Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Cupcakes & Cookies

I've had a lot of fun making cupcakes for friends, baby showers, parties, and kids' birthdays over the past year and a half.  I had always wanted to take a cake decorating class at JoAnn's, so I signed up for the Wilton Decorating Basics course.  It was so much fun!!  It was just for four Saturday mornings, which was perfect cause David could be with Peanut while I went.

If you're thinking of doing a class, I'd definitely recommend doing it during a month when you don't have much going on, because you end up baking and making frostings ahead of time for the next week's class.  And even though the sign-up fee isn't much, you end up paying for the Student Kit, the frosting/ cake/ cupcake/ cookie ingredients, and any fun baking tools the class ends up selling you on. :)

Anyway, I can't wait to take the next class on Flowers and Cake Design, and then the Gum Paste and Fondant course--I just have to find the time (and money)!

Last Christmas I had fun making some North Pole cupcakes I saw on Pinterest.  And this year I made Glorious Treat's Snowflake Cupcakes for the sweetest one-year-old's winter birthday.  (Happy 1st, Charlotte!!)

Hope you enjoy the pics and recipes--the red velvet recipe from Annie's Eats is my favorite. :)

Vanilla (from a box) cupcakes  |  Vanilla Buttercream frosting  |  Photo cred: Dan McNeely
White crystal sugar sprinkles  |  Candy Canes with hook broken off  |  Red M&Ms  |  Printed North Pole signs attached with frosting  |  Photo cred: Dan McNeely
Ellie loved 'em. {1 1/2 yrs}  |  Photo cred: Dan McNeely

Snowflake Cupcakes {inspired by Glorious Treats}  |  Red Velvet Cupcakes  |  Vanilla Cream Cheese frosting 
Royal icing snowflakes  |  Pink Sugar Pearls  |  White nonpareil sprinkles 
(for more pictures follow me on Instagram - @bethanyjanae)
Then, yesterday Ellie and I baked some Christmas sugar cookies.  Loved the hint of almond extract and how soft they turned out.

My little baking assistant!  She knows the drill well--"Mommy, you measure, and then I pour it."  (If she disobeys I just have her get down off her "climber" for a couple minutes and that works really well.)

To achieve the 1/4" thickness, I got 8 popsicle sticks (thanks to husband's genius thinking), and wrapped tape around 4 each to use as guides.

I loved the no-chill recipe we used from In Katrina's Kitchen, and the cookie cutter set I found at Target was adorable and perfect for toddler hands!  I'm excited to decorate them together today--using Annie's Eats Royal Icing recipe and cookie decorating tips.  

What do you enjoy baking this time of year??  Any favorite recipes to share?  

Well, I'm off to get the last things ready for Christmas!  We're celebrating at home just the three of us this year (missing our baby Pistachio even more--thinking how he would've been 9 months and crawling around, getting into the wrapping paper...).  But I'm really looking forward to having our own quiet little Christmas here (and then we'll head out the day after to celebrate with my family up north).  I'll be pulling out our family Cinnamon Roll recipe for our traditional Christmas brekkie, and of course will enlist my precious baking assistant to help!

So thankful for Jesus' birth--and that He came to show us God, so that we may know and love Him.  Means even more now than ever... 

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Fun Christmas Signs and Videos

Merry Christmas everyone!  I thought I'd share some holiday signs with you today, and update you on something brewing in the The Two Little Hands Productions offices... :)

Here's Rachel Coleman (co-creator of Signing Time), sharing some holiday signs with us!  

And did you know Two Little Hands is filming RIGHT NOW to make a special 2-DVD Signing Time Christmas??!  It will be coming out for Christmas 2014, so stay tuned!! 

This project was funded completely by families who love Signing Time through Kickstarter!  Here's a link to the video where Rachel shared about the project below...  It was amazing to see how quickly the project was fully funded!

I love that it will have one DVD of Rachel, Alex, Leah, and Hopkins decorating for Christmas and teaching a bunch of holiday signs with new Signing Time music, and then the other DVD will teach us how to sign our favorite Christmas songs in ASL!  Did you see Rachel sign a snippet of "Silent Night?"

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas week!  I'll be sharing some Christmas treats on the blog tomorrow, and then will be taking a break till Tuesday, January 7!

For those in Orange County, my Little Sign of Mine classes will be starting up at Granola Babies on Friday, January 10.  Can't wait!  Want to see a sneak peek of the signs we'll be learning??

The four-week series will run Jan. 10, 17, 24, 31, and will cover... outside signs | colors | day & night | weather | stop, wait, go
Register online today at http://www.granolababies.com/collections/events-costa-mesa/products/little-sign-of-mine)

Email me with questions at littlesignofmine (at) gmail (dot) com!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mexican Haystacks

This is the first dinner David ever made me, when we started dating in 2006.  It was a family favorite of his growing up, and has definitely become a staple meal in this house as well.  It's one of those meals that ALWAYS sounds good.  And it's fairly easy as far as cooking time goes.  The toppings take a little bit of time to prep, but it's definitely worth it. :)

We have a rice cooker (a wedding gift from David's best friend, Stig, and his now-wife Jess), :) so I start by just putting on 3 cups of rice.  We use Calrose rice, which is yummy sticky rice.  We've stuck with the Botan brand for years, which you should be able to find at any grocery store.

