St. Patrick’s Day Mantel and Decor

I don’t usually go all out for St. Patrick’s Day, but I had so much fun styling my Valentine Mantel that I decided I needed to add some rainbows and shamrocks to my living room this year. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I hit up the local Dollar Tree for inexpensive frames and decorations and created my own printables. I love the story of St. Patrick (see my St. Patrick’s Day Treasure Hunt post for a bit about this Irish saint) so I wanted to incorporate one of his famous quotes in my collection.

I also found the cutest set of white vases in the spring section of the dollar spot at Target and I spray painted an old pot black. I was able to style my entire mantel for about $20 and I will definitely be able to use several of the items other times of the year.

For more fun St. Patrick’s Day ideas check out the following blogposts:

St. Patrick’s Day Treasure Hunt

3 Simple St. Patrick’s Day treats

Rainbow Kabobs

DIY Valentine Wooden Hearts Craft

Valentine’s Day is just a week away and I have slowly been adding a few pops of pink and red to my mantel. I decided that I was lacking something tall to balance out all of the little nicknacks I picked up here and there. After looking at several different stores, I realized I wasn’t finding what I wanted. I already had planned to purchase some wooden X’s and O’s to paint pink and red, but inspiration struck when I saw a bag of little wooden hearts. I knew that I had an old frame somewhere in the garage that would be perfect for my project, so I went home ready for a fun Friday night of crafting…and the best part is that I only spent $4.50. #CommissionsEarned

I pulled out some pink, red, and white acrylic paints, sanded down the frame, mixed up several different shades of pink, cut a piece of white poster board as the backing, and went to work on this super simple, but adorable wooden hearts craft. The only glitch was that I should have sanded the frame a bit more, because it took about 15 coats of paint to cover the old ugly brown stain. Other than that small annoyance, the project was actually quite simple and I am thrilled with how it turned out. It’s the perfect addition to complete my Valentine collection on our mantel, and I plan to use it for years to come.

This is a little trick I used to keep all of the hearts lined up straight, and the clear tacky glue worked perfectly for securing the little wooden hearts to the poster board. #ComissionsEarned

My daughter said that she wanted to pop them off and eat them because they look like Brach’s Conversation Hearts.

For more Valentine fun check out the following blogposts:

Valentine Marshmallow Pops

Valentine Paper Garlands

Valentine Craft: Cookie Cutters & Paint

Valentine Words of Affirmation for Kids

15 Birthday Party Themes For Kids

Planning birthday parties for my kids is one of my absolute favorite things about being a mom. I love brainstorming ideas with them, scrolling Pinterest for decorations, games, food, and party tips, and ultimately, bringing their visions to life in a way that makes them feel loved, known, and celebrated. I usually start months ahead of time and I thoroughly enjoy the process from start to finish.

But I realize that not everyone thrives in the same way, and what is life giving to me, may not be life giving to the next person. That is one of the reasons I love blogging. I get messages from moms, thanking me for putting party ideas together so that all they have to do is purchase similar items, download my free printables, and set up their child’s party without all of the legwork. It brings me so much joy to know that I am making life easier for those who do not enjoy the creative process of party planning in the same way that I do.

Over the years, I have posted at least 15 different party themes, and I thought it was time to do a blogpost compiling all of these ideas into one for parents who are not sure what theme to go with and would like to browse through all of the parties I have put together over the years. Here is a list of all of the parties on my blog so that you can have quick links to get to each of them to see if any spark interest in your child. Happy party planning!

In addition to these full party posts, I have 15 fun treats and activities that can be incorporated into some of your future parties.

I hope that this post provided some fun inspiration for your upcoming events. Leave a comment to let me know what your next party theme is going to be!

DIY Axolotl Halloween Costume

Axolotls are the most adorable little creatures. These endangered amphibians are in the salamander family and have gained popularity recently due to being added to Minecraft. My daughter has been a fan of axolotls for the last several years, and she even has a big pink stuffed animal axolotl that her brother got her for her 11th birthday.

My daughter tends to pick the most obscure costumes that cannot be found anywhere in stores. Last Halloween she asked me to make her Appa from Avatar The Last Airbender. For “dress like your favorite book character” (Spirit Day) at school, she chose to be Kinkajou, the pink and yellow dragon from Wings of Fire, and this year, for Halloween, she wanted to be an axolotl.

