Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Toy Organization - Board Games & Puzzles

If your house is anything like mine, the days after CHRISTmas look like a toy store. My family is big on presents and while Lee and I try to keep the craziness under control, there really is no use since our parents spoil our kids rotten. Since I can't handle mess and disorder, I have systems for toy organization. I thought that I would do a series on toy organization.

Here is Installment #1 - Board Games & Puzzles:

As soon as I open a board game, I check to make sure it has all of the parts.

Then I put the game together to make sure it is all there.

Then I put all of the pieces into different baggies (ie game pieces in one baggie, money in one baggie, etc).

I put rubberbands around the cards.

I like to put all of the little baggies and cards into a bigger resealable bag.

I put everything back into the box.

We have a chest for all of our games and I put all the adult games on one side and all of the kid games on the other. I put like-sized games together to save space.

When we play a game, we always clean it up the way we found it so that no pieces get lost.

For puzzles, we put all the puzzle pieces into a ziploc bag and then put it in the box. That way if the lid was to fall off, we don't lose any pieces.

Hope this helps!

Monday, December 27, 2010

How to Set Goals

I hope you and your family had a great CHRISTmas. Our family did as always. It was nice seeing family, eating all the goodies, and exchanging gifts, but most of all celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Now, I am ready to regroup and focus on 2011. I love the week between CHRISTmas and New Year's when I can think back on the previous year and plan for the next. I am going to share how I set goals and make plans for the new year. There is more to it than just saying, "I want to lose weight," or "I want to do _____ less/more." It requires much more.

First, it is good to clearly think about what the big picture is or who you want to be at the end of the year. It might be desiring to be closer to the Lord, having more Biblical knowledge, being thinner and healthier, being more focused on family, and/or advanced in a skill you want to learn more about.

Then, you want to start with your most important goals. In my life, that is spiritual goals. I desire each year to strengthen my walk with the Lord through prayer, Bible reading/study, and teaching Luke more Biblical truths. You write the specific goal, ie "I want to read the Bible in a Year."

Next, you put a goal date on it. For reading the Bible in a year, your goal day would obviously be "December 31st, 2011". The key is putting a realistic date on it. Make sure you could meet it, but that it will require you to work hard.

Then, you put a daily plan to it. For reading the Bible in a year, your daily plan would be "Read the Bible daily based on the reading plan." Basically giving yourself a daily plan breaks your goal down into small, attainable steps and gives you a daily check point to keep you on plan.

Lastly, you want to write down anything you need to do ahead of time to make it easier to jump in on January 1st. For reading the Bible in a year, you would "Get a Bible in a Year reading plan and put it with my Bible; and put my Bible and reading plan where I plan to read it daily."

Now, instead of just flippantly saying what you want to do, you have a written goal, date, daily plan, and list of things to do to get you started when you are ready. I really hope this has helped you guys. I am going to post my goals and plans for 2011 in another post to give you an idea of what I really mean. Plus, posting it will help me because I know you guys will know what I am supposed to be doing. ;)

Take Care!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Some of My Favorite Cookie Recipes

I love to bake!!! My favorite thing to bake is cookies. I think I love them because there are a ton of varieties but the basic baking is the same (cream butter, add sugars, add eggs and vanilla, mix dry ingredients, add dry to wet, bake). I love a process that I can follow that can still produce different things.

I decided to share my favorite cookie recipes. These are [very] tried and true recipes.



2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups (12 oz pkg) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl.
Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla in mixer.
Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
Gradually beat in flour mixture.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded Tbsp onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
*I bake them for about 7-8 minutes on a middle rack and 2 minutes on a top rack to make them bake evenly and stay soft.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat in mixer (1st)
3/4 cup Crisco (sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 tsp salt

Mix in a medium bowl (2nd)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp ginger

Add dry to wet.
Make small balls & dip tops in sugar.
Place on cookie sheet.
They will flatten out themselves.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
*I bake them for about 8-10 minutes on a middle rack and 2 minutes on the top rack to bake evenly and stay soft.



1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients in bowl.
Shape into balls and press down with fork to form criss-cross pattern.
Bake 8-10 minutes.
*I bake them for 6-7 minutes on the middle rack and 2 minutes on the top rack to bake evenly and stay soft.



