Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tomato Cage Christmas Tree!

How do you display your Christmas cards? Hung on a doorframe? Taped to the wall in a tree shape? In a basket? I am typically frustrated with constantly propping them back up on my mantle, and couldn't wait to try this super-cute AND decorative display idea that Tara ran across...using Tomato Cages!

We realize it's probably a leee-tle bit late to make a Card Holder for this Christmas, but maybe you'll want to tuck this idea away for next year. Tara happened to have two colorful cages in her garden just begging to be trimmed for Christmas. Plain wire ones (new or charmingly used) would be just as cute! She tied the legs together with floral wire to make the tree top, and we each had an instant wire tree.

I wanted to decorate our Card Tree on the cheap (free, actually), so I pulled out some pages from an old book, retrieved my craft bin, and we spent a couple of fun hours creating little ornaments. My kids loved tracing Christmas cookie cutters and then outlining them in glitter glue. I folded some pages like fans and then glued them into circle shapes, adding colorful scrapbook paper accents. A snowflake wearing a little fabric yo-yo with a button center formed our tree topper.

We tore paper into snowmen and added scrapbook paper buttons and faces. Paper strips glued together made stars. We clipped everything in place with mini-clothespins and mini-binder clips.

We love our little Card Trees...and how they proudly display each lovely card received from family and friends!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seek and Find Christmas Activities: Recycle your Mail!

If you are like us, December is the one time of year when we scurry down to the mailbox full of eager anticipation.  We love to see who has taken the time to actually send a Christmas card or a gift in the mail of all things.  In addition to our personal mail, my kids are still young enough to enjoy looking through the colorful catalogs and Christmas ads that we receive on an almost daily basis.  So, this year I decided to save ours in a pile and put them to use!
If you have any bright Christmas ads around, it's time to pull them out. Some of my favorites (for this project) are Kohls, Target, Toys "R" Us, and Pier 1, but even Lowe's, Pottery Barn or Sears, etc. will work!  It's a shame to just throw away all these bright and colorful magazine pictures.

Game #1
My kids love the "I Spy" books, and anything that has to do with searching and finding hidden objects.  I came up with this printable to give them a way to dig through the magazine pictures and use their observation skills along the way. I also love how these games force my kids to work together to find things.  If your kids are older and you want to make a competition out of it, I'm sure that would be fun, too!  
Go here to print this out, give them a catalog and a pen, and the rest is up to them.  The beauty of this activity is they can take a pen or Sharpie and circle the objects along the way inside the ad--they aren't hurting anything since it is already trash!  If your child is not reading yet, tell her to find the objects pictured on the page by herself and then help her find the rest.  Also feel free to make your own list or add to this one!  There are MANY things to choose from in these ads!
Game #2
This is a similar game but instead of circling the objects, let your child hone his cutting and pasting skills along with his observation skills!  Print this list, then give your child several catalogs, a blank piece of paper, scissors and a glue stick.  See if they can find the amount listed to the left (ex. 2 mugs of cocoa, 3 candy canes) or simply let them find one of each!  Depending on the age of your child, cutting and pasting 1 of each might take long enough.
Another fun Christmas catalog activity is to let your kids create some festive paper dolls or cut and paste a Christmas scene (fireplace, stockings, tree) into a room. My daughter LOVES doing this and is currently cutting and pasting her little Christmas room and family now.  If you want ideas on how to get started, check out this post.  Have fun making use of your colorful Christmas mail!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guest Blogging...Hopscotch!

We are excited to be guest blogging at Living Life Intentionally today!  Beth is a like-minded Mom who has great tips and ideas for home-schooling, investing in your children's lives, and creating wonderful God-centered family life.


Check it out here for our unique handmade Christmas gift idea!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Free Printables: Pen & Paper Games!

So many exciting events, programs, and parties during the Christmas season. Not to mention shopping and appointments and road trips to visit family. Some of these can get a little long or tedious for children to sit through. Once the candy cane is crunched away, the doodling page is full, and the Christmas lights have lost their dazzle, these pen & paper games may help ward off the wiggles for a little longer!

The first game is a Scattergories type word game...scan the room for objects that begin with each of the letters, MERRY CHRISTMAS. Can be a competition with points scored for the number of letters in each word, and extra points for double words! Print it here.

Gingerbread Squares is a game you may remember from childhood. Requires 2 or 3 players, and they take turns drawing lines to connect the gingerbread men. Whoever forms a box with their line gets to put their initial inside. This is a great game to teach strategy to preschoolers--my 4-year-old loves it. It can be printed here.

