Category: Craft fun

4 Low Budget Almost Handmade Holiday Gifts

Quasi Handmade Gifts

I have vivid memories of the closet in the extra bedroom of the house I grew up in. The best stuff was shoved way to the back corner on the floor, occupying the oldest stratigraphic layers of closet geologic time: my mom’s forgotten Christmas craft supplies. Two file boxes full of that weird crunchy florist ribbon, decaying foam wreath forms, stapled baggies filled with sequins… like manna from heaven.

Fast-forward to my own life as a mom: I’ve never given up on the dream of a handmade Christmas, though my standards have relaxed in the wake of having two children in 18 months. My life is nuts, the holidays sometimes give me an anxiety rash, and I’m not particularly good at juggling very many things at once. As such, I bring you:

Ideas for A (Quasi) Handmade Holiday

Fabric Napkins

I’m usually a booze-as-a-gift sort of person – but grad school yielded more friendships than I could afford to buy Frangelico gift sets for. So I sleuthed out everyone’s general decor palettes and got to work hemming quilting cotton into 12” x 18” rectangles. The shape required less fabric than a traditional 18” square napkin (cheap), and using highly patterned quilting cotton meant you could stain it up pretty badly before it looked too gnarly (easy care). And they don’t require ironing – just fold them up however you like directly out of the dryer and they look great. You don’t even need to hem them if that’s too much of a pain, just zig-zag stitch around the edges and allow them to fray as they wear. I still see those cloth napkins on occasion when I visit my friends. At least the smart ones who put them out when I come over.

Whipped Shea Butter

I went through a phase making handcrafted all-natural lotions and ablutions… before husband. Before children. Back when my thoughts and bathroom time were my own. The biggest hit with everyone was also the easiest to make: whipped shea butter. Throw a bunch of shea butter (I buy mine on Amazon), and whatever smelly stuff you like (maybe essential oils from your Young Living friend who won’t shut up about the soles of her family’s feet) into a stand mixer and beat it into oblivion. Seriously, cue up something captivating on YouTube, because you’re going to be there a while. Whip until fluffy like frosting and pipe into clean jars (go with small mason jars if you want to destroy your girlfriends’ dreams for the title of DIY Goddess). Slap on a label from some super cute shop on Etsy if you’re an overachiever, or with a Sharpie and a prayer if you’re me. Lob them at your friends on Christmas Eve and say, “You’re welcome.”

Flavored Spirits

As I mentioned earlier, I am a booze-gifter. Mostly because it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser in the circles I frequent (read: my family). But gift-grade alcohol can be pricey and it’s completely weird to buy it in bulk and present it in unmarked containers. Unless it’s a Handmade Gift™. Enter flavored spirits. Fill well-scrubbed decorative bottles a quarter to halfway with fruits, herbs, whole spices, even tea leaves or coffee beans. (Shop thrift stores or off-price retailers for bottles and sanitize with a powdered oxygen brewer’s wash like PBW). Buy decent but inexpensive liquor in the giant bottles (you don’t care what those other shoppers think) and decant into your prepared bottles. Try flavor combos like Earl Grey and gin, vanilla bean and bourbon, or peppercorn/dill/celery seed and vodka for Bloody Marys. Sharpie the contents onto the bottle with a shaky hand, then eyeball the recipient until they cave and share with you. Happy Hanukkah!  

Homemade Granola

I know. I don’t entirely understand why, but people LOVE this stuff. That’s a lie. I do understand. It tastes way better than store-bought. You can customize it however you want. It looks great in a cellophane bag tied with jute, or burlap, or gingham, or whatever rustic expression you feel really drives home that you slaved in a kitchen to express your love for the recipient (or slay your Pinterest posse and use swing top bale jars. Mic drop.). And it’s a breeze to make. Hit up Uncle Google for specific recipes, but granola is basically a bunch of shelf-stable fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains mixed to whatever proportions you like, bound together loosely with sweeteners and oils, flavored with herbs and spices for unexpected panache, and baked to a satisfying crunch that can withstand milk or stand alone.

