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?

A

B

pollcode.com 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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!

https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Beautiful, Affordable Special Occasion Dresses

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!
This post has been sponsored by NeeSee’s Dresses.  All opinions are 100% mine.

At least a couple of times a year, I have an event I need to attend that requires me to wear something a little more fancy, beyond my normal church dress.  And every year I struggle to put something together that feels dressy enough for the occasion.  Because I don’t have a need for nicer dresses very often, I hesitate to spend a lot of money on something that won’t be worn more than a handful of times a year (at most).  To add to my troubles, I am tall (5’9″) and many dresses aren’t long enough for me.

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

So when I spotted NeeSee’s Dresses through a Facebook ad about three years ago, I clicked on the link and found a number of dresses and other clothes that were a) cute, b) affordable and c) long enough,.  Let me tell you, I was sold!  I’ve ordered dresses, shirts, skirts, cardigans and other accessories from them and have been thrilled with every order.

One of my favorite products NeeSee’s carries is their dresses.  They are classy, beautiful and completely affordable.  I feel totally comfortable spending money on a dress (or two) from them because I know they are well made and the styles are classic.  Plus, they won’t break the bank.

Last week, I attended the wedding of one of my husband’s best friends.  I picked out the The Emmy in navy to wear and I absolutely love the color and the fit.  The lace overlay is beautiful and I felt amazing wearing it.

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

I did end up ordering a silver belt to wear because I wanted to create the illusion of a slightly lower waistline.  You can order the belt HERE.

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

One thing I want to mention is that I had our kids with me and I was still able to move around and be comfortable dealing with them.  This is a huge benefit to us moms!

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

Tonight, I am going to my husband’s Christmas party which is always a fun excuse to dress up.  The dress I’m wearing is The Elsa Maxi Dress in Champagne Pink.

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

As I said earlier, I’m fairly tall, but this dress easily touches the ground when I don’t have shoes on.  I have 3 inch heels on in the pictures below and you can see that it is still long.  (If you’re shorter, you could have the dress hemmed to fit you.  One thing I’ve learned is that it’s a lot harder to add length to clothes.)

Beautiful, budget friendly dresses for those special occasions when you want to dress up!

I love the gold sequins and the soft pink of the chiffon.  And the dress is super comfortable!  The whole thing is lined and the sequins weren’t scratchy at all.

NeeSee’s carries styles for everyone and their dresses range from comfy and casual to dressy and formal.  If you have questions, their customer service is extremely helpful.  If you’re looking for something besides a dress, you can check out their tops, skirts, shoes and even swimwear.  When you sign up for their emails, you’ll find out about amazing sales and they often offer free products (dresses, shirts, beanies, etc) when you spend a certain amount.  On top of that, they offer free shipping on orders over $75.  Right now, they are doing 12 Days of Amazing Sales and let me tell you, they really are amazing!

With all the holiday parties coming up this month, treat yourself to a little something that will make you feel good about yourself, pretty and comfortable in your skin.  So hop on over to NeeSee’s Dresses and find something you love!

As an extra incentive, NeeSee’s has kindly provided an exclusive code for my readers: use SUNSHINE at checkout for 15% off your entire order until Sunday, December 4 at midnight MST.  Couple this with the 12 Days of Amazing Sales I mentioned earlier and you are getting a killer deal!

I also have to say thank you to my friend Kendra from Kendra Leigh Photography and Video for taking these pictures.  She is an amazing photographer and she made me feel at ease during these pictures.  I’m not usually the one in front of the camera and I appreciate her skill and talent in making me look good.  If you live in Utah County, definitely ask her to be your next photographer.

Happy weekend and I hope you enjoy the upcoming holidays!

Affordable Toys for Toddlers

Affordable Toys for Toddlers (ages 2-5)

During the next four months, we’ll be celebrating Christmas and both of my kids’ birthdays.  This means that we have to budget well for gifts and be selective in what we choose to bring into our home.  In addition, we want good quality toys that aren’t going to break the bank.  I’ve always prided myself on being a bargain shopper and Christmas and birthday gifts are no exception.  Just last week I saved $15 on a present for my son by shopping around, which turned something over-budget into something affordable.  I always give myself a good pat on the back when that happens. *wink*

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I’d much rather spend a couple of extra dollars on something that is better made and longer lasting.  Kids are hard on toys so this is important to me as a parent.  Today, I want to share with you my picks for affordable toddler toys from The Baby Cubby.  One of the things I love most about their toys is that they are unique and durable as well as affordable.  Most of their toys are for boys or girls (with the exception of a few).  The toys I’m showing below are for 2-5 year old range.  (Click on the link below the picture to see more information.)

