Friday, December 16, 2016

Holiday Watch List

We've been busy getting into the holiday spirit! Hanging candy canes from the boughs of our Christmas tree, putting up lights, having Christmas movie marathons. Here are my TOP THREE favorite Christmas movies. I have many, many favorites but these three always make the Watch List.

1). The Muppet Christmas Carol is the Charles Dickens' story of Ebeneezer Scrooge. Filled with catchy songs, all of your favorite Muppet characters and a great message about kindness. One of my kids thinks that it is a little creepy but she's very sensitive to anything with spirits. And of course Scrooge is met by three spirits. I have been watching this movie every holiday season since I was a kid so it's special to me and makes me feel close to my loved ones that I don't get to see anymore.

2). One of our newest additions to our Christmas movie collection is Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger. David Tennant is my favorite actor so when I came across this movie last year, I snatched it up! And it doesn't disappoint. Is it a little cheesy? Yes BUT most Christmas comedies are and that is okay. That's part of why we like them. This movie is a sweet, clean comedy with a great message. We laugh the entire time. It isn't one of those movies that I pop in "for the kids" and feel like I can't enjoy it. It is truly a movie for the whole family. Tennant gives amazing performances in two roles. If you love the Tenth Doctor, you will appreciate seeing David in this family-friendly Christmas movie.

3). This is the one movie that I can watch over and over and over again in one holiday season. Most Christmas movies are a "one and done" deal. I'll watch it once during a Christmas season and that's it. But not Elf! It has quickly become a classic that is enjoyed by everyone, all over the world, with fans quoting Buddy all season long. Heck, I'll watch Elf any time of the year. I just love this movie.

We also love so many others like Home Alone and my boys are loving Jingle All the Way (Schwarzenegger), even though Mommy isn't a fan. That's the one I pop in for them when I need to go cook dinner without them climbing the walls and getting into mischief. Some of my kids love The Nightmare Before Christmas. Daniel and I have a few that we watch without the kids like White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (the kids don't like the old classics and National Lampoon has adult humor/language).

What is on your holiday Watch List?!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Glasses Shop Review plus Coupon Code

Hey friends! Recently I broke my sunglasses. My prescription sunglasses! Prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses can put a huge dent in the pocketbook but my secret to affordable and attractive eye wear is ordering glasses online. I've ordered glasses from the big names out there. This summer contacted me and sent me a pair of sunglasses to try out and to share with you. I've never ordered from them before so this was great! I love trying out new things.

So I perused their website and found the perfect pair of sunglasses. I like big sunglasses. I am talking Audrey-Hepburn-in-Breakfast-at-Tiffany's big. I got the darkest tint (you can choose the color and darkness of the tint) and anti-glare and anti-scratch coatings.

My sunnies arrived in this super cute eyeglass case. They arrived quickly.

Now pardon the glaring sun but it was bright, perfect for wearing my sunglasses! And I was parked. Don't drive and selfie, people.

My big, bold, beautiful sunglasses are my prescription. They look great, they're clear and the coatings that I got are working well. Your order includes a little cloth to keep the lenses clean. I found the prices to be affordable.

Now you, too, can try with a special 50% off code (excludes sale items) AND free lenses!

Use the coupon code GSHOT50 when you order from

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Homeschool Classroom 2016-2017

I have been meaning to post this for such a long time now but it kept getting away from me. We are on week 12 of homeschool. It's been going pretty well. Over the summer I took a look at our back room, behind the kitchen. It is a small bedroom-sized room and it also houses our laundry. We had a deep freeze and two huge industrial shelves back there, for storage. We kept the litterbox in there. All-in-all it was kind of a gross room. Mainly because, in order to keep the rest of the house orderly, we tossed everything in there and pretended the room didn't exist. It was our laundry/utility/storage.

And I got sick of it. I love cleanliness. I love order. I love organization. I love everything having a place. I also love making good use of each space. I felt like we could make better use of the space by converting it into our classroom! Our dining room is the center of our house and it got taken over with school stuff.

Here's where we were doing school, which isn't too shabby. But when it's the center of your house it quickly gets taken over by school stuff. I needed a space to put school things, out of sight, so it wasn't consuming me and stressing me out:

I didn't get a before of the laundry/utility/storage room until after it was cleared out. The washer and dryer are in this separate space to the right. I had already begun filling in holes and getting ready for paint here.  

Notice the ceilings. I don't know why, but when we moved in I thought sponging metallic paint on the ceiling would look cool. Guess what! It doesn't!

Ceiling was painted white, the walls pale gray-blue, trim white. Elaina was helping paint the trim here.

These floors. SIGH. Well due to lack of funds we did what we could afford. And that was to paint them, with floor paint. I made sure everything was screwed down securely, filled in the seams with wood putty, and then power sanded it all down.

