Timeless Toys You’ll Want to Keep Forever

I’m not sure how I got here, but here I am. I’m the mother of four sons who are growing up, leaving the nest, and embracing adulthood.

None of my kids are looking to get married the day after tomorrow, but as fast as time flies and as quickly as seasons change, I can see weddings and gorgeous daughters and beautiful grandbabies as I peek around this corner. It’s ridiculously exciting as we pray and trust God’s timing and plans for our sons.

This is where my brain lives now, so don’t mind me. But do take note as you think about what toys to buy for little ones for Christmas. You might want to consider those that are worth keeping around forever.

At our house, we’ve gotten rid of all the junk toys. Gone are the toys that were fun for five minutes before they broke or the toys that were trendy but got boring quickly. What’s left? Well, toys that I’m keeping for my future grandbabies. Toys that are worth keeping. Toys that are such good quality that they lived through four boy children drop-kicking them across the house twelve times each day for over a decade.

My friend Kim helped me put this list together of “Timeless Toys.” Toys that never get old. Toys that are of high quality and are very durable. Toys that are wonderful to have for young guests to play with. These are the toys we recommend most highly!

Timeless Toys You'll Want to Keep Forever

Timeless Toys You’ll Want to Keep Forever

legoduplos

Building Toys

green_toys

Cars and Trucks and Toys that Go

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Puzzles of Good Quality

HiHoCherryOGame

Board Games

Click over to look at our great big list of family Board Games! But for younger kids, we recommend:

Doll

Dolls and Accessories

green toys shape

Toy Sorters and Stacking Cups

Tools

Tools

CashRegister (1)

Toy Cash Register

little people barn

Fischer Price Little People

Check out the huge variety of toys and play sets!

Little People Toys and Play Sets

Kitchen

Play Kitchen with Toy Food and Dishes

What are some of your family’s favorite toys that you plan to hold onto forever?

This post contains my affiliate links.

How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice

I read and hear the debates every year at this time: Pumpkin Spice Coffee, or no?

Pumpkin Spice MIx

I promise to love you no matter your preference in this matter, but I have to admit that when it comes to Pumpkin Spice in my coffee: I heartily vote no!

Not that I’ve actually ever tried it. I’m sorry. I’m a coffee-with-cream girl and I’ve already made up my mind about Pumpkin Spice Lattes before I’ve tried a sip. Can I pretend to be a 5-year old and say, “I don’t like that” even though I’ve never actually tried it?

I’ll try all the new vegetables put in front of me. I’ll give most foods a fair chance. But when it comes to my beloved coffee combined with the fun, seasonal pumpkin spice, that is where I must draw the line.

I do love eating a pumpkin spice treat with my coffee. But to stir the pumpkin spice directly into my coffee, on purpose, with a spoon? Now why would I want to go and ruin my morning like that? Why?

I’d love to hear how all of you feel about the infamous Pumpkin Spice Lattes. It’s possible that some of you love them so much that you are convinced that they were served at The First Thanksgiving. With a dollop of cool whip. And topped with a candy corn.

I can’t even.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Mix

Now the cinnamon-nutmeg-clove pumpkin spice combination itself – this is the essence of fall. When making a pumpkin treat of any kind, I have always pulled out the variety of spices needed and added them each separately. But in the name of simplicity, this year I decided to shake together my own little jar of Pumpkin Spice perfection.

This year as I make all of our fun pumpkin muffins, pies, pancakes, and cookies, I’ll save myself a bit of time and effort and get out my cute jar of Pumpkin Spice.

Think of all the precious seconds I’ll save because of this new jar of Pumpkin Spice I have finally added to my kitchen. Thanks to this, I’ll actually have time to tie my shoes before running out the door.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice

How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice
 
Author:
Serves: ½ cup
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon ground allspice
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients and store the spice blend in an airtight container.

