Merry Christmas!

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Ah Christmas.  We’ve made it!

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

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

 

 

Polar Express Party

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

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

Um…sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Linking to:  Home Matters Party, Wow Me Wednesday,

Do I really want to simplify this holiday season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

But.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So my take-away from this week?

Sometimes putting in the extra effort is totally worth it.

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

and

Don’t be afraid to say yes.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Elf Antics – 24 Days of Elf on the Shelf Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Day 1 – Sure enough, Tinsel and Twinkle arrived at our house on schedule bringing with them Lego advent calendars for the kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 8 – Perler bead creations

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

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

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

Day 12:  packed the kids’ lunchboxes

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

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

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

 Day 16:  crepe paper Christmas tree

Day 17:  time for a Nerf dart war

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

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

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Day 20:  We got home late last night and the kids forgot to open their Advent treat box before bed so the Elves did it for them.  Lucky for the kids, the elves didn’t get as far as opening any of the chocolate!

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

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

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

Day 24: elf zip line!  And of course they also wrote up a farewell letter because Santa picks them up on Christmas Eve while he is making deliveries.

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

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

Linking to:  Wow Me Wednesday,

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,