Hot Cocoa for a Cause

If you have been following along on Instagram the past few weeks, you have seen me post and talk about the hot cocoa stand my kids did last year to earn money they could use to buy toys for those in need. It was an amazing experience and one we are going to make a tradition.

I decided to share all the details about it in hopes that it might inspire some of you to set up a hot cocoa stand of your own to raise money for charity. I have loved the response I have seen on Instagram and I hope this can be a guide for you to use while you prepare and set up one of your own.

How did it start?

Let me first give you a little backstory and then we’ll get into all the details. I’ll share some free signs and games you can use for your toy and hot cocoa stand, too.

Last year while my kids and I were reading The Friends magazine, we came across a story of a boy that earned money to buy a toy for someone in need by setting up a hot cocoa stand. After a few years of trying different ways of helping others during the holidays, we came across that special way for our family to serve together. This is what I had been searching for!

I decided to have the kids make homemade toys to sell along with the hot cocoa to make them work harder for the money. You hear so much these days about how our generation is raising entitled children who expect everything to be handed to them. These are not the kind of people I want to raise and send out into the world. I wanted my kids to invest a lot of their time and talents into something that, in the end, would benefit someone else instead of themselves. I also wanted a project that would require the whole family to work together and spend more quality time with each other. The hot cocoa stand was the answer. It allowed us to make a bigger impact than we normally would have been capable of on a small income. We gathered some supplies and got right to work. It was the perfect way to start the holiday season.

If this sounds like the answer to what your family has been missing during the Christmas season, I invite you to join us by hosting a hot cocoa stand of your own this year. Let me tell you all my tips and tricks for making it a success.

Prepare your kids

When I first told my kids (ages 4,4 and 2) about my idea for them to make toys and sell them, they loved it. They thought they were going to earn a ton of money to buy whatever they wanted. Umm… not quite. We had some expectations to clear up first, and I’m glad we did.

Each day as we sat down to make toys I would ask them what they were going to do with all of these toys. They would tell me that they were going to give them to their friends, or sell them to people at the cocoa stand. When I would ask what they were going to do with the money they earned from selling the toys they would get a big smile and tell me they were going to buy toys. Then I would ask them who they were buying toys for, and they would shout “Us!” Wrong answer, kiddos.

I’m glad we spent time working on this hot cocoa stand for a few weeks so that I could have all that time to continually review with them again and again what our purpose was. We talked about how some kids didn’t have toys, some just wanted new coats, and some didn’t even have homes. This was the first time they finally started to put the pieces together of how blessed they were in this life, and that they had the power and duty to help others.

Make the process of creating toys and games a fun experience. We worked on one project each day so the kids didn’t feel burned out. Every day they would wake up and be so excited to see what the “toy of the day” was.

I would have the table all prepped and ready for them to start working. We listened to Christmas music and I also filmed them making toys. They thought it was so fun to teach how to make each item on a movie. Almost like their own little YouTube channel.

ADVERTISING

I know it can be hard to share and talk about a service project you and your family are doing. It’s scary wondering how people are going to take it and if it’s going to come across self-righteous. I struggle with this. It’s not something I’m comfortable sharing, but if we wanted to provide a better Christmas for others, we needed people to come to our hot cocoa stand, right? I had to advertise and put ourselves out there. If it was just me selling something, I probably wouldn’t have spread the news like I did, but it was my kids who had worked so hard and were so eager to see this succeed too. I had to do all that I could to support them.

This meant I posted about it on Instagram and our neighborhood Facebook page. I let friends and family know what the kids had been working on and when the hot cocoa stand would be open. We posted signs along the streets with arrows giving directions to the hot cocoa stand, similar to what you would do for a yard sale. The boys are in kindergarten now and will get to take flyers to their classmates and friends on the bus inviting them to come to the hot cocoa stand.

Free Hot Cocoa for a Cause Kit

And now, here I am blogging about the whole experience to hopefully make a bigger impact. Your interest from my posts on Instagram sparked an idea to provide a free kit with signs and some game templates for you to download and print to help make your hot cocoa stand a success. If you have found this helpful, please share and help us make an even bigger difference in the lives of those who are suffering and without this season.

The more people we can get involved the better. My kids may have made the toys and set up the stand, but without other people generously stopping, purchasing items and making cash donations, they wouldn’t have been able to help as many people as they did. It takes a village to serve each other and I was so grateful for our village that day. Together we raised almost $200 in those 2 hours. We were thrilled!

Free kit includes:

  • Advertising street signs
  • Donation sign
  • Two styles of flyers
  • Thank you tags
  • Don’t Eat Pete game
  • Santa Countdown – coloring page and colored picture

PICK A CHARITY

When picking a charity there are a few things to think about.

  1. What are their deadlines for donations?
    You obviously don’t want to have your hot cocoa stand after they’re no longer accepting donations. We had ours the middle of the month last year and almost learned this the hard way. We barely made the Toys for Tots deadline on their last day. Most other charities had already stopped accepting physical donations and were preparing to deliver them.
  2. Can you cover the remaining cost to provide Christmas to a family if your hot cocoa stand doesn’t raise as much money as planned?
    If you are going to select a Sub for Santa family or pick a name off the Angel Tree or another charity like that, can you still afford to provide Christmas for them if your sales aren’t as high as you had hoped? If your answer is no, find a different charity, such as Toys for Tots, where you can donate whatever you have and they will find a place for it.

HOT COCOA

I was nervous about how we were going to be able to keep the hot cocoa warm outside in the cold weather, but it all worked out surprisingly well. Here’s how we did it.

Supplied Needed:

  • 5 gallon cooler
  • hot cocoa mix
  • insulated cups and lids — I’m not sure if these are the exact ones I used last year, but they are close. I bought mine at Costco and loved that they were plain white.
  • straws
  • mints or creamers if you do a hot cocoa bar with toppings.

