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December 20, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes
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10 Top Parenting Tips and and Posts of 2014

As I wrap up the past year here on The Jenny Evolution, I can’t help but look back at the parenting posts everyone has gravitated for. Some I expected… others I didn’t.

So as we all say goodbye to 2014, I’m sharing with you today the 10 top parenting posts and tips from the past year on The Jenny Evolution.

Give Your Child the Tools To Manage Their Own Meltdowns | The Jenny Evolution

Give Your Child the Tools to Manage Their Own Meltdowns

Potty Training Made Easy: Strategies that Really Work | The Jenny Evolution

Potty Training Made Easy: Strategies That Really Work

10SignsForPottyTraining

When Is the Right Time to Ditch the Diapers

First Year

Baby Products That Helped Me Survive the First Year

Sure-Fire Tips to Make Your Morning Routine For School Run Smoother | The Jenny Evolution

Sure-Fire Tips to Make Your Morning Routine For School Run Smoother

5 Easy Ways to Make Healthy School Lunches

5 Easy Ways to Make Healthy School Lunches for Your Children

sorry

The Power of Saying You’re Sorry

MomDayPhoto

Day I Became A Mom: Birthday Plans Don’t Always Go How You Expect

How to Help Kids Understand Their Emotions | The Jenny Evolution

How to Help Kids Understand Their Emotions

Follow Your Instincts | The Jenny Evolution

Listening to Your Instincts Will Never Steer You Wrong

 

 

December 19, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes
2 Comments

5 Tips for Staying Connected with Your Spouse During the Holidays

The holiday season can bring so much stress and running here and there. In-laws are visiting, you’re visiting in-laws, and everyone is trying to make sure that no one in the family feels overlooked. But the irony here is that the holidays are supposed to be a time to reconnect with family and loved ones. That’s why we do so much visiting and hosting; but when it gets hectic you don’t really get a chance to connect at all.

And where does that leave your relationship with your spouse or partner?

Don’t forget your hubby this holiday season! Here are five tips for staying connected with your significant other during the holidays.

4 Tips for Staying Connected with Your Spouse During the Holidays

Photo Credit

Make Your Own Holiday

There’s no hard and fast rule that says you have to open gifts on the 25th of December. Why don’t you and your significant plan another time together when it’s not actually Christmas to open each other’s presents or have an intimate night of holiday merriment.

Look at your calendar and plan your night together before or after the holidays – sometimes after is often the best. After all, that gives you something to look forward to in order to combat the post-holiday slump. You won’t find many parties being thrown on the day after New Year’s or the weekend before Thanksgiving! So choose an off-date for your time together.

Keep Out-of-Town Visits Short…and Stay in a Hotel

Many couples visit in-laws or parents during the holidays, and if those family members live out of town, travel and visiting time can be real strains on your time together. You can ease the burden and spend more time with your partner if you stay in a hotel instead of staying with family. Yes, it’s an added expense; but it really helps to be able to get away in the evenings and prepare to see your family the next day rather than having them right in your space 24/7.

Also, try to keep out-of-town visits short, no more than 2 or 3 days, to avoid everyone getting tense and your relationship with your spouse coming under strain.

Turn Traveling Into a Full Vacation

Our family, on the other hand, turns our holiday visit into a vacation. My folks are located in Florida, so rather than shlepping to another cold city, we get to enjoy some warm sun and sand. We add extra days and make sure that we get some time with just us to enjoy.

If your family doesn’t live in a “vacation destination” area, perhaps they’re close enough where you can tag on a mini-vaca. Why not pop over to Boston or swing down to Santa Barbara to enjoy some time together.

Build on Memories

How did you and your partner spend your first holiday season together? Is there a possibility that you can go back to that same place for a special time, even if it’s just for a few hours? Building on memories can be a great way for couples to re-ignite their relationship and stay in touch during the holidays.

