Life’s Little Celebrations

Life's Little Celebrations Give yourself something to look forward to

Life’s Little Celebrations – Give yourself (and your loved ones) Something to Look Forward To

Isn’t Spring fantastic?  With all the snow melting, the grass starting to get green, flowers popping up, birds singing, and a new baby calf added to the herd every few days…

Well, it’s hard not to feel a little happy boost that Spring has officially begun, isn’t it?

Sure, there is mud to deal with. I made the husband bring home a few bags of mulch last week and we spread them in the rain because I couldn’t stand to clean up mud every time the dog went outside.   (I was really wishing my Spot Bot hadn’t died and I had a new Shop Amazon – Presenting the Bissell Symphony)  And my body is definitely not swimming suit ready.  But, that is vastly outweighed by the overwhelming urge to spend as much time as possible outside enjoying the weather.

Enjoy the small things.

Last weekend, my daughter suggested we roll out the fire pit and roast hot dogs and marshmallows for dinner.  That’s one of our favorite things to do as a family during warmer weather.  The kids happily rode their bikes and played wall ball with each other while the husband and I enjoyed sitting by the fire for a couple of hours.

As I sat there staring into the fire, I couldn’t help thinking how glad I was that Kaitlyn has suggested something so simple yet thoroughly enjoyable.  Then I started thinking about all of the many other small things in life we had celebrated the past week or so.  (It had been kind of a crazy one actually)

Making it through my daughter’s back to back swim meet and band concert.  Celebrated that one by letting her pick out ice cream on the way home.  My little guy’s final Utah Citizenship performance (part of months of work and many projects and tests for them) celebrated again by letting him pick out ice cream on the way home.  That one happened to fall on the same day we went before the county for approvals on our building lot (got it!  Just a few more hoops to jump through before it’s official).  In among there, I hosted our monthly Bunco group and that always feels like a party.

And you know what?  Life is so much more enjoyable when you take a minute to appreciate the small things when they happen.  Everything seems better when you purposely give yourself and your loved ones small things to look forward to.  When once in a while we make the everyday special.

So I came up with my own list of Life’s Little Celebrations:

-a warm sunny day
-school or sporting event (ice cream!)
-one of those random “National ____ Day”  Find a long list of holidays by date HERE. (I can’t believe I didn’t do anything for pie/pi day last!  It falls on March 14.  3/14 – get it?)
-accomplishments – a promotion, finishing a big project, the baby took her first step, the 4th grader memorized his multiplication tables
-because it’s been a while since you had a dinner party or lunch out
-because the kids have other plans and you and the husband have some free time to spend together
-because it’s the weekend
-because it’s Monday
-because we’re all tired and need to relax and indulge
-the first ____ of the year  (snowstorm, flower, hot dog/marshmallow roast)
-because it’s Girl Scout Cookie season
-minor holidays (St Pat’s, April Fool’s, Labor Day, etc.)
-change of seasons
-local events (strawberry picking season, hot air balloon festival, etc)
-because you missed someone’s birthday/anniversary
-the divorce is final
-your favorite author just released a new book
-that movie you’ve been dying to see finally hits the theaters

Life's Little Celebrations Take a moment to recognize and enjoy the small events in life

Ways to Celebrate the Little Things

-get outside (walk, hike, ride bikes, roast marshmallows, fly kites, blow bubbles, fire up the grill Shop Amazon – Grilling and Outdoor Cooking Products)
-take a picture
-go out to eat
-try a new restaurant
-ice cream
-wash the car (what? Are you telling me having a nice shiny car after months of snow and salt-covered roads doesn’t count as a celebration?!  Have you SEEN the line at the car wash at the first sunny day in a while?)
-plant flowers (Shop Amazon – Gardening Products)
-rent a movie (or find one on Amazon Prime Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial or Netflix)
-cook something seasonal or extra-yummy
-document it – journal it, scrapbook it, post it on Instagram
-surprise someone (treat, card, gift)
-invite people over
-family game night
-food, food, and more food (funny how so many things revolve around food, isn’t it?)

Well that’s my list.  I hope to keep adding to it, so please feel free to share your own Life’s Little Celebrations, and how you recognize the small moments.

Give yourself something to look forward to AlaynasCreations

Give yourself something to look forward to.

 

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Linking to:  Made By You Monday,

Elf Antics 2015 – Week 3

Yay!  We’ve almost made it to the big day!  I’m almost as excited as the kids – though probably for different reasons.  After all this preparation and planning, now that I have everything all set to go I’m anxious to get the party started!  And I must admit that I’m a little exhausted by the need to keep staying on top of things day after day, especially when it comes to those silly elves (#elfontheshelf).  The husband has been in Texas for military training all month and while I’m mostly excited to see him because we missed him, part of me would be relieved to turn over the nightly Elf Duties to him for a couple of days.
Here is what our elves have been up to lately:
*I have been sharing all the Elf Antics daily on my Instagram feed – be sure to check that out!

IMG_20151215_180507Day 15:  The elves found the DIY Lego Advent I started (and gave up on).  Tyler thought the designs were pretty cool.  Maybe between all of them they will get finished.
Day 16:  I think the elves must have heard about Kaitlyn’s field trip to the Discovery Space Center.  We found them busily painting balls of newspaper and making a sign that read “Our Solar System”

20151216_210036Day 17:  Guess who else is excited for the new Star Wars movie!  Glow stick light sabers and all – though Tyler was quick to inform Twinkle that “Storm Troopers carry guns not light sabers.” (Printable masks found HERE)
Day 18:  The elves wanted the kids to have something special in their lunchboxes for the last day of school before Christmas break so they dressed up pudding cups to look like reindeer.

