The Best Place To See Santa This Season

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This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

Seeing Santa is a yearly holiday tradition that many families partake in. The first couple years of my boys’ lives I enjoyed taking them to see the jolly man in the red suit but then, as the years went on, it was one holiday task I started to dread. Seeing Santa meant standing in a long line, especially if you went on a weekend, and by the time you got to the front of the line the kids were always cranky. The folks at HGTV and Macerich saw this problem and came up with a better experience for families. This year I took my boys to Santa HQ and I can honestly say that I enjoyed the experience and now will actually look forward to this little ritual every holiday season.

Located inside Macerich Shopping Centers in California, Arizona, Chicago, Metro New York, and the Washington, D.C. corridor, Santa HQ is different than other places where you can see Santa. The biggest difference was that there was no line to wait in even though we went mid-day on a Saturday. They offer reservation times but also accept walkups (which is what we did). Guests can register online and select and pre-pay for their photo package which gives them the opportunity to upgrade their package by making their family photo session days or even weeks in advance. The online reservation systems even has an opt-in text functionality to provide reminders about their Santa photo session reservation.

The other big difference is that HGTV’s Santa HQ adds a whole new dimension to the traditional family Santa Claus visit by guiding visitors through an immersive, interactive holiday extravaganza that uses state-of-the-art digital technology. Each Santa HQ location is set with a dazzling array of holiday experiences, including:

  • The traditional photo-op with Santa Claus
  • Elfie Selfie: Where visitors take a selfie and star in their own holiday video
  • Elf-Ray Vision: Guests can explore Santa’s Observatory through the use of special goggles that trigger a series of augmented reality experiences at multiple locations throughout Santa HQ
  • Naughty or Nice Meters: Where visitors can stand next to an interactive board to find out which list of Santa’s they made
  • Light Show: With more than 10,000 individual holiday lights synchronized to the tune of “Carol of the Bells” to create an illuminated orchestra

My boys loved the Naughty or Nice O’Meter the most I think. It was funny to watch their faces as they waited to see if they were on the “naughty” or “nice” list. Luckily both of them made the nice list this year ;)

Once we enjoyed all of the interactive experiences we got to see Santa. The boys took a picture with him and then told him what they wanted for Christmas. Jacob asked for a video game and Lucas asked for LOL surprise balls.

At the end of their visit, Santa let them each pick out a coloring book and crayons. Overall we had an awesome experience at HGTV’s Santa HQ. It really is the best place to see Santa this holiday season!

Have your kids visited Santa yet this year?

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Christmas Crafting Fun And Homemade Ornaments

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Thanks to Tampico for sponsoring this post.

I love the holidays and one of the main reasons why is all of the extra family fun Christmastime brings. From cuddling on the couch while we watch Christmas movies to decorating our home for the holidays and having special drinks and treats. Tampico is a staple in our fridge, and during the winter months we love the Apple Punch flavor. It’s so festive!  Many of my most cherished memories are made during the month of December. Another tradition we have each year is making holiday crafts. Ornaments are my favorite craft to make with my boys because I love pulling them out of the box each year when we decorate our Christmas tree.

Our tree is loaded with ornaments, from apple ornaments gifted to me when I was a teacher to our yearly family personalized dough ornaments to ornaments I was given as a child. The homemade ornaments stand out most of all though. There are colorful painted ornaments, jingle bells formed into candy cane shapes, and pictures of my children’s faces surrounded by carefully placed sequins. It’s fun to look back on the ornaments my boys have made in past years.

This past weekend I gathered everything we’d need to make ornaments. I found some tree shapes and round ornament shapes to decorate along with sparkly pompoms, sequins, red and green colored letters and holiday glitter glue. To get us in the holiday mood I also found some holiday cups with red straws and Christmas napkins and set out a snack of holiday cookies and of course our favorite Tampico Apple Punch! The perfect set-up to keep any family fueled for the crafting session.

Once I got everything set up, the boys got to work making their ornaments. Lucas went with the “a lot is good but more is better” approach and piled on the pom poms and glitter glue while Jacob was very particular and put each sequin on carefully. Years from now I’ll still remember whose ornament is whose because they decorated them according to their personalities as always.

The boys had a lot of fun making the ornaments. I really love this yearly tradition!

Does your family like to craft together during the holidays? If so, I’d love to hear what you make together in the comments below.

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Kinzie Hotel Brings The Holidays To Their Guests With The Holiday North Pole Express Package

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Disclosure: My family enjoyed a complimentary stay at the Kinzie Hotel but all thoughts are my own.

The holidays are here! It’s a magical time of year and Kinzie Hotel, located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, wants to help their guests celebrate the holidays when they are away from home. To embrace the spirit of the season, the boutique hotel is offering the new Holiday North Pole Express Package featuring the North Pole Sweet Express delivering treats to guest rooms, passes to ice skating at Millennium Park, festive activities and more.

Guests who order the Holiday North Pole Express Package will enjoy the North Pole Sweet Express, a festively decorated vintage bar cart with treats galore! The cart includes a hot cocoa station featuring marshmallows, peppermint, and other toppings, boozy hot apple cider and hot cocoa, holiday-themed cookies, and Christmas candies. (For those traveling with fur-family members, dog-friendly holiday cookies are also available upon request.)

After a long day, including an auto accident on our way to the city, the North Pole Sweet Express was just what we needed to get our weekend back on track! Though there are so many things to do in the city during the holidays, I was content to just curl up in the comfy bed and spend an evening relaxing with my mug of hot apple cider while I watched my favorite college football team play on tv….

Along with treats and drinks, the North Pole Sweet Express also had ornaments we could take and decorate in our room. Once done we could hang them on the community Christmas tree in the lobby of the hotel or take them home to hang on our own tree.

For guests who want to get out and explore Chicago’s festive atmosphere, Kinzie Hotel offers guests maps of the city’s top holiday activities and attractions along with skating passes to Millennium Park. (Hopefully you all would have a less comical experience on the ice than we did this past weekend, with my boys trying out ice skates for the first time lol).

Kinzie Hotel’s Holiday North Pole Express Package is truly a holiday experience guests will not forget and such a great option for those who are away from home over the holidays. In addition to all the great offerings of this special package, Kinzie Hotel guests enjoy the many other perks that guests do year-round including deluxe continental breakfast served on every floor, a nightly manager’s reception with complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and a staff that is there to make sure their guests enjoy nothing but the best their entire stay.

Best of all, prices for this fabulous boutique hotel are really affordable which makes it the perfect holiday getaway your family will talk about for years to come! Ready to book your stay? Make reservations here.

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New Christmas Books For 2017

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Disclosure: Samples were received for consideration and this post contains affiliate links.

Every November we get in the holiday mood by watching Christmas themed shows and movies and reading Christmas themed books. We have our old favorites that we pull out each holiday season, but each year new ones come out that we like to check out as well. Today I wanted to share some of the new book titles out for Christmas 2017. Some are for adults, some are for children and some books are something that both children and adults can enjoy together.

Picture Books

 

The Nutcracker in Harlem written by, T. E. McMorrow, illustrated by James Ransome

Ages 4 to 8

The whimsy and beauty of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic story THE NUCRACKER AND THE MOUSE KING has fascinated readers and audiences for more than two hundred years. The music of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet is forever linked to the story in our minds—but another kind of music sets the beat for this imaginative retelling. Set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, this jazz-inspired reinvention of THE NUTCRACKER is a worthy tribute to the dreamlike wonder and magic of the Christmas season.

Danny and the Dinosaur: A Very Dino Christmas written and illustrated by Syd Hoff

Ages 4 to 8

Danny’s friend the dinosaur has never experienced Christmas before, so he and Danny decide to celebrate—dino-style! But what will happen when the museum director isn’t so happy with the new museum decorations? Find out in this Danny and the Dinosaur 8×8 adventure, complete with holiday cards, a poster, and stickers! This brand-new story is based on Syd Hoff’s beloved classic.

 

Jingle Bells written and illustrated by Susan Jeffers

Ages 4 to 8 

Ride along through a magical winter wonderland with a girl, a boy, their horse, and a spirited dog! It’s a joyous adventure that could only end in one place: The North Pole. NEW YORK TIMES bestselling artist Susan Jeffers’s dazzling illustrations put a lively spin on the classic Christmas song: Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way . . .


Santa’s Moose written and illustrated by Syd Hoff

Ages 4 to 8 

“Soon Christmas will be here,” said Milton the moose. “I will help Santa pull his sleigh.” But Santa already has eight little reindeer. Will Santa let Milton help? Originally published in 1979, this reissued edition has full-color art.