When we were first dating, my husband and I walked through the Lincoln Park Zoo holiday lights. After kids, we would bundle up the kiddies and bring them with. Even though the kids were running around, we still felt like we were on a date, remembering when we first fell in love.

Don’t Let Guilt Get to You

Some couples get the guilt trip from their families about how and with whom they choose to spend the holidays. One of the big keys to staying connected with your significant other this time of year is to be firm with your holiday plans. If you want to spend Christmas or New Year’s or even Thanksgiving at your own home, that’s your own choice. Your husband and you can grow closer by developing traditions of your own.

Photo Credit

December 18, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes
11 Comments

Friday Flash Blog No. 97 {Plus Features}

Because it’s holiday time and many of you are traveling, we’re not going to have our usual weekly features. But don’t worry. Link up and you’ll still have the chance to be featured in our next Friday Flash Blog! That said, to kick off the new year we have a new Friday Flash Blog button. And if you’ve been featured in the past on the Friday Flash Blog, I encourage you to show off the Friday Flash Blog swag on your site!

Craft Stick Snowflake Tutorial by Sew Sweet Vintage

Craft Stick Snowflake Tutorial by Sew Sweet Vintage

Squash Stuffed Ravioli Made with Puff Pastry Recipe by Culinary Flavors

Squash Stuffed Ravioli Made with Puff Pastry Recipe by Culinary Flavors

Bright and Modern Christmas Decor DIY Ideas from Celebrate & Decorate

Bright and Modern Christmas Decor DIY Ideas from Celebrate & Decorate

White Chocolate Raspberry Panna Cotta Recipe from Pink Wings

White Chocolate Raspberry Panna Cotta Recipe from Pink Wings

FREE Printable 2015 Calendar from Elizabeth Joan Designs

FREE Printable 2015 Calendar from Elizabeth Joan Designs

Recycled Paint Tutorial from Tiny Tots Adventure

Recycled Paint Tutorial from Tiny Tots Adventure

White Chicken Chili Recipe from Three Kids and a Fish

White Chicken Chili Recipe from Three Kids and a Fish

15 Easy + Luxurious DIY Spa Gifts | The Jenny Evolution

15 Simple But Luxurious DIY Spa Gifts Compliled by The Jenny Evolution

 

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December 18, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes
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Artificial Christmas Trees Rule! Why I Have a Fake Tree

Confession: We have artificial Christmas trees in our home. I used to be surprised at the sideways glances I would get if the subject came up. And goodness forbid if someone came to the house and asked, “Is that a real Christmas tree?” with a touch of judgement. Although, honestly, many people can’t even tell the difference.

Oh, I know. There’s something romantic about having a real Christmas tree. You get to host a piece of nature in your home. They give off a lovely scent. And besides, how cheesy is it to have an artificial tree?

I’ve always had fake trees (more on that in a minute) and really do prefer artificial trees. They hang out in the attic all year round and are available the moment we want them. We just retrieve the trees — no fussing of finding the “perfect” tree and schlepping it home.

Photo Credit

Growing Up Fake

I actually grew up with a fake tree — much to the horror of my mom. I was always sick as a baby, but when Christmas came along, my mom says I was an absolute mess. Looking back at photos from that time, you can easily see the black rings under my eyes. Today they call them allergic shiners (like having a black eye) but people didn’t really know what to call them then. It turns out that I had severe allergies, which included the Christmas tree.

When the doctors finally figured out I had horrible allergies, my folks were given a laundry list of things they had to remove from the house and my diet (including all nuts and eggs). But the one thing my mom couldn’t believe she had to give up was her Christmas tree. Trust me, I get how important a Christmas tree (you can read about it here). But being the good mom that she is, she immediately went and bought a fancy schmancy fake Christmas tree.

Fake Christmas tree were different than they are now. Made with hard prickly plastic and one uniform evergreen color, this thing was built to last (as many things back then were). And somehow, that sucker is still going strong, although I really think it needs a merciful retirement.

Photo Credit

Can You Really Be Allergic to Christmas Trees?