20151219_075507Day 19:  6 day’s til Christmas!  First day of Christmas Vacation!
Day 20:  the kids have had a few days of extra good behavior and the elves wanted them to know how happy they were about that.  The elves brought fun new Glow in the Dark markers with a note that said “Write on!  Your good behavior is not overlooked.”
Day 21:  Found the elves “sledding” down the stairs, using my shoes as sleds.

20151222_072246Day 22:  We’ve had non-stop snow for a few days in a row and this morning we found the elves having some indoor “snow” fun of their own building snow forts and igloos out of cotton balls.
Day 23:  The husband has been out of town all month but finally made it back last night.  The elves were nice enough to make him a giant “Welcome Home” banner.

Day 24: As usual, on Christmas Eve the elves will be waiting for the kids with a Goodbye Letter until next year.

Wow.  It just really hit me that we are finally here at the Eve of Christmas Eve.  All the planning and prep for the holidays is done (or if it isn’t, it won’t be) and for the next couple of days we just settle in to enjoy the holiday and the time together.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

*For more Elf Antics and great Elf on the Shelf Ideas check out this year’s Week 1 and Week 2 on the blog.  Or follow my Instagram feed for daily updates.  There are also tons of great ideas on my Pinterest Board.

Elf Antics 2015 – Week 2

Here we are finishing up another week with those crazy elves.  This is what they’ve been up to lately.

Elf on the Shelf Ideas Do You Want to Build a Snowman toilet paper Olaf printable

Day 8:  found the elves in the bathroom where Twinkle had build a “snowman” out of toilet paper (printable Olaf found HERE) and Tinsel was trapped in the basket where we keep the extra TP.
Day 9:  the elves brought a candy cane bouquet for the kids
Day 10:  Elf Antics in the pantry.  I guess the elves were disappointed with our lack of Christmas cereal as they decided to create some Elf Breakfast Cereal of their own
Elf on the Shelf Elf Christmas Cereal
Day 11:  Twinkle tried her hand at barrel racing using one of the Barbie horses while Tinsel cheered her on from the “stands” with the rest of the Barbie and Skylander audience.
Day 12:  we actually got some snow yesterday (strange it waited this long to stick) and the elves were excited.  We found them all bundled up in the kids’ winter clothing ready to go out and have a snowball fight
Day 13:  pretending they were at the beach suntanning and snorkeling
Day 14:  The elves decorated the washer and dryer to look like snowmen.  How did they know it would snow on laundry day?

Elf on the Shelf decorating the washer and dryer to look like snowmen

Want more Elf inspiration?  Check out what our elves were up to last week HERE.  I am sharing their antics daily on my Instagram feed.  Or check out my Pinterest Board for even more great ideas.

Easy Christmas Gifts for Teachers and Classmates – AND a Giveaway!

Easy Christmas Gifts for Teachers and Classmates with a little help from my Silhouette

15 days ’til Christmas! And yes the title DID say GIVEAWAY! Keep reading ’til the end to not only see what my Silhouette Challenge buddies and I have been up to, but to get a chance to win some Silhouette goodies of your own! (Giveaway is now closed)

I have spent a lot of my free time the last week or so writing lists, double checking lists, running errands and shopping, and rewriting lists…that’s how the holiday season goes, right?  When December hit I was feeling pretty behind on things but the more I cross off the list the better I feel and the more excited I get for Christmas.
This year my son’s classroom is doing the 12 Days of Christmas, so each of the children are assigned a specific day to bring in their classroom gifts and my son was assigned one of the first of the twelve days.  It just happened to be the day before his birthday and I was neck deep in party prep, so I knew that I needed something that didn’t require a lot of time or effort to put together.  But fankly, it’s me and we all know that even when I want things simple and inexpensive I also strive for a bit of creativity and cuteness.

