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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Elf Antics 2014 - Week 2

So who else is having fun with their Christmas Elves/Elf on a Shelf this month?  We are!  Week two we found them:
Day 8:

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

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 pitbull 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.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Cards 2014

Hot chocolate, a corny Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel, and a stack of newly arrived photos - that's how I spent some of my time on Saturday afternoon.  Love it.  Love the season.
Christmas cards have been making their way into my mailbox every few days and I've been having fun adding to my little Christmas Card book.  This is the 5th year I've been keeping them like that and it's been fun to flip back through all the past years, seeing all of my friends' children at different ages.  However, I've been a little anxious to get my own cards pulled together and out the door (so everyone can have our new address) and I was so happy to see that my Christmas photos had arrived at the post office a couple of days earlier than expected.  I sat right down and started putting them together and stuffing envelopes. 

There are so many great card options out there right now, but I get caught in the "I can just do it myself" mode every year - you know the one.  The day spent outside with the tripod and the camera on the self-timer, fingers crossed the whole time that the photos will look even half-way decent when you get home.  The time spent on Pinterest looking at card ideas and cute quotes trying to figure out the Very Best option for this year.  Then trying to pull it all together in Photoshop, using only the 4 commands I am familiar with.  ;)  And doing it all at 10:00 PM (when I'm normally in bed) because you realize your coupon code for photo prints expires that day.
All things considered, I didn't actually mind the process - I'm just laughing at myself for rushing through it yet another year.  One of these days I will remember to take photos in October with perfectly coordinated outfits and all of November to pull the cards together.  For now though, my method did still result in reasonably cute Christmas cards for the year - phew! ;) 
Ok time for a close look at them, right?


Well, I'm off to take photos of the kids playing in the falling snow.  Maybe I can use those photos for next year's card and be super duper on the ball for next time?! ;)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Time for the Tree!

It doesn't quite feel like Christmas until the decorations are up, does it?  I held off on putting up the tree until after Tyler's Minecraft party - I can only imagine what those wild and crazy kids would have done to the tree.  I have visions of a toppled tree and broken ornaments or at the very least we probably wouldn't have found all the Nerf darts before New Years!
But the day after the party, it was definitely time to pull some of the Christmas decorations out.
 All of our stuff is in a giant inaccessible stack in the garage right now so we used one of my Mom's trees and decorations.  It looked a little sparse when I first set it up but by the time we were finished with it I don't think there was a single bare branch.

 I also discovered that when it comes to decorating the tree, my Mom is a bigger perfectionist than I am.  We were all ready to call it good and she just kept going and going...

 Turned out gorgeous though, right?  I was happy I had taken the time to wrap gifts a few days before and stashed them in the closet so we would have some ready to put under the tree.
 And that, my friends, is the sum total of my decorating for this year.  We don't have much space right now and I'm happy with just the tree, and the stockings, and watching the Christmas cards slowly roll in from the mailbox so I can add them to my card collection.  I love Christmas!
Bambi does too ;)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Elf Antics 2014 - Week 1

Two weeks into December and I haven't posted a single Elf photo?!  
One of our fun traditions for the holidays is having a couple of Santa's Elves visit us.  The kids always get a kick out of finding them every morning and look forward to their arrival on the first of December.  In fact, when I was giving Kaitlyn a hug before bedtime on November 30th, she whispered a reminder in my ear lest I forget what day it was(little miss is growing up too fast and became one of our Christmas helpers last year).
 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
 Wonder what's in the envelope....   (printable found here.  Awesome idea)
 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
 Day 7

Saturday, December 13, 2014

OLW - November Gratitude Prompt

 It's the month of December and not only is there NO snow on the ground here in Utah, but I also found the time yesterday to spend the morning working on my One Little Word album.  Free time on a weekday in December?!  Craziness. ;)
The prompt for November was a combination of photos and words, revolving around what it means to "live your word" and recognizing what we are grateful for.  I spent the first part of November trying to note something I was Thankful For every day (posted daily on my Facebook page) and although it kind of fizzled around the 20th, I still had plenty of ideas to choose from.  I thought finding the right photos might be harder, but after combing through all my photo files from the past few months I ended up with plenty to choose from.  I guess being a photo-obsessed, wish-I-had-more-time-to-scrapbook Mom comes in handy sometimes.