Chapter Books For Kids & Tweens

Christmas Stories (Reillustrated Edition) written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Ji-Hyuk Kim

Ages 6 to 10 

For Laura Ingalls, Christmas means good things to eat, visits from friends and family, and special gifts to give and receive. And as Laura grows up, every Christmas is better than the one before!

The 12 Dares of Christa by Marissa Burt

Ages 8 to 12 

Christa is a holiday junkie. But thanks to her parent’s recent separation, Christa’s favorite time of year is now filled with heartache. And when her mom announces that she is taking her on a trip to Europe over winter vacation, Christa knows she should be excited. She just can’t imagine spending the yuletide season away from home-and without her dad. However, waiting at her hotel in Italy is a special package from her father: the first of twelve dares that take Christa to landmarks in three beautiful countries, and introduce her to people who will show her that hope is still alive in the strangest of places.


Adult Books 

Hope at Christmas: A Novel by Nancy Naigle

A heartwarming Christmas story that proves you can always go home again.

Sydney Ragsdale is looking for a fresh start far away from her controlling ex-husband and the self-doubt that has plagued her since the divorce. Returning to her childhood home in Hopewell, North Carolina is just what her soul needs. Praying some Christmas magic will follow her she moves with her daughter to a farmhouse that once belonged to her grandparents. While there Sydney finds solace working at The Book Bea, her favorite bookstore.

Single dad Kevin MacAlea, Mac to his friends, is the local high school history teacher and baseball coach. He is also the towns best kept secret—he has been playing Santa since his son was born twelve years ago. Mac loves the enchantment of the season and wants his son to share in his joy.

When a catastrophe forces The Book Bea to close before the end of the year, everyone in the small town is feeling the loss. While Sydney is already off-balance by the bad news, her ex-husband breaks a promise to their daughter that sends her running away and threatens the relationship that she has begun with Mac.

As Sydney and Mac try to figure out what their next steps are together they will soon discover that there’s always hope at Christmas.


 

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe written by Melissa de la Cruz

Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32-years-old and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

Miscellaneous Books

Mary Engelbreit’s Color Me Christmas Book of Postcards written and illustrated by Mary Engelbreit

With Mary Engelbreit’s COLOR ME CHRISTMAS BOOK OF POSTCARDS, fans can deck the halls, the tree, and their gifts with 10 postcards, 15 cut-out gift tags, and 10 cut-out ornaments—each printed in black and white and waiting for a personal touch of color! The NEW YORK TIMES bestselling queen of Christmas once again helps fans put a festive, original, and heartfelt touch on the holiday season.

 

Bear’s Merry Book of Hidden Things written and illustrated by Gergely Dudas

Bear has many secret treasures to find before his holiday party tonight, and he is only one very little bear! Can YOU help him get ready for the party? Bear loves Christmas, and this year he’s throwing the perfect holiday party for all his friends—a gang of woodland and winter animals almost as cute as he is. But there’s so much to do to get ready! From picking out gifts at the market, to finding the most magical tree decorations, to selecting delicious treats at the candy factory-every page turn reveals a new and utterly delightful sensory challenge. Readers of all ages will find this lush, charming illustrated wonderland irresistible—and irresistibly challenging! A perfect read for parents and children alike this holiday season.

The New York Times Home for the Holidays Crosswords: 200 Easy to Hard Puzzles by The New York Times, Will Shortz

Enjoy the holiday spirit with 200 easy to hard New York Times crossword puzzles in a cheerful Christmas-inspired package. The only thing better than being home for the holidays is relaxing with this merry compilation of New York Times crossword puzzles, which packs hours of solving into a large-size paperback with a fun, flashy cover.

What’s your favorite holiday book?

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Christmas Morning Traditions And An Easy Breakfast Casserole Recipe

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This post is written by me on behalf of Tyson Foods, Inc.. All opinions are entirely my own.

My favorite day of the year is Christmas Day. When I was a kid it was probably (mostly) because of the gifts but now, as an adult, it’s my favorite because of all of the uninterrupted time we have together as a family. The days leading up to Christmas may be chaotic with last minute wrapping, grocery shopping, holiday parties and everything else, but on Christmas Eve we start to slow down and then Christmas Day we really slow down.

Our day starts early with our boys, clad in matching Christmas jammies, coming in to wake us up. Daddy normally wants to snooze a bit but I sense their excitement so I hop out of bed to make sure everything, including my camera, is ready for the moment they come running out to see what special holiday surprises there are.

The boys head to the fireplace to see what Santa has brought them. They each get a gift or two from Santa and then a stocking full of candy, little trinkets and toiletries. After that they check to see if Santa ate his cookies and drank his milk and check our cat’s stockings to see what little toys Santa left for our fur babies.

After stockings, it’s time for breakfast. This is a tradition that my parents started when I was younger and I continue with my own kids. While my dad cooked a big family breakfast we’d get dressed for the day (and I’m pretty sure this was the one day a year that my three siblings and I got ready without having to be prodded to “hurry up”). Nowadays, we stay in our holiday pajamas all day but we do go and make ourselves a bit presentable for pictures while breakfast is cooking.

This tradition of breakfast before gifts is one of the most enjoyable parts of the day since we generally don’t get to sit down for family breakfasts. We have a variety of breakfast foods but the best part is the breakfast casserole that Sinisa makes. He usually prepares it the night before so it’s simple to pop in the oven Christmas morning. We are all about keeping it easy over here!

This year he is making a casserole with eggs, cheese, sausage, hash browns, peppers and onions. We made it for a quick dinner this past week, to test the recipe out, and the kids ate it, peppers and all. I’m sharing the recipe because if you are looking for an easy casserole idea for Christmas morning (or really any busy day this holiday season) this will be perfect!

Ingredients for the breakfast casserole:

  • 7 eggs whisked together
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese
  • One package of Jimmy Dean® Refrigerated Sausage
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped peppers and onions
  • 10 ounces of hash browns

Directions:

1) Cook the sausage according to the package. We like using the Jimmy Dean® Refrigerated Sausage because the fresh, high quality pork sausage is made with a unique savory blend of Jimmy Dean® signature seasonings which really gives the casserole a great flavor and keeps the ingredient list low. NOTE: You can cook the peppers and onions with the sausage if you’d like to or you can add them to the recipe raw.

2) Add ingredients into a large casserole dish, layering them. We put uncooked hash browns on the bottom, added a layer of sausage and vegetables next, then poured the eggs evenly over the casserole before sprinkling the top with a generous layer of shredded cheese.

3) At this point you can either put it in the fridge if you are making it the night before or you can stick it in the oven. We cooked our casserole (in a covered dish) for 35 minutes at 400 degrees. Keep in mind that oven times vary so you’ll want to temp it and make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

That’s it. So easy but so delicious! We had “breakfast for dinner” the other night and served this casserole with a side of fresh fruit and doughnuts for dessert.

On Christmas morning, after we enjoy our breakfast as a family, we open gifts. The boys play with their new toys while we sit in front of the fire together. We play some of their new games they received and just relax in the glow of the twinkling lights on our Christmas tree. It’s the perfect day.

Want to recreate this recipe? Find all the ingredients you need for this breakfast casserole at Meijer. Tyson® products, like the Jimmy Dean® Refrigerated Sausage, are perfect for all cooking occasions and all holiday season long. Remember that the holidays mean many moments and many meals to share so make sure to stock up on things that will help you create easy meals so you are spending less time in the kitchen and more time with your family.

How do you spend Christmas morning? I’d love to hear about your family’s holiday traditions and any delicious meals you make!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Holiday Coffee Bar With DIY Chocolate Stir Spoons

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HolidayFlavorsAreHere #CollectiveBias

It’s no secret that Starbucks® is my go-to coffee brand. Ever since my boys were tiny (when I was lucky to get a few hours of sleep each night) I needed a good (strong) coffee to get me through my day. Nowadays, I get a lot more sleep since my boys are in elementary school, but I still enjoy my daily cup of Starbucks® Coffee.

With the holidays quickly approaching I thought it would be fun to put together a coffee bar. I kept the decorations simple, going with a plaid tablecloth and red and wood accents. I love the “baby it’s cold outside” theme as well so I included a cute sign to encourage my guests to enjoy a warm cup of coffee.

Along with the Starbucks® Holiday Blend 60ct K-Cup® pods, I added a jar full of Lindt Chocolate Assorted Lindor Truffles and some little glass jars of add-ins including nutmeg, sugar and crushed peppermint pieces. I also made stir spoons out of the truffles because what is better than coffee and chocolate? The sweet, rich taste of Lindt Chocolate Lindor Truffles brings out the sweet maple flavor of Starbucks®  Holiday Blend Coffee.

(Hover over the image above to shop directly from it!)