And there you have it: ideas for a handmade holiday. I will be presenting store-bought pie for Christmas dinner, and there will be no cranberry-and-popcorn garland on my tree, nor evergreen bough wreath on my door – because who has time between hauling the 4-year-old from the top shelf of the linen closet for the hundredth time and yelling at the dog to stop eating her own poop? But one or two lazy little projects will scratch that DIY itch. Even better, amid the chaos that can sometimes overwhelm us at the holidays, I’ll be able to flex my creative muscles a bit and my kids will witness me making things with my hands that are beautiful or delicious (or inebriating), that make others happy. And that is pretty fabulous.

marenMaren is a dedicated coffee-drinker, sewist, survivor of the 2-Boys-Under-Two Club, and master Lego builder. She loves Netflix bingeing, beer, and talking about eating bacon all the time but not actually doing it. Because heart attacks. She writes in the key of sailor whenever the spirit strikes over at artslostandfound.com

 

 

Sharing is Caring:

Friday Favorites – Favorite Activities This Week!

School is officially out for summer and we are just humming away at play time. We are only at day 5 but so far my kids wake up ready to play. Whether it is outside on the swings, or dressing up in our toy room they are eager to get their day started. We are also working on keeping our skills current during the summer months. I don’t want to make anything formal and make it feel like school is still in session, so I have found a few fun activities that we just incorporate into our daily routine.

FREE PRINTABLES

We are absolutely loving this free Goldfish cracker alphabet printable from Totschooling.net! The last few mornings I have left the letters stacked up next to a bowl full of the kids favorite snack crackers just inviting them to play. They get really excited to line up the crackers on the letters and they move the letters around to create words, or practice spelling their names. This is also really great for toddlers just learning letter recognition. Sit them at the table to enjoy while you tidy up, finish a phone call or just relax for a minute.

gold fish crackers

ART SUPPLIES

A few months ago we made our own water color paints in ice cube trays. I forgot all about them until this morning when my kids pulled them out. I wondered why things were suddenly very quiet… too quiet. They made their way into the art bin and pulled out the paints and paper, filled up their little cups with water and started painting. I find that making art supplies accessible for my creative kids makes it easier for them to grab when inspiration hits.

IMG_20160315_160934152

WATER PLAY

It hasn’t been terribly hot since our vacation started, but my kids don’t really care. The just want to run through the sprinklers or fill up the water table. I recently introduced them to the beauty of water balloons on their last day of school. They were so excited to finally give them a try. I previously banned water balloons from our yard, but now they are old enough to pick up all the pieces.

sprinkler-926779_640

BOOKS ON CD

My kids absolutely love music and stories. I purchased a bunch of half priced Barefoot books from a friend going out of business. I put them aside to bring out through the year. Each day my kids grab a new book and pop in a CD. They listen to it as back ground while coloring, or read along with the book. It keeps them busy and gives me a whole lot of quiet.

odysseus

PRACTICING SCISSOR SKILLS

My kids have terrible scissor skills. I don’t want to add more work to our day, but they need to practice a little through the summer. We are making collages by cutting pictures out of magazines and gluing to a page. Sounds super simple, but it really helps work those fine motor skills. We like to warm up by squishing some play dough first. The only down side to this project is we had a Scotch tape shortage by day 3 because we ran out of glue sticks by day 1.

magazines

PRACTICING WRITING SKILLS

My kids also need to practice their hand writing skills. I dread this because I usually get frustrated. My girls have ZERO focus on writing. No matter how little they need to write, or how fun the project is one of us ends up in tears. Thankfully, a fellow mom and occupational therapist gave me some great tips to keep my kids focused. She suggested using a yoga ball so the kids can wiggle while they work and offering crunchy snacks while they work. I’ve also gathered up some local pals to exchange letters with this summer. Hopefully all of that will be motivation enough for them to keep practicing.

love-1261887_640

These are our favorite things so far! We plan to enjoy so much more during our summer break. Ten days from now it could all fall apart, but for now I am really enjoying keeping busy with the kids!

What are your summer plans?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

 

Sharing is Caring:

Make Your Own Play Dough For Sick Days

How To Make Playdough

We were struck down hard by the flu bug for nearly two weeks. My poor kiddos have been lethargic with only spurts of energy. They waiver between lying on the couch taking small sips of water and short bursts of wanting something to do. They keep asking to take out the play dough. “Um, you’re a hacking pile of slime right now mayyyyybe we should pass on the play dough?” Nope. Must have play dough.

