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Homemade Valentine’s Cookie Bouquet

February 8, 2019

This post is sponsored by Soapbox Influence in partnership with Vanilla Gift Cards.  As always, all opinions are my own. I carefully select which sponsored posts to take on with YOU, my awesome readers in mind! I hope this party helps inspire you this holiday season. #VanillaValentine #VanillaGiftCards

This is the first year that Ainsley has been in any type of formal school (she is in 3-year-old preschool this year) and as my kids have gotten into more and more activities I’ve realized how my mindset around holidays has shifted as well.

While Valentine’s Day in my 20’s was all about romantic love, boyfriends, eventually my husband and things we did as a couple, the last couple years there has been a definite shift toward class parties, Valentine’s Day card exchanges, teacher gifts and more. Don’t get me wrong, I still make plenty of time to show Joe that he matters most to me, but the focus on what I’m getting out of Valentine’s Day has become less and less important.

Since I’m never really the “do things in advance” type mom (and I’ve come to accept this about myself and my life stage) I’m usually doing a craft with Ainsley at the last minute to get ready for “Love Day” as Ainsley likes to call it.

Decorating cookies is a favorite activity in our house, no matter the time of year, so I decided to take Ainsley’s favorite thing to do and put a fun Valentine’s Day spin on decorated sugar cookies! We made a DYI cookie bouquet with heart-shaped cookies, put the cookies in a decorative vase, and paired it with a Vanilla Gift Card from Walmart for a little extra something special. This would be a perfect gift for kid’s teachers, family members, Sunday school teachers and more. I mean, who doesn’t love cookies and gift cards?

If left to my own devices, I would have probably done fancier decorated cookies, but since this was a mommy + me craft, I let Ainsley have full creative control with the cookie toppings of sprinkles and decorative pink frosting. 😉

DETAILS //
I bought a wire vase pre-wrapped with burlap at our local craft store and put a florist’s block (the green foam) inside. Then I stuck each cookie into the foam and taped the gift card onto one of the craft sticks and inserted it into the foam as well. It was SO easy!

CUT-OUT COOKIE RECIPE //
(from a really old “Christmas Cookies” book by Southern Living)
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Desired vanilla frosting of choice and toppings, such as sprinkles and colored frosting

Directions
Cream butter in a large mixing bowl; add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well.

Combine flour, soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture, blending well (dough will be very stiff)

Divide dough into thirds; roll each portion to 1/4-inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut with heart-shaped cutters and place 2-inches apart on baking sheet. Firmly press a paper craft stick into each cookie. Bake at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks.

Frost as desired.

Family

Baby #3 // All the Details

January 22, 2019

Those of you who follow along over on Instagram and Facebook have probably seen our news that we are expecting another baby in August! We are feeling SO thankful for this sweet baby and blessing and as someone who knows what miscarriage is like, we never take the gift of new life for granted. For me, the first trimester always brings its fair share of worry and fear, probably more so than others, and while I can’t say that ever totally goes away, we’re trying to take it day by day and feeling so thankful to be nearly through the first trimester.

I got a lot of questions on Instagram and in personal conversations about this baby and pregnancy, so I thought I would give all the details in one post!

1. Were you trying?
Yes! We had been trying for a few months. Unfortunately, because of my history, we either need to be “in” or “out” in terms of trying. It’s one of the things I’ve grieved in the past, because it feels like it’s such a decision to make and sometimes I wish we could just “see what happens” like some couples talk about, but for us we need to make sure our medical ducks are in a row before trying.

2. What medical intervention did you have to take with this pregnancy?
As I’ve shared before, with both Ainsley and Collins I took progesterone in the second half of every cycle we were trying to conceive. It didn’t seem to be enough to wait until I got a positive pregnancy test to begin supplementing, but rather I needed the supplementation in-cycle for both girls.

This time around, we had been trying for a couple months and I told my doctor I didn’t feel like myself on the progesterone. I usually have ZERO PMS symptoms and while on progesterone I was feeling crampy/gassy/generally off. He suggested testing my progesterone levels in an un-medicated cycle. So we pulled the supplementation and tested the cycle we conceived. Of course, we didn’t know that would be the case, but my un-medicated numbers were in the optimal range – something that’s never happened for me before – which was incredibly encouraging for me to see this change in my hormones.

