Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

I've mentioned before that I think volunteering and helping with charitable causes is such a great thing to do. A responsibility, even. Something that I think everyone should do.

This month, we decided to get involved with Operation Christmas Child.

Did you know that many many children across the world won't get anything for Christmas? Literally, nothing. And as someone who has such a heart for children, that makes me sad.

But truly, we can make a difference.
With Operation Christmas Child, you pack a shoebox (or similar sized container) with a variety of gifts for a child. Things any kid would like, such as toys, art supplies, school supplies, and/or basic hygiene things. You're able to indicate if your box is for a boy or a girl, and age categories 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14.

The special thing about these boxes though, is what Operation Christmas Child deems the most important factor: praying for the child who will receive your box. I think that's especially special!

We knew that this was something we wanted to participate in, so for about a month, we shopped around and took advantage of sales when we could. Here's what we ended up with:


Among other things, we have:
--little purses
--kits with paint and ceramic animals
--bracelets, necklaces, and assorted jewelry
--playing cards
--sports balls
--rubber duckies
--foam alphabet letters
--dominoes
--soap
--playdough
--baby dolls / stuffed animals
--crayons
--toothbrushes and toothpaste
--socks
--hot wheels
--lego sets

While it may look like we had a lot of stuff, it all condensed down into six boxes. Three girl boxes and three boy boxes. 
Kaylee filled out an all about me letter to include for the kiddos. If you share your address, the children may write back! 

After you fill and pack the boxes, you pay $7 per box to cover all the shipping and handling and delivery fees. The people who work with Operation Christmas Child who deliver the boxes to the kiddos share the love of Jesus with them, and I'm certain it's just a beautiful moment. 

This was a really great activity we could do together as a family, which is important to me. Obviously Isabelle wasn't much help, but Kaylee enjoyed thinking about the other kids and what toys they may like to have. Additionally, it's important to me that she realize how very blessed she is, and have an awareness that there are many people in need that we are capable of helping.

What fun things are you doing to start out the Christmas season??

Monday, November 28, 2011

Carmex Lotion Review and Giveaway

 As a member of the Carmex Blog Squad, I recently received a kit containing Carmex Healing Lotion and Carmex Healing Cream. Specifically, I received:
  • 1 Carmex Healing Lotion
  • 1 Carmex Healing Cream
  • 1 Travel size Carmex Healing Lotion
  • 1 Travel size Carmex Healing Cream 


Besides freezing temperatures (but let's not get started on that!) one of the things I hate most in the wintertime is dry skin. Between the dry air, and constantly washing my hands, it seems like dry skin is often unavoidable. And while I love the healing properties of lotion, I really dislike the greasy feeling it leaves on my hands. Yuck! I'm always searching for the perfect lotion. 

Most of you probably know that carmex is well known for its lip balm, but I have news for you! Carmex has recently introduced a lotion and cream that is just as effective for all your skin care needs.

The Healing Lotion is made with aloe and vitamin E for every day use.  It goes on easily, absorbs quickly, and has a very light scent, similar to the classic lip balm scent.  When I used it, it kept my skin soft all day without the need to reapply. 

Carmex Healing Cream is made with nine ingredients that penetrate deeply and help repair very dry, rough, or cracked skin.  The cream is available in a travel tube, full sized tube, or a tin.  This formula is concentrated so just a little bit goes a long way.  This product would be great for elbows, heels, and knees. It absorbs quickly, and there is no greasy residue.

The amazing people at Carmex have offered to give away a prize pack (pictured above), with two tubes of Carmex Healing Lotion and two tubes of Carmex Healing Cream to one lucky reader of Loving the little things!
This is a wonderful giveaway that will make either a perfect gift for YOU or for someone else this holiday season.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post, telling me what your favorite scent is. 
I'm a spicy girl. I like vanilla, cinnamon, and spicy perfumes like Burberry Brit.

Keep up with Carmex on the web, Facebook or Twitter.

Giveaway closes Friday, December 2nd  at 9:00 am CST.
Winner will be selected via random.org, announced on the blog, and notified by email on Friday, December 2. Good luck!

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with the previously mentioned products from Carmex for being a part of their Blog Squad.. I received no compensation for my review, and my thoughts are entirely my own. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I don't usually like to make cookies. Cookies are just so annoying. Sheet after sheet in the oven, each needing it's own time to bake. I like to mix once, bake once, and be done. I just feel like cookies are never ending.

