Graham Cracker Houses

Instead of gingerbread houses – which are way too much work with kids – we make graham cracker houses.

We invite a bunch of friends over and make graham cracker houses. I usually build a bunch of houses the morning before the party so they’re dry and ready for candy when the kids arrive.


Graham crackers
Powdered Sugar
Candy or other toppings of your choice

Small candy’s are best. Red hots, mini pretzels, mini candy canes, grated coconut, mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc.

For the icing/cement I mix two cups of powdered sugar, and 1 Tbsp of water. Add more powdered sugar or water as needed to get a thick spreading consistency. I like to put my icing in a plastic sandwich bag, cut a tiny hole in one corner, and then pipe the icing out. The kids prefer to mix it in a bowl and then use a spoon to spread the icing everywhere – including their houses.

Graham cracker houses are really easy, and a great holiday party idea if you have kids (or if you just like playing with candy and icing)

Here’s my house.

Side of my house

One of the kids houses. It looks like a tent to me. They made many other houses as well. The party is always so much fun. Just warn parents ahead of time that there will be lots and lots of sugar! I always make a couple crockpots of chili and meat balls so there is protein to balance out some of the sugar.

And, a melting house. This batch of icing was a tad thin and ended up slipping but I think it looks pretty cool!

And, as a plus, these houses are just as much fun to eat as they are to make!

Randoms Review

Not Random Review, but Randoms Review. I know, it’s confusing.

Thanks to Smiley 360 I got to try two bags of new Randoms candy for free.IMG_20150314_211220207
These taste just like regular gummy candy – which is delicious! – and they have so many fun shapes! I took a few pictures of some of my shapes with their corresponding real life items.


Here my gummy fish is trying to join his friends in the fish tank. (these fish did not want to be photographed, my camera just didn’t want to focus)!


And I know Christmas is long past, but I pulled out these two together and couldn’t resist a pic. It’s never to early to celebrate a little!

You can get a 10oz bag of  Wonka Randoms for around $3 on Amazon. A pretty good deal! And the kids will love eating and playing with their snack!

My Halloween Porch Light

Me and my porch light just do not agree on how my front porch should be lit for Halloween. We’ve been in our house for 6 years now and I have yet to have my porch light ON for Halloween.

1st Halloween – I’m pretty sure the light worked, but I didn’t even think about it being Halloween. I grew up in a rural area and you really don’t trick or treat when the houses are miles apart. So, I really wasn’t paying attention. Plus I had a 2month old, so I really wasn’t up on things yet anyways. Currently, I live in a neighborhood that’s easy to walk and perfect for trick or treating, so there’s a lot of trick or treaters. Anyways, the first year in my house, I just didn’t think about it. Someone TP’d our pine trees in the front yard that year too. How was I to know this was a popular trick or treating street?

2nd Halloween – My porch light had burnt out the week before, but I hadn’t thought about it last year, and I didn’t think about it this year. However, my father-in-law had picked that night to come over to our house and work on his car in our garage (our garage is easier to see from the street than our front door). To complicate things, he was working with the garage door open and the lights on in the garage so people kept coming to him for candy. He sent them to the front door and luckily I had a basket of random candy on the counter that I grabbed and handed out to trick or treaters. As a side note, my father in law sat at that basket halfway through the evening so I was without a basket after that, and yes, I handed out the squashed candy, I didn’t have anything else!

3rd Halloween – So, I was prepared with candy this year, just in case, but I hadn’t planned to turn the porch light on so I didn’t have a large supply of candy. But, my father-in-law decided AGAIN that this was a good night to work on his car in my garage with the door open – you’d think he would know better by now. And since my porch light didn’t work again (it always goes out sometime in September and I don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach the bulb so I add it to my husband’s to-do list and hope for the best) people were driving him crazy. I offered to just set the basket of candy by the garage door entrance so he didn’t have to keep sending people to the front door, but he didn’t like that idea. So, I apologized to everyone for the porch light being out, and handed out candy at the front door.

4th Halloween – I finally got it figured out! I had my big basket of candy planned, even had fall decorations on the porch. My plan was to turn on the porch light and put the basket of candy on the porch so I didn’t have to keep answering the door. Well…a month before halloween my porch light went out again. And I STILL don’t have a ladder tall enough for me to reach the light, and my husband keeps forgetting, so I have to keep answering the door and pointing out the basket that’s on the outside of the door because no one can see it because there’s no porch light! You know, people come to the door, I say the candy’s on the porch (though, it’s now behind the open door) I have to point it out and they can’t see it because the porch is dark. I quickly gave up and just handed it out at the door.