Once I got a positive pregnancy test, I started supplementation with progesterone injections as a precaution given my history. We are monitoring my levels every other week and I’ve continued to ride the “optimal” or slightly below optimal level at each draw. We recently reduced the amount of progesterone I’m getting and will test again in two weeks. If it’s another optimal level, I may be able to stop the injections. Otherwise we will continue to take the progesterone until I get two consecutive draws at optimal or above optimal. With Collins I was on injections until 32 weeks!

I also continued my regimen of a daily baby aspirin, a bio-available B-complex vitamin, my prenatal (I’m taking this one this time around because it’s tasty and easy to remember to take), fish oil, iron, Plexus Bio-Cleanse, and probiotic.

The cycle before we conceived, I also started to take a series of herbs prescribed by my acupuncturist, and once I got a positive pregnancy test, I started the same custom blended herbal drink 2x per day that I took with both the girls.

3. Are you high risk for this pregnancy?
Some people have asked if we are “high risk” for this pregnancy. The answer is no, and we weren’t considered high risk for Collins’s pregnancy, either. Ainsley’s pregnancy was miraculous, tumultuous and just generally a wild ride, but not something that was deemed likely to be repeated, hence no need for a high risk diagnosis.

4. How/when did you find out?
I took a pregnancy test one morning a couple days before my period was due – it was negative – I took another that afternoon and saw the faintest line. When I went in to have my blood drawn that afternoon my HCG level was a 6 (anything 5 and under is technically not considered pregnant) so we were VERY cautious while we waited two more days to test again. We were so excited when my levels more than tripled and continued to do so for another test. We’ve had one early ultrasound and heard baby on the doppler at the doctor one (and about a hundred times at home on my own doppler, too).

5. When are you due?
August 11th! (If you don’t like to do math, that makes me just shy of 12 weeks right now)

6. How have you been feeling?
Horrible! I mean, definitely could be worse and could also be better is the better answer. I guess it’s just worse compared to the pregnancies I had with Ainsley and Collins. I remember so many days with both girls that I felt SO normal that I would be brought to tears fearing something was wrong. But this pregnancy, while I’ve still had days when I’m worried, I haven’t had many moments when I wasn’t fully aware that I’m pregnancy-sick.

7. Is this pregnancy different than past pregnancies?
Yes and no!

One of the biggest differences this time around has been my relationship with food. I remember specifically craving lots of bread, salty carbs, and generally bland food with both Ainsley and Collins. I craved orange juice and eggs like a mad woman early on, too, and could hardly look at coffee for 14 weeks.

This time around, I’ve been drinking coffee the entire time. While it doesn’t sound AS good as it used to, it still appeals to me. From weeks 5-8 I could hardly stand to eat ANY food. I wasn’t grossed out by the idea of food, I just didn’t want to eat. I would often go until 11 am without eating and probably survived on 1,000 calories a day for a while, which is probably why I was down a few pounds at my first appointment.

But after week 8, food sounded neither good nor bad. I haven’t had ANY foods that specifically sound bad, and have been thankful to enjoy vegetables the entire time thus far, though baked potatoes have sounded particularly good and I’ve found myself snacking on lots of protein!

8. Do you have a preference for gender?
I do not. I am thrilled about the idea of three girls (yay sister club!) but I would love to experience what it’s like to have a boy, too! It’s so not a cliche for me – I really am just so thankful to be pregnant and to even have a third baby and gender hardly seems important to me.

That said, I know my hubby would love to have a boy! And I totally get it – because having a child of your same gender is fun – so for his sake maybe a boy? But really, I rest in the fact that God has already decided and will give us the perfect addition to our family.


Family

Green Cleaning :: What Works for Us

January 4, 2019

When you think about green cleaning and removing toxic products from your home cleaning routine, do you get a headache just thinking about it? Because it’s been a SLOW process for our family as we’ve attempted to clean up the products we use at the Hofmeyer house.

