Monday, January 22, 2018

FREE Valentine's Day Printables

This weekend was a warm one, in the 50's.  The snow and arctic cold seems to be gone, at least for the next week or so.  I know other parts of the country are still getting blasted with snow storms, best of luck to you and stay warm.  So whether you're stuck in the house and looking for something crafty to do, or just getting ready for the next holiday, these Valentine's Day printables would make a cute project.  



Valentine’s Day is virtually around the corner. It’s the time of year when people rise to the challenge and express love in new and unique ways. With this in mind, Customlables.net has created some editable Valentine’s Day stickers.  You can download the free, editable labels HERE. There are several different kinds cute for kids of all ages.  They can be used for party decoration, creating cute crafts, tagging gifts, writing heartwarming or funny notes and more.  You could even print them out on adhesive paper to make them into stickers.  So many possibilities.  


Happy crafting!




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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Christmas 2017 recap

I'm having a hard time getting back into the swing of things.  Being off for the holiday and sleeping in was great.  I got used to it real quick.  The kids first week back at school wasn't too bad since 3 out of the 4 days had a delayed start due to the weather, so I was still sleeping in.  This week however, has been a little rough.  The super cold temperatures didn't help either, but yesterday and today are warmer, if you can call 40° warm.

I'm finally getting around to recapping our Christmas.  I know it's 2018 and I've already taken down my Christmas decorations, but I'm still going to write about it.  Then I'll share some Valentines decorations I've been making.

This Christmas seemed to fly by and we didn't get around to doing all the fun traditions we've done in the past.  But there is always next year.  Some of the fun and FREE things we did included:

* Making a gingerbread house at Home Depot.  I was quite impressed that my 7 year old did all the work herself

OK, she got a little help painting from her brother.


* Along with a wooden gingerbread house, we also made the edible kind.  I think more candies were eaten than actually put on the house.

* My little guy just loves trains.  So of course we had to take him to a train garden.  Actually he got to go to several of them thanks to relatives taking him as well.  He loved being able to press the buttons to make things move.  

I think he could have stayed there for hours.

* The two youngest and I went to see Santa and one of his reindeer.  You can't tell by his worried expression, but my son was so excited to pet a reindeer.


* The Elf on the Shelf came back.  You can read about how and why we brought it back in THIS POST.  This was the first time my son was involved in this tradition.  And since the elf was only around for a week, which is a lot more manageable than a month, I think she'll be coming back next year too.


* We went to Bass Pro Shops and played in their Winter Wonderland while visiting with Santa.

Once again my daughter impressed me with her skills, this time it was shooting.  She had pretty good aim for only playing this game once a year.

The 'dirt' was brown kinetic sand and the kids loved playing in it.  We have kinetic sand at our house and I'm thinking of recreating this.  I could put the sand in one of those underbed storage containers along with some vehicles and sand toys and let them play with it that way.  We usually just have it on a baking sheet and use cookie cutters and plastic knives to play with it.  This would bring a whole new dimension to our kinetic sand play.



And let's not forget about Christmas morning.  I don't know who was more excited me or the kids.  Three of the kids got some big gifts.  They didn't cost that much, they were all bought second hand, but they were large and so I didn't wrap them.  You can see in the picture below how I like to separate out my kids gives so we have 4 piles.  On the left is my 7 year old's pile.  Her presents are stacked upon a pink and black leopard print high heel shoe chair.  My 3 year old son's pile is next and behind it is a tall Fischer Price Little People City Skyway race car ramp thingy.  And that big red bag conceals my teenage son's punching bag.  My teenage daughter didn't get anything very large.  Her gift requests were small items like books and art supplies.  I tried to make up for the smaller size with more items by individually wrapping the 13 book set she got.


Since some of the gifts were unwrapped, I didn't want to spoil the surprise (or spoil the change of me seeing their faces when they first see the gifts.  Because of the openness of our house, the kids can look down from the second floor and see right into the living room, I wanted to cover up the gifts and unveil them when I was there to see their expressions.  I just used some bed sheets.  The kids were definitely interested in what was under there making those weird shapes, but they did wait for me to unveil it for them and boy were they surprised.  

