An Uncomplicated Life Blog


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Creative Christmas Wrapping Ideas

Creative and environmentally friendly ways to wrap your presents and gifts this holiday season

I LOVE wrapping presents. My husband and I make a good team because he does the shopping, and I do the wrapping. I very much dislike shopping, but wrapping is a fun art form to me. Whereas his wrapping leaves... a bit to be desired! This year, I thought it'd be fun to try something different. I've been on a small crusade to make my home more eco-friendly, and it's always struck me how wasteful wrapping paper is. Especially if you're a last minute shopper, then the wrapping is only on the present for a small time before it's ripped up and thrown in the trash! The print on it makes it not even appropriate for your fireplace. So this year, I've come up with some creative Christmas wrap ideas that are eco-friendly, easy to do and honestly, cost effective too.

As I was researching this post, I was sitting at a lunch bar that I frequent and was talking to some other regulars as I worked. We all chat about what we do regularly, and we all have very different jobs: hairstylist, insurance agent, small business owner, clothier and so on. But there was one consistent response as I unofficially polled my regular lunch companions - nobody has time for super fancy wrapping! With that in mind, I wanted to keep my "creative" ideas as simple and as easy to implement as possible, while keeping it classy and good looking. So I came up with a few variations for you:

I reused brown paper bags from Whole Foods, cutting them open and using the inside which has no printing on it. Then I used twine I had leftover from goodness knows what, and attached a few jingle bells I had leftover from photographing this DIY peppermint foot scrub (which is a great gift to wrap in this, I should add!). I also had some snowflakes that I used regular white glue to adhere to the front of the package. Instead of using a gift tag, I used a metallic Sharpie to write the gift recipients name on the package and boom. Done. It took all of 4-5 minutes, too.

Wrapping tips for:

Reusing grocery bags for wrapping
- cut the bottom out of the bag
- remove the handles, if there are any
- turn inside out

Making clean edges when wrapping
- after taping the wrapping around the package lengthwise, use your thumbs to press the short edges inward
- crease with your fingers
- cut the top (where you taped the lengthwise seam) of the wrapping short enough to just cover the sides of your package
- pull the bottom piece up and around and secure with tape

To decorate the paper bag wrapping, I got creative with holiday decorations I already had on hand. Twine keeps the look farmhouse rustic; jingle bells add flair and color; the snowflakes are easy to attach with a glue stick; and the candy canes I had on hand as a former photo prop from this DIY ornament (hint hint, another great gift you could wrap with these creative Christmas wrapping ideas!) and were super easy to incorporate into the packaging.

The thing that I like about the paper bag is that it's so versatile - what do you have? Maybe you have a rubber stamp collection - get some gold or silver ink and go to town! Or perhaps you've got an amazing ribbon collection. The brown paper works with just about any ribbon, from glittery and fancy to twine, like you see me use. Have fun colored Sharpie markers? Yup, those work too! Glitter paint or pens? Those are perfect. This method really works with whatever you already have, or all you need is a few cheap additions (those snowflakes were $1.99 for three colors, and the jingle bells weren't much more!)

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I wasn't kidding when I said each package took 2-5 minutes, depending on what I did. Which is about standard for wrapping any present and tying a ribbon on it with a gift tag. So not only is this method eco-friendly because you're reusing paper bags and potentially other materials too, but it's also more cost effective than traditional wrapping. Not to mention, nobody else's presents will look like yours, so when you bring them to your family's Christmas, they'll stand out with your creativity!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Currently, November Edition

Here's what happening around here, currently

It's a total cliche, but man if it isn't true: I blinked, and it's the holidays already. Thanksgiving is perhaps my absolute favorite: memories were made over Halloween but there's still Christmas to look forward to. Stuffing/dressing (do you know the difference? It's in how it's cooked - stuffing is actually placed inside the turkey to bake while dressing is in it's own pan. The more you know, right?!) with gravy is probably one of my favorite foods, and I love getting up Thanksgiving morning to start cooking and to watch the parade (from the warmth of my home) with my kids. They're at the age where the balloons are fascinating and "super cool" to them, and I'll soak up these precious years while I can. Outside of the holidays, here's what's going on around here currently:

Otto is OBSESSED with Frozen, and I AM HERE FOR IT.
Y'all this kid. He loooooooves Elsa. I don't understand where the current obsession came from, because we've had and watched the movie for years. We did bring it in the car for our trip to Galveston last August... But even more recently than that, this kid is all about that Frozen life. I already got us tickets to see Frozen II with a friend and her two boys. And yes, Otto will probably be dressed up as Elsa. I told my friend to bring bail money, because if I hear anyone say something about how a little boy is dressed up as a princess, I'm losing it on them. All that mess aside, it's so fun to see his eyes light up when the music comes on and how much he loves it. I'm not that big a fan myself, but this movie theater has great food (popcorn with REAL butter), wine and overstuffed reclining seats so hey - even the most annoying of children's movies is a fun time.

My princess loving little boy Otto

Henry is a full fledged little boy.
We got his school pics and it was the first time I really noticed that he's no longer a toddler - he's a kid! He's in boy size 7 or 8 now. He has opinions. He just went on his first field trip with school where he rode an actual school bus. I know that doesn't seem like a big deal to most parents, but our bus system in Dallas is... Unsafe. Nearly every week there's a crash, it's not unusual for it to be fatal, and the drivers, of SCHOOL BUSES, are so bad at running red lights, they installed cameras on the buses to track driving performance. Needless to say, I was excited for his field trip but terrified that he'd be on a bus. All went well and I, not he, climbed that first mountain. He's lost all his baby chub and is for sure a big (little) boy now.