Directions:

We boiled large pots of water on the stove and poured them into the 5 gallon jug. Then we mixed in the hot cocoa with a giant spoon. The insulated cooler kept the hot cocoa warm for 2 hours. It was incredibly hot at the beginning of the hot cocoa stand, so make sure you and your customers are careful.

If want to have different flavors of hot cocoa, have some toppings such at mini candy canes, creamers and whipped cream. And remember, toppings are extra. ;) People won’t mind because it’s going to a good cause.

TOYS

Children’s handmade toys are absolutely adorable… to their moms. There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love arts and crafts made by kids. I have a house full that I cherish, but will other people want to spend money on crafts your kids made? They will most likely be kind and buy one or two, but would be more likely to buy a kit of the craft to take home and have their own children make.

We selected toys and games our kids could make, but wouldn’t look like a child made it. That meant if we painted something, it was all one color. We used molds when shaping things, and packaged items with care. Reese, who was two at the time, helped with every single project and they all looked like quality items. I tried to limit my involvement to just prep work, and not the actual creation of each item. That part was left to the kids and they excelled. It was important for me to have the kids do most of the work. This was their project. I was just there to help and support when needed.

I have a few ideas for toys and games your kids can make that I’ll share below. You can also visit a Pinterest board I set up with more ideas.

Journals/Notebooks

I let my kids sort through all my paper stash and select the papers they wanted to use in notebooks. We mixed pattern paper with printer paper. I trimmed the paper down to size and then they put the papers in the order they wanted. After each notebook was organized, I folded the papers in half and punched the wholes for the binding. The boys then sewed the books together using this book binding tutorial. Reese was a little too small to sew the books, so she measured and cut the string. There was a job for everyone and each one was important.

Tic-Tac-Toe

Do you have a stash of cotton muslin bags? I do and I love it. They come in all sizes and are so handy to have on hand. I drew a tic-tac-toe board on the outside of the bag using a Sharpie. My kids searched the backyard for small rocks that they washed and painted. We put 5 of each color of rock in a bag and that was it. A fun tic-tac-toe game for kids to take with them on the go. You can also use pom-poms, buttons, plastic jewels and more for the markers.

Hot Cocoa Mix

This is such an easy one for kids. We put plastic triangle bags inside cups to help hold them upright. Then the kids passed them down the line as each one took a turn putting their ingredients in the bag. First hot cocoa, then crushed candy canes, and finally marshmallows. We used clear hair elastics to close them tight and then tied some string around to make it look pretty.

Bath Bombs

These were a hit at the hot cocoa stand. They are a great gift idea and stocking stuffer for all ages so they went fast. You can put little toy prices in the middle for younger kids to enjoy. I didn’t love the recipe we used last year because it was hard to mold, so I’m not posting it here. There are a ton of recipes out there though, so try some out and see what works for you.

 Matching Game

We used the cotton muslin bags again for this game along with some wood discs and stickers. I divided out the stickers for each game. 6 different stickers, 2 of each one -12 stickers and discs total. The kids put the stickers on each wooden disk. You could also apply temporary tattoos to the discs like I did here.

Don’t Eat Pete

This game is a huge favorite at our house. Kids of all ages can play. You can search online for Don’t Eat Pete games and find a ton, but I wanted one that the kids could make and sell. I made a blank board for the kids to put stickers on. Each sticker must be different. After the stickers were on, we laminated each game and attached a bag of candy. I included the the file in the free kit for you to download and use at your hot cocoa stand.

PRICING

When setting your prices, remember that this is a hot cocoa stand for people passing by. They are most likely going to spend their change or what little cash they have on hand, so don’t get too carried away with the products you make to sell. With that in mind, card readers are easy to get and might make a difference in what your hot cocoa stand can earn. The convenience of running a credit card at your stand would be very helpful for some.

We kept most of our items priced at $10 or lower, with the exception of a few weaving kits that were $13. Our hot cocoa was $.50 per cup so that a mom stopping could afford to get a hot chocolate for a car full of kids.

We had a few smaller items like packs of stickers and scratch cards that were a quarter or $.50. The rest of the toys were mostly $1-$5. I hope that was somewhat helpful.

People are so kind. Just about everyone would tell my kids to keep the change. We had a few neighbors give my boys a $5 bill for 2 cups of hot chocolate. We also had a jar with a lid on the stand where donations could go for those feeling extra generous.

BUILDING A STAND

Building a stand is completely unnecessary, but I love to decorate and go all out for any event so we made one. I LOVE it so much! I have used it all year long with other parties and it’s perfect. We used some pallets that our neighbors had leftover from laying sod in their yard. I love the wide planks on the front. If you don’t want to go through all the work of building a wood stand, a folding table with some chairs works just as great. :)

BUYING THE GIFTS

I’ll be honest, even after all the prepping I did that we would be buying presents for others kids, I was worried we would get to the store and my kids would not be on board and would just want the toys for themselves. I was completely wrong. They were amazing. They were so happy going through the isles picking out toys and talking about the kinds of kids they thought each one would be perfect for. I laughed when they were surprised at how quickly their money was spent. I feel that way all the time.

They were so proud handing the money to the cashier and paying for all of those toys themselves. That’s stuff grown-ups do and they were loving the responsibility.

The thing I love so much about this project was that it brought our family together with more quality time and my children learned some big lessons. You don’t have to go all out and make handmade toys, a wood stand and decorations. A simple table and jug of hot chocolate will work too. And if you don’t have the time or resources to set up a hot cocoa stand of your own, please support one that you may drive by. It takes baths sides and everyone working together to help those in need.

** If you host a hot cocoa stand with your family or friends, I would love to here about it and see pictures. You can email me through the contact page or send me a message on Instagram. #hotcocoaforacause

Thank you so much, and have Merry Christmas!

hot cocoa for a cause helping kids raise money for charity at Christmas #christmas #hotcocoastand

Unicorn Party

This unicorn party has been one of my all-time favorites to design. Mostly because my little girl is obsessed with unicorns. She would get the biggest smile on her face and squeal every time she saw me working on it. Part of me just wanted to keep it going forever just so I could see the joy on her face coming in my craft room filled with iridescent streamers, unicorn piñata’s, spiraled suckers, giant balloons, confetti and more.

