QVC Christmas Wreath Challenge

Merry Christmas!   I hope you have been enjoying the season.  I know I've been pretty quiet on the blog front, but that's only because life behind the scenes has been moving at the speed of light, and when it's not, I seize those opportunities to slooow down and savor the moment.  I hope that in the midst of the busy holiday season, you're able to do the same.

QVC's You're Home With Jill provided an awesome 24" pre-lit wreath for me to try out and decorate and it was pretty exciting.  At this point in the game, we're a pretty established family and have reached just about max capacity in terms of Christmas decor.  In other words, I have three bins of Christmas decor and I keep myself limited to these bins, so there's not a whole lot of new holiday decor going on at my house.  But when someone asks, would you like a pre-lit wreath to decorate, it's pretty hard to say no.

Here's what I came up with.  I love love love Nutcrackers.  This doesn't mean I have some grand collection--I only have two--but I just love them.  Being that this nutcracker fit so perfectly into the center of the wreath, I kinda feel like it was meant to be. 

The wreath itself is pretty plain, but boasts a really cool lighting system and endless possibilities for personalization.  The power comes from 3 D batteries and there are 6 light settings.  The lights can glow white, multi-color, or transition between both.  Each of the settings has the option to use a timer also--6 hours on, 18 hours off.  I LOVE the timer feature.  The only issue is that battery pack is visible--so the wreath must be decorated to conceal it.  Below, I'll share what I did, but for those of you who are uncrafty or feel crunched for time, a simple large bow (usually only a dollar or so at the Dollar Tree) would totally do the trick in hiding the unsightly but necessary electronic component.  

I chose to keep my decorations removable so I can try out a different configuration next year.  To spruce up this wreath (get the pun?) I simply added a nutcracker that I already had and some awesome chartreuse poinsettias.  And I totally realize that chartreuse poinsettias aren't for everyone, but I can assure you, they're TOTALLY for me.

 I used some pipe cleaners left over from crafting with Elliott to affix the nutcracker to the wreath.  Then I just poked the poinsettias into the wreath, letting the faux pine grab on and keep the poinsettias in place. So far, it's done the trick!

Red poinsettias tend to look a bit more washed out than these vibrant green ones do.  I really liked seeing the similarity in color between my wreath and the beloved succulents in my landscaping.  It all works well, and folks, Christmas is Florida never looks traditional anyhow.

Merry Christmas--from my family to yours!

Jill Bauer, QVC’s Home-Savvy Hostess, hosts the network’s popular show, “You’re Home with Jill®” and provides fans with simple solutions for their busy lives through innovative products, a library of stress-free DIY projects, and crowd-pleasing recipes. Fans can connect with Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram @jillbauerqvc.

Disclaimer: I received these products at no cost; Tristin & Company has no relationship with QVC that could materially affect the weight consumers place on my review. 

QVC DIY Thanksgiving Centerpiece Challenge

Is anyone else getting a bit antsy for Thanksgiving?  Personally, I find the years where Thanksgiving falls toward the end of the month to be pure torture.  I feel like it's Thanksgiving and then BAM! --it's December.  So, without wishing Thanksgiving away, I have to admit that I'm so so ready for Christmas.

When the folks from QVC asked if I'd be interested in a DIY centerpiece challenge, I naturally accepted.  They provided an awesome votive holder with some flameless candles.  I have to admit, I've never used a flameless candle but I may be hooked.   The candles that come with the Candle Impressions Fillable Glass Log have a built-in timer, so they come on for 5 hours at 24 hour intervals.  In other words, I set my candles at 5pm when I received them, and now, every night they magically come on every evening, from 5 pm to 10pm.  

I'm always paranoid that I'll leave real candles lit and leave the house (and this has TOTALLY happened before) so I'm pretty much sold on this whole flameless candle thing.  I'm not sure why I hadn't tried them sooner.

In terms of decorating the clear glass log as a centerpiece, I went with hydrangeas.  Hydrangeas have become my flower of choice--regardless of season.  They're readily available and priced well at my grocery store, they last a long time and they look fabulous in my vase of choice--which is a Mason jar.  All I did to create a simple Thanksgiving centerpiece is shove some hydrangea pieces into the clear glass tube.  Voila--instant class!  I'm not hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but if I was, there'd be mason jars of white hydrangeas, a kraft paper table runner, and plain white candles set about in a rustic fashion.  This centerpiece would be perfect.