And then I took the obligatory Christmas morning photo.  My 7 year old's face was pretty much frozen like that all morning.  She's the most dramatic of our kids and it was so fun to watch her open her gifts and squeal in excitement over each one.  


This year we did pretty good with the presents.  We got stuff the kids actually liked and would use or play with.  That hasn't always happened.  Sometimes it's hard to know what they'll like/play with since birthdays are just a few months before Christmas and the kids already have so much.  To cut back on the amount of stuff, we've tried getting the kids 'experiences' such as pool passes or a trip somewhere but we also like them to have fun stuff to open. 

Here are some of the things the kids got (go ahead and plan ahead for next Christmas or think birthdays, or Easter baskets gifts):

3 year old boy gifts:
Superhero dress up costumes - these are great to pick up on after Halloween clearance.
Books

7 year old girl gifts:
Books

Teenage girl gifts:
Books - mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, how to draw, how to paint, creative writing...
Art supplies such as canvases, paints, gel pens, high quality markers, fabric markers....
Clothes - robe, pajamas, shirts...

Teenage boy gifts:
Ceiling fan - because he says he's always hot at night.
Books


And here's a fun family gift they got - The Claw Arcade Game.  They loved it and practiced much patience in playing it.  It has been fun to play with their friends too.  The novelty has worn off like I knew it would, but I plan to use it for the kid's birthday parties too.  You can change up what you put in it from candy to small toys or even money.  In the video below you can see how intense the kids are in trying to get something.  It's much easier than the claw machine at the arcade.  Depending on the type of candy/toy you put in there, you could be a winner every time.



Hope your Christmas was a merry one and that 2018 has been off to a good start for you.


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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Bacon Wrapped Triscuits

A friend made these Bacon Wrapped Triscuits for our family over Christmas and they were delicious.  Here is a link to them on Pinterest.  They are the perfect non sugary snack to take to any party.  A great appetizer, mid day snack, late night snack, or anytime food.  I mean, come on, they have bacon - what's not to love.



They are so easy to make, and only require 3 ingredients and 4 easy steps:

1 box Triscuit crackers
approx. 2 pounds bacon, cut each strip in half
brown sugar

Step 1:  Lay Triscuits out on baking sheets.  I covered my baking sheets with foil for easy clean up.

Step 2:  Add brown sugar to each Triscuit.  I just used a spoon and added the amount shown below, no measuring.


Step 3:  Wrap each Triscuit with 1/2 piece of bacon.


Step 4:  Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes in a 250°F oven.


Enjoy the bacony goodness!





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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Getting Organized in 2018

Wow, Christmas and New Year's just flew by.  We didn't get everything done that we wanted to but we spent a lot of time together and that's what really counts.  There is always next year to do some of the Christmas traditions we didn't do this year.  And yes, I'm already planning ahead for next Christmas.  I still plan to do a recap of our Christmas but for now I'm sharing a post I did a few years ago about getting organized.  From why we hold onto clutter, how to get rid of it and how to maintain a clutter free lifestyle.  Since it's a new year, a new start, I thought I'd share the post again in case anyone is on a decluttering kick.  Especially since the kids may have gotten too much for Christmas and you need to make room for all the new toys.  

A couple of years ago there was this hit book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  It's a great book, I have it and I've read it.  It basically says take everything of one type, like all your books, and put them in one place so you can see how much you have.  Then only keep what brings you joy.  You do this step with every type of item in your house and by the end of the process which could take months, you have a clutter free house.   Putting all of one type of something into one place isn't always practical when you have kids about and are running a household.  So I did what I could and it certainly made a difference.   Once you decide what you really like and want to keep, you should display it.  Marie Kondo's second book, Spark Joy, talks more about that and I recommend reading both of her books so you don't feel like you need to throw away everything in your home.  The books are motivational and will have you wanting to declutter in no time.  Once you start, you'll soon realize it's not easy to get rid of stuff and my series on decluttering will tell you why and what to do about it. 

