Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

How to Organize Board Games

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Now that Christmas is behind us, I find myself inspired to get my home organized again. One area in our home that always needs attention is our disorganized board game collection. Organizing your board games  and card games is easier than you think, it just requires a few organizing tools, a little patience, and the ability to let go of the things that are taking up valuable space to make space for the good stuff in your home.

My project challenge this month with Walmart was to pick one area in our house and freshen it up with some organizational solutions from the store. I have a feeling you are going to love this one and will be running out to your store to replicate this.

In full disclosure, here is my SCARY before picture. This was supposed to be a beautiful little closet for my kid’s toys, our games, and our art supplies. Each time the closet was open, I covered my head. I am a very petite woman so when I would reach for a game, I would find a leaning tower of games attacking me and often found myself in an avalanche of games and toys. 

I decided to do some research to see if I could find some ideas from other bloggers on how to rectify this situation. Although there were a lot of great magazine ideas, I didn’t find very many real family solutions until I happened upon this great post on board game organization from Raising Lemons. I used that as a template to get started and then headed to my store to create my own solutions for our problematic areas.

Here are some pictures of the items that I picked up at our Walmart store (feel free to click on them to expand).

Sterlite Large Three Drawer Units ($12.97 each)

Sterlite Medium Three Drawer Unites ($8.47)

Document Boxes ($7.92)- available in the office supplies section of the store

Avery Labels ($1.00)

Rubber Bands ($.67)

Snap-It Storage Container ($9.97)

Ziploc Freezer Bags ($4.38

All games were removed from their boxes and then each game went into a designated drawer. Larger games that had a lot of parts to it (like Blokus, Rummikub, or Monopoly) fit well into the large Sterlite drawers.

Smaller kid’s games fit easily into the medium Sterlite drawers as well as games where the board would not fit into either container (more on that soon). For really small games like Memory or Rush Hour, we found one drawer could fit two or three games, which helped to maximize this storage solution.

For larger board games, I labeled boards that we wouldn’t easily be able to figure out what they were, and set those to the side along with a couple of those irregularly shaped games (like Operation, our deluxe Scrabble, and our Hungry, Hungry Hippos). By removing the useless boxes, this tiny little pile of boards really doesn’t take up very much of our space.

We had oodles of card games, many that were dusty and had been forgotten on that top shelf, so I used two Document Boxes that I found over in the office supplies to create storage for these games. This was a great place to not only store these games neatly, but I also dedicated a little section to the odds & ends pieces that we might need for future games. The odds & ends spot houses marbles, a few extra game pieces, decks of cards, and several dice.

Large games like Apples to Apples had to use two spots, but it still beats having the boxes. I like that all of these odds and ends are concealed neatly, and it will make taking a box of games a lot more fun since there are several in just one box!

Our puzzle collection had also gotten out of control. I found a Snap-It organizer (over by the drawers/plastic bins) that has a handy handle and it all snaps together for easy toting. We divided our puzzles into two categories (holiday & other). It will make finding our Christmas collection a little easier. I cut the front of the boxes and labeled heavy-duty freezer bags with the puzzle name or description so we could locate them easily.

Since I was on a roll in that closet, I decided to get the rest of the kid’s stuff organized. I whittled their toy collection down to half and organized their art supplies into the same drawer organizers (these were all things we already owned). I had old-fashioned labels in my craft supplies so I hung fresh labels with a little bakers twine and labeled our canvas bins so the kids knew exactly what they were pulling down.

Each child now has their own coloring book drawer and all of the random boxes of markers, crayons, and pencils were all condensed into one drawer organizer.

After losing countless library books because they are mixed in with their own books, we now have one basket designated. The other books were moved down to our downstairs game cabinet because (you won’t believe this!) all of the games from our downstairs cabinet all fit in our upstairs cabinet so I could turn the other cabinet into a spot for all of their books. That is a huge storage bonus for us!

It feels like Christmas all over here again. We have loads of fun things to do, we can find them, and (in my son’s words) “We don’t have to move so many things around to get to the good stuff.” You know it, kid!

The big question is, “Do you miss the boxes?” I can’t say I do! For the games we travel with to our friend’s house (Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, etc..) we have a couple of boxes stored in the basement. The rest of the games stay at home and this solution is so ideal for our space and offers oodles of visual appeal. 

Have any tips for organizing your game collection or toy closet for the New Year? I would love to hear them!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.



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Giving Back In Our Own Community

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

If there is one thing we have been embracing this year, it is the power of giving to others. I shared with you last week our tutorial on how to make homeless care packages (complete with free printables for buying your supplies for your own kits and a community resource list).