However, there are a few cookies that are worth the hassle. These are one of them. The peanut butter dough is super easy to mix together, and the Reese's peanut butter cups are the perfect addition. And my personal opinion is that these are so much better than those thumbprint cookies with the hershey kiss.

Let's get started!

You'll need:
1 egg
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 c. flour
1 (14 oz.) bag Reese's mini peanut butter cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dump all your ingredients, except the peanut butter cups, into a bowl.

 Stir or mix until combined and a dough forms.

Check on your helper, who is obviously not helping...

Roll dough into small balls, about the size of a large gumball. Smaller than a ping pong ball. Place balls in a mini muffin tin. Don't squish them; they'll spread while baking.

Because of the butter and peanut butter, the dough won't stick to your hands. It'll leave your hands a little greasy, and you'll be unable to pick up your baby. She won't like this.

Bake 9 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees, until light brown.
While baking, try not to eat all your peanut butter cups.

Instead, you'll need to unwrap them so they're ready to be used.

Go ahead and let the baby have one. It'll make her smile.

Quickly, while they're still hot, place one Reese's peanut butter cup in center of each cookie, and push it down in.

Allow cookies to cool inside the muffin tin for about 5 minutes, and then remove to finish cooling. The easiest way to take the cookies out is by sliding a butter knife down one side and angling the cookie up and out. 
 These cookies are basically bite sized, so it's totally acceptable to eat several at one time :) 


Additionally, feel free to sub in different bite sized candy bars. 


Yum yum!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Winners and tough stuff

Happy Friday! Thanksgiving is less than a week away - are you stressing out over the upcoming festivities? Or just happily looking forward to quality time with friends and family?

Oh, we had two lucky winners from the last two giveaways. Commenter #6, Candice, will be creating some gorgeous Tiny Prints cards of her own, and commenter #14, pbandj, will be on the cutting edge of technology with her new flash drives. Congrats to both winners!

In the meantime, I stumbled upon this on pinterest last night, and I cannot stop thinking about it. I hesitated about posting it, because I don't want anyone to read this and have the wrong perception of God. Because God is not flawed like we are - He is without a sinful nature. Obviously, it's foolish to compare myself to God, and that's not the meaning I'm getting from his quote. To me, this isn't a question of why the world is the way it is. That is not for me to question. Rather, this is a reminder of how complacent I can be. I like to think that I go above and beyond with my charitable involvements, but the reality is that I fall far short of the gospel. How many of us are guilty of ignoring the need we see in this world? I know I am.


Don't be afraid to do your part, or to help another person. I have no doubt that you'll be blessed for it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Anyway

The following words aren't easy to put into practice, but I fully believe that there is so much truth in them. Forgiveness, kindness, honesty, doing good...isn't always easy. But making the choice to be those things, and to do those things truly does make a difference. It will transform you, and those around you.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
(These words are inscribed on the wall of Mother Theresa's children's home in Calcutta, and are typically attributed to her. However, an article in The New York Times reported that the original version of this poem was written my Kent M. Keith.)

Let's try to do these things...anyway.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kingston DataTraveler (review and giveaway!)

Thank you to Kingston for sponsoring this review. Please click here to learn more about Kingston. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own.

Do y'all remember when flash drives first came out? I thought they were the coolest things, and so much better than computer discs. In college, my flash drive was essential. I'd use it at home, at the library, while visiting friends, traveling, and at my boyfriend's house. It's incredible how such a small device can store so much data for you.

As time goes on, the technology for flash drives continues to improve, and Kingston Technology is at the forefront of the latest and greatest.

The Kingston DataTraveler is a flash drive that comes loaded with urDrive software. According to Kingston, "The urDrive software is a free, pre-loaded application for organizing and exploring apps, games, and music. It transforms Kingston USB drives into active storage devices-- rather than the “old school” device used only to store and transfer data."

I was impressed with the urDrive features. In the past, I'd just copy/paste files to my flashdrives, and then open them up through Windows Explorer, and slowly browse through all the junk I had on there to find the particular file I needed. 

