Monday, December 26, 2011

Let It...Snow?

This has been the only snowless Christmas our kids have ever doesn't seemed to have really bothered anyone but Josh. Certainly didn't bother me. But my dear friend Kristi and her family sent our kids a can of make-your-own snow for Christmas! It is made of the same stuff that is inside diapers...we just added water and instant snow! The kids made a few snowballs, a little snowman and called it good.

That's my kind of snow!

Have any of you seen the darling types of duct tape there are out there now? I found this reindeer roll at Michaels in early December and made some cards with it. LOVE the green.

Hope everyone is having a happy Christmas hangover!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Hope your Christmas is merry & bright! Lots of love from our family to yours.

Be back after the Holidays...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


What is it about red velvet cake?? And when it is conveniently bite-sized?? We're taking them to our friend parties this weekend.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How To Make Pointy Bows

Anna wanted me to wrap her book exchange book with a pointy bow last week and I had so many ladies ask me how to do them that I thought I'd share. My mom taught me how to make them years used to be able to buy them. They pack a lot of punch, are quick to make and all you really need is a glue stick.

First, make 5 identical circles out of your wrapping paper or coordinating paper.

Next, fold 1 circle in half, in half, and then in half again so when unfolded there are 8 equal pie sections. Stack the 5 circles with the folded one on top and cut along the lines through all 5 layers ALMOST to the center.

Next, put some glue stick on the upper right hand corner of each of the pie sections of 1 circle. Then use a pencil (or I like to use my American Crafts rub-on stick because it had a good point) and starting at the left side of each pie section and roll it into a point. The glue is already on the right corner so it should stick immediately. Roll each section of all 5 circles. It sounds like it will take forever, but once you get in a groove, it goes quickly. I made this one in about 5 minutes.

Put a piece of double-stick tape (or glue, but double-stick works better) in the center of a circle. Stagger the points and stick another circle to the tape. Continue until all 5 layers are taped together by the middle. You will need to use a pencil to get the last layer to stick down in the center.

And voila! Gorgeous!

Have a good week!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Life Lesson At Sonic

The kids didn't have to go to school today and we decided to spend some time at the library. On the way, we stopped at Sonic to get a super-dooper sized diet Dr. Pepper. As we were waiting for them to bring it out, two cars came screeching into the parking lot and parked in adjacent spots. The driver of the first car gets out and starts yelling at the other driver. Boyfriends get out, horrible words start flying and I was so afraid it was gonna come to blows. HORRIBLE words. As soon as I realized what was goin' down, I told the kids to plug their ears. It was pretty tense for a minute. One of the drivers (with two elementary school-aged kids in the backseat) finally pulled out and left. The other one stayed and calmly ordered lunch.

As we were leaving, I told the kids they could unplug their ears. They were all looking at me. Sam had pink cheeks and kept saying, "I can't get those awful words out of my head." So I seized the moment. I asked them how watching those people be so mean to one another made them feel. The all agreed that it made them feel horrible. I asked them if they could feel the difference between feeling the Spirit at church and the way they felt when the people were fighting. Yes, they really could. We talked about how Heavenly Father must feel when we fight with each other, how it hurts to call people names, and how the Spirit can't be with us if we choose to do those things.

A life lesson. Right in the Sonic parking lot. And a good reminder to me, too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reindeer Noses

Tomorrow all the kids have Christmas parties so I will be shuttling between their three schools. I made cupcakes for Sam's class and wanted to do a little something for Anna and Joshua's classes as well. I saw some cute little packets of "reindeer noses" online and thought they would be perfect! There are a lot of printable bag toppers online made specifically for reindeer noses, but I didn't love any of them so I made up some of my own. I used this set of Stampin' Up stamps and cut off the reindeer part of the main stamp and used it on a clear stamp block and then colored them with watercolor pencils. Some of the packets online were made with red and brown M&Ms, but I liked the perfect ball shape of the Whoppers (Anna used to call them "Woopers") and cherry sours.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Visiting Santa, Alabama Style

In the other parts of the United States we've lived, it is fairly customary to go to the mall to visit with Santa, tell him what you want for Christmas, and then get a candy cane. Right?

Not in Alabama.

You want to visit Santa, you gotta go to Bass Pro Shop.

But you do still get a candy cane.

(Josh's preschool class went on a field trip to see Santa and I tagged along.)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

M&M Nativity Legend Visiting Teaching Gifts

One of my good friends in Washington shared this Nativity Legend with our Primary last Christmas and I tucked it away in my Christmas file knowing that it would make a wonderful visiting teaching gift during the Holidays. Just a jelly jar filled with Christmas M&Ms in cello and lots of curling ribbon.