I began to brainstorm about how to make her dream a reality, and started out by purchasing a pair of pink joggers and a matching hoodie to use as the base. I have found that felt is an inexpensive and easy material to use for creating costumes, and I already had some dark pink felt left over from the dragon wings I recently made, so I used it for the external gills and to add some details to the tail. #CommissionsEarned

I used a piece of poster board to make a template for the gills that measured 2 inches wide and 6.5 inches long. Fold the material and cut around three sides, leaving the fold uncut. Repeat so you have 6 dark pink gills. Sew around the cut edges, turn right side out, and fill with batting. Have your child try on the hoodie to determine the placement of the eyes and gills. I made my gills 3/4 inches apart. Pin the gills in place and then one by one, hand stitch them to the hood. You may have to adjust the batting to get them to stand up. (tip: overfill the gills with batting so that you have enough to move down to the base once they are sewn to the hood)

Cut two oval shaped eyes out of black felt and some white highlights to make the eyes even cuter. Clear Gel Tacky Glue worked great for attaching the highlights to the eyes and for securing the eyes to the hoodie. Axolotl’s eyes are wide set, so be sure to leave a good amount of space between the eyes. I put a piece of poster board inside of the hood to catch any glue that may have leaked through.

For the tail, I made another template that measured 4.5″ wide by 27.5″ long. I cut two pieces out of light pink felt. Then I cut some dark pink accents. Sew the accent pieces together to make them thicker. Place both accents in between the two light pink tail pieces and sew together. Now turn right side out and your tail is complete.

My daughter wanted to be able to wear the pink joggers again, so we safety pinned the tail to the back of the pants.

I was pretty pleased with the way the whole axolotl costume came together. It was super comfy and I love that it is something that she can wear again even when it’s not Halloween.

For another fun DIY costume idea, check out my Wings of Fire Dragon Wings blogpost.

Wings of Fire Dragon Costume (Kinkajou)

My 11 year old daughter LOVES the Wings of Fire book series. She even chose Wings of Fire as the theme for her most recent birthday party and we had so much fun planning dragon themed food, activities, and decorations. She also got the opportunity to dress up like her favorite book character at school during Spirit Week, and of course, she asked me to make her a Kinkajou (from Wings of Fire) costume.

If I’m being honest, I’m not great with a sewing machine, but I can get by, so I set out to make a pair of dragon wings out of pink and yellow felt for my girl. I used a couple of pieces of poster board for the template and tailored it to fit my daughter, who is about 4 ft 10 inches tall. If you are making your own set of dragon wings for your favorite Wings of Fire fan, you’ll also want to purchase some dark pink thread to match the felt, as well as some elastic to attach to the arm portion of the costume. #CommissionsEarned

I have included a detailed pic of my template with the measurements I used to create the wings.

Start by tracing your wings onto the yellow felt. I traced one side up and then turned it over to trace the other side.

Cut out your left and right wings.

Now modify your template to include the pink panels. My triangles left a 1 inch border around and a 2 inch border along the middle to account for the fold that you will sew together to create the middle with the spikes and tail.

Use your triangles as templates to cut your pink pieces.

Trace and cut a second set of pink panels for the other wing.

Cut your spikes out of the pink felt and set aside for later.

Once all of your pieces are cut out, you can assemble your wings. Simply lay the pink pieces over the yellow and pin them in place.

Using your matching pink thread, sew the pink triangular panels to the yellow wings, one wing at a time.

Pin your spikes, folding the wings over each other so that the spikes are in the middle.

Sew a straight stitch all the way along, connecting your two wings with the spikes inside.

Add a little pink triangle to the end of the tail for the finishing touch.

Sew some elastic loops to the ends of your wings that will fit around your child’s wrists. You can also add some elastic to the shoulder area. We chose to safety pin the wings along my daughter’s shoulders and neck to a yellow t-shirt, which worked really well.

My attempt at adding some sparkly pink eye shadow around my daughter’s eyes, made her look more like she had pink eye than dragon eyes, haha, but all in all, she was thrilled to show up to school for Spirit Day as Kinkajou, the pink and yellow dragon from her favorite book series.

For more Wings of Fire fun, check out my daughter’s 11th birthday party post:

Wings of Fire Birthday Party

New Year’s Eve Countdown Bags for Kids & Tweens

“Countdown Bags” are one of my favorite ways to ring in a new year. I started doing this when my 3 kids were little, and over the years, I have adapted this tradition in a variety of ways. This year my husband had to work until 9pm and my teenage boys made plans to play Airsoft with friends, so it was just going to be my girl and I counting down for most of the evening. I wanted to make it really fun for her, so I let her invite a couple of friends over and got to work creating a memorable tween friendly event.