 I applied a primer and then a medium gray floor paint. We couldn't walk on it for days. And because it was so humid, it will still a little sticky when we did finally touch it. My cat walked over it, too, leaving little pawprints. Painting these floors was the worst thing I think I've ever done but there's no looking back.

Rare view of part of the room from the backyard window.

Finally moving in. We waited extra days to put furniture in there but it still rubbed up some of the paint. So so frustrating but better than plain orange-y plywood.

We ended up taking the little table out of the middle of the room and putting in a pretty, soft rug that the kids could lay on and read books.

Our bookcase is colorful and holds our school books, reading books, and anything we may need during lessons, like sharpeners and erasers. I love this bookcase.

All-in-all the room is bright, cheerful and best-of-all it is useful! This is our homeschool classroom.

Monday, November 14, 2016

And then she was one... and he was five...

September has already come and gone but I had to share: the baby is one!

Big beautiful blue eyes!

The kids helped me make her funfetti cupcakes. We put these pearl candies on and then regretted it shortly after. They were hard as rocks! Pretty, but not edible. I thought they'd be softer like wedding mints.

The pearls sure looked pretty.

Eating her birthday dinner: pizza. She was a little nervous because her grandparents were there. For whatever reason she freaks out when she sees them. No idea why! She's done it since she was old enough to notice people.

She loved the frosting (we plucked her pearl candies off). But she didn't really go crazy with the cake. Just a few nibbles of frosting were enough.

Wearing the jumper that her Nonna made for her. Little blurry but so cute. She has the best smile and the best hugs and the best giggles...

And big brother turned five just 12 days after her first birthday... I made a chocolate cake from scratch. But we used pre-made frosting that I tinted turquoise. It was so yum!

This wasn't taken on his exact birthday, but a few days before. Just love her squeezing her brother's face. They aren't always this amiable but they do get along pretty well!

Woke me up birthday morning so I could wish him a happy birthday.

I didn't get very many pictures of birthday boy. The boys move so fast. But he loved his Toy Story Busybook and got a pic of him playing with his gift, with two of his sisters.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

One Pan Creamy Garlic Pasta

Several years ago I developed this recipe for one-pan pasta, for garlic lovers everywhere. It is similar to Alfredo but not quite so thick. This is a quick meal that goes great with some grilled chicken or roasted vegetables and can easily be tweaked for your own tastes. Now it's not the healthiest pasta but it's nice for a quick dinner on a hectic night every now and again. So without further ado...


One lb of pasta (I like Linguine but Daniel likes Penne)
4.5 Cups Chicken Broth
1 stick butter, cut into individual tablespoons
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoon olive oil
2-tsp dried basil
1 pinch dried parsley
2 pinches ground pepper
1/2 Cup milk
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan (more or less, per your taste)

So grab a pan and let's get this party started...
Saute your minced garlic in 2-Tablespoons of the butter and the oil. Don't burn the garlic! Once the butter has melted, pour in your chicken broth. Homemade chicken broth is the best. But in my first picture I shown Orrington Farms chicken broth seasoning that I mix in 4.5 cups of water.

Add your basil, parsley, ground black pepper to the broth. Bring the broth mixture to a boil.

Note: you can use fresh basil. In fact I strongly encourage it. Look at my basil plant here. Totally got ignored. Right as I tossed in the dried basil I realized I could have used fresh, doh!

Once the broth is boiling, add dry pasta. I break my linguine noodles in half. Boil per package directions (mine was 8 minutes). Keep the boil light. You shouldn't have to drain by the end. Let the water boil down. Stir frequently to make sure pasta doesn't stick together or to the pan.

Your pasta should look like this when done. Broth is almost completely gone.You should not need to drain. If you do find yours is wetter than this, go ahead and drain. It's okay to have some broth. The Parmesan will thicken up any remaining liquid.

 Add the remaining butter and stir until melted.

Add the milk. You can skip the butter and milk and just use whipping cream but it creates an almost sickeningly thick sauce that I cannot personally tolerate.

Add the Parmesan. Use a cheap grated Parmesan. We've tried name brand and it just clumps together. This particular Parmesan that we're using here is from Aldis and tastes just great.

Let the pasta sit for a few minutes after you stir in the Parmesan. The Parmesan will thicken the sauce. Serve it up and enjoy!