Here's the Nativity Legend:

"As you hold these candies in your hand,
and turn them you will see,
The "M" becomes a "W", an "E" and then a "3".
They tell the Christmas story, it's one I'm sure you know,
It took place in a stable, a long long time ago.
The "E" is for the East, where the star shone oh so bright,
The "M" is for the Manger, where baby Jesus slept that night.
The "3" is for the wise men bearing gifts, with haste they came,
"W" is for Worship, an angelic choir sang praises to His name.
So as you eat these candies, or share them with a friend,
Remember the true Spirit of Christmas and never let it end."

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

JAG Spouses Cookie Swap

Yesterday I hosted the December JAG spouses group at my house...for a cookie swap! We ended up with 15 ladies and about 17 different types of cookies and candies (YUM!) and got lots of visiting in, coffee cake eaten, and drank lots of cranberry tea and eggnog punch.

As everyone started to get ready to go, a couple ladies and I started putting an assortment of cookies in these cute cake boxes I ordered online (this is also the site I buy my baker's twine from also). We tied them with red or green baker's twine and stuck on a Christmas sticker...I just used some of my Christmas stamps of sheets of adhesive paper and cut them out. So much cuter than taking a Tupperware bowl of cookies home. We made up a bunch of extra boxes and sent them back to base to pass the cookie love along. This was SO fun...I would do this again in a heartbeat.

Here is the divine recipe for the tea:

Hot Cranberry Tea

1 quart cranberry juice cocktail
2 quarts water
1/2 cup red hot candies
6 whole cloves
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 cups orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice

Boil the cranberry juice, water, red hots, cloves and sugar. Add orange juice and lemon juice and refrigerate until ready to serve. I serve mine from my crock pot to keep it warm.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Wreaths

While my mom was here, we made a couple of new Christmas last one got crunched after the umpteenth move and I chucked it in Washington last year. We were at Michaels and all their handful sized poinsettias were on sale for $.99, and they had both red and this awesome creamy white. I would usually pick red, but that white was so pretty and so I decided to give it a try. The door at this house is a dark wine color and we thought it would look really great.
I got one of those rounded green floral Styrofoam wreaths and $8.00 worth of stems. My mom clipped the blossoms off with wire cutters and pushed the leaves up so they were all ready to glue. I used a screwdriver to put a hole in the wreath along the outside edge, filled it with glue, and pushed the stem into the glue. I did the outside, the front, and then the inside. We both loved the way it turned out and it looks fab from the street.

One of the magazines that my mom bought for the plane ride had this great wreath idea in it. And when I see something I really like and want to duplicate, I get all cross-eyed and obsessive. But we could NOT find any small boxes that would work for the wreath. So we made a bunch. We also bought a few little truffle boxes from the Target $1 bins and emptied them and used them. After a little trial and error, some scrapbook paper backfires, and what seemed like endless pieces of double stick tape, I finally broke down and just bought some coordinating Christmas wrapping paper. After that, things went remarkably better! We wrapped all the little boxes, used my ribbon stash to tie them with bows, and then thin wire and a curved needle to anchor the bottom layer to a 12" wire floral wreath and hot glued the rest on top of the bottom layer. We love the way they turned out!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Really {heart} Adele

...and Glee mashups.

(Why can't I get the wide screen on my blog? Anybody? Anybody? HELP!)

Monday, December 5, 2011

"The Golden Rule" FHE Idea

Teaching a junior primary class is 1 part lesson, 2 parts fancy-dancing and every part about preparation. I scour online each week to get prepared for my class's lesson but also for activities that the kids will enjoy as well as will help reinforce the lesson's gospel principle. Sometimes, not so easy. But this past Sunday, I came up with an idea all on my own. And it was so successful that I thought I'd share would work well as a FHE lesson also.

The lesson was on "The Golden Rule" and treating others the way you would like to be treated. I hit the Dollar Tree and bought a $1 puzzles (24-piece) for each member of my class. My mom, Anna and I broke down the boxes and put the picture and puzzle pieces in a Ziploc baggie. I then took one piece out of each bag and replaced it with a piece from one of the other puzzles, so they would end up missing one puzzle piece when their puzzle was complete and have a piece that didn't go to their puzzle.

We spent about 15 minutes putting their puzzles together on the floor. They would find the piece that didn't go to their puzzle and get a little confused, but I told them to just put it aside and do what they could. When everyone was done, they took the piece that didn't belong to them and gave it to their friend that needed it to complete their puzzle. It was such a sweet moment for all of us...they were so much more excited to see their friend's puzzle complete than to finish their own. We talked about how it feels to help others and how it feels to be helped. Then I handed out some gold chocolate coins from the Target $1 bins to remind them all to follow "The Golden Rule this week.

