It's a gifty time of year. Less than a week before Christmas, knee deep in Hanukkah, my birthday is in about 2 weeks. My dad's birthday was last week as was my mother-in-law's birthday. It's really gifty for my family right now. I'd like to speak up in favor of the much looked-down-upon gift card.
I get why the gift card gets a bad wrap (get it?). They are considered "impersonal" and "lazy". I guess it's not as "personal" as monogrammed towels, a new laptop for a blogger whose computer was spat into by a preschooler, or a handknit scarf in the colors of that person's Hogwarts House. But honestly, how personal and caring is it to just get something for someone when you honestly don't know what they want or need?
I know I'm not alone in not knowing what people want or need. I love all my siblings, but I don't know whether my brother would appreciate cashmere socks or whether my sister wants a new Trollbead or something. And there are truly people in my gift list who have everything they need, and it pains me year after year to think up something they don't already have. It makes me dislike gift giving and that's not really in the spirit of the season.
There are gift cards for every conceivable store, restaurant, website, and even generic Visa/Amex gift cards. It can be a *personal* gift. Get your crafty sister a card for Joann/Michaels. Get your reading mom a card for Amazon or Barnes & Noble. If you have a dear friend who has just lost weight, a card to their favorite clothing store might be really appreciated. A gift to a favorite restaurant can give new parents an easy excuse for a date night. And those Visa/Amex cards are a blessing to those whose budgets are extra tight for any reason (students, job changes, new homes).
Honestly, I can't think of a time when I've received a gift card and thought, "Gee that wasn't very nice". Actually I *love* gift cards. I love shopping, I love picking something out for myself without the guilt of paying retail or feeling like something is a little frivolous.
So if you give a gift card - trust me, it's not lazy or impersonal. It can be just the right thing. And if you get a gift card - trust me, you will enjoy it.
After a looooong day on Saturday, we're DONE with Chris' bedroom! I gotta say, it's like night & day in terms of his ability and desire to play up there. Saturday was the painting day - I started around 11 AM and finished at dinner time. Chris slept down in Sarah's bedroom that night so we could air out any left over "wet paint" smells, and so we could assemble the furniture.
Let's take a look at the room before:
And here's how it is now:
What do you think?
The color is called Young Cadet - so it's a blue-gray or a gray-blue. Depends on the lighting, time of day, and your outlook on life LOL.
We kept the bed & dresser the same as before. We have added a new bookshelf (a 2x2 Expedit) and a toy storage/play surface (a 3 bay Trofast unit) both from Ikea.
We also put up some vinyl wall stickers that I bought from Amazon.com. The showpiece (LOL) is the large Buzz Lightyear. I know that a lot of home bloggers stay away from characters and vinyl wall stickers. And while they're not classy or they might not be seen on the pages of design magazines, the reality I live in is that this is a bedroom & play room for a 3 year old little boy. It's not my room, it's his and if he wants a 3 foot Buzz Lightyear, then who am I to say no? He loves it!!
Last year or so we did quite a bit with our daughter's bedroom. It's been tons of fun to do projects in there - big ones & small ones. A quick rundown of projects - built out the closet, painted, new trim, created a memo board, and other stuff. It's not done either (nothing ever is LOL), but it's time to shift our focus a bit.
Poor Chris. He's suffering as the second child (not really). His bedroom used to be Sarah's room, so when she moved out into her big-girl bedroom, the walls were princess purple. And they have remained princess purple ever since. Painting it wasn't the highest priority because of a few things, not the least of which was that Chris was an extraordinarily destructive toddler. I didn't want to scrub, patch and paint walls only to have them dinged, scratched, and scribbled on immediately.
Well, the time has come! The room has been adequate but a bit sparse in furnishings (but safe for his whirlwind lifestyle). He's grown up a lot though in the last year and a half and now that he's approaching his fourth b-day, I think we can safely bring a few things back for him!
The first thing we need to do is take a look at what we're working with - BEFORE PHOTOS!! Jason already started patching up the holes & imperfections in the walls so that's what all the white stuff is :)
The room is long and somewhat narrow. Plenty of space for everything we need - bed & dresser (we are keeping what we have for now), toy storage, book shelf, and plenty of space to play!
I'm not one of those bloggers who spends their days coming up with unique/cheap/sensory games for their kids. My kids play video games. They play with legos. They play with my phone. Every once in a while though, I come up with something a little different. Today it was an inspirational bag of mixed beans from the grocery store!
I hate beans, so when I saw this bag of beans, it looked more like arts & crafts materials than food, but it can be a sensory toy too.
It's a pretty simple idea - dump some mixed beans onto a tray or bin (or onto a table if you're brave) and have your preschooler sort them by type, size, color, shape... it's up to him & you.
We sorted into an ice cube tray because I had one handy, but you cold sort into an egg carton, a muffin tin, little bowls, or even just piles. The idea is to work on concepts like big/small, same/different, colors, shapes. And it's fun for kids to play with them. They have a nice tactile feel, too.
With the stormy, snowy, icy, cruddy weather we've had, this was a fun and easy indoor activity for a bit.
Yeah, well January has been very January-ish around these parts. We've all been healthy and all that. We've had more than our usual snowfall, which the kids have been enjoying this winter. So where have I been? Nowhere. Just not posting.
Well here's a little something for you guys - a recipe! I don't post recipes that often and that's really because I don't come up with them on my own. I do modify recipes to make them suit our preferences or make them lighter or something. Today's recipe, though, is one of my go-to low carb recipes. We don't always eat low carb, but when we do, I usually make this. It's very tasty.
Crustless Quiche (and I apologize for the slightly blurry pics - phone issues)
1 yellow onion
1 package frozen chopped spinach (thawed and all water squeezed out)
6-ish oz of swiss cheese
1 small-ish ham steak (any flavor)
heavy cream/light cream/half & half...your preference
Salt, pepper, thyme, nutmeg
Do ahead - caramelize your onions. I usually slice & cook a whole bunch of onions and keep them in the fridge to use during the week. Here's how: slice up a bunch of onions and put them in a nonstick skillet on low heat with butter & olive oil. Cook a loooooong time, stirring often. They are done when the are soft & brown. And they smell amazing.
On to the quiche!
Preheat the oven to about 375 and liberally grease your pie dish with butter (salted or unsalted, doesn't matter).
Cube up your ham steak and cook in a skillet on medium heat until warm through. This isn't strictly necessary, but I like the way the juices of the ham taste when they sizzle up, so I do it :) If you don't have ham steak, you can use deli ham, sliced up into small pieces. Or you could opt for a different meat (bacon, sausage..) or leave it out. I like it, so in it goes.
Shred your cheese into a mixing bowl, add ham, some onions (about a quarter cup cooked), and the thawed spinach. Stir it up until all the ingredients are well combined. Pour into the prepared pie dish.
Using the same bowl, beat your eggs (I say 6-8 because who knows how many you have on hand and how you like it). Add in cream/half & half and beat until it looks a nice pale yellow. You can add more or less. I'm not being exact here, which might frustrate some, but I don't measure when I do this. Then crank in some pepper, add salt (like 1/4 tbsp - the ham is plenty salty), thyme & nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp each) and beat again. Pour the egg mixture over the spinach/ham mixture in the pie plate. If it looks like it will overflow, STOP. Put the pie plate in the oven (on a cookie sheet if you're worried about splatter or overflow) and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the thing sets. When you give it a wiggle, it shouldn't really jiggle.
I like to let it sit & cool for about 10 minutes before serving.