Easy Classmate Gift idea that even the kids can do themselves
It took a bit of thought, but I finally settled on snack-size bags of microwave popcorn.  My kids are HUGE popcorn fans (and kept trying to steal the bags while we were assembling the gifts!) and I figure the popcorn is a nice change from the typical candy canes and Christmas pencils my kids usually bring home.  And dressing them up was a snap – with a little help from my Silhouette (die cutting) machine and my kiddos.
Quick and Easy Christmas Gift for Classmates using microwave popcorn and construction paper
So there is a look at the supplies I used for decorating the popcorn bags.  We dressed half the bags up as reindeer and half as Santa.  This is the point to which I prepped the supplies before enlisting the help of the munchkins.
snack-size microwave popcorn
preprinted adhesive labels:  Mine say “Here’s to a Merry Christmas and a Poppin’ New Year, Love, Tyler” and are printed onto a sheet of Avery address labels.  You could substitute any kind of tag you want to use.
googly eyes
construction paper:
-brown for the reindeer and red for Santa, cut into strips (construction paper is 9″ x 12″ and I found that cutting it into three 4″ wide strips was a perfect fit)
-also a piece of black paper cut into 1/2″ wide strips (by 9″ long)
Santa belts made out of construction paper using the silhouette machine
-white paper cut into squares (1″ x 1″) with two cut lines in the center for Santa’s belt.  I used the Silhouette to do this and it saved a lot of quality time spent with an Xacto knife, but that’s certainly an option.  I was planning to have the kids thread them onto the black “belts” but quickly found that I had cut them to fit pretty tightly and my 8 year old was likely to tear half of them trying to put them on so I did it myself.  So when cutting yours out you may want the cuts to be a full 5/8″ to allow the 1/2″ black pieces to slide through more easily.
Reindeer Antlers for Christmas projects cut with the Silhouette Machine
-dark brown paper (I used cardstock as I’ve found the thicker texture cuts better for projects like this) cut into cute little reindeer antlers.  These are approx 2 1/2″ high.  I’m sure you can find a cut file somewhere but I decided to create my own using some antler clip art (just google it) and the trace feature in the Silhouette studio.  You could also just hand-cut them, though I was happy to not have to do that particular step.
-oh!  And don’t forget some red circles for the reindeer noses!
Cute and Easy Classmate Christmas Gifts the kids can assemble themselves
Assembly went pretty quickly and the kids were easily able to do it all themselves.  They just wrapped the larger strips of paper around the popcorn bags and secured it on the back with tape (I had them tape one side directly to the bags so they wouldn’t slide out of the wrappers), then added the embellishments and stuck the address label “tags” on the back.
Assembling these cute classmate Christmas gifts is so easy even the kids can do it
We made sure to attach the antlers to the back of the brown strips before wrapping them around the popcorn bags for the reindeer, but other than that the assembly is much the same.  Add the google eyes (we used glue dots for that), the noses, and the sticky “tag” on back and you’re done!
Santa and Reindeer Decorated Popcorn Bags make a great Christmas gift for classmates or neighbors
Mini bags of microwave popcorn dressed up like Sant and Reindeer make great Christmas gifts

While I was at it, I put together the gifts for the kids’ teachers as well.  I found these adorable mason jar shaped drinking cups on clearance at the craft store after Thanksgiving and knew I just had to do something with them for Christmas.
Mason Jar cups filled with school supplies and hot chocolate mix make a great Christmas gift for teachers

I rounded up some red and green colored Sharpies, green post-its and some great hot chocolate mix (looking at the photo I’m wondering why oh why I didn’t get a few extra so I could try out the toasted marshmallow flavor?!) to put inside the cup.   And I wanted a bit of customization (when in doubt – customize, right?!) so I fired up the Silhouette machine again and did some cute labels using the teacher’s names.
Decorative Teacher Name Labels cut with my Silhouette machine to dress up Christmas Gift

Embellished mason jar mug for teacher Christmas gift using vinyol and Silhouette machine

Mason Jar Gift for Teachers Christmas or Teacher Appreciation Gift in a Cup

Done deal!  The kids are now all set for Christmas festivities at school, which is great since we are down to only ONE more week before Christmas vacation!  (oh boy!)

Want to Check Out More Silhouette Projects?

My Silhouette Challenge buddies and I are all sharing projects on our blogs today, so peruse the projects below for a wealth of Silhouette inspiration!

Easy Glitter Snowflake Ornament Ornament Surprise Box Merry & Bright Christmas Stocking Gift Card Holder Holiday Projects with Heat Transfer Vinyl Christmas Tree Card Display Easy DIY Hello Kitty Ornaments Fa la la Christmas Shirt Make Printed Holiday Tea Towels Christmas Tree Countdown: December Silhouette Challenge Modern Advent Calendar 'All is Calm, All is Bright' Canvas Sign Tutorial DIY Faux Aged Copper Snowflake Ornaments from a Cereal Box! Sew Easy Pillow Covers Easy Gold Striped Monogram Ornament Monthly Dry Erase Planner Handmade Christmas Tags Cactus Gift + Printable Buffalo Plaid Gift Tags Coffee Mug Gift for the Star Wars Geek Hot Chocolate Stirring Spoons & Gift Tags Cut File Merry and Bright Christmas Pillow Damask Reindeer Print Ikea Star Ornament DIY Etched Nativity Ornament Fa La La La Pillow {Tutorial} DIY Split Monogram Pillow Fun Holiday Gift Tags - Free Print and Cut Etched in Glass DIY Easy Red and White Christmas Pillows 3 Easy Ways to Create Christmas Baby Onesies with HTV Easy Christmas Gifts for Teachers and Classmates

1. Beauty in the Mess // 2. JustTyra // 3. Dream a Little Bigger // 4. Simply Kelly Designs // 5. The Stamp Doc // 6. From Wine to Whine // 7. TheKimSixFix // 8. unOriginal Mom // 9. HaberdasheryFun // 10. Tastefully Frugal // 11. Sisters, What! // 12. Small Stuff Counts // 13. Where The Smiles Have Been // 14. Whatcha Workin’ On? // 15. Designed Decor // 16. Architecture of a Mom // 17. Decor Adventures // 18. Create & Babble // 19. Tori Grant Designs // 20. Tried & True // 21. The Thinking Closet // 22. Creative Ramblings // 23. Get Silvered // 24. McCall Manor // 25. Cutesy Crafts // 26. Ginger Snap Crafts // 27. My Favorite Finds // 28. Cupcakes&Crowbars // 29. Pineapples & Pinecones // 30. The Crafting Nook // 31. It Happens in a Blink // 32. Alayna’s Creations

Silhouette Giveaway

December2015GiveawayGraphic-1114pixels

And I’ve saved the best for last.  My Silhouette Challenge buddies and I in partnership with Silhouette America are hosting a mega-huge giveaway …. Giveaway is now CLOSED.

