Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year!!!

We are so excited to begin celebrating Chinese New year TODAY!!! 
 This year is the Year of the Horse, which is said to bring prosperity and wealth. The New Year is celebrated on the first day of the Chinese calendar, and continues until the Lantern Festival, which is held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.
For several years now, our family has been celebrating Chinese New Year! We have thoroughly enjoyed learning all about the culture and traditions centered around this amazing holiday.

In order to get ready for today's celebration, the kids and I took a little trip to the Grand Asia Market. The market is only about 5 minutes away from our house, but every time I walk in there, I am immediately transported back to China!
The sights, the sounds, and the smells...yes, it all takes me back.
The kids love walking around the store, checking out all the different fruits and vegetables they carry. But their favorite department to visit is the fish market. They sell a wide variety of fish and also have two huge tanks filled with fresh Tilapia. 
We picked up the few things we needed and then headed back home in order to get ready for our own new years festivities!
 The kids and I got our craftiness on as we made a few different Chinese New Year creations.

To welcome in the new year, Sophie, Hudson, and AK made these "good luck" signs to hang up around our home.
After decorating them, they each had fun picking out the perfect spot to display their new artwork.

Then we made some beautiful red paper lanterns to hang in the kitchen.
Red is a very important color during Chinese New Year. 
It symbolizes happiness and ultimate joy.

Lastly, the littles enjoyed making these fire breathing dragons!
Yup, they were the biggest hit of all, and the rest of the day I had three fierce little dragons running around;)
While the little ones were busy in the kitchen with me,
Corban and Riley were on the computer learning the art of origami.
They worked together and each made two different animals!
Can you read the bottom of Cor's fox???
It says, "What does the fox say?" HA!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it SNOW!

 So before I post pictures of the "Winter Blizzard" we experienced this week, I must first blog about the play date my sweet three had with their cousins last week. My sister, B, invited us to join her and her crew for a morning of fun at the Romp and Roll. The kids got to participate in one of their "free Friday" classes which they offer as a promotion from time to time. 
The girls picked the "Princess Party"class, while the boys headed to the gym for gymnastics! 
 Everyone had an absolute blast and are STILL talking about all the fun things they did while they were together.
Now onto our snow day...
So, we finally saw some snow down here in the south;) 
 After so many down right COLD days, it was a blessing to get a little snow to go along with the frigid temps we've experienced.

They were predicting several inches of accumulation,  but our area only got about an 1/2 inch. It wasn't even enough to cover the grass, but it was all we needed in order to cancel school (for two whole days)!!! 
We LOVE us some SNOW DAYS!!!!
Our driveway, which was coated with the perfect mixture of snow and ice, was awesome for sledding. We may not have been able to build a snowman (this time around), but we did have hours of sledding fun to keep us busy.
Here in the Carolina's, many of us don't even own sleds, so we have to improvise with... 
boogie boards. 
Surprisingly, they worked just as well;)
After several hours out in the elements, a nice cup of hot cocoa hit the spot!
So thankful for sweet snow days, cozy time at home, and the fun memories we made while it was here!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Painted Throw Pillows

So, are any of you fans of Groopdealz???? That and are two of my VERY VERY favorite shopping sites!! Seriously, they have THE cutest/trendiest stuff and it's usually very reasonably priced too. The only catch is that the deals they offer only last about 24 hours! So if you see something you can't live with out, act fast, because chances are they'll sell out quickly.
Anyway, both sites have been offering adorable pillow covers lately. I've been temped on several different occasions to purchase one (or four), but haven't just yet. 

Chalk Board Family POPULAR FABRIC Throw Pillow by decomodwalls, $25.00 
This was one of the covers I was thinking about getting. 
I mean, how cute is that...
I thought it would be a fun addition to the playroom sofa upstairs.
Well, I hemmed and hawed too long and missed the deal:( 
I think it was listed for $14.99. 
Still a bit high for my taste (and wallet), but after checking the vendors etsy site where it's sold for $29.99, I was bummed that I missed out on the sale.
BLACK HEART PILLOW by elasticco on Etsy - Photo 
I also had my eye on this one too. So cute...and super fun for Valentines day;)
But at $14.99 as well, I wasn't convinced it was a steal of a deal either. 