Reese is also a big lover of rainbows and pink with everything in her wardrobe, toys, life, you name it. In her world it all has to either have rainbows or pink. That is why I had to make two unicorns. One with rainbow hair and one with fluffy, pink hair. She noticed the features of both and couldn’t stop giggling about it. I knew it would be worth the extra work, and I was right.

Temporary Tattoos

Reese is also a huge lover of stickers, so I thought I would introduce her to temporary tattoos. It’s like a sticker but stays on longer. I think that may have been a mistake. She goes to my craft room looking for them, and somehow finds leftovers despite my best effort to hide them from her. I think we may have a problem on her hands. Ha ha! But seriously, have you guys ever used the temporary tattoo paper from Silhouette? It is the coolest stuff! And you don’t even have to just use it on your skin, you can use it on other surfaces like wood and plastic. I used them on some wood discs to make a memory game for my boys’ birthday last year. Applied the temporary tattoo and sprayed it with some clear sealer. They turned out great!

rainbow tattoo

unicorn temporary tattoos

Unicorn Paper Sacks

The paper sacks are one of my all-time favorite party hacks. This is how I serve meals at most of the parties that I host. I love to do sack lunches that have everything already packaged and ready for each guest to just grab and eat. Inside the sack lunches I put in a 2 inch wrapped section of Walmart 6 foot sandwich, bag of chips, and snack size bag of fruits and veggies. I didn’t include a treat this time, because dessert was this beautiful cake made by my mother-in-law. Reese was so excited for the cake that her grandma was going to make her and it did not disappoint. She sat and discussed all of this beautiful features with her grandma when she brought it. She really cannot get enough of how amazing it turned out.

unicorn lunch sacks

Unicorn Party Hats

I think these little party hats are my favorite thing from the unicorn line. The rainbow mane out the back is so darn cute! I love the 3-D ears poking out and the beautiful hair with the horn sticking out the top. The great part about this is everything is print and cut, so the time it takes to assemble one of these is fairly quick. I will be posting a full tutorial on how to make these hats next week.

unicorn party hat

unicorn party hat

Unicorn Award Ribbons

The award ribbons were so fun to give out to the kids after the games. I found these little adhesive safety pins online that you just peel and stick to the back of the paper ribbons. It made it so easy to put on the kids and they looked so cute. This would also be adorable without any numbers on them, or you could also just put the age of the person whose birthday it is. For example, I would’ve done the number three on all of them because it was Reese’s third birthday.

unicorn award ribbons

Unicorn Sucker Party Favors

The unicorn sucker party favors were the perfect party favor. I had already done so much prep during the party for the sack lunches, hats, ribbons and tattoos, so I kept the party favor pretty simple. Even though it is so simple, it still looks like you put a lot of effort and work into it. The suckers come in a variety of colors and I believe they even have rainbow ones.

unicorn suckers

Unicorn Piñata

Next week I will post about all the fun games we had at the party including this fun unicorn I made from a donkey piñata. It was so easy, but does take a bit of time. I just stripped off all the fringe tissue paper from the donkey, spray painted it white, and trimmed the ears a bit. Then I covered it in strips of crepe paper I had cut to look like fringe. I made a few tassels out of tissue paper for the main and hot glued them on. Don’t forget to add some iridescent highlights. Haha! The horn is actually paper cotton candy cone I trimmed down and covered in tissue paper. I’m excited to share the rest of the fun games and activities with you next week.

unicorn pinata

Flower Garden Party

Spring is here and everyone at my house is so excited to finally be seeing this warmer weather and watching everything bloom. It’s such a beautiful time of year.

About a month ago my son picked out a seed planting kit in the Target dollar spot and sparked the whole idea for this party. He carefully planted his seeds and checked on them to make sure they had enough water and sunlight about 50 times a day. All he could talk about was how excited he was to plant the garden and for all the flowers to bloom. He has taken care of our garden the last two years and loves it. After he kept asking if his friends were going to plant any flowers or gardens, we decided to have a garden flower party to share his love of spring and everything blooming with others.

Planting the Seeds

Each child had their own place setting at some picnic tables outside that included empty egg cartons and some illustrated instructions to help them know what to do. In the center of each table I placed a large bucket with potting soil and some shovels to scoop the soil into their egg cartons. There was a variety of seed packets to choose from, so each child could plant what they wanted. I also included some blank circle stickers for the moms to write what was planted and place it on the lid of the egg carton to reflect where each seed was planted.

Once all the seeds were planted, everyone grabbed a watering can and watered the their seeds before drinking the rest. It was so cute watching them be so careful pouring out the water and pretending they were using a real watering can.

Cupcakes

The highlight of the whole party was the cupcakes! I found the cutest plastic flower pots with shovel spoons and all the kids were so excited to use them. I thought they were the cutest thing and even bought an extra pack of shovel spoons for some upcoming parties. Aren’t they the cutest spoons you’ve ever seen?

I love the dirt on her nose in this picture. Messy kids always means they had fun.

Party Favors

After we planted our seeds and had cupcakes, the kids played in the backyard for a while and enjoyed the beautiful spring weather. As each guest left they took a party favor, or little seed packets filled with Skittles for the kids, and a paper bag of “tulip bulbs” (Lindt chocolates) for the moms. The moms definitely got the better end of the deal if you ask me. Haha!

I shared some more fun ideas to use at a garden party over at Love the Day blog. Head over and check it out. There is a fun origami flower pot tutorial that would make a fun party favor or invitation.

You can find all the designs used in this party in the Silhouette store or by clicking on the pictures below.