How can someone be allergic to Christmas trees? Glad you asked. Anyone who is allergic to mold, like what develops on the leaves in the fall, is allergic to Christmas trees. Once you cut down a tree, it immediately begins to form mold. This molding won’t bother most people, but people with mild allergies will definitely have issues. And for someone with severe allergies, it’s just a sentence to be miserably sick for the season, setting off a cascade of sinus infections and asthma.

And so, we embrace the artificial Christmas tree with love and gratitude. The tree is there when I want it, it doesn’t need tending, it holds its shape perfectly, practically looks real and neatly stores away for the rest of the year.

What do you prefer? A real tree or an artificial one?

December 17, 2014
by Jennifer
4 Comments

Keeping a Christmas Tree For Me – A Mom’s Declaration

I was 24 when I got my first Christmas tree. It was an incredibly cheap tree from my local craft store. I bought multiple boxes of poorly painted ornaments, all for $10. Oh yeah. It was a serious splurge!

As I got older, I slowly upgraded. I bought the nicer tree as the cheap one fell apart. I saved up money so I could go to the holiday floor of Marshall Field’s (the Macy’s of the Midwest) and buy eight crystal ornaments at $25 each. It was a crazy luxury but worth eating peanut butter sandwiches on Friday nights for more than a month.

I have always prided myself on my Christmas tree. I know, it may seem like something frivolous, but it’s one of the things I’ve allowed myself to indulge in.

One Mom's Declaration: Keep Your Christmas Tree | The Jenny Evolution

When children came along, it seemed irresponsible to keep putting it up. Don’t kids pull down everything? My husband, who recognized how much joy seeing the tree each year brought me, told me to put it up. We would work as a team to keep the kids from killing the tree.

One afternoon, I was with a number of other moms and someone commented on the hostess’ tree, which was covered in kid-themed and handmade children’s ornaments. Before I knew it, they were laughing about how things had changed since they had children, including their holiday tree. No longer did they enjoy their own ornaments. Oh no. The kids ruled everything. They were also laughing about people who insist on still having the same tree they had before children. How foolish were they?

I listened quietly, feeling a bit shamed that I was one of those fools. But as I listened to these ladies, I realized how sad it was they gladly handed over something that made them so happy at the holidays. Just because a person has kids doesn’t mean they stop being a person! Why can’t I have the best of both worlds at Christmas!

That year, my boys got their very own tree. They were toddlers, but I didn’t care. I wanted to start the tradition right away. It’s important for children to have their own  Christmas magic. But it’s also important for them to realize that the entire world doesn’t revolve around them 24/7. We moms have our own likes and dislikes. We have our own thoughts. And we have our own darn tree!

December 16, 2014
by Jennifer
9 Comments

Adirondack Museum Destination

Adirondack Museum | The Jenny Evolution Adirondack2 The Adirondack Museum is a wonderful destination located in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. Although it’s called a museum, it hosts dozens of displays (both indoors and out) on a campus. Next time you’re up in the Adirondacks, I highly recommend a visit. It’s perfect for the entire family.

Wordless Wednesday on The Jenny Evolution

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December 16, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes
0 comments

Frugal Christmas Party Ideas: Throwing a Party on a Shoestring

Who doesn’t love a terrific Christmas party; however, sometimes hosting one can really put a dent in your budget. Everyone wants to make merry during the holidays. But, you don’t have to break the bank to have a good time. Want to save on money? Try these frugal Christmas party ideas.

Whether you are hosting the party in your home or at an outside venue, the name of the game is “fabulous.” And, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give off that feeling to your guests. You’d be surprised how a little can go a long way.

Looking for more great Christmas ideas? Be sure to check out my collection of Christmas Crafts and Activities for the entire family.

Frugal Christmas Party Ideas: Throwing a Party on a Shoestring | The Jenny Evolution

Frugal Christmas Party Ideas

Send email invitations: Want to invite people to your Christmas party? Use the Evite system or Paperless Post to create a catchy invitation to let everyone know when and where. Others can see who is coming and who is still undecided.

