First Annual Gingerbread House Competition

Christmas is in full swing here at my house.  We started our countdown to Christmas with the kids unwrapping a book each night for us to read before bedtime, as well as our 25 Days of Christ.  We all look forward to the time spent together each night sharing in the fun and excitement of the holiday, while also remembering the reason for the season.

I’ve always been a huge advocate for traditions.  In college, I did a semester project on traditions where I had to put together a class and then teach it, complete with feedback from the people who attended.  It hardly even felt like a project because it is something I love so much!  Creating traditions in connection with a holiday is a great way to help family bond together over shared experiences.  It gives meaning and enhances our enjoyment of the holiday.  I’ve teamed up with At Home (who has also gracious sponsored this post) to talk about Christmas traditions and #MyReason for incorporating them into our holiday.

This post contains affiliate links which if you click on and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

As I’ve considered what new traditions I want to incorporate into our family Christmas celebration, I decided that my kids were old enough to decorate their own gingerbread “person”.  Each kid got their own giant sized gingerbread person, 3 colors of frosting and some candy to decorate with.  My son, who is turning 3 in March, needed a little help from dad, but my almost 5 year old daughter totally took control over her decorating and needed no help from me.  The kids ate at least half the candy while the other half ended up on their gingerbread person.

My favorite thing my daughter said when I asked her about the yellow Nerds: “It’s corn.  They just got back from the pumpkin patch.  The gingerbread pumpkin patch where they played in the corn pit.” Haha!  I love how creative kids are.  Both kids were extremely proud of their creations and loved the whole activity.  We’ll definitely be doing this again next year!

My husband and I decided to take it to another level and decorate gingerbread houses.  We put the kids to bed, set up our gingerbread house decorating stations and pulled my laptop over to the table where we turned on Pitch Perfect and laughed ourselves silly!  We did cheat a little bit and put the frosting in these cool frosting decorators to make it easier to control (see fourth picture in series below).

It was so fun to relax and do something together.  Although, maybe relax isn’t the best word to use.  Our decorating turned into a competition, complete with smack talk.  We spent the full hour and 52 minutes and then some working on our houses and evaluating before adding more.

And this is where you come in!  We want to know which gingerbread house YOU like better.  The prize for the winner is yet to be determined, but it’s probably something along the lines of not having to do the dishes for a week and nightly shoulder rubs.  I told my husband I was totally going to win but he’s giving me a run for my money!

The top picture is Contestant A and the bottom picture is Contestant B.  You can vote for your favorite and I’ll announce who won between my husband and I next week on Facebook.  (Come on friends!  I’m counting on you to help me win this!  I really want to hand over dish duty for a week!  *me sending positive brain waves*)

Which gingerbread house do you like better?


B free polls

In addition to voting for your favorite gingerbread house, you can also enter a giveaway below for $100 gift card to At Home!  Each entry is worth 1 point.  The giveaway ends Tuesday, December 13 at midnight CST.

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Lastly, I want to invite you to check out the amazing posts of these 8 other bloggers who are also sharing about their own Christmas traditions.  You are guaranteed to find tons of great inspiration and maybe even want to incorporate a new tradition or two this holiday season!

Simplifying the Season

At the beginning of this month, we had a lesson at church about the trio of holidays–Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years–and talked at length about how they are each related to each other and why celebrating them together can actually enhance our enjoyment of the holiday season.  I hadn’t really thought about it in this way before but haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

Thanksgiving sets things up for us with our focus on gratitude and being thankful for what we’ve been blessed with in our lives.  I wrote a post about this at the beginning of the month just a couple of days before we had the lesson in church.  Someone made a comment during our lesson that when we show gratitude to God for our blessings, we receive a fullness of the blessing that we wouldn’t receive otherwise.  I think showing gratitude really grounds us.  As a family, we work together and rely on each other to grow and learn.  Last year, we started a couple of traditions that I really love and helps us get into an attitude of gratitude. 

After Thanksgiving comes Christmas.  I love that we have just been through a season of gratitude and that carries us into Christmas and a celebration of the birth of Christ.  We have a handful of traditions surrounding this holiday that I love and really help set the tone for the month of December.  Helping our children understand the reason for the season is one of our main focuses during the holiday.  We do our best to simplify our activities so we don’t become overwhelmed to the point that the magic and spirit of Christmas is lost.