Next, cook up a pound of ground beef, drain grease, and add a taco seasoning packet with cold water.  (Cook according to packet directions.)

Now for the prep:

*dice tomatoes
*chop Romaine lettuce
*grate Cheddar cheese (we used Colby this time)
*make dressing: mix mayonnaise and ketchup in a small bowl till orangey-pinkish (do a taste test to see if needs more ketchup)
*grab your favorite salsa

And now for the yummy layering... There is a particular order David taught me that maximizes its deliciousness, so don't. deviate. ;)

The other thing, is just know that no matter how small of an amount of rice you start with on your plate, it will explode by the end.  (When this happens, do not fear--you will still eat every bite.)

Step 1: Rice.

 Step 2: Cheese.  Don't miss this.  

 Step 3: Meat. (See this--now the cheese will melt perfectly between the heat of the rice and the meat, glueing it all together.  Mmmmmm....)

 Step 4: Lettuce (this is where it really explodes!)
 Step 5: Tomatoes.
 Step 6: Drizzle sauce with a spoon.
 Step 7: Salsa

And, voila!  Absolute deliciousness.  David's other tip is to take a bite on one end and work your way through (that way you're getting everything in each bite), rather than taking a bite off the top and working down through the layers.

Our picky-eater-Ellie even takes a couple bites of her "Taco Rice" when we have this.  For the kid version I just did rice, cheese, taco meat, and a little of the sauce--all mixed together.  Add tomatoes, too if your little one eats those!  Add some whole wheat toast and a veggie or fruit for a yummy meal.

When you have your next planning day (FlyLady chooses Tuesdays), add this to your meal plan for the week and let me know how you like it! :)

You'll know why I married my guy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sign of the Week: GAME

This week's sign from the Signing Time Blog is... GAME!
(from Baby Signing Time DVD Vol 4: Let's Be Friends)  For a 1 min preview of the DVD,click here.

I also have a bunch of previous Signs of the Week in a photo album (viewable on my Little Sign of Mine Facebook page even if you don't have a Facebook account).

1) How to sign GAME:
GAME: Make two fists with your thumbs up and knock your knuckles together two times.

2) Watch Rachel sign GAME & print the flashcard on the Signing Time Blog here.
And watch Ellie sign it here!  (2 1/2 yrs)  (first one is an outtake) :)

3) Signing Activities: 

*Infants - Play interactive games such as Peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake.
*Toddler - Click here for a coloring page from Deaf Ed Hub.

Games are great for also teaching our little ones concepts and skills.  Try including signs to teach social skills such as SHARE, YOUR TURN, and MY TURN, along with signs to reinforce manners, like PLEASE and THANK YOU.

Here is a collection of Ellie's and my favorite games:

1. Pengoloo  |  2. Twister  | 3. Uno Moo  | 4. The Enchanted Cupcake Party Game  |   5. Memory  |  6. Zingo

4) Today's Challenge: Play a game with your little one today!  Sign GAME before and after playing. (Want to play a GAME? ... Did you have fun playing our GAME?)

Happy signing!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

J.Crew Jewels

If I have some money in my clothing budget and am out shopping, the number one thing I tend to get is a top.  So I've been trying to branch myself out into the realm of accessories.

I love how some fun shoes, some jewels, or a handbag can completely and easily transform an outfit.  And in this early mommyhood phase of my life I've come to realize I'll continually be in and out of different clothing sizes and styles (with Ellie there was a cycle of maternity clothes, then nursing, and then finally three different sizes as I worked my way down to my near-pre-pregnancy weight.).

Yet in the midst of all those different clothing sizes, the accessories last.  Now that's something--we'll always be able to "fit" into our pre-pregnancy jewelry. :p  

Right now, J. Crew Factory has some beautiful jewelry on sale, so I made things easy for David and picked out my stocking stuffers. :) #sixyearsofmarriage

This Circle Stone necklace in Blush Sorbet is so sweet.  I love the color and the simple feminine touch it adds.
This Thorn and Crystal necklace in Deep Violet  is delicately stunning and adds a pop of fancy shmancy sophistication.  Super fun.
And finally, this Gold Link Bracelet has been on my wishlist since I saw Simply Lulu styling this pavĂ© crystal and gold link bracelet  from Stella & Dot forever ago--it can literally go with anything and is just a perfect staple to add a little glitz.  

If you were to twist my arm and make me choose one more, it'd probably be this medallion necklace:

Factory petal medallion necklace

It's been really fun for me to step out and add some statement necklaces to my wardrobe--and now the fun will be in finding different outfits to style them with!  