Elf Antics 2015 – Week 1

Christmas Elves Elf On the Shelf Arrival Just in Time

Hello December!  (Have I said that already?)  We are now one full week into the month and I already feel like I’ve fun a marathon – in a good way, of course.  We have been having non-stop fun with Christmas outings and traditions, the little guy’s birthday, and I even slipped in some girls-night fun at Paint Nite last night after taking the kids to the town tree lighting to see Santa.  Good thing I was ahead of orders for laundry drying racks  because yesterday was the first chance I have had to paint racks this month. (we are having an inventory clear out and these are going fast so if you have been meaning to pick one up you might want to do it soon!)

One of our favorite traditions for the season is having our Christmas Elves come for a visit.  This is my variation of the Elf on a Shelf that has been trendy for a few years now – and we’ve been doing it long enough that I have developed a few tips and tricks for hosting one (or two!) of your own HERE.  The kids anticipate their return every year and really enjoy the search for the elves each morning.  You know those elves – they are constantly up to something!  I have been posting daily #elfantics photos on Instagram (so be sure to follow me!) but I thought I would share their adventures on the blog as well.

Day 1 – our elves arrived!  The kids found them hanging from the clock with a note that said “Looks like we got her just in time.  Happy December!  We can’t wait to spend the month with you.  And don’t forget we will be reporting back to Santa!”
Day 2 – found the elves in the kitchen making donut reindeer
Day 3 – We have been deep into prep for Tyler’s Avengers themed birthday party and after seeing all the plans the elves must have wanted to be in on the fun too.  They found Tyler’s dress up box and pulled out the Iron Man and Captain America costumes.  Tinsel even figured out how to “fly.”
Christmas Elf Elf on the Shelf Antique Super Hero Elf dressed up as Iron Man and Captain America
Day 4 – Tyler had been reading his dinosaur book and before going to bed he instructed the elves to do something with the book (which I found amusing to watch and a bit puzzling since dinosaurs are not one of his current obsessions).  The elves found a printable game from The Good Dinosaur movie and were partially through the process of setting it up when the kids woke up.
Christmas Elf Elf on the Shelf Antics for birthday decorating with crepe paper streamers
Christmas Elf Elf on the Shelf Antics for birthday decorating with crepe paper streamers and birthday banner
Day 5 – Happy Birthday to Tyler!  The elves certainly couldn’t be left out of the festivities and decided to decorate the hallway with crete paper.  The boys (Tyler had a friend sleep over the night before) though it looked like a great laser maze and wanted to use it as an activity for the party but the dog ran through the hall and accidentally pulled it all down before party time.
Day 6 – found the elves in Kaitlyn’s closet trying on her clothes.  Twinkle was wearing Kaitlyn skirt for the band concert and trying to play her flute while Tinsel went the more manly route with jeans and Tyler’s cowboy hat.
Day 7 – We had finally managed to set up the tree on Sunday (I purposely waited until after the birthday party) and the elves were happy to build a “tree house” using the discarded boxes from birthday gifts Tyler had left laying around.
Christmas Elf Elf on the Shelf Antics built a tree house out of discraded boxes in the Christmas Tree
Do you have a Christmas Elf or Elf on the Shelf?  What have your elves been up to?  I would love to hear all about it!
Or if you need additional inpiration feel free to follow my elves antics on Instagram or check out my Pinterest Board when I am continually adding new ideas.

Linking to:  Tip Me Tuesday, Made By You Monday, Learning from Each Other, Pretty Pintastic Party, BFF Open House,

Elf Antics – 7 Top Tips for Hosting Your Elf on the Shelf

7 Top Tips for Hosting Your Elf on the Shelf

Have we hit the week of Thanksgiving already?!  Yikes.  It’s really time to start getting serious about prepping for Christmas isn’t it?  Since I’ve been jotting down gift ideas as I go the last few weeks, what is actually topping my list of Things To Do for Christmas is make up my Elf List for the year.
Are you in on the Elf on the Shelf trend?  I actually ran across the idea a year or two before they made the official kits and everything (awesome right?  I’m a trend-setter! ha!) and we have had elves visit our house every December since then.  I’ve found it to be a fun tradition and one the kids really look forward to but I also know that it’s a lot of work and I have found myself popping awake at 5AM thinking “oh no!  I didn’t move the elves!”  Thus the Elf List.  I collect elf ideas whenever I run across them (yes even in July!) so I have quite a few on my Elf Pinterest Board – feel free to check them out if you need inspiration.
Elf on the Shelf Ideas Our elves decided to help feed the dog using the toy backhoe