Then comes the New Year when many of us make goals and promises to ourselves that we will try to improve in some way.  It is both a literal and symbolic chance for new beginnings.  We’ve just finished seasons of thanksgiving and celebrating Christ and I am often filled with feelings of hope and desire to do better.  I’ve found that it is often the simple changes I make in my life that make the biggest difference.

This holiday season, I’m teaming up with Justine from Little Dove and other talented bloggers to introduce the Simplifying the Season series.  The series will go from 11/21 to 12/26.  Each week there will be a post on Little Dove in this series: The Great Christmas Round Up (11/29), Focus on Family (12/5), Focus on Traditions (12/12), Focus on the Savior (12/19) and #SimplifyingTheSeason Link-Up Party (12/26).

If you’d like to participate in this series, it’s as simple as sharing how you are going to refocus and simply.  As Justine says on her blog:

“Share it on your blog, share it on your social media, just share it!  Maybe you have some tips about how to stay calm with holiday guests, maybe you have a family tradition you want to share that helps you focus on family time, whatever it is I want to know how it helps you with simplifying the season!  This should not be something that adds yet another thing to your holidays, just something to help you enhance them, helps to refocus them on what truly matters to you and your family this season.”

Be sure to use the hashtag #SimplifyingTheSeason and then link-up the week after Christmas.  Justine will be picking her favorite posts that she feels best exemplify the spirit of simplifying this holiday season to send a special gift to!

I encourage each of you to simplify and refocus during this season.  One of my favorite decorations I put up this time of year says “Simplify Christmas, Celebrate Christ”.  I truly believe that if we put even just a little bit of time and effort into doing this, we will be filled with the Christmas spirit.  Our burdens will feel lighter.  We will feel a stronger desire to help and serve others.  I love the magical feeling that accompanies this time of year and wish it could last all year round.

What are your favorite ways to simplify during the holidays?

Gift Guide: Women

Fun, out of the box gift guide for women!

Last year around this time, I did a couple of pretty extensive gift guides: one for parents/grandparents and one for men.  But I didn’t quite have time to put together one for women.  As a woman, you might think that I would have a pretty good idea of what women want when it comes to gifts, but to be completely honest, I usually have a really hard time telling my husband (or anyone else) what I want for Christmas or my birthday.  Am I the only one with this problem?

So, I turned to my friends and asked them what they wanted and I have to say that I agree with most of these!  My hope with this list is that you’ll be able to give a gift that’s a little outside the box.  Whether you are buying for you mother, mother-in-law, sister, daughter, friend or spouse, there are some great choices here.  I’ve divided it up into categories the following categories: beauty, little luxuries, services, experiences and creative.

This post contains affiliate links which if you click on a make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Manicure/Pedicure: This is an awesome option for almost all ages.  You could turn this into a group thing with friends or family members or even a mother-daughter(s) date.  There are a lot of deals on Groupon and other deal sites.

Bath Bombs: I’ll be honest, I’ve never actually tried a bath bomb before but I hear they are amazing!  If the woman you are giving a gift to loves relaxing in the bath, then this is a good option.

Spa Voucher: Women love to be pampered and spas are a great place to be pampered.  You could even take this gift a step further and schedule it out for them so they don’t have to remember to set the appointment themselves.  Check out Groupon for local deals.

All Inclusive Photo Shoot: Women also love to feel pretty.  Consider an all inclusive photo shoot where they get their make up and hair done and then have some nice pictures taken of them.

A Relaxing Night In: This gift will look different to different women, so think about how your giftee likes to relax at home.  This could mean a nice bubble bath (with a bath bomb!) and reading a book.  It might be a girly movie.  For me, I love having a stretch of time where I can work on crafts uninterrupted for a few hours while my husband watches the kids.

Jewelry: This is a great gift because it’s so flexible depending on who you’re giving it to and their personal taste.  For grandmothers, it might be a necklace, bracelet or keychain with their grandkids names on it.  Same thing for mothers and the names of their children.  You could look into designing a custom piece and getting it specially made.

