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

Thanksgiving (Turkey Handprint) Kids Table

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have been reflecting on the progression of our Thanksgivings over the years. This used to be the one holiday that my entire side of the family came together. We spent several days at my mom’s house baking, taking walks through the almond orchards in her town, playing games, bike riding, watching movies, and preparing for the big feast on Thanksgiving Day. When my mom passed away, 6 years ago, everything about this beloved holiday changed. We started getting together with my family the weekend after Thanksgiving for a non traditional meal, which has still made for some really fun memories, but some years, we have found ourselves at home on Thanksgiving Day, just the 5 of us.

I love to create memories that my kids will look back on with joy when they have families of their own, so on those quiet Thanksgivings we started a new tradition. I purchased a roll of brown craft paper and used it as our table cloth. I grabbed a large bowl from the kitchen to use as a template to trace circles for each member of our family and put a bucket of markers in the middle of the table. At some point in the day, before our big feast, we all sit down and make “turkey handprints” in the circles and then write the things we are thankful for. The circles then become our dinner place settings. #CommissionsEarned

On Thanksgiving, like many families, we take some time to share what we are thankful for. This interactive table setting, provides plenty of content for a wonderful conversation about gratitude and gives each member of the family a chance to put their creativity on display.

You can even add to this activity by including some fun holiday stickers for the kids, as well as a beautiful thankful sticker to place along the center of your table. #CommissionsEarned

For more fun Thanksgiving ideas, check out these blogposts:

Thanksgiving Turkey Place Cards

Thanksgiving Cakes and Cupcakes

Fall Leaf Cupcakes

Thankful Tree

Breakfast Turkey

Oversized Scripture Scroll: Ephesians 3

I was recently given the opportunity to help with decor on an event at our church. The theme came from Ephesians 3:17-19 and I was asked to put these verses on display somewhere in the room. My wheels started turning. Someone at our church built the coolest pallet wall that had been used in previous events, so I asked if I could use it as the backdrop. Calligraphy is not one of my strong suits, but I have found that you can do just about anything with the help of a projector. Since I wasn’t able to borrow one, I decided that it was time for me to invest in my own. I have some upcoming projects where it will definitely come in handy. I found the most amazing mini projector on Amazon and it was perfect for the job. For the scrolI itself, I used a plain white roll of bulletin board paper and Sharpies worked great for the lettering.

I created my own template with some free fonts that I downloaded, and after pinning the scroll to the wall, I adjusted the letters to fit the height and width that I wanted so that the oversized scroll would fill most of the height of the pallet wall backdrop. Evening is the best time to trace letters because it’s harder to see projected details in daylight. It took me a couple of hours to outline the entire verse, and honestly, that was the most tedious part. In order to prevent the Sharpie from bleeding onto the wall, I pinned a couple of pieces of poster board in between the paper and the wall.

Once the outline was completed, I moved the scroll to my kitchen table and went to town filling in the letters. Black Sharpies are perfect for these types of projects because they are so vibrant and the black letters really pop against the white background. I spent a couple of days filling in the letters, which felt a bit like a giant coloring page.

Setting it up was easy as can be. I held it up to the right height while someone thumb tacked the top of the scroll to the back of the pallet wall so it gave the look of a scroll cascading over the top and down the front. A few hanging mason jars with battery operated fairy lights on either side of the verses added depth and ambiance. We included a coffee table, rug, chairs, plants, and a couch to create a living room vibe and the whole area made for a cozy sitting area at the event.

My oversized chalkboard is in major need of a refresh and I am super excited to use the Mooka mini projector for that as well. Stay tuned for upcoming crafts and projects. #CommissionsEarned

photo by: sarahehewitt.com

Wings of Fire Birthday Party

My sweet girl turned 11 last week, and what a joy it was to have an in person birthday party after last years Art Party over Zoom. Karis is a huge fan of the Wings of Fire book series, so we went with a dragon theme for her party. Pink, teal, and yellow may not be typical colors you think of if you are a Wings of Fire fan, but Karis loves Kinkajou the pink and yellow dragon…so she became our inspiration.

My first project was to create a dragon mobile. I already had an old hula hoop and some teal spray paint, so all I had to purchase was colored card stock and fishing line. After printing out a couple of different dragon silhouettes, I went to work tracing and cutting various dragons out and hung them along the painted hula hoop so that they cascaded down in a circle.

Karis and I browsed Pinterest for dragon themed food ideas and came up with some fun options including Dragon Egg rice crispy treats, Bugels as Dragon Claws, Dragon Scales (Fritos), and Goldfish Crackers for Seawing Prey. We cut up fruit for Rainwing Food and included animal cookies for the Skywing Prey. We also grilled up some hot dogs since her party was at dinnertime.