December is a chaotic time of the year with a lot of time spent trying to simplify without missing out on the magic of the season.  Over the years I have developed a few tricks to make this Elf thing as easy as possible and thought I would share them with you.
1.  Plan ahead.  Collect ideas then make a list.  I usually sit down a couple weeks before December starts with a paper numbered 1 through 24 and a calendar.  Then I pencil in things I KNOW I want the elves to do on specific days.  Our elves arrive on the first of December, always with a Hello letter and a few new stamps on their passports.  The 24th is also a given as they need to bid the kiddos good-bye for the year.  My son’s birthday is on the 5th so I always plan something related to that on that day.
Life is changeable so while I do schedule certain days, I don’t schedule something on all of them.  I make a secondary list at the bottom of my paper with quick and easy ideas if I need to change something at the last minute.
2.  Set a reminder on your phone.  You DO NOT want to be scrambling to move the elves at 3AM when you wake up and remember you didn’t do it before you went to bed, or to have to try to come up with a reason they didn’t move when the kids discover it in the morning.  So set that alarm on your phone and never forget the elves again.  I usually set mine for about half an hour after we put the kids to bed so they have enough time to fall asleep but it’s still early enough that I am not too tired to make the effort.
3.  Enlist help.  Sometimes it’s as simple as telling the husband it’s his turn to move the elves.  Or it could be that you have a friend that also has elves at their house and you coordinate a night or two with them.  A couple years ago our elves had a Skype session with their friends at a neighbor’s house – we simply did a screen shot of them on Skype and emailed it to each other then it was a simple matter to put the photo on the screen and set the elves up in front of it.
And never underestimate the power of a brainstorming session with someone.  If you don’t have a buddy doing Elf on the Shelf I do have a Facebook group set up for exchanging ideas.
4.  Free printables.  Love them!  Elf on the Shelf is very popular and there are so many great blogs out there with ideas and even some with printables.  I used THIS one and THIS one last year and am figuring out how to incorporate THESE this year.
5.  Buy things when you see them.  I always try to have a couple of things on hand that the elves can “give” the kids – a mini Christmas tree, a tiny craft kit, a puzzle, a new game.  This is one of those cases where the fact that the stores start setting out Christmas stuff before Halloween works in our favor.  I have found it’s easier to run across something cool and fun than to get an idea and then try to head out searching for it.  So hit that dollar section in Target or the craft store or the dollar store itself and grab a couple of items.
Elf on the Shelf Ideas the elves took selfies on the kids tablet and used them as the new background on the desktop
6.  Work with what you have.  Our houses are stuffed with inspiration, we just have to be open to it.  And the kids get a bigger kick out of personal things.  So grab your daughter’s favorite doll and let the elf have a tea party.  Pull out the Lego sets and have the elf build a Lego christmas tree.  Have a pair of hand weights gathering dust in the closet?  Maybe the elves need a workout.
7.  HAVE FUN!  This is supposed to be an enjoyable thing for you and your family so allow yourself to get carried away with it.

All right, everyone even more enthused for their elf visits this year?  I know I am!  I will be using the rest of this week to post some of my Elf Antics from Christmases past and will like those posts here soon!  In the meantime, do you have some favorite Elf ideas you would like to share?!

Linking to:  Tip Me Tuesday, Lou Lou Girls,

Picky Eating Chronicles: School Lunchbox Tips and Ideas

Picky Eating Chronicles Blog

T-minus one week and counting!  Wednesday of next week my oldest will be starting back to school, followed by the little guy on Friday (strange schedule right?  I’m sure they have their reasons, but I think I would prefer a Monday start and a full week of school). And despite not feeling like we’ve quite had our fill of summer, I also feel ready to start back to school – except for the part about packing lunches.  And maybe the more rushed morning routines.  It’s nice not to have to get the kids out the door before I can start in on whatever I’m doing for the day.  But back to the lunch boxes.

Packing lunches for the kids is a necessity for my picky eaters. I highly suspect that the $2 per day for school lunch would result in the majority of the food going straight into the garbage untasted (except maybe dessert!) and I’m not ok with that.  While my kids can look ahead at the lunch calendar and choose days they would like to eat the lunches provided at the school, most of the time we just plan on them taking lunches from home.  In the past I haven’t minded that at all and suspect that in the long run it saves us money, too.  However, making lunches every day can quickly get old or become a struggle to send things that the kids will eat completely and not return half-finished or complaining that they are “sick of eating ____.” So I have developed a strategy of sorts for sending a variety of lunch ideas while still having to do only a minimum of prep and planning.
School Lunchbox Ideas
#1 – Make a list.  Nope, not a shopping list, but a list of the things my kids willingly eat regularly.  I know you can bring most of them to mind on demand, but it helps to have it written down somewhere so that when you are grogily packing lunches first thing in the morning you don’t have to worry about it, or you can look at the list before heading to the store and think “oh yeah they haven’t had grapes in a while, let’s pick some of those up.”

#2 – Categorize.  When I’m throwing together lunches I like to grab 3-4 items plus a drink and call it good.  I want it to be quick and easy, but I also want to get in most of the food groups if I can.  So I shoot for:
-a main item:  typically something with protein, something that will fill their stomachs and hopefully stick with them for a while
-something dairy, usually yogurt as this comes in many different varieties and flavors (greek, kid friendly with characters, Gogurt, drinkables like Danimals, with toppings, with granola, in a parfait, etc. etc.)
-a fruit or vegetable
-a filler/add on such as pretzels or crackers
I am hoping that I can teach this concept to the kids so not only will they be able to pack their own lunches, but apply it to meals in general.  (one can hope, right?)