The cool thing is that the glass log is customizable for any holiday or and style.  I personally like it plain, but I played around with a few other options, too.

QVC’s Jill Bauer hosts the network’s popular show, You’re Home with Jill® and provides fans with simple solutions for their busy lives through innovative products, a library of stress-free DIY projects, and crowd-pleasing recipes. Fans can connect with Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram @jillbauerqvc.

Disclaimer: I received these products at no cost; Tristin & Company has no relationship with QVC that could materially affect the weight consumers place on my review. 

I can do this.

I really do believe that there's so much about parenthood that's not understood until you're in the trenches.  A dog is a fabulous trainer for parenting.  I know for me, it was an experience to learn to put the need of a little precious and innocent canine above my own.  Bonding came from the tough things--like potty-training that seemed unending and nighttime walks at 3:30am for the first few months of puppyhood--because it was what he needed, and those needs of his became more important than my need for sleep.

And then enter kids.  Whoa Nellie.  What a way to rock a world and change you to the core.  I am truly a changed woman and glaring evidence presented itself today in the form of a call from Elliott's school.

I received a call informing me that Elliott had fallen backward off of a swing, bumping the back of her head.  Now at first, I thought, you know, it's nice to be informed  but I opted to just assume that things were fine and leave Elliott at school because, well, if she learns that her Mom will come whenever an injury occurs, I have a feeling a habit will very quickly follow. Something along the lines of a little boy who cried wolf.

But when I hung up the phone, the tears and self-doubt got the better of me.  I texted my husband, looking for a reassuring "you know she's fine", but he was in the midst of a meeting so the affirmation didn't come immediately.  So I sobbed a bit, feeling stuck in the thick of some grand parenting dilemma. First, she needs to learn that not every injury is a big deal and needs to be able to find comfort independently and learn to count on the others who are around her for support.  And she has a wonderful support group where she is--and learning to depend on them will serve her well in her confidence of being away from me.  On the other hand, what if something truly is wrong and she has a concussion and I just blew it off and I'm a terrible mother?

Needless to say, I was quite worked up.  I saw myself in the mirror, and said out loud, "You're not even the one who got hurt!"  And consequently, I thought, all of this ridiculousness needs to be shared.  And it needs a good illustration.  So I took a quick photo of my red-faced puffy-eyed exhausted self.  This, my friends, is why I don't even bother wearing make-up.

Now, I'm not a Mom who jumps up immediately when one of my kiddos gets hurt--it's not that I don't want to--I've just learned along the way that my reaction has a lot of bearing on their own reaction.  That's no grand secret to parents.  So, maybe I might even seem unsympathetic at times, which may be true.

But this time, I realized that the dilemma I faced had more to do with confidence as a parent.  Or, rather, lack of confidence.  I move fearlessly forward on the outside, but inside I'm quivering and letting self-doubt reign.  So many times when I make a choice, set a standard, make a demand or have to punish, the little voices eat at me telling me I'm "doing it wrong".  Sometimes the voices say I'm not tough enough--sometimes they tell me I'm too tough.  So much of modern wisdom tells us that we're psychologically damaging our children at every turn.  There are lists on Pinterest of things you should never say to your child, lists of the "proper" way to praise, and doggonit even though Freud is highly criticized, I still think about how every problem later in life can be traced back to the mother.

Parenthood is riddled with crippling doubt and insecurity.  And that's something I never expected.  I also never expected the swelling love-you-so-much-it-hurts feelings.  And when you mix all that together, it's...exhausting.

In the end, everything I do is for the betterment of my children.  Every rule I set, choice I make, stand I take--it's to get them where they need to be as productive and independent human beings. So, today I share and write.  Jumping up and getting Elliott and bringing her home wasn't the answer today--all signs pointed to the fact that she'd be perfectly fine.  Letting her "be" and letting out a sigh of relief and sharing my joys and frustrations as a mother seemed to be the route to go.

I can do this.  Phillipians 4:13.

