January 2, 2016

Top 10 Posts of 2015

Happy New Year! 

This past year had fewer posts than ever here at This Simple Home. As my children get older, I seem to be the one who is busier. That combined with other writing commitments and desires, blogging must take a backseat. However, YOU, faithful readers, keep coming back when I share anything new and return for the old posts, too. Thank you for visiting and sharing what you like!

Here are the TEN MOST VIEWED 2015 POSTS in case you missed any!

10. Photo Shoot for Kids at Home
9. Chicken and Waffles Recipe 
8. How to Make an Image Hyperlinked in Blogger
7. How to Make Pie Crust 
6. Ranch Chicken Recipe (Oven-Baked) 
5. Cinnamon Dippers (Semi-Homemade) 
4. Rainbow Yogurt
3. 10 Things to Know About Go Set a Watchman 
2. Small Space Mudroom Alternative 
1.  Clutter-Free Printables

Here are two recipes that nearly made the top ten. I hope you'll give them a try!

The most-visited post of all time at This Simple Home is THIS ONE! I still use it regularly!

If you haven't liked This Simple Home and Little House Companion on Facebook yet, please do so! I also have an occasional newsletter if you are interested. Thanks so much for supporting this blog!

Monday will arrive too soon with alarm clocks and schedules. Bummer! Christmas vacation has been fun!

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December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas!
~ Annette
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December 8, 2015

Handprint Christmas Tree Craft

We are keeping things a little more low-key this year for Christmas, but when our church's children's director gave me this handprint Christmas tree idea, I knew we'd do it.

Really it took just a few minutes. I traced all the hands and Big Sister helped me cut them out.
We have it displayed above our sofa table. The handprint Christmas tree is a nice crafty touch to our home.

If you don't already follow This Simple Home on Facebook, do so today! I've been giving daily recommendations for children's Christmas books as we read through our collection of Christmas books. (These are some of the HIGHLY recommended Christmas books! Lots of fun!

~ Annette
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December 2, 2015

Christmas Books for Children

With December's arrival, it's time to prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas. We may not have our Christmas tree yet, but we're already pausing to consider the joy of Christmas. For the past seven or so years, I've been collecting Christmas books for children. Some are funny. Some are serious. Some are classics. (Used book stores are a great resource for Christmas books! So is your local library.) All contribute to a favorite family tradition.

To enjoy our favorite Christmas books slowly, I would give one (or more) books to the children each day. Some people wrap the books, but I have a decorative box with a bow that I place books in for the children to open. Until now.
Children's Christmas Books in Basket for December
Today I decided to make it a little easier for me this year. I dug out our wicker laundry basket and placed all of our Christmas titles in it.

Our family's focus is on the birth of Christ. We read from the Bible and use our Little People nativity set. We have a homemade Jesse Tree.  Many of our Christmas books discuss the birth of Jesus (some more accurately than others) and some have Santa in them or just cute mice.

Compare this year's basket to the one we used a few years ago when I first shared about reading a Christmas book daily in December.

It seems this could be part of my Less-Stressed Christmas series. :) I'm all about that! See the list of posts below.
Photo Christmas Card AlternativesWhat to do when you cannot get a nice picture of your family.
Preparing Christmas CardsSeveral ideas to prepare now for Christmas cards without actually putting them together yet.
Alternative Gift Giving: Give more time of yourself and experiences instead of more "stuff."
Christmas Gift Planning: Plan now for giving later.
Children's Christmas Letter Printable: Use a simple form letter to find out what the children really want for Christmas this year.
9 Ways to Celebrate Christmas Daily in December: A variety of ways to remember Christmas every day as an adult or with family.
10 Children's Christmas Books: Our favorite Christmas books.
20+ Gifts for Kids, Ages 5-8: Gift ideas we have or want.

Would you join this Christmas journey with me? See all of the Less-Stressed Christmas posts.

This Christmas if you are shopping at Amazon, consider using the link in the sidebar (or any Amazon link from this blog) to support this blog. I earn a tiny percent of the cost of the product you purchase at no additional cost to you. Thanks!
~ Annette
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November 23, 2015

Give Thanks

Friends, I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving.
~ Annette
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November 4, 2015

4 Ways to Help Children to Cope with Early Mornings

My nine-year-old hops in the van at 6 o'clock in the morning so I can drive her to the bus stop. No matter the day, it's always dark at that time. In order to have breakfast and get ready for the day, she has to get up at 5:30. We've learned a few things to make it easier for my sleepy girl to get up so early in the morning. One small thing has made ALL the difference in our early mornings. 
Getting a child up at 5:30 isn't easy, but one "trick" makes all the difference.
First Day of School 2015-2016

Go to Bed Early

Of course everyone should realize that if a child wakes up early they should go to bed early. (Adults should likely consider this more often.) However, it may be ridiculously early. We start with the bedtime routine about 6:30 p.m. so we have time to get dressed for bed, brush teeth, read together (both Bible and a book), and pray. This also allows for a few minutes of independent reading until 7:15 when the lights go out.

