by Melanie

LDS General Conference Giveaway

March 25, 2015 in Mailbox by Melanie

Spring General Conference Giveaway - $400+ in Prizes

It’s spring time which means General Conference will be here before we know it. Seventeen LDS Bloggers are joining me to share a few of our favorite things. We are so excited to be giving away over $400 in prizes. It’s been a treat to work with so many talented women to spoil our readers with products that strengthen the family and make our lives a little easier, too.

We as bloggers are so thankful for you – our readers! Thank you for your encouragement, comments, and time that you take out of your busy day to check in with us. We appreciate how you #sharethegood with us and hopefully we can share some with you as well!

Meet the bloggers who are taking part in this giveaway:

LDS Bloggers

Now for the giveaway! If you are anything like me, your wish list for Deseret Book is a mile long! We are excited to send two of you some fun money to spend there. We hope you love the recipes from the Six Sisters as much as we do and that Nicole Carpenter’s 5-minute messages will make family devotional more manageable! From bulking up your food storage with Thrive to the cutest projects by Fizzy Pops – there are so many wonderful prizes. Check them out and ENTER TO WIN below! There are TWO rafflecopters so be sure to enter each one!

Spring General Conference Giveaway - Over $400 in Prizes!

Prize Package #1

$85 Gift Card to Deseret Book

$50 Gift Card to Sweet Salt Clothing

Fizzy Pops Young Women Zipper Pull Kit ($50 value) with

YW Value Bottle Cap Printables from My Computer is My Canvas

Six Sisters Stuff Cookbook

52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family from MOMentity.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spring General Conference Giveaway - Over $400 in Prizes!

Prize Package #2

$85 Gift Card to Deseret Book

$75 value Food Storage Package from Thrive

Six Sisters Stuff Cookbook

$50 Gift Card to Sego Lily Soap

Doodle Journal for General Conference by A Lively Hope

Pink Star CTR Necklace and I am a Child of God Pin from Ringmasters

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be announced and e-mailed April 2.

We’ve compiled a few of our favorite General Conference Activities, Recipes, and Ideas. Comment with your favorite traditions or add a link below!

LDS General Conference Activities and Ideas


by Melanie

Top 13 Tips for an Incredible Disneyland Vacation

March 23, 2015 in Out the Door by Melanie

I have been to Disneyland more times than I can count – with a few Disney World trips thrown in there, too – and I love it! I have been with my family as a kid, with friends as a teenager, with my own kids as a parent, with huge groups of extended family, and with my husband as just the two of us.

agesofdisneyland

So much fun in one little photo

 

When my brother and I were 11 and 12, my dad went on a business trip to Anaheim and took us with him. In the morning he handed us some cash and pointed us in the direction of the park, and we had an absolute blast just the two of us at Disneyland for a few days. Can you even imagine doing that with your kids today?

I love Disneyland so much that when it came time to plan our honeymoon, Steve and I decided Disneyland would be our destination. It was his first visit ever… and he hated it. Don’t be fooled by the smile he plastered on for the camera. He really hated it. How could anyone hate Disneyland??? And how did I of all people end up marrying a Disneyland hater?

honeymoondl

We were babies!

 

Fast forward about 7 years. Steve was coming home from a long deployment and we wanted to do something special as a family to celebrate being together again. I , of course, suggested Disneyland, and he agreed. Yay! There is something magical about seeing Disneyland through the eyes of a child, and that magic changed how Steve saw Disneyland, too.

Now he gets just as excited about going to Disneyland as I do. In fact, the night before our trip in January, he woke up at 2 am because he was too excited to sleep. So we loaded up the car with luggage and sleeping children, and started driving a few hours earlier than we had planned and had that many more hours in the park when we got there!

We have become experts at doing Disney exactly the way we like, and it’s incredible. Here are a few tips for you to have an INCREDIBLE Disneyland vacation of your own.

incredible-tips


1 – Get free tickets

Find your favorite rewards program and save up your points. We love the Disney Rewards Visa because it gives us Disney points that we use to buy our tickets. The first time we redeemed our points, we bought 6 Disneyland Annual Passports for only $1o0 out of pocket – the rest was with points. Six annual passes for $100!!!

Your freebie doesn’t have to be tickets. You can use your Disney Rewards for food or souvenirs in the parks, travel to and from the park, hotel rooms… or you can go with an entirely different rewards card. I love getting rewards just for spending money we were already going to spend!

