Free Printable! Christmas List: Want, Need, Wear and Read

christmasThis year we are trying out a new approach to Christmas lists and gift giving.  We have fallen into a never ending cycle of ‘out-doing’ ourselves each year when it comes to piles and piles of gifts shoved under our tree.  This is not a tradition I want to continue.  I want my kids to remember the feeling of joy and fun being with their family not the endless mounds of wrapping paper after a marathon of tearing open presents they’ll barely look at later.christmas2

Luckily, 3 of our 4 kids are 5 and under and the thirteen year old is such a good kid, which will make this year’s change easier.  We are opting for a Christmas list that contains something they each want, need, will wear and to read.  This isn’t a new concept, though I truly don’t remember where I first learned of it.  We’ll still do stockings, which has always been my favorite part.  Growing up my dad made stockings such fun.  And we will likely continue our tradition of ‘family gifts’ (one year it was an Xbox Kinect, clearly mostly for the kids, but fun for the grown ups, too).  This isn’t a hard and fast new rule to Christmas presents; just one I hope will help my kids understand it isn’t about getting stuff and help me reel it in a bit more. Wish me luck!

I created a little free printable to help kids fill out their Christmas list, you are welcome to use it, too!  You can download it here.


What are some ways you cut down on the excess at Christmas time?  Let me know in the comments.

LG OLED TV at Best Buy: The Perfect Gift

*The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Best Buy

Best Buy is the perfect place to cross everyone off your holiday gift list.  Gifts for the men in my life are always the most difficult; but any family room or man cave (something my husband has been hinting about wanting; do your husbands have their own man cave?) would be complete with the LG OLED TV from Best Buy.

The LG OLED TV uses Infinite Contrast and 4 Color Pixel technology which makes for beautiful, accurate, realistic and natural viewing.  The thin design makes it easy to add to any room and easy to move, if needed.  LG OLED TV also uses webOS, which means finding content is fast and efficient.   Best Buy provides a great price on this big ticket item, too. Best Buy’s everyday price is $3499 (a savings of $500; and I like savings).


The stunning design of LG OLED TV is only 0.21″ thick at its thinnest point. Picture quality is spectacular, with Infinite Contrast that ranges from the most blazing whites to the deepest blacks. And, LG’s exclusive 4 Color Pixel technology delivers bright, vibrant colors. Learn more here:

Your first kiss. A baby’s first steps. The majesty of a desert sunset. Some things in life defy all explanation and must be experienced to be believed. Such is the case with LG’s latest display technology. With deeper and richer colors, stunning contrast and ingeniously curved screens, it is unlike any technology you’ve ever seen, and it delivers a picture that exceeds your wildest imagination.

Jelly Bean Turns 13: Castles N’ Coasters + GIVEAWAY (Phoenix, AZ)

Things to Do in Arizona

Here’s another one for my local readers (or anyone visiting the Phoenix area)!  If you have spent some time here in Phoenix, Arizona, you have likely heard of Castles N’ Coasters.  Just off the I-17 (and Dunlap) near MetroCenter Mall, Castles N’ Coasters has been around since I was little.  It’s been upgraded and, of course, new attractions and rides have been added since I was a kid.  

Castles N' Coasters in Phoenix, AZ

I remember standing up as tall as I could in the line for Desert Storm, the big green looping coaster you can see from the freeway, which is still there.  Castles N’ Coasters is Arizona’s Finest Family Fun and Thrill Park and when we were planning a celebration for Jelly Bean’s 13th birthday this was the best choice.  She wanted to invite a couple friends to just hang out, instead of having a huge party.  Castles N’ Coasters offers party packages but we only had four kiddos so we got unlimited ride passes (plus miniature golf ) and I sent them on there way.  I stayed on site, in the arcade area, while the girls enjoyed the rides and games.  

Fun Things for Kids in Phoenix, AZ

Later, my cousin met up with me and we decided to play some arcade games while we waited.  We played old school Pac Man, Pinball, Air Hockey and Basketball but there are tons of modern games, too. I, of course, beat her pretty consistently.

Arcades and Games in Phoenix

When K turned 4, I took him for special Mom/Son time to play mini golf and he’s been begging to go check out the rides.  He’s actually tall enough for quite a few, now, so perhaps I’ll take him for rides next time.

Have you been to Castles N’ Coasters?  What’s your favorite thing to do there?  If you haven’t been, check out the website and let me know what you think you’d like to do in the comments below.

Want to WIN TICKETS?  Enter Below!  Don’t forget to LIKE and FOLLOW llandlol and Castles N’ Coasters on Facebook.



Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Music is Awesome! (Phoenix, AZ)

Comerica Theatre – November 25th Yo Gabba Gabba! will take the stage this Fall with Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Music is Awesome!.