*This post is sponsored by The Baby Cubby.  All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Affordable Toys for Toddlers (ages 2-5)
Affordable Toys for Toddlers (ages 2-5)

Affordable Toys for Toddlers (ages 2-5)

Affordable Toys for Toddlers (ages 2-5)

Affordable Toys for Toddlers (ages 2-5)
Zoobrella Umbrella (3 styles)  |  Hedgehog Backpack (4 styles)

Affordable Toys for Toddlers (ages 2-5)
Baby Primers (30 classics)

What makes The Baby Cubby different?
So if you’re anything like me, you’ve been on tons of websites for baby/toddler/kid stuff searching for great products at a great price.  We all like to get the best bang for our buck!  But it’s also nice to know that where you’re shopping values more than just your money.  At The Baby Cubby, their team is made up of parents just like you who want the best products for their kids.  They want to support you through parenthood with helpful resources and encouragement.  (And don’t we all need a little bit of that? *wink*)  You can read a little more about them HERE.

Besides great products, they also offer price matching (even on Amazon prices) and free shipping on orders over $49 (which isn’t hard to do, believe me!).  If you are local, they are located about 10-15 minutes south of Provo and about 25 minutes north of Salt Lake in Lindon.  You can find directions HERE.

My Experience with The Baby Cubby
I recently placed an order with them for some Christmas gifts for my kids (the makeup set, a book, bath pipes and bath cogs).  Ordering was easy and I could see shipping costs, a breakdown of each item, tax, etc prior to placing my order.  Earlier this week, I got a call from their customer service about one of the items being out of stock and they wanted to know what I wanted done with the order.  I called them back and briefly explained the reason I was calling.  The girl I spoke to happened to be the same one who had called me and she knew exactly what I was talking about and handled my call quickly and efficiently (which is huge because no one wants to be on the phone with customer service forever when they have kids).  I cannot wait to get these items and give them for Christmas this year.  I have no doubt I’ll be a repeat customer.

I hope this post gave you some ideas of what to give the toddler in your life!  Happy shopping!

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Fall Mantle Inspiration

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

I love Fall.  I love the bright colors of the leaves as they change.  I love the cooler weather.  I love pumpkins and cornstalks and sunflowers.  So it should come as no surprise that these are the things I use and think about as I decorate my home for the change of season from summer to fall.  I’ve teamed up with At Home (who has graciously sponsored this post) to bring you some fall inspiration for your home.

As much as I would love to decorate more areas of my home, I have to take into account storage space and the fact that I’ve got a couple of little kids running around who love to explore and touch everything.  So this year, I decided to focus on two areas of my home: the front porch and the mantle.

First, I’ll show you my porch.

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

The reds, oranges, yellows and greens of fall make for the perfect colors to contrast my darker exterior and I think the items I used really pop.

For my door, I made this flowers and berries wreath.  You can check out the tutorial HERE.

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

I slowly started adding decor on either side of the door to fill in the space.  A small bale of hay from the craft store and this darling pumpkin from At Home helped tie in the colors I used on the wreath.

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

Then I placed a sign on the opposite side with a mini pumpkin and another pumpkin from At Home which lights up.  I also love that it is a grapevine pumpkin because that also ties in with my grapevine wreath.

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

Right in front of the door, I placed a new leaf mat.  It tends to get rainy where I live in the fall so mats are always a good idea.

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

The final touch was a leaf garland.  I used two 6 ft lengths of garland and some tape to connect them.  Then I used a couple of 3M command hooks at each corner and hooked the links of the garland around them.  It’s held up really well and I love that I can just take the hooks down when I’m ready to remove the garland.

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

If you’d like to check out the items I used as part of my porch decor, I’ve included a list below of where each item came from and links where applicable.

Fall Flowers and Berries Wreath  |  Tutorial by Me
Fall Leaf Garland  |  At Home
Hay Bale  |  JoAnn’s (they also carry them at At Home)
Harvest Sign  |  At Home
Grapevine Pumpkin  |  At Home
Leaf Mat  |  At Home

Now for the mantle.

If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you might remember my Spring/Easter Mantle and my Summer Mantle.  This is the main place that I decorate for holidays/seasons because it still allows me to have my decor out and is mostly ignored by my children.  (Also, this is not technically a mantle, but I use it the same as if I had one.)