Little Luxuries
A Nap: When my friend suggested this one, I laughed out loud because it’s so true!  Getting time to take a nap is one of the best gifts you can give a mother.  As a husband, maybe you can commit to watching the kids each Sunday so your wife can take a nap.  If you are an older child, you could entertain your younger siblings for an hour while your mom takes an uninterrupted nap.  It might sound a little silly at first, but sleep is a wonderful gift.

Pretty Office Supplies: There is something about having pretty office supplies that just make work a little more enjoyable.  Sometimes women worry so much about being practical that they don’t want to spend the extra dollar or two for something basic like a notebook or pen.  Instead of plain manila folders, get ones with a pattern or uplifting words.

Candles: Mmmm…have you ever walked into a room and smelled something that just made you smile?  Candles are another one of those “little luxuries” that are nice to have around.

Fun Planner: For years, I’ve used a basic planner to keep track of my daily tasks, appointments and activities.  It might have a cute cover but the inside is simple and not much to look at.  When I attended Pinners Conference at the beginning of this month, I attended a class on The Happy Planner.  It is basically a planner that you can use for planning (obviously) but also to commemorate things, almost like a scrapbook.  I love to craft, but don’t always have the time do it.  This planner is both pretty and practical, which I love.

Maid Service: Friends, this is seriously one of the best gift ideas ever.  As a stay-at-home mom, I spend a lot of time cleaning and straightening and it feels like I’m never done.  Plus, there are those tasks that I just don’t like to do so I avoid them until they absolutely have to be done.  This is where the gift of maid service comes in, because you can just pay someone to do those things for you, while you do something else you’d much rather do.

Babysitting: Almost every year for my birthday, my mom gives me a restaurant gift card and a promise of babysitting.  If you know someone who needs a little break from their beautiful children to go on a date, run errands by themselves or go to an event or conference, then this is a perfect gift.

Gift Certificate to Try Something New: I love learning new skills but I don’t necessarily want to try and learn them by myself.  Going to a class is a great way to get exposure to something new without having to buy all the supplies or try to find the answers on the internet.  There are a ton of classes in almost every area you can think of.  Is there something your mother, wife, friend or sister has said they want to try out?  See if you can find a class for it.  Some of the classes I thought would be fun are an art class, zumba, glass blowing, ring making, kick boxing and cooking class.  Again, Groupon is a great place to find these types of classes.

A Day/Night Out: This could be a date night where you do something a little more extravagant or a girls weekend in the city.  Experiences and making memories are wonderful and lasting gifts.

Tickets to a Concert or Conference: When I went to Pinners Conference earlier this month, I was cashing in my birthday gift that I’d asked my husband for a couple of months ago.  Gifts don’t have to provide instant gratification and some of the best gifts are those where you have to build up the anticipation.

Silhouette machine, Designer Edition or any one of the kits: I’ve mentioned this many times before, but I LOVE my Silhouette Cameo machine.  I use it all the time and it’s been a great investment for me.  This is a little pricier of a gift so it would be a good group gift to give.  If the woman you’re gifting already has one, you can buy a gift card to upgrade to the Designer Edition or Designer Edition PLUS, a gift card to the Silhouette online store or even one of the many kits they have (heat transfer vinyl, vinyl, rhinestone, fabric ink, glass etching).

Journal: Having a journal to write down thoughts or feelings or lists is something I always have nearby.  You can make your own (check out my tutorial for mod podge notebooks) or buy one with a fun print or cute quote on it.  Pair it with some fun pens.

Adult Coloring Book and Markers or Pencils: I have a couple of these myself and they are so fun to be able to pull out when I just need a break or when my kids want me to color with them.  There are so many awesome ones to choose from: Harry Potter, Disney, Mandalas and the list goes on.  A nicer set of markers or colored pencils would go great with this gift.

Handlettering Workbook: Another class I attended at Pinners Conference was an introduction to handlettering.  It came with an awesome workbook that I could take home and practice my writing.  I’ve always admired pretty handwriting and so this is a really fun one.  I bought this workbook HERE and this is the marker I use HERE.

I hope you got some inspiration from this gift guide for the women in your life.  What are you favorite gifts to give and receive?