In addition to the dragon mobile, I lined a wall with a large black piece of material that I used for a previous New Years Eve photo booth, and because I keep everything…I already had the silver door streamers and the pink and teal lanterns to add to the backdrop. I made a birthday sign out of the left over cardstock from the dragon mobile and included a printout of the dragonet prophecy and a letterboard with the phrase “The dragonets are coming…” #CommissionsEarned

Karis loves art, and always wants to incorporate some crafty activities during her parties. We decided on three things 1. A dragon egg hunt 2. Make a dragon eye ring, and 3. Paint a dragon silhouette. We had a ton of old plastic Easter eggs that we turned into “dragon eggs” with the help of some spray paint. Karis’s friend came over to help her stuff over 60 eggs with candy and the kids loved going on an egg hunt in June.

For the dragon eye rings, I purchased some clear beads, metallic paint and metallic sharpies, adjustable rings, and some jewelry bonding glue. The kids started out using a black sharpie to create a pupil on the round part of the bead, then added a metallic outline and flecks with the silver and gold sharpies. They painted over the flat part of the bead with a couple of coats of the paint color of their choice and let it dry for about an hour. Once dried, a dab of glue bonded it to the ring and they were able to go home with the coolest dragon eye rings.

I grabbed a couple of packs of canvases at a great price at Hobby Lobby and added a variety of new colors to my acrylic paint collection. I also invested in some paintbrushes. I cut several different sizes of dragon silhouettes out of cardstock and some castles as well, and I printed out a collection of pictures to use as inspiration. I rolled out a long line of painters paper to save our concrete and then let the kids go for it. Some used the silhouettes and others sketched their own pictures. Most of the party guests were Wings of Fire fans, so they were all happily chatting about what type of dragon they were painting. The only drawback to this project is that I should have planned for less activities or more time because it took a lot longer for them to paint than I anticipated and some brought home 1/2 finished canvases. #CommissionsEarned

June weather can be hit or miss where we live, but on the day of Karis’s party it was over 100 degrees. We thought it would be fun and refreshing to end the evening with a night swim. I found the cutest dragon floaty at Target and decorated the pool fence with some more of the Dollar Tree paper lanterns in pink and teal. The kids were more than ready to cool off with a dip in the pool, but not before celebrating the birthday girl with her favorite treat, marshmallow pops with mini dragons made of Wiltons candy melts. #CommissionsEarned

I made sure to snap a quick photo of all of the kids together before the night ended as this is my favorite way to make thank you cards. I order a set of prints from Shutterfly and back them with cardstock. Karis writes a little note to her friends, thanking them for the gift they got her and for coming to her party and they all have a cute photo capturing the fun they had.

Check out my newest blogpost Wings of Fire Dragon Costume (Kinkajou) to learn how to make this set of felt dragon wings for your favorite Wings of Fire fan.

S’mores Station

Summertime is almost here and you know what that means….backyard barbecues, swimming, camping, campfires, and of course s’mores! It’s just not summer without that delightful combination of crunchy grahams, gooey toasted mallows, and sweet melted chocolate. We had our first party of the season last week to celebrate my son’s 19th birthday, and for the main feature, I put together a simple but super fun s’mores station for everyone to indulge in throughout the night.

You can find a variety of sizes of glass storage jars and metal skewers on Amazon. I printed out letters for a “S’MORES” sign and some labels for the jars and then backed them with brown and black card stock. My son is gluten and dairy free, so I made sure to include gluten free graham crackers and dairy free chocolate options as well. #CommissionsEarned

I can imagine that I will reuse these stylish jars for many other social gatherings in the future, so I feel like they were great investments…and I know that this was just the first of many summertime s’mores nights at our house. #CommissionsEarned

Warrior Cats Birthday Party

My daughter has been obsessed with the Warrior Cats Saga for the last several years. She is making her way through all 80 books and even creates her own short stories and artwork based on the characters. So, naturally, for her 9th birthday, she chose “Warriors” as her theme and we had so much fun scrolling Pinterest for ideas and coming up with the food, games, activities, and decor for her party.

Warriors is a series about 4 clans of cats who live in a forest. The first arc is about a house cat named Rusty who goes into the woods and meets a clan cat. As the series progresses, Rusty becomes the Warrior known as Fireheart. He fights evil and protects his clan’s borders from rogues who stray into their territory and from other clans. Each arc features a different cat and sometimes a different clan.

