Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Kids Hot Chocolate at Starbucks

 Did you know you can get a kids hot chocolate at Starbucks that comes just warm and not hot so they can gulp it down right away and you don't have to worry about them burning their tongue?
We only go for special occasions (usually while we are looking at Christmas lights or after sledding) but my kids love it.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Cardboard box fort with twinkling lights

We made use out of some of our old boxes and lights leftover from Christmas today and made a cardboard box fort.  After we taped it together I used a knife to put holes in the top to push Christmas lights through.
 
I let the girls decorate the walls and ceiling with markers, stickers and some colored flower cut outs I had leftover from another project.  They LOVED decorating the walls.
Now that it's done, I haven't been able to get them out of it!  They have been playing with their Christmas toys and as I am typing this are watching a movie in preparation to sleep under the twinkling lights all night long.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sweeto Burrito - and GIVEAWAY!!!

Do you want to WIN one of two $20 gift cards to Sweeto Burrito so you can have the fun outing we did this week?!?!  To enter, just comment on my posts on Instagram or Facebook.  It couldn't be easier!  Giveaway ends December 27.
Have you been to Sweeto Burrito in Orem?  Our kids loved it so much we have been twice in the last week.
They had a few kids meals to choose from, including chicken strips and fries and a cheese quesadilla.  My kids loved them and I loved that they were cheap!
My 3-year-old spent a good deal of time trying to make her fries and dip into a work of art.  Ha ha.
 My husband and I liked our food too.  My husband got "the Carnivore" with steak, chicken, bacon, pepper jack cheese, white ranch, cilantro ranch and a kiss of Sriracha.  I got the "buff chick" which had buffalo chicken, tater tots, cheddar cheese and cilantro ranch.  Mmmm.  I'm a sucker for buffalo chicken.
This time we decided to try the Bavarian cream filled churro for dessert to share.  My 6-year-old and I may or may not have been racing to eat it to see who could get the most bites before it was gone.  That churro was good.
 
Sweeto Burrito was the perfect place for our family to grab lunch this Christmas break.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Chocolate Crinkle Peppermint Cookies

My sisters, mom and I love to do holiday baking together.  This is a recipe we tried this year for the first time but loved so much we decided to make it every year.
 
Find the recipe we used here.

HuHot - Date night (and GIVEAWAY!!!)

Everybody has been so nice and positive about the post I did earlier this week on saving my marriage.  I have had a lot of people reach out to me asking what I do (or have done) to strengthen my marriage.  Maybe I'll post little things (and big things) we do for each other to keep us so happy as time goes on but for now I just want to stress the importance of frequent date nights in our relationship.
 
Guys...Date your spouse.  Date your spouse.  Date your spouse.  I can't stress enough how big of a difference it made when we sucked it up and started getting a babysitter every week to spend time together, just us.  We decided no matter how little money we had or how little time, we would always make it work - even something little - and we don't miss a week.
 This week we went with some friends to HuHot in Spanish Fork.  Have you been there?!?  My husband LOVES this place.  How can you go wrong with all you can eat Mongolian BBQ? 
 For those of you who aren't familiar with the gloriousness of Mongolian BBQ, you just fill up a bowl with meats/seafood, noodles, veggies and sauce and then they cook it right in front of you!  The sauce was my favorite part.  They had recipes you could use to get it just right.  Make sure you get at least 5-6 ladles of sauce to help cook and flavor it.  The staff there informed me the biggest mistake people make is adding too little sauce so don't skimp out!!
 After they cook it for you, top it off with a garnish or two (those crunchy noodles are my favorite) and you're ready to go!  And it's all you can eat!  My husband and his firefighter friend each had three bowls!
I loved the food.  Loved.  I tried the traditional Mongolian BBQ flavor, pad Thai and a spicier bowl and I loved them all.  I loved the Asian salad and rice it came with, which really rounded out the meal.  We got flavored lemonades and flavored sodas from their drink menu that has more options than some restaurants' entrée menus.  It honestly is really good food and a lot of fun.
 I'm always looking for a deal so I was excited to hear about their rewards program.  Sign up online or in store and get a FREE appetizer.  Once you're all signed up it's like an online punch card and once you've purchased 12 grill meals the 13th is free.  You also get updates on specials and deals and get a FREE BIRTHDAY MEAL FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!