The spoons were simple to make. I used 12 Lindt Chocolate Lindor Truffles (dark and milk chocolate varieties) and melted them over low heat until they were a liquid. I then poured the melted chocolate into a silicone mold and refrigerated them for 2 hours. After the chocolate hardened I gently released the chocolate spoons from the silicone mold and placed them in a wooden tray. (The 12 truffles made about 8 chocolate stir spoons.)

The last things you’ll want to add to your coffee bar are holiday mugs. I love big mugs and this one with the words “choose joy” is one of my favorites! Once your coffee bar is all set up you will *have* to test it out. Let the scent of coffee brewing fill your room as you sneak a truffle!

If you entertain often, I’m sure you know how fabulous buying in bulk is so you’ll be happy to know you can find both the Starbucks® Holiday Blend 60ct K-Cup® pods and the Lindt Chocolate Assorted Lindor Truffle Bag at your local Sam’s Club in the coffee and candy aisles. You can enjoy 50 bonus stars with purchase of any one qualifying Starbucks® packaged coffee or K-Cup® pods at Sam’s Club through 11/1/17-12/26/17.

How are you preparing for the holidays? Will you be discovering a new holiday combination as you set up a coffee bar for your guests to enjoy?

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DIY Favorite Memory Ornaments

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

One of my favorite things about the holidays is decorating our home for Christmas. Out of all the decorations that I own, none are more cherished than my personalized ornaments. Most of my personalized family ornaments are “dough” ornaments that I have gotten over the years, from my childhood and through my parenting journey. They all have our names and the year we received them. This year I wanted to try my hand at creating our own personalized ornaments but wanted to add some memories to the ornaments so every year when we pulled them out we would think about fun times we’d had over the years.

I’m loving rustic Christmas decor lately so I thought it would be fun to use round wood pieces to make some favorite memory ornaments for 2016. Originally I was going to get round wood pieces and drill a hole into them to make them into ornaments but I found pre-made wooden ornament packs in the woodworking section of my local craft store which made this DIY craft even easier. If you have a live tree you may even want to cut pieces off the bottom of your Christmas tree trunk (after the holidays) to make this craft. That would really make these ornaments special and personalized!

So other than your wooden circle pieces that have drilled holes towards the top you are going to need pretty ribbon and Sharpie markers. I chose to use the new Sharpie Extreme Permanent Markers because they are fade-resistant. There would be nothing more devastating than creating these special ornaments only to take them out of the decorations box years later to find the ink had faded and you couldn’t read the special memory that you’d written down! These new markers are also specially formulated for wood (along with plastic and glass) so I knew they’d be best for this project.

The first thing I had to do was switch out the twine for some festive ribbon. I got double sided ribbon that was polka dot on one side and striped on the other. I recommend using thin ribbon but if you have thicker ribbon, like I did, you can just roll it to get it through the hole in your wood. One it’s through, tie a knot in the ribbon so that you’ll be able to hang it on your Christmas tree. You’ll want to create one ornament for each person in your immediate family.

The last step is to write on the ornament. Using my green Sharpie Extreme Permanent Marker, I wrote everyone’s name and the year on one side of the ornament. I then asked my family members what their favorite memory from 2016 was and wrote that memory down on the opposite side. If you have younger children you might want to talk about some of the things you did throughout the year so you don’t end up with their favorite memory being what you did the day before because that’s all they can remember doing.

With this year being our first Disney trip I wasn’t surprised that both Jacob and Sinisa listed Disney as their favorite memory. Lucas thought back to one of our summer day trips at a local theme park and decided his favorite memory was when he rode roller coasters there. I had a lot of great memories this year but chose our Mackinac Island vacation, where I showed my family the place I’d loved visiting as a child, as my top memory.

I was so excited to put these ornaments on the tree and know that they are going to bring back wonderful memories every holiday season. I will be making these ornaments every year as our new family tradition.

What memories would you put on your ornaments?

 

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50+ Stocking Stuffer Ideas {Something For Everyone!}

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Disclosure: Some items were received for consideration but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

One of the last things “Santa” has to purchase every holiday season is stocking stuffers. “Santa” tries to limit the candy in the stockings and instead stuff it with small necessities and a few fun items. If you are still looking to fill your stockings I wanted to share some ideas of things you can put in them. This list has something for everyone from kids to teens to adults!

1) Nail polish and nail art - Espionage Cosmetics offers a line of cruelty free nail wraps in fun designs like the rose ones pictured above. They are easy to apply, do not require a heat gun, and when mastered it only takes 5 to 10 minutes to apply.

2) Socks

3) Deck of cards

4) Bath toy

5) Mini screwdriver

6) Keychain

7) Hair ties, bows or headbands

8) Gloves 9) Toothbrush – The kids love BrushBuddies! There’s a new Shopkins Brite Beatz one that plays the Shopkins theme song along to synchronized lights. Brite Beatz helps improve oral care making brushing fun for kids. Shopkins theme song will play for the dentist recommended two minutes. Shopkins Brite Beatz has fun characters on the handle and a comfortable grip for kids.

10) Gift card to their favorite restaurant

11) Chewing gum

12) Stickers

13) Small bottle of alcohol (21+)

14) Crayons

15) Body spray 16) Reusable bags – Urban Market bags are stylish, high quality, reusable shopping bags that are eco-friendly and completely washable. These bags are made from a lightweight nylon fabric with strong stitching that makes them extra durable and the ideal reusable tote bags that will last for years. Best of all, they are compact when not in use which make them ideal for stashing in your glove compartment box, your purse or anywhere else you may need to keep it.

17) Hot sauce

18) Makeup brushes

19) Money clip

20) Ornament

21) Gift card to a coffee shop

22) Stuffed animal – Bears for humanity is a great choice because for every stuffed animal purchased, another is given to a child in need. The bears are made using only certified organic materials by at-risk women in welfare-work programs right here in the US. They have a number of animal pals to choose from so you can find the perfect companion for the little one in your life!

23) Lip balm

24) Small notepad

25) Movie tickets

26) Jar candles

27) Comb or small brush

28) Luggage tag 

29) Headphones – Cozy Phones are awesome because not only are they headphones but they keep the head and ears warm at the same time. There are lycra, mesh lines ones for active people and also fun, fleece animal ones for kids.

30) Lotion

31) Coffee beans or K-Cups

32) Handmade soap

33) Things for their hobby- guitar picks, paintbrushes, soccer shin guards, etc

34) Makeup

35) Guides – You can purchase a guidebook that teaches a new language or skill but Deckopedia is cool because it makes guides in deck form. Fun ones include Mixology 101: The Art Of Crafting Cocktails and Natural Beauty Skincare, a collection of homemade beauty recipes.

36) Hand warmers

37) Bubble bath

38) Tie

39) Coffee Cozy

40) Hair gel or spray

41) Small games

42) Bubbles

43) Face masks – 7th Heaven makes a variety of single use masks that are available at Walmart. Their mud masks are enriched with nourishing active ingredients to deep cleanse, leaving skin fresh, clean and glowing. Peel off masks purify skin enabling all the natural goodness to nourish and pamper skin to perfection. Exfoliating masks deep cleanse and polish to remove stubborn surface blackheads and awaken dull skin and renew skin texture.

44) Tiny puzzle

45) Phone case

46) Scalp massager (I got these ones on Amazon for less than a $1 each!)

47) Pens and pencils

48) Selfie stick

49) Coins

50) USB charger – Ezisoul’s multi-port charger is the perfect travel charger because it let’s you charge 5 devices (phones and tablets) at once using only one charger. Engineered with Auto Detect Technology, this USB port charger lets you plug any device, Android and Apple, into any port and the smart charger will get exactly what it needs to charge the device rapidly and effectively.

I’d love to hear any other ideas you have!

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Our Family Christmas Pictures

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

Holiday photos of my family, both of me as a child growing up with my siblings and now of my own children, are some of my most cherished possessions. Looking at holiday photos makes me happy and I love being able to look back at how my family has changed and grown over the years.

While I get the kids pictures taken a couple times a year, we haven’t had a family portrait taken since Lucas was a baby. This year we decided it was time for another family photo so we headed to our local Portrait Innovations to get Christmas pictures taken. I wanted some of our family, some of Sinisa and I as a couple, some of the boys together and some of each of the kids individually. I loved that our photographer took into consideration what I wanted and made sure to get shots in different poses, and on a number of different backgrounds, so I’d have many choices to choose from. (As you can tell, I really loved their holiday background.)

Portrait Innovations specializes in giving customers a customized portrait studio experience with creative options for beautiful, professional portraits. Our photographer ended up taking close to 100 images during our photo shoot and I got to go through all of the images and pick my favorites. I loved that I didn’t feel rushed to go through the images and make my selections in a hurry as I have in the past at other studios. Another great thing about Portrait Innovations is that the packages are completely customizable so you aren’t stuck with a bunch of prints in random sizes that you’ll never use. You can also request edits, like cropping, on images to make sure all your images are perfect.

