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Category: Holiday and Special Occasion

Valentine’s Care Package or Gift Basket Idea

Valentines Care Package and Gift Basket Idea

Valentine’s Care Package or Gift Basket Idea

With just over a week until Valentine’s Day, if you don’t have your Valentine’s Care Package in the mail you’d better copy this idea, quick! ūüėČ ¬†(And in case you didn’t know, Flat Rate boxes only take a couple of days to reach their destination.)

Naw, you’re probably all on top of things like that already, right? ¬†Goodness knows I was last year. ¬†At the time, my husband had just left on a six month deployment and one of the things that made all of us feel better was putting together care packages.

What I wasn’t great at during deployment – blogging regularly. ¬†Most of the care package ideas never made it onto the blog and we all get to have some fun revisiting them this year.

Valentine Care Package Filled with goodies for your l oved one

The husband left on deployment two days before his birthday in January.  This may have been the very first care package the kids and I put together last year.  Getting input from the kiddos and having them shop for things to go in the box Рfun, fun!

Valentines Care Package Decorate the inside of the box with wrapping paper

Decorating the inside of the box is a great way to make the package look festive – and to introduce the theme.

I have to admit, I purposely kicked up my Care Package Game with this last deployment. ¬†Sure, I’ve sent care packages before, but this time around I was determined the husband would get at least a couple of envious glances from the other guys when he opened them. ¬† I wanted that wow factor as soon as the box was opened, so I made sure to decorate the inside of each box.

According to Pinterest one of the easiest ways to decorate the box is using wrapping paper. ¬†(And yes, I have an entire board devoted to Care Packages if you want more ideas.) ¬†I used THIS tutorial for that, which basically instructs you to diassemble the box, glue the wrapping paper on to the flattened box, trim the paper, and reassemble. ¬†It worked pretty well (don’t judge that one crazy edge on the bottom) though my personal preference for the *easiest* way to decorate the inside of the box is to use patterned scrapbook paper and double stick tape.

What to send in a Valentines Care Package

Inside the box

As soon as the husband reached his destination he was requesting flavorings for water.  Those were a constant for every care package.  For everything else, I went for sentimental or fun.

One of the big trends in care packages for deployment or other long distance relationships seems to be Open When envelopes.  I thought these were a great idea, especially since it would help spread out the fun of the care package a while past the initial opening of the box.  (More details on those in another post soon!)

Did you notice the envelope marked Date Night? ¬†My goal was to send a care package every couple of weeks. ¬†I also wanted to send a specific Date Night envelope at least once a month. ¬†Inside each one was a different idea for a faux long distance date night – movies, a TV show we followed together, hiking. ¬†(I’ll give this one its own post as well. ¬†Check back soon!)

No Valentine’s Care Package is complete without something sweet so we included a few treats.

Giant Kiss was in Every Care Package

These oversized Kisses became a constant in each care package as well. ¬†I thought it would be a nice touch to have something the husband knew he could look forward to in every box. ¬†Plus, well they’re kisses. ¬†Read into that any way you like ūüėČ

Open When Envelopes for Valentine's Care Package

Valentine’s Open When Envelope

One of the Open When Envelopes was, of course, dedicated to Valentine’s Day. ¬†The kids each made their Dad a card and I found funny printable cards and sent a few of those. ¬†(Sorry, I’ll include the link for the printable when I find it. ¬†It was a year ago, after all.) ¬†Plus, a box of chocolates tiny enough to fit in the envelope.

Valentine's Care Package Send them a custom balloon bouquet

The kids also helped me write messages on balloons.  We blew them up, wrote on them, and deflated them for easy shipping.  That way, the husband got his own little DIY balloon bouquet.

Valentines Care Package Love Notes on Balloons

I love those Sharpie Fine Point pens, don’t you? ¬†I used them for everything lately. ¬†(You can purchase some HERE).

Anyway, back to the package.

Every deployment needs at least one stuffed animal, right?  (preferably covered in perfume.  Trust me on this one.)

Every deployment needs at least one stuffed animal in the care package Valentine's Care Package

Kaitlyn picked this cute little guy out and wrote the tag. ¬†I’m sure her dad loved it, and everything else in his Valentine’s Care Package.

Valentine's Care Package or Gift Basket Idea

As much fun as it was to put together this Valentine’s Care Package, I’m much happier to have him home with us this year. ¬†For those of you celebrating Valentine’s Day apart from your loved one, I wish you a good one.

 

In search of more Care Package Ideas?  I have more great themes like Beat the Heat and Half-Way There care packages.  (I still got compliments on that last one at the squadron Christmas party!)  Or for that spouse that is holding down the fort at home during deployment, a Deployment Survival Kit care package.
Linking to:  Home Matters Party, BFF Open House, Pretty Pintastic Party, Pin Me Party, What to Do Weekends, Snickerdoodle Create Bake Make,  Saturday Sharefest, Creativity Unleashed,

Nerf Gun Party – Top Shot Style 2.0

Nerf Gun Party – Top Shot Style

Nerf Gun Top Shot Birthday Party

 

I’m trying not to dwell on the Monday-ness of today, so why don’t we do something fun and explore Tyler’s Nerf Gun Party? ¬†I was a little too busy to post it in December. ¬†(You can’t blame me, right?)