3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In electric mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 to 4 minutes).
Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
Add flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.
Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch.
Cut out desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter.
Put on baking sheet.
Put in refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough.
Note: If you are not going to frost the baked cookies, you can use an egg wash (scramble egg with water) and brush it on the cookies and add sprinkles before you bake.
Bake for 10 minutes or until they are brown around the edges.
*I bake them for about 8 minutes on the middle rack and 2 minutes on the top rack so that they bake evenly and stay soft.
Let cookies cool.
Frost with royal icing, if desired.
Be sure to let the royal icing dry completely before storing. (This may take several hours.)
Frosted cookies will keep several days in an airtight container.
Store between layers of parchment paper or wax paper.

Royal Icing


2 egg whites
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar

Mix egg whites and lemon juice with a whisk.
Add powdered sugar and mix.
Add a little cold water for consistency.




3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (yes, 300 degrees!).
In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon for the topping. Set aside.
In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix well with wire whisk and set aside. In a large bowl blend both sugars with an electric mixer set at medium speed.
Add the butter and mix to form a grainy paste.
Add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix at medium speed.
Add the flour mixture and blend at low speed just until combined. Do not overmix.
Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top.
Bake for 15-18 minutes.
*I bake them for about 12 minutes on the middle rack and 2 minutes on the top rack to bake them evenly and stay soft.
Remove immediately from cookie sheet and let cool.




1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup granulated white sugar

48 milk chocolate Kisses or mini Reeses, unwrapped

Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter.
Add the peanut butter and sugars and beat until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes).
Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat to combine.
Beat in the milk.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Add to the peanut butter mixture and beat until incorporated.
Cover and chill the batter for about an hour, or until firm enough to roll into balls.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven.
Roll the batter into 1 inch round balls.
Place the granulated white sugar in a shallow bowl and roll each ball in the sugar.
Place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies for about 8 - 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned.
Immediately upon removing the cookies from the oven, place a chocolate Kiss in the center of each cookie, pressing down until the cookie just starts to crack.
*I like to put the cookies back in the oven for a minute to soften the candy.
Cool completely on a wire rack.

Organized CHRISTmas Baking

I love CHRISTmas!!! It's my favorite time of year. I love celebrating Jesus' birth, playing Santa Claus for my kids, spending time with family, all of the decorating, the present giving, caroling, CHRISTmas programs, and of course, CHRISTmas baking.

I love to bake!!! It's so fun to pull out recipes, get out the mixer and supplies, and spend the day in the kitchen baking lots of yummy treats to share with others. As with anything, I have to be organized about it.

Here's how I CHRISTmas bake:

1 - I select all of the recipes I want to make and how many of each (ie batches).

2 - I compute how much of each ingredient I will need.

3 - I go through my cupboards, pantry, and fridge to see what I need at the store and make my list.

4 - I go shopping for all of the baking needs (I also stock up if I notice my baking cupboard is low on something since I love to bake randomly).

5 - I lay out all of my dry ingredients (flour, sugars, baking soda/powder, salt, spices), wet ingredients (butter - so it can soften, eggs, milk, molasses), and misc ingredients (peanut butter, chocolate chips, candies). I put my mixer on the main island. I get out some smaller mixing bowls, measuring cups/spoons, and baking sheets.

6 - I start with the recipes that need to be refrigerated (ie sugar cookie dough, peanut blossom dough) so that they can be in the refrigerator while I am making the other cookies.

7 - I use one set of measuring cups/spoons for dry ingredients and one for wet so I don't have to wash as much.

8 - I also like to keep a sink of hot soapy water to put stuff in as I go to make cleanup easier.

9 - I just work my way through my baking and clean as I go so there isn't a major mess to clean up at the end.

10 - I have a station for cookies to cool and be packaged.

It's just so much fun. I really enjoy letting Luke help me (if he wants to of course) and by being organized it keeps things running smoothly.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Organized CHRISTmas Present Giving

As everyone knows CHRISTmas can get so crazy, especially when we get too overwhelmed by all the presents, shopping, parties, and other ruckus that tends to happen this time of year. To combat the craziness, I try to really organize my CHRISTmas present giving. I usually start my shopping after Thanksgiving as I really like to focus on Thanksgiving before all the CHRISTmas stuff starts.

Lee and I sit down and write a list of all of the people we are going to be buying presents for. Then we come up with a budget for each person. Then we like to write down some ideas or things that each person likes or is into. I take my list with me when I shop and I write down everything I purchase for each person. That way I remember what I've bought (yes, if I don't write stuff down, I completely forget). I also keep a tally of how much I've spent so I can stick to my budget.

