Steph's Pick | My Top 5 Picks of 2011

Dec 30, 2011

If you haven't noticed, I post a lot of Steph's Picks. In a perfect world I'd post 1/week. More often than not I end up posting a Steph's Pick an average of 2x/month.

But what are my favorites?

Great question!

Here are My Top 5 Steph's Picks of 2011 (in no particular order)

1) Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings. The. Best. Thing. EVER. So stinkin' yummy.

2) How to Start a Cooking Club. 2011 was the first year of the Scottsdale Cooking Club. In this post I cover how you too can start your own cooking club.

3) Loving the Little Years. This book was quite possibly my favorite (nonfiction) read of the year. A great encouragement to all moms who are raising little ones.

4) A Milk & Cookies Party. By now I'm sure you know that I love me a good party. I love planning any kind of party. You name it and I'll plan it. Of course every year I consider it a sweet blessing to be able to plan our girl's birthday parties. This year for Nora's 2nd Birthday party we opted for a Milk & Cookies Party. Super tasty and so fun!

5) Bacon Wrapped Dates. Don't stop reading. I promise these things are incredible! This recipe was actually my favorite recipe of all of the recipes I collected from the Scottsdale Cooking Club this past year. They are just so good. A great New Year's Eve option for those of you looking for a yummy (and easy) appetizer recipe.


Family Matters Blog | Siri on Parenting

Dec 28, 2011

"...Although my girls are young (2.5 and 6 mo), I already see how easy it could be to fall into the trap of relying entirely on the church – seminary educated pastors, full-time church employees and energetic (and knowledgeable) youth leaders – when it comes to answering the tough questions that our children will have about faith. If we (the parents) aren’t building faith at home, there is no surprise kids grow up to become youth that don’t really care about devotedly serving others and they certainly don’t care about Jesus..."

I'm over on the Family Matters Blog today talking about my new friend, Siri, and my thoughts about outsourcing the "dirty work" of parenting.


In Our Home :: This Christmas

Dec 27, 2011

What a wonderful weekend!!! Full of lots of love, family, friends, yummy food and celebration! We couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate Christmas and the coming of the newborn King!

Here's a quick little glimpse into our weekend.

We spent Christmas Eve celebrating with our dear friends, Jeff & Kristina H (and family of course). Few pictures were taken; however, we did get a chance to snap an updated family shot.

And then Christmas morning came .... in PJ's (or jampas as Nora calls them) of course...
1) Santa arrived just in time for the girls. Somehow Santa knew Nora wanted a new Barney book (thank you very much St. Nick) and Elsie received a new toy for the car.

2) Elsie watching the present opening with anticipation.

3) Our family was just too good to us this year. We had LOTS of gifts to open.

4) Our Christmas morning Caramel Tea Ring. A Flies family tradition. Soooo yummy!

1) Nora isn't showing it here but she loves her new Melissa and Doug toy - the Pizza Party Set (thanks Nana).

2) Another Christmas morning tradition - watching A Charlie Brown Christmas.

3) Again... Elsie is excited about all of her new toys (and clothes).

4) A must-snap picture of the little girlies in their PJs in front of the Christmas tree.

Unfortunately we took very few pictures after we got showered and changed but we did snap this pic of lil' Elsie.

awww... I know! Don't you just want to eat her up?

Hope ya'll had a wonderful Christmas!

Now onto the New Years Eve preparations and planning!


♥Merry Christmas♥

Dec 23, 2011

Merry Christmas (blog-reading) Friends!

Pst... if you missed it.... we finally posted about our Christmas family gift - a trip to Disneyland. Read about that here.


our trip to Disneyland

Dec 22, 2011

Drumroll please...I'm finally getting around to posting about our trip to Disneyland! (and applause was heard from all around the world... ok... maybe just our get the gist)

I apologize for taking three weeks to post our Disneyland recap post.... but you gotta understand... December can be a total beast, right?!

Don't get me wrong. We've loved lots of things about this month but it has flown by. And I'm not talking flown by like a kite - I'm talking flown by like a military jet. FAST!

Let's get to it... our trip to Disneyland!

First, before diving into the good stuff (aka - lots of cute pics of the kiddos) , I feel like it's necessary to point out the top four reasons why we decided it was a good time for our family to go to Disneyland.