My kids’ birthdays aren’t exactly back to back with one in October and one in December. ¬†However, there is always a lot going on both months, and this year in particular I wanted to keep things as easy as possible on the birthday party front.

Tyler is in 4th grade, and at that age all of the boys seem interested in three things.  Video games.  Legos.  And Nerf guns.  So it was easy enough to convince Ty to revisit the Top Shot/Nerf Gun party we did for his birthday a few years back.

See how smart I’m getting?! ¬†Not only is that an easy party to pull off with his already large collection of Nerf Guns, I had already done most of the research for it a long time ago. ¬†Hehe. ¬†(You can check out my Nerf Pinterest Board for ideas.)

Plus!  I was able to use all the printables I created for the last party.  Here is the invitation:

Top Shot Nerf Gun Party Invitation
*Alayna’s Party Tip: ¬†Create a simple graphic and repeat it throughout the party. ¬†Invitations, party favors, signs, water bottle labels, etc. ¬† Not only does it make the party feel cohesive, but it ups the “wow factor” because people really do notice small details like that.

 

For the invites, I simply searched Google for images of the Nerf Logo and the Top Shot logo (tell me I’m not the only one that remembers that show? ¬†My husband used to watch it all the time). ¬†Then I added the wording for Tyler’s Birthday Party and it was done.

I printed out signs with the party logo and used them on the door, in a frame on the cake table, on the favor bags, etc.

Nerf Gun Birthday Party Tablescape and Decorations

Just a few things I wanted to point out about the party decorations.  I kept it really simple by using the colors orange and blue for everything (those are the colors on some of the Nerf Gun darts).  These also served as the team colors for the kids throughout all of the activities during the party.

And if you have followed my blog for a while you probably recognize that Happy Birthday banner. ¬†My beadboard pennant banner is one of my favorite Go To items for parties. ¬†It’s durable and versatile. ¬†The only thing I have to do to make it match any party theme is change out the ribbon or fabric ¬†ties. ¬†In this case I simply used scraps of fabric left over from the bandanas.

Nerf Gun Birthday Party Favors

Party Favors:

Speaking of bandanas – there they are, along with the rest of the favors for the party. ¬†I purchased a couple yards of inexpensive blue and orange fabric and cut them into squares (approx 22″ x 22″). ¬†Once we designated teams, the kids put on the bandana in the color of their team. ¬†Some used them on their heads, some as arm bands, but most followed Tyler and wore them on their faces like bandits.

We didn’t want to deal with anyone “shooting their eye out” so the safety goggles were a must. ¬†(Purchased in a set of 12 HERE).

Top Shot Nerf Gun party Gear Bag Party Favors

The bandanas and the safety goggles worked as party favors, along with some Nerf Gun darts and candies in blue and orange packaging (we were kicking ourselves for not buying these on clearance after Halloween). ¬†The kids carried everything home in their “gear bags” which were just paper bags in a color that matched the party theme.

The food:

Typically I like to go with a few snacks and cake/cupcakes for kids’ parties. ¬†Let’s face it – the kids are always more interested in playing than eating. ¬†However, for this particular party we knew we wanted the extra space so we rented one of the town halls. ¬†Since it was December, our options on dates were limited and we ended up with a Friday night reservation and I felt like we needed to serve them dinner.

We decided to go with pizza and breadsticks, since they are Tyler’s favorite. ¬†And the pizza is round like a target ūüėČ
Orange punch.
And a simple 3 layer cake with ice cream. ¬†Kaitlyn was pretty annoyed that I wouldn’t let her decorate the cake, but I had a vision. ¬†And I had left it ’til the last minute and wanted it done quickly.
Aren’t the candles cute? ¬†Tyler picked those out.

The birthday boy had wanted a two-level cake but my small pans are in storage so I convinced him that three layers in different colors would look good.  He was happy with that.  Phew.

Nerf Gun Party Table Decorations

As you can see, I used a couple of the leftover paper bags for the centerpiece on the table.  Orange bags, blue tissue paper, party logo Рdone!

The Activities/Games:

Station 1:  DIY blow dart guns and tissue paper targets

Kids are so excited to get the party started as soon as they arrive so I always plan an activity to keep them busy as soon as they walk in the door.  For the Nerf Gun Party, that meant they got to make their own blow dart guns and tissue paper targets.

I provided 12″ lenths of PVC pipe (I believe it was 1/2″ diameter – just large enough for the darts to fit inside), along with colored duct tape and markers to decorate them with.

I also precut holes in the center of super-cheap paper plates and slightly larger circles of patterned tissue paper.  The kids were able to decorate the plates then glue the tissue paper in the center.

Nerf Gun DIY Tissue Paper Targets

Then they were able to hang their tissue paper targets on a length of rope and test out their blow dart guns.  If they were good shots and the darts tore through the paper they could glue on another piece of tissue paper and try again.