I try to have all of my shopping done by the week before CHRISTmas. I usually end up picking up a couple of things for Luke as he makes new requests every day (sometimes every hour). I like to wrap as I go as well so I don't end up with a massive pile of presents to wrap two days before CHRISTmas. Plus the presents look pretty under the tree.

I hope these tips have helped. I would love to hear how you organize your CHRISTmas present giving or if you just wing it. :)


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ways to Save $$$ on Formula

Even though I am exclusively breastfeeding or pumping and putting it into bottles (for feedings away from the house and night time feedings), I am already getting some formula. I nursed and pumped for Luke for 3 months and then went to formula, so I have it in my mind that I more than likely won't nurse/pump for a full year, so I am stocking up on formula when it is a good deal and/or I have a coupon/check voucher.

Here are my $$$ saving tips:

- Buy generic - I've heard that Target and Walmart brands are just as good as the name brands and save lots of money.

- Sign up for every brand of formula's samples, coupons and check vouchers - I signed up for the multiples program so I get double coupons (I don't have the heart to call and tell them I only have one baby plus I can use the extra coupons) - They send me coupons and/or check vouchers (sometimes for up to $11 off of any formula).

- Look for the deals and match with coupons/check vouchers when you have them - Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, and Target run deals on formula frequently and they will take the coupons/check vouchers with them.

- Look for rebate programs - Enfamil has one right now that if you spend $40 in formula, you get a $15 rebate. I matched that with sales and check vouchers and got all of the formula for FREE.

- Know how much you want to pay per ounce and aim to only buy it at that price if possible.

- Have a budget for formula each month - I think with Luke we spent around $100. My goal if we go to exclusively formula will be $50 (but of course if Nathan needs it and we go over, I'll cut from somewhere else).

I hope these tips have helped.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My New Schedule

Since I just posted about how to create a schedule, I figured I would post my new schedule in case people were interested in seeing how I plan to spend my days. I would love to see yours as well and if you would like, I would love to post them on my blog for others to get ideas from you. Just comment or email me at ashley-webber@hotmail.com. Thanks!


7:00am - Wake Up, Brush Teeth, Wash Face, Get Dressed, Make Bed, Start 1st Load of Laundry, Wash Bottles/Pump Supplies, Unload Dishwasher/Reload Dishwasher, Make Breakfast

7:30am - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Play with Nathan (Eat Breakfast)

8:30am - Put Nathan Down for a Nap, Put 1st Load in Dryer, Start 2nd Load of Laundry, Exercise, Shower and Get Ready

9:30am - Fold 1st Load of Laundry, Put 2nd Load in Dryer, Do Weekly Cleaning, Play with Luke, Make Snacks for Luke and Me

10:30am - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Play with Nathan (Eat Snack)

11:30am - Put Nathan Down for a Nap, Homeschool Luke

12:30pm - Make Lunch, Eat Lunch, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes, Wipe Down, Fold 2nd Load of Laundry

1:30pm - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Play with Nathan, Read Books to Luke and Nathan

2:30pm - Put Both Boys Down for a Nap, DOWN TIME - Prayer, Devotion, Bible Study, Read, Watch TV/Movie, Scrapbook, Blog, Coupon, Nap, Make Snacks for Luke and Me

4:30pm - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Play with Nathan (Eat Snack)

5:30pm - Put Nathan Down for a Nap, Make Dinner, Help Luke with Art Project or Play with Luke while Dinner is Cooking

6:30pm - Eat Dinner, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes, Wipe Down, Sweep, Straighten Up, Play with Luke

7:30pm - Wake Nathan Up, Feed, Change, and Bathe Nathan

8:30pm - Put Nathan Down for a Nap, Help Lee Put Luke to Bed

9:00pm - DOWN TIME - Prayer, Devotion, Bible Study, Read, Watch TV/Movie, Scrapbook, Blog, Coupon, Hang out with Lee, Have a Snack/Dessert

10:30pm - Wake Nathan Up, Change and Feed Nathan

11:00pm - Put Nathan to Bed, Go to Bed

Creating a Schedule

I am a big scheduler. I like knowing what time I am going to wake up, go to bed, eat meals, do stuff with the kids, do stuff around the house, etc. It helps me because I can work around my natural rhthyms throughout the day. Plus kids really love routine and schedules. They like knowing what to expect. Well my life has been very unscheduled the last year since I was pregnant or a new mom the whole year. I would sometimes go to bed early and/or sleep late or take naps plus my sickenss and/or lack of energy required a lot of sitting and resting so I didn't really do as much as I normall do.