Note: While this might not be the case in all homes, my husband is our dedicated bathroom cleaner and because of that, he gets a big say in the products we use and if they cut-it in terms of cleaning power. 😉

One of my favorite brands for safer cleaning products is Seventh Generation. While I’m sure there are “cleaner” options available (and I’ve tried some of them) when looking for the best mix of safety and efficacy, Seventh Generation meets my standards for both.

It’s important to note that not all Seventh Generation products are created equal. Even the same product but in a different scent can have a different formulation and hence, safety rating. I’ve put the EWG score (A being the safest) behind each of the products I mention, if available.

Ultimately, the best green cleaning products are those you are actually going to use, vs. being tempted to go back to your conventional favorites. So even if you aren’t using the cleanest products possible, I’m in favor of progress not perfection and taking baby steps to getting where you want to go.

Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Bleach (EWG Rating: A)

Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Purpose Cleaner in Lemongrass Citrus (EWG Rating: A)

Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner (EWG Rating: A)

Everyone Hand Soap (EWG Rating: 2)
-This is more personal care than cleaning, but I’m putting it in the cleaning category since it sits in our kitchen and bathrooms as a cleaning agent. This is a super affordable and EWG verified hand soap I find at our local Walmart.

Seventh Generation Liquid Dish Soap (EWG Rating: C)
-This doesn’t get as good of a rating as the dishwasher packs, but our dishwasher doesn’t work well with the packs. When researching, I found their powder gets an “A” rating so we will most likely switch to that next.

Seventh Generation Lavender Laundry Detergent (EWG Rating: C)
-I also noticed that the Seventh Generation Powder Laundry Detergent gets an A rating, vs. this liquid version that gets a C. So we’ll likely switch over after we run out of our current supply.

Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Stain Remover(EWG Rating: C)
-Not the cleanest option and when I was researching, I realized that my Oxy Clean was actually rated just as well as this. So, a learning process for me because this is greenwashing at it’s finest and a great reminder to research each product even within a brand. (Safer alternatives: Biokleen Stain + Odor Remover, FIT Organic Laundry + Carpet Stain Remover – though I can’t vouch for the efficacy of either of these products)

Norwex Floor Mop System (large size)

Norwex Kitchen Cloths

So, as you can see, it’s not perfect! We’re definitely a work in progress, but as people who used to have items that were the worst of the worst, we’re making progress and I’m excited about continuing the process as it evolves!

Madison

Family

Random Acts of Kindness Cookie Decorating Party

December 9, 2018

This post is sponsored by Soapbox Influence in partnership with Vanilla MasterCard Gift Cards.  As always, all opinions are my own. I carefully select which sponsored posts to take on with YOU, my awesome readers in mind! I hope this party helps inspire you this holiday season. #VanillaGiftWinnerWonderland #VanillaGift

We frequently purchase gift cards at our local Walmart, including these Vanilla MasterCard Charming Characters Multi-Pack $20 gift cards that I used in the cards (pictured below) for our random acts of kindness. For every Vanilla MasterCard Gift Card purchase until 12/23/18 participants will be entered to win one of over 100 different prizes, including a grand prize of a $10,000 Macy’s shopping spree! To enter, after purchasing your gift card, go to https://www.winner-wonderland.com/ to enter.

Christmastime, and the month of December, really, is a time when adults have plenty of Christmas parties and events to attend, but a little person Christmas party? Well, we decided to tackle that this weekend with a few of our favorite little people and their mommas for a Preschooler Random Acts of Kindness Cookie Decorating Party! If you’re thinking that toddlers and preschoolers decorating Christmas cookies with sprinkles and frosting sounds like a hot mess, then you’re right! It was a bit crazy (as pictured above) but we also had a great time on a cold and snowy Saturday decorating cookies, drinking coffee (the moms) and listening to Christmas music while the kids played.