Destruction – lots of fun for 10 year old boys!

 

Station 2: Plastic Cup Pyramid

From this point on we divided up the teams and each team at a different target station. ¬†First up, simple plastic cup pyramids. ¬†We gave them one of Tyler’s larger Nerf guns with 10 shots to see how many cups they could knock over.

PS – don’t forget to put tape on the floor to mark where they should stand to shoot.

Nerf Gun Party DIY cardboard target

Station 3:  Cardboard Cut-out Target

This one was recycled from last year’s Avenger’s Birthday Party. ¬†(Bonus!) ¬†The target is just a large piece of cardboard with different sized circle cut-outs. ¬†A couple coats of spray paint makes it look great. ¬†Avenger red was just fine with me for this. ¬†I simply covered up the Avengers logo with our Nerf Gun party logo.

My intention with this one was to change it up a bit and get the kids to shoot from the prone position, but few of them remembered to do so.  Not a problem.

Nerf Gun Party Army Men and Plastic Cup Target

Station 4:  Army Men and Plastic Cup Pyramid

Once they had warmed up their shooting skills, we made it a little harder with this one.  The goal was to knock the Army men off the cups without knocking the cups down.

Nerf Gun DIY Spinning Target

Station 5:  Spinning Targets

This one was probably my personal favorite – targets that actually spin when you hit them!

The base is a white cardboard tri-fold display.  I cut squares out of the cardboard and used the discarded cardboard to cut circles for the targets themselves.  The design for the targets were found on Google, printed and attached to the cardboard circles.

To make the edges look finished (and more durable), I duct-taped the edges of the square cut out.  Then all that was left was to tape a portion of a plastic straw to the back of the targets, thread a wooden skewer through the straw and tape the edges of the skewer to the back of the cardboard.

Adhering a penny to the bottom of each target helps them return to their proper position after getting hit.  (Glue dots work great for this!)  The original idea for this target (found HERE) said to experiment with the placement of the straw and the penny but I found that keeping the straw centered in the middle worked best.

Nerf Gun Top Shot Birthday Cake

 

At this point we paused for pizza, opened gifts, and had cake and ice cream.  Then on to the main event!

Nerf Gun Party Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag/Nerf Gun Battle

Two teams, each hid a flag on their base then attempted to steal the flag from the other team.

Rules were simple.  If you got hit (on your honor!) you had to return to your base and touch it before returning to the game.  No hitting above the chest.  If you hit someone above the chest you had to return to your base and touch it before returning to the game.

Chairs and buffet tables provided perfect “cover” for the game. ¬†Extra bullets were provided in containers (flower pots recycled from Kaitlyn’s Cupcake Wars party) throughout the room.

The kids didn’t seem to care if they all had the same guns, though we did provide enough guns similar to THIS ONE for everyone to have one. ¬†Those that brought their own guns used them for the battle.
We found a great deal on extra Nerf darts HERE.

At times we would call a halt to the action and get everyone to pick up all the extra bullets.  Other than that, I just had fun watching the action and taking photos.  It was fun to see how the teams handled strategy and teamwork differently and how the different personalities came out during the game.

Nerf Gun Top Shot Party

All in all it was an energetic, chaotic, and fun party – which was exactly what my little guy wanted.

Think I can convince him to do the same theme again next year? ¬†I saved all the targets! ūüėČ
Looking for more party inspiration? ¬†Stay tuned for a post about Kaitlyn’s 13th birthday party (right, I was too busy to post that one too). ¬†Or check out the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Monster Truck Party, ¬†or Farm Birthday Party.

 

*Post may contain affiliate links.

 

Linking to:  Snickerdoodle Sunday, Home Matters Party, Pretty Pintastic Party,

DIY Quote Clipboard for Teacher Valentine’s Gift Plus Non-Candy Classmate Gift Idea

DIY Quote Clipboard gift idea for teachers

DIY Quote Clipboard for Teacher Valentine’s Gift Plus Non-Candy Classmate Gift Idea

 

(May contain affiliate links)

It has been a snow-filled couple of weeks here and we’re almost to the end of January. ¬†That must mean Valentine’s Day is on the horizon.

Has anyone come up with good gift ideas yet?

The husband and I decided to forego gifts this year and spend the money on something to do together.  I ran across this great cooking class for couples on the 14th Рfive courses of fancy food, plus chocolates and flowers.  It sounded great.  Sadly, it was sold out.

I may have thrown a little temper tantrum because I really wanted to go.  And because now I have to come up with Plan B.

But. ¬†At least the kids’ gifts were easy. ¬†The little guy’s teacher and classmate Valentine’s gifts came together no problem as well. ¬†Want to see?

Valentine's Teacher Gift Clipboard to Display fun Qotes

DIY Quote Clipboard for Teacher – a quick tutorial

 

My little guy has a planner that he brings home every day in which his teacher has him write anything he needs to do for homework, reminders, and so on.  Every day they also have a motivational quote.

