gallamore west: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent Calendars & Favorite Traditions {A Link Party!}

Welcome to my 1st Link Party!  I'm super excited that you're here... long or short, lots of photos or just one, I'd love to have you link up at the bottom of this post!  
{p.s. Next week will be all about Christmas Trees!}
* * * * *

I love Christmas Time... I mean L.O.V.E. it.

the lights...
the sweets...
the celebrations...
the decorations...
the food...
the anticipation...
the gifts our boys pick out for us from their Christmas shop at school...
the traditions, old and new...

and of course, the real reason for the season.

Luckily for me, I have three little boys who L.O.V.E. it all just as much as me {and one Grinch of a Hubs... seriously, I bought him a Ba-Humbug shirt one year.  He wears it to hang our lights outside!  But he's a pretty good sport.} 

And since one of my most important goals as a Mama is to fill my boys with traditions that remind them of who they are and how loved they are in our family, I eat up every second of the season enjoying the magic of the holidays through the eyes of my boys.  I also eat up every last bit of fudge, but that's another story.

One of our favorite traditions for the past few years has been our Advent Calendar.  But since the month of December is packed full of sweets every day, try not to give them more candy "just because."  So I fill our Advent Calendar with slips of paper that list different family activities for each day of the month.  

In past years I've used a store-bought Advent "Chalet" with cute little doors, but this year I wanted to switch it up so I made my own {printable numbers from The Crafting Chicks taped onto letter-sized envelopes cut in half then turned sideways like a little pocket, and a little slip of paper tied with a ribbon inside of each for the daily activity to be written on... I don't write them ahead of time because I sometimes change up the plan depending on how our day is going.  I wrapped twine around the chalkboard and used mini clothespins and double-sided tape to attach the daily envelopes}

{I LOVE our "new" vintage chalkboard... such a fabulous find recently from the brand new shop Stitched. for just $22 and it's HUGE,but I should've tried harder to erase Sam's writing on it before taking these pictures... whooooops}

Here's some of our favorite advent activities...

Family movie night {which basically means we watch Elf... over and over and over... and even in July, long past "the season" has ended}.  Here are my own little elves.

Making and decorating sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies...

Doing Christmas crafts...

Going somewhere fun like Knott's Berry Farm...

Or Jungle Bells at the Zoo...

Or sometimes even a fun family vacation, like the time we went to Yosemite...

Or to the Polar Express by the Grand Canyon...

We were totally that family who ALL wore matching pajamas... what was I thinking?!

Our boys wearing cute new pajamas that they get to open every year on December 1st 
{on the 2nd this year, darn you UPS!}

Making gingerbread houses

And one of my very favorite traditions... driving around looking at Christmas lights.  Every year we vote on our favorite house, then leave that family a treat on their doorstep with a note telling them that our kids voted their house as the BEST of the neighborhood!  Seriously, how fun would that be to get something like that after all that hard work that goes into putting up those decorations?  Before we moved, this was our favorite house {mostly because they had a really cool train track set up in the garage that the boys LOVED}. 
I can't wait to see which house our boys choose this year now that we've moved!

Oh, and sometimes I guess I DO give them a little bit of chocolate!
{Sam in 2005}

I would love to see your Advent Calendar, and read about some of the fun activities you do to celebrate Christmas.  As you can see, we're definitely a "celebrate it all month long" kind of family.  I can't wait to see what you do in your house to make the holidays special.  You can link to a blog post {new or old}, a public Facebook album, or a Flickr acct. And this is my very 1st Linky Party so forgive me if I don't do it just right... I'll try my hardest :) I'll leave this link open for a whole week until we move onto Christmas Trees next week.

Link up below!!  
{Pretty please :)}

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Pictures & a BIG announcement!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  

Ours was quiet- filled with popsicles, putting up our Christmas tree, and pajamas.  And it's a good thing that we got a jump start on the holiday festivities around here because here's what wonderful memories I've captured so far...

{Making "beautiful" salt dough ornaments}

{Hanging Christmas lights on the front fence}

Take One {of probably a million attempts this holiday season} for a decent picture of all three boys smiling in front of the tree

I'd better get busy getting a good picture of the three of them smiling in front of the tree because next year when there is a NEW BABY BROTHER in the picture, I'm pretty sure it will be impossible to get all four of our boys to smile at once!  

If you remember this post, you're probably surprised to read that we're going for #4.  