#3 – Supplies.  Everything is easier if you have the right tools for the job.  When it comes to packing a lunch for school, of course you need a lunchbox but I also like to have on hand some ice packs, sandwich containers (no one wants a smushed PB&J!), napkins, inexpensive plastic forks and spoons (my kids usually remember to bring them home but just in case they get tossed I won’t be too upset), napkins, a thermos for keeping things warm, and other small storage containers in a variety of useful sizes.  I always find it’s useful to have multiples of everything, maybe two of each per child.
This also applies to the food choices themselves.  You don’t have to buy everything your kid likes every single week, but try to keep at least two or three things from each category on hand.  I always stock extra juice boxes or fruit cups when I find them on sale.  Or when I am making something like waffles or muffins that I know go over well in lunch boxes I will make a double batch and freeze the extras so I can just pop one in the toaster or microwave in the morning while I’m packing their lunch.

#4 – Variety.  I try not to send the same main dish more than twice in one week and their tolerance for the same fruit more than two or three times in a week runs thin.  Once I pushed it too far, giving my youngest applesauce for weeks (in my defense it was just about the only fruit he would eat at the time) and he got to the point where he flat out refused to eat applesauce at all.  It took us months before I got him to try it again and he will now eat it happily, however, I am not going to make the same mistake twice.  Even when kids appear to be happy eating the same thing over and over and over, change it up.  Variety leads to better nutrition and to better attitudes toward food.

#5 – Make it fun.  You don’t have to do something unexpected every day – and it’s probably more effective if you don’t – but adding in something a little bit unique a handful of times per month can go a long way to keep them enthusiastically eating their lunches.  I know, I know.  Some of you are about to running away screaming, thinking there is no way you are going to be able to pull off a themed bento box like the one you saw on Pinterest the other day, right?  Those are adorable, and I am totally that mom, like, once a year 😉  The rest of the time, I go for something a little faster and easier to pull off, but will still give the kids a little boost when they open up those lunchboxes.  It could be as easy as slipping in a cute note or lunchbox joke (I have a bunch of fun printable ones pinned on my Back To School Pinterest board if you need any ideas) or adding a cup of jello, a carton of chocolate milk, a slice of last night’s pie, or a piece of leftover Halloween candy. Maybe you have some leftover holiday napkins – stick those in the lunchbox.  Or fun toothpicks – spear a few cheese cubes or some grapes and ta-da!  Instant kebab that will have the kids grinning.  Or shaped sandwiches – those are big hits and it only takes one of those sandwich cutters or even a cookie cutter.  Maybe you want to get a little more elaborate, as I sometimes do.  Then you can roll out the bento boxes, the themed lunches, trick them for April Fool’s or gift wrap everything from your Elf on the Shelf.  Fun doesn’t mean hard or labor intensive, it just means different than the routine.

Ok down to the nitty gritty.  Here is my (hopefully always growing) list of ideas for the lunchbox.
Main dish/protein:
-sandwich (usually peanut butter though we do finally have the oldest enthusiastic about ham sandwiches with mustard and onions.  And sometimes I switch it out for Nutella or one of the other flavored nut spreads)
-wraps
-muffins (this one is my #2 Go To for sure)
-waffles or pancakes (again – I make bigger batches than I know we will eat and freeze them ahead of time)
-french toast sticks
-make your own “lunchable” with cheese, crackers, and cold cuts
-bagel and cream cheese
-trail mix (or just nuts)
-leftovers (this is rare mine will want them though Kaitlyn does love to reheat mashed potatoes and gravy)
-soup (again, not usually something my kids go for but once in a while I get lucky)
-breadsticks and pizza sauce
-protein bars or protein cookies (my brother is the king of make-your-own protein treat recipes)
-cup of noodles or easy-mac (good options if they have access to a microwave in the caffeteria, which my oldest does)
-dry cereal

Dairy:
-yogurt, Gogurt, and all the variations
-yogurt parfait or yogurt with granola (dry cereal in yogurt would also be good)
-smoothies (I usually do a combo of yogurt, fruit, milk/juice/almond milk, and maybe add in some Carnation Instant Breakfast or protein powder.  You can make these ahead and freeze individual servings.  Just be careful which containers you use – these leak easily especially if the kids are careless about putting lids back on after lunch)
-milk/chocolate milk (duh!)

Fruits and Vegetables:
-carrots (usually with ranch for dipping)
-celery (usually with peanut butter, especially when the main dish is light on protein)
-apples
-applesauce
-bananas
-grapes
*that’s pretty much the entire list of fruits and veg my little guy will eat.  For my daughter the sky is the limit.  She loves all fruit including mango, kiwi, berries, melon and has been known to gobble down handfuls of snow peas too.

Fillers:
-pretzels
-crackers
-chips (not usually my first choice but of course a favorite for the kids)
-Goldfish
-dry cereal

Other:
-Pop Tarts/toaster streudel
-Jello
-fruit roll-up/fruit leather
-cereal bars
-granola bars

So there you have it – my plan for dealing with lunches for this school year.  Hopefully I can get the kiddos to try a few more things and be able to add to it by the end of the year.  Anyone have more suggestions to add into the mix?  Are we ready for this?!!

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Back to School – Are We Ready for This?

AUGUST!  And we all know what that means – time to get ready to go back to school!