DIY Elf Door

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

I’m always trying to think of new traditions for my family to incorporate during the holidays.  Right now, we just have a handful of Christmas traditions but I’ve been wanting to add another one.  In August I got an email from with a cute little elf door.  What at fun idea! I thought to myself as I clicked on the link.  As cute as it was, I didn’t want to pay $24 for the door plus the other accessories (fence, lights, etc) and then pay for shipping.  I knew I could do it for cheaper myself and starting looking around online.

It turns out that Hobby Lobby’s miniature dollhouse collection was the perfect solution.  I’ve been watching for those items to go on sale and when they did, I went over and picked up what I needed.  Using my 40% off coupon, I was able to get the door for $6.59, plus the doorknob and key for $3.49 (30% off) and some mini Christmas light bulbs for $1.39 (30% off), which brought my total to $12.26 with tax.  I already have acrylic paint and brushes to paint the door and instead of using miniature fencing, I decided to cut some out of vinyl using my Silhouette Cameo, which I could then stick to the wall and remove at the end of the season.  So by doing this myself, I was able to save myself more than half of what it would have cost to buy it from

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

*Note: I did look on Amazon for the supplies to make this, but it was less expensive to buy it at Hobby Lobby.  But definitely feel free to shop around a bit.  You might find a better deal or decide you want a different kind of door or doorknob set.  The great thing about this craft is that you can totally personalize it!

I’ve been thinking about what kind of activity I could do with my kids to incorporate this little elf door into our traditions.  Ultimately, I kept it simple and told my kids that there is a magical elf door that leads directly to the North Pole.  Elves can come through it and check to make sure the kids are being good and then report to Santa.  You could be more elaborate if you want and do Elf on the Shelf type things but I don’t want to stress myself out by committing to do that every night.

So here’s what you’ll need to make your own Elf Door:

  • miniature door
  • miniature doorknob
  • miniature fence (vinyl or wood)
  • miniature Christmas light bulbs
  • acrylic paint (in desired colors)
  • paint brushes
  • glue
  • thin jewelry wire (silver or gold)

First, I painted the door frame white and the door a bright red and let it dry.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

Then I glued the doorknob on using some Tacky Glue and let it dry.

Meanwhile, I opened up my Silhouette Studio software and grabbed a picket fence silhouette from Google.  I was able to get the silhouette by using the ‘Trace’ function, then I saved the image in my library to use later on.  To determine the size of the fence, I measured the height of the door (about 7.5″) and then used a ruler to visualize the height of the fence.  Then I resized it in the Silhouette Studio and cut it out on my white vinyl.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

To make the strand of lights, I removed the gold wires that were strung through the lights.  Then I cut a length of wire about 24″ long.  I strung the first light on and then twisted it at the top a couple times so it wouldn’t slide around.  I threaded the next light on and spaced it about 1″-1.5″ from the first light and repeated the twist at the top.  I continued around until I reached the end of the wire, leaving about 1″ at the end.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

I decided to put the door in our kitchen/dining area because we spend a lot of time there.  I wanted it to be visible to the kids so they would remember that the “elf” is going to check on them.  I placed the door above the baseboards and stuck it to the wall using tape I had rolled up and put on the back, making it easily removable at the end of the season.  Then I put about 3″ of vinyl fence on either side of the door.  Finally, I strung the lights around the door, draping them across the top and bending the wire and securing the ends under the top part of the vinyl fence.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

As I was setting it up, I explained to my daughter about the elf and the magic door.  I tried to keep it simple so I could remember what I told her.  If I make a mistake, I’m sure she’ll correct me. *wink*  When my son woke up from his nap, he noticed it and went right over to investigate.  He’s not quite old enough to understand “elves” and “magic” but he thought it was fun anyway.  Hopefully he won’t mess with it too much.  If you have younger kids, you can always move the door up higher above a table or counter so it’s out of reach of little hands.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

I had so much fun putting this little elf door together!  I hope this will be a fun tradition we can enjoy for years to come.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

DIY Lacing Cards Tutorial

DIY Lacing Cards Tutorial--How to make your own lacing cards using any theme you want!  Perfect for church bags, diaper bags and gifts.