Print a couple off and stash them in your car for some quick entertainment when an event or appointment drags out longer than expected!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

*Our 100th Post! Original Painting Giveaway!*

cel·e·brate [sel-uh-breyt] commemorate occasion, achievement
This is a special day for us. The Christmas season is already in full swing and now, to top it all off, today marks our 100th blog post.  When Kylee and I joined forces to start this blog last April, we blindly entered the world of mom-blogging, hoping we wouldn't get "blogged down" in the process. So far we have learned a lot, met many great moms and received lots of encouragement from you all. We are feeling very blessed!

In order to officially toot the ceremonial horn on this special day, we are offering this fun giveaway.  Our goal is to reward our current friends while also meeting many more new friends.

We are offering 2 large (11X14 each) original acrylic paintings on canvas.  These paintings were designed and created by me (Tara) and contain a background acrylic painting, paper details (tree and words), as well as thread which is hand sewn into the canvas to attach the letters.

Here are a few more detailed images:

Here are the Rules!
  • We are in love with you, our current fans, but we would love to see our infant blog grow even more.  Our challenge is to spread the word about us to your friends and family--we'd love to meet many new great folks just like you.  If you are already a member on our blog, then you already have an entry to win!
  • Once our members on this blog reach the magical number (100) we will randomly select 1 fortunate fan and ship these paintings straight to you (as long as you are a U.S. or Canadian resident!)
  • Don't like those odds? Better your chances to win something by commenting on this post and you will automatically receive an entry to win our second place prize.  Do you love So do we.  Comment on this post and receive an entry for a $10 Amazon gift card. It's that simple.
The winners will be chosen when our blog members number has officially reached 100 so keep checking back regularly!  We are thankful for you and hope you enjoy many special memories with friends and family this season!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Short and Sweet: 5 Quick Christmas Activities!

Whether you are a fan of chaotic messes or not, the December forecasters are calling for mounds of crumpled Christmas wrapping paper, flurries of pine needles and occasional sprinkles of sprinkles. 'Tis the season for glitter and boxes and clutter. 
Embrace it and hang in there; you will have plenty of time to clean it all up in January and February when you are trapped inside your home staring at your walls.
Around here, the kids are beside themselves with energy from the combination of Christmas activities and sugar, so yesterday I tried to channel the excitement into some fun little activities for them.  Here are a few quick suggestions that will keep your little elves busy, happy, and involved in some fun this season.
Yesterday my kids came up with the idea of creating their own Christmas Party in their rooms.  Of course the party required decorations, which is where I came into play. The first thing we did was:

1. Make a decorative paper chain.
The paper chain has been around for many centuries and many holidays, but the timeless joy created by a few simple pieces of construction paper, scissors and staples (or tape) is classic.  It took me 5 minutes to cut strips of paper and staple them into this chain. This was nothing fancy, but the kids thought I was a super hero.

2. Glue and Glitter: Don't be scared of it.
You are going to be vacuuming up pine needles and dried leaves and cookie sprinkles for the next 4 weeks anyway--this is the perfect time to let the kids go ahead and break out the glitter.  If your kids are big enough to use the Elmer's to write something on paper, let them do it! Otherwise, make some signs for your Christmas Party or personalize (and glitterize!) those impersonal Christmas cards you know you will be sending out shortly.

3. Paper Snowflakes. Remember those?
We might assume that everyone knows how to make a paper snowflake, but this might be the first year for your child to experience the joys of folding, cutting and opening a wonderful paper snowflake. It's exciting and unique every time!  If you forget how to do it or want a little help, here is a great sight with some templates.  Simply print, fold and cut. 

4.  "I'm already tired of wrapping presents!"
You might be tired of wrapping presents, but it will turn into hours of fun for your kids!  My kids are planning to exchange gifts at their little party, so I simply provided them with some paper (those useless, oblong leftover scraps are the best!) some tape and scissors and let them wrap up random toys and books in their rooms. I gave my daughter an empty box to fill with little toys so it would be easier to wrap. They enjoyed the wrapping and are even more excited to let each other open the special gifts tomorrow!

5. Tripping over Amazon boxes?
Create the Polar Express!  Last week I counted 6 various boxes throughout the house that were the result of Cyber Christmas shopping. While I gathered the boxes to throw them away, I decided I might as well let the kids play in them for the rest of the day.  We didn't even decorate them, we simply lined them up and the rest is left to the imagination of your little ones.  If they have wrapped up their little presents, it might be fun to let them have a Christmas train and push their "train" filled with gifts around the house.

