tonight!
Happy 5th Birthday to our "Stella-Bella"!!  
(That's not really her middle name.  Please don't think I give my kids rhyming names. )
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