(I've also been trying to not be too matchy-matchy.  For instance, I'm thinkin' the peach necklace will look great with navy, gray, or mint.  And the blue necklace I'll probably pair with a mustard yellow, brown, or raspberry.)  

And the best part is, these pieces really help you accomplish Stacy and Clinton's Rule #6 (Remember my outfit mantra that has stuck with me ever since I was glued to TLC's What Not to Wear?)

Color, Texture, Pattern, and Shine!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December Birchbox

Have you heard of Birchbox?  It is seriously one of my highlights each month.  I first heard about it from Kate at The Small Things Blog (my all-time favorite blogger whom I've learned SO much from. and yes, Ross would be proud of me for using "whom" correctly. *Friends reference*)  :)  The link will take you to Kate's review of Ipsy versus Birchbox (in her book, Birchbox wins).

And anyway, it's a monthly subscription for a beauty box that contains 4-5 samples of skin/makeup/hair/nail, etc. products to try out.  They have an online store where you can purchase full sizes of things you love.

You even fill out a beauty profile so they're sure to send you the right shade of BB cream for your skin tone, a curly hair product if that's your hair type, or a neutral nail color or bold one depending on how adventurous your preference is.

I've been subscribing for a year now, and I really feel like it's the most valuable $10 a month I spend. It is super fun to try out a huge variety of products--and oftentimes they're ones I wouldn't have known about or thought to have tried (such as a clarifying shampoo for a once-a-month cleanse, or a bright lip color, or even eye creams).

I feel like I've learned so much more about taking care of my skin and hair--and it makes it fun again instead of feeling like so much work!  It's a simple way to pamper myself with a deep conditioning hair mask, give my face an exfoliating scrub, or feel extra fresh with a new fragrance.

And after all, pampering ourselves is the FlyLady focus of the month. :)

P.S. You can refer friends to earn 100 points, so if you're thinking of signing up, I'd love if you wanted to use this link!

So now that I've done a novel-length intro on what Birchbox is and how much I love it, here are the items I scored this month:

Harvey Prince: Hello fragrance 8.8 ml or 50 ml
One spritz of this and I was in love.  I literally felt swept away when I read the precious description of the ingredients Harvey Prince selected and why.  Seriously?  A+ marketing team.  Y'all should get a raise.

The Honest Company: Honest Healing Balm
This balm is a part of their Winter Wellness kit, and is apparently awesome for healing "anything from windburn to eczema to minor nicks and cuts."  Here in SoCal I don't get too dry, but I have noticed a little bit of a difference in my skin.  This will be great for especially dry spots, and I'm curious about this whole putting it on minor nicks and cuts thing.

Number 4: Non Aerosol Hair Spray 
This is definitely going in the purse.  I've been wanting to keep a travel sized Kenra 25 in my purse or car, and now I can try this little guy out!  Will be perfect to spritz any hair that may come undone in an updo, or keep my bangs swept away from my eyes while out and about.

Manna Kadar Cosmetics: Sheer Glo Shimmer Lotion
I'm really excited to try this one--I've been learning more about how to use bronzer, blush, and highlighter, and this is meant to act as a highlighter.  On the Birchbox site it instructs, "with your fingers, blend sparingly on the highest points of your face (brow bones, cheekbone, cupid’s bow) and along your collarbone. Or, mix one pump with foundation for an all-over glow. Skip the finishing powder, though, since using it will undo your dew."  Good to know--and can't wait to see how it goes!  P.S. Did you know the little dip in the middle of your top lip is called a cupid's bow?? huh...  #learnsomethingneweveryay

Twistband: Nautical Collection
This is my first twistband hair tie, can you believe it??  I've been super curious what all the hype has been about. :)  Seems like it isn't suppose to leave a strong crimp in your hair since it's wider, and it doesn't cut off circulation when you wear it on your wrist.  Sounds pretty good to me!  Plus the nautical look is super cute.  Excited to test out the waters!

Well, there you have it!  My December Birchbox.  Oh--and that cell phone looking thing you might have spotted in the box pic?  That's a fun little digi-mate.  It clings to your phone and can be peeled off again and again, and the other side is microfiber for cleaning your screen.  Fun, huh?  #learntwonewsomethingsaday

Grab your one-month $10 Birchbox subscription here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Your Life on Your Fridge

Is there anything better than lists?  I know we may joke a bunch about To Do list obsessions, and how we love to add something we've already done just so we can cross another item off the list...

But I really think that--having been made in God's image--there's a peace about having order... about being thoughtful and intentional with my time... and about being a productive creation.  When I'm lazy or scattered, I just gotta know that that's not included in the abundant life God has for me.

I also think it's super important to remember I've been given these 24 hours each day as a gift.  And when I'm truly abiding/remaining in Him, that means listening to His voice while doing my list-making.  Asking, "Lord, what do you have for me today?" makes such a difference.