SOOOOOO...I decide to make my own;)

My plan was to get some fabric and make my own cover following THIS awesome tutorial,
but then I realized that Hobby Lobby had all their pillow covers marked 50% off this week!!!!
They had a GREAT selection and at $3-$5 a pop, I just couldn't go wrong. 

This was such a simple and fast project.
Here's all you need:
Pillow cover (picked up several from hobby lobby)
and insert
Good paint brushes
Fabric Paint. 
 Lay your pillow cover out flat and draw out your design using the chalk.
You could certainly use a stencil here, but for my pillow, I was going for a little less formal look.
 After you have created your design, place a brown paper bag in between the front and back cover to prevent your paint from bleeding. 
Now, carefully go back over your design with the fabric paint.
I recommend having several different sized brushes handy in order to get nice clean lines.
After it TOTALLY drives, wipe off all the excess chalk with a clean rag.
Stuff your cover with your pillow insert and ta's done!
This project took me less than 30 minutes to complete
and I spent less that $5.00.
And because this was such an easy (and cheap) project to complete, 
I went ahead and made a few heart pillows as well.
 Getting crafty AND saving money always makes me happy;)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Carolina Panther for the day

Well, we may not have been real Panther players for the day, but we sure did train like one.  Yesterday, I took my kids (plus one of Corban's good buddy's) to the Panthers Play 60 Kid Zone Park near uptown. 

This play area is a brand new addition to a popular park in our area and we (well, my BIG boys especially) couldn't wait to check it out. What was forecasted to be a freezing cold day out, turned into another beautiful, spring-like day. With mild temps, and a Carolina blue sky above, we enjoyed another fun day in the great outdoors.
My kids had a blast! Three hours...yes...180 minutes is how long they climbed, jumped, ran and played. They only paused for a quick picnic lunch before heading right back out to do it all over again!
They LOVED the obstacle course, but the 40 yard dash with the automated timing device was their absolute favorite!
And let it be known, that in this family, I currently am the fastest one at the 40 yard dash. Corban (bless his heart) spent most of his time at the park trying his best to beat me, but he just couldn't do it. He came really close, but his momma still holds the record...and it's driving him crazy--ha;)
 And while I relished in the fact that this is probably the only time in my life I can run faster than Cor, Riley was having a monumental moment of his own.
While playing on the obstacle course, he lost his third tooth!
Riley's really good at picking fun places to loose his teeth;)
His first one came out while we were at the zoo, his second fell out in the middle of a soccer game, and now his third was at the Panther Park;)
So fun!
Right before leaving the park, I asked the kids if they wanted to get their picture taken in the Panthers photo booth. The littles went first, and without missing a single beat Sophie Lu broke out into her Cam Newton, super man pose;)
Addy-Kate quickly followed suit--HA!!. 
Can you tell they have older brothers?!?!?
What a great day!
So thankful for the blessing of another wonderful day OFF from school 
 the sweet time spent with my kiddo's. 
After playing hard all day, I was also thankful for an early-to-bed-night for the entire Bruce bunch...and yes, that included me;)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A hiking we will go!

 I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE long weekends. 
And not only did Shane and the kids have Monday off from school/work, but the kids have Tuesday, AND Wednesday off as well!
And speaking of sweet, our weekend started out just that way.
We had my entire family over on Saturday evening to celebrate my mom's upcoming birthday. 
We enjoyed dinner together, and then for dessert my sister and I broke out our new chocolate fountains my grandma had given us for Christmas. 
Everyone had a blast dipping all sorts of delicious goodies into the fountain, but I think my nephew, Parker was the MOST excited about his yummy dessert.
On Monday, we decided to take advantage of some glorious Carolina weather. With temps in the mid 60's, we spent our day off exploring the great out doors.
We headed out just about an hour away for an afternoon of hiking fun at Crowders Mountain.
The kids were so excited and couldn't wait to start our climb up the mountain. Last year, we did this exact hike and ended up carrying little ones on and off as we walked. 
 Wow, what a difference a year makes! This time up, the littles required little assistance, and only Addy-Kate needed some help on the way back down;) 
Of course, the best part of the day is the breathtaking view that awaits you at the top. 
It makes the climb totally worth it;)
The kids thought it was so cool that way off in the distance we could see Shane's office building in uptown Charlotte.
After a rest and a little water/snack break, it was time to head back down. 
A picnic was waiting for us in the van, and after our three mile trek, we all had worked up quite the appetite. 
 After lunch, and a game of what was supposed to be NO TACKLE football-HA! we headed home.
What a fun day spent in the great outdoors 
with the people I love most!!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

GO team USA!!!!!

