Season’s Readings: a Service Project

One of my favorite things is reading books with my kids. They love the cuddles and funny voices; I love that their minds are growing every time we read together! I believe every child needs books in their lives, but the sad thing is, not every kid has that. That’s why I’m so excited to tell you about this wonderful opportunity to serve others this holiday season and give the gift of LITERATURE to children this year!

The beautiful, thoughtful, generous Aleisha (aka Mama Leisha) and her beautiful, thoughtful, generous sister Erika are being Santa’s little helpers by sending books to kids in need this year!  And they need YOUR help! Click here to help them raise money to cover shipping costs and to bring smiles and stories to sweet little kids. ALSO, follow leishmcd on Instagram  for info on how to donate books, or to submit the name of a child who could benefit from this wonderful cause, #seasonsreadings. Lastly, please help spread the word and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!! Share this post on Facebook, pin it, tweet it, whatever! And share this link  to help make this a success!

Thank you! And HAPPY HOLIDAYS!



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Fiesta Chicken Mac & Cheese

Every now and then I like to pretend I’m Rachael Ray and invent my own recipes. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out so great. But sometimes the planets align and I come up with a total winner. Last night was one of those special, special times. Everyone cleaned their plates and nobody complained when I served the leftovers for lunch today. Write this one down and throw it in the recipe box…er…your Pinterest board!

Fiesta Chicken Mac & Cheese

3 cups macaroni

2 chicken breasts, chopped

¼ cup Italian dressing

1 Tbsp Chili powder

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup corn

1 cup salsa

½ cup green pepper

4 oz cream cheese, cubed

1 cup (or more) cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13×9-inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Boil noodles according to package directions, drain. While pasta is cooking, in large pan, cook chicken in a little bit of oil. Add green pepper and dressing, cook 3 minutes more. Add chili powder, beans, corn, cream cheese, and salsa. Stir until cream cheese melts. Toss in macaroni*. Stir in half the cheddar and pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheddar on top and bake 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

*You can stop at this point and sprinkle with cheese, serving it as a skillet meal, if desired.

Serves 6

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Thanksgiving Traditions

Photo by Brian Tuttle (

I truly appreciate Thanksgiving and all the warmth, happiness, and blessings that it brings. What better way to realize how amazing life is than by counting your blessings and feeling satisfaction with all that you have? But it wasn’t always that way. Growing up, Thanksgiving wasn’t my favorite. It was sandwiched between two of the greats: Halloween and Christmas, and I really didn’t like turkey (call me crazy). So I’m trying to make it a fun and memorable holiday for my children. One that they will look forward to, not just one that we have to pass through to get to Christmas. Here are some of my family’s traditions, and some that I’ve rounded up from the interwebs.

Thanksgiving Plates

I’m super proud of this one because it sprang from my very own brain. It’s so cheap and so very easy, but it’s probably the one tradition that I will cherish the most. Record the things your family is most grateful for on a dinner plate. The next year, use the plate at Thanksgiving dinner. After a few years, you’ll have a good set of special plates to eat your holiday meal off of, as well as a record of Thanksgivings past. Boom. For full instructions click here.

Tree of Blessings

Simply make a tree trunk from paper, cut leaves from colored paper or trace the little hands in your family and use those as leaves. Each day during November, write down one of your many blessings on the leaf/hand and stick it to the tree. By Thanksgiving you will have a full and beautiful tree of blessings! There are lots of variations of this activity like this garland, and this jar.

 thankfultreephoto credit

Service Project

What better way to show you are grateful than by serving someone else? The possibilities are endless on this one: make cookies for a neighbor, rake someone’s leaves, deliver a meal to someone in need, donate warm clothes to a local coat drive, provide Thanksgiving dinner for a needy family (or give them cash to help them provide their own), volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Find some way to bless someone else’s life in any way, large or small.

Write Thank You Notes

Express your gratitude to those you love by writing down your thoughts and feelings and sharing it with them. It’ll make their day, and yours too! Help your children with this activity and teach them the importance of a genuinely saying “thank you” regularly.

Gratitude Rolls

I’ve never actually tried this one but I think it looks fun and a little quirky (which translates to fun). I found it here. Basically, you write down what you’re thankful for on a little strip of paper and bake it into a dinner roll. Read them around the Thanksgiving table. It’s kind of like a weird fortune cookie of gratitude. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

Festive Cookies

There are so many cute ideas for Thanksgiving cookies out there. Here are some of my favorites (thank you Pinterest!): Pilgrim hat cookies, acorn cookies , turkey cookies (and a few other snacks), pumpkin snickerdoodles. Yum!