So often I think of how Jesus stopped (on his way to helping a dying young girl), so that He could speak with the woman who faithfully touched him as He walked by, knowing she could be healed.  Yes, He could get away with such interruptions a lot easier than we can--He is God after all.  But still, it always inspires me to be aware of others and of situations around me that God doesn't want me to miss amidst "my plans."

Anyway, all this to say, I love my lists.  Lists of meals for the week... organized grocery lists... store-specific lists (Trader Joe's, Costco, Target, etc.), to-do lists, packing for trips lists, you name it.

Or more appropriately--I NEED my lists.

Because--and truly I tell you this--after having my precious Ellie Joy, my brain completely flew out the window.

Please say you know what I'm talking about.  My brain literally is just gone.  How else could I feel SO SCATTERED??  My brain can't process things like I used to (and especially can't REMEMBER things for the life of me), without visually seeing it or understanding it in some sort of visual way.

I mean, driving directions for instance...  Yikes!! (Especially having to REVERSE them to go home?!?) Although I have figured out now that if I sign the directions to myself (in sign language), I will totally remember them!  Isn't that crazy?  Goes to show how much sign language improves vocabulary as well as memory. :)

So with this list-and-organization-necessity in my life, I've finally found a system I really like.  It's on my fridge, all together, and it's glorious.  The star of the show has been this pen holder (find here at Walmart). It comes with a sticky, but I just cut a strip of magnet to put on the back so it's not stuck in one spot for good.

For monthly calendars (below on left) and weekly calendars ( below on right) I just print out Google's calendar.  I make sure to print several at a time and just have them in a stack so I can easily flip to the next one.

For the weekly calendar, David and I try to take a look at it together (Sunday night works great), and he gives me a heads up on what his week looks like at work.  I jot down what time he thinks he'll make it home, and that has helped us a lot.  It's also a good time to talk about our plans in general and get on the same page so we can tackle the week.

The weekly calendar is also perfect for noting the week's FlyLady Zone at the bottom (this week is the bathroom and one extra room), and I put the day's focus in the top space for each day (Wed. Planning Day, Thurs Errand Day, etc...)

For my lists, I love getting the simple magnet kind that you can find in the dollar bin at Target, Jo-Ann's, Michaels, etc.  Often they have one with the days of the week (see first list above), where I can easily jot the meal plan down (WHEN I actually meal plan.  that's another thing on my list of goals).  The blue magnet on the left of the meal plan list is there to hold my recipe cards and printouts so all the week's recipes are easily accessible.

My favorite grocery list has been this yellow chevron one (below).  I love that when I get to the store, it's already organized for me and I don't have to walk back and forth a billion times (just a dozen), or strain my non-existent brain. ;)  It's super helpful with being efficient when shopping with a restless toddler...  (I had the link for this, but it's not working.  Will try to upload the pdf later.)

The third note pad is just a blank one, where I write my Target list and my Costco list.  This helps so much when I'm thinking of something I need to remember to get next time I go.  If I ever think to myself, "Oh, I don't need to write it down, I'll remember," I'm WRONG.  Haha... (I also use Siri to help me remember things--"Remind me when I arrive at Target to get fruit pouches."--just make sure you have the store's address in your contacts and you're good to go!)

The last note pad is my favorite To Do list.  I just love how long it is and how thin the lines are.  There's plenty of room to even use it for the week.  You should be able to find it at your Dollar Tree.

Do you have a system that works for you?  Do you use your phone or paper?  Would love any tips--especially on keeping coupons handy.

Update: I don't know how I forgot one of my favorite and life-saving lists!  It's called the "What's in Our Fridge" list.

When we buy veggies, I list them on there.  When we put leftovers away, I write it on there.  When I open the sour cream, it goes on the list.  The deli meat or hot dogs, same thing (good for 7 days once opened).  That way we remember what we have in the fridge to use before it goes bad.  Because again, as much as I think I'll remember, I WON'T. :)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blog Lovin

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Friday, December 13, 2013

FlyLady BabyStepping Day 5

Here's our 5th BabyStep!  Remember what we're doing so far:

1) Getting Dressed to lace up shoes
2) Keeping our sink shining
3) Read your FlyLady emails (or check the Launch Pad)
4) Looking at our posted reminders in the kitchen and bathroom 

Are you hearing any nagging, negative voices in your head? Things like you’ll never be able to do this or that you don’t deserve a clean, happy, inviting home. Take a piece of paper and write down what you hear. Then, turn those ugly words around and say something nice to yourself to negate the ugly words that they said. You deserve happiness!

Today let's be mindful to recognize any negative thoughts that may pop up or fester, and push them aside, replacing them with truth and love.

I almost shrugged today off.  Kind of like, "yeah, yeah, be nice to myself..." as I rolled my eyes.  It's not a step or a task that can necessarily be checked off the To Do list.  But truthfully, I imagine we could all stand to be reminded of this time and again.