Want personalized gifts and keepsakes? Portrait Innovations makes it easy to create them while you are looking over your images in store or from the photo CD if you choose to purchase one. Photo gifts are perfect for holiday gift giving. I chose to create some ornaments and a canvas. I also got some photo Christmas cards to give out to my family.

Best of all, the prints were ready within 15 minutes of the order being placed. I like that I didn’t have to wait weeks for my prints. I am excited to get frames for our portraits and put all of our beautiful pictures up in our home! I also got the picture CD so I could share the images online and make more prints in the future if I want.

Do you still need to get your family’s holiday photos taken? This holiday season, preserve memorable moments in the best way with Portrait Innovations! They currently have a great deal going on now through December 11th. You can get a package with 42 holiday portraits for only $19.99 (Regularly $24.99), plus a free gift of your choice- either a mug or holiday ornament- (Regularly $25).  The Portrait Package includes 1-10×13 Wall Portrait, 2-8x10s, 4-5x7s, 4- 3x5s, 16-2x3s, plus, 5-5×7 Greeting Cards and 10 Gift Tags. There are never any sitting fees so this is a great deal! Find your closest Portrait Innovations here.

Do you get holiday photos taken every year?

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How To Get Your Bathroom Ready For Holiday Guests

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GetUnderTheRim #CollectiveBias 

The holidays are coming and, for many, that means entertaining friends and family. We started a new tradition last year of having family over on Christmas Eve so, being the Type A person that I am, I’ve already started planning for it. I generally have always decorated my home for Christmas before the holiday chaos begins anyways, but I’ve also started planning the menu we will have and deep cleaning our home. I also like to get ready for any overnight guests I may have, like my younger siblings who need a place to stay when they come to town.

One room on the list to tackle is the guest bathroom. Since we live in a small home, we only have two bathrooms and our “guest” bathroom is also the bathroom that everyone in our home uses. Living with three males I’m sure you can imagine the mess I have to deal with in there. Generally Sinisa cleans the bathroom but when we are going to have guests over I like to clean it so I know everything is completely clean.

When getting the bathroom ready for guests I have a three step process. The first thing I have to do is clear the clutter. Even though the bathroom has plenty of storage, there always seem to be things left on the counter that don’t belong there.

Once the bathroom is picked up it’s time for some deep cleaning. I take down the shower curtain and put that, along with the bath rugs, in the washer. I then clean the sink and counter and shine the faucet. I scrub the tub, wipe down the walls and mirror and then move on to my least favorite part of cleaning the bathroom- the toilet.

After I clean the outside of the toilet I have to tackle the inside of it. Thankfully I’ve discovered the perfect tool for the job. The new Scotch-Brite® Disposable Toilet Scrubber is uniquely designed to reach messes under the rim that competing products miss. It also has a built-in bleach alternative cleaner with pumice that scrubs away rust & hard water stains. When I’m done cleaning the toilet I simply press the button on the handle to dispose of the scrubber and then set the handle into the holder until the next time I need it.

Once my toilet bowl is sparkly clean, I sweep and mop the floor, take out the trash, wipe down the trash can, hang the shower curtain up, put the rugs back on the floor, fill the soap dispenser and stock the toilet paper. I also make sure I have clean towels ready for our guests.

It’s then time for the fun part- decorating! Our guest bathroom has red walls so the room is already festive to begin with. I chose to add some cream, green and gold accents to the room.

I wanted to do something special for overnight guests and set out some toiletries for them in case they’d forgotten anything they needed. I had a glass hurricane to use for this project but you can use a large jar or any glass canister you have. The only other thing you’ll need to make the container is letter stickers. I used some gold ones since they would coordinate with my holiday decor but also look nice in the bathroom throughout the year.

I used the letter stickers to spell out “be our guest” on the glass. (To make sure the letters were being put on the glass in a straight line, I used a piece of paper edge to make myself a line to follow.) I then filled the glass hurricane with travel sized toiletries I had collected while traveling including shampoo, conditioner, lotion and soap. I travel often so I have tons of hotel toiletries but you could also buy travel sized toiletries at Target to fill your container.

Speaking of Target, that’s where I bought the Scotch-Brite Disposable Toilet Scrubber and Scotch-Brite® Disposable Toilet Scrubber Refills (along with a number of holiday decorations and some cute holiday pjs!). I found them in the cleaning aisle with the toilet brushes, in between the trash cans and the sponges. Right now there are some great deals on these products at Target. Look for a “Try Me Now!” Instant Redeemable Coupon on each product to save $2. There is also a Cartwheel offer to save 15% off these new products (11/6-11/12).

Now I’m ready for the holidays and for my guests! Want to see how other bloggers are getting ready for the holidays? Check out their posts here. How do you prepare your home for holiday visitors?

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More Time To Make Memories

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(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.)

Food is a big part of the holidays and usually what I’m still needing to shop for the couple days before Christmas. Creating delicious meals and party favorites brings joy to many but unfortunately, shopping and preparing foods during the holidays can get hectic and add more stress to an already busy season. I love grocery shopping and sometimes lose myself while walking down the aisles looking for ideas and foods to inspire me but sometimes that leads to me spending too much time in stores which is not something I have an abundance of this time of year.

For over a decade I have enjoyed shopping at Sam’s Club to save time and money around the holidays. I can find a great variety of quality foods and save even more time this year with their new Club Pickup. Their Club Pickup is a free, “personal shopper” service that is focused on making shopping more convenient for members. Club Pickup provides an easy and quick pickup option through seamless ordering online at SamsClub.com from any computer or mobile device. The service is available at all 653 Sam’s Club locations. I love how this is done. In this tech-savvy world we all use apps and online shopping so Club Pickup is something that is very simple to do. I can place the order on my phone while waiting for the kids in the car pick up lane at school. During very hectic times (like this week!) there is also an easy reorder feature as well which is a great tool that lets me order go-to items quickly by creating a list of my past purchases.

One thing about Christmas that rings true is the plentiful parties and meals. Fantastic desserts and treats and great recipes that bring smiles to all.  That is one of the biggest reasons I shop at Sam’s Club around the holidays. I can stock up on all kinds of party favorites and new side dishes that also guarantee I will have leftovers (which is one of my favorite things about hosting).

This year we tried some new side dishes like sweet potatoes with pecan butter and marshmallows. We also bought the staples like scalloped potatoes. Sam’s Club has something for everyone.

The 200% satisfaction guarantee on high-quality produce, meat and baked goods is the number one reason I keep going back and why I am always eager to try new offerings at Sams club.

We also purchased Holiday decor from Sam’s Club including Christmas plates and a festive, fresh wreath for the front door. Being able to check one thing off the to-do list without leaving the couch gives me more time to make memories with my kids.

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What Matters Most During The Holidays

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I have received information about the TYLENOL® For What Matters Most™ campaign from McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post.

The best part about the holidays is all the quality family time and traditions it brings. I can still remember Christmas mornings growing up. As a kid I loved the gifts but I loved our family Christmas morning ritual even more.

We’d start by waiting at the top of the steps for everyone to wake. Once we woke our parents up we’d race downstairs (in our pajamas) to dump out our stockings to see what Santa brought. This was followed by a big homemade breakfast that my dad made. We’d get dressed while he cooked and then enjoy eating together while we talked.

After breakfast we’d sort the presents into piles by the number written on them, since my mom never labeled them by name, all the while guessing which number we were and which numbers our siblings were. When all presents were sorted we’d open our cards that revealed what number we were that year and those are the presents we’d open. After everything was unwrapped we’d spend the rest of the morning opening packages, eating popcorn, listening to Christmas music and spending time together.

Since my {step}mom has passed away, keeping those traditions are even more important to me now and I try to keep my favorite ones going with my boys. When it comes to Christmas morning I want to give them those same magical memories my parents gave me. This means special Christmas pajamas, no opening presents until after breakfast and a tin of popcorn to share. I’ve also started incorporating new traditions such as the Christmas Pickle, the one gift from Santa being unwrapped, and appetizers to snack on the whole day (or two!) we spend at home with nowhere to go.

I hope my children will look back on Christmas mornings with joy and happiness. I like to think how they will continue our traditions when they get older and have their own kids. While I enjoy our traditions, and plan to continue them, the best part is really just spending time together.

I think no matter the dynamic or makeup of a person’s family we can all agree that family matters most. To celebrate the holidays this year, the makers of TYLENOL® created the ‘For What Matters Most™’ campaign and decided to put a modern spin on Norman Rockwell’s classic holiday painting Freedom From Want, to help illustrate how modern families come together to celebrate what matters most during the holidays.