October 26, 2015

Mom and Daughter Time with Secret Keeper Girl #SKGTour

If you are looking for a way to treat your daughter to a night of fun in a Christian environment, I would definitely recommend Secret Keeper Girl. It really was lots of age-appropriate (ages 8-12) fun, faith, and friends.
Combined with some games and music, the Crazy Hair tour also offered tips on choosing modest clothing. There was a good amount of teaching and stories. The audience was encouraged to do motions. A new one for us was to sit criss-cross applesauce in front of a mirror and see what everyone else could see.

October 2, 2015

Parenting Like Wolves (with Video)

Just as a few wolves changed the geography and rivers of Yellowstone National Park, as moms, we can change the behavior and attitudes of our families.

Next week I'm giving a talk to a local MOPS group about patience in parenting. (Don't laugh if you know me. It's really not about me.) I'm ending the talk with this because I think it's powerful. (See my website if you're interested in my talks.) 

*Update* This talk has also been adapted for a general audience of women instead of focusing on moms.
Public Domain image from YNP

Wolves Reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park has an incredible story based upon scientific research from the past twenty years when wolves were reintroduced to the park. We know wolves kill, but they also give life. After a 70-year absence of wolves, the elk and deer population had increased beyond human intervention in the park. The vegetation was nearly gone; the elk and deer had grazed it away. Forty-one wolves were introduced to the park from 1995-1997, yet they immediately began to affect it. Of course they killed a few deer, but more significantly, they changed the behavior of the elk and deer. These animals began avoiding the valleys and gorges where they could easily be killed. Those areas began to regenerate grass and vegetation. The once bare valleys became forests which brought the birds. Beaver began to increase since they liked the trees. The beavers dammed the rivers, creating habitats for birds, fish, reptiles, along with otter and muskrats and other creatures. The wolves killed coyotes. Fewer coyotes meant more rabbits and mice. So the hawks and eagles moved in along with foxes, badgers, bear, and weasels. Populations began to rise.

September 21, 2015

DIY Statue of Liberty Costume

Big Sister loved the Statue of Liberty before she saw it in person. The summer when she was 4 and Brother was 2 (and Little Sister was nearly here), we took the kids into New York City. Though we did not visit Ellis Island or Liberty Island, we made sure to see the Statue of Liberty from a ferry. Using the foam crown we bought as a souvenir, we created a homemade Statue of Liberty costume for Big Sister. 

September 8, 2015

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownie Recipe

This peanut butter brownie recipe comes from my appreciation of the boxed brownie mixes and peanut butter. The swirled peanut butter brownies are easy to make with just a quick adaptation to the boxed brownie mix. If you have a favorite brownie recipe from scratch, use that instead of the boxed brownie mix.
Prepare yourself for a rich and delicious peanut butter and chocolate dessert. My six-year-old son recently requested brownies so we made these together. He was very proud of his efforts. He was in charge, and I was the assistant.

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

1 batch prepared brownie batter (from a box or from scratch)
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

  1. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips to the prepared brownie batter. Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together butter, peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Pour most (about 3/4) of brownie batter in a greased brownie pan. Spread evenly. Place spoonfuls of peanut butter filling on top of the brownie batter. 
  4. Spread the peanut butter filling on top of the brownie batter. 
  5. Drizzle the remaining brownie batter on top of the peanut butter filling. 
  6. Use a knife to swirl the peanut butter filling somewhat through the brownie batter. To do so quickly drag the knife back and forth in the batter. Do not over swirl.
  7. Bake at 325° for 10+ minutes more than the brownie recipe calls for. An 8x8 pan took 45 minutes in my oven to bake. (A 9x13 pan may take about an extra 10 minutes, but an 8x8 pan will take longer. If the brownie mix is "family-size" it may take even longer. 
Pan size will make a big difference for the baking time. The brownies should be baked when the edges begin to pull away from the pan or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I've been doctoring brownie mixes since I was a teenager. Typically I just add chocolate or peanut butter chips to improve the standard mix. When I want a special brownie, I make double-decker brownies from scratch. since they are frosted, they're especially a big hit for potluck gatherings.

I think these peanut butter swirled brownies will be my new go-to for quick and easy. Remember, they're easy enough for my son to make with a little assistance.

Be sure to check out all of our family-friendly recipes! If you haven't liked us on Facebook yet, be sure to do so.

~ Annette
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