I know for me I keep thinking, It's only a matter of time before this motivation fades and my house falls apart again.  Which is probably true, let's be real. :)  That's part of life... but it's not something for me to dwell on.  And it's not something I should point my feet towards--or that will be the direction I end up going (and probably a whole lot sooner!).  Instead I should cheer myself on.  Be thankful for what I've done so far.  And know that--even if just for today--I can bless my family in this way.

So here is how I will defend my position when that thought sneaks in again...  Each time I get back into FlyLady again, it benefits that season of life in a unique way that it hasn't before.  The more I practice these routines and habits--even just for a time--the more I continue to grow, and the more these things become ingrained in me.  It continues to shape me to be a better wife, momma, and home-manager, so for today I'll be encouraged. :)  And I'll continue to pray that God will help me become more like Him--that the Holy Spirit will fill me with joy, patience, and self-control.  (Man the more I think about it, household stuff seriously has to be one of the best ways that can challenge and sharpen us to be more like Him, huh??)

My new mantra will be: "Today I choose to bless my family.  I can do this." :)

So what about you, what words do you hear, and what will your new mantra be??

P.S.  If you want to do today's Zone Mission in the Kitchen, we're sweeping and mopping!

Here's what FlyLady says:

Dear Friends:

Today is our last day in the Kitchen!! For today I want you to grab your broom and your mop. Sweep your kitchen floor really well and then mop. There are several ways to mop a kitchen floor and no real wrong way. Hot soapy water and wipe. There is no "perfect" mop and no "perfect" way to do it. Just sweep, mop and you're done! 

I wish I could say I have the secret weapon of mops, but I really don't.  If you have one you love, let me know!  I like to make my cleaning as simple as possible, so I've just used the Swiffer Wet Jet.  I just bought refills and noticed they came out with an "Extra Power Pad," so we'll see if I notice a difference.  Haha, oh the excitement...

Polar Express Movie Night

Last night was one of those simply enjoyable family times... Didn't make anything fancy for dinner (artichokes and mac and cheese), but husband got home at a good hour and we got to soak up some time with our Peanut.  I had rented The Polar Express from the library for us to watch, and it was the last night before it was due (of course David told me it's up on Netflix, too), and I thought it'd be fun to whip up some popcorn to go with.

We have one of these fun little microwave popcorn makers from Walmart, so with just a little bit of oil, 1/3 c. of popcorn kernels, and 2 1/2 min. in the microwave, we had ourselves some fresh popcorn.  Adding M&Ms to our popcorn is a common occurrence in this family (I think it was my sister Krista that got us hooked on this deliciousness), so that was a given.

But then I noticed a recipe on the kernel wrapper that sounded too taste not to try.  It was delish!  Ellie loved getting her hands messy (see pic below where she's holding them up so as not to touch anything haha). And I liked getting to mix things up a bit with this cinnamony-sugary-easy-peasy-sweet-and-tasty topping.

Christmas Popcorn Topping
2 Tb. melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

While popcorn is still hot, sprinkle in some M&Ms (the heat from the popcorn melts the inside of the M&Ms just perfectly, yum). Drizzle butter over popcorn and stir.  In a ramekin or small bowl mix together the sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Sprinkle some of the topping over the popcorn, stir, taste, and repeat as necessary. ;)

Look at that delight. :D

Seriously, gotta love how much fun it is to just snuggle up on the couch as a fam (without our phones!), munch on popcorn, and talk as we watch together.  And--I was totally surprised how much Ellie enjoyed the movie!!  She sat through the whole thing (minus any dancing opportunities of course.  The girl hears some good rhythms and she's on her feet!), and was totally interested the whole time. She especially loved the part where the three kids slid down a chute into a pile of presents. :)  Some of the "intense" scenes on the train made her nervous (worried about someone falling or what might happen)... But with chipper reassurance from Mommy and Daddy (and a lowered volume--so funny how that makes a difference), she knew everything would be oooookay. :)

We also had fun signing as we talked about the movie.  Click here to learn how to sign TRAIN!

Impromptu family night, success.  Might just have to make this a tradition!

What are some easy, low-key traditions you like to do?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sign of the Week: Good Night (and Creative Book Sharing)

This week's sign from the Signing Time Blog is... GOOD NIGHT!
(from Baby Signing Time DVD Vol 3: A New Day)

For a 1 min preview of the DVD, look here on YouTube.

I also have a bunch of previous Signs of the Week in a photo album (viewable on my Little Sign of Mine Facebook page even if you don't have a Facebook account).

1) How to sign GOOD NIGHT:
GOOD: with two flat hands, touch your chin with the fingertips of your dominant hand, and bring it down to into your other flat hand (both palms up)
NIGHT: with two bent hands, cross your wrists together (bringing the dominant wrist over the other).  It's like you're showing the sun setting over the horizon.