The new live stage show marks the 5th anniversary of the live tour. Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Music is Awesome! will be directed by Yo Gabba Gabba! creators Christian Jacobs (The Aquabats) and Scott Schultz (Majestic). DJ Lance Rock, (Lance Robertson, St. Louis native and founding member of psychedelic electronic pop band The Ray Makers), the colorful cast of Yo Gabba Gabba! characters, fan favorite Leslie Hall and beat boxing legend Biz Markie will return to the road together to perform for more than 200,000 enthusiastic fans on a 30-city tour that will begin on Tuesday, October 14 and will run through Sunday, December 7.


The Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! Music is Awesome! tour is produced by S2BN Entertainment in association with DHX Media.

The Best Personalized Christmas Presents

It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas presents. Before you know it, you’ll be running around on Christmas Eve trying to find the perfect gift for your sister. No one needs that kind of stress at Christmas! If you start thinking about it now, you can surprise your family with the best possible presents.

If you’re stuck for ideas (and you can’t possibly get away with buying your Dad another pair of socks), then try something personal. It will mean so much more to them and it might just be the cheaper option. The trick is to really get inside their mind – what do they really love? Christmas is all about fun, so don’t be scared to move away from the practical option! The smile on their face will be worth the extra effort.


Christmas is all about food; Christmas dinner, mince pies and way too many sweets. It’s a time for over-indulging and you can’t go wrong with the gift of food. Personalising the gift will make it even sweeter. How about a cookie with a message of love or a cute picture? Save a little money by using a Cookies By Design coupon too. Christmas present bargain!

A hamper is a real treat at Christmas. The best thing about a hamper is that you can tailor it specifically for your family member. If they’re a wine lover, fill it full of their favourites. If they have a sweet tooth, make a chocolate hamper. There are countless options here, you can’t get this one wrong.


Thanks to Poppet With A Camera for the image.


A non-food hamper

Hampers always look great at Christmas, but they don’t have to be filled with food. You could pick a personalised theme and fill the hamper with gifts around it. Does your brother love cars? Get a hamper and fill it with books and dvds about motoring. Add some little collectable cars and a small accessory for his own prized motor. You can apply this idea to just about any hobby or interest. Let your imagination go crazy.

Notebooks or travel diary

There is nothing more personal than a notebook or a diary. Pick the perfect scrap-book for your arty friend or a travel diary for your backpacking cousin. You could hide personalised notes deep in the pages to be discovered later on. It’s a personal gift that keeps on giving.

Canvas prints or wall art

A personalised canvas print could be the perfect present. Why not blow up a photo of you and the gift receiver so they’ll always know how much you love them? You could frame the lyric sheet to their favourite song or find their favourite movie and frame the script. The possibilities are endless here.

Finally, use your skills! Are you a great cook? An expert knitter? A brilliant craftsperson? Make something completely original and your unique gift will warm even the Grinch’s heart.

Finding the perfect personal gift might take an extra little research. They can be harder to find, or take a long time to make, but it’ll all be worth it on Christmas Day.

Creating a Brand New Bedroom on a Budget: Your Comprehensive Guide

Despite what you may think, you can create a brand new bedroom on a tight budget if you plan properly. It won’t be as simple as heading to your local furniture shop and buying everything you need. However, you’ll definitely be able to create something special if you’re willing to put in some effort. This is a great project for people who love DIY! Take a look at our comprehensive guide:


Try A New Colour

Bored of your bedroom? You might simply need to try a new colour. Paint is fairly cheap, but make sure you get a couple of tester pots first. Choosing paint on a whim sometimes ends in tears. You may find that after painting your bedroom, nothing else needs to be done. You could even make the room look more appealing with a colourful feature wall. Don’t worry if you aren’t a pro at painting: there are a ton of tutorials online to help you. You can even find colourful inspiration to help you come up with a new colour scheme.


Create Your Own Artwork

No bedroom is complete without some cool artwork. However, nice pictures can be expensive. Why not create your own? You don’t need to be an artist, all you need is a canvas and some paints. Let your imagination run wild! Some of the most famous artists can’t ‘draw’ in the traditional sense of the word. You could even ask your kids to have a go if you’re feeling brave.


Buy New Light Shades

You don’t need new light fittings; the shades can just be replaced to give a whole new look. You can make a room look much more luxurious with the right light shades, and they don’t need to be expensive either.


Replace Old Sheets

New sheets will spruce up the look of a room and give a lovely fresh feeling. The benefits of polyester sheets are so much better than simply being cheaper, so make sure you consider it as your sheet material. Use your sheets to add texture, colour, or pattern to the room to give it a new and exciting appearance.


Buy from Charity

When it comes to furniture, accessories, and artwork, you could always buy from charity. This way, you’re doing a good deed but getting new bedroom accessories for a great price. Many people turn their noses up at charity shops, but you can actually get some great bargains in there. Just go and take a look…you don’t need to make any commitments!