Kids are gross. I love ’em but ew. They sneeze into their hands and wipe them on the table. They use one small corner of a tissue to rearrange the snot on their face and go back to eating dry cereal with their fingers. They PROMISE me they’ve washed their hands, but I’m not entirely confident in their promises. Squishing all those germs into the play dough and then sealing it inside an air tight container feels more like a DIY petri dish experiment than play time fun. Ick!

So, I pulled out our favorite recipe for homemade play dough and started cooking. Most moms cook up a big batch of chicken soup for their sick kids (which by now you know my picky eaters won’t eat that anyway). But, this mom cooks up a batch of homemade play dough? Whatever. A mom has got to do what a mom has got to do to make it through the thousandth sick day! Am I right?

Here is what you need:

2 Cups flour

½ Cup salt

1 packet of Kool Aid

1 Cup boiling water (I ran my tap until the water was at its hottest)

3 Tablespoons oil (Sunflower, or Vegetable works best)

Instructions:

Mix the flour, salt and Kool Aid together first.  Next, add oil to the boiling water before pouring into the bowl. The fun part is watching the colors magically appear.

The dough will resemble crumbles at first. That’s when it’s time for all hands on deck! Everyone can take turns kneading the dough until it becomes a smooth ball.

play dough crumbles

After you’ve made all your play dough, store the dough in an air tight container (a plastic baggie works too). We made a few different colors.

play dough boxes2

This recipe is cheap and it makes enough play dough that I can portion out to have on hand for a few sick days. I toss it immediately after my kids sneeze into it.

You don’t have to reserve this recipe for your kids’ sick day. You can make it any time! 😉

How do you keep the kids entertained on sick days?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again!

 

Sharing is Caring:

Dinosaur File Folder Game – Count On Fun!

My kids love to play games. They love board games, building games, I-Spy games- any game really. They also love counting, matching and sorting. So, I thought I would make a few file folder games they could pull out any time!

I found this template for our Dino Count folder at Preschoolmom.com This site is full of really great educational themes and she really lays out the lesson for you.

Here’s what you need:

1 office file folder (any color)

Print outs of matching cards

Double sided tape (or a glue stick)

Scissors

Clear laminate

Velcro pieces

Start by cutting out the squares and place the pictures of dinosaurs in correct order. Set the number squares aside. Then, adhere a piece of double stick tape on each edge of the square. Turn over and stick to the folder.

Use double sided tape or a glue stick to keep pictures in place.

Use double sided tape or a glue stick to keep pictures in place.

Next laminate both sides of the entire folder using clear laminate/contact paper. (Even easier if you have a laminating machine). Then laminate the number cards separately.

Folder blog 094

I found these Velcro squares at Lowes. You can also find them in the craft section at Walmart, or in craft stores like Joanne’s Fabrics and Michael’s.

Tip: cut the page of Velcro squares in half and then “sandwich” both sides of Velcro pieces together.

Folder blog 096

Pull the backing off and stick to the number square.

Folder blog 097

Then, adhere to the laminated folder.

Folder blog 098

To play the game simply pull all the numbers off of the folder and mix into a pile. The kids count the dinosaurs in each square and find the corresponding number to match.

Folder blog 099

These games are great to pull out before dinner, before bed and travel easy. Take them with you to grandma’s house or play while out to dinner at a restaurant. My girls couldn’t wait to play with their new game! These folders will be a great addition to our busy binder activities!

 

Got a kid who loves dinosaurs? Check out these DIY Fossil cookies I made for my blog at Hudson Valley Parent.

 

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy. 

Sharing is Caring:

Dreams of Chicory and Powdered Sugar on A Winters Day

bignet

Here’s a #TBT for ya! (That’s a Throw Back Thursday). My husband was kind enough to surprise me with a trip to New Orleans for my 30th birthday! (Many years ago). It was a dream come true to spend a week in the beautiful Crescent city. One of my favorite memories from that vacation is our breakfast trip to Cafe du mond. A small little slice of local life mixed with bustling tourism. The beignets and chicory coffee are amazing! Before leaving NOLA I vow to make them once a year and add chicory to my coffee forever!

That ambition didn’t pan out. But, the memory still remains.