I thought it would be fun to give her a way to display some of those quotes thus  Рthe Quote Clipboard.

The base for the quote clipboard is just a 12″ x 12″ piece of wood that I stained and coated with poly. ¬†(Link to my favorite poly)

To make it stand up, I drilled a hole on the back and inserted a 3″ dowel. ¬†Silly me left the stain down at the shop, so I ended up painting the dowel black. ¬†In a perfect world, the dowel gets its own coat of stain too.

You could glue the dowel in, but I left it loose and just taped it to the back of the board so it would be easier to gift wrap.

Adding a clip to the front completes the assembly process.
See?  Totally easy.

Simply add a clip to a piece of wood for your own DIY Quote Clipboard or Recipe holder

I have a whole box of clips but I know that they can be hard to find. ¬†So (nice person that I am!) I’ll save you the trouble of hunting them down – the clips are generally referred to as Bulldog Clips and can be purchased HERE.

Teacher motivational quotes

Tyler helped me select three of his teacher’s most-used quotes from his planner and we found a few new ones for her as well. ¬†The top row of quotes in the photo came from HERE.

I loved the rainbow colors on the printables, so I used a similar style on our quotes (bottom row).

Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Quote Board for Teachers Valentine or Teacher Appreciation Gift

 

On to the Non-Candy Classmate Valentine Idea

 

Classmate Valentines I have a Ball with You Valentine Alayna's Creations

I like my kids to be involved in the process when they give gifts.  So after a quick review of my Pinterest Boards I gave my little guy a short list of ideas he could give to his classmates.  He chose bouncy balls.  Nice.

It was a simple matter to come up with a “punny” saying for the tag. ¬†It reads: ¬†“I have a BALL with you Valentine.”

As luck would have it, we had these bags leftover from some of my husband’s pre-Christmas baking. ¬†Easy peasy.

Tyler stuffed the bouncy balls into the bags and I stapled on the tags.  Teamwork, people.  Teamwork.

Now we’re all set for Valentines – more than two full weeks ahead of schedule! ¬†(I get a high five for that, right?)

I have a Ball with you Valentine Classmate Valentine Idea Alayna's Creations

Now back to figuring out what to do with the husband on Valentine’s Day. ¬†Any suggestions?! ¬†Please?

 

 

If you are still in search of more Valentine’s gift ideas feel free to check out my Pinterest Board or some of my ideas from previous years like my Crazy Cool Valentines last year or Teacher Gifts in a Cup.

And as always, if you make your own DIY Quote Clipboard or anything else you see on the blog – pease share!

 

Linking to:  Home Matters Party, BFF Open House, LouLou Girls, Pretty Pintastic Party, Snickerdoodle Sunday, Valentines Link Party, Creativity Unleashed, Valentines Link Up,

Crazy Cool Valentines for Classmates and Teachers

Crazy Cool Valentines for Classmates and Teachers

Crazy Cool Valentines for Classmates and Teachers

That’s right – it’s time to start thinking about Valentines for classmates and teachers. ¬†At least, it is if the stores have anything to say about it. ¬†I even spotted some bikinis for sale the other day (said as I look out at the new 6″ of snow we got this week, on top of what was already there. ¬†Eesh). ¬†Sometimes it feels like retailers are rushing us a bit, though I’m all for staying ahead of the curve.

Keeping that in mind, why don’t we take a look at the Valentines my kids gave to their classmates and teachers last year? ¬†(One of the few posts that didn’t transfer from the old domain so now is a great time to repost, don’cha think?)

Classmate Valentine Gifts

Silly straw and Koolaid Classmate Valentine
With the kids bringing home dozens of small gifts from classmates every year, my goal is always to do something a bit unique.  I also try to keep it easy and inexpensive because dozens of gifts can add up fast!  So, I was happy to run across these cute printable tags on Pinterest.

I kept the design on the tags just as in the printable and added the “love Tyler” to the bottom (he would do anything to keep from having to write his name 30 times!) then printed them on cardstock. ¬†It was a simple matter to cut a couple of slits in the tag to slide the straw through. ¬†A quick staple attached individual Koolaid packets to the tag.

Great non-candy Valentine

Bonus!  Non-candy Valentines make us happy!

Teacher Valentine Idea

Now the teacher gift is where I truly out-did myself. ¬†ūüėČ Knowing I was going with the “cool” idea for the classmate Valentines I kept my eyes open for something that fit that theme. ¬†So, when I ran across these great containers when I was grabbing a few more lunchbox containers for the kids I was soooo excited. (What?! ¬†You don’t get excited in the container section of TJ Maxx?!) ¬†The containers have mini ice packs in the lids – perfect!

The containers came in a set of four, so I had enough for both kids’ teachers with just one set of containers. ¬†Change the “kool” to “cool” on the tag (that font is called Jokerman) and we were all set.

Fun, right?

I’ve already started working on ideas for this year’s Valentines for my son’s classmates and teacher. ¬†Stay tuned!