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Spice Mix

What to Make with Pumpkin Spice

From now on, I’ll sub my Pumpkin Spice in all my Pumpkin Recipes!

12 Pumpkin Recipes

 

Here are some of our featured Pumpkin Recipes!

Be on the lookout this fall for several new recipes we can use with Pumpkin Spice. I’ve been experimenting and to be sure, my house smells wonderfully pumpkin spicy all the time right now!

If you’d like to shake some Pumpkin Spice into your coffee, please go right ahead. I’ll even sit with you while you drink it. We can still be friends.

Do tell. Are you a Pumpkin Spice Latte lover?

11 Fun Recipes for the Fourth of July (That Won’t Keep You in the Kitchen All Day)

The thing about making special food for any holiday is that too often the cooking and the clean up take away from our holiday fun. Here’s what I suggest you do this Fourth of July and every special day:

strawberries

  • Choose simple recipes.
  • Make everything you can ahead of time so you can enjoy the day.
  • Stick with basic sides like watermelon and other fresh fruit, corn on the cob, and tossed salad (all easy to prep!).
  • Get your family involved in helping with prep and clean up.
  • Embrace the paper plate. (Do whatever you want with this piece of advice. Most of the time I avoid disposables, but to everything there is a season. So if I really want to enjoy my people and not stand at the sink rinsing a bunch of dishes, I pull out the paper products.)

watermelon

Now let’s talk about the simple recipes. Of course we will choose simple recipes. We love Simple. This is how we survive each day and also how we make holidays special. We keep it simple. We stick with basics. We go with what we know everyone likes. The beauty of all of this is that our food tastes amazing even without extra effort! (Real food is cool like that. It tastes great because it’s real and it can’t help but taste wonderful!)

11 Fun Recipes for the Fourth of July

11 my favorite simple recipes for the Fourth of July!

1. Americana Cheesecake Parfaits

The cheesecake part of this recipe (white) whips together in just a few seconds. Add strawberries (red) and blueberries (blue) and you’ve got a beautiful and super delicious treat for the 4th!

Americana Cheesecake Parfaits

2. Raspberry Sweet or Unsweet Tea

Making fruit teas like this is super simple, and this Raspberry Tea turns a pretty shade of red. I’m thinking we could throw some frozen blueberries into the glass to make it a perfect Fourth of July drink. You might also want to try Peach Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea or Mango Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea so that you can set out a variety of good choices.

How to Make Raspberry Sweet or Unsweet Tea

3. Strawberry-Blueberry Shortcake

Strawberries and Blueberries appear to be the real food MVP of the Fourth of July. Raspberries too. Make this simple Shortcake Recipe, then set out blue and red berries along with whipped cream.

Strawberry Shortcake with Whole Wheat and Honey

4. Strawberry-Blueberry Shortcake Waffles

This is the same idea, but you can make your shortcake in the waffle iron for a pretty and fun twist on this favorite dessert. Might as well serve it for breakfast, because why not?

shortcake waffle4

5. Strawberry-Blueberry Shortcake Muffins

Okay fine. One more Shortcake variation and then I’ll move on. Sometimes it’s fun to make your shortcake batter in muffin tins and serve them as individual cakes with fruit and whipped cream on the side!

strawberry_shortcake_muffins_2

6. Very Berry Brownie Cups

Phew, this recipe has been on my site since before I had an actual camera. But the recipe is as good as ever and fun for people to build their own brownie cup!

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7. Pineapple Cream Dessert

Orange you glad I didn’t say strawberries and blueberries again? This recipe is so refreshing on a hot summer day that it makes its way onto this list even though it’s not red, white, or blue. (But far be it for me to say that you can’t add strawberries and blueberries as a garnish.)

pineapple dessert 3

8. No Flour Monster Bars

This recipe makes the list because everyone loves them. Also, they are easy to make ahead of time and set out for grab-and-go snacking. If you want, you could stir in some red, white, and blue M&M’s, but you never heard that from me. Food coloring is bad. Avoid it at all costs. ;)

Real Food Monster Cookie Bars

9. Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

Here I go again with the red and blue berries. Serve them with this simple dip and it will be a big hit!

strawberry_dip_2

10. Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

See if you can find some 4th of Julyish mini-muffin paper liners. Make these super simple cookies with stars in the middle!