Decorate your place: It doesn’t have to cost a lot to decorate your home. And with these party ideas, you can keep the decorations in place to enjoy yourself for the rest of the holiday season. Here are some tips:

  • Fill clear plastic bowls with large Christmas ornaments.
  • Add a string of lights to jars of potpourri for a bright aromatic decoration.
  • Use the can spray and add a frosty appearance to your windows just in time for the party.

Have an afternoon affair: Somewhere between lunch and dinner, say 4-6 pm, invite friends to come over and celebrate the holidays with you. Set your table with appetizers. Because dinner is coming up, people will eat less. Also, mingling means that they will graze a little but not get too full.

Visit the party supply store: Plastic drink cups that look great for your party don’t cost a lot when bought in bulk. One bag of seasonal confetti can cover your entire food and drink table.

Create your own mini meal creations: Everything doesn’t have to be made from scratch. Take some crackers and top with pepperoni and olive. Buy a tray of brownies and decorate them with festive colored icing and sprinkles. Buy a bulk bag of nuts and spice them yourself.

Make party favors for your guests: This doesn’t have to be hard or expensive either. Give everyone a souvenir from your party by decorating wine glasses or water goblets with glass safe acrylic paints. Fill each with a simple ornament and ribbon streamers. Decorate glass votive holders and add an aromatic candle to each.

Ask for party gifts: Every guest can bring a small wrapped gift to be used as prizes for party games. As for the games themselves, game ideas can be downloaded off the internet for hours of fun.

Bring out the CDs: No need for an expensive DJ. Spin a few holiday CDs. Get a karaoke game going.

Who says that fun has to be expensive? Try any one or more of these ideas for your next Christmas Party.

December 15, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes
2 Comments

Leo Lionni Books: Author Spotlight, Crafts and Activities

Leo Lionni Books, Crafts, Activities and Author Spotlight. Find Leo Lionni’s books at your local library or to purchase use the affiliate links provided for your convenience. All recommendations are my own.

Some authors create such a wonderful mass of work they deserve their own special post. This week, The Jenny Evolution is spotlighting Leo Lionni, who has a lighthearted magical quality to his work. He often includes sweet sentiments as well as a wry sense of humor that connects with kids.

Two of our favorite books are not necessarily his most popular across the board. My son’s all-time favorite story is Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, about a mouse who wishes he could be a wind-up toy but discovers it’s best to be just himself. Our other personal favorite is Inch by Inch, about an inch worm who out sneaks a vain bird who threatens to eat him.

Leo Lionni Books: Author Spotlight, Crafts and Activities | The Jenny Evolution

 

To see all of Leo Lionni’s books, visit his Amazon Author Page.

Frederick by Leo Lionni. Click for round-up of author activities and crafts.

Frederick: While the other field mice work to gather grain and nuts for winter, Frederick sits on a sunny rock by himself. “I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days,” he tells them. Another day he gathers “colors,” and then “words.” And when the food runs out, it is Frederick, the dreamer and poet, whose endless store of supplies warms the hearts of his fellow mice, and feeds their spirits during the darkest winter days. Frederick’s story will warm readers as well in this Caldecott Honor winning fable.

Swimmy by Leo Lionni. Click for round-up of author activities and crafts. #kidlit

Swimmy: Deep in the sea there lives a happy school of little fish. Their watery world is full of wonders, but there is also danger, and the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding . . . until Swimmy comes along. Swimmy shows his friends how-with ingenuity and team work-they can overcome any danger. With its graceful text and stunning artwork, this Caldecott Honor Book deserves a place on every child’s shelf.

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni. Click for round-up of author activities and crafts.