10 Easy Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs

10 ways to decorate easter eggs titleToday I am sharing my first contributor post over on Love the Day blog. I am talking all about my annual Amy’s Eggstravaganza party I host, and giving the details on how you can host your own. It is such a fun party and great for a girls’ night out. To go along with the Easter party I posted over there, I wanted to share 10 easy ways to decorate Easter eggs.

I love finding new ways to decorate Easter eggs. Those little eggs make the perfect blank canvas to try out various techniques and styles. I made a list of 10 easy ways to decorate Easter eggs that have very minimal prep and clean up. Except for the glitter one. Glitter gets everywhere no matter what you do to prevent it, but I don’t care. I love to use glitter anyway.

The plastic eggs that look and feel real are my favorite. They make it so much easier to decorate, especially with young kids. They don’t take any prep and have become more popular over the last few years, so they are much easier to find in stores. I used the plastic eggs in all the samples below.

easter egg pinataPinata

The piñata egg is such a fun way to decorate eggs and give them a new spin. Cut a small hole in the egg and stuff with candy. Cut tissue paper into small strips, snipping at the end to create fringe. Glue each strip around the egg placing each layer slightly above the last. Cover the hole on the egg as you wrap it with rows of tissue paper fringe. Hand them out to friends or hide in an Easter egg hunt and let the recipient poke around to find the hole and get their prize.

Glitter

Use Mod Podge to cover the area of the egg you would like to cover in glitter. Try painting on designs with the Mod Podge then dipping in glitter. Your designs will have everyone loving the way they sparkle.

unicorn easter eggTattoo

Wether you buy temporary tattoos at the store, or print your own on tattoo paper, everyone will love how easy it is to decorate their eggs. Tattoos are a great way of adding words or pictures that are too difficult to paint or draw by hand. You could even print someone’s face onto tattoo paper and put that on an egg. Wouldn’t that be a fun place card for a kids Easter dinner?

Paint

I am obsessed with Martha Stewarts gold paint that is shown in these photos. But I have to say, I love her gold liquid gilding even more. It is the most beautiful gold paint you will ever see. I bring it every year to my Easter egg decorating party and it’s always a hit. I talk more about it over here.

butterfly sticker easter eggStickers and/or Vinyl

You can use stickers to decorate eggs by simply placing them on the egg and calling it good, or you can get a little more creative with them like I did here. I used them like I would vinyl to make a stencil. Don’t get too caught up in just the positive images, use the negative shape left behind to create shapes on your egg that way too.

Yarn

Yarn, a hot glue gun and scissors is the only thing you need to make these adorable eggs. Use the hot glue to adhere the yarn to the egg as you wrap it row by row in one continuous spiral until the entire egg is covered. Get crazy and change colors as you go.

marker easter and dot eggsMarkers

Grab markers in different color and tip sizes and get to work. You can write names, illustrate pictures and create patterns. It’s such a basic tool that can create so many beautiful results.

easter egg dioramasDiorama

I know the look and feel of these don’t flow as nicely with the style of the other eggs, but how stinkin’ cute are these eggs with a little bunny and chick sticking out? I had to include them. Kids would especially love to create these ones. The plastic eggs work the best for these, and I made the hole by poking the egg with my scissors then cutting an opening. The bunny and chick were found in the Easter sections at craft stores. Such an easy craft that will have your little ones busy playing with after it’s made.

marbled easter eggs with nailpolishMarble

These eggs are probably my favorite. I made them by dripping nail polish in hot water, then dipping my eggs in the water. There are so many tutorials for how to do this on Pinterest. I found one for you to use so you can get more details. It is such a cool process to watch and it dries pretty quick. After I marbled my eggs, I brushed them lightly with that Martha Stewart gold liquid gilding I was telling you about earlier.

Glow in the Dark

Last year I made glow-in-dark eggs and had a glow in the dark egg hunt. My kids had a blast. I used glow-in-the-dark paint as the base for each egg, then added polka dots in various colors on top. We charged them up with flashlights, then I would quickly hide them in the other room. When I was finished we would turn off the lights and the kids would gather the eggs as quick as they could while the eggs were still glowing. We played the game several times before I could convince them to stop because I was sick of hiding eggs. Haha

Don’t forget to head over to Love the Day and get all the details for hosting your own Easter egg decorating party. You’ll be glad you did.

Leprechaun Houses

leprechaun house and shamrock banner title

We had the funnest party yesterday with some of my friends I worked with years ago and all their cute kiddos. I do an annual St. Patrick’s Day party with them and thought it would be fun to change things up a bit. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I love to decorate gingerbread houses. We did haunted houses at Halloween, the classic gingerbread houses at Christmas, and then love shacks at Valentine’s. I wanted to do leprechaun houses, but was a little sugared out. I’m so glad I decided to do wood houses for these. They turned out absolutely adorable! Now we have a place to keep our leprechauns if we get lucky enough to catch one.

small leprechaun wooded houseThe whole project started with these adorable house boxes I found while looking for stuff for a completely different party. The size and shape is perfect, and I love that the roof comes off so you can take a peek inside and even decorate it for the little guy.

leprechaun house suppliesHere is a list of where I purchased everything to help you find things a little easier. Everything I bought at craft stores was 40% off when I purchased it. Watch for sales, craft stores always have great ones.