 

Want more teacher gift ideas?  Check out my Teacher gifts in a Cup

Teacher Appreciation gifts in a cup

 

 

 

 

 

Or.  While we are on the subject of lunchbox containers, check out some of my Lunchbox tips and tricks (for picky eaters).

School Lunchbox ideas great for picky eaters

 

Until next time.  What should we create next?

 

 

Linking to:  Pretty Pintastic Party, Home Matters Party, Valentines Link Up,

Merry Christmas!

christmas-card-2016-family-photo-with-santa-alaynas-creations

Ah Christmas. ¬†We’ve made it!

Cards are sent, gifts are wrapped and waiting under the tree, the weather is attempting to give us a white Christmas, and everyone is home for the holidays (except for my parents who just left to get that “one last gift”). ¬†Time to relax and enjoy it.

christmas-card-2016-family-photo-with-santa-and-highlights-for-the-year-on-the-back-alaynascreations

From my family to yours Рwishing you love, joy and adventure the whole year round.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Polar Express Party

polar-express-ward-party-silver-and-white-winter-wonderland-theme

In November I was asked to help with the decorations for the church Christmas party.  The person organizing it knew she wanted the theme to be Polar Express but at that point she was still nailing down the details.  We tossed around the idea of making a ticket booth or a big train out of cardboard coming out of the wall.

Fast forward to just after Thanksgiving when we returned from our big vacation to Florida (Disney tips coming soon!) and had a small break in between holidays and we spoke about plans again.  This person was finding a train backdrop and that person was making the ticket booth and so-and-so was in charge of getting some guys together to hang lights.  And for me?  Well she wanted to cover up ALL the ugly carpet on the walls with paper and would I paint some silver trees on that paper?

Um…sure.

polar-express-party-hand-painted-trees

I spent chunks of that next week painting trees on the floor of the kitchen, one 6 foot section of paper at a time. ¬†I did have some help lined up but once I got started I decided there just wasn’t enough space for more than one person to work on it. ¬†Don’t feel too badly though – a lot of the time was spent waiting for the paint to dry (not one of my favorite things). ¬†Once I got into the rhythm I would spend maybe 10 minutes (20 on the big leafless trees) on the trees, let them dry for a bit, another few minutes for highlights, then let it dry completely.

polar-express-party-hand-painted-silver-trees-lined-all-the-walls-turning-the-party-into-a-white-and-silver-wonderland

I am not an artist but one thing crafting has taught me is not to be afraid of trying something new. ¬†And I did ok on my tree during paint night last spring. ūüėČ ¬†So I did a quick internet search for images of trees for inspiration and just ran with it.

polar-express-ward-party-winter-wonderland-silver-and-white-theme

Pretty cool huh?  All pulled together with the twinkle lights and everything it was pretty impressive.

polar-express-party-create-a-winter-wonderland-using-only-butcher-paper-and-silver-painted-trees

Other than my trees, there were a lot of fun party details

polar-express-ward-party-invitation-is-made-to-look-like-a-train-ticket-and-used-to-get-punches-at-all-the-different-stations-at-the-party

The tickets/invitations (aren’t they adorable?)

polar-express-party-ticket-booth

The ticket booth, where the bishop dressed as the conductor and punched tickets as everyone arrived.

polar-express-party-ward-party-duct-tape-railroad-tracks-in-entry

The entry to the gym. ¬†Isn’t that duct tape train track a nice touch?

polar-express-party-coffee-filter-tree-centerpieces

The young women and activity days girls did all the coffee filter trees and the snowflakes.  Impressive.

polar-express-party-paper-snowflakes-complete-the-wintry-silver-and-white-theme

The party was held at 9:00 AM on a Saturday. ¬†Everyone wore their pajamas and they two buffet tables set up with french toast casseroles, sausage, fruit, milk and juice. ¬†They also had a fun hot chocolate bar. ¬†I didn’t get photos of anything after people started arriving since I kept running into people I hadn’t seen in a while and was having fun just visiting.

 

They had conductors set up to punch tickets at each of the stations (arrival, hot chocolate, Santa, etc) but I don’t think the guests were fully clued into that part of the party as I didn’t see much punching going on.

polar-express-ward-party-stage-set-up-with-chair-for-storyteller-to-read-book-and-train-set-for-decoration

Once everyone had started eating. they had someone sit on stage and read the Polar Express, along with showing a few clips from the movie.  They also had a young couple with a brand new baby dress up as Mary and Joseph.  Then Santa arrived!

polar-express-ward-christmas-party-photos-with-santa

I was Santa’s helper for the morning and oh what fun to see all the interactions with Santa and the kids (and the teens and the adults!). ¬†Santa was in top form and was really hamming it up for photos.

polar-express-party-photo-with-santa

Little gift bags from Santa held a silver bell, train whistles and treats.

polar-express-party-favors-include-a-silver-bell-a-train-whistle-and-treats

They also had family photos being taken in front of the big train backdrop by one of the members with her professional photographer set up.

polar-express-ward-party-transformed-the-church-into-a-winter-wonderland-with-a-lot-of-paper-and-silver-paint-and-a-few-twinkle-lights-alaynascreations

It was a little more work than I was expecting when I agreed to help, but all in all I’m very glad I agreed. ¬†Everything turned out nicely and, even better, I got to spend some time with a lot of great people I wouldn’t have had the chance to see otherwise.