 We are really enjoying our weekends around here right now. Soccer season hasn't geared back up yet, so our Saturday mornings are much more relaxing than what we are used too. The kids are still up at the crack of dawn though, but it's a blessing NOT having a reason to rush right out the door. And even though there's not much sleeping in going on, it's still nice to just relax and take our mornings at a slower pace.
Of course, one of our very favorite places to be on a Saturday morning is in the kitchen. 
And this weekend, the kids helped me make these cinnamon roll pancakes for breakfast. 
I don't know why we haven't tried something like this before now.
They were absolutely DELICIOUS! 
 Definitely a new Saturday morning FAV around here!!!

After breakfast, Shane and I took the kids to the YMCA for a bit. The kids LOVE going and really enjoy their classes.  Their teachers are so sweet and they always have several  friends they know there to play with.  Shane and I get to work out together and it's kind-of  like a mini date for us;)

After the Y, we had a little surprise planned for the kids. We took them to watch the Paralympic Sled Hockey trials, which were being held at our local rink and open for the public to come enjoy.
We got to see the fierce competition between the  USA team and their biggest rival, team Canada. 
This game was their final competition before heading to the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in a few weeks.
Several of the players were amputee's, and many of them had been wounded in war.
During the game, we sat right behind a gentlemen who was waving a Marine flag. Shane, being a former marine himself, quickly struck up a conversation. The man told us that he was there to support his son's best friend, Josh.  His told us the story of how his sons squad had been serving  in Afghanistan, and while on a routine mission, they stepped on an explosive device. This man's son was miraculously unharmed, but his friend, Josh, was not so lucky. The son was able to pull Josh out of danger and get him the help he needed, but Josh lost both his legs in the ordeal. This man's son is still serving in Afghanistan today, but the father was at the game to show his support and love for Josh-who is now a starter on the paralympic sled hockey team.
So amazing!
As we sat there and watched these men compete, we were blown away by their drive and athleticism. 
Many of those men had to overcome great obstacles in life in order to reach their goals.
I'm sure there were many times they wanted to give up and quit, but they preserved through the challenges and it's paid off.
What an inspiration they were,
 and what a blessing it was to see these amazing hero's compete!
And our fingers are crossed that you'll be bringing home the GOLD in the 2014 winter games!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Baby, it's cold outside!

 When the weather dips down into the single digits around these parts, everything goes into shut down mode. No, there isn't an inkling of snow on the ground,  but it is freezing COLD outside Frigid, really! For us thin blooded southern folks, anything below freezing is considered arctic-like and we aren't cut out for it! As silly as it may sound, the south really isn't equipped to handle the extreme cold. Water pipes burst,  power outages happen, and schools close. 
Actually for us, the boys have had a two hour delay to their school day this week, and Sophie's preschool has not opened.
If I'm honest, it's actually been really nice to kind-of ease back into the school routine.  After being on Christmas break, starting our day at a much slower pace is a welcomed treat!
Both of my girls are fighting colds too, so it's been nice for them to just rest at home! 
Since it's been too cold to venture out these days, the littles and I have tried to stay busy (and warm) in the house.

There may be no snow outside, but the kids had a blast making these coffee filter snowflakes inside! 
And we now have a lovely display of colorful snowflakes hanging on our back door. 
Fingers are crossed that we will see some REAL snow this winter;)
 But when there's no snow in the forecast any time soon, we just pretend and get silly in the kitchen with our own "snow"!
I added just a bit of food coloring to some shaving cream and the littles were happy to sit and play for an hour!
When the boys got home from school in the afternoon, they helped me make these bad boys from the pioneer woman!!!
The recipe took a little time to make, but was ABSOLUTELY worth it!!!!! These homemade doughnuts just melt in your mouth,  and are bet-you-can't-eat-just-one-GOOD!!!
We have another two hour delay today, so I promised the boys doughnuts and hot cocoa for breakfast!
  A sweet start to another COLD day!