Easy copy-and-paste directions:

One-Pan Creamy Garlic Pasta
By Joy Hopkins

One lb of pasta (I like Linguine but Daniel likes Penne)
4.5 Cups Chicken Broth
1 stick butter, cut into individual tablespoons
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoon olive oil
2-tsp dried basil
1 pinch dried parsley
2 pinches ground pepper
1/2 Cup milk
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan (more or less, per your taste)
1). Saute garlic in 2-Tablespoons butter and olive oil
2). Add broth and then the spices.
3). Bring to boil. Add pasta and cook to package directions. Stir frequently.
4). Broth should boil down to almost nothing. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining butter until melted.
5). Add milk and stir.
6). Add Parmesan and stir.
7). Let set for a few minutes until thickened. Serve!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Free Online Educational Programs for Kids

We have three weeks of school under our belts thus far and I thought it'd be important to create a post that shares some of the invaluable and free resources I have discovered. Please note that I haven't used the entirety of all of these websites, so I cannot speak to their accuracy. Some of these I've put here as bookmarks for myself and my own use.

I personally feel that modern technology is very helpful, especially for visual learners, in education. We use these programs to supplement and help solidify concepts that are often hard to imagine without visual aid. One example would be history. Documentaries and online programs, pictures and re-enactments help children to paint a mental image of the past. You can visit towns that do live re-enactments and visit museums to see and learn of the past, but for the spur-of-the-moment learning opportunities it is super helpful to have information just a few clicks away. I don't like my kids to sit online all day, so they don't. We spread these programs out throughout the week.

These are free websites as of this date. Some may also offer additional member benefits for a small fee. You should not be required to provide any payment information for the free services.


Teach Your Monster to Read
Spelling City
Quill  (middle/high school writing)
Learning English Kids (British English)
English Grammar 101
Grammar Monster


Science Fusion (links to another blog that has all the links)
Mystery Science (we got first year free; this may change)


Archeology for Kids (lots of fun games)
BBC History for Kids
National Museum of American History


Kahn Academy


List of Music Resources
Hoffman Academy (free piano lessons)
Art for Kids Hub


Dance Mat

Interactive Sites
Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool 

This list could go on and on! These are ones that we've personally used or are interested in using.
Is there anything you'd add to the list? 

Note: We do use some other online resources, like Reading Eggs, but you would have to pay to continue using after your free trial offer. I want to keep the above list to websites that you can use for free for at least one year or longer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer was...

School has already begun for us and I wonder what happened to summer. Summer was packed full of fun and this was probably the most summer fun that I've had with the kiddos. Older kids enjoy things much differently than toddlers and retain the memories. So here is what summer was for us...

Doll crafting! Elaina made all of the tiny things in the next two pics (first pic is of a mini shelf with a tiny lamp, handmade Kleenex box, mini bulletin board with tiny printables she cut out of American Girl magazine ads, tiny books that she made, etc.):

Enrollment day for music school!

Playing in the rain...

Piano recital...

Lots of art! Look at Judah's totally awesome volcanoes.

Lots of library trips...

New park opened up and it is the best park ever!

Car washes...

Birthday girl...

Potty training...

Picnics in the sunshine with all my babies...

Birthday boy!

Splashing in the fountains at the Concourse.

New bikes!

Bowling some balls...

Hanging out with my beauties (self-defense class):

Learning to kick butt...

Lots and lots of trips to the hardware store (whole separate post for that)...

Bike riding and running through the fountains... again...

Science experiments...

Selfies with all the kids when I was stuck in the nursery at church... those boys!

Just the girls now...

4th of July fun on the trampoline...

Party poppers on the 4th!

First time doing sparklers with the kids.

Teddy Bear Picnic, hosted by KC Museum...

Look at how big my baby is getting!

Fun games at the Teddy Bear Picnic

Crafts at the Teddy Bear Picnic

Silas looking so tiny and adorable with the display...

Balloon artist made these (Teddy Bear Picnic)

Silas was looking everywhere but at me...

Only a couple of my kids were patient enough to wait in line for face painting, ha! Abigail with her butterfly mask and (monkey?) balloon animal...

Early start on Christmas gift making...

Carnival time! Dreams came true when they got to ride ponies...

Love a duck!

Ah, we could stay here all day...

Holding chickens!

Finally putting in a garden bed, super late...

First piggy tails!

More play time at the park. She LOVED the swing!

Elaina putting her sewing machine to great use (next two pics):

 Convinced us to take them to the mall...

Discovering nature (and thankfully avoiding warts)!

We also went to the zoo but don't know where those pics are hiding.
We participated in Summer Reading at the local library, where Elaina earned a free book and a free box of a dozen doughnuts from our favorite doughnut place!

We may not have gotten to go to theme parks or leave the City, but I think we had a blast with what we could afford and with what was available. There were plenty of lazy movie days and indoor play, too. This introvert momma needs precious downtime between activities and most of these activities I did with all the kids, by myself! We also had a ton of time devoted to house projects (kitchen renovation and homeschool classroom renovation - posts coming soon).

There were a few regrets. I really wanted my kids to take swimming lessons, but unfortunately it is just too expensive for me to enroll all of them. (I did ask for discounts at every single place offering lessons, including the Y, but it still was too much for us.) So maybe a goal for next summer!

What summer fun was had with your family?!