Our Top Four Reasons for taking our 2 year old and 6 month old to Disneyland ::
  1. Kids under 3 are FREE :: Yes... you read that right. FREE. 'Nough said.
  2. We can drive to Disneyland (Anaheim, CA) from Phoenix :: We figure that more than likely we won't be living in AZ forever (God willing), and so we'll never be able to get out of the expense of flying our entire family to the "happiest place on earth." So why not take advantage of the close proximity of Mr. Mickie and Ms. Minnie's home? :)
  3. We met our {awesome} family there. Last January, Alan's brother, Nick, and his family moved to California. They too were up for a 4 kids vs 4 adults trip to Disney. Who better to go to Disneyland with than family???!!
  4. Disneyland at Christmas. We decided upon booking the trip that this would be our
    family Christmas gift to one another. We'd hear that Disneyland at Christmas is just magical and thought we'd check it out for ourselves.
With those things in mind, let's start at the beginning.

Our "vacation" started on Wednesday night (the 30th) when we packed the car and were on the road by 7:00 pm. Elsie was sound asleep before pulling out of the driveway (thank you Lordie) and Nora was happy with her first Christmas gift of the season, The Barney Christmas Movie (yes...please don't judge...the girl LOVES Barney).

All was great until an hour and a half into our ride. Duh, duh, duh....

Without getting into too many details lets just say that unbeknownst to us, Nora has pretty nasty case of car sickness. :( For those who want the more detailed story, I'd be happy to give it to you. But for those who don't (most of you I'm guessing), all you need to know is that the ride to Anaheim might have been the most terrible car ride I have EVER been on (and Alan would agree). Poor little Nora was very sick. So sick was she that she still brings up "ickie jampas" on a daily basis (jampas = pajamas).

Poor baby.

Well of course Nora's little tummy problem resulted in our family arriving to the hotel a good 2 hours later than anticipated (2 am to be exact). And we were planning on being at the park when it opened the next morning - 9 am! Hehe.... oh, the vacation was off to a great start, right?!

Thankfully our God-given-"I don't sleep much anyway because I have two small children"-energy kicked in, and by 8 am the next morning this family of four was actually up and out of bed.

We arrived at the park that morning and just the site of everything (the beautifully decorated main street, the smiles on everyone's faces, and the excitement of a 2.5 year old Nora and nearly 3 year old Adelyn) rejuvenated us all and we were ready to take on Disneyland.

First up...a picture in front of the castle and then Dumbo of course.

(Note to our readers: In very few pictures of our trip to Disneyland will you see Nora looking at the camera. Everything was just way too interesting to her, so simply getting a picture with her smiling while looking at the camera was nearly impossible. Sorry.)

After riding Dumbo the girls were determined to ride on the carousel, so onto King Arthur's Carousel we went with these two cutie patooties...

our sweet-as-can-be niece, Adelyn...

and of course our happy-as-a-clam nephew, Mason.

After riding the carousel the rest of our first day was a blur.

I know we rode these things A LOT...

And even managed to make it through It's a Small World without a meltdown (which is a lot to be said with 4 children in tote).

After a quick trip back to the hotel for naps and snacks we were back at the park that evening to check out a few more rides and watch the fireworks (which ended up being cancelled - boo).

All in all Day 1 was a hit! The kids loved it and the parents - well, we were happy the kids were happy ;)

Now onto Day 2.

Thankfully after Day 1, we had more of a plan for Day 2. I had downloaded the DL Maps and DL Hours apps (both free- I'd totally recommend them) and we were ready to take on the park!

We started with the Tea Cups (again)...

And eventually ended up at California Adventure where we waited (not-so-patiently) for Toy Story Mania.

(Yes - I realize it looks like we're waiting patiently. Trust me. We weren't.)

But.. the 45 minute wait was worth it! I can't believe I'm saying that, but all of Nora's crying was worth it. The ride was a BLAST!

Similar to Day 1, Day 2 was a total blur. I know we rode lots of rides (including California Screaming - see picture to the right) and ended the day with one of the most beautiful parades I've experienced "A Christmas Fantasy."

It was the perfect start to the Christmas season! Lots of music, lights and Christmas cheer!

We feel so fortunate to have been able to help create such incredible memories with our girls (and the other Flies family).

