Tag Archives: Children

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

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.

Elf on the Shelf Yoga Poster – Free Download

elf-yoga-mountain-pose

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.

elf-on-the-shelf-yoga-plank-pose

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!

elf-yoga-warrior-pose

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

santa-beard-countdown-6

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.

santa-beard-countdown-3

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.

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!

Haunted Gingerbread House Party

haunted-gingerbread-house-party-place-setting

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?

haunted-gingerbread-house-evolution-2

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.

The Ultimate Summer Bucket List

We have been so busy checking all the fun things off our ultimate summer bucket list that I haven’t had time to post about it until now. I created 35 icons of activities for us to check off our bucket list this summer. summer bucket list pins

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Summer Bucket List Pins

I used the print and cut feature with my Silhouette Cameo to cut them all out. Then I used a button maker to create buttons for each of my kids to earn, kind of like earning merit badges. As we completed an activity, my kids got to put the pin on their adventure backpacks. They each loved having their own. Some times during the week I’ll see them sitting with their backpacks looking at all of their pins and talking about the fun things they did. They always end up laughing and giggling… and begging to go on another adventure to earn a pin.
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Summer Bucket List Stickers

If you don’t have a button maker, you can print them on sticker paper to use in a notebook. As you complete an activity, place a sticker on a page of your notebook. Older kids can write about it and keep it as a summer journal. Younger kids can draw pictures of their experience with each adventure. I just posted a video for making a cheap and simple notebook. Go check it out! This is such a fun way to bring the family together and create something that will keep those memories alive forever.

summer bucket list journal stickersI realize that summer is almost over, but there is still time during these warm days to check a few more things off your list. Why not send summer out with a bang and make it extra fun with these ultimate summer bucket list stickers? If you don’t use them all this year, there’s always next year, right? You can purchase the whole set of 35 icons for a deep discount in Silhouette’s Ready, Set, Make section of their design store. You can also grab each icon one at a time to customize your bucket list. Now get outside and start checking things off your list. That cool, fall weather will be here before you know it.

Pot of Gold Party Favors

I have been preparing for a St. Patrick’s Day party for my kids and their friends. So many ideas have been going through my head for party favors. It’s my favorite part of throwing parties, so I always start with those first. Today I have a few pot of gold party favor ideas to share with you that are so simple and take just minutes to prepare. 

I found these little black pots that are the perfect size for small treats and gifts. The first set of pots I filled with chocolate gold coins and a variety of other rainbow prizes including:

The pot of gold party favors are topped with a clover name tag to personalize each one. These can also double as place setting cards for each guest.

pot of gold water beads

For those guests that have food allergies, this one is perfect for them. This pot of gold is filled with yellow water pearl beads. If you haven’t played around with these before, you have got to try them. They are intended for decorative uses in vases of flowers and things along those lines, but they are too cool not to play with. You place these teeny, tiny, plastic balls in a cup of water where they absorb all the water and grow. They are slippery, bouncy and feel so cool. This is an activity my kids love to do. We watch a bunch grow, then pour them in bowls or small tubs and play in them. They are so fun for a sensory activity.

pot of gold lucky charms

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This last one can be used at a party or as a surprise breakfast left from a little leprechaun. It’s the tiny sample spoons in this one that make it so adorable. Combine that with the small black pot filled with Lucky Charms and this treat is magically delicious. :)

You can find the clover and other St. Patrick’s Day sayings to put on your tags in the Silhouette Design Store. Simply click on the image below.

Favorite Things Valentine Party

Homemade Valentine Stamps and Crafts

I hosted a Favorite Things Valentine party for my high school friends and their kids last week. We have a party every year and I must admit, it’s taking more and more thought to come up with a new theme every time.

You can see the past two parties here: Valentine Party | Valentine Detective Party

Favorite Things Invitation

Invitation

There were plenty of brown paper packages tied up with string at this party, but we also had our share of pink and red hearts, glitter and more. It was a great combination. I mailed the invitations in brown paper bag envelopes and sewed some hearts along the bottom to pretty them up. :) The invitation asked each kid to bring a small gift under $5 of their favorite thing for a little gift exchange at the party. That part was a lot of fun.

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Party Prep

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Before the party I prepped a banner kit for every kid. Each bag was filled with their own supplies including washy tape, stickers, glitter, banner and glue stick. Even though I filled the table with more supplies, I think it’s always fun to give each guest something of their very own. It makes it a little more special.

I used my Silhouette Mint to make some stamps for the kids to use on their banners. This little machine is amazing and you can create stamps so fast! I scanned in some images I drew and printed them out at stamps. Then I added some ink and they were ready to go. Once you fill the stamps with a little ink, you can easily get 50+ stamped images from it. When it starts to run out, just add more ink. These are great for small children too, because they were a lot cleaner than having them mess with a stamp pad that would get ink all over their hands.
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I wanted to share some of my favorite things with the kids at the party. When I was little my mom had her stash of craft supplies, and us kids had our own separate stuff. I remember feeling like I won the lottery any time my mom would let me use her ribbons, paints, stamps or anything that was normally off limits. I let loose for this party and put out glitter, paper, stamps, ribbon, and more. I expected my house to be a mess with all this crafty goodness open to little hands, but that’s what made it more fun.DSC_3220