I encourage you to visit the TYLENOL® website and also to pin the below picture or another picture that depicts your family spending time together during the holidays.

My family values time together, traditions and Faith. What special things does your family value?

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My Festive Kitchen {Target Gift Card Giveaway}

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Target is my favorite store so I’m excited to be working with them on this sponsored holiday post and giveaway.

I can never seem to get out of Target without a cart full of goodies, so when I saw the holiday kitchen and entertaining aisles I knew I was in trouble. This is our first Christmas in our new home so it was the perfect time to add some seasonal items to our kitchen. Everything was so adorable and many of the things would be perfect for making my home festive while entertaining family and friends this month.

One thing my family likes to do is get together to decorate cookies. We bake sugar cookies and then let the kids decorate them however they’d like to with frosting, candies and sprinkles. Normally the toppings are in plain bowls but I love these Threshold stoneware bowls. Though they are red and white I can use them year round since they aren’t too Christmasy.

We also like to make peanut butter kiss cookies. The kids unwrap the hershey kisses for me. It’s their favorite job because they get to sneak a few candies while mommy isn’t looking. Target has lots of cookie plates. I picked up a couple along with a cookie jar since we always have dozens of Christmas cookies during the holidays.

Another thing I made for holiday guests this year is a mini hot cocoa bar. I put hot cocoa mix in a big glass jar, marshmallows in a mason jar, and then set mugs out. I used a large gift tag and red ribbon to add a little holiday cheer to the setup.

I love how much more festive my kitchen looks now! I think it is so welcoming and I can’t wait for family to come on Christmas day to celebrate with presents, cookies and mugs of hot cocoa!

How can Target help you celebrate the holidays? Tell me what you pick up from my favorite store to make your Christmas, Chanukah or New Years celebrations brighter for a chance to win a gift card!

One reader who comments with their answer below will win a $75 Target gift card. You can earn an extra entry for sharing this post on social media (just leave a second comment with the link).

This giveaway ends December 31, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident and 21 or older to win.

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The Christmas Pickle Tradition

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(Disclosure: We received a gift set in exchange for writing this post but all thoughts are my own.)

The Christmas Pickle Tradition is a wonderful holiday story that reminds us all about the true spirit of Christmas.  Follow the journey of Pickle Elf as he learns the magic of giving, and inspires Santa to begin this wonderful Christmas tradition.

Want to join in the fun this holiday? It’s easy!

Leave the pickle ornament by the milk and cookies for Santa to hang on your Christmas tree. In the morning watch your loved ones, big and small, search for the pickle. The first one to find it will receive an extra present from St. Nick! This is our first year doing the tradition and we can’t wait to see where Santa hides it on Christmas morning!

The beautiful gift set comes with a glistening pickle ornament, annual pickle finder and the beautiful Christmas Pickle Tradition book in a ready-to-gift box. If you’d like to start this tradition this year it’s not too late! You have until December 20th to ensure Christmas delivery and the shipping is free. Purchase this gift set here.

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Stocking Stuffer Ideas: PEEPS {Now Minion Approved!}

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Some of you may remember how I worked with PEEPS® last year and created a recipe for Chocolate Candy Cane Cake Pops with the PEEPS® Chocolate Dipped Candy Cane Flavored Chicks for their 24 Days of Peepsonality Advent Calendar. I had so much fun and am excited to be working with them again this year!

This year PEEPS® has teamed up with the producers of the “Despicable Me” movie series for a holiday treat you just can’t miss! Minions, those fun-loving, mischievous characters, have taken over nearly the entire PEEPS® Holiday collection for 2014 in their role as the official PEEPS® Taste Testers.

With new shapes and flavors like the PEEPS® Marshmallow Minions and iconic PEEPS® Chicks, the festive marshmallow treat are a perfect stocking stuffer for all ages. We received an assortment of flavors and my boys, my niece and my nephew enjoyed trying them.

 PEEPS® holiday offerings include:
  • NEW PEEPS® Marshmallow Minions (6ct)
  • NEW PEEPS® Hot Cocoa & Cream Flavored Marshmallow Dipped Chicks in White Fudge (3 ct)
  • NEW PEEPS® Candy Cane Flavored Marshmallow Chicks (10 ct)
  • NEW PEEPS® Large Marshmallow Snowmen (1 ct and 3 ct)
  • PEEPS® Milk Chocolate Dipped Sugar Cookie Flavored Chicks (3 ct)
  • PEEPS® Gingerbread-Flavored Marshmallow Gingerbread Men (6 ct and 3 ct)
  • PEEPS® Chocolate Dipped Candy Cane Flavored Chicks (3 ct)
  • PEEPS® Milk Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Mint Flavored Trees (individually wrapped)
  • PEEPS® Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow Reindeer (6 ct)
  • PEEPS® Marshmallow Trees (3 and 9 ct)
  • PEEPS® Marshmallow Snowmen (3 and 9 ct)
  • PEEPS® Holiday Rainbow POP (4 ct)

Which ones will you add to stockings this year?

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My Favorite Christmas Traditions At Home

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(Disclosure: This post was inspired by a special moment I had with Lucas while eating free popcorn from The Popcorn Factory.)

I am a big fan of traditions. As a mom, there are some traditions that I insist on keeping from my childhood and then others that I have started since having children. I wanted to share some of my favorite ways we celebrate Christmas and the whole holiday season in our home.

Decorating the tree with special ornaments – The tree we use may change but one thing that will always stay the same is the type of ornaments that are on it. I love handmade ornaments made with love by my kids and proudly display them. These ornaments mean the most to me and I love seeing how my children have grown from year to year. I also love dough ornaments that feature our names on them. We had a new one of these every year I was growing up and I think they are so special to have.

Baking cookies - Some years we bake a lot and some we only back a couple types of cookies but this is always a fun time. My favorite cookies to bake during the season are peanut butter balls (which are basically crunchy peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate), peanut butter “kiss” cookies, and sugar cookies. The sugar cookies my mom used to make are my favorite. The dough is rolled into a log, the log rolled in sprinkles, and then the cookies sliced and baked. They were soft and buttery with just the perfect amount of sprinkles.

Eating popcorn in front of the fire - Lucas and I were doing this last night and that’s what inspired this whole post! The Popcorn Factory sent us a big tub of popcorn and as Lucas and I were eating the delicious treat I thought back on how this was a tradition I loved as a kid. We’d always get a popcorn tin (sometimes more than one of them!) filled with 3 or 4 types of popcorn. My favorites are the cheese and caramel. Yum! We don’t have a fireplace in our current home but I’ve found that the “fireplace” app on my computer works perfectly. Turn some holiday music on and you have the perfect way to relax with your family! (BTW- If you want to order from The Popcorn Factory make sure to select ”overnight shipping” if you order Sunday or Monday in order for it to arrive on Tuesday in time for Christmas.)

Christmas Eve - Before we go to bed Christmas Eve we get in our Christmas pajamas, sprinkle “Reindeer Food” outside, leave cookies and milk for Santa, and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. We then tell the kids they need to go right to sleep so Santa can come ;)

Christmas morning – This is the silliest thing but I am very particular about the order of Christmas morning festivities. We come down (still in our pajamas!) to see what Santa left us in our stockings and the one gift he left us, we eat a special Christmas breakfast and then we can open gifts. Not sure how that tradition will work in the future but as of now the kids are still okay with doing it that way :)

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

 

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Free Printable Holiday Gift Tags

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Check out the newest printable that Paper Coterie is offering on their blog! These cute holiday gift tags come just in time for all the gifts I’m going to be wrapping this next week. Find the link to download and print the tags here. Enjoy!

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VeggieTales Christmas Printable Crafts

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(Disclosure: I am a VeggieTales Mom Blogger and received a copy of their newest movie. All thoughts are my own.)

When it comes to kid’s movies, some of our favorites are from VeggieTales. I love the positive messages that the movies share and the characters are so lovable. VeggieTales newest movie, Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas, does not dissapoint. Check out the trailer for the movie:

The movie is about Larry The Cucumber and reminds people of the true meaning of Christmas. Larry is a Christmas elf at the Spring Valley Mall who just wants to spread joy at the holidays. When he meets a little girl with a big heart whose only Christmas wish is to help a friend in need, “Merry Larry” sets off on adventure that will light up the holidays like never before and show the town of Spring Valley what Christmas is all about – “Christmas shines most bright and true when you give the love God gave to you!”

To go along with the movie here is a fun craft you can make with your kids. Just print, color, cut, and hang!

Here’s another fun craft! Print out the page and have your child press their finger on an ink pad and use the fingerprint to make the lights part of the Christmas lights.

Have a very Veggie Christmas!

