Happy New Year 2016!

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Happy New Year! Hope you all had a lovely holiday season and that your 2016 is off to a great start!

Ours was hectic to start off, then got really quiet right around Christmas thanks to a single bout of some stomach bug Big Sis picked up and then sped up again towards the end. With the girls back in school and the hubby back at work now, things are a little quieter around here now (minus all the work that's being done on our outdoor living project), which gives me time to reflect back on the holidays: the fun times, the crazy times, the best of's and even the times I wish things had gone differently.

One thing I am happy about is that we managed to fit in our Tree Decorating Party into our schedule in some what of a timely manner, ie before Christmas. lol. That, in itself, is a huge accomplishment.

The time between Halloween and New Year's day is one of my most favorite times of year. But it's also the most stressful times as well, which makes them go by like a blur. So here is a list of things I'd like to do next holidays, to get the most I can out of them:

1. Cut way down on the holiday baking madness that I do alone and add in a little more baking time w/ my girls. In years past, I've spent a countless number of hours baking multiple treats as gifts like a crazy woman for family, friends, teachers and neighbors. I did it mostly because I loved to, plus it helped cut costs (I think), but the time spent on it was be overwhelming, especially around such a busy time. Next year, I will just pick one or two EASY items to share, something I can do with the girls' help and make it a fun time for all (and easier to crank out). See? This is just insane and I don't want to do that anymore!

I was actually pretty good this year and only made 3 super easy treats: chocolate dipped shortbread cookies, dipped pretzel sticks and sugar cookies to be decorated throughout the month. It was much more manageable! 

2. Make charity giving of time and money a priority from the start. Throughout the year, the girls save some portion of their money to "share", ie give to charity, whether it be through school, random gifting trees or even the salvation army pots. In years past, we've rang the Salvation Army bell, volunteered at our local food bank, shopped for groceries as well as gifts for families in need from the girls' own schools, packed lunches for the brown bag ministries and even threw in a couple Secret Santa items the girls picked off of various giving trees. This year we sadly only got to do one of those things.

3. Start shopping earlier for goodness sakes! I don't usually get going on it until a week or 2 AFTER Thanksgiving, which doesn't leave a whole lot of time! Plus, I missed out on pretty awesome American Girl deals (and ended up paying WAY TOO MUCH) for stuff because I was so last minute. This adorable set both girls wanted for Christmas was on sale for 20% and free shipping the first week in December, but I waited too long and paid FULL price AND full shipping. Waaaaah! Next year, I WILL START SOONER!!

4. Keep up some semblance of exercise so I don't gain like 6 pounds like I did this year. I WILL EAT A LOT, that is a guarantee, but throw a little steady exercise in with it and maybe I won't gain as much and maybe even be a little less cranky at times! No pictures, please. lol

5. Remember what the holidays are about - spending time with the ones you love and having FUN. We are so lucky we got to spend lots of quality time with family and friends. These were taken between Christmas and New Year's - how lucky are we?!?! Missed were Mom and Mike and Dad and Mary. We'll be catching up with them soon! May YOUR new year be filled with lots of selfies with the ones YOU love! 

So any of you have some holiday gift cash that you still haven't spent? Here are some of the biggest hits from this Christmas, ones from Christmases past, and some, just because. :) In a nutshell, here is my family's list of "Must have and some why nots?"

1. Juicy Power 7-Port Desktop USB Charging Station. It is da bomb! Especially now that we have 5+ electronic devices (Apple and Android) that need daily charging at any given time. This charging station is AWESOME because it supports smart, rapid and safe charging of up to SEVEN different devices at the same time and they all fit at once! AMAZING! It even has room for 2 more for when family and friends come to visit! Numerous friends and family have asked for more info on said charger because not only does it act cool, it looks cool too. :) Only con is that you have to purchase the cords separately, but that just makes it more customizable.