2) Watch Rachel sign GOOD NIGHT & print the flashcard on the Signing Time Blog here.
And watch Ellie sign it here!  (2 1/2 yrs)

3) Signing Activities: 

Good Night... Wake up!
-Start this silly interaction game by signing and saying GOOD NIGHT (or NIGHT NIGHT), then closing your eyes and snoring.
-Wait a moment before you suddenly pop right up and open your eyes saying, "Wake up!"
-With babies you can do this sitting on the couch while they sit on you, facing you.
-As your little one gets older and becomes familiar with the game, they may want to be the one to prompt when it's time for you to go NIGHT NIGHT, and then reach out and touch you to wake you up. :)
-You can also lay on the ground for this game.  Don't our little ones just love climbing on us as soon as we lay on the floor?!  Ellie loved this one!  She would even pretend to be the one sleeping/snoring, and popping awake.  Once she even did this game after climbing into her old baby swing!

Good Night Moon:
-Read "Good Night Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown
-Say and Sign GOOD NIGHT to each of the items ("GOOD NIGHT, bears, GOOD NIGHT, chairs")
-For your extra little ones, I remember doing "NIGHT NIGHT, bears, etc." with Ellie.
-Practice Creative Book Sharing--example below

What is Creative Book Sharing?  It's essentially an intentional way of reading that engages your little one's imagination, draws them out from being a passive listener to becoming an active participant, makes stories fun and meaningful, and creates different encounters even while reading the same books over and over.

The following example is from the "Baby Signing Time Talk, Sign, & Read Parent Guide." (Families receive this handbook free in my class!)

Creative Book Sharing Example: Goodnight Moon
Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon is a classic bedtime story that young children love to hear over
and over again. Check out a copy from your local library and use the Creative Book Sharing strategies
suggested below while reading this story aloud:

*Note* Remember that these are suggestions that you can pick and choose from.  They're not in any particular order.  And they're not intended to sit and read the book seven times in a row (although our little ones may coax us into doing so!) :)

first reading:
Read the story aloud so your child becomes familiar with the rhymes and patterns within the text. Stop and talk about any pictures your little one expresses an interest in.

second reading:
There’s a little white mouse that appears on every spread. Read the words aloud, but before turning the page ask your child, “There’s a little mouse on this page. Can you find it? Yes, there it is!” When you get to the end, help your child come up with a name for the mouse.

third reading:
Teach your child the signs for MOON and STARS. As you read the story, sign these words with your child as they appear in the text or illustrations.

fourth reading:
Read the story aloud, then act out the story by helping your child say goodnight to the things in her room before she goes to sleep.

fifth reading:
Let your child open the book and turn the pages. As you read, run your finger under the text.

sixth reading:
Invite your child’s favorite stuffed animals or dolls to cuddle up and listen to the story.

seventh reading:
As you read, stop just before saying the last word on the page. Encourage your child to “fill in the blank” by saying the word aloud.

4) Today's Challenge: Say and sign GOOD NIGHT before each naptime and bedtime today!
I always wave and sign ILY (I Love You) as I close Ellie's door, too. :)

Happy signing!

FlyLady BabyStepping Day 3

Today I woke up to a shiny sink. (BabyStep 1)
I got dressed to my shoes (including a shower--victory!). (BabyStep 2)
Had a fun time visiting with some friends.
And now (while Ellie naps) I'm sitting down to read some things on the FlyLady Launch Pad (BabyStep 3!)  This is what it looks like:

The fast version is to click on the Flight Plan.  But to walk y'all through it and to get reacquainted with FlyLady's methods, I took the scenic route. :)

So first I clicked on "Missions."  This week's Zone is The Kitchen--"the heart of our home," as FlyLady calls it.  And today's mission is actually... wait for it.... scrubbing your kitchen sink faucet!  So if you've already done BabyStep Day 1 with me, we're in the clear!  (If not, grab a tooth brush and butter knife and have at it!)  So we could technically skip today's mission... Or we can take a look at yesterday's mission, which was: scrubbing down the counter-tops.  Here's what FlyLady says about this Zone Mission:

Dear Friends:

Your mission for today should you choose to accept it: Scrub down
your counter-tops. I don't mean to just wipe a rag across them! I
mean you get some hot soapy water and you wipe down the counters from
front to back and side to side. Yes, you have to move the stuff on
the counters to do this. DON'T take everything off at one time and
then plan to put it all back again, I promise you will get
sidetracked and then you will all email me crying that it is all my
fault!! LOL! You just move your toaster (or coffee pot or whatever
this is an example here! :) over to one side and wipe down the
counter, then move over a foot or so, move aside what is there and
wipe down some more and so on. We are not marathon cleaning the
kitchen here, just getting all the crumbs and junk that seems to
build up behind and under things. Have fun! Don't obsess! Enjoy!

I just love how Marla reminds us to not take everything off at once.  Which of course means moving something aside, wiping, then drying, then setting it back--but it's totally worth it so that if we get sidetracked, things aren't all over the place.  And I love her reminder to not obsess.  Just do this quickly and simply and be done. :)  Easy enough, right?!