That's all.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Just a Trifle

You know you've reached the doldrums of middle-age when you ask for glass mini trifle bowls for your birthday. And then you actually get them! So aside from the traditional pumpkin and pecan pies for Thanksgiving dessert, we made 10 mini cute, individual dish of yumminess for each of us (and an extra for whoever got to it first). We used a chocolate layered cake recipe...we just broke up the cooled crust and divided it into the bottom of the trifle bowls and then added the other layers as usual. So cute. Can't wait to use them again for an actual trifle recipe.

Chocolate Layered Dessert

1/4 c. chopped pecans
1 c. flour
1/2 c. butter
2 tbsp. sugar
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. Cool Whip
2 small pkgs. instant chocolate pudding
3 c. cold milk
additional pecan pieces for garnish

Mix first 4 ingredients as for pie crust. Press in bottom of 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool. Blend cream cheese and powdered sugar. Add whipped cream and mix well. Spread on cooled crust.

Mix chocolate pudding and cold milk until well blended. Pour over cream cheese layer, refrigerate until firm. Spread remaining frozen whipped topping over pudding layer. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

My mom is still here and we have been busy baking, crafting and Christmas decorating. And I have some major blogging to catch up on...more to come soon!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Anna's Baptism

Our beautiful baby girl was baptized yesterday! We are so proud of her and her decision to be baptized. It was such a blessing to have both grandmas with us for the big day and they were even asked to participate...Grammy Joan gave a talk on baptism and Grandma Nichols gave the opening prayer. I'll probably go to hell for taking a picture in the chapel, but this moment between Tony and Anna was too priceless not to capture.

About a week ago, I went digging through my bin of things from when I was younger and found the baptism dress that my mom made for me when I was baptized (all the way back in 1982). On a whim, I had Anna try it on and it fit her just perfectly. We had a little chat while she had it on and I told her about my dress and how it would mean so much to me if she wore it when she was baptized and then she could keep it to remember her special day. I'm so grateful that she thought it was a brilliant idea.

Because Sam is a boy, he got to prepare for his actual baptism with Tony and I had to sit with everyone else. But this time, Anna was the only girl getting baptized so she and I were all alone in the dressing room and we got to share a sweet minute that was so precious. I am grateful to have had that time with her.

Anna is an amazing little girl. Tonight, she gave the dinner prayer. She forgot to bless the food, but she did remember to ask for help so that she could make good decisions because she had been baptized.

What a good example and a wonderful reminder to me.

We love you, Anna!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


First of all, Happy Thanks-giving! We are so grateful for our family, our friends, and our freedoms. We are indeed surrounded by many, many blessings.

With my mother-in-law and my mom both is town for Anna's baptism and Thanksgiving, it was fabulous to have two extra sets of hands in the kitchen! We also played host to a couple of guys that are here at Maxwell for OTS and couldn't go home for Thanksgiving. We borrowed a big table that everyone would fit around and feasted!

The aftermath.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Goodies

Josh and I spent an afternoon last week making snicker-doodles as Thanks-giving treats for my primary class and for the kids' teachers. We put them in goodie bags in a couple of cupcake papers and added a tag and ribbon. Yummy!

Moms are both coming in tomorrow for Thanksgiving and Anna's baptism!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Go To Church

On I-65 between Montgomery and Birmingham. Gotta love the Bible Belt. Pretty much the best billboard ever.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


...or in other words, "How to keep your kids from getting beat up during Iron Bowl tailgate parties." That's right. The annual Auburn/Alabama knockdown is the weekend of Thanksgiving. And because the kids have all next week off, that leaves this week for the Autauga County school district to tailgate. Seriously. Our family has tried very hard to stay Alabama neutral so as not to immediately alienate half the state (or the other half) with the official McIllece family backing. Today for Anna's tailgate party, I made her a cute, generic football shirt. And she decided to wear Auburn blue & orange in one pigtail and Alabama crimson in the other. And notice the darling new glasses!

We also got some great news last week. We will be staying in Alabama for at least two more years after Tony graduates from ACSC in the Spring! He was offered a staff judge advocate job here at Maxwell...a great opportunity for him. I'm thrilled. We waited to tell the kids that we would be staying until everything was finalized. We thought they'd be excited. Instead, we were met with silence. And then Sam said, "What does that mean, exactly?" That's what you get when you have a 5th grader who has attended 5 schools. Geesh.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

McWane & A Parade

ALL the students in our house had Veteran's Day off so we decided to do some exploring! On Friday morning, we drove to Birmingham and spent the day at the McWane Science Center. It is four floors of science delight right in downtown. The highlights included digging for dinosaur bones, the awesome train display, laying on a bed of nails, butterflies landing on our shadows, and making fabulous family portraits on the push peg boards. But the best part of the day was touching REAL.LIVE.SHARKS. And rays.