Photo of a photo so the quality is awful but look at this man child I have! And that forced smile, haha! Oh, school photos

Convinced I'll get my act together for Christmas early this year.
I'm that woman who's a last minute shopper. In fact, I normally don't even do any shopping for the kids - I leave that to my husband. Now we all know that I'm not a big shopper in general, but you'd think since I love the holiday so much, I'd be all about it, right? NO. I can't stand holiday shopping. Ughhhh, finding a parking spot during December is the worst. But! I'm going to try to get all my shopping done this month so I don't even need to worry about parking spots. Here's to hoping I can get it done... What are y'all getting your spouses? He's the hardest one to shop for!

Looking forward to 2020.
Here's a weird trend I've noticed about my life: odd years are always harder or more stressful than even years. Almost without fail, this holds true! I spent the first part of 2015 deep in postpartum depression with Henry. Then in 2016 I had Otto (well, he came Christmas of 2015) and adjusting to two babies was so much easier than I thought. I didn't have PPD with him. We hired a nanny, who still works for us, and this blog started to make good money. 2017 was one of the most challenging years I've had as an adult. Perhaps I'll open up about it in a blog post soon... But man, that was a hard one. Then I got pregnant with twins in early 2018 and it was an easy, complication free pregnancy. 2019 was all about survival mode with two infants and two toddlers and a husband who travels extensively for work. As we head into 2020, all my kids sleep from 7pm to 7am (a MIRACLE), Henry is now an actual kid and no longer a toddler, the twins will start walking and I only need to cook one dinner as everyone can eat table food. So right off the bat, it's set up better than 2019! I'm looking forward to having more energy, more sleep, and older kids who are more independent which translates to more time to pursue personal interests - which, of course, will result in fun blog posts. Bring on an even year!

Switched up my veggie garden for fall.
There's still herbs (sage and rosemary, great for the Thanksgiving meal I'll be preparing soon) growing, and I recently planted carrots that are sprouting, but on a whim, I decided to try my hand at sunflowers in my raised garden bed. It was a success! They're taller than I am now and we constantly have fresh sunflowers on our dining room table. The kids are fascinated with them. I planted a color mix, so some are yellow, some are red and a few are white. It's been a nice change, and it's great to have flowers deep into the fall. 

That's what's going on around here currently! In addition to all that above, I'm looking forward to taking a two week break from blogging around Christmas and New Years. I may even take a social media break too, it's hard to say! There's nothing better than a little reset with time away from the internet to help generate new ideas and get motivated to jump into 2020 with strong content. Holiday season 2019, here. we. come!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A Healthier Take On Kid-Approved Favorite Meals

Sure, mac n'cheese, hot dogs and chicken tenders always go over well with toddlers and kids; here's a healthier take on a classic kid-approved meal to better serve your family

This post is sponsored by CAULIPOWER but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

While I love to cook healthy things like homemade minestrone soup and tons of variations on quinoa salads, here's the truth: I'm just like you. I'm a mom of four kids. And while the twins are still in the stage where they'll eat whatever is placed in front of them, my older two boys won't. Despite breastfeeding each of them and attempting to incorporate tons of veggies and legumes early on, I still have toddlers/young kids. And that means they love classic, comforting "kid" approved food, like mac n'cheese, hot dogs and chicken tenders. Chicken tenders is one of their all time favorites - everyone, twins included, LOVE them! I've discovered a few ways to make their meal a tad healthier for them. Here's what I've found to have a healthier take on kid-approved, favorite meals.

Let's talk about Otto's face for a min here... He couldn't be bothered with a photo, he was too busy eating!
For ages, I couldn't get Henry to eat any meat. When he was about 4, he'd at least try a chicken nugget, and by four and a half, he was requesting them for supper. Which is great! Except I felt guilty feeding him highly processed, "junk" filled protein. There were so many fat grams and so much sodium in conventional chicken tenders I wondered if there was any real protein in them!

Enter CAULIPOWER chicken tenders. They've got 86% less fat when baked than any other chicken tender on the market. They also have a reasonable calorie content - only 460 calories for the entire bag of chicken tenders. The secret is in their gluten free crust, made with cauliflower and other gluten free ingredients. And the chicken? It's all natural from cage free chickens that have never seen an antibiotic. Wanna give them a try yourself? Click here for a $2 off coupon! CAULIPOWER chicken tenders are available at most major retailers.

But do kids actually like a healthier chicken tender? I'll let these photos speak for themselves. I'd say there were a great crowd pleaser, from my one year old twins all the way to my five and a half year old kindergartner.

Knox ate the most of anyone! Kid ate four chicken tenders. Hes 12 months old. WHAT?
Even fruit loving Teddy loved them!
If you've got kids with discerning palettes, aka a good old fashioned picky eater aka every child on the face of the planet, you've got to pick your battles. Sure, sometimes it's worth the struggle to get them to try new foods. Sometimes, you've got to pick those battles and help your children experience new foods and textures. But sometimes, you've got to please your children. Sometimes, it's worth it to give them what they want. The great thing is, with CAUIPOWER chicken tenders, you don't have to sacrifice quality for great taste that your kids will love. I call that a win-win.