The finished layout:
I just realized I had intended to add a line of journaling to this photo.  On well.  I may do it later and reprint it, or maybe it's fine just like that.
 *photo taken as we pulled out of our neighborhood in North Carolina and started our trek across country to move back home to Utah.  I followed that Uhaul trailer for four days straight.

I have loved participating in this online workshop this year.  Whether or not I managed to do the prompts "on time" I got a whole lot more out of the experience than I did in previous years with my words.  I have already signed up for next year's workshop, though I have no idea at this point what my word for next year will be...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Minecraft Birthday Party

Look who turned 8 last week!  He was SO excited - and who can blame him?  Birthdays are exciting, especially when you are looking forward to a party with a bunch of your new friends and one with the theme of your favorite game to boot.  Yup - Tyler, like many kids right now, is completely obsessed with Minecraft.
I have to admit I know very, very little about Minecraft, nor was I really in the mood to sit down and play the game with the kids.  So I relied pretty heavily on looking at ideas online with one of the kids at my side making comments.  It was kind of a fun process actually.  Tyler had lots and lots and lots of ideas. ;)  And Kaitlyn is great about helping me pull it all together.  In the end, we decided on the following:
Creeper Rice Krispie Treats went to school with Tyler for all of his classmates.  We just tinted the marshmallow green and the eyes are chocolate chips which I melted and piped onto wax paper to form the eyes and mouth.
Once the birthday boy was off to school I got to work on the cake.  He had requested a TNT cake, which seemed as easy as stacking a few cake squares on top of each other and covering it with red.  Uh huh.  Yeah.  First ever epic cake fail.  It started leaning after I got all the layers on and even with additional support, it had toppled before I could get the exterior frosting on it.

I had to laugh.  Really, what can you do but laugh?  And my brother, who was eating breakfast at the time, laughed at me too - and asked if he could "publicly humiliate" me by posting a photo on Facebook.  I told him that was fine, because I fully intended to blog about it ;)
So what do you do when your cake falls apart and you don't want to run to the store?  I turned it into Dirt Cake, that's what.  

The kids didn't have a clue - ha!  In fact, they loved it.  Couldn't get enough of the cake in the cups with the Minecraft toppers I printed at the last minute (found here).

 The rest of the food was pretty easy.  Tyler had been pretty quick to suggest a bunch of foods that were in the game:  "bread" was sandwiches cut into squares, "potion of healing" were just Hugs with labels on them (I was informed that the potions are always red but since it would have taken way too many boxes to find enough red drinks for everyone we used green too since Creepers are his favorite character from the game), "slime balls" were green grapes, "raw fish" were goldfish crackers, and carrots and gold apples were, well, carrots and apples ;)

 Printables for the food and drink lables came from here, though I did resize and edit them a bit, as well as use them for the base to make the other signs for the party.
I found the printable for the large Steve and the Creeper here.

The table set up was pretty simple (and inexpensive) too.  It doesn't take a lot to make a big statement.

 The plates were just green plates with Creeper faces that I had cut out of vinyl with the Silhouette machine.
And the table runner was green wrapping paper that I quickly cut into block-type forms on the edges.  I used the Silhouette to cut a pattern for the Creeper face out of cardstock and used it and a Sharpie to make Creeper faces on the table runner and on a bunch of green balloons.
 The balloons went downstairs in the "party area," along with my standard bead board birthday banner.  I also put a set a balloons out by the road and by the door, along with a Minecraft Welcome sign.  I always try to do something like that in case a guest hasn't visited our house before so they can easily tell where the party is.
 As I mentioned in an earlier post, Tyler had invited his entire class to his party and not knowing how many kids would actually show up, planning was a little tricky.  I decided to use the kitchen/living room for the food and do all the activities in the family room downstairs.  I only set up one table, which was perfect for the amount of kids that did RSVP but I had another table and extra decorations on stand-by in case we had any show up unannounced.  We only ended up with one that hadn't called ahead, so it was fine.
Anyway.  One of Tyler's first requests was to have "torches" as decoration so I printed off a few for the stairs/hallway and used crepe paper to form the "portal" (or am I confused and they only use that term in Skylanders??)