Make Your Own Furniture

If you’re a handy family, you could always make your own furniture out of wood and other materials. All you’ll need to buy is the materials and tools. You’ll need to set aside some time, and it’ll probably be frustrating, but this is one great way you can stay within your budget.

Try these tips and you may even have some money left over. Don’t forget to leave a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

image source: flickr


Fruit Based Vegan Desserts You’ll Love

It’s always nice to have a dessert after a meal, but it isn’t always good for us. By substituting shop bought, fattening desserts for homemade fruit based desserts, you’ll still get a sweet treat. All this without compromising your health!


Apple and Almond Butter Dip

Apple and almond butter go together so well, and they’re about as healthy as you can get. Simply slice up your apple, and place your almond butter in a little dipping pot. You can even mix with some Alpro soya yoghurt to make it creamier.


Apple, Almond, and Alpro Soya Yoghurt

Apples dipped in plain Alpro soya yoghurt is a delicious treat, but adding whole almonds is another great idea. Feel free to drizzle over some bee-free ‘honee’, and perhaps even add some blueberries for a seriously creamy treat. Make your own bee-free ‘honee’ using sugar, apples, and lemon.


Fried Banana and ‘Honey’

Bananas are naturally sweet, but adding your homemade ‘honey’ to them makes them taste like a real dessert. Melt some coconut oil in a frying pan, and place in your banana slices. When they’ve browned, flip them over. This should only take a minute or two if the pan is hot enough. You don’t want to char them too much. Pop them on a plate, drizzle over some ‘honey’, and add cinnamon if you like. It’s decadent and delicious! You could even add a square or two of special melted vegan dark chocolate to make it even more rich.


Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate

Strawberries dipped in melted vegan dark chocolate is a fun and tasty way to get your dessert fix. It’s up to you whether you want to leave the chocolate to harden before eating, or munch them right then and there. When melting your vegan dark chocolate, remember you don’t need too much as it’s very rich. One or two squares should be enough. Also, be sure you don’t boil the chocolate as this will impair the flavour!


Banana Pancakes

Banana pancakes taste delicious, and could easily be mistaken for real pancakes. Whisk two homemade ‘eggs’ (made from ground flax meal and water. Leave for a few minutes after mixing first) with 1 banana, and heat some coconut oil in a very hot pan. Pour in pancake sized blobs of your mixture and wait to set before flipping. You can then top with your ‘honey’, blueberries, or even peanut butter. If you want a chocolatey flavour, you can add organic vegan cacao powder.


Protein Ice Cream

Protein ice cream one of the simplest recipes to make, and it’s the perfect treat for after a workout. Freeze one banana, and then blend it with a regular banana until smooth and creamy. You can eat it like this if you like, but I like to add some flavoured vegan protein to make it taste like strawberry or chocolate ice cream. You would never know it’s healthy and natural.

You can find more fantastic cooking and recipe tips here. If you swap your regular desserts for these fruit based desserts, I guarantee you’ll notice a difference in the way you feel and look.

image taken from flickr

How Jimmy Dean Frozen Breakfast Saves Mornings (+ Coupon)

Disclosure: I have been compensated by Hillshire Brands™ for my participation in this campaign.  I am a member of the  Mom It Forward Blogger Network and, as always, my opinions are 100% my own.

Easy Breakfast

I live in a big city- I have almost any grocery store within a 5 min drive but Safeway is my ‘corner store’.  It’s the closest to me, the most convient and definitely the one I visit often.  I use the J4U program to help save money and have the app downloaded on my phone.  I use J4U to save money and even try new products (I get free product offers regularly). I love seeing offers for products I already buy.j4u


Jimmy Dean frozen breakfasts are something I regularly have on hand for those crazy rushed mornings.  I have four kids in three different schools so morning drop off can really be a crazy time of day.  Having a box of two of Jimmy Dean frozen breakfast help ensure my kids (and Hubs) get some protein to start their day off right.  The sandwiches are far less expensive than stopping at the drive thru and WAY healthier.  Safeway and J4U have some great eCoupons for Jimmy Dean (and other great Hillshire Brand products).Jimmy Dean

If we are in a huge hurry, like, totally hypothetically… let’s say, someone turned off her alarm…I can heat the sandwiches up and they kids just eat them in the car on the way.  There’s virtually no mess, too (I say virtually because my kids can find a way to make anything messy).  Hubs likes to have a box at work in case he’s in a hurry out the door to beat the rush hour traffic.  He was shocked at how inexpensive they are and how good they taste.  These are great even if you aren’t in a hurry, I like to suprize Hubs with breakfast in bed (occasionally.  I can’t spoil him too much or he’ll come to expect the good life treatment ;)) with a Jimmy Dean sandwich, fruit, some extra Jimmy Dean Refrigerated Sausage and of course coffee (with homemade coffee creamer).