I covered each table with white butcher paper. I bought a roll of this a year ago and LOVE it. It’s the best tablecloth for craft projects and kids parties. (I also pull it out sometimes for the kids to color huge pictures on. They think it’s awesome.) I glued hearts along the center of the paper to make a table runner. The best part of it all, when the party was over, I just gathered it all up and threw it in the trash. Heaven sent with all that glitter, confetti and glue the kids were using. DSC_3228 DSC_3259

They loved having free rein on spoonfuls of confetti and glitter, using all the sparkly ribbon and pretty tape they wanted. They glued on hearts all over and let their creative juices flow freely. I love giving kids an open ended project without them having to make a craft that looks just like a sample shown. It is so fun to see how their minds work and the things they come up with.DSC_3274

With 18 kids at the party, I planned on glitter spilling. I think my kids were the only ones that did spill it. Figures. Haha! I love this shot of my little girl’s feet covered in glitter. I’m telling you, that sparkly stuff was everywhere. Good thing I gave each kid a tiny container of it and didn’t put out bowls full of it like originally planned. I think that would be really pretty on the tables with older kids, but with some one and two-year-olds, I tried to play it safe.

Valentine Party craft table

I love this shot of the table during the party with those little hands creating. This is just what I pictured when I planned the party, and I’m so happy with how it turned out. I hope you feel inspired to get a little messy with some Valentine crafts this year.

You can find all the cut and stamp files used at the party in the links below.

Weaving Instruction Booklets

For those of you that couldn’t make it to my recent workshops, I put together a weaving instruction booklet for each project you can download. It’s filled with step-by-step images and written instruction. Enjoy some time weaving with your kids, or a fun craft night with friends learning a new skill.

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Download your booklet today and get started creating your new hobby.

Weaving Workshop

Kids Weaving Workshop

I had so much fun at both weaving workshops I hosted on Saturday. During the kids workshop, we learned to make a loom from a piece of cardboard and weave a drawstring bag. We had yummy snacks and everyone got to pick a few treasures to put in their bag before they left. All the kids were so cute and fun to have there. They were so polite and kind. I couldn’t have asked for a better group on my first kids workshop. Thank you all for coming!

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This sweet, little girl was so excited that she got to bring her grandma to the workshop.

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I heard several times from this sweet boy that he was having so much fun and loved weaving. This is the exact reason I love teaching.

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Pushing the yarn down was the favorite part for everyone. Who wouldn’t love to do it?

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I love the focus and determination on all their cute faces.

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kid weaving workshop

I forgot to take a group picture, as always, but I did catch a few of these cuties with their bags before the end.

Adult Weaving Workshop

In the adult weaving workshop we learned how to make a loom from a frame. We learned several different stitches and some even created shapes in their weaving. Wow! We chatted, snacked and enjoyed each others company. Such a fun night and a great way to relax with friends.

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Weather Chart

weather chart and cards

I am doing a little preschool at home for my boys this year. They are only two so I’m keeping it pretty informal and simple. I made a few things for “circle time” I wanted to share incase any of you out there would like to do the same thing.

Part of our circle time will be talking about the weather and seasons. I made this weather chart wheel that we can spin to point to the weather each day. There are also cards we can place on the calendar so we can see the weather patterns through the month to hopefully give them a better idea of seasons.

weather chart

Supplies Needed:

  • Weather Chart
  • cardstock
  • adhesive
  • brad
  • foam core/chipboard (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cut out pieces. Glue to foam core or chipboard if you would like to make your chart more sturdy.
  2. Layer the pieces with the wheel over top the background and the arrow on top.
  3. To make the arrow spin, insert a brad through the arrow and chart. Glue the chart to the background.
  4. The make the arrow stay still while the wheel spins, insert the brad through the arrow and glue the underside of the brad to the top of the arrow. After it has dried, place the brad/arrow through the wheel and background. Glue the brad to the background.

weather chart layers

Book Binding Tutorial

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There are several ways to bind a booklet, and today I’m going to show you a simple way using some string, a needle and hole punch (optional).

book binding tutorial

You can follow the illustration above or use the step by step pictures below.

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  1. Fold all your pages in half.
  2. Align the centers of all the papers.
  3. Mark where you want your holes to be. You will need three.
  4. Use a small hole punch to cut out the holes for easier threading. I do this if I have a lot of pages and if they are cardstock. If you have a few thin sheets, you can just poke through with a needle and your string.
  5. Start by threading your string through the middle hole into the center of the book.
  6. Thread it from the center to the top.
  7. From the top hole, take it down and through the bottom hole into the center of the book.
  8. String it from the bottom hole through the center hole to the outside of the book.
  9. Both ends of the string should be on either side of the string going down the spine.
  10. Tie your two threads in a square knot around the center string. Then you can tie the two ends in a bow around the book to close it.

I love this simple way of binding and the professional look it gives your projects. If you don’t want to have the remainder string on the outside of your book so that you can use it as a clasp, just flip the sides of the steps and start step one from the inside of the book instead of the outside. Then you can finish with a small knot on the inside of the book and cut off the tail strings.

You can see all the details of the inside of this planner on my post HERE.