I am learning that 11 year old girls love to be silly and have fun with planned activities, but also like to have a good amount of unstructured time when they get together, so I planned the night to incorporate both. I purchased a pack of shimmery silver lunch sized bags and filled them with a variety of fun things that they could do on the hour, every hour, from 4:00 pm – midnight. I bought some glittery card stock in a couple of different colors and I created clocks to glue on the front of each bag. #CommissionsEarned

I filled the bags ahead of time, and since some of the items were too large to fit in the bags, I wrapped them and included times to correlate with the bags that they went with.

The girls arrived at 4:00 and we kicked off the night with “photo booth fun!” I already had a large piece of black material that I had used for a variety of party backdrops. I also kept some props and decorations from our 2020 New Year’s Eve celebration, so I reused them and added a string of white Christmas lights as a border. The girls took a few fun shots and then went off to giggle and chat about all the things. #CommissionsEarned

At 5:00 they opened the next bag. This one had them wondering, because there was a huge ball hanging over the countdown bags, wrapped in black plastic. They had guessed that it might be a disco ball and were shocked to find that it was really light. They opened it to find a beach ball with questions written all over it in sharpie. This game turned out to be so much fun and they came back to playing it several times throughout the night.

Somewhere between 5:00-6:00 the girls ate dinner, which was just a super easy Papa Murphy’s take and bake pizza and some fruit. Then at 6:00 they opened the next bag. I planned ahead for a game of “Whiteboard Pictionary” by printing off a list of fun and easy prompts. I folded each one and put them all in a mason jar and include a whiteboard marker in the bag. This is another game that didn’t take the entire hour, so it left a good amount of downtime for whatever the girls wanted to do.

7:00 was probably my favorite because I am such a crafty girl at heart. I purchased 3 plain canvas tote bags and I already had a variety of paintbrushes and acrylic paints from previous projects. I found some fun “create your own tote bag” inspiration on Pinterest and grabbed a roll of painters tape so the girls could try some of the geometric tote bag ideas. I would have to say, that they turned out pretty cute! #CommissionsEarned

The girls were so curious to find out what 8:00 was all about because they noticed at the beginning of the night that there was a large mass of “something” taped to the ceiling under a black plastic table cloth. They finally got to rip into the plastic and a bunch of balloons cascaded down on them. The object of the balloon game is to pop the balloons one at a time and do whatever activity is found on the piece of paper hidden inside. Some of the tasks I included were: leapfrog across the room, dance an Irish jig, make a 3 person pyramid, and run outside and yell Happy New Year 5 times as loud as you can.

At 9:00 the girls opened an extra little package in front of the countdown bag that was too large to fit inside. It was a small wooden movie clapboard and I included a couple of chalk pens as well. They had already been doing TikTok dances throughout the night, but this hour was dedicated time to do just that. #CommissionsEarned

By 10:00 these girls were showing no signs of slowing down, so I planned to tire them out with glow in the dark balloon games. I taped off three sections in the middle of my living room with some of the painters tape so each girl had her own zone. Then I brought out 15 balloons I had blown up earlier in the day with glow sticks inside. You can also purchase glow balloons on Amazon. We put all of the balloons in the middle and turned the lights out. I played music on my phone while the girls tried to keep all of the balloons out of their section. When the music stopped they had to freeze. I would also switch the light on and the winner was the one with the least amount of balloons in their zone. After each game, they rotated spots. I think they played about 7 rounds with lots of squeals and giggles before taking a snack break of rice crispy treats and s’mores dip. #CommissionsEarned

I wanted to do something exciting at the 11:00 hour, so I bought 3 cans of silly string and sent the girls outside for an EPIC SILLY STRING BATTLE!!! This may have only taken a few minutes, but it was hilarious to watch and was so much fun! #CommissionsEarned

Our 12:00 HAPPY NEW YEAR bag was filled with poppers and horns, so I let the girls open this one at 11:45. We also busted out the Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider and some “fancy glasses!” and got ready to ring in the New Year. We ran outside at 20 seconds to midnight with poppers and horns ready to go, counted down to 2022, yelled HAPPY NEW YEAR for all of neighborhood to hear, popped our poppers, and then came back inside to toast to a new year. #CommissionsEarned