But with the urDrive, it doesn't just store all your files -everything from documents, to photos, to music, or anything else- but it actually allows you to organize them and categorize them. So much nicer than just a jumble of data! 
Additionally, it comes with its own photo viewer for all your photo files, which is great for computers that don't have any photo viewing software. There's a built in MP3 player, so you're always able to listen to your music. It even comes with its own web browser so that you'll have all your favorites and bookmarks with you, no matter what computer you're using. And the urDrive is also preloaded with an app store, where you can access games and other cool apps. 

I know, it sounds a little complicated. But no worries, though! It's incredibly simple to use. Simply plug the drive into a USB port, and allow it to run. Click "get started," accept the terms and conditions, and check out the desktop that pops up! You'll never want to use another flash drive again! I really did like this flash drive, and all the awesome extras. 


For you visual and auditory learners, let youtube explain it for you:



Here's the good news for you! One reader of Loving the little things is going to win their five pack Kingston DataTraveler with urDrive software. Even for those of you that are stay at home moms, this would be a great gift if you don't think you'd utilize it yourself.
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post, telling me how much time you think you spend on the computer on any given day. I'm just curious - no judging!


Giveaway closes Wednesday, November 16 at noon CST.
Winner will be selected via random.org, announced on the blog, and notified by email on Wednesday, November 16. Good luck!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Bread

Before you read this deliciousness, go enter my tiny prints giveaway if you haven't yet.

My cravings change with the seasons. Do yours?

Every fall, as soon as the weather turns chilly, I always find myself wanting baked goods, pumpkin anything, and lots of sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Mmm...

I'm going to assume that you're a little bit like me. For those fellow pumpkin lovers, I shared a ridiculously easy pumpkin cookie recipe a few weeks ago, and still have more pumpkin deliciousness to come.
Today, though, I'm going to share a recipe for apple cinnamon bread. (no yeast needed!)
Right now is prime apple season, and this bread is a great way to bake with your favorite variety.

For the bread, you'll need:
-- 2 apples, diced into small pieces.
-- 1½ cups whole wheat OR all-purpose flour
-- 1 teaspoon baking soda
-- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
-- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
-- 1 teaspoon salt
-- 2 eggs
-- 1 cup granulated sugar
-- ¼ cup applesauce
-- ¼ cup canola oil
-- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract

For the cinnamon layer and topping, you'll need:
-- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
-- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
-- 2 tablespoons cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease (or spray with nonstick cooking spray) an 8×4-inch loaf pan.

2. Begin by chopping your apples into small pieces. Or do large pieces. Whatever you want in your bread.

 3. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

4. In a larger bowl, beat the eggs on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
Add in the oil, applesauce and vanilla and mix until combined.
Then, add the sugar and mix well.

5. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the flour mixture and blend until the flour is just barely combined. Stir in the apples.

6. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, white sugar, and cinnamon, noted at the beginning.

7. Pour half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar topping over the batter.

8. Pour in and smooth out the rest of the batter in the loaf pan, and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar on top.

9.  Bake for 60 minutes, or until the loaf is golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

And finally, as I am a FIRM BELIEVER in the deliciousness of butter, I will say that this is best served warm, with butter. No need to eat it straight out of the oven though; 13 seconds in the microwave is perfect!

What's your favorite fall flavor??

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tiny Prints GIVEAWAY!

Just last week, I was telling you how much I love Christmas cards, and that Tiny Prints is one of the best places to create your own personalized ones.

Well, create I did. How awesome are these??

  Joyful Triumphant, found here

Starry Wishes, found here

(I know, I know, I make beautiful babies. It's a special skill of mine.)

I know what you're thinking. You NEED some of these cards in your life. 

Luckily for you, Tiny Prints is offering FIFTY!! free cards to a lucky reader of Loving the little things. 
Go take a spin around http://www.tinyprints.com/shop/picture-christmas-cards.htm and check out all the amazing designs, and leave a comment letting me know which design you'd pick if you won.

One more thing! Are YOU a blogger??
Tiny Prints wants YOU to be a part of their Holiday Card Campaign too! 
Click on over here: 
http://blog.tinyprints.com/feature-tiny-prints-christmas-cards/, 
fill out the super simple form, and if you help spread the word about Tiny Prints Christmas cards on your blog, you too could be the recipient of FIFTY FREE CARDS! 
(If you do go sign up for this awesome opportunity, PLEASE leave me a comment letting me know you did so! Thanks so much!)