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Star Cookies

11. Brownie Sundae Bar

This is super fun if you’re feeding a crowd, so everyone can build their brownie sundae however they like!

Build a Brownie Sundae Bar

Creating this list has made me want to make every single one of these recipes for the 4th! I think I just might.

What are your Fourth of July plans? What are your favorite foods to make for the 4th?

Free Printable for Christmas Menu Planning (Plus our Christmas Menu and Recipes)

I function much better when I have a list. I like my lists better when they’re cute. So I made this for all of my cute list-making needs. I thought you might want or need it also as you plan a menu for this week. So here you go!

Christmas Munchies Free Printable

Download FREE Christmas Munchies Menu Planner Here

Last week, I sat down with the boys to get some ideas of what they wanted to munch on the week before Christmas, and especially on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (We’ll be home – just the 6 of us – this year. Then we’ll travel to visit extended family after Christmas!) I want to make our favorites but take a break from the kitchen too. That’s why you’ll see some compromise foods in our list. It’s Christmas, right? Bring on the pre-made pizza. :)

Snacks

Cinnamon Sugar Pecans, Spicy Avocado Dip with chips, Real Food Velveeta and Rotel Chip DipCoconut Fudge BarsEasy Veggie Dip

Easy Veggie Dip 1

Sweets

Low Sugar Frosted Sugar CookiesDark Chocolate Peppermint MousseHot CocoaWhite Chocolate Peppermint PopcornCranberry Orange Scones,

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mousse

Christmas Eve

Summer Sausage, Cheese, Crackers, Olives, Fruit, Carrots, Cucumbers, Take-and-Bake Pizza, Sparkling Juice, Caramel Popcorn

Caramel Popcorn With No Corn Syrup!

Christmas Breakfast

Cinnamon Swirl Bread, Easy Breakfast Casserole, Fruit

egg_casserole

Christmas Dinner

Lasagna (recipe in Oh, For Real!), Tossed Salad, Green Beans, Strawberry Christmas Salad, Sparkling Juice

Strawberry Christmas Salad

This Strawberry Christmas Salad recipe is coming up tomorrow!

Other Christmas Break Meals

Crepes with fruit and/or Cream Cheese Filling, Tacos with homemade tortillasBarbecue Brisket, Spiral Cut Ham, Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole

Bacon Hashbrown Casserole

It’s so nice to take a break from school work, music lessons, basketball practice, and all the hubbub of normal days! More than anything, it’s great to have Asa home from college for an extended time. (He nailed his first college semester away from home. We’re super proud of how hard he worked to keep his grades up. Now it’s time for him to catch up on some sleep!) I’m looking forward to some down time, movie watching, and game playing with the family during the next few days!

What special meals and snacks are you eating this week?

Dear Husband Who Isn’t Sure What to Get His Wife for Her Real Food Kitchen

Hey Ladies. Today, I wrote a post to your husbands. I thought they might appreciate some sly gifting suggestions. You can thank me later. Feel free to read this and put brightly colored stars on your computer screen to mark which of these you really want your husbands to take note of. 

Dear Husbands,

I’m Laura. Nice to meet you. I spend quite a bit of time with your wife each day. We have fun together. Perhaps she’s mentioned me? You’ve likely eaten a thing or two that I’ve shared here. It was probably that one recipe that you said, “Mmm, this is good” and she said, “I got the recipe from that one heavenly homemaker lady who has four sons and loves butter and hates cleaning. She can’t talk and cook at the same time, but her recipes are good.”