2 – Location, location, location

Stay close to the park. There are so many great deals available at the hotels near Disneyland Resort, and the convenience of being right there is priceless! Our favorite place to stay is right across the street on Harbor Blvd. Every night when masses of crowds are being herded to the tram station, I am always ridiculously glad we’re walking the other way. By the time they finally make it back to their cars, I’m already in bed.

sleeping

Completely exhausted after a day of fun… not waiting for a tram.

 

3 – Book EARLY

The earlier you can book your trip, the better deal you can find on your hotel. I learned how important this tip is that year we bought 6 Annual Passes for $100. In January we were talking about potential vacation dates. When we looked at hotel prices, I was amazed to find them much lower than I expected. We weren’t positive those dates would work, so we planned to book the hotel when we knew for sure. A few months later when we were finally making the reservations, the prices had gone up significantly and I was bummed we hadn’t reserved them earlier.

We have annual passes again this year, and I learned my lesson last time. We chose potential vacation dates early and reserved our rooms. The cancellation policy lets us cancel without penalty as long as we do it before a certain date, so we plan to cancel any reservation we end up not being able to use. A few weeks after we made our reservations, the hotel increased their prices and it didn’t affect us at all. Yay! I love saving money.

We just had a big family reunion at Disneyland last week, and I booked the hotel months ago. A few weeks before the reunion, I looked at possibly changing our room and discovered the suites I booked months ago would cost us $500 more if I booked them now.

4 – Book WISELY

We have been to Disneyland at every time of year, and I definitely have my favorites. Make sure you look at a planning calendar and know what you’re getting into. Off-season has shorter hours, more closed rides, and less entertainment, but you can do so much more with the smaller crowds. Peak season has longer hours, less closed rides, and more entertainment, but the crowds are a deterrent for me. You just have to decide what is more important to you and plan accordingly. I like to look at the annual pass blockout date calendars and avoid any day that is blocked out, and we usually end up with the smaller crowd days that I like.

This is my kind of crowd!

This is my kind of crowd!

5 – Pack for success

My packing list probably includes a lot of things that others may not think of, but they’re important to me. For example, my sense of smell is my super power, so I always bring air freshener for the hotel. All those people sharing that small space and limited bathrooms? Ew. Pure Citrus Orange works better than anything else I have found — and believe me, I’ve looked.

Sunscreen, chapstick, and band-aids are a must, but the First Aid Center on Main Street is great if you end up needing something you didn’t bring. I don’t go anywhere without Ziploc bags. Ever. Definitely don’t forget your sunglasses like I did last time. Ouch. And remember it’s cool in the mornings and evenings in Anaheim, so bring a sweatshirt or light jacket.

6 – Tame the Laundry

My favorite new trick was actually thought up by Joy, and it’s genius! I get a pop-up clothes hamper from Dollar Tree and bring it to the hotel for dirty clothes. When the hamper gets full, we have to pull out all of the clothes and pack them somewhere. Usually I shove them all in big kitchen garbage bags. Dirty laundry totally grosses me out, and I really hate that job. So Joy decided we should just line the hamper with the garbage bag like it’s a big trash can, and then when it’s full we just tie off the bag and get a new one. Smart kid!

7 – Eat at the hotel

We get breakfast included with our hotel room, which is great, but we don’t stop there. Feeding my family one meal at Disneyland generally costs us anywhere from $50 to $100, and that’s not even at a table service restaurant. So we save money by taking advantage of the fridge and microwave in our room. We bring food from home and only eat one meal in the park every day. It’s nice to have something healthier than amusement park food, and we feel a lot better by the end of the week than if we had eaten more junk. It’s totally worth the pre-trip prep time when we get back to the hotel and just have to heat up something homemade in the microwave for a great dinner.

My kiddos are kind of obsessed with drinking their milk and juice through those lids.

My kiddos love the hotel breakfast, and they’re kind of obsessed with drinking their milk and juice through those lids.

8 – Be a restaurant stalker

Spending your hard earned money on a meal and getting something that doesn’t resemble what you thought you were paying for does not make for a happy vacation. Even if you didn’t research food options before you left home, you can still find out what you’ll be getting before you spend your money. Stand back for a bit and watch what the other guests’ trays look like. Knowing the portions are HUGE can help you save money by splitting meals. Seeing the size of the kids meal can help you decide which of your kids will actually get full and which might need something bigger. You can also ask the cast members for advice – they’re very friendly and helpful – but I like to know exactly what we’re ordering by the time we step up to the counter so we’re not holding up the line.

9 – Don’t lose track of time

Sometimes we start getting cranky and short with each other and I wonder why we can’t just get along. We’re at the Happiest Place on Earth for crying out loud! Then I look at my watch and realize it’s 3 pm and we haven’t had lunch yet. Yikes! We snack throughout the day, so no one is starving to death, but we’re definitely happier when we remember meal times.