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

I generally have a wreath but decided to go a different direction when I saw this canvas at At Home.  It seemed so warm and cozy to me and reminds me of when I visited New England a few years ago in the fall.

To fill in the space on either side of the canvas, I used a combination of items I already had and new things to fit my style from At Home.  You might recognize the hurricane vases I made last fall.  I use them almost year round because they allow for so much flexibility in decor due to the fact that I can easily swap out whatever is inside.

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

Then, I printed out a couple of pictures of my kids from last fall and put them in the two frames.  If your kids are anything like mine, they love to see pictures of themselves. Plus, I think my kids are pretty cute too.  *wink*

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

Again, here is a breakdown of where each item came from with their corresponding links where applicable.

Hurricane Vases  |  Tutorial by Me
Burlap Table Runner  |  Tutorial by Me
Colored Acorns (in hurricane vase)  |  At Home
Pine Cones (in hurricane vase)  |  Walmart
Mini Wood Autumn Sign  |  At Home
Wooden Bowl (similar)  |  At Home
Colored Twine Balls  |  At Home
Red Square Frame  |  Hobby Lobby
Wreath Stand  |  Rod Works (click here for locations)
Fall Canvas  |  At Home
Layered Candle  |  At Home
White Wood Lantern  |  Tai Pan Trading Co.
Orange Stand  |  Hobby Lobby
Green Frame  |  At Home

Happy decorating my friends!

If you’re looking for more amazing Fall inspiration, definitely take some time to look at these other Fall Home Tours by some very talented women!

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!
At Home With Zan              Making Joy and Pretty Things                 An Alli Event

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!

Fall Home Tour: Front Porch and Mantle Inspiration plus 8 other bloggers share how they decorate their homes for the fall!
            Thrifty to Nifty                   Craftivity Designs                    Sunshine and Munchkins

Craft Room Organization {Using Chalkboard Labels}

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

When my husband and I started to work on finishing the basement, my only request was: “Can I please have a craft room?”  Knowing how much craft stuff I have, and how much my husband dislikes when I spread it all over the kitchen counters, he made sure that I had a space dedicated to my craftiness.  (He still likes to call it an office, but we both know it’s really my craft room.)

Please note that I received product for my review.  All opinions are 100% mine.

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

I’m still working on getting it completely organized before I reveal it to you all, but one thing that needed some serious organizational help was my tall cabinet of craft drawers.  This was on my list of “must-haves” when I was designing the space. I purchased it from IKEA from their Alex collection.  I love how many drawers it has.  Seriously, this thing is a dream.  Oddly enough, this is also one of the things that makes it so hard to organize because I can never remember which drawer has what in it.  Half the time I need something I have to go through two or three drawers to find it.

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

*UPDATE 4/7/2017 – The chalkboard labels used in this post are no longer available via Amazon.  I received some different chalkboard labels for my review and I am recommending these chalkboard labels instead (plus they come with 2 chalk markers).  I have replaced the links in this post with the new labels.

So when I was asked to review some chalkboard labels, I knew exactly where I wanted to use them: my craft room!  The labels come in a variety of shapes and sizes, making it so easy for me to pick just the right one out.  Plus, there were six sheets of chalkboard paper that I could cut out into any size or shape I wanted.  (My Silhouette Cameo would be perfect for that.)

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

To write on the labels I used regular white chalk as well as these cool chalk pencils.  They look just like colored pencils and they sharpen just like colored pencils, but they are chalk.  It made writing the words out on the labels so much easier and more legible, plus it added a little bit of color and character, which I liked.  Another thing I really liked about these labels was that the chalk came off when I wiped it.  I had to redo a few of the labels to get them the way I wanted and each time it rubbed off great.

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

When it came time to place the labels on the drawers, I pulled out my ruler (I only had to check two drawers before I found it) and measured the center so I had a good idea of where to place the label on each drawer.  Then I peeled them off and put them on each drawer, trying to bend the label a little towards the middle and then outward as it stuck.

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

TA-DA!  I love the way it turned out!  So nice and organized and labeled.  (My husband even peeked in and said it looked good.)  Chalkboard labels are a great way to organize your craft room (or any room really).  I like that they are permanent in that they stay on the drawers, but provide flexibility to move things around if I need to change out what is in each drawer and just rewrite what’s on the label.  Easy peasy.

Sunshine and Munchkins: Craft Room Organization {using Chalkboard Labels}--an easy way to quickly organize your craft room!

What are your favorite ways to use chalkboard labels?