Generally we hold onto clutter for one of 5 reasons:

1. We just can't resist a freebie or a sale. (Bargain Clutter, find out how to overcome it HERE)

2. We hold onto keepsakes and sentimental items because we're afraid to let them go. (Sentimental Clutter, read more about it HERE)

3. We like to have a lot of stuff around. (Abundance Clutter and what to do about it can be found HERE )

4. We think we "might need it someday." (Aspirational Clutter reducing tips found HERE)

5. We don't know where to start!
 (Ideas on How to Start Decluttering HERE)

If Decluttering is half the battle.  Getting organized is the other half.



There is no one way to get organized.  Here are just a few examples of how to do it.  Hopefully you'll be able to find something that works for you and your style. 


1.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  

This is my favorite piece of organizational advice.  If everything has a place, then everything can be put away and later found.  Most things don't get put away because they don't have a home, or they don't have the right home.  The key to getting organized is to find the best possible home for all of your stuff.  If you can't find something in 30 seconds, then it's in the wrong place.


When choosing a home, don't think where should I put this, think where am I most likely to look for this.  Ideally the home you create will be close to where the item gets used and where others would be apt to look for it..
Questions to ask: 
How often do I use it? (store less used stuff higher up on shelves, in the basement/attic, or underneath/behind other things)
Where do I use it?
How accessible is it?
Does it belong in this room?

If you have a place for storing something but that place isn't being used, figure out why.  An example of this is the hamper.  If the kids get undressed in the bedroom but the hamper is in the bathroom, it's no wonder their dirty clothes are always on the bedroom floor.  Solution – put a hamper in their room.
    2.  Work with your clutter.

    Walk through your home and look at what's lying around.  Consider how you use each room.  Ask yourself:
    1. What causes clutter in this room?
    2. What items end up here that should be somewhere else? Why?
    3. What things should be in this room that are not here now?
    Is your dining room table or kitchen counter a dumping ground for anything and everything that comes in the door?  Can you find or create a better place nearby to store these things, perhaps on a shelf or cabinet?  You may not be able to eliminate all the clutter, but you can control it.
    One way to control clutter is to set up work centers for specific activities such as handling mail and bills, sewing, hobbies and laundry.  A workstation that includes all the tools you need close at hand saves you time.  You may also find that it is most efficient to have certain things such as scissors, in more than one location. 

    3.  What have I got?

    Another way you can organize is to look at an area and ask “what have I got?” and then perform these steps:
    1. Eliminate things that don't belong (put them where they do belong whether in another location or the trash).  You don't have to organize them or put them away exactly where they do belong, just getting them in the correct room would be a good start, your main goal is to get them out of where they don't belong so you can organize that spot.
    2. Look at the remaining items and ask again “what have I got?” 
    3. Group the items into categories.  In some cases it is easier to plan your strategy out on paper before beginning to physically sort the items. 
    4. Once you've established the major categories, determine the most convenient place to store each group.
    5. When you have decided on a location, then decide what type of container, hook or shelf will work best.  That brings me to my next topic....

    ORGANIZATIONAL PRODUCTS

      When thinking about organizational products or containers, here are a few tips to remember:

      1.  Use What You Have
      You don't have to buy expensive organizers, you can just use what you have.  Cereal and shoe boxes (whether decorated with cute wrapping paper or not) make great bins and dividers in drawers or cabinets.   Lots of little parts that go together can be easily stored in an empty baby wipes containers.  Empty egg cartons are great for sorting out paper clips and other small office supplies or even jewelry or sewing supplies.  If you feel like you have to buy something, the dollar store has lots of organizational products too.

      2.  Purge, Organize, Measure BEFORE you buy
      Don't buy stuff before you purge and organize that way you know what you need (amount and size).
      And make sure you measure your space so that you buy the right size product.

      3.  Containerize

      Using containers is a great way to organize and keep like items together.  Containers make it easy to find what you are looking for even if you never get around to organizing what's in the container itself.

      Containers can also help you eliminate clutter because you only have so much space to store something.  If it doesn't fit, it's time to purge.  Remember the one in one out rule.