Story of the First Thanksgiving

I know this story isn’t really all that historically correct, but it’s traditional and nice. Gather the kids around and tell them about the pilgrims and the Indians, or better yet, don your best costumes and act it out with them! Finish up with a feast of your own!

Thanksgiving Books

You guys know this is one of my favorites. There are so many sweet little stories about blessings and gratitude, Pilgrims and Indians, turkeys and family dinners out there! Go get them! The Library has tons to offer and your little kiddies will love the time you spend reading to them!

Turkey Crafts/Decorations

My kids love to make things, whether it’s drawing and coloring, or popsicle stick crafts, or art from construction paper. And I love it because I get to display it and show them how proud of them I am. Win win. Here are some ideas to get them going if they aren’t already bringing home a million pieces of artwork from school. This candy corn turkey is easy. Here is a whole slew of ideas including wreaths, hand print turkeys, and trees. And this one is just a fun fall tree if you’re all turkied (that’s not a real word is it…) out. I’m not sure where this collections of printables fits but it just seems helpful.

I hope these traditions help to make your Thanksgiving special and memorable! And I would love to add some new ones to the list. What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Please leave a comment!

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Thanksgiving Dinner Plate Craft

A few years ago I was looking for a way to make Thanksgiving dinner more special. I was also in search of a way to remember past Thanksgivings and all the things we were thankful for then. What I came up with takes care of both of those things! Now we do this every year! We use the plates from years past to serve Thanksgiving dinner on. Here’s how you do it:

1. Take a porcelain plate, any cheap one will do, and a porcelain 150 pen, or any porcelain paint pen (a Sharpie won’t work!). I bought mine at Walmart.

2. Have your family write down what they are most thankful for that year. Include names and ages and whatever else you like.

3. Bake the plate at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes to let the writing set.

Ta-Da!! That’s it!  I love the way this preserves my children’s handwriting, as well as the Thanksgiving memories. Enjoy! For a list of more Thanksgiving traditions click here.

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Simplify and Savor the Season

It’s almost Halloween (eek!)! The holidays are upon us and I couldn’t be happier about it! But I know the holidays also bring a lot of stress. Despite our best efforts and hope for making the season feel all cozy and warm and magical and fuzz-covered, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Am I right?

For me, holiday stress doesn’t come from a lack of ways to make memories, or feeling stumped on how to inject the aforementioned fuzzy magic into each day. I’m kind of a Pinterest Mom. Enough said (watch for a long list of holiday traditions to come in the future). My problem with this time of year is in the savoring part. I get so wrapped up in orchestrating it all that I forget to slow down and enjoy each moment as we’re making the memories. Good news, friends! I recently came across a book that is specifically designed to help alleviate holiday stress. It’s called Simplify and Savor the Season, by Connie Sokol.

This book works like a step-by-step guide to helping you plan your holiday season. It focuses on simplifying by prioritizing activities and events, making a plan, and keeping the people that you love and the spirit of the season in mind. There are worksheets to help you stay organized (maybe my favorite part), and even sweet and funny stories to help you get into the holiday spirit.

The “savoring the season” section of the book is exactly what I need! The book defines savoring as “reclaiming the magic of the season, to experience a mature version of what our young children instinctively feel”. I think that’s something we all want, to feel that magic again. Connie gives you three questions to ask yourself in order to keep things simple and to make sure you’re actually enjoying yourself (imagine that!):

  • Am I doing this to create family memories, or for show?
  • Am I making this because I love my family, or to check if off the list?
  • Am I being present in the moment and enjoying this event or am I thinking ahead to when it will be done, or planning the next thing?

This book was just what I needed to help me handle the stress of the season so that I can spend more time enjoying it! I can’t wait to get planning!

Ready for the part with the free stuff? There’s a GIVEAWAY! Please enter below for your chance to win a FREE copy of Simplify and Savor the Season as well as the Simplify and Savor Planner!

Or, if you don’t have your patient pants on and can’t wait for the giveaway, you can purchase your copy of Simplify and Savor the Season right now by clicking here. If you purchase the book any time during the month of October you will receive a FREE Simplify and Savor Planner. It’s the perfect way to keep your holidays on track. There’s even a gift set version available for purchase here if you’d like to share this wonderful book with your friends!

And for all you book club ladies, join Connie for her first “Virtual Book Club”. You can work personally with Connie to set goals, get feedback and read her book together! Email Connie ( put BOOK CLUB in your message. She will be choosing 8 women to participate! Fun!

I hope this helps you as you start to think about the upcoming holiday season. Good luck on the giveaway! I’m going to turn on my Christmas music now. Just kidding (but seriously). Happy Holidays!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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