Want to give HuHot as a gift?  Right now through the end of this month you can get $10 free when you buy $50 in gift cards, or $20 free when you buy $100.
 The amazingness didn't stop there!  We were super full and convinced we didn't want dessert until we saw this.  A S'MORES STATION!!!  We cooked our own s'mores over our very own tiny fire right at our table!  This was definitely worth $8 (it fed 4 people, making 8 s'mores) and I'll probably go back when I'm not so full just to get that dessert again.  $8 for dessert for 4 people?!?  You can't beat that!
The staff there was AMAZING.  So. Incredibly. Nice.  I was blown away with how nice and helpful they were.

Try it.  It's a perfect date night and one of our favorites because it's so fun.

Just Another Utah County Mom and HuHot are teaming up to offer 1 lucky couple a date night like the one we had at HuHot.  Do you want to win dinner for 2 at HuHot?  Just comment on my post on Instagram and/or Facebook for your chance to win.  It couldn't be easier!  Giveaway ends Dec 23.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Hot Cocoa Cookies

I hope you guys aren't getting sick of my holiday recipes because there are more on the way!
I made these hot cocoa cookies for the first time to take to my husband's work party last year and they were such a hit I ended up making them two more times before the Christmas season was over.  Everyone always raves about these so I usually end up making this recipe 2-3 times to take to parties or to munch on with family and friends.
 
The recipe I use can be found here.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Pretzel Bark

I'm a huge fan of caramel and pretzels together so I look forward to making this every holiday season.  In fact, my sister in law just sent me a series of snapchats of her loving every bite of this stuff.
 
Find the recipe I used here.

White Elephant Gift Idea - Photoshopped Firefighter Calendar

Looking for a great white elephant gift?  I've been giggling about the one I did for my husband's work party all week.
Basically I Facebook stalked the firefighters my husband works with, took their profile pictures and photoshopped them onto "sexy firefighter" bodies I found online.  Even if you're not a firefighter it's sure to be a hit!
 
The picture above is of my husband holding his month.
 
The only thing is I don't have photoshop so I used an online app to make the face swap, but I think the bad editing job just added to the humor.  You should have seen the person's face who opened it when he realized what it was.  Everyone at the party gathered around as we went month by month through and laughed and laughed.
 
I got it printed at the Kinkos in Provo and it was a big hit there too.  Oh man...I crack myself up.  See, it's almost a week later and I'm still giggling about it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Play-Doh Christmas gifts for kids - FREE template

 Looking for an easy and inexpensive gift your kids can give their friends?  Get the FREE template for each of these Play-Doh cutout cards below.
 
I just bought this pack of mini Play-Dohs for $5 to go along with the cards.
Ornament Play-Doh gift download here.
Snowman Play-Doh gift download here
Reindeer Play-Doh gift download here.
 
I'm still learning how to link documents to my blog so if it doesn't work email me at jessica@utahcountymom.com and I'll send it right over.

Homemade Peppermint Patties

Wow your family and friends at your next holiday party with these homemade peppermint patties.  These are a staple Christmas treat at my house because they are so good!
 
Find the recipe I used here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The moment we saved my marriage and the 6 words that started it all

DISCLAIMER:  It's kind of scary putting something this personal, vulnerable and intimate on a blog like this.  Please, please, be kind.
We call this picture "the miracle."
 
This week, Amber sent me the painting above that she created for me and my husband.  As soon as I opened it I cried.
 
A couple years ago things weren't going well.  Okay, that's probably a serious understatement.  To be more specific, I was heartbroken that my marriage and subsequently my life had both fallen apart.  I will always remember exactly where I was when that all changed.
 
We had an appointment we needed to go to and I was in the bathroom straightening my hair.  My husband came in and sat down, watching me.  He then looked up and asked "is it too late for us?"  He was being sincere.  I knew he didn't know the answer.
 
I took a deep breath and immediately said "no."  His face lit up a little bit.  I knelt down beside him and we talked.  We talked about hope.  We talked about faith.  We talked about us.
 
This is the place that we decided to make it work.  This is the moment we decided to defy the odds and make our marriage better.  We decided no matter what the cost or how hard it was, we would both do anything and everything possible to stay together, be in love, make it work.
 
From then on, our marriage would be our highest priority, our greatest focus.  We both had to make a lot of sacrifices.  We both had to work really hard.  We both had to do things we never would have thought even two months before were possible.
 
We did it.  We made it work.  We not only kept our marriage together, we made it strong.  We've never been more in love.  We've honestly never been happier.
 
People comment all the time how cute it is that we are so close, so in love.  They comment that we work so well together.  They ask us for advice, marriage advice.  Most of them have no idea we've been through so much.
 