I remember these little pillows from heaven during this weeks snow storm. We spent the day inside wearing our pajamas and snuggling on the couch. The snow coming down in powdery fluffs- my kids asked me if we are in a snow globe. Watching the feathery precipitation pile up reminds me of the snowy mounds of powdered sugar on those delicious biegnets. I quickly Google a recipe to see if I even have the ingredients for them. Of course not. But, I DO have frozen bread dough!

Even before my favorable memories of biegnets and chicory coffee, I have even more delightful memories of making “Pizza frite.” I am not sure why my family calls fried dough “fried pizza,” but I think it is because we shape the dough into small little pizzas before we fry them. We spent many, many, Saturday mornings making these together! I am happy to pass this tradition down to my girls!

Lucky for me I have everything I need to make beignet knock offs:

  • Frozen bread dough
  • Coconut Oil
  • Powdered sugar (or granular sugar and cinnamon)
  • Paper lunch sacks
Mardiblog 003
Ingredients for a delicious snowy morning.

 

Simply follow thawing instructions on the back of the package and allow bread to rise.

Heat 1/4 cup of coconut oil in large skillet or frying pan. (Coconut oil is pretty much a health food- so you are really doing everyone a favor by frying your dough in it).

Mardiblog 005
Little hands love working the dough!

 

Once the dough is ready, pull off small pieces to roll into a ball. Using your fingers begin to flatted the dough, keeping it in round circles.

Mardiblog 006
The shapes aren’t perfect when you let the kids help. But, it all cooks the same!

 

You will know the dough is ready to flip when the outer edges of the dough start to brown and thicken. The edges loose their “sheen” and you may see air bubbles. (Similar to cooking a pancake).

Once you flip the dough allow your pizza frite to cook completely on the other side (approx. another 3 minutes).

Mardiblog 008
Doughy goodness before adding the sweet stuff.

 

Dough should be golden, light and fluffy.

Next add powdered sugar, or sugar and cinnamon into a paper lunch sack.

Mardiblog 007
Personal preference on which type of sugar to use.

 

Little hands LOVE to put the dough in the sack and shake it all up! Watch out! This could get messy!!

Mardiblog 009
Covering the dough in sugar is the best part!

 

If you have ever had a beignet you will know these are not exactly the same. But, they will do with a cup of sweet coffee on a white washed wintry day in NY.

Mardiblog 010
Beignet Knock-offs

 

Cheers! (My other favorite vacation memory includes martini’s in the oldest cigar bar in NOLA).

30Rox
Toasting to 30 at the French 75

 

Sharing is Caring:

Love Letters That Last A Lifetime

Give more than chocolates on Valentine's Day
Give more than chocolates on Valentine’s Day

Let’s talk Valentine’s day. I’m sure by now you already have your Pintrest board all pinned and ready to go. So, I won’t bore you with another crafty hand print to hang on the fridge, or to mail off to grandma. Instead I want to share with you my most favorite tradition of all. It’s so simple and will only cost pennies to make. Are you ready? Write your kids a love letter.

Growing up my mom struggled to make ends meet as a single mom working three jobs. My siblings and I really didn’t get to see her often. My mom didn’t get to attend my soccer games, or school pageants because she was always working. I know this wore on her and it was not easy missing out on so much. But, every Valentine’s day we could count on two things: 1. a heart shaped box of chocolates and 2. a love letter. I remember rushing down the stairs to find both left at my place on the dining room table.

Valentine's blog 010

Write a letter for every birthday and holiday to tuck away for your child.

 

I loved opening the envelop to see her pretty penmanship float across the page in precise circles and loops. It was almost comforting to see my name written in her script. Every year she said all the things she didn’t have time to say to me on a daily basis. How proud she was of me, how much she loved me. I still have my letters tied in a ribbon, tucked away in an old box my mother decorated for me. It is one of my most cherished childhood possessions.

Write the date and holiday on the envelop.
Be sure to include the date!

I love this tradition so much I started doing it with my own kids. I know they are only four and can’t read yet, but I have purchased a card every year since they were born. I have written to each of them how much I love them. I seal the envelop, write the year on it and tuck it away in their keepsake box. Now, I purchase a card for every major holiday and I write in it how we spent our holiday, what they were into at that time, what milestones they hit, or something personal about how I feel about being their mom.

Our box of keepsakes and love letters.
Our box of keepsakes and love letters.

One day I’ll hand over the box and hopefully they’ll allow me to open it with them.

