Holiday-Themed Sensory Bags

According to Buddy, the elf, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” While I certainly believe this to be true, I can’t always just break out into song. I mean I could, but then everybody in the middle of Target would probably stare and there’s no way my kids would ever, EVER go out in public with me again. So, in the interest of self-preservation I have to reign it in. Sometimes. Like in public.

Still, I absolutely love to get my family, and pretty much everyone I know, into the holiday spirit, even the little ones who still aren’t quite sure what’s going on and why Mom’s dancing around and singing about a fat man with a scratchy beard. A holiday-themed sensory bag was my compromise with myself, and a favor to my kids. I mean, come on, spreading the love cheer and stimulating little minds and developing gross motor skills? That’s what I’d call winning!

The ‘Holiday-Themed’ Sensory Bag

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Holiday-Themed Sensory Bag

hair gel
ziplocking bag
decorative buttons or beads
strong tape


1. Squirt hair gel into a zip-locking bag.
2. Add in your decorative buttons, beads, etc and zip the bag closed making sure it’s secure.
3. For extra peace of mind re-enforce the top with tape so the bag can’t accidentally open.
4. Let your little ones squish it around and explore the different pieces included.

The ‘Snowman In A Bag’ Game

4 Sons 'R' Us: Snowman In A Bag

a large ziplocking bag
shaving cream
orange foam sheet
black felt
glitter, optional


1. Cut 6 small, ‘lumpy’ circles (you’re going for the lumps of coal look) from the black felt for the snowman’s mouth. Cut out two larger lumps for it’s eyes.
2. Glue the lumps onto the outside of your ziplocking bag to resemble a face. Let dry.
3. If using, add a little glitter to the inside of your bag. Squirt in a little shaving cream. Securely seal the bag closed and squish it around to mix up the glitter and shaving cream.
4. Cut a carrot shape out of the orange foam.
5. Put the carrot shape into the bag, making sure you securely seal the bag closed again.
6. Have fun watching/helping your little ones move the nose around until they’ve completed the face.

Don’t you just love ‘baggie’ projects? They’re so simple, but so fun, and all for practically free! These are great manipulative toys that all ages love. They are great for a rainy, dreary days when you can’t go outside. Let these help keep those little hands busy. You can squish and wiggle that snowman all afternoon. 🙂

How do you spread the cheer & get your family into the Holiday Spirit?

Warm Sausage & Kale Soup

Even when we’re all bundled up, with the cold weather settling in, after an afternoon spent outside with the kids I tend to need a little something extra to warm me up when I finally make it back inside, after herding the boys in to wash up for dinner. A pot of this soup hot on the stove is always just what the doctor ordered. It’s incredibly hearty & flavorful, and it includes an abundance of ‘good for you’ ingredients. Just one warm bowl of this Winter-weather fighting soup and the chill you brought in with you will magically melt away.

Warm Sausage & Kale Soup

4 Sons 'R' Us: Warm Sausage & Kale Soup

recipe adapted from Wine and Glue

1 lb package of Sweet Italian Sausages, casings removed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 tsp minced garlic
8 oz package white mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch of kale, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper, to taste
32 oz chicken broth
1 cup noodles, elbow or small shells
15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed


1. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook sausage until no longer pink, between five and seven minutes, stirring occasionally. If necessary, drain sausage.
2. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, and mushrooms, breaking up the mushrooms as you add them.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft, about five minutes.
3. Toss in the kale, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Cook until the kale is wilted, about five minutes.
4. Add the chicken broth, and bring it to a boil.  Then add the noodles and cook about a minute shy of the package directions.
5. Toss in the beans, and stir in until they heat through. Serve with crusty bread & let it warm you up!

Crockpot Pizza Dip

Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving. Millions of people run around like chickens with their heads cut off, scouring stores for great deals and irresistibly good prices. Occasionally, myself included.