This month Walmart gave our family a chance to select charities in our own town that we are  passionate about for the holidays and showcase how families could recreate a giving project in their own homes. As I always disclose, I am compensated for my writing, BUT instead of accepting the compensation, we invested what I would have earned along with the gift card budget Walmart gave me to give back to a couple of special organizations in our town. 

The first thing we did with our funds was head to Walmart and stock up on canned peas, boxes of macaroni, and cans of tuna that were being requested for a Kids Helping Kids food drive that was happening over at our church. The Faithworks program had a drive to help area kids who would be on Christmas Break. They had a goal of providing a meal to 1,400 students at a couple of our area schools and giving each of these kids a bag of food to take home. 

Emily was my assistant and helped me count up the donations. We were able to provide 76 kids with a meal which was so exciting for both of us to do and to get the opportunity to share. None of those three items cost more than $.68 so for less than $3, we were able to provide a meal to one child. 

The other project that we selected was at our own school this year. They had a hat and glove tree set up in the lobby for students that needed hats and gloves for the winter season. Emily and I selected hats and gloves in all different colors for the students. If you are looking for an inexpensive spot to pick up donations, Walmart carries Faded Glory hats and gloves for a mere $.97! If you choose plain gloves, you can get them 2 for $.97! 

We were able to grab enough for 25 of the students and I had fun decorating the tree with all of these cold weather accessories. We hope it keeps a few more students warm on the playground this year.

Thank you to Walmart for giving us the opportunity to give back in our own community this year. We feel so blessed to get to pay it forward to those in need around the holidays!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. For this project, all compensation was invested in aiding our community.  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

Top Ten Christmas Ideas For The Family

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

This week you will find me blogging over at the Snackpicks site sharing my top ten Christmas ideas for the family.

If you are looking for some fun family time ideas complete with great recipes and crafts, you will want to visit this post to read more! I am sharing a few of our favorite Christmas recipes and some great ways we celebrate the holidays without spending a lot of money.

The best part is all of the points you will score for all of the time you spend with your kids during this busy season! Who could argue with that? See you there!

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Great Family Traditions to Celebrate the Holidays in a MEANINGFUL Way

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Christmas is my favorite time of year, but I know it can be a difficult time of year when finances are tight. I want to share with you how you can celebrate Christmas in a big way by shifting your focus towards great family traditions.

I have been getting a lot of questions on how families can celebrate the holidays when they don’t have the money to have the Christmas that they have been dreaming of. It can be stressful as a parent to not be able to have the holiday that you envision for your children, but a change in perception for the holidays can go a long way. You see, regardless of the economic turmoil, the holidays will never change for our family because our focus has turned to traditions rather than gifts.

When you make the switch to focusing on family traditions, there is a lot less stress in your life worrying about the gifts under the tree. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? For me, it is all about family, about creating memories for my children that they will never forget, and it is about the love that they feel from us as parents.

Here are some of the ways we have have simplified the giving process and our family traditions that have shifted our family focus during this financially stressful season. 

Image source: pinterest (unknown)

Simplify Your Gift Giving

Several years ago I ran across an idea for buying four gifts for your kids in the specific categories of something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. It has been a tradition that has stuck and I hope that my kids will continue the tradition with their own children someday.  The kids love getting to help in the selection of the gifts from these four categories and I love the simplicity of shopping for these gifts We are blessed with a big family of generous givers so my children never have expressed disappointment that there are not enough gifts for them. In fact, this year they struggled to come up with four gifts that they really wanted.

Next year, we plan to give our children a Choose Your Own Adventure gift where they can select one fun family experience or a learning experience. Art classes, dance classes, a trip to a local museum, going to a fun show in town, going to a restaurant and a movie with mom or dad, or another coveted outing will be on the list.

We do this often with money gifted by relatives (last year was a family outing to the Nutcracker and cocoa at the local chocolate shop) to cut down on the excess in our home and to create a purposeful experience with our kids.

  Create Meaningful Traditions in the Kitchen

Christmas to me is all about the food and traditions that can be created (and consumed) in our house.Some of our favorite traditions happen to be making a batch of our favorite sugar cookies to decorate, baking up gingerbread donuts for a surprise treat, or consuming gallons of hot cocoa with homemade peppermint marshmallows on cold wintry mornings.