 

Tips for writing a love letter to your child:

1. Tell them how much you love them. You may say it every day, but writing it down allows them to revisit it any time they need to.

2. Share your favorite times with them. Maybe you took a special hike, or played a new game together. Maybe you love that time you danced in the rain together, or how much you love rocking them to sleep at night. Reading your perspective from those special events really deepens their understanding of your bond.

3. Tell them how it feels to be their parent. We all get so busy with life. Our kids need to hear how happy it makes us feel to be their parent. (You know in between all the commands for “get your shoes on!” “hurry up let’s go!”).

4. Tell them what you are proud of them for. Not just “great game,” but how about “I love that you enjoy sports so much. It makes me proud to cheer you on every week.”

5. Share your dreams for them. Encourage your child to be anything they want to be. Teenagers especially need to hear this; busy teens need to know how much their parents are invested in their happiness. Trust me it will be worth all that eye rolling.

Sharing is Caring:

Pom-poms and cardboard- expensive toys are overrated

My kids are totally obsessed with fuzzy pom-poms. You may have gathered that from my Easter post. They love to make crafts with them, count them, sort them, and now we are making games out of them. My kids do not like going outside in the winter- which I do not fuss about! So, we need to get creative with how we spend our time inside.

I should also admit that my twins are very competitive with one another. They make everything a competition to try to be the first to win a non-existent trophy. No joke. If one reaches the sink first, she will run back to her sister to snatch the invisible trophy from above her head. Then she chant’s, “I won the trophy and youuuu didn’t!” Not as charming when experienced first hand.

It isn’t any wonder that the girls really LOVE this game! They rush to see who can empty the pom pom bowl the fastest. You can make this game at home by grabbing whatever you have on hand!!

 

Easy materials you may already have at home.
Easy materials you may already have at home.
  • Fuzzy pom-poms (we through in some rubber spiky balls for fun)
  • A pair of tongs
  • 2 empty paper towel tubes
  • 2 empty baskets
  • Tape

 

Tape to the fridge, a door, or a wall.
Tape to the fridge, a door, or a wall.

Tape your empty tubes to the fridge, a door, or a wall. I taped ours to the fridge to keep the kids occupied while I make dinner. It was hard at first to not to play this game too. I’m kind of a winner and I like to compete. (Oh my little apples, I’m so sorry).

 

Simply use tongs to drop the pom-poms through the tube.
Simply use tongs to drop the pom-poms through the tube.

To play, simply use the tongs (or even tweezers) to drop the pom-poms through the tube and into the basket! The first one to fill their basket wins the game! (And gets to snatch the invisible trophy hanging above their siblings head).

This is great for developing fine motor skills. It also encourages color matching/sorting, sorting by size and counting. You’re child doesn’t have to be ready for any of those things to play this game. This is great for even the 18M + crowd. As long as you are playing with them to be sure they do not eat the pom-poms, or the tweezers, or lick the fridge. Well, that might not be so harmful.

Click the links below for more fun ways to play with pom-poms:

 

Pom-pom transfer game – great for fine motor skills, hand eye coordination and just plain fun!

Pom-pom turn taking game – teach kids the art of patience while they wait to take their turn! Just like Kerplunk!

Pom-pom baby play– For the moms with toddlers (age 1+)

Pom-poms– 10 ways to have fun!

Pom-pom catapult– because this is fun at any age!

 

Why bother buying expensive toys when kids really will play with cardboard and tweezers?

 

 

Sharing is Caring:

Kids just wanna have fun!

If you were a child in the 1980’s your birthday party might look something like this: friends, cake, ice cream and the backyard. Or, if you were really lucky, you got a party at McDonald’s.

mcdonald's party

If you are a child in the 2000’s your birthday party might look something like this: A high society ball.

We do birthdays a little different. Instead of spending several hundred dollars on a single party, we take our kids on a family vacation. Instead of entertaining them with a 4-hour party we spend the week visiting museums, aquariums, swimming, hiking and making lifelong memories. But my kids do have a specific formula for a birthday: play time, cake, presents and goody bags. In that order.