**More Bonus Thoughts**
If you have a Light Bright in your home, tucked away in the tallest shelf of your closet with the glitter and the Easy Bake Oven, now is the time for Light Bright to shine.  You will already be busy vacuuming up pine needles and cookie sprinkles, so you might as well be on the lookout for those tiny lights that are sure to scatter and hide across your carpet.  Pull out the green, red and white lights, and be prepared to see some smiling kids.
Finally, a word about tinsel and bows from Dollar General.  Remember, our kids are only little for a few years.  If you are willing to clean up some messes, you will reap the reward of fond childhood memories with your kids.  This year I got a packet of tinsel for $1 and it was by far one of the best dollars I have spent in a while.  The kids LOVED placing tinsel on the tree--the strands that are splotched all over our tree and the pieces that have gracefully fallen to the ground are marks that we live in a home filled with kids.  If you are unwilling to let them decorate the main tree, maybe you can let them toss some tinsel on a little tree in their room (or in the yard!) And although it is nice to carefully decorate and wrap each present and put all that Pinterest pinning to use, if you are willing to set aside a few gifts to let your kids help wrap (Grandparents, cousins, etc.) they will love being involved.  I picked up a large packet of sticker bows at Target for $1 and my kids really enjoyed removing the stickers and matching up bows with the gifts.
Enjoy making a mound of memories this season!

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

~Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Printable Gift Tags on Address Labels!

I am trying--TRYING--to stay on top of things this year.  Rather than getting bogged down by the many things to do this season, I'm hoping to tackle little things each day and enjoy many memories with the kids this year.

In the spirit of getting things done, I have most of my gifts wrapped already. And every year I get annoyed when I have to pay for the sticker labels that say "To" and "From" ...especially when I am wrapping multiple tiny gifts for my own kids. In previous years I have resorted to writing names directly on the paper with a sharpie, but this year I decided to print my own tags on printable address labels and voilĂ , it worked! 

If you have a packet of these address labels around the house, then you are ready to make 30 of your own Christmas stickers! If not, you can find Laser/Ink Jet address labels at any large retailer (Wal-mart, Target, etc.)
Simply go here and print this page on your label sheet (or on regular paper and use glue or tape!) and you have 30 stickers to help make your season simpler (and cheaper!)

I hope everyone is enjoying the memories and opportunities that are presented to us during this season. Don't forget to smile when you see 4 ornaments hanging from the same lowest branch on the tree and the needles that are slowly spreading throughout the house!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Make a Family Memory Match Game

A unique and meaningful gift for your young child or a niece/nephew is a Family Memory Match Game using pictures of relatives. This is especially great for kids who don't get to see extended family all the time. It's easy, but will take a couple of hours to put together.

If you are with family this Thanksgiving weekend, try to get some good individual or couple shots of each relative. This will save much time in sorting through old family-gathering pictures to find usable head-shots of grandparents, cousins, and uncles/aunts (uh yes, I do speak from experience!)

I made an easy little drawstring fabric bag to hold the game, but you could pick up a paper mache box at Hobby Lobby to paint if you don't sew. This is for a set of 24, but just add more cards if you have a larger family.

For a game with 24 cards, you need:
12 photos, 2 copies of each
2-3 sheets of scrapbook paper
photo adhesive
paper cutter (or very large circle/square punch)
laminator (or run them to an office supply store to be laminated)
fabric (14" x 11")
30" cord or ribbon
Note: If you are fortunate enough to have a 2.5" or 3" large circle or square punch, this project will go much faster! I cut mine with a paper cutter--this was the most time-consuming part of project.

Cut your photos into 2.5 x 2.5" squares
Now, cut your paper into 3x3" squares--same number as your photos.
Use the adhesive to attach the photos to the white side of the paper.
Laminate the squares and cut around each. I snipped the corners so they were not eye-hazards.

For the bag, fold the fabric and cut so the long side is 11" and the short folded side is 6.5". Snip a little of the corner off of each top outside edge--this will allow the drawstring to work. To finish the cut edges, fold and fold under again. Stitch down each angle.

Open the fabric and fold the top under, then fold under again 3/4-inch. Press. Sew. This will be the casing for the drawstring.
Fold the bag with right sides together and stitch the side seam and bottom. Clip the bottom corner. Turn right side out.

Use a safety pin to guide the cord through the casing. Once it's in there evenly, stitch across the center of it a couple of times to keep it from coming out.

You could have fun posing some creative personality shots!  This will be a thoughtful and well-used child's gift.  


Thanksgiving Day Scavenger Hunt!

Today I am very excited to have all 3 kids home with me--no school!  We are gearing up to make some cut-out cookies and enjoy the rest of the day outside since we have been struck by a mid-November heat wave here in the Southeast.

Here is one last idea I had for some Thanksgiving day kid-fun.  Whether you need a few minutes to finish up your cooking or perhaps you want to send the little kids outside to burn off their sugary energy after lunch, this should do the trick.
If you have older cousins/friends who can help the little ones read, then you are in luck!   You can add your own things to the list, make teams, and come up with prizes or just let them have fun hunting.  The idea is to enjoy time with family and put that endless energy to good use.  Here is the printable version.
Have a great day with your family, filled with reminders of the blessings in your life! 