10 – Don’t be a pack mule

My kids are past the stroller stage of life. It’s totally awesome. But I freaked out a little in January when I realized we were going to Disneyland without a reason to push around a stroller. Where would we keep our snacks and water bottles? Was I going to have to lug around a giant backpack all day?

Who says you have to have a small kid to push around a stroller? I know, it may sound nuts, but this was seriously the smartest thing we did on our last trip (after getting free tickets and booking our hotel early and eating at the hotel… oh, you get the idea).

We brought a cheap umbrella stroller from home and a great tote bag. We filled the bag with our snacks and water bottles, bandaids, extra sunscreen, and anything else we just couldn’t do without at the park and sat it in the stroller. Then we filled a backpack with sweatshirts for the chilly mornings and evenings and tossed that on there, too. We hung our souvenir popcorn buckets from the handles – which we refilled in the hotel room with microwave popcorn we brought from home… Voila! Instant pack mule! Just park it with the rest of the strollers and you’ve got everything you need for a day at Disney without the heavy load.

She's adorable with her cute smile and ridiculous socks, but also this is what getting there early and going during the off season looks like. We're practically alone in the park!

She’s adorable with her cute smile and ridiculous socks.

11 – Save on souvenirs

Souvenirs at the park are expensive. They just are. But it’s also fun to get something to remind you  of a fabulous vacation or your favorite character. We give the kids gift cards for Christmas/birthdays when we have a trip planned, so they’ve got some money to spend. They know when that money is gone, so is their ability to buy stuff. They have learned about looking around and deciding exactly what they want to get so they’re not spending all their money on the first thing they see. We also get discounts with our Disney credit card and annual pass, so we make sure to take advantage of those discounts.

We also love to save money by bringing some souvenirs with us from home. We find fun Disney shirts on sale or make our own to wear at the parks. We make crafty jewelry we can wear. We found these adorable Minnie ears on the birthday aisle at Walmart for less than $5. Basic Minnie headbands are $22 at the parks! Chuck wore these all around Disneyland and felt so cool – and I loved that we saved a bunch of money.

If you have young kids who love to dress up, definitely bring the dress-up clothes. We had a fabulous Cinderella dress that a 2-year-old Chuck wore around Disneyland and felt like a princess. And of course, she got treated like one, too.

12 – Get there early

You will be amazed at how much you can do in the first hour the park is open. We have been able to do ALL of Fantasyland or several E-ticket rides in that first hour just by getting there early. Also watch for early morning admission. Definitely take advantage of that time if your ticket comes with it. When we met up with my brother after his early morning admission, he had already taken his kids on 10 rides and the park hadn’t even been open for an hour! Early morning admission is at California Adventure on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and at Disneyland on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. If your ticket doesn’t include that early morning, start in the other park for smaller crowds.

Another view of a cute Chuck pushing the stroller just to show what it looks like when you get there early and go during off-peak times. We're practically alone in the park!

Another view of a cute Chuck pushing the stroller just to show what it looks like when you get there early and go during less busy times. We’re practically alone in the park!

13 – Relax and enjoy

You will enjoy your Disneyland vacation a lot more if you can relax and be flexible. Don’t try to stick to a strict ride schedule or spend every moment from Rope Drop to the last store closing on Main Street in the park going full speed. We are often on our way to a ride a kid has requested and see a short line at a ride we love and make a quick detour to ride it. We sit down and watch a show or go back to the hotel for lunch when we need a break. Even though we like to get there early, we let the kids sleep in when they need it. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and styles of vacationing, and we work together to make it an INCREDIBLE Disneyland vacation for everyone!

Do you have any INCREDIBLE Disneyland vacation tips to share?

by Melanie

ABCs of Me

March 12, 2015 in Junk Drawer by Melanie

abc

Just for fun and because I’m a huge fan of lists, I’m going to share a little bit about me today in an ABC way. I’m pretty sure this list was one of those blog tag games that went around years ago when everyone had a blog. Then we all got on Facebook instead, and family blogs kind of disappeared… but I miss them. So please feel free to start up your family blog again and send me a link!

Addictions: kissing my husband… seriously can not get enough. Also Cadburry Mini eggs which we buy in “6-girls-live-in-this-house” size.

Bed size: king. We tried sleeping in a queen for a few months, and it made the search for a new king go even faster.

Chore you hate: cleaning. Oh wait, a specific cleaning chore? So many to choose from… scrubbing tubs and showers. Blah.

Dogs or cats: meh, not a pet person, but I love that there are neighborhood cats that hunt the mice in the field behind my house.