Downstairs, I had turned my craft tables into "crafting tables" (of course!).  It was just a simple matter of using electrical tape and a ruler to form the grid.  Minecraft is all about building, so I had a few crafty projects planned.
 And again, not knowing how many kids would actually attend the party, I had planned accordingly.  If we had a large number of guests, I had extra helpers on hand so we could split them up into smaller groups and do "stations" for the different crafts and games.  I put all the things needed for each activity in its own little basket so we could just grab them as needed.
 As it turned out, we had about 10 kids attend so they just did everything in one big group, but I was still glad I had planned ahead and set it up this way.
 I always like to have some sort of low key activity for everyone to start working on when they arrive.  This keeps the fidgeting and chaos to a minimum while still allowing time for any later guests to arrive without missing much of the planned activities.  For the Minecraft party, our Arrival Activity was making Minecraft masks.  I cut out a bunch of small squares out of colored paper and the kids glued them onto poster board that I had cut into squares with a couple of square openings for eyes.
This worked pretty well, but these kids were HYPER that night so as soon as we could, we moved on to the more active games.

This game was originally intended to be a beanbag toss, but the beanbags we have for our cornhole boards were too big for holes so we used Neft guns instead.  Nerf dart look close enough to the TNT in the game, right?  The kids didn't care - they had fun (though some of them were way too excited to wait their turns!).

The next game was probably the favorite for our rowdy crew.  I had filled a bunch of balloons and put a line of tape down the center of the room to split it into two parts.  Yes, I was all creative and used some of the Creeper balloons as well as some smaller colored ones which could represent the other animals in the game - but I don't think the kids noticed or cared.  The point of the game was to get all the balloons onto the other team's side.  We played music while they bopped balloons back and forth (had intended to find Minecraft parody songs but forgot to get them cued up and just ended up using whatever was on the IPOD) until the music stopped, then everyone would freeze while we counted the balloons on each side.  As I said - this game was a perfect way for them to use up their energy without hurting anything so we let them do 5 or 6 rounds before we headed upstairs for cake and gifts.

The time just flew by and by the time everyone had finished eating and all the gifts were unwrapped we only had a few minutes left before parents would start arriving so I gave them some block character printables to assemble.

This link has a lot of great printables for all of the blocks, characters, etc.

As I said, the time went by so quickly we didn't end up using some of the activities I had planned.  Like:
Minecraft character Perler bead keychains.  This activity alone probably would have taken them half an hour.
 And the bean bags were going to be repurposed to "Feed the Wolf."

But I'd rather have too many activities planned than have bored kids at the end of a party.

As they were working on the character printables, I also had them take turns assembling their own favor bags.
For the favor bag tags I used a pdf file I found online (see this blog), added the rest of the message (in Photoshop) then printed them 6 to a page.  

 The tags went inside a cellophane bag and the kids got to fill it with:

Creeper face lollipops, (had an a-ha moment on this one and instead of cutting them all out by hand I figured out how to make my own pattern for the Silhouette to cut out - go me!)
 glow stick "torches"
licorice "TNT" (Tyler was very pleased with those.  When he saw them all assembled he told me "Mom, you've really outdone yourself!") and Hershey Kiss "emeralds, red stones, and silver"
So there you have it!  Paper, scissors, a printer, and a lot of ink - that's really all it takes to make a little guy happy on his birthday ;)

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