Warriors eat their food from a “Fresh Kill Pile.” Our food table was inspired by things the Warrior cats would catch and devour. I included signs for the birds, bones, fish, rabbits, and mice. The birds were chocolate dipped pretzels with an M&M nose, mini chocolate chip ears, and Wilton’s candy eyeballs. Slide mini marshmallows on the end of stick pretzels and then dip in white candy melts to create “bones.” For the mice we used strawberries, twizzlers candy, mini chocolate chips, and small circles of chocolate candy melts (left over from the birds) for the ears. We used blue jello and Swedish fish candies, as well as Goldfish crackers because we all know how much cats love fish, and our rabbits were Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies crackers. Since the party was at dinnertime I made some PB&J sandwiches cut in the shape of cats. in the Warriors books, there is a sacred place on the hills called the “Moonpool,” so we replaced water labels with ones reading “Moonpool Water” and surrounded them with rocks to resemble a pond. #CommissionsEarned

The games and activities kept these Warriors Fans entertained for the majority of the party. We started out with a silly game of “Scoop the Poop.” Fill a tub with Rice Crispy cereal and add some mini Tootsie Rolls to the tub. You will be surprised at how difficult it is to feel those tiny Tootsie Rolls with a blind fold on. The kids took turns “scooping the poop” from our Rice Crispy litter box and of course giggled their way through the game at the same time. We gave them 30 seconds to find as many “nuggets” as they could and they got to keep what they found. I added more tootsie rolls as the game went on.

Cats like to hunt for prey, so our second game was an animal scavenger hunt in the front yard. I created signs with the names of the 4 Warriors Clans and the kids got to choose their clan. I picked up some tiny forest animals at the dollar store and had my older son hide them before the party started. The Clans took off to hunt for rabbits, birds, and little hedgehogs that they would later trade in for candy. We used the mini animals in the next activity as well.

My favorite part of this party was “create your own Warriors scene.” Karis and I spent some time making multiple batches of green and brown play dough in the days prior to her party. We picked up some aluminum tins from the Dollar Tree and a bunch of nature materials. At the Dollar Tree we found blue glass beads to use as water, mossy rocks, leaves, fake flowers and plants, and a variety of rocks. I grabbed some wood rounds and plastic cats from Michael’s and collected twigs from the yard and let the kids use their imaginations to create their very own Warriors scene. They used the brown play dough as dirt and the green as a base for grass and built from there. Each one was unique and they all turned out amazing. I even picked up some little plastic garden signs so that they could name their creations. #CommissionsEarned

My daughter isn’t a huge fan of cake, so we always make marshmallow pops for her birthday treat. This year, I bought the big square mallows that you can use for s’mores and covered them in green Wilton’s candy melts. I used orange candy melts to create little cat silhouettes and put them on the front for the tastiest birthday treats. And in case you are wondering where we got Karis’s ThunderClan T-shirt, I made it using a photocopied image as a template that I printed off from the computer and a small piece of black material. I then used Seam-A-Seam 2 light to iron it onto a white cotton tee after cutting it out of the black fabric. She has worn it many times since her party and it has held up really well.

We always like to send our party guest off with a little thank you and my girl loves Hershey’s chocolate bars. I created Warriors themed wrappers to replace the Hershey ones with a little thank you note on the back for Karis to hand to each of her friends at the end of the party. #CommissionsEarned

Maybe you have a little Warriors fan of your own who would enjoy a Warriors Themed Birthday Party. I hope that this blogpost has made your planning a bit easier and inspired some fun ways for you to celebrate. As the Warriors like to say, “may StarClan light your path!”

Warrior Cats fans will also love this…

Wings of Fire Birthday Party

Bob Ross Paint Night

Almost a year ago, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. If you would have told me in the year 2000, when we said “I do,” that our 20th anniversary would be spent in quarantine in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I would have thought you were crazy. I always pictured us spending our 20th in a tropical location, just the two of us, but in those early days of Covid, with the world pretty much shut down, we found ourselves sheltering in place with our little family of 5. Grocery stores were open and you could order take out from a restaurant, but that was about it.

A few weeks before our 20th, we were scrolling through the TV trying to decide on something to watch as a family. We came across a video of Bob Ross painting and my kids were drawn in, watching him take a blank canvas and create a beautiful nature scene. I jokingly mentioned that sometime we should have a “Bob Ross Paint Night” and everyone seemed to like the idea. So as I was brainstorming quarantine anniversary options, that conversation came to mind and my wheels started turning.

I knew that Michael’s craft store had a curbside pick-up option, so I ordered an acrylic paint set, brushes, and canvases. I grabbed a couple of old sheets to drape over chairs, turned our living room into a makeshift art studio, and we celebrated the big 2 0 pandemic style, at home, painting along with Bob Ross. #CommissionsEarned

To be completely honest, I expected our paintings to look like five big black, brown, and green blobs. And about thirty minutes in, that is exactly what our works of art looked like. But somewhere along the way, waterfalls began to form, tiny cabins took shape, and Bob Ross taught amateurs like us how to create something more beautiful than we imagined. When it was all said and done, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome and pretty darn proud of my family! Every canvas was different, but each one actually looked like a forest with a waterfall and a cabin. Bob Ross turned out to be quite the teacher 🙂 Today, our paintings line the hallway and when I walk by them, they make me smile.