From the time my daughter was old enough to need something to entertain her during church, I’ve had a church bag put together that we can grab and go on Sundays.  Of course, the contents change periodically to keep her interested and we’ve had to add more items since my son is also in need of distraction during church.  Mostly we have crayons, paper and books along with a couple of small cars.

Recently I was at the store and spotted some darling animal lacing cards that I thought would be perfect to throw in the church bag to shake things up a bit.  The next Sunday, they were a hit and I decided to see if I could make some lacing cards that were more church themed.  (Of course this same tutorial applies for any theme you want.)

To make your own lacing cards, follow these steps:
First you’ll need to find some clip art for the images you want.  I searched for ‘free bible stories clip art’ and came up with a ton of options.  One image caught my eye and took me to an entire website of free clip art in almost any category you could imagine: nature, language arts, science, sports, fairy tales and the list goes on.  (Keep in mind that this site allows free use of its images as long as you don’t try and profit from it.)

Save the image to your computer by right clicking and selecting ‘save image as…’.  This will allow you to choose where you want to save the file.

Once you have all your images, place the images in a word file and resize the images and adjust the margins if desired.  I wanted to fit two images per 8.5×11 page and they each ended up being between 4-6″ wide/tall.

Print your images on cardstock.  (I used white.)

DIY Lacing Cards Tutorial--How to make your own lacing cards using any theme you want!  Perfect for church bags, diaper bags and gifts.

Use a pencil to trace a border around the image, about 1/2″.  Make sure you’re not trying to be too detailed.  Cut out the images and erase any remaining pencil marks.

DIY Lacing Cards Tutorial--How to make your own lacing cards using any theme you want!  Perfect for church bags, diaper bags and gifts.

Punch holes around the image, spacing every 1/2-1″.  This is totally a personal preference.  Just make sure not to get too close to the edge of your border.  Mine varied a little per card.  You can use a regular hole punch to make the holes.  (I have a Crop-A-Dile, which allows me to punch 3/16″ or 1/8″ holes.)  This step gave my forearm and hand a major workout!  I made a total of 12 lacing cards and each card had at least 30 holes.  You do the math.

DIY Lacing Cards Tutorial--How to make your own lacing cards using any theme you want!  Perfect for church bags, diaper bags and gifts.

Laminate each lacing card.  I did a hard laminate which is stiffer and stronger so combined with the cardstock, the cards should be pretty durable.  I don’t have a laminater, so I took my cards to a local genealogy store that does it for pretty inexpensive (I paid $4 for 7ft).

Cut a border around each card, making sure not to get too close to the edge.  Repunch the holes on each card.  (*Note: You could wait to punch the holes until this step instead of doing it twice but I wanted to make it a little easier on myself since I’d have to punch through hard laminate and cardstock if I had waited.  In addition, by using my Crop-A-Dile, I was actually able to punch a slightly smaller hole within each original hole, preserving the strength of the lamination around each original hole.  Overkill?  Maybe.  But I’d like these to last as long as possible.)

DIY Lacing Cards Tutorial--How to make your own lacing cards using any theme you want!  Perfect for church bags, diaper bags and gifts.

For the lacing, I found a pack of 8 pairs of shoelaces at my local dollar store (Dollar Tree).  Not quite enough for each card to have it’s own, but I don’t expect all 12 to be used at the same time. *wink*

My daughter was so excited to try out the new lacing cards!  I wasn’t even done punching the first one (the second time around) and she was already pulling out the laces and waiting for the card when I finished.  She laced three or four of them before I told her I needed to put them away until Sunday.

DIY Lacing Cards Tutorial--How to make your own lacing cards using any theme you want!  Perfect for church bags, diaper bags and gifts.

As for me, I really love the way they turned out!  The clip art is darling and overall it was a fairly inexpensive project, costing me less than $10 (if you include the cost of paper and ink which I already had on hand).  These lacing cards would make a great birthday gift, stocking stuffer, church bag activity, for long car trips or something to keep in your diaper bag while you’re out and about.

I hope you have fun making your own!

White Chocolate Dipped Oreos

White Chocolate Dipped Oreos--a quick and easy treat to make for any occasion!