5th Halloween – I still don’t have a tall enough ladder to reach the light, and it went out again in September. Though, it’s ok, we’re going to a halloween party, I’ll just leave candy on the porch and hope for the best. Well, my husband is home late that night so we end up at home with two disappointed little girls in their halloween costumes, handing out handfuls (instead of one at a time as instructed) of candy to people at the door. I almost ran out of candy! Actually, I did run out of candy, the last couple of people ended up with mini rice crispy treats. Sorry kids!

6th Halloween – This year, I have outwitted the light. I purchased a ladder. I replaced the bulb that burnt out in August this year with one of those bulbs that is supposed to last for years. I have my candy planned out, my bucket, we take the kids to a party the Friday before and they are all excited about handing out candy this year. A week before halloween my light goes out, you know, the bulb that is supposed to last for years. But, I have my ladder, so the day before Halloween (I’m not taking any chances this year, surely a light bulb can last 24 hours!) I climb up there and replace the bulb. Well…apparently, it’s not my bulb, there’s something wrong with the fixture and no light bulb is going to work. So, once again we have a dark porch, and this year the weather is bad so even though there are lots of trick or treaters, they aren’t taking a chance on a dark house so only about 5 people come by, the girls are sad because no one came, and we have LOTS of candy left over!

Next year, I’m going to have the fixture replaced, a new light bulb, and a couple of lanterns, some flashlights, maybe I’ll line the sidewalk with candles or something…

Lots of Theories

I commented to my husband the other day that first time parents (and those without children) have a lot of theories but experienced parents have no theories at all, just lots of practical advice. He thought it was funny.

But, really, it’s true. We share all our helpful tips for surviving life with 3 or more little kids and laugh at each other’s stories and no one feels compelled to tell anyone else how they could have done it better, we’ve all been there and we know how it is. We may give practical suggestions if we have them and if we don’t have any practical suggestions we just laugh and share our own funny story.

For example, I was complaining about how hard it is to get the straws clean on those Take N Toss cups with straws because the straws fall through the silverware basket in the dishwasher. She pointed out that she just leaves the straw in the cup lid and sticks them on the top rack in the dishwasher…brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that? That just saved me 5 minutes washing dishes every day! Actually, my middle child likes to chew on straws so she ruined all my straws by chewing on them. I just threw them away and started buying the red striped disposable straws. I notice when I was at my friends house the other day that she has also switched to the disposable straws, she must have had the same problem I did. You’ll note though, not once did we discuss our theories for getting our child to stop chewing on all the straws, we just switched to disposable. Very practical.

And the question of how to keep your kids from waking you up at 5 am convinced that it’s morning. I tell my oldest 2 that they can’t get me up until it’s light outside. The’ll play barbies in their room for an hour waiting for it to get light and then come get me and ask for hot chocolate, and a host of snacks for breakfast. There’s no, “you just tell them to stay in their room and punish them when they don’t” talk, we discuss how we explain to our 3 yr old in a way that they can understand when it’s considered “morning” and they are allowed to wake us. One of my friends uses a timer on her kids lamps and when the lamp turns on they can get up. Another mom just sends them back to bed if they get up too early. And someone else just has them join her in her bed until it’s time to get up. But, not one of us is convinced that our way is better than the others, it’s just what works best for us and our kids.

And potty training, we all just smile and nod. So which candy did your child prefer? Did you use a sticker chart? You still using pullups at night? And then we launch into our most embarrassing/funny stories thus far. My kids love public restrooms. If they even think there might be one at a store they instantly have a need to go to the bathroom. The other day, I was shopping with the kids and headed into a dressing room. My girls were ecstatic, I had, without being asked decided to go into a public restroom. I had to leave my two sweaters with the nice ladies running the dressing room and take my kids to the bathroom and then come back to the dressing room and try on my sweaters. Now, I don’t try on a lot of clothing with all three kids along so up until this point the girls had not realized that there was such a thing as a dressing room at a store. According to my kids, next to public restrooms, dressing rooms are the greatest thing ever invented by stores. And our Sam’s has a child sized sink in their bathroom. Thanks a lot guys… I have to plan an extra 20 minutes in Sam’s just so the kids can go play in the sink. (they always have to urgently go to the bathroom the minute we step into Sam’s).

And the number of times our kids have removed their clothing at inappropriate times, and said things we just didn’t want them to say…don’t even get me started…we all just smile, laugh, and know that that’s just how life goes.

My Child’s Heart

Sometimes I think that as a parent I seek out too much information on child rearing.  And so much of it is conflicting that it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in whether I’m parenting right or wrong.

First there’s the argument over whether you should let your infant cry or pick up your infant instantly. Do I nurse or bottle feed? Do I feed my infant on demand or on a schedule? How do I stop toddler temper tantrums? Is spanking my child appropriate? How about time outs, do they give my child too much time to pout? How much TV should I let my children watch? Is it ok to give them candy? How soon can I give them peanut butter? Shouldn’t my child be reading at 3? Do I tell my child “no” enough? Do I tell her “yes” enough? Am I spending enough time with them? Should I be playing instead of cleaning the kitchen? Should I be cleaning my house instead of playing? Am I too indulgent? Am I too strict?