Well now that things are settling down with Nathan and we are going to be getting back to a few things that got put on the back burner for a while - working out, homeschooling, normal cleaning routine - I decided that we needed a new family schedule.

Lee and I sat down when things were quiet and worked out a schedule for our family. I am really excited about it and thought that I would share how we did it.

Since we have 4 people with 4 different schedules and sets of needs, we wrote out what each person did during the course of a day.

Lee's List - Wake Up, Get Ready for Work, Make Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks, Leave for Work, Drive to Work, Work, Leave Work, Drive Home, Get Home, Eat Dinner, Play with Luke, Help Luke Clean up Toys, Shower and Get Ready for Bed, Bathe Luke, Get Luke Ready for Bed, Put Luke to Bed, Relax/Spend Time with Ashley, Go to Bed

Luke's List - Wake Up, Get Ready, Make Bed, Eat Breakfast, Play Alone, Play with Mommy, Play with Daddy, Homeschool, Arts/Crafts, Watch TV/Movie, Eat Lunch, Read Books, Clean Up Toys, Take a Nap, Wake Up, Eat Dinner, Clean Up Toys, Get a Bath, Get Ready for Bed, Go to Bed

Nathan's List - Wake Up, Eat, Play, Take a Nap (Repeat all day until bed)

Ashley's List - Wake Up, Get Ready, Make Bed, Start Laundry, Wash Bottles/Pumping Supplies, Make Breakfast, Eat Breakfast, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes/Wipe Down, Feed and Play with Nathan, Workout, Shower and Get Ready, Daily Cleaning, Weekly Cleaning, Finish Laundry, Feed and Play with Nathan, Make Lunch, Eat Lunch, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes/Wipe Down, Homeschool Luke, Feed and Play with Nathan, Read Books with Luke, Put Boys Down for a Nap, Down Time - Prayer, Devotion, Bible Study, Read, Scrapbook, Blog, Watch TV/Movie, Nap, Feed and Play with Nathan, Play with Luke, Arts/Crafts with Luke, Make Dinner, Eat Dinner, Clean Up Kitchen - Dishes/Wipe Down/Sweep, Feed and Bathe Nathan, Relax/Spend Time with Lee, Feed Nathan and Put to Bed, Go to Bed, Middle of the night feedings (if needed)

Then we put how much time each thing would take (some things we grouped together).

Then we started with our wake time. We decided that Lee, Luke, and I would wake up at 7:00am and do our morning things and then I would wake Nathan up at 7:30am and start his routine. Then we decided on a bedtime for each of us. Luke will go to bed at 9:00pm. Nathan, Lee, and I will go to bed at 11:00pm (until Nathan starts sleeping all night). Then we decided on a naptime for Luke (and Nathan). His naptime will be around 2:30pm to 4:30 or 5:00pm. I wanted to have time in the afternoon when both boys napped together so I could have some downtime.

Then we decided on meal times. Breakfast is around 7:30am (yes, I will eat while I feed Nathan for now), lunch is around 12:30pm, and dinner is around 6:30pm.

Then we decided on when we would homeschool, I would workout and shower and get ready, when I would have focused playtime with Luke, and when I would clean and Luke would have alone playtime. We also decided on when the boys would get their baths and factored in time to get ready for nap and bed (clean up toys, read, pray).

I did all of it in an Excel spreadsheet. I put all the time slots (15 minute increments) from 7:00am to 11:00pm and each of our names across the top. I plugged in everything and that way we could see where each person was all day.

That was our basic daily schedule. Our weekly schedule will be the same spreadsheet but with different things added in. For example we go to church Sunday morning from 10:00am until 2:00pm (driving time, church, and we go out to lunch, so I will have that change on the schedule. We will have a different weekend schedule, but will try to keep wake time, bed time, meal times, naps, and Nathan's schedule consistent those days.

If anyone is interested in seeing the Excel sheet, just email me at ashley-webber@hotmail.com and I will send it to you. You can just change it how you need to. It's super easy to use.

NOTE: This is our proposed and ideal schedule. There will probably be tweaks and changes (especially when Nathan goes to a 4 hour schedule or our homeschooling takes more time, etc) and we probably won't follow it exactly each day (hey, that's life), but it is good to know what to expect each day.