About halfway through the visit, we went outside and watched the Veteran's Day parade go by. It is the longest running and largest Veteran's Day parade in the United States...right there in Birmingham. And I must say, they sure love the military here. There were so many flags and cheering and was such a wonderful thing to be a part of.

After the day in Birmingham, we made a quick stop North of town to see the temple and then headed on to Huntsville for another adventure on Saturday...

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Just another reason to love Alabama. Who could imagine heading to the parking lot after church, shooting the breeze with friends, munching peee-cans off a real peee-can tree. In November. I'm gonna shell a bunch and use them in my Thanksgiving pie this year. I love Alabama.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Anna's Literary Genius

I go to Anna's classroom once a week for a couple hours to read with the kids. Last week when I got there, Anna's teacher asked Anna to show me her writing journal. The class had read a story about animals and the journal assignment was to write 3-5 sentences describing an animal and then the class would try and guess what animal they were describing. In the few minutes that the class had to write, "this animal has feathers" or "this animal lives in a barn", Anna whips out this masterpiece of literary genius:

"I like to drink milk, and eat lots of food,
Whenever you try to touch me, I'm in a bad mood.
I think yarn is fun, I have a good clean dish,
The only treat I'd like is NICE FRESH FISH!
My eyes are super yellow, they are sometimes scary,
I sometimes live on a farm, where cows make dairy.
My fur is really soft, my nails are really sharp,
I will fall asleep if you play music on a harp.
My tail is skinny, any pattern, spots, or shade,
If you like this animal, you may not want to trade!"

What am I?

Seriously? I almost died. She's in 2nd grade, people!

This kid is gonna make me millions.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fall Cookie Cutter Visiting Teaching Gifts

I was at Michaels the other day and all their Fall stuff was on sale. I did a little digging and found a set of nine Wilton cookie cutters...three nesting cutters of three different designs. I split the box up into 3 sets so that each set had one of all three designs (two leaves and an acorn). I tied them all together at the stems with ribbon, added a tag and Bam! said the visiting teaching lady.

"The greatest oak was once a little acorn who held his ground." --Old Proverb

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Anna's 8 & A New Calling

I'm so far behind on our blog but I've been living in a candy-induced euphoria this past little while that it doesn't seem to be bothering me much. I can say this about Alabama...they sure are a social bunch! We have been party-going, candy-eating, costume-wearing maniacs for the last week. And loving every minute of it.

The highlight this week was Anna's 8th birthday. I showed up at her school and delivered cupcakes to her class (chocolate self-filled cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and a gumball), we went to Bass Pro Shop for dinner and gator meat (I kid you not...that's what she picked), and opened her presents. Anna is such a wonderful little girl. My favorite thing about Anna right now is her willingness to always be a helper. It doesn't matter what you need done, if you ask her, she will do it. She is so kind and patient with Josh...she is a wonderful sister and daughter. She is a delight and we are so happy to have her as part of our family. She has decided to be baptized and we will be doing it over Thanksgiving while the Grandmas are here.

(This is Anna at about 2 and a half years. Notice she's holding a much healthier looking bunny.)

My days of attending Sunday school and relief society are over! Again. I was called about 3 weeks ago to be a primary worker...teaching the CTR 4s (4-5 year olds). I pretty flattered because they gave me another little person class, so I must not have too badly screwed up the 2 years of Sunbeams I taught in Washington. You know, it really is the place to be. I love these kids already and it helps my testimony grow every time I teach these precious little ones.

One last thing. I found this great Halloween snack mix here and thought it was a great alternative to candy for my primary children this year. I love the Halloween colors!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The only thing better than "trunk-or-treating" is stealing your kids' Halloween bounty after they go to bed.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin Patch & Josh Love

Today was awesome. I got to go to the pumpkin patch with Joshua's preschool class! We went on a hayride, picked out a pumpkin, went on bouncy slides (okay, I just watched...those things were TALL), played in hay and had a treat. Such a beautiful, perfect day...lots of sunshine and just cool enough for jackets. And it was fun, FUN to spend some time with Josh.
On our way up to the pumpkin patch, it was just Josh and I in the car. Out of the blue, he says, "I so love you, Mommy." (As an aside, I'm sure he does, but I think the excitement of going to the pumpkin patch probably had something to do with the outburst). I answered him back, like I always do,

Me: "I so love you, Josh."