Michaels – black rocks, white rocks, moss rocks, moss rocks with succulents,
Oriental Trading – paper mache house boxes, gold coins, large wood slice, wood spools
Walmart – moss ribbon, bag of moss
Hobby Lobby – small wood slices, moss ribbon, small popsicle sticks

leprechaun house wood stairsMy boys have been so anxious to make a bug garden (like a fairy garden, but for bugs) that I thought we could use these houses in the bug gardens after St. Patrick’s Day. I’m sure the paper mache houses won’t hold up very well outside, but that will just give us an excuse to do this fun activity again. If you are going to make fairy gardens, I think little wood bird house kits would make such cute houses that you could decorate. That’s what we’ll replace these with after they have endured the weather a bit. Luckily, all the cute steps, wagons, tables and chairs, etc. are all wood and will be just fine.

leprechaun housesMy oldest boys are 5 years old and couldn’t get enough of this. They’re still making houses and other accessories out of all the wood slices and moss as we speak. They woke up first thing this morning, and got to work. 12 hours and about 5 pounds of glue later, they’re still creating. I think the excitement of working on their bug gardens mixed with getting to use the hot glue guns by themselves, is what has kept them busy all day. They have done so well with them and can’t put them down.

side of wood leprechaun houseAt the party I had three cordless hot glue guns to split between the 12 kids. First of all, that wasn’t nearly enough. Second, the cordless hot glue guns didn’t heat the glue fast enough for how much they were being used. They took forever. I grabbed my cheap, mini glue guns that plug into the wall and we were able to crank out the houses much faster. If you decide to do wireless glue guns for this project, I recommend having one per person.

natural leprechaun houseAnd you can’t have a leprechaun house without a few gold coins. We places them around the houses to help lure the leprechauns to us. I hope it works.

leprechaun fairy garden housesSend your kids outside to gather some sticks and other treasures from nature and get to work making some leprechaun houses. Or, you can just go buy everything at the store like I did. Haha! Works either way.

I hope you have felt inspired to make leprechaun houses or maybe it gave you motivation for a fairy/bug garden this summer. Whatever you choose, enjoy the process of making them. That’s the best part.

Cactus and Llama Party

cactus and llama party

I am so excited to show you this cactus and llama party today. It all started with my free design of the cactus cupcake toppers over on Silhouette this week. I couldn’t just leave it as a single cactus design. I don’t know why, but it drove me crazy. So I worked some crazy hours designing a full party this week. I’m so glad I did! The colors and llamas make this the happiest party I’ve ever done. How can you not smile when you see llamas? tall cactus cupcake topper

Cupcake Toppers

Look how cute the cupcakes are placed in terra cotta pots. It’s those small details that go a long way in a party. These would also be great gifts for a friend when someone needs a little pick-me-up or when they just needs a sweet treat. :)

These cactus cupcake toppers are free as part of my artist feature with Silhouette this week. If you haven’t already grabbed it, make sure you do before it ends tomorrow. cactus cupcakes in terra cotta pot

How to Make Cactus Cupcakes

  1. Pipe some vanilla frosting on top of your cupcakes.
  2. Add gold sprinkles to the top.
  3. Cut out the cactus cupcake toppers and insert in the top.
  4. Fill the bottom of your terra cotta pots with some paper to keep the cupcake from falling to the bottom where you won’t be able to see the top.
  5. Place cupcakes in pots.

cactus and llama party yarn basket

Llama Prints

I love the texture and color the basket full of yarn brings to the whole party set up. I added a framed llama print to tie it in with the rest of the table. To make the 5×7 print, I used this pink and teal llama and just added a rectangle behind it. Using the eyedropper tool in Silhouette Studio, you can select and give it the same background color. I think I’ll keep this frame up in my house. Every time my daughter sees the llamas she gets the giggles. Having it out for everyone to see and hearing her laugh sounds like a good idea.

cactus and llama party drinks

Llama Tags

You can easily dress up any drink you are serving with these llama tags. These would also be so cute on party favors or used as gift tags. I made cactus tags also that would look so great mixed in if you had a variety of colored drinks, or even bottles of red or orange soda. cactus and llama party garlands

Tassel and Llama Garlands

My original idea was to make a bunch of yarn tassels and string them up for the garland. The laziness in me won (no surprise there) and there was no way I was going to make that many. I drew some tassels and cut them out with the Silhouette CAMEO. This was sooooo much faster! I just used a little adhesive on the inside and then folded it over the twine. I love the simplicity of it, yet it adds so much color and looks great next to the llama banner.

The detail of the pom poms around each llama makes this banner so much fun. The banner was assembled the same way as the tassel garland. There is a flap at the top that folds over along the perforated line to run your twine through before you glue the flap down.
cactus table close up

All of my designs are 25% off in the Silhouette store through tomorrow. Head over and stock up on all the party designs while the sale is on. Don’t forget to download the free cactus cupcake topper while you’re there.

Candy Shop Party Decorations and Favor Boxes

candy party shop tabletopI had this idea I just couldn’t get out of my head, and I couldn’t focus on anything else until I created it. Can any of you relate? This candy shop originally started for a Valentine party, but as I continued to create and the colors started coming, I knew it would be a fun party any time of year. Wouldn’t this be a fun birthday party or maybe just a day with the girls talking and making fun candy treats?

candy shop party favor boxesEverything in this party is so easy to create because all the hard work is done for you. Those darling candy shop boxes are print and cut files. Just print them out and cut with your Silhouette. Glue the boxes together and fill for guests, or have them fill their own for a great party favor. Fill your own party favors… can’t get much easier than that.

candy shop favor boxes side

candy shop boxes candy shop party tableWe always see candy bars set up using the big, glass apothecary jars. For this party, I wanted to show how you can use any container you have on hand, big or small. I bought those little doll house shelves for an entirely different project, but they fit so perfectly with the candy shop decorations and favor boxes that I had to use them. I cut out a few of the candy pieces, strung them together for a little garland and hung it across the top. A small project, but it adds some great detail and variety to all the jars of candy. candy shop candy garlandcandy shop partyThe heart fan backdrop turned out to be my favorite part. It adds so much color and texture. A huge perk of this backdrop… it is so so easy to make and comes together very quickly. I actually spent about 15 hours on a different backdrop for this party. It was so cool, but didn’t look good with this set up. I plan on using it for another party though, so don’t panic. :) After spending all that time on a backdrop that just wasn’t working I threw this together in an hour and I love it! Wouldn’t those hearts turned upside-down be so cute as fins for a mermaid party? Always a good thing when you can get more than one use out of a project. heart fan backdrop
heart fan backdrop

 

candy shop candy lights

For the final detail, I wrapped some ball lights in cellophane and had them pouring over a container like candy overflowing from a jar. The colors are so fun and the shape of these lights is so playful. They are my new favorite party accessory. And by new, I mean I have been using them in parties for a little over a year, and I’m not even close to being sick of them. :)

candy party table

I hope you enjoy it as much as my kids and I already have. You can find all files to print and cut each piece of this candy shop party below.