2. Big Sis' all-time FAVORITE gift of Christmas, of maybe even the whole year! She's been bugging us non-stop for a laptop, but instead, she got an iPad mini, just before Christmas. She paid for half of it herself and we paid the other half, for the good grades she worked hard for last year as well as the first half of this year. We thought she'd just use this keyboard cover on occasion, swapping it out w/ her other less bulky cover but that has not been the case at all. It has yet to come off and she loves to act like this is her laptop. Doesn't she look so serious and business-like? lol.

3. I LOVE this lipstick charger and it has saved me on many occasions when my phone died but I wasn't near an outlet or charging station. Enter my handy dandy charger that I keep in my purse for emergencies just like that. It doesn't come with an apple lightning cable, so that, you would have to buy separately. Great for kids who have their own phones, too. :)

4. Anker PowerPort 6 (60W 6-Port USB Charging Hub) Multi-Port USB Charger. This one is my travel charger. I keep it in a bag so it's packed and ready to go whenever and where ever our many travels take us throughout the year. It's portable and can quickly and safely charge any of our phones and other devices when we're on the go. Judging from this list thus far, it's plain to see that my kids have definitely entered the electronic device age. lol.


5. POPCORN! My family is comprised of a bunch popcorn addicts, starting with first and foremost, my hubby. The girls are right along there with him. As are our extended family. This very popcorn popper has been given as gifts about 3 different times, on both sides of the family. It makes delicious popcorn and is rather fun to watch. I made mention of it in one of my first giveaways for popcorn. Sadly, I can no longer find that brand of popcorn so we've since switched to Bob's Red Mill White Popcorn which is also non-GMO and delicious!

6. Soccer Rebounder! Both the girls have been very into soccer over the past year or 2. They both play in competitive leagues and between the 2 of them, they practice/play every single day, sometimes even twice. Nana asked what she could get for the girls this year, something that was going to be useful and fun and not just the same ol same ol, so the hubby suggested this, as a combined gift for both of them, for both Christmas and their birthdays in January and sure, next Christmas, too, lol. Because they need to play more soccer, right? haha. But this rebounder is perfect for practicing passing, shooting, trapping and heading. And you can do it alone or with a buddy. It's the strongest and largest portable trainer on the market, great for not only soccer, but for basketball, baseball and lacrosse, too. It's set up in the garage for now, while the weather is cold and wet, for optimal use. The girls and the hubby have been rather enjoying it. Me? My skillz definitely need work, though. :)

7. When I asked Little Sis what her favorite Christmas gifts were, she said it was a tie between her remote control BB8 from Target. It is pretty cool to see him roam around the house.

8. Or her Koala stuffed animal aka Kowawa. He's 14 inches of softness and cuddles - even I like giving him hugs, and she sleeps with her every night. :)


8. Lastly, if you need lunch stuffs, here are my basic necessities, ie the items I use THE MOST out of all my bento stash. I tried to reduce this list by one to make 'em fit nicely on one line but I just can't do it! lol.


Lastly, here's a post of some of my favorite lunches from 2015, all packed in EasyLunchboxes. Hope you like 'em too!

My Epicurean Adventures: 2015 Favorites in EasyLunchboxes - Lunch box ideas, school lunch ideas, lunches

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Starting from the top left corner...

Row 1: Breakfast BagelEnglish Muffin Pizza LunchablesHearts & Flowers Cheese & CrackersTaco Salad
Row 4: Pizza BagelsFlat Rounds Pizza LunchablesTurkey ReubenSt. Patrick's Day Flat Rounds

That's it! Hope you have the best new year!

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Here are some affiliate links to the products I love and use on a daily basis. Well, I don't use ALL of them everyday but I do use at least 3 every day... you know what I mean! :) Feel free to ask me about any of 'em! Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)

This post has been shared at:
Homemade Mondays
Tuesday's Table
Anyonita Nibbles' - Tasty Tuesdays
What Kids Eat Wednesday
The Party Bunch

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used on this blog. :)

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