For another fun New Year’s Eve idea check out my previous blogpost:

New Year’s Eve

Hot Cocoa Mug (Christmas) Marshmallow Pops

Christmas came and went, and while I had great intentions to add some new holiday posts to my blog, I was too busy enjoying all of the fun activities to get to the blogging part. I guess these little Hot Cocoa Mug Marshmallow Pops can be tucked away on a Pinterest board for next Christmas 🙂

The past couple of years, our church has done a drive-thru Christmas Caroling event. My friend asked me to make cookies to pass out, but festive mallow pops are more fun than baking cookies for me, so I set out to make some really cute and Christmassy pops. These little guys were a bit trickier to make than I expected, but I think they turned out pretty cute.

Here’s what you will need to make your own Hot Cocoa Pops: peppermint candy canes (the ones I used were in between the typical big and small size), Jet Puffed Marshmallows, pretzels (broken up to create handles), candy melts in milk chocolate and bright white, Kraft Mallow Bits, various holiday sprinkles, parchment paper, and a Wilton’s squeeze bottle. #CommissionsEarned

STEP 1: LAY EVERYTHING OUT ON PARCHMENT PAPER SO YOU HAVE AN EASY WORKSPACE

STEP 2: MELT A SMALL AMOUNT OF THE CHOCOLATE CANDY MELTS. DIP A CANDY CANE IN THE CHOCOLATE AND PUSH INTO THE CENTER OF THE MARSHMALLOW. REPEAT

STEP 3: MELT A SMALL AMOUNT OF THE WHITE CANDY MELTS. DIP THE ENDS OF THE BROKEN PRETZEL IN THE WHITE MELTED CANDY AND SECURE TO THE SIDE OF THE MARSHMALLOW. REPEAT.

STEP 4: MELT THE REMAINDER OF THE WHITE CANDY MELTS. DIP EACH MARSHMALLOW, MAKING SURE TO COAT ALL THE WAY UP TO THE TOP OF THE MARSHMALLOW AND COVERING THE PRETZEL HANDLE. YOU MAY NEED TO WIPE OFF SOME OF THE DRIPS FROM THE BOTTOM BEFORE PLACING ON THE PARCHMENT PAPER TO DRY.

STEP 5: MELT THE REMAINDER OF THE MILK CHOCOLATE CANDY MELTS AND TRANSFER TO A SQUEEZE BOTTLE. WORKING QUICKLY, BEFORE THE CANDY MELTS SOLIDIFY, DRIZZLE MILK CHOCOLATE ALONG THE TOP OF EACH POP AND ADD A FEW FESTIVE SPRINKLES AND MALLOW BITS. THIS IS WHERE THE TRICKY PART COMES IN BECAUSE IT’S DIFFICULT TO ADD THE TOPPINGS AFTER THE CHOCOLATE HAS SET, SO YOU HAVE TO WORK FAST.

STEP 6: ENJOY!!!

These little Christmassy Pops are perfect for your holiday party or for adding to your plate of Christmas treats. I used a pretty cake platter in mint green next to my display of mini Christmas trees for some photos and then sent them off to be handed out at the Drive-Thru caroling event. #CommissionsEarned

For more fun Christmas Ideas check out the following blogposts:

Polar Express & Graham Cracker Trains

Turn Dad Into A Snowman

Advent

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

Glittery Christmas Tree Silhouettes

DIY Rustic Christmas Tree Banner

DIY Rustic Christmas Tree Banner

Each year, I try to incorporate some type of Christmas craft into our Advent activities. When my kids were younger, we would often take nature walks and collect all sorts of natural treasures. My kids are older now, and nature walks are a distant memory, but this remains one of my favorite DIY Christmas crafts that we made together.

This simple and inexpensive Christmas Tree Banner will add a rustic touch to your holiday decor and kids will have so much fun collecting sticks and twigs to use for their creations. You will need to pre-cut white or off white card stock in rectangles or pendants and purchase some wooden stars, gold paint, twine, and glue. Before your nature walk, take a few minutes to paint your wooden stars with the gold paint. #CommissionsEarned

Bundle up, grab a bag, and go on a stick hunt. Look for sticks in a variety of lengths, but try to find ones in a similar width around. Once you get home, hand each child a piece of the pre-cut banner and let them sort through the sticks, breaking pieces off to for their Christmas Tree, and working their way from bottom to top, while leaving a bit of room for a star.