Inch by Inch: A small green inchworm is proud of his skill at measuring anything—a robin’s tail, a flamingo’s neck, a toucan’s beak. Then one day a nightingale threatens to eat him if he cannot measure his song. Children will enjoy the clever inchworm’s solution and delight in finding the tiny hero on every page. Every inch the classic, this was the first of Lionni’s books to win the Caldecott Honor.

Leo Lionni. Click for round-up of author activities and crafts.

Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse: Everyone loves Willy the wind-up mouse, while Alexander the real mouse is chased away with brooms and mousetraps. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be loved and cuddled, thinks Alexander, and he wishes he could be a wind-up mouse too. In this gentle fable about a real mouse and a mechanical mouse, Leo Lionni explores the magic of friendship. Originally published in 1969, the Caldecott Honor-winning Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse is sure to enchant a whole new generation of readers.

An Extraordinary Egg by Leo Lionni. Click for round-up of author activities and crafts.

An Extraordinary Egg: It’s an extraordinary day on Pebble Island for three frogs when one of them discovers a beautiful white egg. They’ve never seen a chicken egg before, but they’re sure that’s what this must be. So when the egg hatches and out crawls a long green, scaly creature, they naturally call it . . . a chicken! From award winning-artist Leo Lionni, here’s a hilarious case of mistaken identity that children are sure to delight in.

A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni. Click for more activities about this book

A Color of His Own: Elephants are gray. Pigs are pink. Only the chameleon has no color of his own. He is purple like the heather, yellow like a lemon, even black and orange striped like a tiger! Then one day a chameleon has an idea to remain one color forever by staying on the greenest leaf he can find. But in the autumn, the leaf changes from green to yellow to red . . . and so does the chameleon. When another chameleon suggests they travel together, he learns that companionship is more important than having a color of his own. No matter where he goes with his new friend, they will always be alike.

Leo Lionni Crafts and Activities

Swimmy the Fish Stamp Craft | Mama Jenn

5 Leo Lionni Activities | Random House Kids

Chameleon Pipe Cleaner Animals | Lines Across

A Color of His Own Art Lesson | Deep Space Sparkle

Fingerprint Fish | 3 Dinosaurs

Frederick the Mouse Collage | A Faithful Attempt

Letter I Activities: Inchworm | Fantastic Fun and Learning

Fish Bowl Craft | 4 Crazy Kings

Fish Paper Art Collage | Waddlee-ah-chaa

Color Exploration | Crayon Freckles

Measuring Play Dough Inchworms | Teach Preschool

Mouse Craft | No Time for Flashcards

Toilet Paper Roll Octopus | Simple As That

Wax Paper Chameleon | Pieces by Polly

Rock Frog Tutorial | Hundreds and Thousands

 

About Leo Lionni

Leo Lionni has gained international renown for his paintings, graphic designs, illustrations, and sculpture, as well as for his books for children. He was born in Holland in 1910 of Dutch parents, and although his education did not include formal art courses (in fact, he has a doctorate in economics from the University of Genoa), he spent much of his free time as a child in Amsterdam’s museums, teaching himself to draw.

Lionni’s business training gradually receded into the background as his interest in art and design grew. Having settled in Milan soon after his marriage in 1931, he started off by writing about European architecture for a local magazine. It was there that he met the contacts who were to give him a start as a professional graphic designer. When he moved to America in 1939, Lionni was hired by a Philadelphia advertising agency as art director. Later he became design director for the Olivetti Corporation of America, and then art director for Fortune magazine. At the same time, his reputation as an artist flourished as he began to exhibit his paintings and drawings in galleries from New York to Japan.

Lionni launched his career as an author/illustrator of books for children in 1959. Originally developed from a story he had improvised for his grandchildren during a dull train ride, Little Blue and LittleYellow was the first of what is now a long list of children’s picture books, including four Caldecott Honor Books.

December 12, 2014
by Jennifer
0 comments

Christmas Baking: Gluten Free Desserts

Why should the other kids have all of the cookies? If your family has gone gluten-free, as many in our sensory and Autism communities have, rather than sitting on the sidelines let your kiddo enjoy some of the sweets of the season. There’s no reason to miss out! Here are some mouth-watering gluten free desserts and snack recipes that they entire family can enjoy!