I also want to let you know about Tiny Print's one day only promotion (on 11/9/11) where you can receive a FREE card to your kids from Santa! Visit the Tiny Prints Facebook page to find out how to personalize one of the following greeting cards FREE: Checking It Twice or Santa’s Scroll. Hurry! Offer good only on 11/9/11!

Giveaway closes Thursday, November 10 at noon CST.
Winner will be selected via random.org, announced on the blog, and notified by email on Thursday, November 10. Good luck!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I blame the rain

It is a rainy, dreary afternoon here in central Kansas. It's pretty chilly outside, and the rain is falling steadily. I definitely have no desire to leave the house, but I don't really feel like doing much inside either.

Motivation is severely lacking.

I have several things on my to-do list, and several posts I need to post, but instead, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table, staring at Isabelle and making faces at her. I grabbed my camera, and in the time span of less than five minutes, I shot all these pictures.

I'm so amused by all her expressions and the silly things she does.

 Help! A goldfish jumped down my shirt!

Can you see it??
 What was that you were telling me about being modest?

 Really, mom?! Do I look amused by all your picture taking?

 This snack container not only holds snacks, but is a snack too!

 Are you in there fish? I'm loooooooking for you!

 Say cheese!

 I knew there was a fish in here somewhere!

 hmmmmm....

 Who needs to wash hands when you can just use your mouth?

 Mom, really. There's nothing to see here.

 mmm, plastic! My favorite flavor!

Yeah, I'm a happy kid!

What do you do on rainy days? 
I'm such a bum! I don't want to get out and get wet and deal with baby and all our stuff...but I also don't seize the opportunity to focus on chores at home. Could you send some motivation my way?

For another Isabelle captioned post, go check out this one. It's an oldie, but a goodie!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Are you ready for Christmas cards??

Absolutely anyone who knows me in real life knows that I am the card queen.
Greeting cards, that is.

I love shopping for cards. Browsing my options. Reading through sweet sentiments, expressions of gratitude, funny little jokes, or even just your everyday just because sort of card.

I love selecting just the perfect card for that certain someone.

And I love sending it, hoping it will brighten their day just a little bit.
Tiny Prints is one of my go-to websites for cards. And while they have cards for any and every occasion, today let's talk Christmas cards.
After all, it's already November. That means next month is December, and your cards better be signed, stamped, and sent!

At Tiny Prints, you'll find a huge selection of Christmas cards. My absolute, number one, no ifs ands or buts requirements for Christmas cards is that they MUST say Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays is all well and good, but Christ is the reason for the season, my friends!

Here's a few of my favorites:
I think this card would be so precious for a family with a new baby. 

I think the tri fold cards are great - perfect for displaying long after the holiday is over!

I really like the reminder of counting your blessings,butttt it's missing the Merry Christmas sentiment
plus I like the collage effect with getting to include several pictures. 

Honestly, these three are just the smallest sample of what Tiny Prints has to offer. Take some time to browse their site, and I'm sure you'll agree that there is a card to fit every style and budget. Don't forget to add some adorable holiday address labels for that special finishing touch!

And since we all know getting mail is awesome, be sure to email me your address if you'd like us to send you a Christmas card this year! (megandyanray at gmail dot com!)

Do you send Christmas cards??

In the interest of full disclosure, I will receive free Christmas cards from Tiny Prints for being a part of their Tiny Prints Holiday Campaign.. I received no compensation for my review, and my thoughts are entirely my own. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No joke

I know I've told y'all before that we are some serious eaters around here.

(I've made reference to my eating an entire pint of ice cream here, a day of road trip eating here, and showcased what Kaylee eats here.)

Well, Isabelle is serious about her eating too, as I showed you last week.
Remember this??

To further illustrate my point, I couldn't resist snapping these two photos this afternoon. 

The first is shortly after naptime, and Isabelle was HUNGRY and MAD.
Clearly, she did not think this was a time for taking pictures.

After a bowl of chili and some delicious strawberry yogurt, I've got a whole new baby!
See what a little food can do?!

Are you a snacker, or do you stick to three meals a day? 
I am a snacker, for sure! I snack more than anyone else I know! 

(and while we're on the subject of eating, stay tuned for a few food related giveaways! 
yogurt, waffles, and cookies, oh my!)

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