Then I looked at today's Daily Focus.  Wednesday is FlyLady's Anti-Procrastination Day.  (Ugh. My Goliath...)  Here's what FlyLady wants us to know about this daily focus:

Each and every Wednesday is Anti-Procrastination Day for FlyLady. This is a day that we take care of things we’ve been putting off. You can use this day to take care of any procrastinating you’ve done. You can do things like:
-Make doctors appointments
-Finish that report for work
-Work on a project with your child
-Clean the fish tank

You can do whatever you need to take care. This is the day to stop putting things off.
“Procrastination is the death of us, our relationships, and our peace!” ~ FlyLady

I thought to myself, hmmm, what have I been putting off. (uhh yikes, what haven't I??)  Writing our Christmas letter?  Returning a fake GHD flat iron I bought online (big mistake)?  Returning EMAILS galore?  I'm going to pick three things that I know I can actually accomplish today that I've been procrastinating on, and I'm going to DO THEM.  Are you with me??

K, I'm committing.  Here are my three (feel free to post yours in the comments below!  when we put it out there it helps us stay accountable!)

1) Write to fake flat iron seller.  Yup that's what I call him.  (BTW I ended up getting a CHI G2 on sale at Ulta and am loving it.)
2) Write a rough draft for our Christmas letter.
3) Call Parents magazine back (yup, they contacted me about Little Sign of Mine before Thanksgiving and I still haven't found time/keep forgetting to call back!)

Okay, so that's that.  On to... today's FLY Kid's Challenge!  Now I'm pretty sure these are meant to be read by and performed solo by our little ones.  However since Peanut is 2 1/2 (would that make her a... gnat?) LOL ;) I'm going to come alongside her and teach her these habits, accommodating them to her abilities.  Here is what FlyLady writes for today's Kid's Challenge:

We are taking a walk! Let's walk through our houses looking for 10
things that belong in our rooms and put them away.  If you have left
any shoes, jackets, school things, toys or books around the
house,now is the time to return them to their home.  When you leave
your things around the house, it makes the house look messy. Let's
grab up the things that belong in our rooms and take them there.

I am willing to bet that Mom or Dad will be so surprised and so proud
of you!

Have Fun!

If you have kids that can read this and do it on their own, it might be fun to make a milk carton mailbox and print these slips for them to get as a surprise each day in their mail box.  Or you could put it in their note jar!  What's a note jar you ask?  Hmm, that just gave me another blog post idea... :)

So for today's Kid's Challenge with Ellie, I'm thinking I'll go on a "treasure hunt" with her, and ask her to help Mommy find 10 treasures (books/toys, etc.) that belong in her room, or in her toy boxes.  If she has a hard time with that, I'll try putting gold doubloons next to 10 of her things.  (P.S. Anyone else think they were called doublooMs before seeing Jake and the Neverland Pirates with subtitles on??)  This could also be a great time to practice counting to 10 (in sign language, too!  Learn how in this Signing Time clip).

Okay that's all for today's BabyStep!  Let's sum up, shall we?
-Scrub kitchen counters (or faucet)
-Do 3 things that I've procrastinated on
-Help little one put away 10 things
-Keep sink shining

We can do this!  And if you instagram your progress, feel free to use these hashtags: #flylady #babysteppingwithlittlesign

I'm proud of y'all!  Shout out to Alison, Krista, Shannon, and Alisa for "fluttering" along! :)

Shining Your Sink 101

When I did FlyLady's BabyStep #1 (written about in this post), and gave my sink the DEEP shine today, I snapped some pictures to share what the step-by-step process looks like.  So here's the new and improved steps to shining your sink!  And then I promise this will be the last I post about it... for a bit. :)

Have you shined your sink yet?  If not, jump in and do it today!  (Not gonna lie, it did take me all of Ellie's 2 hr. naptime, and beyond!  The dishes took some time to clean up, and then the hour long soak gets ya... So maybe an hour before you plan to work on it, have the bleach soaking already so you're ready to go!)

Okay, want to see my Before shot?

Time to take a deep breath, put on those cute cleaning gloves that make you smile, (and a cheesy Christmas movie on Netflix, like A Christmas Kiss), and dive in.

FlyLady's Shiny Sink 101:
(From www.flylay.net | FlyLady's words are purple; my words black)

Note: Be sure to rinse well between each step!

And remember, You only follow this procedure the first time you shine your sink. You do NOT need to follow this method every day. Just keep up the shine with a little window cleaner.

First, start by gathering your supplies: paper towels or rags, your sink plugs, bleach, tongs, 1 c. measuring cup, cleaning gloves (I like to have one pair for dishes and a separate pair for cleaning), a powder cleaner like Comet or Ajax, a sponge, toothbrush, butter knife, Windex--or your favorite countertop cleaner (I love Target's Caldrea line--check if your store carries it!), and finally, lemon Plinks (little scent balls for dish disposal--often found hanging in cleaning aisle of grocery stores).  Oh, and not pictured above but VERY important: a good hand lotion--cause oh boy can cleaning dry out those hands!  Here's my fave that you can find at Target.  It smells heavenly!   
Pink Innocencia Body Butter by Sonia Kashuk  |  $10.99 at Target
Step 1) Take all the dishes out of the sink. (I washed and put in dish washer.  This was probably the better chunk of the cleaning time come to think of it.  And side note, do you have gloves that make you smile?  I haven't always worn gloves to do dishes or clean, but it makes it more fun now that I have cute ones!)