Don’t forget to check out J4U eCoupons from Safeway and let Jimmy Dean help make your chaotic mornings just that much easier!  I think we’ll try these Jimmy Dean Frozen Breakfast bowls next (with the coupon that’s only $1.50 for a breakfast loaded with protein to start your day right)!

Jimmy Dean

Cascade Platinum Party #CascadeShiningReviews

This review was made possible by Double Duty Divas and Cascade. I was provided the featured product free of charge to facilitate my review, but all opinions are 100% mine.

You already know just how much I love Cascade Platinum, I swear by this product it’s my #CascadeShiningReview.  It’s made my life much easier; I don’t have to ‘wash’ my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.  Doing dishes has never been so easy.French Toast

Recently, I hosted a play date and shared how Cascade Platinum made cleaning up easy.  I have tested Cascade Platinum with some of my most difficult messes, like dried on brownies, cornbread, rice, potatoes and even sticky french toast.  We celebrated my 30th birthday with some friends and I let Cascade do the work in the end.

Cascade Platinum Review


We served up pizza, chips, burgers, brownies and later, I brought out a french toast bake (I wish I had my homemade bread ready in time for this party; I bet it would’ve been delicious).  I made the french toast bake the night before, which really made a sticky mess on my pan- perfect to show off what this amazing product can really do!  I loaded up the dishwasher, put the Cascade Platinum ActionPac in, topped off my Cascade Platinum Rinse Aid and started the cycle.  Easy peasy.

Cascade Platinum


I highly recommend this to anyone who A) likes to host parties or B) has to do dishes. If you have used Cascade Platinum head over to write one of the #CascadeShinningReviewsCascade Prize Pack 2

Want to win an awesome prize pack from Cascade? Enter Below!




Basic White Bread Recipe

Many bread choices from the store contain soy ingredients.  We have a soy allergy in our family but I have been terrified to attempt to make a sandwich type bread.  It just seemed like a daunting task.  When I make bread usually it’s banana bread or Grandma’s Beer Bread.  I have been considering a bread machine but, as of now, any and all bread is made by hand with my handy dandy KitchenAid (seriously, I love my pink KitchenAid, found on sale, of course.  I had been wanting one and I kept waiting because it is a big purchase but I wish I hadn’t waited.  It’s an amazing little machine!).

Bread Recipe

Truthfully, this recipe is really simple.  Though, it is time consuming.  It’s not a quick mix, bake, done recipe (like the beer bread).  It is well-worth the effort!  Amazingly delicious, super (and I mean SUPER) inexpensive, and simple.


2 teaspoons (or one packet) active-dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled
1 cup  milk (I used skim)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
5 1/2 – 6  cups all-purpose flour

First dissolve your yeast in the warm water.  Sprinkle yeast over the warm water (make sure water isn’t too hot) and let sit for about 5 minutes.

White Bread Recipe

Mix milk, melted butter, sugar and salt together while you wait for the yeast to dissolve.  Take 1 cup of flour and incorporate into the milk mixture.  Your dough will be really wet at this point.  Don’t worry!  Add the other 4 1/2 cups (I added it about 2 cups at a time, rather than dumping it all in at once) and you’ll see the dough start to form.  If you are using a stand mixture this is the time to switch to the hook and let it knead the dough for about 10 minutes.  If you are not using a mixer you can knead the dough by hand.

Bread Recipe

If the dough is sticky add flour (only a table spoon at a time- you don’t want to add too much but you don’t want the dough sticky).  The idea dough will be smooth and will bounce back when poked or gently smacked (yes, I totally smack my dough; I don’t know why.  I just like to give it a little whack!).

White Bread Recipe

Here’s where the term ‘time consuming’ comes into play for me.  As with any yeast recipe, the time will come to wait.  Now is the time.  Oil up a large bowl and form the dough into a ball.  Let the ball of dough rest, covered in a warm place, until it’s doubled in size; about an hour.

Homemade Bread

Once your dough has risen, take it out and divide into two balls.  Let those balls rest for just about 15 minutes.  Grease up two loaf pans and shape each loaf and place in pans.  Here comes some more ‘wait time’.  Let the loaves rise in the pan for another  hour and a half.  The dough should double in size and be a nice dome shape.

Make Bread At Home

Make a slash down the length of the loaf but be careful not to cut too deep into the dough; a light hand is ok here.  Bake in a 375°F oven for about 30 minutes.  Remove the loaves from the pan (to avoid further cooking them) and let cool before slicing.  Store in plastic bag at room temperature for a few days or freeze for a few months.

Bread From Scratch

We used ours for turkey sandwiches, paninis and cheesy garlic bread!

Do you make your own bread?  If so, do you use a bread machine or do it by hand?  Should I get a bread maker?!

DIY Bread




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