Today I wanted to offer you all a little bit of help. Christmas shopping for your wife can be a bit overwhelming. I get it. Once my husband asked for a dremel for Christmas and I started to cry. (Not really. Maybe.)

Not only can I give you some pretty good ideas about what your wife might love for Christmas, I can even tell you where to get them. I’ve already done the price comparison. Not that she’s not worth a billion dollars, right? But she’ll love the gift more if you don’t knock out the food and toilet paper budget for the month when you buy her gift(s).

Now keep in mind, you know your wife best. If she’s not into practical gifts, by all means ignore me and go buy her something from a jewelry store. But if opening an appliance or a box of casserole dishes says, “My husband loves me so much!” then this is what you’re going to want to look into:

Pyrex

Pyrex dishes are more romantic than you think. I probably have over 30 pieces of Pyrex in my kitchen and they are more beautiful to me than diamonds. Important: If it doesn’t have a lid, it’s not worth having! Get your wife Pyrex dishes with lids because she can do so much more with them!!!! (Do I sound bossy? I’m really not bossy. I just feel strongly about my Pyrex lids.)

My favorite and most useful sets of Pyrex with lids:

 

pyrex bowls 2

Pyrex Easy Grab 4-Piece Value Pack, includes 1-ea 3-qt Oblong, 2-qtOblong, Red Plastic Covers

pyrex_4

Pyrex Easy Grab 8-Piece Glass Bakeware and Food Storage Set

pyrex2

6 Piece Bakeware/Cookware Set with Red Plastic Covers

pyrex

Cast Iron

Cast Iron is very healthy to cook on and turns out delicious food – in particular pancakes, grilled cheese, and scrambled eggs with bacon. Get cast iron for your wife and you will reap the rewards, I promise.

Cast Iron Griddle

cast iron griddle

 

 

Cast Iron 3-Piece Skillet Set

cast iron 6

Stainless Steel

It’s so shiny! (This is the practical gift version of a gold necklace.) If your wife wants to ditch her teflon (I recommend it!) this stainless steel pots and pans set is a wonderful replacement.

Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Set

stainless steel cookware

Silicone

For a lower budget, or for a little add-on item to hide in your wife’s stocking – I have two fun little silicone items I love and use all the time. These will make your wife’s baking efforts easier. You want to make her baking efforts easier.

Silicone Baking Cups-24 Piece- Food Grade Silicone Baking Cups, Star and Round Shape-comes in Six Assorted Colors

silicone4

Artisan Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat – 2 Pack

silicone mats

Nutrimill

I’ll follow the least expensive items with the two most expensive items. A Nutrimill has the potential to change your life (and save you money in the long run). Your wife can grind flour in it, making the most delicious breads and waffles you’ve ever eaten. As an added bonus, this makes your baked goods healthier. You won’t know about that though because you’ll be too busy enjoying your homemade bread with butter.

Nutrimill at Paula’s Bread

nutrimill 2

Blendtec

This is the priciest of all, yet perhaps the most useful. I use my Blendtec several times every day. It has saved me so much time! You’ll never need to buy another blender again.

Blendtec Designer Series Blender, WildSide Jar – Black

blendtec

 

As for the wrapping, you’re on your own. I’ve done all I can do here.

Order quickly, Men. Time is running out. May you have a wonderful Christmas morning in which your wife opens her gift(s) from you, then throws her arms around you and says, “Now I can make you the best pancakes ever!!!” Trust me when I say that these gifts offer a win-win situation for both you and your wife. You might want to also order a jug of Maple Syrup for the pancakes she’s going to make you. Just saying.

Sincerely,

That Heavenly Homemaker Lady

This post contains affiliate links.

7 Favorite {Real Food} Sweet and Savory Holiday Treats

 

7 Sweet and Savory Holiday Treats

Today, instead of sharing a new recipe, I decided to post 7 of our family’s favorite treats from the past few years.  From sweet to savory, all of these recipes are delicious and easy – perfect for the Christmas Brunch!