That being said, I have a minor obsession with the day after Thanksgiving for a different reason. In our home, that’s the day we go to the tree farm and carefully pick out and cut down our Christmas tree for the year. We roast marshmallows, we sip apple cider, and then we load up and head home to deck our halls. It’s one of my favorite days of the entire year. It’s also typically a big production, and I don’t want to waste a minute I don’t have to on anything else, including dinner. So usually that day, dinner is a fend for yourself night, or a snack supper. Last year, I made this recipe as part of our snack selection, and I am happy to say it will be returning again this evening. Easy for me, and a total kid favorite. Happy Mom, Happy Sons. All is merry & bright.

Whether you’ve been out fighting the crowds and shopping until you drop, you’re too busy bringing in the good cheer, or you’re hosting a family & friends this appetizer is sure to please your hungry crowd with hardly any effort at all on your part.

Crockpot Pizza Dip

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Pizza Dip

recipe adapted from Real House Moms

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 jar (8 oz) pizza sauce, or you can substitute spaghetti sauce
1/4 cup diced pepperoni slices
1 /2 cup cooked, crumbled sausage (optional)


1. Put all the ingredients in the crockpot and cook on high for about 1 hour.
2. Once all ingredients are melted and stirred to combine, turn crockpot down to warm.
3. Serve warm with crusty bread slices.

The Sock Snowman Tutorial

Christmas & Crafts. Two of my most favorite things EVER. Combined. This is what I’m talking about people. This is what I live for! These little guys, just the idea of them, stole my heart.

My best friend called me right after we’d put our kids on the bus to tell me about them, and I spent the rest of they day working on my own set in my spare time. Our four year old even got in on the action, helping me fill the socks, dress them, and glue on accessories. Of course, then I spent the rest of the day removing contraband (stolen rubber bands) from his possession as he tried to shoot things with them. Thanks, older sons for teaching him that little gem.

Either way, these adorable little creatures found their way into our home and are here to stay, at least until spring. Who knows, maybe they’ll even bring us a little luck and a little snow. (I walked in on son # 4 rubbing it’s belly and wishing for some of the white stuff to come our way. I’ll keep my fingers crossed along with him) This is the perfect craft idea for kids (and adults) this Thanksgiving day/weekend as we usher in the Holiday season. Plus, it helps to have something constructive for them to do and be entertained while the adults wait out their tryptophan carbohydrate-induced coma. 😉

The Sock Snowman Tutorial

4 Sons 'R' Us: Sock Snowman Photo Tutorial 2

one white tube sock, or more depending on how many snowmen you’re making
decorative socks (optional)
rice, for filler
rubber bands
something for the nose, I used different buttons but feel free to be creative (the tip of a wooden skewer painted orange would work VERY well


4 Sons 'R' Us: sock snowman photo tutorial

1. Cut the foot part off of your sock and set aside.
2. Turn the tube part of your sock inside out and wrap a rubber band around the bottom.  Make sure it is wrapped tightly.  Then turn it inside out again so the rubber band is on the inside.
3. Fill the sock with rice.  Be sure to push the rice down as you go.  This will help stretch the sock a bit and ensure that you get a nice plump snowman in the end.  Then, close the top by wrapping another rubber band around the top as shown in the photo above.
4. Squeeze the middle of your snowman until you’ve created an indention to separate it’s ‘head’ and ‘body’. Wrap another rubber band around the indention to create a ‘neck’.
5. Using the foot part of the sock, put on your snowman’s hat/nightcap.
6. If desired, remove the hat and cut a thin strip to use as his scarf. Otherwise, use a scrap of fabric.
7. Tie the scarf and make sure it’s covering up the rubber band neck.
8. Add button eyes and buttons down the body. If you want to get creative, use an old sock that’s lost it’s mate to make a sweater and matching cap. Again, cut the foot away from the tube of the sock. Use the foot as the cap and cut the tube part to fit the belly of your snowman.

Quick Tips:

-Using old socks with missing mates will prevent you from having to buy new socks for the project
-Rice isn’t the only option as a filler. Beans would work well too.
-Consider adding some potpourri to the inside with the rice or beans to help scent the room you’ve chosen to display your snowman in.
-All of my socks came from  The Dollar Tree. They have a large variety of color and designs to choose from, and can help keep this craft on a budget. Also, consider checking the dollar bins at Target.

Seriously, how cute are these little guys?!