Monday, January 6, 2014

What's for Dinner???

 So I have this one little nook at the bottom of our stairs which serves as our "Command Center".  It's where all information pertinent to the Bruce family is communicated and displayed. It's also where book bags and lunch boxes are placed after being emptied at the end of a busy school day. Our family activity calendar is hung there, along with any other important information we need to know and remember. 
And in keeping with one of my new years resolutions to GET and STAY organized, I added this little addition as well...
 A Menu Board
 Meal planning can be such a chore sometimes, but I'm hoping this baby will inspire me and make it just a little easier. At the very least, it's chevron (my favorite), it's cute, and seeing it up on my wall makes me smile;)
 The tutorial on how to make one like this can be found here!
I love her suggestion to write the ingredients needed on the back of each meal card. 
Doing this makes creating a shopping list each week an absolute cinch. 
My kids (and hubby) like the board almost as much as I do, and they've enjoyed giving me suggestions on what they would like to see on the menu each week.  
And it's totally taken the guess work out of answering that age-old question..
."Mom...What's for dinner?"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Getting Organized

Okay, so one of my new years resolutions this year is to GET ORGANIZED!  I am a firm believer in "A place for EVERYTHING, and EVERYTHING in it's place"!
 Unfortunately, I live in a house with five little ones who don't always adhere to mom's motto. Clutter finds it's nasty way into our home and quietly settles in closets, drawers, and under beds. plan is to rid our home of unwanted junk and tackle the clutter head on.  I've decided to focus on just one room a week. This makes getting organized, for me, doable and not an overwhelming task. 
Getting organized is not JUST  about my home though. Yes, there are several areas that need my attention, but I'm also referring to our life and schedule as well. Like so many of you, our life is CRAZY! We run here and there...daily. And with four out of my five kids attending three different schools this year, it can feel utterly impossible to keep everything straight.  
That's where my BFF comes in. Yes, as silly as it may sound, this baby is my BEST FRIEND and most trusted companion. 
She is always by my side and I NEVER leave home with out her;)

With everything going on in my life, I NEED a good planner! 
 Yes, I've tried to go all electronic and just use the
 calendar on my phone. 
I've also tried the COZI app. which came highly recommended by friends. 
What I quickly realized was that I like a PAPER planner. 
I like to keep birthdays, appointments, sporting practices, church events, running schedule, and even my meal calendar all in ONE spot.
I also like to see it all in front of me at one time.
For me, it's just easier to plan that way.
So, when my friend Kim introduced me to the Erin Condren life planner several years ago, I had my doubts. I mean, I had heard so much about them, but would it really work for me?
 The answer...
For three years now, I have purchased and used an Erin Condren life planner! 
 I LOVE it and will never use anything else!!! 
You can choose from a bazillion different designs, and this year I even customize mine with a collage of our family photos! 
I can't wait to get it!!!!!!!
Okay, so yes...this planner is a little more expensive than others I have purchased, but I promise, it is worth EVERY penny.
Oh, and by the way, follow this link for a $10 off coupon!
{FYI...The link will send you to a page where you have to create an account to get the coupon
Once you sign up, you'll receive another email with a $10 OFF coupon code that you can use for your first purchase.} 
If for some reason you have trouble getting the coupon, leave me a quick comment with your email address and I'll send you a coupon. 

You're welcome;)  
Now...go get organized!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Let's go skating!

 Last night, we took our little crew roller skating! Our local rink offers a great deal for families each Friday night {skating for 5, pizza, and drinks for just $20.00}. A steal of a deal, right?!?

The BIG boys LOVE to skate and are actually quite good at it.
 They love racing around the rink as fast as they can, but are also very sweet about offering a hand to the little ones who are still learning.
The littles are making great progress though. 
This visit, they actually stayed UP on their skates more than they were DOWN;)
I'll let you in on a little secret...
 This man of mine is a machine when it comes to skating. Shane's mom actually worked at rink when he was little, so he grew up skating all the time. Seriously...he can twist, turn, and break it down with the BEST of em';) 
The kids love it and think he's a skating super hero;)

I just keep my fingers crossed that with all that twisting and turning, he doesn't throw out his back;)