Orange Cranberry Scones

Orange Cranberry Scones

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Balls

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Balls

Christmas Spice Cookies

Christmas Spice Cookies

Vanilla Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping

Vanilla Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping

Sweet Pepper Fritata

Sweet Pepper Fritata

Quick Eggnog Muffins

eggnog_muffins_2

Bacon Cheese Muffins

bacon cheese muffins

Be sure to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of five $10 gift certificates to our Heavenly Homemakers Shop!

XmasBrunch2011

If you haven’t picked up your free jar of coconut oil from Tropical Traditions, you need to get on it!  Offer ends Christmas night, and I’m pretty sure we’ll all be just a little bit busy that day.  :)  Free Coconut Oil!!!!!

Hawaiian Fruit Salad

XmasBrunch2011

This salad is super easy to make and super refreshing to eat.  It is perfect for our Christmas Brunch!

Hawaiian Fruit SaladYum

Mix together three cups combination of any of the following:

Fresh or canned pineapple chunks or tidbits
Canned mandarin oranges or fresh clementines
Sliced bananas
Coconut flakes

Stir in:

1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix well and serve.  See how easy that is?!

Hawaiian Fruit Salad

Be sure to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of five $10 gift certificates to our Heavenly Homemakers Shop!

Cranberry Almond Bread with Orange Glaze

XmasBrunch2011

Welcome to our first brunch recipe of 2014!  You’re going to love this one.  It’s great with a cup of coffee.  <— You know, this time last year I was just beginning to realize how awesome coffee is.  Oh how far I’ve come in a year.  Mmmmm, coffee with cream during my Bible time each morning.  How I love it.

This bread is also great with a cup of hot tea, hot chocolate, Warm Vanilla Soother, or a cold glass of milk.  Pretty much it’s great with anything you like to drink.  It’s also very easy to make, and can be baked ahead of time if you’d like to wake up on Christmas morning to a delicious ready-made breakfast.

cranberry bread 3

Cranberry Almond Bread with Orange GlazeYum

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (regular whole wheat works okay, but pastry flour is perfection in this!)
¾ cups sucanat
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
3 eggs
1 cup melted butter or coconut oil
1 cup fresh or dried cranberries

Mix flour, sucanat, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, milk, extracts, and oil.  Mix well.  Fold in cranberries.  Pour batter into 2 well-buttered loaf pans (or six small loaf pans). Bake 45-60 minutes at 350°. Makes two loaves.

Orange Glaze

¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Heat orange juice and honey in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla and almond extracts.  Pour mixture over loaves of cranberry bread about 3 minutes after they have been removed from the oven, but before removing the loaves from the baking pans.

Cranberry Bread with Orange Glaze

 Be sure to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of five $10 gift certificates to our Heavenly Homemakers Shop!

It’s Here Again! Our 5th Annual Christmas Brunch!

The beauty of the internet is that while most of us can’t actually hang out and share a meal together (seeing as we’re located all over the globe), we can still enjoy community and fellowship.  For the 5th year in a row, we’re inviting you to join us in a lovely Christmas Brunch, held right here every day through December 24.

XmasBrunch2011

What’s on the menu?  Oh just wait until you see!  You’ll get to enjoy new recipes each day, as well as have chances to win prizes.  Now that’s always fun!

Each time you see the Christmas Brunch invitation (pictured above), leave a comment on that post to be entered into a drawing for one of five $10 gift certificates for downloadable items in our Heavenly Homemakers Shop.  The day after Christmas, we’ll tally all the entries and do a random drawing.  The more you comment, the more chances you have to win.

But don’t forget the recipes and fellowship.  That’s the best part of all!  So make plans to join us from now until Christmas.  We have a lot of fun in store for you.

So let’s start now!  Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of our Heavenly Homemakers Shop gift certificates!