4 Sons 'R' Us: sock snowmen

While I love all of my snowchildrenmen, I do have a favorite. (I can’t tell them that though!) The sock ‘sweater’ just tickles my fancy. Isn’t he just too cute? All bundled up and just absolutely adorable! What a dapper little dude. Here he is all ‘up close, and personal’. You just can’t help but love himthem.

4 Sons 'R' Us: sock snowman

Hamburger Steak with Onions & Gravy

I’ve had Hamburger Steaks (aka Salisbury steak) before, but I’ve never really liked it. I thought I just ‘wasn’t a fan’, but then I got to thinking. I love meatloaf. I love gravy. Something was always missing for me…flavor. On a whim, I decided to try my own hand at this classic dish. It still seemed like ‘Mission Impossible’. After my family’s first bite, we all agreed: Mission Complete! Not only were the ‘steaks’ jam-packed with flavor, but so was the simple gravy. And where can you go wrong with caramelized onions?! Take it from me, serve these juicy ‘steaks’ with mashed potatoes. You won’t want to waste a drop of gravy.

Hamburger Steaks with Onions & Gravy

4 Sons 'R' Us: Hamburger Steaks with onions & gravy

1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp seasoning salt, divided
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Montreal Steak seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth & 1 tbsp cooking sherry


1. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and steak seasoning. Form into 8 balls, and flatten into patties.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the patties and onion in the oil until patties are nicely browned, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the beef patties to a plate, and keep warm.
3. Sprinkle flour over the onions and drippings in the skillet. Stir in flour with a fork, scraping bits of beef off of the bottom as you stir. Gradually mix in the beef broth and sherry. Season with seasoned salt. Simmer and stir over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until the gravy thickens. Turn heat to low, return patties to the gravy, cover, and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve & enjoy!

{One Pot Wonder} Chicken Lo Mein

It’s Sunday again. Sundays I find myself wondering why my family wants dinner every single night. I mean I fed them last night. I’m kidding, kinda. Sundays I want to relax. All. Day. Long. I want to read my book. I want to curl up on the couch with my boys and watch movies or our favorite shows. I want to play with them on the playground. I want to laugh, a lot, and make blanket forts. I want to take an afternoon  nap. I want to do so many things. What I absolutely do not want to do on a Sunday, is cook dinner.

Still, the family has to eat. As a solution, I try to find quick, easy recipes that don’t require a lot of work on my part. ‘One pot wonder’ meals are a favorite of mine on Sundays. Little work, and even less clean-up required afterwards. This Lo Mein couldn’t have been any easier to make, or any more flavorful. It’s everything I want in a dinner, especially on a night I don’t want to cook.

{One Pot Wonder} Chicken Lo Mein

4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Chicken Lo Meinrecipe adapted from The Wholesome Dish

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 lb spaghetti, or lo mein noodles
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3 inch long strips
1 medium red bell pepper, cut in thin 3 inch long strips
1 bunch green onions, white part thinly sliced and the green part cut into 3 inch long strips
4 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Add the chicken, then the pasta, then the remaining ingredients to a large stockpot or dutch oven, and cover. Bring to a boil. Stir and reduce to a simmer.
2. Cook covered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until most of the liquid is gone and the chicken is cooked through.

Breakfast Enchiladas

Brinner? Brinner. Breakfast for Dinner. Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? The kids think it’s an awesome treat, and it’s almost always cheaper for me than our regular dinner fare.

Fun ( little known) Fact for the day: the word ‘Dinner’ used to refer to breakfast.   The word “dinner” comes from the Old French word “disnar”, which in fact means “breakfast”. To read more on how “this meal that bears the name (translated) “breakfast” is now the meal we eat before we start the fast and the literal translation of “dinner” is now the word we used to describe our early morning meal of breakfast” visit Today I Found Out. I think I heard the sons groan when I started rattling off the history of the word. Ooops! But, seriously, who can blame me for wanting to force feed their brains all these super interesting factoids? But I digress…

Bringing it back to…breakfast enchiladas. This is our family favorite when it comes to breakfast for dinner. Did I mention that these are also extremely quick to prepare? Easy, cheap, and tasty? For us that’s the perfect ‘this recipe’s a keeper’ trifecta.