Life with a Newborn - Tips Included

As anyone who has ever had a newborn knows, they take a lot of your time and mental/emotional focus. We are big on scheduling our babies as soon as possible. I am a huge proponent for the Baby Wise series. The books tell you exactly how to take care of a newborn, how to get them on a routine, and down the road how to deal with bigger issues like discipline, potty training, and eventually the teenage years.

Basically you put the baby on a 3 hour rotation (which is what they do at the hospital anyways) and you feed them, keep them awake (if they will stay awake after), and then put them down for a nap. It discourages feeding them until they fall asleep as well as using props (like rocking to sleep, co-sleeping). When you follow this eventually they will learn to sleep through the night.

It worked beautifully with Luke because we started from the beginning. He slept through the night (8 hours at 2 months and 12 hours at 3 months) really well and never looked back. At almost 5 years old he still sleeps great (10 hours at night and a 2-3 hour nap each day).

Nathan has taken longer for 2 reasons: 1) I held him and didn't really work on the schedule/sleeping alone thing for 7 weeks and 2) he was 5 weeks premature so it has taken longer. But now he is doing pretty good. He is almost 12 weeks (7 weeks adjusted age) and he does a 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hour routine all day and goes 4-7 hours at night (average of 5 hours). He is getting there.

So I have about 1 1/2 to 2 hours between feedings and playing with him to do all the other things - eat, personal hygiene, workout, homeschool, play with Luke, cook, clean, do laundry, etc. I have learned to work fast and use every minute of time that I have.

If I have 5 minutes, I will quickly wash bottles and pumping supplies (I nurse but pump for when we are away from the house and middle of the night feedings since I sometimes fall asleep during his feedings) or unload the dishwasher. I might quickly prep something to eat for later. I might go through a room and straighten up. I might quickly start/change out laundry. I might make beds.

If I have 10 minutes, I will maybe prep some things for dinner that night or wipe down and sweep the kitchen or run a vacuum in the living room. I might quickly fold some laundry (even if I can't get it put away).

If I have 15 minutes, I might wipe down a bathroom or vacuum a floor. I might take a quick shower and throw on some clean clothes. I might iron a few items of clothing.

If I have 30 minutes, I might quickly workout. I might do an art project or craft with Luke.

I am learning to use every bit of time that I have. It helps a lot to not worry about doing something perfectly or getting it completed but taking whatever time I have and using it to make things run smoothly. By the end of the day I've usually gotten quite a lot done once I add up all those 5, 10, 15 minute increments. It's really paying off.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Hey Everyone!

Wow! I can't believe it has been over 2 1/2 months since I have blogged here. It's been a crazy and emotional couple of months. The day after the last entry I made here, I went in for my 35 week ultrasound of the twins. We found out that our precious daughter, Alexis Faith, had passed away. To say we were devestated doesn't even begin to cover it. The doctor highly recommended that we go ahead and deliver Nathan Reid since he was looking great and measuring big and there could be further complications for Nathan or myself.

So on October 1st, 2010, we welcomed our 5 lb 13 oz, 18 in long beautiful baby boy, Nathan Reid, into the world at 5:45pm. Two minutes later at 5:47pm, I delivered Alexis Faith. It was the most joyful and saddest day of my life. I went through every emotion you can think of (sometimes all in the span of 5 minutes).

Recovering from a c-section, having a newborn, and mourning our loss was a lot to deal with for a couple of months. I had a lot of help (my husband for 3 weeks, my mom for a week, Lee's mom for a week, and my sister's step-mom for a week) and people brought meals for almost 6 weeks straight. It was really all I could do to get through each day taking care of Nathan and being grief-stricken. Needless to say, blogging wasn't at the top of my list.

Things have gotten better each day. My grief is not as deep. Thanks to my faith in Jesus Christ, I have found strength, peace, and comfort each day. I know that Alexis Faith is in heaven and I will see her again. I also know that life must go on. It is hard to accept at times that she isn't here. I had so many hopes and dreams and plans for her and for us together. It does sadden me to know they won't happen. I just have to believe that God will work all of this together for good. It makes it a lot more bearable having faith, family, and friends.

I hope to be able to continue my blog. I know it probably won't be as frequent as it was when I was able to rest and sit so much during my pregnancy, but I will try my best to blog at least weekly. I appreciate your following and/or reading my blog. I really enjoy sharing with you.