      Clear plastic bins with lids are great so you can see what's in them and stack them.  Plus they are air and water tight so you don't have to worry about bugs or water getting in them.  


      Woven baskets can contain clutter while looking pretty.  You can have these on the floor in the living room to store blankets, magazines or even toys. 

      Square maximizes you space better than round, especially on shelves and in drawers.  

      4.  Think Vertical
      To maximize existing space think vertical.  What can you hang on walls, from the ceiling, or the backs of doors.  Same size storage containers that stack are a great use of space at the top of closets.  Don't forget about the insides of cabinet doors.  There are products you can mount there to add additional storage for pot lids, or spices, or kids plastic plates….

      A magnetic knife holder can be mounted inside a bathroom cabinet or medicine cabinet to store nail clippers, tweezers and scissors. 

      5.  Label
      To help yourself and others stay organized - label everything.  This helps you and others in your house, know where things belong so they can easily put them back.


      We've talked about how to get organized, but the real test is staying organized.  All the cute containers in the world won't keep you organized if you don't have a system that works.


      MAINTENANCE 

      Staying organized is even more challenging than getting organized because you have to train yourself to do things differently. 

      Once you have uncluttered your home, staying organized involves picking up, putting away and discarding excess stuff on a regular basis.  This is where getting into a routine will help.
      The more you do these things, the more they will become routine and before you know it, you'll be on autopilot in maintaining order in your home.

      -Put things back in their proper place when you are done using them. 

      -Don't put it down, put it away. 
      -Go through the house each night before bed and return things where they belong. 
      -Set up some rules like no toys in the dining room, or if you carry it into a room, you must carry it out when you leave.
      -Every time you leave a room take something that doesn't belong in there and put it where it does belong. 
      -Handle things once.  
      -Take care of today's things today.   Don't procrastinate.   Procrastinating makes more work later which can take more time, possibly creating more stress.   Remember, it's easier to keep up than to catch up. 
      -Have an inbox to deal with things later such as paying bills or phone calls to make.  Set aside some time each day or week to deal with those things


      REAL LIFE EXAMPLES

      Here is one organizational problem with 2 different solutions:

      The problem:
      You have notes and piles of papers out so you don't forget to do something.   You are afraid if you put it away, that you'll forget something important to do or where you put it.

      Solution 1:  Is that really the reason you are leaving things out, or is it because you don't have a home for them.  Give everything a home and make sure you put it back there when you are done.  Then you'll get in the habit of putting it back in its home.  When you give something a home you can always find it.

      Solution 2:  When you leave things out where you can see them, you end of not seeing them.  They become part of the background or blend into the wallpaper.  A more efficient system is to keep a notepad available.  Once you have written something down, you no longer need the item itself as a reminder and you can put it away.

      GETTING KIDS INVOLVED

      Here are a few different ways to get your kids involved. 


      1.  You need to train them.  Show them what you expect and help them do it the first few times.  This does take more time and effort but will be worth because you're kids will do the cleaning/organizing and not you.

      2.  Make it a game.  You could see who can put away the most things in a certain amount of time.  Or who can clean up a certain area before the timer goes off.  Make it easy for them to win at first so they'll want to keep playing.

      3.  If helping them and making a game out of it doesn't work, sometimes you just have to lay down the law.  Be firm and say anything left out will go in the garbage or a bin where they have to earn it back.  If they don't want to do what it takes to earn it back, then get rid of it.  This might work better for older kids.

      Why Get Organized?
      The whole point of getting organized is to create more time, space, and energy in your life for the people and things that matter most to you.  Because when it comes down to it, none of the things in our lives really matter; we can't take them with us.   I  hope you've enjoyed this organizational series of posts and that you'll be motivated to de-clutter, and get organized.  In case you missed anything, you can read the rest of the series here:

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      Monday, December 18, 2017

      Elf on the Shelf Returns

      Early Saturday morning my daughter runs excitedly into my bedroom exclaiming the elf is back!  The excitement on her face is what makes it all worth it.  We've done the Elf on the Shelf before.  You can read about our many adventures about that HERE and HERE.  Then we decided to take a break.  I mentioned how and why HERE.  Well, she's back and this time I've made it easy on myself.  She's only here for about a week.  I figure I can handle a week of this little elf.