Have you done something new this Christmas season that has added to your holiday experience?  I would love to hear about it!

 

 

 

Linking to:  Home Matters Party, Wow Me Wednesday,

Do I really want to simplify this holiday season?

do-i-really-want-to-simplify-this-holiday-season-alaynascreations

Today we are hitting the tail end of what has been one of the most eventful weeks I have had in a very long time. ¬†I’m not sure why things didn’t end up more spread out this month but events seemed to happen back to back to back this week. ¬†We had birthday parties and band concerts and shopping to do and gifts to wrap and elves to supervise (tons of elf on the shelf inspiration here and here if you need it!) and I joined in on a couple of things I don’t normally do for the holidays. ¬†Plus add in keeping up on the routine things like running kids to the orthodontist, checking homework, cleaning the house, volunteering in Tyler’s classroom, paying bills, running errands, and getting the husband to cook dinner as often as possible…

(I’ve been trying to take at least one photo a day for at least a partial attempt at December Daily so feel free to check out what I’ve been up to on my Instagram feed. )

Among all of this I keep seeing mentions of simplifying the holidays on social media and it has me wondering Рdo I really want to simplify my holidays this year?  Did I somehow take on too much or do it wrong this time around?

I hate feeling like I’m rushed or stressed and typically I’m pretty good at saying “no” to things that will bring too much of that into my life. ¬†I almost always plan ahead and try to get the prep work done for big projects, parties, etc. days or weeks before they need to be done because I dislike doing anything last-minute. ¬†My goal for Christmas is to have the majority of my gift shopping done by December 1st and here it is the 11th and I’m still missing things and in some cases I don’t even had decent gift ideas figured out.

When I pulled out my calendar Thanksgiving weekend and realized that we had committed to sooooooo many things that fell this second week of December I had a moment of panic wondering how we were going to handle it all. ¬†I’ve been hoping daily that I won’t get sick because things would come to screeching halt if I did. ¬†I have had to keep pretty close track of my time and priorities since then. ¬†And there has been more than one night when my elf alarm (yes I set a nightly alarm on my phone for 30 minutes past bedtime to help me remember those elves) went off and I found myself wishing Tyler was ready to move on to being Santa’s helper along with his big sister (not that I ever want to wish my kids older or more experienced and jaded than they are – they grow up WAY too fast already).

But.

I haven’t regretted a single event or plan we made this week. ¬†Not one.

My son had an awesome amazing birthday and a crazy chaotic joyful birthday party (birthday on Monday, party Friday night. blog post to be determined!).

My daughter shone in her band concert, more poised and confidant each time one of these comes around.

Our Bunco Christmas party was a pajama-clad, gift-stealing, fun tradition.

I got to know a lot of great people in the neighborhood and renew acquaintances with other fantastic people I haven’t seen in a long time while I spent hours helping decorating for the church party (a church I don’t actually attend). ¬†It turned out beautifully and there is satisfaction in that along with the pleasure of watching the party itself happen. ¬†I was busy most of the party as well, playing Santa’s helper and the interactions between Santa and the kids, teens, and even the adults were so fun to watch. ¬†(Santa was really on his game yesterday – it was awesome). ¬†PS – I’ll blog about the party details soon!

And for the first time since high school (I think we hit the 20 year reunion this year!) I took the opportunity to sing with a big choir at the community Christmas concert last night (a much bigger event than I knew it would be when I signed up).

So my take-away from this week?

Sometimes putting in the extra effort is totally worth it.

No matter what you are doing or what you may need to be doing in an hour, be fully in the moment and enjoy that one thing on its own.

and

Don’t be afraid to say yes.

Do I recommend filling every week to the brim?  Nope.  Do I want to take on every single thing someone asks me to do?  Nuh-uh.  Do I intend to take one day next week and spend it on the couch binge watching a show, drinking hot chocolate and forgetting everything else for an afternoon?  Absolutely.

Life isn’t about doing only the minimum or cutting out some of the hoopla simply because it’s what other people are doing. ¬†I think we need to give ourselves things to look forward to.

You can’t do everything but you can do anything you choose.

So choose wisely but don’t be afraid to push yourself a bit. ¬†I don’t think you’ll regret it either.

Happy December!
We are now off to the big gingerbread house decorating party with the husband’s family…

 

 

Gilmore Girls Care Package (or Gift Basket idea)

It’s the day after Thanksgiving – do you know what that means?!?

Ok, yeah so some of you said Black Friday shopping.  Yes, you could be doing that.

And someone else probably said something about putting out their holiday decorations. ¬†I’m on board with that. ¬†We put up our tree this morning.

But what I’m actually talking about is the fact that new episodes of Gilmore Girls are out today! ¬†Bring on the junk food and binge watch all the shows!