This summer feels like it has gone by oh so very quickly – even more quickly than usual.  With both kids on swim teams we spent a huge chunk of our time this summer at the pool, while working in housework, work-work, errands, and other fun stuff around the practices and the swim meets and holidays.  That made for a more fully scheduled summer than I had hoped for or planned on, but it worked out really well and everyone had a lot of fun.  We are now down to our last few days of swimming (Kate finished last week and Tyler will be done on Thursday) and I have found myself looking forward to a few weeks with only karate and piano lessons on the agenda.  No running around.  No stack of wet towels and swimming suits on the floor.  No having to wait until after lunch to start working on things or planning outings.  Awesome.

Back To School Are You Ready A look at how I get my kids all ready for school with school supplies shopping lunchbox ideas gifts for the teacher and more
On top of the temporarily slower pace, I have found myself switching gears and looking forward to the school season.  Plus – I kind of like back to school shopping 😉 There’s just something about stiff new jeans, shiny new notebooks, and an untouched box of crayons.  As soon as the stores started advertising school supplies for sale I pulled out the kids’ supply lists (so happy that this school is on the ball and sent home the supply lists for this year at the end of last year), made a list, and spent a day out and about with the kids.  We had a blast, actually.

Back to School Fun Instagram Alayna's Creations
(photo collage from my Instagram for the day)
So after all the fun of shopping, we divided up the supplies and set it aside for a while.  Today I found some extra time and decided to try to finish off our back to school prep.  The notebooks and crayons are all labelled.  The pencils and erasers are all stashed in the new cases.  Kaitlyn has happily organized the Trapper Keeper type binder (remember those?!) that she talked me into (anyone else sick of those cheap plastic 3 ring binders falling apart only 6 weeks into the school year?).

Back To School Supplies shopping and prep
The kids didn’t need new backpacks this year (thank goodness!  Once they were past the age of wanting a new character backpack every year I happily paid a bit more for sturdy backpacks that should last them for a few years) but I did spring for new lunch boxes.  I like the ones that are divided into sections or have more than one pocket so that some things can be cold while others can be hot or stay at room temperature and to keep the ice packs from smashing the more delicate food items.
Back to School Lunchbox Prep and Lunchbox notes
Finding a little something fun in their lunch boxes adds a lot to my kids’ day, so I always try to start off the year with a few notes and jokes pre-printed and ready to go.  This year I have printed these lunchbox jokes and these cute sandwich wraps

IMG_0936A
(photo taken last fall after we moved to the new school.  Ty didn’t actually go to 2nd grade twice 😉  )
No first day is complete without a photo, right?!  This year I will be using these printable signs for our first day of school photos.

As a final touch, I always like to send a little something for the teachers on the first day.  Usually I send some lotion or hand sanitzer with an “if you need a hand…” tag but this year I wanted to change it up.  The package of dry erase markers had a few more than were requested on the school supplies list, so I combined those with some pretty black and white pencils I have been hoarding and added a tag that reads “Let’s start this year off write.”  (printable found here)
Back to School Teacher Gift Let's start this year write markers and pencils

So there we have it!  T-minus 22 days and counting until school starts here.  We aren’t completely ready – Kate insists on getting the rest of her school clothes from Justice and I’m waiting for a sale on that.  Plus we are having a hard time this year finding pants that fit Tyler well – but we have plenty of time.  In fact, we are off to the Outlets today as soon as the little guy is home from swimming practice!

Are your ready for Back to School?  How do you get prepared for the big day?

These are just a few of the great ideas out there for Back to School.  You can find a lot more of my favorites on my Pinterest Board.

Also check out my other Back to School posts:
Back to School Mom’s Brunch (on of my favorite traditions!)
Back to School Countdown Blocks

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Back to School Mom’s Brunch

I am not one of those moms that spends the whole summer wishing the kids were back in school but I have to admit that there are a lot perks for Stay at Home Moms when the kids are in school.  Like the fact that the only dishes in the sink or crumbs on the counter are the ones I put there.  😉  And the quiet – oh the quiet house!  The kids are ready for a change too, even if they wouldn’t admit it.

It feels like summer has barely begun, yet already Back to School preparations are on the radar.  I’m seeing signs go up in stores and ideas being pinned on Pinterest.  I even got out the calendar yesterday and counted up how much time we have before the kids are back in school – 5 weeks!  It’s going to be here before we know it.

True to form, I usually do my best to add a few special touches to the first day of school.  I make special muffins or pancakes for the kiddos for breakfast, make sure they have something fun in their lunchboxes, and pull out the last of my husband’s award winning chocolate chip cookie dough from the freezer so they have fresh from the oven cookies when they got off the bus.  However, what I personally look forward to the most is my annual Back to School Mom’s Brunch! (photos are from brunch last year)

Chalkboard and Maps Oh the Places You'll Go Back to School Brunch for Moms

This is a tradition I started back when my daughter first started Kindergarten.  I knew I would be a little sad to see her growing up and wanted a way to celebrate the milestone – and to distract myself.  It served its purpose perfectly and I have had a casual Mom’s Brunch every year since.  I don’t go into full out party mode – the point is to keep it casual and just enjoy some time with the ladies without (most of) the kids running around.  I set aside the first day of school for myself with no real worries about the To Do List so brunch can go on as long as we feel like it.  I think a couple of years a few of us were still sitting around visiting until it was time to meet the afternoon bus 😉

Back to School Moms Brunch Celebrate the kids first day back at school with a fun get together with other moms

I do Mom’s Brunch potluck style so prep work on my end is minimal though I do like to add just a little bit of fun to the food display.  A few weeks before school started I ran across this great Dr Seuss printable (here) and with our big moving date looming in the near future I knew that a Places You’ll Go theme was exactly what we needed last year.  In keeping with the chalkboard style I printed out a few more school-type signs (ran out of time though so only one made it onto the table – the fun flags and water bottle labels will have to get their turn another time.  You can find those printables here).  Then I added a few maps to round out the Going Places idea.  The maps themselves were road maps of the states – one for North Carolina (where we lived at the time), one for Utah (where we were moving to soon), and the others were the home states of some of my friends.  And yes, my friends did actually notice and comment on the fact that their states were included.  (See?  The details DO matter!)