Essential start of your day: kissing my husband (see Addictions)

kiss2

Favorite color: red, like a deep, dark red/burgundy, not fire engine red

Gold or silver: gold, but it’s not like I’m going to say no to jewelry

Height: 5′ 11″ since I was 15, and I always thought I was cheated out of that last inch. I mean, if you’re going to be freakishly tall (I was 5′ 9″ when I was 11 years old), why stop just an inch shy of 6 feet?

Instruments you play: Do vocal chords count? piano, string bass (I was even in a jazz band once), I know how to play violin but not well, and I attempted to play the tenor sax one summer but failed miserably

Job titles you’ve had: receptionist, data entry robot, call center punching bag, medical transcriptionist/editor, and currently mom-chauffeur-cheerleader-nurse-counselor-chef-referee-maid-owie kisser-bedtime story reader-and chief tucker inner

Keepsake: I’m on a quest to collect every Disneyland button this year. Not sure how I’m going to convince the cast member I was “Just Engaged” and “Just Married” AND celebrating my anniversary…

buttons

Live: I live in Utah where I love that we have 4 seasons… even if Mother Nature is completely bipolar. Where I grew up in Arizona we had 2 seasons: hot and oh-my-goodness-why-do-we-live-here HOT.

Mom’s name: Marilyn – I’ve always loved it, she’s always hated it. We were going to use it for Babs’ middle name, but my mom really didn’t want us to do that to a kid, so we just used the Lyn part.

Nickname: NOT Mel – I really, really hate being called Mel. My dad is the king of nicknames, and I’m pretty sure he hardly ever actually called me Melanie – the closest he got was melba toast, which was also not a favorite. Spiedra-umbeda-umbeda (repeated times infinity) was probably the most common. Where did that come from? I have no idea.

Overnight hospital stays: For myself only when I’ve had babies. But I stayed with Babs when she had her hip surgeries, watching Aladdin and the Ducktales Movie over and over again. That was the first time I realized they’re pretty much the same movie. And I may have stayed with Steve when he had his appendix removed – he’s not a fan of hospitals.

Pet peeve: when I’m tired and cranky, just about everything… But when I’m being more reasonable, not quite as many. I really hate loud chewing – blech. And when people stop in the middle of walkways blocking everyone else who is trying to get through.

Quote from a Movie: We quote movies constantly around here. There was a time when we couldn’t get through a meal without reciting the entire Lego Movie. When we were dating, I thought Steve and I were so cute to quote “I love you back” from While You Were Sleeping. My latest fave is “I am not fast” from Big Hero 6 – because it’s so, so true.

not-fast

Right or left-handed: right, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to take pictures with my left hand while being my own hand model with my right

Siblings: 3 brothers and 2 sisters. They are my best friends. Most of them went and got married and gave me even more awesome siblings! We’re all going to Disneyland together next week and I can hardly wait!!!

Time you wake up: when I’m being good – 5 am, when I sleep through  my alarm – 6:27 when Steve’s alarm goes off

Uncertainty: I wonder if I’m teaching my kids enough and preparing them enough to succeed in life

Vegetables you Dislike: bell peppers and eggplant – ew

What makes you run late: When I don’t want to stop what I’m doing. And losing my keys. all. the. time.

X-rays you’ve had done: um… I can’t think of any, although I think I broke my ankle once when I tripped over some laundry I was carrying and fell down the stairs. I went to the doctor so I could get an x-ray, and he wouldn’t take one! He said it was just a sprain, but it took a year to heal. Is that normal?

Yummy food you make: everything! Seriously, I’m a pretty awesome cook. Ok, every once in awhile we try out something that no one wants to eat, but mostly we have ridiculously delicious food around here.

good-food

Zoo animal: giraffe – just because.

Now choose a letter and tell me something about you! Bonus points if you do the whole list on your blog and send me the link!

by Melanie

14 Fun Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

March 7, 2015 in Family Room by Melanie

14-stpatday


St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just for pinching your friends who forgot to wear green anymore. Now it’s the perfect excuse for a fun celebration. I love to keep things simple, so I gathered 14 simple celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day for a festive, easy holiday.