Glue the sticks in place, including a vertical twig for the trunk and add one of your gold stars to the top of each twig tree. Once all of your banner pieces have dried and you have hole punched the top, thread your twine through and find the perfect place to hang your rustic Christmas Tree Banner.

For more fun Christmas ideas check out the following blogposts:

Advent

The Polar Express & Graham Cracker Trains

Turn Dad into A Snowman

Glittery Christmas Silhouettes

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

The Polar Express and Graham Cracker Trains

Traditions are my favorite! I love creating memorable experiences for my kids, and December is full of many anticipated events that we have done year after year. Watching The Polar Express and making graham cracker trains is one that my kids definitely look forward to. We always include this holiday tradition as one of our Advent activities.

Each year, my kids invite a couple of friends to join them. I hit the candy aisle for mini M&M’s, Smarties, Gummy Lifesavers for wheels, mini Starbursts for windows, Nerds, Candy Canes, mini marshmallows and whatever else looks fun and festive. I get a couple of boxes of graham crackers and some vanilla frosting and have the table ready when friends arrive. I have found that muffin tins make the perfect holder for a variety of sweet treats. #CommissionsEarned

I tell the kids to create their train, but to hold off on eating until we start the movie. I love watching all of their creative ideas come to life. Some of their trains are simple and others make complex box cars with hidden compartments filled with candy. I like to include a few “healthier” snacks to put out with the movie as well, so that they are not leaving my house in the midst of a sugar crash.

I usually plan for about an hour for train making and two hours for the movie. Once the trains are complete, we throw on The Polar Express, which honestly is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies. I am pretty relaxed about kids eating in my living room, so I let everyone get comfy and enjoy their tasty creations while they watch.

For more fun Christmas ideas check out my other holiday blogposts:

Advent

Turn Dad Into A Snowman

Glittery Christmas Silhouettes

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

DIY Board & Batten Feature Wall

It was always my plan to update our front room when we moved into our home 6 years ago, but life is busy and something else always took priority. I finally decided to go with something bold and paint the room navy blue, knowing that the color would really pop against the white shutters and white built-ins. I chose Naval by Valspar in an eggshell finish and the color is exactly what I pictured. My sweet girl offered to help me paint the room, so we tackled it together.

Around that same time we were binge watching the show “Making It” and I saw a quick clip of a board and batten feature wall that was done by one of the contestants on the show. I told my husband that we had to create a similar wall in our front room and thankfully he was on board. I am the visionary in the family for these types of projects, but oftentimes, he is the one to carry out the little details to make it happen. I drew a sketch of what I wanted the wall to look like with rough measurements, and then we took a trip to Lowes to see what we could find to make it happen. I’ll include my sketch so that you can use it as a template to create your own. The middle fold is where the wall meets because my boards cover two walls.

Our unfinished boards measure 1 1/2″ x 3/4″ and were 8 ft long, but you can go with a different size depending on the design you choose. I did have to go back at one point for a couple more boards, so I think we ended up using about 15 total. Because the room was already painted navy, my next step was to add a coat of paint to all of the unfinished boards.

While we waited for the paint to dry, we grabbed our level, a ruler, and a roll of painters tape to map out the placement of the boards along the wall. #CommissionsEarned

The measuring and cutting was definitely the trickiest part. This is where my husband came in with his mathematical mind and precision to detail. He used his compound miter saw for all of the cuts. As you can see from the photo, my rough sketch on paper made it easier to bring my vision to life with the painters tape. My husband used a nail gun to attach the boards to the wall. We started off with the outline along the sides and top, then moved on to the longest ones in the center and went out from there, measuring and cutting each board along the way. #CommissionsEarned

Once all of the boards were up, I added another two coats of paint to make sure all of the nail holes were covered up and to give this “feature wall” a finished look. Our DIY board & batten wall was a worthwhile weekend project that ended up costing us under $75 and it has added so much warmth and texture to our front room.

Because navy is such a dark color, I wanted to make sure to add plenty of contrast, so I created a large gallery wall of photos of our family on the other side of the room and I updated the decor on our built-ins. You can find similar matts and frames on Amazon, and Shutterfly is a great place for oversized black and white prints. I love that this is the first glimpse people get when they enter our home and I am thrilled with the way our Christmas decorations look in here as well. This room has definitely become my favorite in our entire house. #CommissionsEarned

For another fun and easy DIY project check out one of my recent blogposts : Oversized Scripture Scroll: Ephesians 3