This year we did not go away because we are saving for a bigger trip next year. But, to satisfy my kids’ birthday requirements, I had a cozy play-date with cupcakes with an under the sea theme. We had a total of 10 kids and 8 adults the day of our party (down from 15 kids and 12 adults). Sadly, six kids cancelled due to ear infections and colds. A common hazard for winter parties: sick kids and snow days.

Our total budget for the party including food, cake, new birthday outfits and presents was just around $170. Here’s what it looked like:

Twin tanks with subtle embellishments.
Twin tanks with subtle embellishments.

I made these adorable shirts by simply ironing on little octopus embellishments to a tank top we already own. Paired with a 5-layer tutu and leggings, we have a complete ensemble for $15.00 each kid. Total for outfits = $30.00

After a little search on Pintrest I found I can make seaweed out of crepe paper. What? It was really easy! Just tape and twist two different colors of crepe paper together- done! I used less than 2 rolls for all our decorating. I used colorful paper plates as coral, and cut out fish shapes from glittery scrapbook paper.

Our dining room under the sea.

Next I hung a fishnet that I found for only $3.00 at the local party store. I added seashells, pictures of my kids and little fish embellishments I found at the dollar store.

Bday celebration 2014 003
Scrap book embellishments are a perfect addition to our fishnet.
Jelly fish/sea creatures.
Jelly fish/sea creatures.

I took a little help from the party store and purchased pre-made tissue paper pom-poms. (I have attempted to make on my own and they do not look the same). I used crepe paper to look like tentacles. I hung these throughout the play room to look like sea creatures under the sea.

Total for decorations = $23.00

For activities we had a pinata (at my daughters’ request), an under the sea mystery box filled with shells we collected at our last beach outing, and the toys in our play room (totally free by the way).

I left the goody bags empty so the kids could fill them with the loot from the treasure chest. Instead of filling up the box with bags and candy, we chose fake jeweled rings, compass rings, under the sea creatures, necklaces and (chocolate) gold coins. It’s more like pirate booty and less sugar for the kids.

2014 birthday age 4 016
Pirate booty.

Making our loot bags was super easy thanks to Michael’s. I simply picked up a pack of plain white paper bags for $5.00 and attached some beach themed scrap book stickers. These adorable 3-D sea shell stickers were on clearance. I tied a pretty ocean blue ribbon on the top and done!

177
Materials for DIY goody bags.

 

180
Our finished goody bags.

 

The mystery box contained sea shells and beach rocks we collected during our visit to the beach. We added  “sea urchins” (little spiky rubber balls) and a few plastic sea creatures. Believe it or not, we already had those items on hand. The only cost for this is the wrapping paper ($1.00 at Target).

Under the sea mystery box.
Under the sea mystery box.

I even made a space for an under the sea photo op!

2014 birthday age 4 014
Under the Sea photo booth.

Total for activities = $45

I went really simple with the food: cheese cubes and grapes on skewers to look like coral, fish shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade shells and cheese, fish and chips (Goldfish crackers and potato chips) seaweed salad and sausage and peppers (I couldn’t find a clever name for that).  Drinks for kids were juice boxes and for parents beer, wine and seltzer. Easy! Total food & beverages = $60.00

Our total for gifts = $10.00. I know you’re thinking, “What kind of cheapskate parents spend only $10 on birthday presents?” We bought only a handful of small gifts for the kids to open at the party. Their big gift from mommy and daddy was a ride on the polar express. (Purchased months in advance- not part of the party budget).

Since the girls’ birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas we often ask guests to bring a canned good for us to take to the food pantry. This year we collected gently-used coats and warm winter clothes for children in our local foster homes. I was completely taken aback by everyone’s generosity! I hope this is one birthday tradition my kids will continue throughout life- giving back on their birthday.

2014 birthday age 4 025
Collecting donations at a birthday party is a super easy way to give back!

 

 

After the party dust settled, the girls and I recycled some of the party decorations into thank you cards for our guests. I gave the kids some dot paints and paper, then we embellished them with the little decorations from our fish net.

Bday celebration 2014 004
Hand crafted and personalized thank you notes.

 

The party was relaxed, the kids had fun and the moms even got a chance to sit down with a glass of wine and finish a few sentences. We didn’t break the bank for the kids to celebrate and get together with friends. I’d say that’s a formula for a successful party!

 

 

Sharing is Caring:

My Top 5 Facebook Shares of The Week

Happy Friday All!!