We still work on it every day, not because we are trying to get stronger but because we are trying to stay strong.  Every morning my husband has an alarm that goes off in his phone that says "what have I done for Jessica today?"  He probably doesn't need a reminder but he starts off every day thinking about what he has and how he should be treating me.  We never want things to go back to the way they were.
 
I'll be honest, I'm a little hesitant posting all this for everyone to read.  Although my husband and I are both comfortable with and open about our past, I don't think most people we know have any idea what we have been through.  However, after a lot of discussion about it together, we decided if it helps anyone even have a glimmer of hope that their marriage can get better, that it's worth saving, then it's worth it.
 
I want to make two things extremely clear.
 
1.  My marriage was worth saving.  It's amazing.  Everything you have seen and will see on my blog, Facebook, Instagram etc. is genuine.  We are no longer, in any sense of the word, in a "struggling" marriage.  We are honestly and sincerely head-over-heels in love with each other.  We are best friends.  We are happier than we ever even knew was possible.  It was worth it.  This is why we spend so much time together.  This is why we try so hard to spend so much time as a family, because we don't take a second of it for granted.  It's what is most important to us and therefore gets most of our time and attention.
 
2.  I am not, nor do I pretend to be a marriage or personal therapist, although I am a strong advocate of seeing both if necessary.  I am not in any way saying my situation is just like everyone else's.  I am just saying for us, it's the decision that made all the difference, the best decision that we could have ever made.
 
I want to thank Recreate Memories, who paints pictures of memories you don't have a picture of, for giving me a painting we can hang in our bedroom as a permanent reminder of what we have.  It symbolizes both how far we have come and also how close we came to losing it all.  It will be an every day reminder of the importance of my marriage in my life.  I don't want to take even one second for granted.

Let's taco bout it - Cafe Rio Teacher gift and printable

I asked three different teachers this year what their favorite teacher gifts have been in years past.  Two of the three mentioned Café Rio gift cards, so I thought I would go with that this year.
 
Get this template free here.  I'm still learning how to link stuff so if that doesn't work, email me at jessica@utahcountymom.com and I'll send it right over.

Monday, December 12, 2016

My Grandma's caramels

My favorite Christmas treat to make would have to be these chewy, soft caramels my grandma used to make.  Every year my family begs me to make these and every year they're a hit.
 
My Grandma's soft, chewy caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 c sugar
1 c butter
1/4 t salt
1 1/2 c light karo syrup
 
Mix all ingredients in heavy sauce pan, stirring constantly.  Heat to 235°* or soft ball stage* (low heat so you don't burn it).  Pour into a cookie sheet or 9x13 pan (for thicker caramels), well buttered.  Cool.  Cut into bite-sized pieces and roll in waxed paper.
 
*Temperature for soft ball stage will vary according to elevation.  To figure out what the perfect temperate is for you, watch your candy thermometer as water boils and as soon as it boils, note the temperature.  Water boils at sea level at 212° so if water boils at your elevation at 210°, you are going to want to adjust the temperature above down 2°.  When cooking in northeast Orem, I cooked my caramels to 228°.  If you cook your caramels according to the "soft ball stage" line on your candy thermometer and you're at elevation, you will have cooked it too long and caramels will be hard.
 
*Another way to make sure you're getting it just right is to do the cold water test.  Just before you start, get a mug of ice-cold water with ice cubes in it and put it by the stove.  When you think the caramel is ready, drop a little into the ice water.  It will cool within a second or two and then you can fish it out and make sure it's the right consistency.  You want it to be soft and chewy, but not runny enough to stick to your fingers (or the paper) or that makes it hard to wrap.  If it's too hard it won't be as soft.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas in Color - and GIVEAWAY

GIVEAWAY:  Do you want to win a pass to take your family to see Christmas in Color in either Provo or Kearns?  Enter on Facebook or Instagram to win!  Giveaway ends December 14.
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We drove through Christmas in Color last night after we'd heard everybody raving about it.  According to their website it's Utah's biggest drive-through light show with over 1,000,000 lights!  I love that you just play a flat fee per car so my cousin and I piled our kids in the same car and drove around together enjoying the lights.
Just look at this (blurry) picture of my 3-year-old.  She loved it!  There is over a mile of lights choreographed to Christmas music.  It really was fun.
 
If you go, get discount tickets here.  They're a little bit cheaper and it's definitely worth the $15 to go.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Buffalo Plaid Pillows for under $10

I've been swooning over this buffalo plaid print lately and really wanted a couple throw pillows for my bed but the cheapest I could find with an online coupon and on sale was $17 a pillow.  I went to the fabric store to see if I could find fabric to make it for less and was unsuccessful.
 