2) Run some very hot water into the sink and fill it to the rim. If you have a two-sided sink, only do one side at a time. (I kind of have no idea why this is, but I followed FlyLady's directions.  Definitely took longer, but I was able to do subsequent steps on one side while the other side soaked.) Then, pour a cup of household bleach into the hot water. (I have a yucky cup that I use just for this reason.  It feels funny to me to use a cup I bake with for bleach.  Just me?)  Let it sit for one hour. Now, pull the plug with a pair of tongs. If you don’t have tongs, then scoop some of the water out of the sink into the other sink and use your hand to pull the plug. Make sure you wear gloves so the bleach doesn’t irritate your skin, and don’t get the bleach water on your clothes.

Step 3) Rinse your sink well. I scrubbed the residue well with the scratchy side of a sponge.

Step 4) Use some powdered cleanser (Comet, Ajax, or baking soda) and scrub your sink.

Before sprinkling the Comet, I splashed water around to dampen everything.  Then after sprinkling it all over I let it sit for 5 minutes.  This scrubbing here is what gives your sink its shine, so make sure you scrub really well.  And of course, be sure to rinse ALL of the cleanser from the sink.

Step 5) Take a sharp edge, such as a butter knife, and clean around the rim of the sink, just like you would clean dirt out from under your fingernails.  I found the butter knife worked great!  I've also seen my mom use a small spoon turned over to scrape off the gunk.  I mainly just scratched back and forth along the groove with the knife, because I noticed it could scratch the counter if I tried to go bigger than that.

Step 6) Clean around the faucets. You may need an old toothbrush or dental floss.  I didn't use the floss since the toothbrush did the truck.  I wonder how the floss would go over though!


Here is half of the scum behind the faucet scraped off!  Made such a difference in the overall look of the sink. 

Step 7) Now, get out your window cleaner; I use Windex. Give it a good shine.  I've liked this new scent by Windex in Lavender and Peach Blossom.  It still smells like a cleaner, but I feel like it's a bit more pleasant.  I just sprayed it all over and used a paper towel to buff it really well.  And then I stood back to admire the SPARKLE! :)

Windex® Multi-Surface with Glade® Lavender and Peach Blossom
K, now let's remind ourselves what my sink looked like BEFORE...

Aaaaaand, TA DA!!!!!!!!!!  My shiny sink!!!  It's amazing how a clean, shiny sink is contagious--it spreads its cleanliness to the kitchen counters, and then before you know it, your whole house is clean. :D

Step 8) If you still don’t like the way it looks, then you can try some car wax. Just know in your heart that you have cleaned it very well now, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Our perfectionism is what got us in this situation in the first place!

Step 9) Every time you run water in your sink, take your clean dishtowel and dry it out (I lay out a clean one every night as part of my before-bed routine). Before you know it, you will be doing this every time you leave your kitchen! The rest of the family will, too. No more water spots. You will have a clean and shiny sink.

Step 10) Don’t have a fit if someone doesn’t take as much pride in your sink as you do. It is very easy to fix. You have already done the hard part; you will never have to go through this process again. Daily maintenance will keep it looking this way all the time. Nasty, hurtful words are not as easy to repair. Just be sure and tell your family what you are trying to do. They will think you have gone crazy.

Step 11) If you don’t have a dishwasher, don’t worry. A dishwasher is just a dirty dish disposal. Clean out a place under your sink and put a dishpan in there. Teach your family that instead of putting their dirty dishes and glasses in the sink, place them into the dish pan. Get into the habit of putting your dishes away as soon as they have been washed and are dry. No more leaving the dish-drying rack on the counter or in the sink. Put it away under the sink when you have finished. If your old one is nasty, you may want to soak it in the sink full of bleach water at the same time you soak the sink, or go buy a new set.

Step 12) To insure that your family remembers this, put a note in the sink. It will get their attention and remind them where to put the dishes. Be patient! They have never been taught, either. It is going to take some practice.

Now if you have a stainless steel sink, I recommend all of the above directions with one extra instruction added: after you soak your sink, rinse well, and use SOS pads to scrub it. This will buff the finish. It will look like new.  (S.O.S. Steel Wool Pads)

If you still can’t get it to shine after the Windex, put a light coat of lemon oil or olive oil on it. I mean just a tiny bit on a cloth and rub it. This will make you smile. Some people have had very good results from Bar Keepers Friend.

Go Shine Your Sink!

Last note: Be sure you don’t mix cleansers like Comet with Windex (or other ammonia based cleaners); you can create dangerous gases! It is worth repeating: rinse well between each step!