Next time you’re craving those breakfast-y flavors for dinner, give these enchiladas a try.

Breakfast Enchiladas

4 Sons 'R' Us: Breakfast Enchiladas

recipe adapted from Inspired Taste

  • 1 lb sausage, browned or 2 cups ham, diced
  • 6 green onions, finely sliced
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8-10 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups half-and-half, or milk
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled


  1. In a large bowl stir together the meat, green onions, and 1 c. cheese.
  2. Place 1/3 cup of the mixture down the center of each tortilla.
  3. Roll up and place seam-side down into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Repeat until all tortillas are filled.
  4. In another large bowl beat eggs, half and half, flour and salt. Pour over the tortillas in the dish. You can cover the dish and place it in the fridge or bake immediately.
  5. When ready to bake sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over the tortillas, followed by the bacon.
  6. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 more minutes, or until the eggs are set and the cheese is melted.

Pizza Pancakes

Do your kids love pancakes? Mine sure do. Coincidentally, pancakes were also one of the first things we taught them how to help us, and help themselves, make. When I heard ‘pizza pancakes’ I was intrigued. When I saw the recipe, I was inspired! All 4 Sons got in on the action. This delicious little hybrid was a fun new twist and a real treat for the kids. Pizza pancakes and it’s cast of characters are now set for a recurring role on our family’s dinnertime menu.

Pizza Pancakes

4 Sons 'R' Us: Pizza Pancakes


recipe adapted from Plain Chicken

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup pepperoni, diced
  • 1 cup sausage, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • pizza sauce, warmed
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated


  1. In a large bowl combine the biscuit mix, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Combine eggs and milk. Stir the wet ingrediets into the dry ingredients until just moistened. Fold in the cheese, pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms, if using.
  2. Pour batter by 1/4 cup-fuls onto a lightly greased hot griddle. Turn when bubbles form on top and continue cooking until the seconds side is golden brown.
  3. Serve with warmed pizza sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Scrapbook Paper Pumpkin Centerpiece & Tutorial

I love decorating for the holidays. I just can’t shake that ‘festive’ itch. When the mantle, walls, and doors are properly decorated, and only then, I get to the kitchen table. Afterall, I wouldn’t want it to feel any holiday-envy. Imagine trying to eat dinner at a grumpy table that had been left-out. It might just decide to leave me out of dinner. I can’t have that. Every available surface should be decorated equally.

This year though, I wanted to do something a little different for our Thanksgiving centerpiece. I opted for these adorable scrapbook paper pumpkins. They’re cute, easy, and quick. Is your table looking lonely? Trying to get it up to snuff for Thanksgiving dinner? Begin creating your own fun, festive table-scape with a scrapbook paper pumpkin today.

Scrapbook Paper Pumpkin Centerpiece & Tutorial

4 Sons 'R' Us: Scrapbook Paper Pumpkin Cneterpiece

  • circular item to trace, I made two sizes of paper pumpkins and used a cake pan for the large one and a bowl for the smaller
  • 8 or 16 pages of scrapbook paper, the large pumpkin only got one circle per page, the smaller got two
  • scissors
  • glue stick

Before I give you the verbal tutorial here are some step-by-step photos for you as well.

4 Sons 'R' Us


  1.  Trace and cut out 16 identical circles from scrapbook paper.
  2. Fold each circle in half with right sides together.
  3. Glue one side of the circle and place another circle patter on top of it until you have glued all the circles together.
  4.  Once you have glued all the circles together, you will have one stack of folded circles.  After the glue has dried, about 2-3 hours, unfold the circles and lay flat.  You will have two sides that have not been glued.  Glue them together so it creates an accordion.
  5. Decide which end of the pumpkin will be the bottom. Using an exacto knife or sharp scissors lay the pumpkin flat and cut a straight line about 1/4-1/2 inch from the bottom. This will enable it to ‘sit up’.
  6. Roll up a small piece of the scrap paper from where you cut out your circles to make a stem. Stick it into the tiny gap at the ‘top’ of your pumpkin.

Seriously, how cute are these little guys?!

4 Sons 'R' Us: scrapbook paper pumpkin