Then I found a buffalo plaid throw on clearance at Kmart.com for $3.  THREE DOLLARS!!  I bought two (one for my pillows and one for the end of the bed), picked up two zippers and sewed pillow cases for two throw pillows I wasn't using anymore.  The whole project took me about an hour.  Anyone else loving this buffalo plaid trend?

Spuds - and GIVEAWAY

GIVEAWAY:  Let Spuds and Just Another Utah County Mom treat you to your own loaded potato!  TWO lucky winners will receive a $10 gift card to spuds!  Enter by commenting on my posts on Instagram or Facebook to win.  Giveaway ends Dec 16.
We tried out Spuds last night.  It just opened in Provo and I just heard about it but I guess it's been around as a food truck for a while and before that it was at the farmer's market.  Have you heard of it?
The basic idea is that first you pick your potato (baked, mashed or fries).  Then you pick what flavor you want and top it off with a few extra toppings.  I picked a baked potato with sweet and spicy pork (a lot like the pork at café rio) and added butter, sour cream, chives, cheese, jalapenos and onions.  I had never had pork on a potato before but I liked it!
My husband ordered the mashed potatoes topped with buffalo chicken, cheese, sour cream, chives and banana peppers.  What would you order on yours?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point - is it worth it? (and GIVEAWAY)

GIVEAWAY - Do you and your family want to go to Luminaria so you can have the same magical night together we did?!?!?  Thanksgiving Point and Just Another Utah County Mom are giving away 4 tickets to Luminaria!  Enter by commenting on my posts on Instagram or Facebook.  It couldn't be easier!  Giveaway ends December 11 at midnight.
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We went as a family to Thanksgiving Point's Luminaria last night.  We have an annual pass to Thanksgiving Point and so do several of my friends but EVERYONE I talk to has asked me the same thing....  "We are thinking about going, but haven't decided yet.  Is it worth it?"
 
I think the hesitation to go comes from the $20 for adults and $17 for kids 3-17 price tag.  Thanksgiving Point members get a 10% discount but still...
It's beautiful.  It really is magical and you can see it in my kids' faces in the pictures below.  I love that you have to reserve a time so it doesn't seem crowded.  I love a lot of things about it.
 
So, is it worth it?
I can tell you without hesitation if you go you will love it.  It's something that is fun for all ages.  My young kids loved it.  I saw teenagers there.  I saw grandmas and grandpas being pushed around in wheelchairs there.  I saw middle aged couples on dates there.  (Honestly, I think this would be a spectacular date choice.)
 
I think it all depends on how much money you feel comfortable spending.  If you pay to go to the tulip festival in the spring, you will love this.  I liked it a lot better than the tulip festival.  If you pay to go to Cornbelly's in the fall, I think it's just as fun.  If you're comfortable splurging on this once-a-year tradition, you'll have fun.  There really is nothing like it and I don't know of anywhere else you can go to get Christmas lights at this level.
 
However, if you are going to spend the whole time walking through thinking "I can't believe we spent $80 on this" you probably aren't going to enjoy it.  Not because it isn't magical or fun, because it is, but because the stress of the money will ruin the experience for you.
I think my favorite part is that while we walked through the pathways of lights, each place had a different smell.  We got to a place with flower lights that smelled like flowers.  There were places that smelled like pine.  It really was magical.
They did have these small heaters a few places throughout the pathways but dress really really warm.  I dressed my kids in their snow boots, snow pants, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves and coats and they still got a little cold.  Granted, it was in the low 20s last night and the wind was blowing but 95% of this is outside so dress warm.
The only part that isn't outside (above) is beautiful.  There were places to sit and admire the poinsettias and a place to buy hot chocolate or treats.  To top it off, the whole room smelled like Christmas!
I loved that it had a whole section devoted to Christ and the spiritual side of Christmas.  The picture above doesn't do it justice and show just how breathtaking the lit lanterns surrounding the statues of Christ were.
My kids loved seeing the live reindeer!
There was a place called Smores village with fire pits that also had games and fun things to do.  My husband insisted we played a little bit of corn hole and my kids loved posing in the snowman cutouts.  There was a super size lite brite and a track to race wooden sleds down.  You could also buy smores kits there to make over the fire.  I loved it because it wasn't crowded at all so everyone could play.
 If you go with kids, consider buying some glo-sticks before you go!  The cheapest place I've found them is actually at Macey's grocery store and I was wishing I had brought some along as we were walking around.
 
The picture everyone seems to have of Luminaria is of the colored lights right as you walk in all the way down the hill.  Did you know these lights change with the songs?!?  Watch the video below to see how cool it is!