In our family, each Friday night in December, we make a homemade pizza and bundle our children up for an evening of looking at the holiday lights in the neighborhoods. We blast the Christmas carols on the radio and bring along popcorn for them to snack on while they enjoy all the beauty of the Christmas lights. To make it more fun, we let them pick their favorite pajamas to wear and they think this is hilarious to get to wear their pajamas in the car. This year I am also looking forward to a little Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunting on our tour of the lights.

On Christmas morning, I make cocoa and gingerbread waffles for the kids. As a special treat, I shape the tubes of store-bought cinnamon rolls into a Christmas tree shape and tint the icing green for the tree. We eat this together after we open the presents and the kids look forward to it each year.

While these traditions might not sound like much, our children look forward to them each year and we get just as excited as them for these special meals.

Caring for Others

Instead of focusing on ourselves, we try to do things for others around the holidays. This year our family’s holiday project was to create homeless care packages for the homeless in our town. It was such a great experience to do with our children that I hope to repeat a project like this each year with them.

Even if you are short on funds there are so many ways to give back that don’t cost a lot. Gather items for a donation to your local shelter, serve a meal to those in need, use your talent for crafting to benefit someone in your community, or take a peek at these painless ways to give back this season.

When my son was  small we would take them to the fire station with a box full of goodies. I loved seeing the faces of the firefighters light up when they saw our treats, but more importantly, is the light in your children’s eyes when they take them around to show them the fire engines. This is one of the best days of playing Santa I had ever had.

Filling the Stockings with Love

On the first day of December, I try to set out a basket and small slips of paper. Each person in the family is supposed to write something about someone else in the family that they appreciate about them and stick it in each other’s stockings. On Christmas morning, we have something fun to look forward to opening, which centers on family rather than gifts. If you have smaller children, have them draw pictures for each family member and jot down the sweet things they say about their family members. It is truly a highlight of my Christmas morning and brings us all closer together.

Countdown to Christmas

We have always counted down the holidays in fun ways with our kids. When my children were small we did a Christmas Jar full of fun activities for each day of December. We would fill it with fun and free activities- making a snowman, watching a holiday show on television, making a holiday ornament- anything that is inexpensive and fun for us to do together as a family.

As they have gotten older, our “use what you have” advent calendar still gives us the opportunity to do these fun activities, but fits a little bit better around our busy life. I wanted to create our own countdown to Christmas in a creative way, but I didn’t want to spend any money on it. I decided to use what I had to create our homemade Advent filled with fun activities and you can grab an idea list for activities over here.

Wrapping It Up With An Inexpensive Bow

These are just a few of our suggestions for ways to make the holiday more special and more focused on your family rather than a store-bought Christmas tied up with an expensive bow.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to document these memories in some way so you can share them with your children. I started a holiday journal for the children and tucked in a copy of their sweet letters to Santa, their favorite holiday recipes, our holiday photo each year, and jotted down their favorite memories from the year.

My goal is to only leave my children a legacy of holiday memories, not a legacy of stuff under the tree.


5.0 from 1 reviews
Gingerbread Waffles
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
These gingerbread waffles are a fun treat to share on Christmas morning and taste just like a gingerbread cookie. Top them with festive sprinkles and whipped cream for a fun breakfast treat!
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1¼ cups milk
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup (1 stick) melted butter, plus some to butter the iron
  • Syrup, whipped cream or fresh fruits for topping, to pass at table
  1. Preheat waffles iron. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until fluffy, then beat in pumpkin, milk, molasses and melted butter. Stir the wet into dry until just moist. Do not overstir the waffle batter. Brush the iron with a little melted butter and cook 4 waffles, 4 sections each. Serve with toppings of choice.

What are your favorite ways inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays? I would love to hear about your family’s traditions!

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How to Entertain the Kids on Thanksgiving Day

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

It has been so much fun preparing for the holidays with all of you. Today I am concluding our post series with Pure Charity with some fun ideas for keeping your kids entertained on Thanksgiving morning while you are busy preparing all of that Thanksgiving food…or just preparing for all of that fun with those relatives.

If you haven’t been following along the past three weeks, I have been sharing about a great site called Pure Charity and how your holiday shopping can make an impact on the organizations you are most passionate about. Did I mention signing up for this account is free and easy! I really encourage you to join in!

What is Pure Charity?

Pure Charity is a simple, but awesome concept for giving back to those causes you care most about. Basically, you install a simple toolbar into your web browser and then it alerts you with a small banner at the top when a store you are shopping with has a partnership with Pure Charity. Click on that little button and you are making a percentage deposit into your Giving Fund. Your Giving Fund can then be applied to the charities that are important to you and that you have a desire to support.