There are hundreds of parenting books, blogs, and articles. I can also get opinions and advice from friends, family, and complete strangers. And people often disagree.

It’s so easy for me to focus on am I parenting “right”. Do my children have the right environment for learning? Do I have clear rules? Do I allow them the freedom to be creative? Am I feeding them healthy food? Am I teaching them to be polite? Do they obey me in public – yes, in public, I’m not embarrassed if they don’t obey me in private. Do we spend enough family time together?

I focus on all of this and forget to focus on what’s really important. My child’s heart. I’m focusing on what I can see and often ignoring what I can feel. Why is my child not obeying? Am I guiding her to a strong relationship with God? Am I honest when I fail? Am I teaching good behavior because it’s good or because it’s socially expected?

I’m not saying the physical things aren’t important. I take my kids to meetings and expect them to sit quietly for an hour. I don’t allow temper tantrums. My oldest takes music and dance lessons. We go to the park often. The kids help me in the kitchen. Two of my kids know their alphabet, and one is almost reading. We eat peanut butter and candy. I often play with the kids instead of clean up the house.

It’s just so easy for me to focus on these. I want to see my kids achieve. I want to see them excel. And I want to see them behave. But really, what good does this all do me if I raise a child who is well behaved, well educated, successful, and self centered.

If I teach my child that life is all about success, looking good, and getting what you want, what have I really accomplished?

I really want to teach my children to seek the Lord, serve God, glorify God, and serve others. And this, I’m discovering, is immeasurably more difficult than just teaching my children to be good.

Review of Unreal Candy Unjunked

Received my Unreal Candy BzzKit from Bzz Agent last week. I was pretty skeptical. I mean, candy sweetened with cane sugar and agave sugar, Colored with beet juice (well, some of the chocolate pieces are), and with other healthier things, it was bound to taste different.

It’s definitely not your typical hershey’s chocolate but it is melt in your mouth delicious! And when I say melt in your mouth I do actually mean melt in your mouth. The chocolate is a tad softer than hershey’s so it melts a little creamier. Quite nice, in my opinion.

The chocolate tastes more like a semi-sweet so just don’t expect a milk chocolate. It’s almost halfway between a milk and a dark chocolate. And the agave sugar gives it a bit of a different kind of sweet taste. I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first but after trying several different varieties of the Unjunked candy, I actually like it.

My favorite is the candy bar without nuts (mainly because I don’t really like nuts in my candy bars, there’s nothing wrong with the bar with nuts). It’s a great combination of nougat, caramel, and chocolate. A little heavier than your usual candy bar so plan to be hungry when you start eating it or just eat half.

Next I like the peanut butter cups. Not as well as the candy bars but they aren’t bad. My husband and kids loved them! But, again, I’m not a big chocolate and peanut butter candy person so some of this is my personal preference. My 4 year old actually opened a package herself and ate it all before I realized she had candy.

The chocolate pieces are just ok. The ones with nuts are better, but for the plain chocolate ones, the chocolate just seems a bit bitter to me. I love milk chocolate m&m’s though so comparing the two chocolates the Unjunked chocolate pieces are kind of semi-sweet compared to the milk chocolate. Not terrible, but not my favorite.

In summary, I really like the Unjunked candy bars and I’ll be buying them again – probably as a substitute for granola bars. My husband and kids like the peanut butter cups so I’ll buy those for them. And I probably won’t purchase any more of the chocolate pieces. All in all, the Unreal candy is pretty good and if you’re looking for a healthier candy this is the way to go.

Graham Cracker Houses

My husband had a great Christmas idea four years ago. This is the fourth year we’ve done it and we always have a blast! Instead of gingerbread houses – which are a lot of work – we make graham cracker houses.

We invite a bunch of friends over and make graham cracker houses. This year, I assembled the houses earlier in the day so they were set before the party and kids trying to put candy on them. It worked out really well.

Graham cracker houses are really easy, and a great holiday party idea if you have kids (or if you just like playing with candy and icing)

My house. I actually did this the day after the party before I cleaned everything up. The trick to a good house (in my opinion) is the icing. It’s just powdered sugar and water, and you want it to be thick enough that it doesn’t run but thin enough that you can pipe it. I put my icing in a plastic bag, cut a hole in the end, (a very tiny hole) and pipe the icing out so I have good control over where it goes.

Side of my house

My 3yr old’s “house”. It looks like a tent to me. She made two other houses as well. The party this year was so much fun for her and her little friends! I just handed them bowls of icing with spoons in them, piles of candy, and let them have at it.

And, a melting house. This batch of icing was a tad thin and ended up slipping but I think it looks pretty cool!

And, as a plus, these houses are just as much fun to eat as they are to make!