All in all our Disneyland trip was an incredible experience! Of course it was full of some crazy highs and some crazy lows - but that's what good memory making is about, right?

Thanks to my sweet mom and friends Christine, Seanne and Sharla - we made the best with what we had during our time at the "happiest place on earth."

(Yes - this is the best and only family picture we got during our trip)

Stay Tuned :: I'll be writing my Top 5 Tips for Taking Small Children to Disneyland post within the next week. I figure - why not share the love? I have lots of great tips to share.

For a few more pictures of our trip go here.


In Our Home :: December (thus far)

Dec 18, 2011

For those of you who are just joining us... welcome!

Last week I launched a new series on our blog entitled In Our Home. In Our Home posts are a unique blend of the meaningful and inconsequential parts of our life. There will be things to make you giggle and things that will make you think. And of course lots of pics of our two sweet-as-can-be little girlies.

So here starts the second edition of In Our Home :: December (thus far).


I LOVE December. Everything about it. Sure, there's a decent amount of hustle and bustle BUT there is just sooo much fun to be had. From the never ending treat selection, to mailboxes stuffed with Christmas Cards sent with love from friends and family - what's not to love about this time of year?! There's beautiful Christmas music playing everywhere. There's lots of gifts to buy to express our love for one another. And specifically in our home, there's even a blow up Santa right next door that Nora insists on visiting every single night to say "Hi Santa!" and "Bye-Bye Santa!" (just. too. cute.)

Here are lots of pics (not exaggerating here) to give you a glimpse into our lives over the past few weeks as we anticipate the celebration of the birthday of King Jesus.

1) This year we decided to buy a Costco Christmas Trees (for $45 we thought "Why Not?!"). We're loving the yummy scent of evergreen that fills our home day in and day out.

2)& 3) Each day (it seems) I'm floored by how creative my friends are! Here are just a couple of pinterest inspired gifts that I've received over the past couple of weeks. Personalized coasters from Katie and the cutest little bag (for Nora) and coffee mug sleeve from Allie.

4) Doesn't this girl look just like her daddy?! I think so.

Our Annual Cookie Decorating Day was just this past weekend. This day has become a highly anticipated day in our home not only because we leave with all sorts of yummy cookies but because we get to spend time with our family.

A huge thank you to Aunt Jane and Uncle Tom for hosting each year. We're so thankful for your hospitality.

1) After spending a little time in a friend's outdoor playhouse I've officially put in a request to Papa Scott to make (or help make) the girls one ASAP. Nora loved it.

2) I'm not gonna lie... I'm a bit in love with my wrapping paper this year. Pinterest inspired of course. (from Hobby Lobby - in case you're curious)

3) & 4) This past weekend we decided to take the girls to Dave & Busters for a family outing. Nora was a bit too little to really play the games but she certainly wasn't too little to enjoy picking out her prizes. We left with a princess ball and an Angry Bird. Jackpot!

Scottsdale Bible Church held their annual Winterfest celebration this past week. Nora especially loved the petting zoo (see above pics of her petting the sheep and the miniature pig), the snow and the cookie decorating room (figures!).

So. Much. Fun.

And last but not least was Alan's work Christmas party at The Phoenix Zoo. Nora is constantly asking me to take her to the zoo so this was a great excuse to load up the car and go. On this specific trip she especially loved the giraffes, camel and riding the carousel.


Next up this week - a Disneyland Recap (yes... for serious).


Steph's Pick | French Dip Sandwiches

Dec 16, 2011

What is it about French Dip Sandwiches that are just so yummy? Maybe it's the super juicy beef, the melted cheese or the broiled bun? I have no idea... but... I.... love....them!

And I've found a great recipe (thanks Jane M!) that I thought I'd share with you all.


French Dip Sandwiches

- 1 packet of Good Seasons Italian Dressing
- 2 cups of water
- Rump Roast
- Hoagie Buns
- Mozzarella Cheese
- packet of Au Jus

Combine dressing packet, water and roast in crock pot. Cook in high for 5-6 hours. Shred beef and let it sit in the juices for a bit before serving.

Make Au Jus according to package.

Brush a little olive oil on the buns and broil for a couple minutes. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn. Put beef and cheese on bun and broil again for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.

Serve with Au Jus on the side.