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Top 10 Stocking Stuffer Ideas For Preschoolers

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I’m  excited to be joining in with a great group of bloggers for a special Top Ten Holiday Gift Ideas series. Please join us as we share our favorite books, games, building toys, pretend play toys, and stocking stuffers! Each participating blog will create their own unique list each week for each of the categories so be sure to stop by each of the links at the bottom of this post.

Here are 10 of my favorite stocking stuffer ideas that are not edible:

Art Supplies: crayons, markers, collage materials, little pads of paper, stamps and ink pads, stickers, playdough, art smock

Toiletries: mini bubble bath bottles, fun character toothbrushes, mini tubes of toothpaste

Vehicles: trains, cars, small planes, construction vehicles

Wearable Items: socks, hats, underwear, jewelry, gloves, dress up clothes

Figures: tiny dolls, Super Hero Squad super heroes, small princesses, dinosaurs, farm animals, characters from movies or TV shows

Games: Go Fish card game, character dominoes, Fruitominoes, game for electronic system

Musical Instruments: harmonica, recorder, triangle

Building Toys: lego bricks, wooden blocks, magnetic block sets

Books: any soft cover books that interest your kids, coloring books

Bath Fun: bath toys, bath crayons, bath squirters

Find more great gift ideas in these posts:

Stocking Stuffers for All Ages {Top Ten Holiday Lists} from Something 2 Offer

Top 10 Stocking Stuffers for Boys Ages 3+ from Stir the Wonder

Stocking & Stuffer Ideas for Kids from Powerful Mothering

Top 10 Stocking Stuffers for Preschoolers from Makeovers & Motherhood

Top 10 Stocking Stuffers for Preschoolers from P is for Preschooler

Inexpensive Stocking Stuffers for Preschoolers from Little Bins for Little Hands

DIY Stocking Stuffers Ideas from Creative World of Varya

 

 

 

 

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15 Christmas Themed Sensory Activities For Kids

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We have one more week of school before the boys are out for Christmas break. Both boys get Occupational Therapy in school to help regulate their bodies so if I don’t have any sort of sensory activities planned for their two weeks off things will be really crazy at our house.

Here are 15 of my favorite Christmas themed sensory activities that I’ve found online. Click on the links to get all of the details so you can recreate the activities yourself!

Christmas Sensory Bin from Sow Sprout Play

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Messy Christmas Sensory Play: Demolish A Snowman from Fun At Home With Kids

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Peppermint Scented Homemade Finger Paints from Golden Reflections Blog

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Jolly Jello Sensory Activity from Growing A Jeweled Rose

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Hot Cocoa Sensory Tub

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Christmas Present Pasta Dig from Bath Activities For Kids

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Christmas Slime from Craftulate

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Ten Scents of Christmas Sensory Cards from A Little Learning For Two

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Fingerprint Wreath from 3 Dinosaurs

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Christmas Colored Gel Sensory Bags from The Preschool Toolbox

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Christmas Sensory Bin from Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

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 Candy Cane Foam

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Christmas Sensory Table

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Christmas I Spy Bottle from Play and Learn With Dana

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DIY Holiday Touch & Feel Box from B-Inspired Mama

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12 Christmas Tree Crafts & Activities For Kids

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The holiday season is finally here! I’m so excited to share some great Christmas crafts and activities with you all in the next month. Today’s post has 12 Christmas tree crafts, activities, and even a snack for kids. Enjoy!

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Footprint Tree Craft from The Preschool Toolbox

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Christmas Tree Of Hearts from Blog Me Mom

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Christmas Tree Sensory Bin from How Wee Learn

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Drinking Straw Christmas Tree from Reading Confetti

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Sticky Wall Christmas Tree Decorating from Gift Of Curiosity

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Recycle Crafts Christmas Tree from Teach Me Mommy

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Upcycled Christmas Trees from Hands On As We Grow

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Christmas Tree Playdough from Homegrown Friends

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Felt Pompoms Christmas Tree from Glittering Muffins

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Christmas Tree Hat from Green Owl Art

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Decorating Felt Christmas Trees from Buggy & Buddy

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Christmas Tree Crafty Snack from Kiddie Foodies

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Gift Guide Is Live! 100+ Gift Ideas

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I am so excited to share that Making Time For Mommy’s 2013 Christmas Gift Guide is live!! Over 100 different gift ideas are featured and more are being added daily. There is something for everyone which makes shopping for Christmas gifts so much easier. Check back often for more ideas and some great giveaways that will be coming in the next month!

Also, if you have a young child and celebrate Advent make sure to check out my post about the Truth in The Tinsel Advent ebook for little kids. Use code “MAKINGTIME” for 20% off the ebook. Hurry because Advent starts on Sunday!

Hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend, find some great deals and spend lots of quality time with the people you love.

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Very Berry Christmas Tree DIY Centerpiece

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This Very Berry Christmas Tree craft would make the perfect centerpiece at your holiday table!

Items needed:

  • one floral foam or green Styrofoam cone measuring 4-5 inches in diameter at the base and 12 inches high
  • one box of toothpicks
  • Four 1-kb containers of fresh Driscoll strawberries
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 slice from a carambola fruit (also known as star fruit) OR slice of melon cut w/ start cookie cutter

Directions:

  • Wash the strawberries and blot them dry with paper towels. Pull off the green stem from each strawberry. Reserve a perfect strawberry for the top of the ‘tree’.
  • Push a toothpick halfway into the side of the cone, about 1/2 inch from the bottom edge. Secure a strawberry to the toothpick, piercing it through the stem end. Secure another strawberry right next to the first one. Continue securing strawberries to the cone in circular rows up to its top, covering the cone completely. Secure the reserved strawberry to the top of the tree.
  • Remove some mint leaves from the bunch of mint and tuck them between the berries, placing them at about 3-inch intervals.
  • Secure the star-shaped carambola or mango slice to the top of the cone using a toothpick.

Image and directions for this craft courtesy of Driscoll’s.

 

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Chocolate Candy Cane Cake Pops With PEEPS {Recipe}

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I was so excited when Peeps reached out to me to participate in their online advent calendar and asked me to create a recipe using PEEPS from their holiday line. I love that PEEPS have expanded past their status as an Easter treat and was excited to bake with them. PEEPS sent me their Candy Cane flavored PEEPS that were dipped in chocolate. I decided to make cake pops with them and love how they turned out!

Here’s the recipe to make these Chocolate Candy Cane flavored cake pops!

Yield: 30 Cake Pops

Materials needed:

  • 1 box of chocolate cake mix and any ingredients required (water, eggs, oil, etc)
  • 2 bags of candy melts
  • 6 PEEPS
  • container of chocolate frosting
  • lollipop sticks
  • candy canes or sprinkles (optional)
  • Piece of styrofoam

Directions:

  • Prepare cake mix according to box directions and let cool
  • Once cool use your hands to crumble cake into bowl
  • Cut 6 PEEPS into small pieces
  • Add PEEPS pieces and container of frosting to crumbled cake and stir together
  • Roll dough into 1 inch balls
  • Melt about 15 candy melts and dip one end of lollipop sticks in frosting and then push into cake balls
  • Place balls in freezer for 30 minutes to one hour to harden
  • Melt ½ of the candy melts in a bowl and dip cake pops using the stick as a handle.
  • When done with each cake pop stick the opposite end of the stick in the Styrofoam so that candy melt coating can harden. At this point add sprinkles or crushed candy cane if desired.
  • Melt more candy melts as needed.

If you enjoyed this recipe make sure to follow along in December when PEEPS features 24 recipes (including mine) on their Facebook page. To find more PEEPS recipes, crafts and other fun holiday ideas visit www.Facebook.com/PeepsBrand/adventcalendar.

(Disclosure: As stated above, I recieved PEEPS to use in my recipe.)

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Truth In The Tinsel: Advent Ebook For Little Kids

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(Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.)

Spend December impressing God’s Word on your kids’ heart! You’ll get 24 days of Scripture reading, ornament crafts, talking points and extension activities. Plus fun printables and templates!

This is the perfect book for kids of any age–from preschool to elementary!

I loved this ebook and enjoyed spending time making Advent crafts with my children a couple years ago. I’m excited to go through this ebook again with them this year.

Learn more about the ebook and purchase it here: Truth in the Tinsel (Use code MAKINGTIME for 20% off the ebook!)

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Cousins {Wordless Wednesday}

cousins Christmas 2012

After a whole bunch of pictures this was the best shot we got of these 5, 4, and 3 year olds. Aren’t they all adorable in their little outfits? :)

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Christmas 2012 {Wordless Wednesday}

Boys in front of the tree Christmas morning

Christmas Eve: Leaving cookies for Santa

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Lucas taking over the gingerbread house decorating

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Boys in front of the tree Christmas morning

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Merry Christmas!

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I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas with your loved ones! I know it’s early but I will be unplugging for a few days and spending time with my family.