Elf on the Shelf Yoga Poster – Free Download

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I’m at it again with another yoga poster. This time it’s an Elf on the Shelf version! Whether an elf visits your home or not, this is a fun activity for the entire family.

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Make your Elf Bend:

Does your Elf on the Shelf bend and hold its poses? If it doesn’t, there are a bunch of tutorials online to show you how to make it bend. I used bailing wire my husband had, and poked it through the bottom of each leg all the way up through the torso. I did the same with the arms. It was a little tricky to get the wire past the shoulders into the torso, but with a little maneuvering it can be done. Some of the tutorials have you cut a stitch to get the wire in, but I just threaded it through in-between stitches. I also found that it was helpful to have the hips and shoulders have wire run through them, that’s why I didn’t end it there like most tutorials, and had it run through the torso. It takes just a few minutes and opens up so many more poses and options for your little elf.
elf-on-the-shelf-yoga-headstand-pose elf-on-the-shelf-yoga-plank-poseFree Download and Printing Tips:

The Elf on the Shelf Yoga poster is available for free download here. Just send it to your local copy store and have it printed. The poster measures 20×30, but can be printed smaller too if you would like.

Costco does 20×30 photo prints for around $10. You can also have it printed at Office Depot and other large office supply stores. My local Office Depot offers colored engineer prints (lower quality than photo) for around $7. I also found a few local copy stores that print posters this size for around $7 also.

If you’re printing this last minute, you can always just print it at home on an 8.5×11″ paper. That seems about the dimensions for an elf-sized poster anyway. :)
elf-on-the-shelf-yoga-squat-pose
elf-yoga-corpse-pose I have to share this funny story about our elf. Last year was the first year with the elf and it lasted all of 30 seconds before the elf was held by one of my boys, and had to go back to the North Pole. When it miraculously disappeared, my kids said they didn’t want an elf in their house anyway. Little stinkers.

This year I thought I would give it another try. I hid the elf in my room while we decorated for Christmas so the kids wouldn’t see it in the box of Christmas stuff. My little boy Jax comes out of my room holding the elf, looking at me like I’m so pathetic and says, “Remember when you tried to tell us this was a real elf last year and it’s just a toy?” WHAT??? Who is this kid? He is only 4-years-old!!! I was trying so hard not to laugh. Needless to say, we don’t have an elf visiting us this year either. Haha!

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Thanks for stopping by to grab this free download during your busy holidays. I have loved sharing these yoga posters with you this year. You can find my other skeleton one here. Don’t forget to share this link with your friends so they can enjoy a little elf yoga too.

Christmas Advent Calendar

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Yesterday was a busy and exciting day for us. The kids put on their new Christmas pajamas and we went and did our annual Santa pictures. Each of the boys asked for a BB gun, which they have been asking for all month long so there was no surprise there. When Santa asked Reese what she wanted, she confidently exclaimed “A SHOTGUN!”. A what??? I didn’t even know she knew the word “shotgun”. Like any good mother would, I quickly shot the idea down and told her she wasn’t getting one and to try again. She then asked for a shelf. A shelf? Haha! This girl kills me. All of them were so good the entire time and I just wanted to cover them in kisses. I really lucked out with these kiddos.

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When we got home everyone got to color their own Santa advent calendar. I even let them use glitter, so they were definitely loving life. While they were coloring,  Jax said with a smile, “I love this day!” The rest of the kids agreed and started talking about how much fun they had had doing Christmas activities all day. It’s those kind of moments that just make my heart so happy!santa-beard-countdown-2

Don’t forget to blow off the extra glitter!

santa-beard-countdown-kidsWe set up a card making station in their playroom to leave up during the holidays. I’ll share more about that later, but it made the perfect spot for today’s fun. There are two versions of this calendar. One that is colored and ready to be hung, and a black and white coloring page.

santa-beard-countdown-hatAlthough the file says “print and cut”, you don’t need to cut anything out. You can simply print the page and you’re done. The Silhouette designing software is FREE. So even if you don’t have a Silhouette Cameo, you can still use it to design cards and other projects, then print. Or in this case, you can just download the Santa advent calendar and print it out. Add a cotton ball each day of the month, and when Christmas arrives, Santa will have a nice fluffy beard to keep him warm while he delivers presents.

santa-beard-countdown-tableIt’s never too late to make an advent calendar. In fact, the further into the month you make it, the more days you get to fill in right away. It’s like making a to-do list and checking off half of it instantly. So satisfying.

You can find both versions of this advent calendar, by clicking on the images below.

Christmas Village

christmas-village-advent-calThis Christmas advent calendar started out with just the idea of making a Christmas house gift box. When I finished this first box, I thought a little village would be fun. From there it grew into an advent calendar. You can put treats or notes with activities in the boxes, under the trees and in the tiny gifts on the sleigh. Make more boxes and trees and you can do the advent for the whole month of December. Use less boxes and do it for the 12 days of Christmas. This design is flexible in how many days you will be counting down, so you can start it any time of the month.

christmas-village-open-box

This little village would be so cute on a shelf or the centerpiece for a holiday party. You could even send the guests home with the little houses filled with party favors. christmas-village-from-abovechristmas-village-trees-and-snowflakes

There are so many fun details that make this little village magic. The lights on the houses, pine bough wreaths on windows and doors, and a peek inside each tiny home on every side of the box. The view of all the wrapped presents ready to be delivered to all the children on Christmas Eve is my favorite view into the Toy Shop. christmas-village-toy-shop-back-windows

When I think of elves, I think of them always having fun and enjoying everything around them. So I put a little snowman outside their house on one side, and a sled propped against the house and homemade snowflakes hanging in the window on the opposite side. And aren’t those itty bitty bows on the boxes just the cutest? christmas-village-toy-shop

The warmth of a fireplace with fresh cut logs on a sled outside, and the view of Santa’s coat, mittens and gloves hanging up in the back window are my favorite on Santa’s house. And that little mistletoe hanging above the door for when he greets Mrs. Claus looks so pretty. christmas-village-santa

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Everything about this Christmas village advent calendar is so fun, but I think my very favorite part is the special mailbox for letters to Santa. There is even a tiny envelope addressed to the jolly man with a teeny stamp. The mail box opens and closes too!