These  St. Patrick’s Day printables from Forty Eighteen are all ready for you to print and attach to your treats.

stpatsdayprint

Jane from xo, lauren & jane does something fabulous with mint chocolate chips to make a green treat that is perfect for anyone who loves mint and chocolate. (And really… who doesn’t love mint and chocolate??)

stpatday1

Hoping to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? How about inside the rainbow… if that rainbow is a cookie. These Rainbow Treasure Cookies from Stuffed Suitcase scream St. Patrick’s Day!

stpatsday2

So colorful and so tasty, my kiddos would LOVE these! They wouldn’t even need to find the pot of gold with Rainbow Pudding Pops from Saving Cent by Cent as the tasty rainbow.

stpatday3

This is perfect! I love this St. Patrick’s Day printable from Occasionally Crafty.

stpatday4

If you love sprinkles and tasty surprises, these Pot of Gold Cookies from A Sparkle of Genius are the perfect treat for you. I especially love the gold center… because it’s caramel. yummo!

stpatday5

Hahaha, Blushing Leprechauns. I love these great cookies from For What It’s Worth

stpatday6

Cute, cute decor makes any holiday better. That’s why I love this St. Patrick’s Day Canvas Art from Shambray.

stpatday7

And this great Lucky St. Patrick’s day Printable from The Happy Scraps. I just love how a great printable makes an area instantly festive.

stpatday8

Learn how to make a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner: How to Make Corned Beef Dinner from Mirlandra’s Kitchen.

stpatday9

This Lucky Leprechaun Parfait from Jessica Weible Blogs is such an adorable treat! What more can you ask of a dessert than cute on the table and absolutely delicious in your mouth!

I love the idea of spreading some luck to a friend like this Bucket of Luck from Maybe I Will. Love her list of what to put in the basket and the free printable to attach to it.

Make a great dessert with this template and directions for a St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Cake from The Things I Love Most.

stpatday11

We always have a green dinner, and this Green Deviled Eggs and Broccoli Ham Ring from Forty Eighteen is in the running this year.

green-eggs-and-ham

How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

by Melanie

Decadent Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies

March 5, 2015 in Kitchen by Melanie

My girls have been asking for chocolate even more than usual lately, and Joy’s latest favorite thing to do is make cookies. So naturally I decided it was time to find a new chocolate cookie recipe.

Pinterest to the rescue! I love finding the perfect Pinspiration.

I found two versions of a chocolate swirl cookie that got me really excited. I shared the chocolate chip cookie version on Made From Pinterest today.

Those Brownie Swirl Chocolate Chip Cookies are absolutely delicious, but peanut butter is my true love. So when I found these cookies at Sally’s Baking Addiction, I just knew I had found a new favorite.

chocpbswirl


And I couldn’t have been more right. Oh. my. goodness. These are to die for.

I was a little nervous about how much cocoa the recipe calls for. I don’t like dark chocolate, so I didn’t want them to be too dark. I started with a little less cocoa but ended up adding it all, and it turned out all my worries were for nothing. The chocolate isn’t dark and bitter, it is rich and decadent.

The peanut butter cookie calls for more peanut butter than a typical recipe, and oh my, it makes the peanut butter flavor even more intense. The combination of the rich chocolate with the intense peanut butter is pure heaven.

I’m not even going to admit how many cookies I have eaten today in the name of “testing” the recipe. I think we can safely say these passed the test with an A++.

chocpbswirl2

Decadent Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies

Chocolate Cookie Dough:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons milk

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Start with the chocolate cookie dough. Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt) and sift them together with a whisk. Add them gradually to the butter and sugar mixture until everything is combined. It will be very thick. Then add the milk, mix it in, and put the dough in the fridge to chill.

Now it’s time to move on to to the peanut butter cookie dough. It starts just the same. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, and then add the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt and sift together with a whisk.

Gradually mix the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture and mix until completely combined. Chill the dough in the fridge. It needs at least 2 hours, but I let mine chill overnight and it was great to work with the next day.

When the dough has been thoroughly chilled, it’s time to make the cookies. Preheat the oven to 350. I use a cookie scoop that measures about 1 tablespoon to make my cookies.

Scoop 12 chocolate dough balls onto a baking sheet, then scoop 12 peanut butter balls. Taking one chocolate and one peanut butter dough ball, press them together forming a ball. Repeat with all 12 cookies. The chocolate dough can be a mess, but chilling it really makes it easier to work with. Also, you can spray your hands with cooking spray if it’s proving to be a bit too messy.

Bake the cookies for 10-14 minutes. They will look like they’re not quite done, but you don’t want to bake them too long. Remove them from the oven and let them rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes to keep cooking before you transfer them to a cooling rack.

I found they worked a lot better when I pressed down the dough balls, flattening them a bit before putting them in the oven.

These cookies are soft and delicious, and if you’re anything like me you may have a problem stopping at just one… or two… or four…

These Decadent Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies are the perfect answer to all of the chocolate cravings that happen often in a house full of girls. They are definitely a new favorite.

How do you satisfy a chocolate craving?

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