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My Little Santa Claus {Wordless Wednesday}

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I was going through pictures from past years and came upon this one from 2009. My youngest, Lucas, is Santa Claus and my brother’s youngest, Madelyn, is Frosty! Aren’t they adorable!?

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Free Printable: 12 Days Of Christmas Countdown

12 days of Christmas countdown

Whether it’s random acts of kindness, or just showering the ones you love with their favorite things – the holidays are filled with opportunities for gift giving and showing people that you care.  Inspired by the 12 days of Christmas as a way to get creative with gift giving this year, Paper Coterie designed these exclusive Christmas tags you can download for free!

Having these on hand to wrap up your gifts will make it easy and fun to give to all those around you. Simply download and cut out these fun tags and start spreading the love! Find the printables here.

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Holiday Outfits From The Children’s Place {Giveaway!}

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I love buying my boys matching outfits from The Children’s Place for seasonal and holiday pictures. About a week ago I placed my order online at The Children’s Place for their Holiday picture outfits, their Thanksgiving shirts, and their outfits for Christmas along with a couple other items that were on sale and at an even greater discount with a coupon I had received via email. A couple days after I placed my order someone from TCP contacted me about sharing their Holiday fashions for kids with my readers and I jumped at it because they have some adorable styles for holiday get-togethers and pictures. These are some of the fun looks you can put together with pieces from The Children’s Place:

Here’s what my boys will be wearing:

They have cute dresses for girls, too! I love this red one:

GIVEAWAY:

One lucky reader is going to win a $25 gift card to The Children’s Place!

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me who you’d shop for at The Children’s Place

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Like The Children’s Place on Facebook

4) Like Making Time For Mommy on Facebook

5) Follow me on Pinterest

Giveaway ends December 5, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time. US 18+ only.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post but I have received a gift card from them in the past. All thoughts are my own. Please note: This gift card is not guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas shopping.)

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Operation Christmas Child: Collection Week Coming Up!

Operation Christmas Child

With National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child coming up in less than a couple week I wanted to share a video about how much these boxes touch the kids who receive them.

To learn more about Operation Christmas Child you can check out the Samaritan’s Purse website.

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Christmas At Papa’s {Wordless Wednesday}

Maddie and Lucas

Maddie and Lucas

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Camden and Jacob

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Christmas 2011 In Pictures

Christmas Eve celebration with cousins. Present time and all the kids are waiting patiently for their presents.

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Leaving cookies out for Santa. Jacob chose to leave him juice instead of milk.

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This is what Santa left them.

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Jacob coming down the steps on Christmas morning. He was more interested in showing me his Thomas paper than looking at what was under the tree.

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Lucas found the best way to see what was in his stocking was to dump it into his lap.

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Jacob checked to see if Santa ate his cookies and drank his juice. He had!

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Gift time! These boys were so spoiled this year!

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Time for our birthday party for Jesus!

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Jacob enjoyed frosting the cake because he got to eat it off the spatula.

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Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!! :) {Jake decorated the cake....}

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Giving Back During The Christmas Season With Champions For Kids

Giving to others is very important to me and during the Holidays it seems like there are even more opportunities to do so. I try to get my children involved in the giving whenever I can. When we pass the Salvation Army buckets I always give the boys money to put in the buckets. We put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Every year we also buy gifts for a family in need. A couple years ago we bought presents for children whose parents are in prison and donated them through the Angel Tree ministry. This year we gave gifts to a mother who we knew. She is now able to wrap something to put under the Christmas tree for her young daughters.

This year I am also excited to be involved in a campaign for Champions for Kids. Their vision is to see a world where millions of people work to ensure that no child dies from hunger or easily preventable diseases, that ALL children have the nutrition and food they need to thrive, that every child has a home, and that every child has someone who cares and a place to belong.

For my part in this campaign I get to go shopping and give a person I know a Christmas stocking full of goodies. When trying to decide who to give it to I wanted to give it to someone who was working to ensure that children had a place to “belong” and I thought of my friend, Paula, from Frosted Fingers. She is a boy scout den leader and every week gives boys a sense of belonging in the community by putting together activities and outings for them to partake in.

I’m looking forward to thanking her for her commitment to making life better for children and will be sharing more with you all after I give her the stockings.

(Disclosure: This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias #DisneyCFK All thoughts are my own.)

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10 Ideas For Christmas Morning Breakfast

christmas breakfast ideas

One Christmas tradition I loved as I was growing up was having a big breakfast on Christmas morning. We used to open our stockings from Santa, have breakfast, and then it was finally time to open gifts. My dad used to make casseroles for breakfasts but now that I have my own family we need to figure out what we want to make. Sinisa is European and loves making crepes with nutella so that is an option but I wanted to get some more ideas so I headed to Pinterest for some inspiration.

Here are 10 ideas I found {click on pictures to be taken to the posts they come from}:

Christmas Tree French Toast

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Cinnamon Rolls with Pecans

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Sausage and Egg Casserole

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Spinach and Ham Omelet Rollup

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Breakfast Wreath

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Red Velvet Pancakes

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Santa Pancakes

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German Pancakes

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Blitzen Berry Yogurt

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Christmas Muffins

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10 Creative Gift Wrapping Ideas

gift wrapping collage

This week starts my least favorite Christmas “to do”…wrapping gifts. It’s just so time consuming since I have to make sure they look perfect and while I’m doing so I’m thinking of how they are just going to get torn open. I do some gift bags but I think unwrapping gifts is so fun for the boys so I want to give them gifts they can unwrap.

I searched online and found 10 creative gift wrapping ideas. Now if only I had the time to make my gifts look this beautiful… {Click on the pictures to be taken to the posts they come from.}

Gifts with flowers on them

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Doilies as wrapping decor

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Confetti Dipped Gifts

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Lightbulb Bow

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Wrapping with cloth

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Newspaper wrapping with big bow

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DIY Wine Wraps

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Wrapping with ribbon

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Stamped Gifts

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Button decorated wrapping paper

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Speaking of gift wrapping…who wouldn’t LOVE to have this room in their home?

Practical Magic traditional home office
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{Linked up at OhAmanda}

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Advent Day #16

Today we made a baby Jesus wrapped in cloths for our Truth In The Tinsel Ornament. Don’t pay attention to the fact that our baby Jesus has a green face. Haha. The only other color ball ornament I had was red so I figured green was the better choice.

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Walmart Gift Card Giveaway {And Christmas Sale Info}

Walmart Offers its Lowest Prices of the Season during the “BIG Christmas Event”

TOMORROW, DECEMBER 17TH

Christmas is almost here! Are you ready? According to the National Retail Federation, as of the second week in December, the average person has completed only 46.5 percent of their shopping. I would say I am only half done with mine. I still need stocking stuffers, Sinisa’s gifts and a few things for the boys. Then there’s still a couple family members to buy for. I better get to shopping!

Thankfully Walmart is holding the “BIG Christmas Event” geared specifically for the millions of last-minute shoppers. Starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17, Walmart’s “BIG Christmas Event” will offer its lowest prices of the season on toys, games, electronics, bikes and more. In addition, Walmart.com is giving customers an extra day to shop online by extending its shipping deadlines. Walmart’s holiday shipping options not only ensure gifts arrive in time for Christmas, but they save people money!

Take a look at some of the great sales:

  • Vizio® 3D Blu-rayTM Player with Built-in WiFi – $98
  • Select Games for Xbox 360®, Nintendo® WiiTM, and PS3® Games – $39.96 each
  • Girls’ or boys’ 24” Power Climber Bike, Mongoose® 20” FSG or Outer Limit Bike $88 each
  • FurReal® Friends Cookie My Playful PupTM – $29
  • Barbie® Swim & DanceTM Doll or Strollin’ PupsTM Doll – $10 each
  • Axe® Excite Gift Set – $10
  • Nerf® Dart TagTM Swarmfire Blaster or Hot Wheels® Sky Jump TrackTM Set – $20 each
  • Happy Nappers TM The Perfect Play Pillow TM – $14.88

“No matter how late in the game you start your holiday shopping, we guarantee the best price,” said MacNaughton. “In addition to offering our lowest prices, if customers find a lower price in a local competitor’s ad for the same product – even after the purchase – Walmart will refund the difference with a Walmart gift card – that is our Christmas Price Guarantee.”

Extended Standard Shipping Deadline plus Free Shipping on Hundreds of Thousands of Items

Customers can now order products online until 11:30 p.m. PT on Dec. 20 and receive standard shipping to home with delivery in time for Christmas. Rush shipping to home is also available until 11:30 p.m. PT on Dec. 21.