Well, we were too...  not surprised to be pregnant actually, but surprised that we both felt that there was one more baby meant to join our family.  So, even though Luke and his new baby brother will be our closest two in age {just shy of 19 months apart} we are thrilled!  And he is due to arrive on his Daddy's birthday, May 21st, making it extra sweet.  

I'm definitely outnumbered, but I've been used to that for a while :)  And THAT is why I've been away from this blog more than usual... I've been busy resting and growing our 4th {and final!} Gallamore Baby Boy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Corn Casserole: A perfect holiday side dish

Need a last minute side dish to bring to Thanksgiving tomorrow?  This Corn Casserole is delicious, and you might just have all of these common ingredients in your house already!

My friend Maggie posted a question on Facebook last week asking friends what their favorite Thanksgiving dish is.  I loved reading the responses and got the idea for Corn Casserole from that Facebook thread.  When I read it was a Paula Deen recipe, I knew two things right away... 1) It would be packed with butter, and 2) I'd love it.  And I was right on both :)  
{We had it at our early Thanksgiving/Birthday Party, aka Smurfsgiving, thus the silly label!}

I loved how quick and easy this Corn Casserole is to put together, and it's so much better than regular corn.  I'm sure all that butter, sour cream, and bacon might have something to that!

Corn Casserole 
{adapted from Paula Deen}
1 can corn, drained
1 can cream-style corn
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted
5 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.  Pour into greased 9x13 baking dish.  {I used two pie dishes instead because it looked prettier that way.}  Bake for 50 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Serve warm and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Smurfs Party!

We celebrated an early Thanksgiving/Birthday Dinner for Sam on Sunday since he had his tonsils removed yesterday {poor kiddo!} and while combining his current favorite thing in the world, Smurfs, with Thanksgiving was a little challenging, it ended up being a celebration that he loved.  And it is definitely our most memorable Thanksgiving to date!

As much as the idea of having blue food sounded super fun, we LOVE our Thanksgiving Dinner and wanted to stick with the traditional foods.  So I decided to give all of the regular Thanksgiving dishes Smurf names instead...

Here are a couple of my favorite dishes from the day...

 {It wasn't really a trifle because the birthday boy insisted that Smurf Berries are plain, not with fancy stuff like layered cake or whipped cream!}

And this Corn Casserole is my new favorite side dish!  It was delicious and so, so easy to make {I'll post the recipe soon}.

And the drinks were Smurftastic too :)

Napkins from Target, red/blue suitcases originally used for Jake's Red Scooter Party {from Amazon}, Sam's Smurf toys, and the banner & labels made from my Silhouette and scrapbook paper were used for quick and easy decorations.

{eek... excuse the horrible lighting and my attempt at fixing this picture here!}

And of course, I had to dress up a burlap wreath for the occasion.

Sam loved his Smurf cake {and so did Jake!}

And of course there were plenty of presents {including a fish tank that now lives on our kitchen counter... I'm definitely a Mama of boys here :)} 

A few more things for our Smurftastic weekend were these cupcakes that Sam brought to school on Friday... 

And this Smurf that he made at Build-a-Bear.  
It was our 1st time taking the boys there and they loved every second of it!

Happy Birthday to Sam, our big 7 year old!!

Sam's surgery

He jumped right out of bed yesterday morning

Put on his favorite new pajamas

Grabbed his favorite new stuffed animals

And we headed out the door, before sunrise on a very foggy morning to have his tonsils removed {after countless fevers and missed school since July 2010}

He was so brave heading into the operating room.  It was a fairly quick surgery and it went according to plan, but nothing prepares you for how you feel after surgery.  Or how I would feel as a Mom watching my son so upset as he awoke from the anesthesia.  It was a heart-breaking 10 minutes or so of moaning/crying/rolling around that felt like forever.  And then he was calm and dozed off peacefully.

He was home within hours and slept most of the day yesterday.  Today he's up and building train tracks with his brothers.  The agenda is cleared for the whole week, so we're building lots of train tracks, eating ice cream, and working on a few little Christmas crafts.

We're hoping and praying and crossing our fingers for healthier, fever-free days now.

Friday, November 18, 2011

As seen on Pinterest: Smurf Cupcakes!

If you follow Gallamore West on Facebook, then you probably already know that we are combining my son's birthday with an early Thanksgiving celebration this Sunday because his birthday is tomorrow {we're going to Legoland!} and he is having his tonsils removed on Monday.  And Thanksgiving is the best meal of the year, so none of us want to miss out on that!  