The first week we discussed some elegant and simple ways to create the perfect Thanksgiving table. I love that these ideas incorporated elements of nature, along with thoughtfully purchased items to mix into your everyday items, and a thankful chalkboard where the kids can jot down what they are most thankful for in their lives.
Next we created the Perfect Pumpkin Pie for our Thanksgiving dessert. I found beautiful tools to create a detailed crust and serve ware that made the pie look like a little piece of art through the Pure Charity partner sites.
Thanksgiving happens to be one of my favorite holidays and I love to make these holidays special and memorable for my kids. Pure Charity asked me to show everyone what could be done via their partners and gave me a small budget to pick out some items that I would recommend for keeping the whole family entertained on Thanksgiving Day.


Play Classic Board Games- If there is one thing our family loves, it is board games. You will often find our family spending our evenings playing board games together. Thanksgiving is a great time to break out the board games for the young and old alike. Group games like Apples to Apples, Jenga, or an adult round of Taboo can be a great way to keep your family laughing and spending time together. Hungry Hungry Hippos is always a great game to play with the kids and can be a fun way to keep the cousins entertained while the food is being prepared.  (Purchased through Target)


Watch A Classic Thanksgiving Movie- Our family’s favorite Thanksgiving movie is, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” Of course, any movie with Charlie Brown and the gang in it is always a guaranteed winner in our family.  (Purchase through Best Buy)

Bring Out Their Inner Artist-
If there is one thing my kids go through quickly it is art supplies. Items like colored pencils, construction paper, coloring and doodle books that inspire creativity in my children, and pre-made art kits can all be fun ways to get those creative juices flowing. I was able to find some amazing coloring books like, “The Fashion Coloring Book,” and “The Coloring Book,” that provide great prompts for your child’s imagination. Even better, I was able to find two Kid Made Modern Comic Book Kits so that each of my kids can create their very own comic books.  (All Purchased Through Target)


Just Dance It Out- A well-known fact about our family is that the Clark family is basically its own dance crew. If there is one thing we love to do it is to dance our troubles away. Just Dance 4 and Just Dance Disney games are two fun ways to get your kids moving after that big Thanksgiving feast and work off that sluggish, “I ate too much turkey,” feeling in a fun way.
If your family is anything like ours though,  you might not let those kids even get a chance to play any of their own games. You will simply be too busy dance battling each other to give anyone else the opportunity to do anything else (*ahem*).  (Purchased through Best Buy).


Play a Round of Thanksgiving Bingo- One thing that I love to do for my kids is to print out a simple Thanksgiving Bingo game to keep them entertained while I am preparing the food. This is a fun and free way to keep them entertained and there are six Bingo cards to print and choose from. Pop a bag of popcorn and let them use the popcorn as their markers to mark their Bingo squares. Once they get tired of that game, print out another round of cards and have them do Thanksgiving Football Bingo instead. (Printable available for free through Spoonful).
After these purchases to entertain the kids on Thanksgiving Day, I was able to  bank $5.63 in my Giving Fund for my favorite charities through Pure Charity

I am working with Pure Charity, and Pure Charity has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

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Fun Halloween Costume Ideas For the Whole Family

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

We are looking forward to another fun Halloween! I wanted to show you our Halloween costumes this year. Outfitting the whole family in costumes can be a challenge, but we tend to embrace it with a lot of enthusiasm.

Emily’s masquerade ballroom gown has to be one of my favorite costumes we have ever gotten her. I found it at Marshall’s for $24.99. I hate spending more than $20 on a costume, but this is one she is planning to use for dress-up play and it is so beautifully made that I am sure we will find many uses for this elegant dress (complete with a hoop skirt, cameo necklace and little masquerade mask).

We found Ethan’s knight costume inexpensively online and I was excited that their requests coordinated this year. Of course, we always manage to make it coordinate for photos, even if it doesn’t always really work!

For a couple that doesn’t really watch a lot of television, we embraced the television themes this year with our costumes. Our favorite show happens to be, “Glee.” I might be alone in this one, but I can’t get enough of that show!  For our couple costume this year, we gleeked it out with a Glee cheerleader costume for me and my husband pulled off the Coach Sue Sylvester costume far better than I could ever imagine.

We partied it up in these hilarious costumes and every time I saw this man out of the corner of my eye, it put me in a fit of giggles. Of course, following this year’s rocking costume party, we were already brainstorming what we would wear next year.