Does the Elf on the Shelf visit your house? Wouldn’t it be fun to cut a larger mailbox and some envelopes out for your kids to write mini letters to Santa that your elf can deliver? There are so many different uses for this Christmas Village this holiday season.christmas-village-2

I hope you enjoy it as much as my kids and I already have. You can find all files to print and cut each piece of this Christmas village advent calendar below. Happy Holidays!

 

Witches’ Brew Party Drink

witches' brew party drink kit

We had the funnest Halloween party with our friends. It was a progressive party where we traveled to a new house for each activity. Luckily we are all neighbors, so we didn’t have to travel far.

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witches brew party table

At my house we had lunch and made some witches’ brew party drinks. I found these awesome skull mugs at Oriental Trading in their clearance section over the summer. I’m glad I snagged them up, because they are no longer available. Total bummer, because these mugs are so cool! This was the inspiration for the whole drink.

fresh blood syringe

I bought these syringes early in October from Walmart not knowing what I was going to do with them. I knew I had to use them some how this season and this was the perfect place for it.

witches' brew kit table setting

photo by Jill Witt Photography

Each child had their own witches’ brew party drink kit set up as their place setting at the table. The kit included all the ingredients they would need. The products were all name brand too, and came from the best witch shop in town, Witchy Works. ;)

witches' brew ingredients

Witches’ Brew Drink Kit 

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Blood – Koolaid
  • Broken Bones – Candyfetti (Pop Rocks would also be cool for this)
  • Eye of Newt – Candy Eyes
  • Bits of Brains – Sweet Tart Ropes
  • Ghostly Goo – Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Skull Juice – Sprite
  • Witches’ Brew Labels

Directions:

  1. Print and cut out your labels. The labels include more spooky ingredients than I used at the party, so they will fit a variety of candies and other ingredients you want to use.
  2. Fill your glass half way full of Sprite. I used a ladle to scoop it out of a cauldron in the middle of the table with dry ice. Why is that stuff so cool even when you’re an adult? I loved it as much as the kids.
  3. Add ingredients one at a time and watch as they fizz and bubble up. Use the straw to stir your magic potion.
  4. Drink up and enjoy!

fresh blood in witches' brew

The kids loved mixing and adding all their spooky ingredients to make… well, a mess actually, but that’s what parties are all about. Haha! If you want to watch it in action, my little boy made some witches’ brew in this video.

witches' brew with syringeHave a safe and happy Halloween!

Skull Air Plant

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I am excited to share with you the easiest Halloween craft that requires zero skill, and looks amazing on your mantle or shelf. This skull planter is the perfect mix of creepy and pretty. Should those even be a mix? At halloween, I definitely think so. The best part about it is you don’t have to worry about trying to keep a plant alive, so it will look great all season.

How to Make a Skull Air Plant

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Supplies Needed:

  • skull treat bucket (I found a bag of 6 for $1 at Target)
  • air plant pattern
  • glossy, white spray paint
  • tape

Instructions:

  1. Remove the handle, and spray paint the bucket white. I used glossy paint to make it look like a glazed ceramic skull.
  2. Cut out the air plant pattern on black paper. The pattern comes as a .pdf and also an .svg for those who have digital cutting machines like a Cricut or Silhouette. Once the pattern is cut out, roll the leaves up starting from the largest end. Tape or glue the end to hold its form. Using your finger or pencil, slightly roll the ends of the leaves outward.
  3. Place the plant in the skull bucket.

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These skull air plants would also look great on each place setting at a dinner party, and then could double as a party favor. With each completed planter totally under $1, you can’t go wrong.

Haunted Gingerbread House Party

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Our cousins slept over last week and we decided to make haunted gingerbread houses with them. I bought a kit of five houses a few weeks ago at Walmart for $7. I planned on doing them with my kids some time during October, but when our cousins were over, we knew it would be the best activity to do together. So the night before, I gathered all my supplies and quickly made up some spider web bases, treat bags and glued all the houses together. Glueing all the houses together before the party is the best way to do it. You can see more about it on my Gingerbread House Party post.  My original idea for the icing, was to fill some piping bags with white frosting and tie them shut. But at the very last minute I had the idea to make them look like candy corn. I’m so glad I did, because they looked so cute!

haunted-gingerbread-house-candy-corn-frosting

Candy Corn Frosting Bags

Supplies Needed:

  • Frosting (I used pre-made frosting from the grocery store.)
  • Piping Bags
  • Food Coloring
  • Cups
  • Twine

Directions:

  1. Color your frosting with food coloring.
  2. Place the piping bags in cups and fold down the top two or three inches around the outside of the cup. This keeps the bag upright and also keeps you from getting frosting all over the top edge of the bag as you fill them.
  3. Scoop white frosting into a piping bag. Do the same for the yellow and orange frosting.
  4. Cut the tip off of the white frosting, and pipe it into the bottom of each bag sitting in a cup.
  5. Next pipe in the orange frosting, followed by the yellow frosting.
  6. Pull the bags out of the cups, twist the tops and tie shut with the twine.
  7. When the party starts, just snip the tip of the bag off and let the kids start frosting.

haunted-gingerbread-house-details

For the haunted gingerbread house bases, I cut out a spider web using my Silhouette Cameo and used it as a stencil on some white cake boards. Place the spider web on the cake board, tape down in one or two spots, then spray with black spray paint. I wasn’t too worried about the lines being perfect, because they were going to get covered in candy and frosting. I like to do a larger base for the houses, because the kids love creating fun things in the yards. I think they spend more time decorating the base than on the actual house.