In our Home :: Christmas Season

Dec 13, 2011

{I know, I know. I've yet to blog about Disneyland.
You see if you wouldn't mind giving me a few more days to process
how I want to blog about our experience that would be wonderful!
Thanks for the grace, blog reading friends!}

In the meantime I wanted to launch a brand new series on our little nook of the web...I'm calling it In Our Home.

In Our Home posts will give ya'll a little sneak peek into our lives. It will be a unique blend of the meaningful and inconsequential parts of our life. There will be things to make you giggle and things that will make you think. And of course lots of pics of our two sweet-as-can-be little girlies.

So sit back and enjoy our very first edition of In Our Home :: Christmas Season.
1) All was a little too quiet around this home one morning. Let's just say we're working on keeping the pretty ornaments ON the Christmas tree. It's a daily chore.

2) The Advent Book. Nora received this book as a gift at her dedication a couple years ago and we're just now using it as we anticipate Christmas Day. This beautiful book has quickly become one of the highlights of my day. I love everything about it.... the scripture....the story of Jesus' birth.... and the beautiful illustrations. I'd highly recommend it.

3) While I look for a stocking for Ms. Elsie I figured a mini pink stocking will work for now :)

4) After arriving home upon selecting our tree (at Costco) this year, we all enjoyed a yummy cup of Peppermint Hot Chocolate for a mid-afternoon treat.
1) The Pickle Ornament Tradition. Yes... there is such a thing. I didn't make it up. Essentially the pickle ornament is hidden on the tree and whoever finds the ornament first gets a little gift to start off the holiday season. This was the first year that Nora was able to find the pickle herself. So fun.

2) A must see in this home. Frosty the Snowman (the original of course). Nora. Is. In. Love.

3) One of the things I've loved about this Christmas season is the lovely gift of Pinterest. Yes, Pinterest is a "gift." And what I mean by that is that never has finding creative Christmas gifts been as easy as it is through Pinterest. Here is just one of the many Pinterest Inspired gifts that I've received thus far. (Stay tuned for the Pinterest Inspired gifts that I'm giving to friends and family this year)

4) A pic of Elsie...just in case you thought Elsie was missing. :)


Steph's Pick | Chili

Dec 9, 2011

It's FINALLY cold enough outside to make soup - HOORAY!! (And by "cold enough" I mean it's under 60 degrees in the evenings).

I busted out my tested and true Chili recipe last weekend and was reminded that I don't think I've shared it with you all.

The recipe was given to me by a dear friend, Becky L, who sadly doesn't blog (if she did I'd be referencing her yummy cooking and wise parenting advice lots).

If you're in the market for a new chili recipe... this is certainly worth it! Super yummy. Our "go to" for sure!

Becky's Chili

Ingredients ::
1.5 lb ground beef
1 onion (chopped)
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
1-14 oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 small cans tomato sauce
1 cup red wine
2-3 cans kidney beans, drained, keep 1/2 cup juice
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1-2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp cumin
1-4 oz can mushrooms

Directions ::
Brown meat and onion in large pot.
Add the rest of the ingredients.
Bring to a boil, reduce, simmer for 2+ hours.

Optional Toppings Include ::cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions and Frito's :)


Winter MOPS Newsletter Template

Dec 8, 2011

I wanted to share a little something with all of you wonderful readers out there (hi mom, mil, gma's x4 and aunts).

I just finished up putting together a little newsletter for our local MOPS group that I thought you all might enjoy reading as well. It's full of lots of great Christmas thoughts and even includes a practical DIY Craft Idea.

Additionally, if you've found this blog because you're looking for a MOPS Newsletter Template - WELCOME!

I too spent a decent amount of time surfing the web looking for a somewhat simple yet contemporary MOPS Newsletter Template but was unable to find anything (boo). It was then that I vowed to share the template that I made with all of you lovely ladies! Because sharing is fun... at least that's what we tell our kids.

Unfortunately I created the template in Microsoft Publisher (gasp... I know... can you believe it? I'm such an Adobe lover... what was I thinking?) and am unable to upload the doc as a downloadable document.

So..... if you'd like to have the template I'd love to email to you. Email me at

Happy Reading!


a disneyland sneak peek (in photos)

Dec 6, 2011

Thanks Instagram for making capturing our Disneyland trip sooo much easier!

More pics (and stories) to come... promise.

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