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about an easy treat I could make for my daughter’s Valentine’s Day party at preschool.  Since it’s her party, I also wanted to have it be something that she could help me make so she felt a part of it.  This morning, I was looking in the pantry and spotted a package of Oreos and had an idea: white chocolate dipped Oreos!  Yummy and easy.

They are fairly simple to make and only require a handful of ingredients:

  • Oreos
  • Melting wafers, chocolate chips or almond bark (I used almond bark)
  • Sprinkles
White Chocolate Dipped Oreos--a quick and easy treat to make for any occasion!

To start out, melt your chocolate, following the directions on the package.  (I find that almond bark and melting wafers are best straight out of the bag because even once the chocolate hardens again, it’s still soft.  If you want to use chocolate chips, add a teeny bit of shortening or vegetable oil as you melt them and that will help the chocolate not be as hard once it sets up.)

White Chocolate Dipped Oreos--a quick and easy treat to make for any occasion!

Dip the Oreos into the chocolate.  I did it two ways: halfway and completely covered.  If you want a completely chocolate covered Oreo, use a fork to flip the cookie around in the chocolate.  When you lift it out, gently shake the fork and let any excess chocolate drip off.

White Chocolate Dipped Oreos--a quick and easy treat to make for any occasion!

Put your dipped cookies on a silicone baking mat (I use this brand) or wax paper.  Sprinkle with sprinkles if desired.  Let set for about 30 minutes.  You can also pop them in the fridge or freezer for a fast set.

To package my cookies, I used sandwich bags tied with ribbon and the zipper part cut off.

*Tip: Turn your bag of cookies over, then slide the ribbon under the bag and tie it.  Flip it over and double knot it.  Curl the ribbon (if desired/needed) and cut the top off the zipper bag.

White Chocolate Dipped Oreos--a quick and easy treat to make for any occasion!

Simple, right?  The whole thing took me less than an hour, including letting the chocolate set.  Easy peasy.

White Chocolate Dipped Oreos--a quick and easy treat to make for any occasion!
Want to make your own hurricane vase?  Check out my tutorial!

White Chocolate Dipped Oreos--a quick and easy treat to make for any occasion!

Do you like making treats for your kids to take on Valentine’s Day?

Top 10 Posts of 2015

Top 10 Posts of 2015

Sunshine and Munchkins has been up and running for almost three months now and it’s been so much fun for me!  Lots of hard work and time, but I’ve loved being able to share my posts with you and hear from you as well.  As we begin a new year, I thought it would be fun to show you what my top 10 posts were for 2015!

Top 10 Posts of 2015

10. My FAVORITE Roll and Cut Cookies–The title says it all, but these really are my favorite cookies to make when using a cookie cutter.  They keep their shape, taste yummy and are so easy to make!  Be sure to save this recipe and use it for any holiday or event you want to decorate cookies for.  (Which is pretty much all of them, right?)

Top 10 Posts of 2015

9. 25 Easy Neighbor Gifts–Neighbor gifts aren’t just for the holidays.  They are great to drop by any time of year, for any reason.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

8. Traditions I’m Starting This Christmas–My family LOVED the traditions we started last year!  I’m excited to add some new ones this year.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

7. DIY No-Sew Burlap Table Runner with Tassels–Burlap is so versatile and this no-sew table runner has been part of my holiday decor for the last 3 months because it’s so darn cute.  Definitely one of my favorite and easiest projects I’ve ever done.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

6. Traditions I’m Starting This Thanksgiving–If you didn’t get a chance to see our Thankful Tree and Book of Thanks we did for Thanksgiving last year, be sure and check it out.  My family loved doing both of them and we will be continuing the traditions for years to come.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

5. Gift Guide: Men–So many of my friends and family have told me they struggle with coming up with gift ideas for the men in their life, so I compiled a HUGE list!  This is a great list for birthdays, Christmas, anniversary and Father’s Day.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

4. Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents–Just like men can be hard to buy for, parents and grandparents are too because in many cases, they can just go out and purchase anything they might want or need.  Check out this list for a bunch of great ideas for birthdays, Christmas, anniversary and Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

3. 23 Free Thanksgiving Coloring Pages and Activities–Lots of waiting goes on during Thanksgiving break and Thanksgiving Day.  Why not print off some coloring and activity pages to keep your kids hands busy while the food cooks (and maybe yours too!)?  Pin it now and print it out in November.  (Or October if you’re Canadian.)