*While I was cutting out the spider webs for the bases, I cut out a few smaller ones using white sticker paper and placed them on the bags of candy to seal them shut. Easiest stickers ever!

I took pictures of everyone’s houses during the party and thought this little evolution of a haunted gingerbread house was fun to see.

evolution-of-haunted-gingerbread-house

Do you see that large, square marshmallow in the backyard of the house above? That is a trampoline. My little boy used a toothpick to make the gummy bear look like he was jumping high on the trampoline. And that big Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in the front yard is a fire pit. He sure is a clever little 4-year-old!haunted-gingerbread-house-candy-and-frosting

Just look at all that delicious candy to use. And aren’t those candy corn frosting bags so cute sitting there on the table?

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Sometimes it’s hard to know when to quit. Haha! Can you believe all the piles of frosting and candy on this house? This was the house of my other 4-year-old, Jax. His house was voted the spookiest. I can see why. eating-the-frosting

This scene was all too familiar. I don’t think there was a second during the whole party when there wasn’t at least one kid eating frosting from their bag. Just another reason I like to give each kid their own frosting supply. haunted-gingerbread-houses-finished

A little look at all the gingerbread houses made at the party. I love the creativity kids have when you don’t show them a finished project of what it is supposed to look like. It’s so fun to see what they come up with, and let their creativity run wild.

Also, when there are six kids and only 5 houses in the kit, (and the store is sold out) you make do with what you have. My 2-year-old didn’t mind decorating a house out of marshmallows one bit.  She was just happy having her own stash of candy and giant bag of frosting. haunted-gingerbread-house-table-3My favorite pictures of every party is the messy table during the middle and at the end. Nothing shows it was a fun party more than that.

Skeleton Bone-Shaking Yoga Poster

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I bought a skeleton from Target one day while my kids were at school. They thought it was the funnest surprise. I would find it set up next to them playing legos, watching tv, eating dinner, etc. My little boy, Mason, was exercising with the skeleton making him do push-ups and sit-up one day, and it gave me the idea of making a skeleton yoga poster to teach my kids different yoga poses. I thought this would be a fun activity for us to do together and my kids love it. They call all the yoga poses “tricks” and love showing me how good they are at them. skeleton-yoga-chairI stayed up late one night photographing this skeleton in different poses. It was much harder than I thought it would be. Getting it to balance in all the poses wasn’t very easy. Since I just  used a cheap skeleton, only some of the joints moved, making it hard to get a few of the poses to look really accurate. I’m sure I looked crazy doing a whole photoshoot of a skeleton, but it was worth it. I love how the poster turned out!
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Let’s just pause for a moment and look how cute my happy baby is doing the “happy baby” pose. I couldn’t resist having him in on the fun too. His cheeks are too delicious!

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I printed the 20×30″ poster at Office Depot on their printer for blue prints. I think Staples and other office supply stores offer that service as well. It only cost me about $3.00. The skeleton Bone-Shaking Yoga file is a high resolution .jpg, so if you wanted a better quality, you can print it as a photo. It will cost a bit more, but your print will be clearer. The blue print option worked well for what we used it for.

skeleton-yoga-upward-dogskeleton-yoga-mountain I decided to offer this poster as a free download for a limited time. So tell your friends to grab one too while they are still free. Wouldn’t these be perfect for a class party, halloween party, or just some fun family time? You can find the free download at the end of the post.  skeleton-yoga-warrior skeleton-yoga-wheel

Click HERE for your free skeleton Bone-Shaking Yoga poster.

Glow-in-the-Dark Halloween Dinner Party

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A few weeks ago I stopped at Michaels to check out their Halloween decorations. My daughter and I were finding much more than we had gone in for. I feel like that always happens to me no matter what store I’m in. Anyway, as we were wondering through the isles we spotted all the glow-in-the-dark party stuff. They had banners, plates, platters, pitchers, utensils, and more. I was just going to get some plates, but saw that everything was on sale, so I grabbed a bunch of stuff and decided to have a glow-in-the-dark Halloween dinner party with my kids.

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Now before I go on about how much fun this party is, I feel like I should mention this is not a sponsored post. It just sounds like it because I found so much great stuff there on sale and we have been going crazy with Halloween activities this month. I love when I come across a good find and wanted to share it with all of you.

So, back to this glow-in-the-dark Halloween dinner. We decided to have it on a night that our cousins were sleeping over so they could join in on the fun. I wasn’t really sure how this was going to turn out, and if it would even work that well. Would the plates and cups even glow that bright? Would it be too dark to see our food? And most importantly, would I be able to capture it all in photos? haha!
glow-in-the-dark-pizza-partyI had this idea in my head of eating some warm soup or a beautiful homemade dinner to make it feel fancy, but at the last second decided to go with pizza. I figured pizza would be a lot easier to eat in the dark than trying to spoon soup to your your mouth, or cut meat in the dark. haha! I’m pretty sure things would have been a mess.

glow-in-the-dark-cupThe pizza was the perfect thing and the kids loved it. We were going to have juice, but the cups were a little unstable, so we figured water would be much safer in the dark. The kids loved taking turns to go turn on the lights and “charge” all the glow-in-the-dark table settings every once in a while.

glow-in-the-dark-spider-cupI made some spooky eyes using glow-in-the-dark vinyl and Silhouette Cameo 3, and put them on the walls as well as napkins I folded like bats. It was a fun little detail all the kids loved. The spooky eyes are still on the walls and are the favorite decoration in the house.glow-in-the-dark-bat-plateglow-in-the-dark-place-setting

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If you haven’t tried a glow-in-the-dark party, you need to. It was so much fun! We will definitely be doing this again next year!