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I have a couple of good friends from high school who are big fans of Gilmore Girls, just like I am. ¬†We used to talk about the show quite often when we would get together in the years right after college (we had a standing Saturday with the Girls once a month for years – such a fun tradition). ¬†In fact, when the series ended we all got together and had a party to watch the final episode together – complete with matching T-shirts and themed food. ¬†It’s fun to have friends that like to put that little bit of extra fun into things, isn’t it?

When I heard about the Gilmore Girls revival I knew I wanted to involve my friends somehow. ¬†We haven’t managed a big get together in quite a few years and with both of my friends having new babies recently I knew planning some sort of viewing party wasn’t in the cards. ¬†So I came up with the idea of putting together a Gilmore Girls themed care package to surprise them with.

And now that I’ve sent out the package and don’t have to worry about ruining the surprise, I can share its contents with you! ¬†ūüėČ

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When it comes to care packages or gift baskets, a lot of the wow factor comes from the packaging, right? ¬†I always take a minute to decorate the inside of the box when I’m mailing something special. ¬†In this case I grabbed some patterned paper from my stash and printed out a few funny Gilmore Girls memes.

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Don’t forget to decorate the bottom of the box! ¬†It’s always fun to think you’ve reached the end and find something that gives you one last smile.

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Inside the box:
-a coffee cup. ¬†Of course, it wouldn’t be Gilmore Girls if there’s wasn’t some mention of coffee, right? ¬†And even though my buddies aren’t really coffee drinkers, the cup works just as well for hot chocolate ūüėČ
-Pop Tarts
-junk food!  Lots and lots of sugar in fun movie theater sizes
-printable quote from the theme song that I turned into a bookmark.  Had to have some sort of reference to books, right?  Printable found HERE
-fortune cookies
Gilmore Girls Bingo cards
-and a few “things I learned from Gilmore Girls” quotes that I printed and scattered among all the items in the box (You can find links to these and a few other ideas I didn’t use on my Just the Girls Pinterest Board)
*quick tip on mailing care packages – using Regional Rate A boxes is a great way to save money. ¬†They are only slightly smaller than the Flat Rate Medium boxes but because they calculate the rates based on distance travelled and I was shipping In State I paid about half the cost of a Medium Flat Rate box. ¬†The catch is that post offices don’t typically stock them, you have to order them (for free) in bundles of 10 or 25 through USPS online.

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I had a lot of fun putting these together and I’m sure it was quite the surprise when my friends found the packages in their mailbox last week.

I think it’s about time to grab a blanket and some snacks and settle in for a Gilmore Girls marathon this afternoon, don’t you?

 

 

Linking to:  Wow Me Wednesday, Home Matters Party, BFF Open House, LouLou Girls, Pretty Pintastic Party,

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Elf Antics – 24 Days of Elf on the Shelf Fun

24-days-of-elf-antics-quick-and-easy-ideas-for-your-elf-on-the-shelf

It’s that time of year again! ¬†Halloween is over, Thanksgiving plans are well under way and all of the stores are decked out for the holidays…bring on the Christmas prep! ¬†For me that means lists – gift lists, shopping lists, projects lists, Christmas card lists, and lists of ideas for our Christmas elves.

Our elves always show up on the first of December and spend the month with us keeping an eye on the kiddos for Santa, as well as having a little fun themselves (sometimes too much fun!).  The kids look forward to the visit from the elves and it adds a little daily fun and magic to the season for all of us.

Our elves have been making their appearance for almost 10 years now (yes, I looked it up ūüėČ ¬†I started this tradition in 2007), well before the Elf on the Shelf concept took on the recognition and popularity it has today. ¬†So our elves don’t look like all of the other elves and they don’t have quite the same rules as the official Elf on the Shelf. ¬†In fact, our elves love to get hugs from the kids and to play with them during the day.

To keep things fresh and fun year after year I do have to put in some planning time (thank goodness for Pinterest, right? ¬†I have tons of ideas on my Holiday Elf on the Shelf board) so I’ve been pulling together ideas and reviewing photos of our Elf Antics from years past and I thought I would share a sample year with you.

This is what our elves were up to every day in December a couple of years ago.  (My kids were ages 11 and 8 at the time)

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24 Days of Elf on the Shelf Antics
Day 1:  Sure enough, Tinsel and Twinkle arrived at our house on schedule bringing with them Lego advent calendars for the kids.

Day 2: ¬†found them in the storage room where they had pulled out most of Grandma’s games and toys. ¬†Photo is courtesy of Kaitlyn, who was quick to inform me when I got back from the gym that morning and found the kids playing Jenga that she knew I liked to take photos before we moved the Elves and had made sure to do so. ¬†(Isn’t she the greatest?!)

Day 3: ¬†in the bathroom, where Twinkle was tangled in Kaitlyn’s headbands and Tinsel had drawn a Rudolph head on the mirror.