"Blessed are those that can give without remembering and receive without forgetting."

Friday, November 18, 2011

T-Minus 6 days until Thanksgiving.

If you are like me, you are marking down the days until Thanksgiving is here.  I am so excited to sit around the table with loved ones and eat delicious food and relish in an entire day devoted to Thankfulness.  We are truly blessed.
Kylee and I are working on several Thanksgiving day activities, but I wanted to go ahead and post a few today. The first is a printable that allows your child (with help from you!) to create an acronym of THANKS. Take each letter from thanks and choose something that you are truly thankful for this year.  Then sign and date it and place it in your child's "All About Me" book!  Find this printout here.

Another quick thought is to print out these place mats for the kid table on Thanksgiving day.  Your child will enjoy writing and coloring on his or her special page.  Provide a few crayons and pens and let them decorate while you are fixing plates and setting the table.  If you want to laminate it and use marker instead, that would also be great.  If you decide to let your child decorate this printable as is, then when the day is over, this would also be a great addition to his or her "All About Me" book!

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.  ~W.J. Cameron

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quick Craft: Craft Stick Puzzle


This is the cutest and easiest little puzzle idea! I've seen it in a couple of places and decided to give it a try. You may have the supplies already on hand: craft sticks (I used the wide ones), acrylic craft paints (or paint pens), brushes, masking tape, and a marker.

For my pictures, I searched online for Fall clipart image and printed out a few.

Line up 7 craft sticks tightly together and tape diagonally across the back.

Turn it over. Now you can either paint a background color, or leave the background natural and trace your shape with a marker.

The fun part: painting! I went with larger, simpler pictures since I didn't have a fine paintbrush or paint pen to work on small details. For younger children, you probably want pictures with more obvious detail (jack-o-lantern face would be easier than plain pumpkin). I outlined them with a black permanent marker again when they dried. My daughter could hardly wait to test them out after breakfast.

Wouldn't these be great for kid favors or busy activities at the Thanksgiving table? Or tuck a set in your purse for entertainment at a restaurant or appointment.
My kids saw the turkey pattern and are begging for it on a puzzle...I'm off to find a smaller paintbrush!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quick Craft: Make the Most of Your Clothespins.

If you are like me, you lose chip clips as often as you lose clothes hangers and left socks. Where do they go? 
I can't answer that question, but I have found that it is handy to always keep a large bag filled with clothespins. They are cheap, they serve many purposes throughout our home, and I recently discovered that with a little extra care, they can put an ordinary chip clip or magnet clip to shame.  
Tools for the job:

  • clothespins (you can find these at most grocery stores and convenience stores!)
  • Mod Podge
  • Paint and brushes
  • Magazines
  • Magnets and strong glue (ex. Gorilla Glue or Krazy Glue)

This little project is very simple;  a basic, painted clothespin is fun, but a highly detailed, customized clip could turn into the finishing touch on a Christmas gift.  I started out by painting several of our clothespins with a bright craft paint (I chose blue and gold.)  I was fortunate to have some skewers which I used to hold the clips as I painted them. When I finished painting I stuck the skewers into some floral foam that I had on hand.  Obviously you can clip them onto anything (an old book, a cereal box, etc.) while you let the paint dry. The skewers worked really well.  
While your paint is drying, decide how you want to decorate your clips.  I saw some really cute painted clips, and I plan to paint some clips before Christmas, but it required more time and patience and tiny brushes than I had on hand yesterday.  This time around, I simply went through the ads in the Sunday paper and pulled out tiny Holiday images and words and set them aside.
Once the paint on your clothespins has dried, it's time to crack open your Mod Podge.  If you want your images and words to fit snugly onto the surface of your clip, simply lay the clothespin onto your image, trace it with a pen and cut it to the exact size of your clothespin.  Then put mod podge onto the clothespin and press the image firmly in place.  Mod Podge over the image and around the sides of your clothespin, let it dry and you are ready to go! 
My daughter painted several clips and decorated them with markers. She had a blast!
Like I said, this is a simple, easy way to add some Holiday flair to your chip clips or wherever you hang children's artwork.  This may also be a way to add something special for a teacher gift (cut out the letters of his/her name) or whenever you need to clip down a bag of Christmas cookies.
If you want to make your clip into a photo or memo holder for your refrigerator instead, simply buy a packet of magnets (less than $2 at any craft store!) and use superglue to attach the magnet to your clothespin. Once the magnet has dried you have a great way to display any seasonal artwork!
This was a fun little project and I intend to paint a few more clothespins before Christmas Cookie season is here!