Summer Pallet Art

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

I was looking at my spring mantle this week and realizing that it was time to start thinking about summer decor.  So I looked through my summer decorations and noticed a serious lack of summer-y-ness (totally a word) in my collection.  A few months ago I picked up a 12×12 unfinished pallet board at Walmart without knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it but thought it would come in handy one day.  (This is a habit that drives my husband crazy, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.  *wink*)

So I grabbed the pallet board and opened my Silhouette software on my computer.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I use my Silhouette Cameo all the time on all different types of crafting projects.  I absolutely love using it to cut vinyl because it’s so precise, even on very small images or words.  My idea for this project was to use summer words on each row of the pallet board with a simple background.
To make your own pallet art, you will need the following:

  • acrylic paint (in your desired colors) 
  • paintbrushes/foam brushes
  • vinyl
  • transfer paper
  • Silhouette machine (or similar)
  • optional: stickers or rub-ons for the words (if you don’t have a way to cut the vinyl)

I found the perfect sun cut file in my library and resized it to fill a good portion of the board.  Then I typed out a few words that describe summer to me: sunshine, popsicles, flip flops, watermelon and summertime.  Then I found a font I liked and arranged the words in an order I liked.  As I did this, I realized that I could go from shortest word to longest word from top to bottom which I though flowed really nicely.

To give me a better visual for how the finished product would look, I resized some rectangles to mimic the pallet board, then filled everything in with the colors I wanted to use.  You can see what I did below:

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

To prep for this project, I cut out the sun and words using vinyl.  I knew I was just going to use the sun cutout as a stencil so I used some less expensive vinyl I have on hand for just that purpose.  Then I cut out the words by opening a new file and copying and pasting the words there.  Using the grids, I measured how big each piece of vinyl would have to be to fit each word and then cut it out so I wouldn’t waste any and placed it on the cutting mat and cut it out.  For the words, I used some new colorful vinyl that I recently received as a promotion to try out and review.  The pack I received had 35 6×12 sheets included in all different colors and finishes: shiny, matte and metallic.  (I used the shiny kind.)  When I used it in my Silhouette Cameo machine, it cut beautifully and I didn’t have any problems.  It’s a great value too.  (You can find it here.)
*Note: I received the vinyl at a deeply discounted rate in order to try it out and review it.

Before placing the sun stencil on the wood, I sanded down some of the roughness with a piece of sandpaper.  Then I positioned the stencil on the wood and pressed it out, paying special attention to the edges so that when I painted over it that the paint wouldn’t seep under.

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

I like the look of distressed wood without worrying about sanding so I used some petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to distress the wood.  (You can learn how to do this here.)  I dabbed a little here and there trying to follow the grain of the wood.

Once the petroleum jelly was on, I grabbed some acrylic paint and started mixing the colors.  Originally, I wanted to do a sort of ombre with the blue background, but it didn’t quite work out.  If I look at it now, it’s a very subtle change in color and not as dramatic as I had hoped.  I only did a couple of thin coats and thinking back, I should have done a couple more, especially since the wood was unfinished and soaked up some of the paint.

I removed the vinyl stencil while the paint was still drying to create more crisp lines (just like painting a wall, right?).  Then I let it dry for another 10 minutes.  While it was drying, I added a little more petroleum jelly to the spots where the sun stencil had been so it would appear distressed there as well.

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

To paint the sun, I used a smaller brush to paint around the edges, then filled it in with a foam brush.  I used a little more paint on the sun and I think it turned out a little brighter and more how I would have liked the blue background to look.

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

I used a paper towel to wipe off the paint and petroleum jelly (refer to my tutorial) and then I placed the vinyl words on the board.  I would definitely recommend using transfer paper for this.  One trick I’ve learned is that you don’t need to use a new piece of transfer paper for each piece of vinyl.  It will stay sticky enough that you can reuse it a few times. 

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

I did run into a little bit of a problem with the wood soaking up some of the petroleum jelly and it was a little hard to get it off and it had sort of a greasy look around the edges of each spot.  I think this happened because the wood wasn’t sanded down and there were lots of nooks and crannies for stuff to get caught in.  But not to worry–I have a solution!

Solution: To soak up some of the petroleum jelly, I sprinkled some baby powder over it and left it for a couple of hours before I blew it off.  There were a few places that I had to use my fingernail to get some of the powder off.  Overall, the powder did a great job of soaking up the greasiness and I was a lot happier with how it looked.

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

And now I have a fun, new, summery decoration for my house!

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

What holiday/season do you lack decorations for?