      My daughter was so excited to see her Elf return.  And the Elf brought her some new pajamas.


      Anyone else doing Elf on the Shelf?  Are you burnt out yet and need more ideas?  Check out all the activities we did with out Elf in previous years and how we ended the relationship HERE, HERE and HERE.







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      Thursday, December 14, 2017

      Christmas Crafts

      Our Elementary PTO is great.  They have lots of activities planned throughout the year and most are for the whole family not just the elementary student.  One night last week they had a family Christmas craft activity.  There were 10 different craft stations set up for the kids.  We were able to do 8 of them in about an hour.  They were all easy to make and my 7 year old daughter had a blast making them with very little help from me.


      This snowman craft was easy to do and didn't take much time since all the pieces were cut out and ready to go.  Just glue the snowman head and body to the blue paper, then glue on the scarf and carrot nose.  Using a black marker, add eyes and a mouth then paint on some snowflakes using white craft paint and a Q-tip.  And there you have a cute little snowman with some falling snow.

      Next up was this jolly little elf.  All my daughter had to do was color, cut and assemble with brads/split pins.  The pattern was from Red Ted Art

      This snowman cup was another super easy one.  Put the silver pipe cleaner through the cup, glue on the red ear muffs and carrot nose.  Finish it off using a black marker to make the eyes and mouth.  How cute would this be for a Christmas party filled with candy favors.

      This fingerprint tree would make a cute Christmas card.  All it took was some red and green ink, a gold star and brown marker for the tree trunk.

      Beaded snowflake
        The silver pipe cleaners were already made to form a snowflake so all my daughter had to do was add the beads and bend the ends.  Then we added a hook so we could hang it on the Christmas tree.

      Craft stick Rudolf
        All we had to do for this was to glue on the antlers, eyes and nose.  I think hot glue would have worked better.  The craft glue made things slip around a bit until they dried. 

      Twig and Ribbon Tree Ornament
      I thought this craft was so cute, I made one myself.  All we had to do was tie scraps of fabric around a twig.

      Cork Santa
      This one took a little longer because we had to wait for the paint to dry, but other than that it was easy.  The bottom half of the cork was painted red.  A cotton ball was glued on as a beard.  Using a black marker my daughter added eyes and a nose.  There was a Hershey Kiss glued on top of the cork for a hat and then the small cotton ball glued onto that.  However, my daughter couldn't resist and ate the Hershey Kiss.  I'm sure you can imagine what it looks like though.


      My daughter also had an ornament making day at school so check back next week to see more Christmas craft ideas.



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      Tuesday, December 12, 2017

      The Christmas Towel and #LightTheWorld

      Several years ago I received one of these Christmas towels as a gift.   They are just white tea towels with the word Service embroidered on them and a little story attached.  Although I've never used mine as a towel, I enjoy reading the story each year as I unpack it from my Christmas decor box.




      I thought they'd make a cute gift, and perfect for this time of year reminding us of our Savior in the everyday acts of service we do.

      Here's my version.  I don't know how to embroider so I omitted that step and used a festive red towel instead. 




      I love how a useful everyday object now has deeper meaning because of the story.  These would make great gifts for neighbors, friends, or large church groups.


      If you are looking for more ways to serve this Christmas season, check out the Light The World campaign from Mormon.org  There are 25 ways to serve over the 25 days leading up to Christmas.  Each day there is a short video, a scripture and a challenge to serve.  We've been watching the videos each night and trying to be more mindful of serving others this holiday season.  It's a great way to remember Jesus which is what Christmas is truly about.



      You can download the calendar which has each day's scripture HERE.
      And if you're looking for how to apply these ideas for families, teens or little kids, check out THIS POST or THIS ONE.  Thanks to Emilie of A Year Of FHE for putting these together.  If you need FHE ideas, she's got you covered so be sure to check out her entire site.  


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