Next week we celebrate 21 years of marriage. 21 years, 3 children, 2 states, 3 cities, 9 houses, and more vehicles than I can count. We have weathered the ups and downs of life, including a worldwide pandemic. It has not been easy. We have had seasons of joy and seasons of heartache, but this quote on our bedroom wall sums up my thoughts as we approach 21 years. “We may not have it all together, but together, we have it all.” Cheesy, but true!

Art Themed (Zoom) Birthday Party

Birthday parties have been tricky this year, and all of us have had to find creative ways to celebrate the milestones of our loved ones. My daughter, Karis, turned 10 this summer and planning her birthday parties has always been a big event for my girl and I. She was devastated to not be able to get together in person with her friends. I wanted to make her day super special and involve her friends somehow. School had just wrapped up for the year and her classmates had become pros at using Zoom, so we took advantage of that platform.

We decided on an art theme and went to work creating a super fun and colorful backdrop for her Zoom Birthday. I purchased a couple of clean empty paint buckets, some plastic table cloths and rainbow balloons. Karis painted a bunch of paintbrush handles for a garland and we shopped online for art supplies and treats for goodie bags for each of her party guests.

About a week before the party, we put together the party bags. We added two plaster animals for each child to paint, a set of paints, a paintbrush, a mini easel that we made out of popsicle sticks, a tiny canvas, some candy, and a personalized note from the birthday girl. Then a few days before the party we drove around and dropped the goodie bags off at each child’s house.

On party day, we set the table with a plastic tablecloth for easy clean-up and laid out all of the art supplies for Karis to use. Her friends were doing the same thing at their own homes. They all logged into the Zoom call at the same time and spent a couple of hours painting, creating, laughing, and eating treats. They sang “Happy Birthday” and she even got to open some presents from friends who had either mailed them or handed them to her when we dropped off the goodie bags.

2020 has not been an easy year. We have all had to adjust in more ways than we would like and have grieved many losses. Our kids have suffered in countless ways, and as I write this, we are still in the middle of this worldwide pandemic that we didn’t expect to last as long as it has. I know that this is not the “in person” party that my sweet girl dreamed of, but I hope that when she looks back at her 10th birthday party, she will be filled with joyful memories and she will appreciate the gift of friends who love her and celebrate her in creative ways. #CommissionsEarned

DIY Lemonade Stand

My daughter has been asking to have a lemonade stand since last summer, so it was a must on our 2018 Summer Bucket List.  I saw some cute DIY ideas using wooden crates and thought that we would give it a go.  I found the best deal for wooden crates at our local Michael’s Store.  My husband had a 36″ x 10″ board cut at The Home Depot.  I purchased two different sizes of nails,  1-1/4 inches for the thicker parts and 3/4 inches for the thinner wood slats, and went to work.  You can watch my video tutorial for more details on the building process. #CommissionsEarned

Hobby Lobby recently had a huge clearance on their summer stock, so I was able to get two giant yellow pinwheels for just $4 each.  They made the cutest sides to hang a LEMONADE banner on.  I used my Cricut Expression 2 to cut out the letters for the banner and hung it with twine.  A few material scraps cut into triangles made for a mini pennant banner to hang along one of the crates.  I created an “Ice Cold Lemonade” sign, a price list for some treats that we made, and lemon cupcake toppers that you can print off here  Lemonade Stand Printables PDF

My daughter loves to dance, and every summer her dance studio holds a week long dance camp.  We decided that selling lemonade & treats would be a great way for her to earn the $125 tuition for camp.  On a Friday evening, we made a batch of cupcakes and marshmallow pops.  I have included the lemon template I used for the candy melt lemons.  Lemon Template pdf  (See some of my marshmallow pop videos for instructions on how to create themed mallow pops)

On Saturday and Sunday, my girl held lemonade stands in our driveway, and not only did she have the best time selling lemonade and sweet treats, she earned $129 in two mornings thanks to the generosity and support of our amazing friends and neighbors.  I will never forget the joy on her face when she walked into the dance studio on that Monday morning and paid her entire tuition in full with money she had earned herself.  Lemonade stand success!!!

I am so pleased with the way our DIY Lemonade Stand turned out, and have been thinking of other uses for it.  Of course she can always use it for imaginary play, but I’m sure we will also use it for birthday parties in the future, bake sales, donuts and juice during our garage sale, and of course, many many more lemonade stands.

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