Day 4: ¬†the elves had put up a “tent” using one of the pool towels so they could hide while they created Top Secret missions for the kids.
Wonder what’s in the envelope…. ¬† (printable found here. ¬†Awesome idea)

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Day 5: ¬†was Tyler’s birthday so the elves had made an attempt to decorate with crepe paper but got distracted playing with the party games.

Day 6:  the elves we cozily reading a book together in the rocking chair

Day 7:  had decorated the photo wall in the office using dry erase markers

Day 8:  Perler bead creations

Day 9: they got into all of the treats left over from the birthday party

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Day 10:  must have been taking inspiration from my (body builder) brother.  Looks like Tinsel might benefit from a few personal trainer sessions.

Day 11: ¬†found the sled on top of the entertainment center in the living room. ¬†I’m told Twinkle almost met with a horrible accident when she toppled off and my brother’s pit bull picked her up. ¬†Luckily, the husband saw it and pried her out of his mouth before any damage was done.

Day 12: ¬†packed the kids’ lunchboxes

Day 13:  changed out the light bulb in the hallway for a pretty stained-glass one.  Tyler said it looked like they were having a dance party.

Day 14: ¬†climbing the Christmas tree. ¬†I’m afraid it looks like Tinsel must have taken a tumble or two.

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Day 15: hot chocolate! ¬†They found a special Cookies and Cream version from Stephen’s – MMMMMM

 Day 16:  crepe paper Christmas tree

Day 17:  time for a Nerf dart war

Day 18:  the elves found the tablet and had used it to take photos of themselves (by the Christmas tree, posing by the dog, random selfies, etc) then used them as the desktop background photos on the tablet.

Day 19: ¬†Playing with Tyler’s Minecraft toys and even found a Santa Minecraft head for Steve. ¬†(The cardstock “Steve” is a printable I used for Tyler’s Minecraft Party.¬† The Santa head is a printable found here that I just enlarged a bit before printing. ¬†It wasn’t quite big enough for one of our elves to wear, but it worked fine for Steve)

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Day 20: ¬†The kids forgot to open their Advent treat box before bed so the Elves did it for them. ¬†Lucky for the kids, the elves didn’t get as far as opening any of the chocolate!

Day 21: ¬†found the elves fast asleep under the Christmas tree, using the kids’ stockings as sleeping bags.

Day 22:  the elves were having fun with the camera last night and took all kinds of photos.  (Printable photo props found here)

Day 23: ¬†this morning they attempted to hitch a ride to school in the kids’ backpacks. ¬†I think we are all excited for the last half-day of school before Christmas break!

Day 24: elf zip line!  And of course they also wrote up a farewell letter since Santa will be picking them up tonight.

And that, my friends, is an entire month of Elf on the Shelf ideas for you. ¬†They’re my favorite kind too – quick and easy. ¬†Easy enough to implement at 3AM when you suddenly wake up with that feeling that you forgot to do something… ¬†ūüėČ

What have your elves been up to?  Any great ideas you would like to share?  I would love to add a few to my list for this year!

Linking to:  Wow Me Wednesday,

Last Minute Halloween Prep

fall-sunrise-alaynascreationsLife can get crazy-busy very quickly and it is so very easy to let it take us for a ride – which is exactly what has happened to me in the two months or so since my husband got home from deployment. ¬†First, we spent a few weeks all wrapped up in enjoying having him home and doing all of the family stuff still on our bucket list. ¬†Then we jumped into a massive remodel of my parents’ kitchen (so many blog posts to write!) before the husband had to return to his civilian job. ¬†Plus, school started before that project was completed and we have all been doing our best to get back into the normal routine of work/school/extra-curricular activities.

And now?  Now we are knee-deep in October which is Birthday Month around here (7+ birthdays to celebrate Рmore on that soon!) and I suspect things are going to keep moving just as quickly.

Which brings me to today’s project, or rather yesterday’s project – my son’s class party for Halloween. ¬†His teacher has developed her own traditions and one of them is performing a Mad Scientist show for other classes in the school. ¬†I’ve known about this for weeks – after all, I’m the Room Mom this year and my job was to organize the parent helpers and donations to provide lunch for the class in the middle of their busy day of Mad Scientist shows. ¬†So it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when my 9-year-old came home the night before the party talking about turning a shirt into a lab coat.

I guess I had just figured that a pair of safety goggles and some crazy hair would be a “good enough” costume (and really that would have been fine) but my little guy wanted something a bit more.

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(ah boys – he was dead convinced that Mad Scientists don’t smile and I couldn’t manage to get him to pose any other way)

An old shirt and a Sharpie saved the day.  In less than 5 minutes (and $0!) we were able to transform a shirt he no longer wanted to wear into a lab coat by simply drawing a few lines on it with a marker.

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It turned out cute, he was pretty excited about it  Рand after seeing all the other kids, some with full wigs and everything, I was glad we put in the little bit of extra effort.

Tyler received plenty of compliments on his costume and it had me wondering…I bet that’s not the only costume that could be pulled together in a pinch with just a shirt and a Sharpie. ¬†Any ideas for other options?!