And since he loves The Smurfs, it's a
"Happy Smurfsgiving" celebration all weekend long here!

We kicked off the celebration with these silly Smurf cupcakes that we brought to his class at recess to celebrate his birthday.  I got the idea here via Pinterest {here are my boards... I'm a crazy pinning Mama!}

They were a hit, although one cute little girl said she wished hers was a Smurfette.  Super cute idea... why didn't I think of that?!  The funniest part though was when Sam told me last night that one of the cupcakes looked like Grouchy Smurf and he knew which girl was going to get Grouchy.  Sure enough when he handed them out this morning he looked for Grouchy and handed it to her with a smile!

Here's a peek of what's to come this weekend...

Hope you have a great weekend!  
I'll be posting more pictures of our 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The best Banana Bread!

Have you tried this recipe for Buttermilk Banana Bread from House of Smiths?  It is hands-down THE best banana bread recipe I've ever tried.  

{recipe card & photo from}
It was the perfect thing to bake to warm up our house and our tummies on this cold, rainy day!   Mine always makes 8 mini loaves and bakes for exactly 30 minutes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Turkey Craft Day & Giveaway Winner!

We're up to our ears over here in...
pine cones
pipe cleaners {I know, I know... chenille sticks}
pom poms
paper plates
glitter glue
mod podge
hot glue {supervised, of course}
and oh, did I mention lots and lots of GLUE?

And what's a Turkey Craft Day without a "turkey" sandwich? 

Did I mention it's a Turkey Craft day in pajamas?!  I realize my turkey is a little less colorful than he should be and I really shouldn't give my boys chocolate chip eyes on a turkey sandwich, but I was using what I had on hand... you know, so I could stay in my pjs and not have to go to the store :)

 How cute is this sign Sam {he's in 1st grade} made for our Turkey Craft Day? 

 Turkeys on plates

Pine cone turkeys

Turkey Cupcakes
 I love making these turkey cupcakes because they're so cute, quick and easy!  This picture is actually from last year, but I figured I'd throw it in here because it fits the theme and I do have some chocolate cupcakes on hand... you just never know when you'll need them, right? :)

This little Butter Ball pic is also from last year, but I had to include it because how cute is that little turkey?! 

 Speaking of turkeys, Brittany from Vinyl 'n Things has THE cutest Thanksgiving crafts for sale.  Her work is adorable, her prices are affordable, and she is oh, so sweet.  And a big congratulations to Elizabeth, comment #13... you won the $20 credit to Vinyl 'n Things!  
Congratulations, Elizabeth!  I didn't see an email address so I left a comment on your blog.  Please email me by Monday afternoon at to claim your prize.  And a big thank you Brittany for doing this giveaway on my blog!

One last thing... it may be Turkey Craft & PJ's Day here, but why my cuties are home today is hugely important.  Thank you Veterans and your families for all that you have done so that we may enjoy one of our greatest blessings... freedom.

{That's my handsome Grandpa!}

I'm linking up to my favorite link party at Tatertots & Jello!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Halloween Candy Recipes

After a week of sneaking way more than my fair share of my boys' Halloween candy, I was ready to switch it up a little.  So rather than just tearing open those little wrappers and devouring mini Snickers and other such goodies, I decided to bake with some of my boys' candy.  I know, it doesn't exactly solve the "too much candy in this house" situation, but it did make it sweeter :)

On this rare rainy San Diego day, some M&M cookie bars were just what we needed... maybe "needed" isn't the really the right word, but they sure hit the spot.

My camera is freaking out this week {major sad face here} so I got this picture from my sugar, sugar board on Pinterest.   It's from a blog called Lizzy Goes Dutch.

M&M Cookie Bars
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 large eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 packages fun-size M&Ms
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 3/4 cup all- purpose flour

Cream butter and sugars.  Beat in eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated.  Add in baking soda, salt, and vanilla.  Slowly add in flour, scraping sides to combine.  Stir in M&Ms and chocolate chips.  Spread evenly into greased 9x13 glass pan.  Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes or so, until lightly golden brown on top.  I didn't actually time it so start checking it at about 25 minutes.

Here's another recipe that I'm dying to try with our Halloween candy, Snickers popcorn from  It's really homemade caramel corn loaded with Snickers... yummm!

Something about a rainy day makes me guilt-free about baking, eating chocolate, and getting cozy in my Uggs and sweater.  I hope it keeps raining all weekend! :) 

I'm linking up to Tatertots & Jello!


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