Top 10 Posts of 2015

2. 6 Simple Ways to “Halloween-ify” Your Home–Besides including a cute, free printable for you, I also give 5 more easy ways you can decorate your home for Halloween without spending a lot of money.

And the #1 most popular post in 2015…

Top 10 Posts of 2015

1. Awesome Non-Candy Alternatives for Halloween–I was so excited that so many people liked this post!  As much fun as candy is on Halloween, I think that providing non-candy alternatives is a great option.  One person told me that they were specifically thanked by a family for providing something different than candy for their children.  I love hearing stories like that.  But don’t limit yourself to Halloween with this post.  Valentine’s Day is coming up and you could use many of these same suggestions for your children to give out to their friends.

Thank you so much to everyone who has read, commented, shared, liked and pinned my posts!  It means a lot.  I’m excited for 2016 and what it will bring!

What types of posts would you like to see more of this year?

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Can you believe Christmas is in two days?  I distinctly remember one Christmas where I was about 8 years old.  I was sleeping soundly, but woke up for some reason.  I looked towards my window where I could see a faint red light and then I heard the sound of bells.  We didn’t have red lights on our house and my mom didn’t have any bells around that I remember.  I told my mom what I’d seen and heard the next morning and she looked surprised.  Whether it was my imagination or something else, I have always kept that memory as a little reminder of the magic of Christmas.

Now that I have kids of my own, I want to create that same magic for them during the Christmas season.  I think that it’s valuable for them to learn to believe in things they can’t see.  Just as they can’t see Santa or explain how he does what he does, they also learn that even though they didn’t live at the time of Christ, they can still believe in the miracles He performed and the gifts He gave through His life and death.

So I’ve come up with some simple ways for you to instill a little magic into the Christmas holiday for your kids.  All of them, with the exception of one, are free and take hardly any prep, but they will leave a lasting impression on your children.  Plus, as the parent, you’ll get to see the joy, excitement and wonder on their face, which for me is more than enough to try out a few of these things myself this year.

Santa Key  Growing up, I moved a lot and as a small child at Christmastime, I had some concerns.  The biggest being: how was Santa going to get into our house if we didn’t have a chimney?  My mom solved this problem, whether through her own inspiration or someone else’s, by telling me that Santa had a special key he used to open the doors of homes that didn’t have a chimney.  This made perfect sense to me and I accepted it without further questioning.

In our current home, we don’t have a chimney and my daughter asked me the same question about how Santa as going to get into our house.  “A magic key!” I told her.  I have a metal key I’m going to tie a ribbon around and show her that we’ll leave it on the outside of our door for Santa.  You can get an idea for a Santa key from here.

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Cookies & Milk for Santa and Carrots for Reindeer  I loved leaving a plate of cookies and a glass of milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve and then running to check and see if he’d eaten them and drank the milk the next morning.  Of course, we couldn’t forget the reindeer, so we left them some carrots to fuel their all night flight.  It would be easy to buy or make a special plate for Santa’s cookies.  Check out this cute tutorial by The Pinning Mama.

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Note from Santa  Leaving a note using special Santa stationary is a fun way to get the kids excited (and maybe even give them a little extra motivation to be good!).  You could print out this free printable and use it throughout December, on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.  This year, we’re going to leave it by the plate of cookies and carrots for my daughter to see when she wakes up to see if the cookies have been eaten.

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Reindeer Dust  This is one of my favorite Christmas magic traditions!  Have you heard of reindeer dust?  It’s a special concoction meant to attract Santa’s reindeer so that Santa comes to your house more quickly!  And when I say special concoction, I mean oatmeal and glitter or sparkles.  Super simple to put together and your kids will love it.  Check out my Reindeer Day post for the recipe and a free printable.