Oh the Places You'll Go Back to School Moms Brunch
Party Idea for Moms Back to School Brunch on the first day of school

I know – I should have taken the covers off the dishes and the coffee cake wasn’t even out of the oven for this photo but hey – when you have to decide between taking beauty shots for the blog and actually participating in your own party… 😉

Happy Back to School Everyone!  I hope this year is a wonderful one for all!

My Pinterventures

The Answer Is Chocolate

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Stars and Stripes Corn Hole Boards DIY Tutorial

DIY Corn Hole Boards Make your own beanbag toss yard game Instructions for stain technique

Stars and Stripes Corn Hole Boards DIY Tutorial

(may contain affiliate links)

We are all still in a patriotic mood aren’t we?  After all, July isn’t over yet, and here in Utah festivities have begun for Pioneer Day on the 24th, which are celebrated much the same as the 4th of July with rodeos, parades, flags, and fireworks – and the town demolition derby!  (small towns – gotta love ’em)  I’m pretty much in Red, White, and Blue mode from Memorial Day until the first of August.  So now seems like the perfect time to share our newly finished Stars and Stripes Corn Hole Boards.

Corn Hole isn’t necessarily a Utah thing.  In fact, I had never heard of it until we moved to North Carolina, where it is very popular.  So popular that when we were invited to a wedding, along with the dancing and the food, they also had a few Corn Hole boards set up.  For all of you that may need an explanation of the game (as we did) Corn Hole is basically a beanbag toss-type yard game played individually or in teams.  The rules are pretty simple and so is the set up, so of course it wasn’t long before my husband wanted to try to build his own set of boards (they are pretty pricey to buy, especially custom ones).  And once they were built, he very quickly wanted to improve them LOL.  We ended up with three sets, two of which we left with friends in NC when we moved and brought one of the unfinished sets with us across country.

DIY Corn Hole Board Stars and Stripes Patterned Stain Treatment

For anyone that is interested, the plans we used for official measurements to build the boards can be found on this website.

They sat in the garage until the end of June when the husband insisted that we try to finish them to use at our big family BBQ on the 4th of July.  I did finish them all right – but then we forgot to load them up and take them with us to the BBQ!  (haha – still shaking my head at that one)  I am determined that they will get used this summer – really they will!  But until I follow through with that, I may as well show them off here on the blog, right?!

Stars and Stripes Corn Hole Boards DIY beanbag toss yard game

Typically the boards have some sort of theme like sports teams or colleges, etc.  The husband may have been into that but it’s not anything I truly have a preference for (and no, I did not want to make a Dale Jr NASCAR one LOL) so I went with the Stars vs Stripes.  Not only did that seem like a good fit for us as a military family, but it allowed me to use one of my favorite finishing techniques – masking off the design before staining so it becomes part of the item instead of an applied accessory.

My Favorite Stain Technique How to get this look yourself DIY Corn Hole Boards

Stars and Stripes corn hole boards stain technique
Isn’t that pretty?  I like the contrast between the two wood colors.  And though the shapes can be seen clearly, the stain does bleed a tiny bit which gives it more of a hand-made distressed or vintage look.  I even threw together a quick tutorial so you can try out the technique too!

How To Get This Look Tutorial for Stars and Stripes Corn Hole Board Stain Technique

Easy right?!  And such a pretty final product.  I have also used the stain technique on some decorative quote boards (see one of my favorites HERE) and love the result.  You just have to be sure the lettering or shapes aren’t too thin or too tiny or the stain will go under the edges too easily.  I cut the vinyl stars myself using my Silhouette machine, but if you don’t have access to one of those it wouldn’t take long to hand cut the starts using self-adhesive vinyls sheets from the craft store.
Pretty much any stain will work but I used this.  Love the color of the dark walnut.

Patriotic Beanbag Toss yard game is perfect for your next BBQ

I did finish them off with a few coats of spray Polycrylic which gives them a nice finish and should hold up if we accidentally leave them outside in a rainstorm.

We bought simple red and blue corn hole bags to use with the boards, but wouldn’t these adorable stars and stripes bags be perfect?  (Looks like there are tons of other options if Stars and Stripes aren’t your thing)

Oh – one other thing (this may be kind of an important one! lol)  The official set up and rules for a Corn Hole game can be found on this site.

There.  Now we’re all ready to play.  Who’s going to challenge my husband to the first game? 😉  As always, if you do try out the boards or the stain technique I would love to see your creations so feel free to drop me a comment or an email.

 

 

Interested in other great tips for Inexpensive Summer Fun with the Kids, great ideas for getting together with friends and using your new corn hole boards like my Splash Bash water party, or check out some great Summer Themed Gift Baskets under $25 along with the other recent posts on my blog!

 

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