This week is all about getting organized and saving money. Here are my Top 5 favorite Facebook shares of the week!

Follow The Whatever Mom Facebook page to see all the fun things I share. Be sure to check off “receive notifications” so my posts show up in your news feed each day!

This  weeks blog post about my messy little secret! There’s a bonus kid craft in there too.

0108150817~2

 

TOP 5 FACEBOOK SHARES OF THE WEEK:

1. A kid friendly responsibility chart and money management system from www.moderparentsmessykids.com

2. 5 FREE printable chore charts from www.moneysavingmom.com.

3. Printable chore charts for spouses from www.thriftylittlemom.com

4. Creative game board storage from www.achievingcreativeorder.com

5. Crafty book storage ideas from www.iheartorganizing.blogspot.com

 

 

Sharing is Caring:

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

Simmer down now, this is a family show!

I don’t know about you but I am filled with a great determination to get organized this year! (Maybe it is just coincidence that about 1.2 million other people have this same urge?). Now that my twins are 4 I feel like I am finally coming out of survival mode. I’ve taken a look around the house and wow is it a mess! Well, not that anyone would actually see it as a mess because like everyone else I keep it all hidden in the closets! *wink*

I was hesitant to write about the dirty little secrets I keep behind closed doors. I mean who really cares about MY messes right? Well, we’re all friends here so I think it’s OK to let you take a peek. It will be like the Whatever philosophy expressed in pictures. Alright, only two pictures. I know we’re friends, but let’s not over share.

I was ridiculously overjoyed when I found these little beauties at Sam’s Club:

0106151051
The best way to my heart is through organization supplies.

 

Yes, that IS twelve clear-plastic, empty shoe boxes for just $9.94! (I admit I have a strange addiction to storage totes and office supplies). But, where to use them? Hmmm…

How about that crazy bathroom closet I CAN NOT keep tidy?! Here we go! My bathroom closet stores all our extra supplies, the kids bath stuff, my hubby’s stuff and just a bunch of stuff. It looks like this:

0106151052
Whatever pic #1- open door and drop stuff where ever. Just don’t look back.

 

Every morning I go rummaging around for my deodorant at the bottom of one of these cute baskets I employ to keep me organized. It’s always the wrong basket and I always drop something. No more!

 

0106151150
Whatever pic #2- this is what works for me!

 

Let there be boxes!!! Glorious see through boxes!! (I won’t tell you how many boxes are just for my products alone). Now when I do my hair I can pull out just the supplies I need without having to rummage around and carry them in my arms. I can have all my make up next to me at once instead of pulling out three different bags. Now to find pretty labels.

 ~ ~ FAMILY SHOW PORTION ~ ~ 

I did say this is a family show, so here is how I plan to bring the kiddos in on helping me keep things tidy.

Neither of my girls will stick to a chore chart. I think the longest one has lasted is three days. BUT! They are amazing helpers. Most often I cannot finish a task alone because one of my littles will ask to help. Sometimes I just want to finish MY OWN task (like tearing apart a closet). That’s where these helping hands come in!

0108150817~2

I have a love/hate relationship with stickers (as in I hate peeling them off the floor). I was happy when the girls let the sticker charts go. NOTE: If you notice a chair or rug that seems out of place in our  house, it is probably there to cover a stubborn sticker that refused to be removed. (Cue my new strange addition: Goo Gone).

Here’s how Helping Hands work:

Trace your child’s hand on a colorful piece of paper. Allow your child to decorate with (cringe) stickers, or jewels, or just color with a crayon.

Allow child to trace their own hands and decorate!
Allow child to trace their own hands and decorate!

Write a chore or helpful task on a Popsicle/craft stick.

Write out chores or helpful tasks.
Write out chores or helpful tasks.

Glue the decorated hands to the sticks and allow to dry.

Kids can pull out a helpful hand when needed.
Kids can pull out a helpful hand when needed.

Display upright in a pretty vase or jar, or you can stack them in a … clear plastic storage box? [har har]

When my kids want to help, but I need space to do what I need to get done, I ask them, “you know what would really be helpful? Can you pull out a helping hand?” Maybe my kids are weird (Hello apple? Meet tree.), but they really love a good task!

 

Now, it’s your turn to share a pic of that secret cluttered mess!

 

Sharing is Caring:

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)