Looking for more great Christmas ideas? Be sure to check out my collection of Christmas Crafts and Activities for the entire family.

Gluten Free Desserts and Baking Goodies | The Jenny Evolution

Gluten Free Desserts for Christmas

Gluten Free Quinoa Brownies | My Real Food Family

Gluten Free Quinoa Brownies | My Real Food Family

Chocolate Gluten Free Cookie Recipe | Powerful Mothering

Chocolate Gluten Free Cookie Recipe | Powerful Mothering

Almond Lime Macaroons {Gluten Free, Low Fat, Low Calorie} | Food Done Light

Almond Lime Macaroons {Gluten Free, Low Fat, Low Calorie} | Food Done Light

One Bowl Flourless Chocolate Cake (gluten free) | Inspiration for Moms

One Bowl Flourless Chocolate Cake | Inspiration for Moms

No-Bake Chocolate-Coconut Peanut Butter Bars | Two Healthy Kitchens

No-Bake Chocolate-Coconut Peanut Butter Bars | Two Healthy Kitchens

Gluten Free Apple Crisp | The Chaos and the Clutter

Gluten Free Apple Crisp | The Chaos and the Clutter

Easy 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe | Poems & Quote Finders

Easy 3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe | Poems & Quote Finders

Gluten Free Donuts | Mess for Less

Gluten Free Donuts | Mess for Less

Grandma’s Lemon Jello Cake (Gluten Free) | Beauty Through Imperfection

Grandma’s Lemon Jello Cake (Gluten Free) | Beauty Through Imperfection

Gluten Free Chocolate and Peanut Butter Trifle | The Chaos and the Clutter

Gluten Free Chocolate and Peanut Butter Trifle | The Chaos and the Clutter

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | Pint-Sized Treasures

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | Pint-Sized Treasures

Grain-Free Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes | Crazy Adventures in Parenting

Grain-Free Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes | Crazy Adventures in Parenting

Cranberry Gluten Free Breakfast Cookies | True Aim

Cranberry Gluten Free Breakfast Cookies | True Aim

Gluten Free Rocky Road with Toblerone and Red Frogs | Lessons Learnt Journal

December 11, 2014
by Jennifer Hughes
14 Comments

Friday Flash Blog No. 96 {Plus Features}

Friday Flash Blog is a flash mob of blogs, highlighting the best of bloggers from the week. Be sure to check them out (and the ones I’ve featured) as well as link up your own.

Weekly Thought: Can we talk holiday cards for one minute? For years I used to get my holiday cards out on time. But since having kids, it’s been a downward spiral. There’s just so much to get done in the Christmas season and I can’t seem to get my tush in gear and get these done. Where do you stand on Christmas cards?

DIY Button Christmas Tree Ornaments from Darlene Nemeth

DIY Button Christmas Tree Ornaments from Darlene Nemeth

Make An Indoor Snowball Fight Set. Awesome idea from Sew Can Do

Make An Indoor Snowball Fight Set. Awesome idea from Sew Can Do

Pepperoni Pizza Stuffed Shells Recipe by Life with the Crust Cut Off

Pepperoni Pizza Stuffed Shells Recipe by Life with the Crust Cut Off

DIY Paper Snowflake Ornament Tutorial from Paper Seedling

DIY Paper Snowflake Ornament Tutorial from Paper Seedling

Mint Chocolate Oreo Fudge Recipe by This Silly Girl's Life

Mint Chocolate Oreo Fudge Recipe by This Silly Girl’s Life

Christmas Decorating with Fairy Lights from A Life in Balance

Christmas Decorating with Fairy Lights from A Life in Balance

20 Best Christmas Movies of All Time | The Jenny Evolution

20 Best Christmas Movies of All Time. Did yours make the list from The Jenny Evolution?

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