I was able to find these costumes on clearance for $10 each. My best friend altered the costume a bit for me (because one size does NOT fit all). What a rock star best friend to sew my cheap polyester costume for me!

Our Bunco theme this month was also Halloween themed so my best friend and I schemed a costume from our other favorite show, “New Girl,” I have a serious girl crush on Zooey and her character, “Jess,” on this show. For this costume, I just raided my own little retro wardrobe, threw on my nerdy glasses, curled my hair and slipped on a pair of ballet flats. I had the picture frame in my craft supplies and use that like she does in the intro of the show.

Becky went as Cece, Jess’ supermodel bestie  on the show.  Of course she just straightened her hair and wore her most awesome model clothes from her own wardrobe with a killer pair of heels.

You have to love a costume you can create from found items in your closet.

Looking for more last minute Halloween costume inspiration? Be sure to visit my Scary Deals on Halloween Costumes and our easy DIY Halloween Costume round-up with eight great costumes for the whole family. Happy Halloween!

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Preparing for the Holidays

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Photo Credit: Nancy Lary Studios

Preparing for the holidays can be a stressful time for families Planning ahead and breaking the preparation down into manageable steps is key to holiday survival.

This year I will be hosting our family’s Thanksgiving, launching a book, celebrating my daughter’s birthday, celebrating Christmas with two sides of the family, and trying to ring in the New Year. Am I scared? You bet!  Just the very thought of all this could make me break into a sweat and cause me to want to throw the covers back over my head until this is all over. I am already working on my timeline to still have a wonderful holiday and accomplish all I need to and I wanted to share it with you.

This week I am sharing my timeline for preparing for the holiday season over on the Kenmore blog! I am offering an easy timeline to help you get things done and actually enjoy your holidays this year!

Head on over to check out my ideas for accomplishing that holiday to-do list! I hope you’ll join me over there!

Creating Your Own Back to School Traditions

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

I may have mentioned (or spammed you) last week with all of the pictures of my kiddos off for their first day of school. Now that the kids are back to school, I am reminded of all of the wonderful traditions we do in our family to celebrate the back to school season.

This month I am over at the Goodwill Tips blog sharing some fun, easy, and wallet-friendly back to school traditions you can create with your kids, using items you have around your house or found at your local Goodwill store.

If you are a local reader, I also wanted to share the Goodwill Loves Moms Celebration Lunches that are happening in just a couple of short weeks in our area..

Goodwill Loves Moms Celebration

Thursday, September 13th – Windsor Park Conference Center / Mishawaka

Friday, September 14th – Strongbow Inn / Valparaiso

We invite you to join us! Our guest speaker will be,  Lorie Marrero, a Certified Professional Organizer and author of: The Clutter Diet. When you attend one of the celebration lunches, you’ll receive a FREE re-useable Goodwill Loves Moms Donation Bag and Lorie’s book: The Clutter Diet!

Visit Goodwill Loves Moms to learn more about purchasing tickets and more about the event!















Back to School ’12

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

It’s back to school day today. We have crammed in a whole summer full of fun.  I am going to miss these two little ones!  I hope! everyone is having a great start to their school year and wanted to share with you a few pictures today!

I was a smart mom this year and we did all of our pictures the day before school so we could really focus on getting ready for our day without any interruptions. It also gave us a good practice run in our uniforms before the big day.


Glad Mom Made

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

These last few weeks of summer and the beginning of the school year can be a true challenge for moms. This month  I am excited to be partnering with Glad to showcase some great strategies for moms to help keep kids entertained and get your school year off to a great start.

If you read magazines like Taste of Home or Family Circle, you may have spotted a familiar face tucked within the pages of your magazine. I had the opportunity to work with Glad on a fresh initiative arming moms with ideas to keep the kids entertained during the summer months, lunchbox inspiration to breathe life into tired lunches,  and great printables to help you get organized for the back-to-school season.

If you would like to see some of my fun ideas including my favorite bubble recipe, homemade play dough, homemade sidewalk chalk, easy lunchbox noodles, and snag some great free printables to add a little sparkle to your child’s lunchbox, be sure to join Glad’s Facebook Community and click on Glad’s Mom Made tab for tips and tricks to manage the back-to-school madness.  That is just the tip of the iceberg though! Head over to Glad to get the full scoop on all of these fantastic ideas to get your school year started out right.

It thrills me to no end to get to share my ideas with Glad and I can’t wait for you to see what I was hard at work on this summer! Hurry over today for monthly inspiration created by some really fabulous mom bloggers.


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