Here’s a bit more about the party structure and details that make it happen:

-I provided all the supplies so friends could just show up and enjoy themselves! All the supplies were purchased at Walmart, where we do nearly all our grocery shopping these days, and for ease and convenience I used pre-made dough since the focus was really on the cookie decorating! I made around 100+ cut-out cookies and got a variety of toppings, including sprinkles, candies, gum-drops, candy canes, etc. I DID make the frosting from scratch because it’s worth every bit of extra effort. 😉

-Lately Joe and I have been really conscious that we want Ainsley and Collins to grow up thinking about others rather than becoming super self-focused, so when I was approached about partnering with Vanilla MasterCard Gift Cards to find a creative use for gift cards this holiday season, I immediately thought about how they could be used to make someone’s Christmas a bit brighter! Each family who came to the party left with a plate of decorated cookies and a card with a $20 gift card in it to deliver to someone as a random act of Christmas kindness!

-We knew it would be a mess letting littles decorate cookies, so we decided to put down plastic painter’s tarp under the table. It was a great idea because all we had to do was wrap up the tarp after the party and wipe down our table and clean-up was a breeze!

-Let’s be honest: The mom’s ended up decorating a lot of the cookies after the first 15 minutes, when the kids lost interest and started playing with toys, but any excuse to get together and celebrate the season is a win in my book!

-If you want your cookies to look good and cohesive, stick with a color palette. Even cookies decorated by little people can look good when you stick with a color scheme (we did red, green and white) that makes everything look cohesive. Another idea would be blue and white. Or white with gold and silver sprinkles. Or white and red. Plus, it’s easier to plan around, too!

We had such a great time and it was a tradition I would love to continue every year! Plus, knowing that the cookies and gift cards when to brighten someone’s day make it even more special. With so much focus on ourselves and our own loved ones this holiday season, it’s nice to shift the focus to those around us more often.

Madison

Family

Preschooler Christmas Gift Guide

December 2, 2018

Hi friends! Checking in today with the first of a few holiday gift guides. Today, I’m sharing some of my favorites for the preschooler-aged kiddos in your life. All of these items we have used/purchased/loved and/or have firsthand experience with using so I can vouch that if your kiddos are anything like ours, they will love these gifts! That said, this is geared more toward Ainsley’s age rather than Collins’s age, though Collins certainly plays with most of these toys, too!

Here are some of our new favorites!

Rocktupus //
We were gifted this as part of a campaign I worked on with the brand, and I’m so happy to say that the girls really have loved playing with this toy from Fisher Price. It allows you to mix and match the little plugs to create different instrument sounds and both Ainsley and Collins have enjoyed it.

Plus Plus Basic Assortment Building Pieces //
My dad gifted these building pieces to Ainsley when we celebrated early family Christmas this year and she has been having so much fun building and creating with these little interlocking pieces. The come in a bunch of colors and are so fun to use!

Dexterity Dough //
Ainsley got this from my mom as a safer, more user-friendly Play Doh and it’s awesome! It’s made without any artificial fragrance and or petroleum and smells like oranges!

Kwik Stix Paint Sticks //
A less-messy alternative to painting, these have been a favorite in our house for a while. They almost feel like writing on paper with lipstick, and they dry quickly so you don’t have to worry about the typical mess associated with traditional paint.

Shopkins Happy Places Rainbow Beach Convertible //
Ainsley gifted this to her cousin, Lottie, for her birthday and then got one herself for Christmas from her aunt (we celebrated early with my side of the family) and it’s been a hit in our house! The Shopkins craze is something I’ll never understand, but preschoolers love them!

Plae Shoes //
We have bought Ainsley a pair of Plae shoes for the last 4 or 5 seasons and she loves wearing them. We got her this very pair for her next size up. They are so comfortable, wear well and are cute enough to go with most outfits – casual and dressy.

Magna Carry Playbook //
So great for keeping little hands busy in church, in the car, etc.!

Little Tikes Jump & Slide Bounce House //
We finally did it! We bought a bounce house for the girls to keep in the basement. I promised myself last winter that I wouldn’t go another winter without a bounce house for the basement. So excited to see their excitement about this!

Little Tikes Indoor Trampoline //
Another solid choice for getting wiggles out in the winter months!

Paw Patrol Slippers //
Ainsley has these, she loves these and she wears them all the time!