Keeping Lunch Safe

I'm starting this post with Cliffs Notes in case you can't stand paragraph after paragraph of my lunchbox ramblings and such:

-Igloo Mini Tote 8 Fits a Goodbyn Bento perfectly while keeping it horizontal
-There's plenty of room for water bottle and snack, too.
-It also keeps the food very cool and safe (see the last photo)

But if you're interested in lunch box ramblings, then hey, thanks for sticking it out with me.

I'll admit, I looked like a fool in Target when back-to-school time came.  In search of the perfect lunch solution, I headed over to the lunch box section and made myself comfy, trying to fit different bento styles into different lunch boxes.  It's a far cry from the days of my childhood where we all carried the same hard-sided Aladdin-brand lunch boxes with matching thermoses with our favorite TV characters on them--or brown paper bags.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  There are just so many choices and the reviews found on the internet only further throw me into obsessiveness in making "just the right choice".  It comes in part from just wanting to have the perfect solution and also, I really want to buy something that works and not have to buy anything again for a long time.

All that leads me to say that for the Goodbyn Bento, the Igloo mini tote 8 is a great choice of lunchbox.  Now, initially I chose the Igloo Leftover Tote 9, which is great, but as it would turn out it's rather large and cumbersome for an undersized five-year-old like mine.  I can't tell you how many times we heard "That lunch box is bigger than she is,"--and it was a totally correct statement.  When I ordered the Igloo Leftover Tote 9, I received the wrong item and what was sent was the Igloo Mini Tote 8.  The Amazon seller told me to keep the incorrect item and they'd send the correct one, so I ended up with two lunch boxes--but let me say--their mistake was a huge benefit to me because it helped me get the better lunch box, I just didn't know it yet.

The Goodbyn Bento nestles perfectly down into the Igloo Mini Tote 8.  I place two ice packs on the bottom before I add the Bento, and then I'm able to keep the Bento horizontal which was a requirement for me.  There are SO many lunchbox options if you're not concerned about your Bento going vertical, but I wanted to be able to place silicone muffin liners of multiple items into one of the compartments, so going vertical didn't seem like a great idea in our case.

The Bento fits snugly into the mini tote but can still be easily removed by small children with unrefined motor skills.  There is additional room in the top to hold a snack (including the Goodbyn snack containers) and a good-sized water bottle.  (We switch between a Nalgene kids bottle and a Camelback Kid's Eddy.)

Here's the best part of the lunch box solution.  Call us nerds, but we love our digital surface thermometer.  My husband bought it to measure results of some home improvement projects (insulation and the like) and it turns out, we use it a lot.  I even use it in place of a candy thermometer.  I digress (obviously, since this ENTIRE post is about something as lame as lunchboxes!) but this tool helped me to know that our solution is keeping Elliott's food safe.
The pic on the left shows a bowl of watermelon straight from the fridge at 7:30am.  To the right, this is the measurement of Elliott's leftover watermelon after school.  Mind you, the lunchbox has been removed for a period of time, midday, so that she can eat her lunch--and even still, the temp increase at the end of the day is only 8 degrees. Food safety experts tell us that the "Danger Zone" for food falls between 40-140, so all-in-all I feel like an 8 degree increase over the course of 8 hours is pretty impressive.  

I had to do this checking, you see, because I hate hate hate food waste and if Elliott hasn't finished her lunch, then her lunch leftovers are her afternoon snack when she gets home.  (Some things, even at a decent temp, I don't do this with, however--like leftover egg salad for instance--but in the case of this watermelon and many other leftovers, I feel perfectly fine encouraging her to just eat her leftovers as a snack when she gets home.)  Call me crazy, but do you know how much food Americans throw out every year?  I try to keep our grocery budget minimal and a large way that this is successful is by not wasting food.  Keeping our lunches within a safe temperature range helps a lot, in our case. 

In this case, I'd like to think my obsessiveness in finding the right solution has paid off in a number of ways.


Week #4 Bentos

Day 1: Craisins, corn dog muffins, sweet potato, yogurt, watermelon.
Day 2: Tortilla chips and bean dip, leftover broccoli/bacon/cheese frittata, watermelon.
Day 3: Apple slices, boiled peanuts, pastrami/meunster sandwich, chia pudding.
Day 4: PB&J Spirals, apple slices, full-fat large-curd cottage cheese (the only way to eat it!) and a banana.