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Santa Footprints  I saw this idea on Pinterest a couple of years ago and thought it was so fun!  All you need is a little flour or baking soda and glitter.  Make yourself a boot print template out of cardboard and sift the flour/baking soda over the top so it leaves a print.  You could make as many or as few as you wanted, leading from the door or the fireplace.  Add a little glitter and–voila!–you have Santa’s footprints.  Your kids will be in awe.  Oh to be little again.  (more details on Not So Idle Hands)

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Picture of Santa in Your House  How fun would it be to have a picture of Santa in your house to show your kids on Christmas morning?  That’s exactly what you can have by going to a website called Capture the Magic.  They let you upload a picture of the room in your house where Santa will be dropping off gifts and then insert your choice of over 100 Santa images into the picture.  Then you can download the picture and print it out or simply email it to yourself as proof to your kids that he visited.  It costs $3.95 for one picture and goes up from there.  *I do not receive anything for promoting their website.  I just think the product is fun.

Call to/from the North Pole  You can receive one free phone call from the North Pole by entering your information on this site.  You can choose if Santa calls or if it’s one of his elves and the message they give when they call.  (If you want more than one call to the same number, you can pay a fee, but the first call is free.) 

If you don’t want to wait for a call to come through, you or your kids can call the North Pole yourself.  This is the number you can call: 951-262-3062.  It’s a cute message from Santa and the kids can even leave a voice message for him. (The phone number itself can be tracked back to California.)

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Where in the World is Santa?  I heard about this website last year from a friend of mine and pulled it up for my daughter on Christmas Eve.  The people behind the website show what countries Santa has visited and where he’s headed next.  There is a map of the world and you can show your kids exactly where Santa is in the world.  It might also be a little motivation to go to sleep knowing that he is already delivering presents to other children around the world. *wink*  It’s completely free to access and lots of fun to watch!

I hope you have fun implementing these ideas in your family this year and in the years to come!  Merry {almost} Christmas!

How do you create Christmas magic in your home?

150+ Christmas Coloring and Activity Round Up

The last few days in our home have been filled with crying, whining, fighting, cabin-fever crazy kids.  It seems like the closer it gets to Christmas, the more the bad behavior increases.  Maybe we are all just sick of being with each other day in and day out since the weather turned really cold and we are stuck indoors more often.  I am usually a pretty patient mama, but lately I have been prodded and poked and pushed to my limits.

One thing that I always have in the back of my mind is trying to come up with new activities to keep my kids entertained.  Since my kids are still small, they need more guidance and instruction when it comes to the activities we do.  My daughter is only in preschool but her teacher follows the same schedule as the school district, so the kids are out the whole week of Christmas.  This can lead to less merry and more scary when it comes to everyone being at home together.  So I thought that doing a fun round up of Christmas/winter coloring pages, activities and crafts might be just the thing to keep us all sane.

(To print out a page, just click on the title of the picture and follow the website’s printing instructions.)

Coloring and Activity Pages

Mickey and Friends Winter Day Activity Book : Disney Family

Disney Fairies ‘Secret of the Wings’ Activity Page : Disney Family
Mickey and Goofy Christmas Coloring Page : Disney Family
Vintage Mickey and Minnie Coloring Page : Disney Family

Prep & Landing Elves Coloring Page : Disney Family
35 Frozen Coloring Pages : The Kids Coloring Pages

Olaf Coloring Page : Colouring Page
Sven Coloring Page : Fan Pop
28 Christmas Coloring Pages : Free N Fun Christmas

Charlie Brown Christmas Coloring Page : Cartoon Jr
Merry Christmas Coloring Page : Activity Village
4 “What I Love About Christmas” Coloring Pages : Lil Luna

Tigger Christmas Coloring Page : Cartoon Jr
78 Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer (1967 version) Coloring Pages : Coloring Book


Christmas Word Scramble : About Home

Christmas Mad Libs : Classroom Jr.

Christmas Bingo : Crazy Little Projects

Gingerbread Man Dice Game : Kinzie’s Kreations


Candy Cane Ornaments–made from pipe cleaners and beads : The Fountain Avenue Kitchen

Origami Christmas Tree : My Lifebox Designs

Paper Strip Christmas Tree : Rudy and the Dodo

Coffee Filter Snowflakes–buy these cheap from the dollar store : Heart of Wisdom

Color and Build Your Own Snowman : Printables 4 Kids

What are your favorite indoor activities to do with kids?