Josh: "No, I love you more."

Me: "No, I love YOU more."

Josh: "Mommy, I love you to infinity and beyond."

That's what my dad would always say to us. Coming out of Josh's sweet little mouth, it was music to my ears. And I know a grandpa who must be whispering it in Josh's ear while he sleeps...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Giveaway at Beautiful Nest

I am a true believer in Gooseberry Patch. LOVE their recipes and cute Holiday ideas. So I was quick to jump on the giveaway bandwagon when I saw that Jenni over at Beautiful Nest is giving two lucky readers a copy of Gooseberry Patch's Christmas recipes/idea booklet.

So go here. If you win, send it to me. Got it? GO NOW.

Have a good day!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Trick or Treat Pillow *LOVE*

About two weeks ago, I came across the cutest idea while blog-hopping. These trick or treat pillows are made with painting drop cloth canvas, stencils and spray paint. Seriously. I got a little obsessed and made a set for myself and have been churning around ideas in my mind for other ways to use this same technique. Here is Jessica's tutorial on how to make these darling pillows. Since I don't have a Cricut, I used Martha Stewart adhesive stencil paper (from Michael's), traced and then cut out the letters to make my own stencil. A little more work, but they are so cute and a great addition to Halloween at our house!

I also finally used this great orange Aber-crombie & Fitch wool sweater I found at Goodwill and felted to make this sweet little pumpkin pillow. I loved the cream pattern along the bottom of the sweater...

Have a great week!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Give a Mom a Heart Attack 101

While I was out running some errands this morning, I got an automated phone call from Anna's school. It simply said that she was absent today and would I kindly send in a written excuse explaining the reason for her absence when she comes back. That wasn't the problem. The problem was that I put Anna on the bus myself this morning. And if she wasn't at school, where was she??

I ran to the car and drove down to the school, trying not to panic. I calmly walked into the office and told them why I was there...that my daughter was marked absent, but I had put her on the bus this morning. First, they wouldn't say a word until they had seen my ID card and made sure that I was on the "authorized" list of people that were allowed information about Anna. The list that I personally filled out. Then they called down to her classroom and talked to her teacher (but they wouldn't let me talk to her) and she confirmed that Anna was in class...her bus had just arrived late and they has already recorded attendance for the day. I only felt marginally better. I kind of got short with the secretaries and told them I WASN'T LEAVING UNTIL I ACTUALLY SAW HER. So they called Anna's teacher back and told her to send Anna down to the office. About 20 seconds later, Anna comes bounding around the corner and into the office. I couldn't get her in my arms quickly enough. I quickly told her what had happened and why I was worried.

She looked up at me with her brown eyes and said, "Hey mom, can I have some gum?"

I'd have given her about anything right then. Thank goodness she only wanted gum.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


These are some of the Halloween goodies I made for a little "soiree" last night (more to come...). Skeleton cookies. How cute are these?? I don't remember how I got there, but Family Fun magazine had this darling idea on their website. I love how they used cookie cutters that just about everyone already has in their collection in a new way. They made their cookies out of gingerbread but we decided to do sugar cookies with black frosting and white bones. Spooky!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dripping with Halloween Fun!

**UPDATED!!** If you don't want to buy labels, Martha Stewart does have some printable labels on her website here! A couple are specifically for gin and vodka (YIKES!), but there are a couple that would work for visiting teaching gifts. She also has some cute candy labels here. I {heart} Martha. Seriously.**

I was at Michael's a couple weeks ago and found these great Martha Stewart beverage labels in their Halloween section of paper crafts and KNEW they were just what I needed for October visiting teaching!! I think there are 12 labels in the package for about $10 and I used a off 40% coupon. They are even cheaper here. Then I went shopping for some great glass bottles. There were quite a few cream soda bottle options (no alcohol, no caffeine) but I needed a smooth bottle without too much embossed lettering in the glass. I found these Virgil's brand bottles that were perfect...just used some Goo-Gone on the bottle labels, peeled them off, and washed the bottles. But the key was to find an awesome color cream soda. And since to wanted to use the cyanide and blood labels, I used black cherry looks an awful lot like blood.

Add a tag ("Hope your Halloween is dripping with fun!") with a spider punch and some webbing and off we go!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I {heart} Alabama!

Just another reason I love the South.

The stuff THEY think is junk, I think is awesome.

I went to an antique and flea market in downtown Prattville on Friday after I dropped Josh off at school, really with no expectations. Oh.My.Gosh. This is just one of the treasures I picked up. A little antique green weathered bench. For $18.

Junk? I think not.