It's official--I feel totally settled into school.  I'm not saying that things are running smoothly--it just feels like we're finding a rhythm.  Every morning, I play drill sergeant;  I start off really nice but at a certain point I'm barking orders and (gasp) sometimes shouting.  "Put your shoes on!" I promise, I sound really nice the first 6 times I say it, but by the time the 7th rolls around, I lose my cool.

I've made a "getting ready" chart to help Elliott navigate her morning tasks (it literally consists of using the restroom, brushing teeth, getting dressed, putting shoes on, doing hair and getting backpack prepared and by the door) but somehow we still end up pushing to make it to school on time.  A good talk with a pal of mine helped me realize that I'm not the only one, but seriously--any tips on helping a lolly-gagging 5-year old get ready in a reasonable amount of time?

I guess if this is the most I have to complain about, then life is good.  And most likely, it's a battle we're going to have throughout her childhood so I may as well learn to love it.  Elliott's just so funny--there are times in which I see SO many similarities between she and my older brother, it's just not even funny.  I find myself saying it more and more, and I love the constant reminders of him.


Week #3 Bentos

Day 1: Multi-grain Chips (the Aldi equivalent to SunChips), Blueberry Applesauce, Nyakers Pepparkakor Cookies, cheese stick, corn dog muffins, watermelon chunks.
Day 2: Multi-grain Chips, Leftover grilled chicken skewers with cucumber, cheese, 1/2 apple, celery and peanut butter.
Day 3: Blueberry applesauce, Multi-grain Chips, cheese & ham rolls, 1/2 banana, PB&J rolls using this method.
Day 4: Peanut butter on celery, grapes, sea-shaped pasta, cheese stick.
Day 5: She got to order pizza, and took some edamame and honeydew in our Goodbyn Snacks Box.

Taking pics of snacks seemed like overkill again, especially because most of the snacks this week were the Norpro Silicone Ice Pops filled with yogurt.  I always keep plain organic whole milk yogurt in the fridge so I can do with it as I wish--everything from adding it to smoothies to making tzatziki to granola parfaits.  The kids love it when I mix some plain yogurt with our homemade strawberry jam and freeze it in the silicone pop molds--and Elliott loves taking these as a snack to school.  It's like a homemade Go-Gurt. Or sometimes, if we have leftover bits of smoothie, I add them into the molds and it becomes a snack for another day.

What are your kids current favorite portable snacks?



Yesterday, I celebrated 29 trips around the sun.  I'm super-stoked to be on my 30th.  I had some grand plan to share 29 somethings...29 pieces of advice for my daughters, 29 things I love, 29 things about me... And it just never happened, probably because I have about 29 distractions per hour.

I also can't get over the irony of being 29 pounds heavier than I was a few short years ago.  Eeek.  Perhaps it's not so much a problem as it is a challenge. A challenge that I'm up for--right after my coconut birthday cake is gone.

So. I found myself celebrating with my parents, husband and kiddos last night and in the midst of the fun, Bennett, with serious face, says "You're going to die".

An uncomfortable silence fell over the table as we all looked around--did she really just say that?

I think she picked up on our discomfort because she started getting very emotional--and her face turned very serious. Her lip quivered and she bawled as she followed her previous comment up with this:

"We're all gonna die".

Now I feel like I have to tell you that this child, who turned two last month, watches PBS Kids and a handful of Netflix shows, hand-picked by yours truly.  She's aware of the scene in Frozen where the parents are on the boat and die, but beyond this, has no knowledge of sayings like "You're going to die" or "We're all gonna die".

If you'd been there, you would've been a bit freaked out, too.

But we all ate cake anyhow, and big sis consoled little sis after her ominous outbursts.  There may have been more talk of death, and it may have been something like this, through the sobs, "But we're all gonna die tomorrow, sissuh [sister]."

And a particular passage Ecclesiastes came to mind, and I thought I'd share with you a bit of what is my favorite book of the Bible.

Ecclesiastes 7: 1-4

A good name is better than fine perfume,
    and the day of death better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

In the midst of our celebration of life, we were abruptly reminded that there's more in store for us--so much more than we could ever imagine.  The best days of our lives--days like these--can't even compare.

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