Customers have even more ways to save on free shipping to home and stores through the following programs:

  • Home Free (now through 12/20 11:30 p.m. PT) – order online and receive free shipping to home on all purchases of $45 or more on Microsoft Xbox consoles, games and accessories, electronics, apparel, consumables and other seasonal items.
  • Site to Store (now through 12/20 11:30 p.m. PT) – order online and receive free shipping to a Walmart store
  • FedEx Site to Store (now through 12/20 11:30 p.m. PT) – order online and receive free shipping to participating FedEx Office locations.  This service in now available in more than 650 FedEx Office locations in NYC, Los Angeles, Washington DC, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Miami, Cincinnati and Columbus.
  • Pick Up Today (now through Dec. 23 11:30 p.m. PT) – order store items online for same day pick up at a Walmart store.

GIVEAWAY:

Walmart is offering a $25 gift card to one lucky reader.

{Use it to get that gift Santa Claus doesn’t bring you!}

MANDATORY ENTRY:

Subscribe to my blog via RSS or email and leave a comment below

(look in the upper right hand corner)

ADDITIONAL ENTRY OPTIONS:

(Optional entries but leave a comment for each you do)

1. Tell me what you still need to buy for Christmas (or if it’s after Christmas, what your favorite gift was)

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow Walmart on Twitter

4) Follow me on Twitter

5) Write a blog post about this giveaway and include a link to this post

6) Enter another one of my giveaways (they can all be found here)

7) Tweet “Enter to win a @Walmart gift card from @aliciamarie112 at www.makingtimeformommy.com

Giveaway ends on January 10, 2012 at 11:59pm Central time.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. Information came from press release but personal opinions are mine.)

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Advent Day #14

Today’s Truth In The Tinsel ornament was making a stable. I liked this craft because it was quick and easy. We talked about how the stable probably smelled like stinky animals and Jacob thought that was hilarious. (Also, in case you missed my CHRISTmas post- there are a lot of ideas for Nativity crafts in there).

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Advent Day #13

Today’s Truth In The Tinsel Ornament was Bethlehem. We used paint pens to minimize the mess and Jacob really enjoyed making it colorful. We talked about the town we live in and how Jesus was born in a town called Bethlehem and then watched a YouTube video of “O Little Town Of Bethlehem”.

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Throw A Birthday Party For Jesus {10 Ideas}

birthday party for jesus

This year for Christmas we will be staying home. The children will be getting Christmas gifts but we will also be celebrating Jesus’ birthday. I wanted to share 10 ideas for throwing a birthday party for Jesus:

1) Along with “Happy Birthday Jesus” you can sing Christmas Carols like “Joy To The World” and “Away In A Manger”

2) Bake Him a birthday cake (find a cake recipe with symbolism here)

3) Have your children make a birthday card for Jesus

4) No birthday party is complete without gifts. Look through a gift catalog, like World Vision’s, that gives gifts to those in need and choose a gift to give.

5) Have everyone wear birthday “cone” hats (find a printable here)

6) Make birthday party decorations by creating paper chains with all the names of Jesus on them

{click to be taken to Spell Outloud blog for directions on making this paper chain}

7) Make a CHRISTmas craft (I have ideas here)

8) Bake cookies together and package them to give to friends.

9) Read about Jesus’ birth to focus on the reason you are celebrating.

10) Invite friends. If you do it on a day other than Christmas you can make it a true birthday party by inviting your friends to celebrate with you.

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You may also enjoy my post on 7 ways to celebrate the reason for the season!

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Truth In The Tinsel- 20% Off Today Only {And A Special 12 Days Plan}

If you have been following my blog you know that we have been doing an Advent ornament a day using the Truth In The Tinsel: An Advent Experience For Little Hands book as a guide. If you were bummed that you missed your chance to join in I have good news… it’s not too late!!!

Amanda is offering 20% off Truth In The Tinsel TODAY ONLY! You will also get a modified Advent plan so that you can go through the whole thing in 12 days. This book is amazing and it’s been really helpful in providing an outline of what to talk about and do to teach my three year old about the Christmas story.

I really recommend getting this book if you haven’t already. You can read my review here or purchase it on sale here. Use code 12DAYS to get 20% off (which is $1) the ebook. The sale ends midnight ET.

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10 Yummy Christmas Treats

christmas treats

Here are 10 creative Christmas treat ideas perfect for holiday parties or just to enjoy yourself :)

Snowman Cookies

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Reindeer Noses

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Snowmen Faces

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Santa Hat Brownies

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Christmas Caramel Popcorn

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Lindt Truffle Reindeers

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North Pole Cupcakes

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Hot Cocoa Dippers

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Covered Cherries

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Peppermint Reindeer Food

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Advent Day #10

You may have noticed that we skipped yesterday’s Advent Ornament…that’s because we didn’t get a chance to do it. We did yesterday’s craft today and will be skipping today’s craft to get back on track. Here is the ornament Jacob made today:

Every day I am amazed at how much Jacob is learning. When I got the glitter paint out he noticed one color we had the other day was missing. He then made sure to use a crayon to put all the facial features on Joseph (including ears) and even made a little mouth with the glitter glue. Now we have a set- Mary and Joseph.

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iCaughtSanta Quick Giveaway {5 Winners!}

Imagine the look of wonder and surprise when a child receives a photo of Santa caught in the act in his or her very own home. iCaughtSanta.com is a unique website that helps visitors create those memorable keepsake photos. In three simple steps anyone can upload a holiday photo, add Santa Claus and print it as proof… or share it via email, Facebook and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY:

5 readers will win a gift code to create their own iCaughtSanta photo

HOW TO ENTER:

Leave a comment telling me who you would give this photo to if you win.

EARN AN EXTRA ENTRY:

Optional: Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends December 19, 2011 at 11:59pm Central time. Winners will receive codes in time for Christmas.

(Disclosure: I received a code to use the product myself but all thoughts are my own.)

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10 Christmas Crafts Kids Can Make

10 Christmas Crafts For Kids

Kid made crafts make great gifts and decorations. Check out some of my favorites below and click on the pictures to be taken to the posts. {Looking for ornaments kids can make? Find that post here.}

Handprint Shape Angel

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Sugar Cone Trees

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Pine Tree

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Bottle cap magnets

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Paper Plate Wreath

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Water Cone Cup Craft

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Rudolph Gift Bag

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Handprint Tree

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Cotton Ball Santa

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Footprint Reindeer

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10 Stocking Stuffer Ideas For Preschoolers

stocking stuffer ideas

Stumped on what to put in your preschoolers stocking? Here are 10 ideas:

1) Candy (the obvious one)

2) Crafty Items (collage materials, crayons, stickers)

3) Toiletries (bath bubbles, toothbrush with their favorite character)

4) Undergarments (character underwear, socks)

5) Dress up jewelry

6) Cars and trains

7) Snacks (fruit snacks, chocolate chip granola bars)

8) Books

9) DVD collection of their favorite TV show

10) Small games (card games, handheld games)

What are you putting in your children’s stockings? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Our Christmas Season “To-Do” List

christmas to do list

The Christmas season is here and I want to make sure that my family has a wonderful season of fun and making memories. The past years I have had many things I wanted to do but just didn’t get around to so this year I have made our family a Christmas “to-do” list. I figure if it’s written down there is more of a chance we will do the things instead of just thinking about them.

Here are the things I’d like to do this Christmas season:

*Throw a birthday party for Jesus

*Go to the zoo to see their lights display

*Visit Santa

*Make our Advent ornaments daily

*Put together a Gingerbread Train

*Give the boys new Christmas pajamas

*Drive around town looking at Christmas lights

*Donate money to Salvation Army bell ringers

*Bake (and decorate) cookies together

*Make some Christmas crafts to hang on the walls

*Wrap gifts for others

*As a family choose a gift from World Vision’s gift catalog to give

*Make Christmas cards for our loved ones

*Send a letter to Santa

*Mail a Christmas card to a soldier

*Get together with family to celebrate the Holidays

*Paint wooden ornaments for our tree

*Get family Christmas pictures taken.

*Have a Christmas movie marathon in our pjs

*Read a Christmas themed book every night before bed

*Make “reindeer food”

*Leave cookies and milk out for Santa

*Get a family dough ornament made

*Go downtown Chicago to look at decorated window displays

*Go to the light show at our local outdoor mall

*Play in the snow and then come inside to drink hot chocolate

*Donate food to a local food pantry

*Go sledding

*Make paper chain garland for the tree

*Make a snowman

*Move the Elf On A Shelf to a new place everyday and find him as a family

*Eat chocolate from our Advent calendars

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What’s on your family’s Christmas to-do list?

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Advent Day #2

"And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

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Today’s craft idea came from Truth In The Tinsel: An Advent Experience For Little Hands.

“Baby Jesus have a crown on his head.” -Jacob, age 3

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