Posts Tagged ‘Things To Do’

Splendidly Homemade Magazine

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Today I am excited to share with you a fun  online magazine that you can enjoy all winter long. Splendidly Homemade Magazine is a beautifully designed magazine filled with great tutorials and pictures showcasing some amazing bloggers crafting and sharing their recipes for a perfect and joy-filled holiday season. You can learn how to do everything from making the perfect pie crust to adding adorable yo-yo embellishments to your holiday attire to creating stockings from old sweaters.

In this issue I have created a fun and easy No-Bake Peppermint Cheesecake in a Jar that would make the perfect hostess gift.  I am also sharing some cute ways to package those jars that make this an elegant gift to share with someone special in your life.

If you want to see this project, just head on over to the magazine to get the scoop. Did I mention that this requires no baking?

Once you are done making these No-Bake Peppermint Cheesecakes, you can put your peppermint extract to work and whip up a delicious Homemade Peppermint Mocha with my easy recipe.

Just be warned…

These are highly addictive and taste like a little bit of heaven.

I had a hard time just eating one or having just one cup of coffee! You can blame me for your holiday weight this year!

You can enjoy wonderful holiday content from all of these fabulous contributors in Splendidly Homemade:

Gina from The Shabby Creek Cottage
Liz from Hoosier Homemade
Barbara from Barbara Bakes
Holly from iGoBoGo
Tiffany from Eat at Home
Kellie from Nest of Posies
Laura from Real Mom Kitchen
Jessica from Kohler Created
Ashley from Ashley Pichea.com

Splendidly Homemade is available for free online and a Kindle version of this is available for a mere, $.99 cents.  Give them a Like on Facebook and follow their latest news on Twitter.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Easy Coffee Filter Flowers

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Maybe you were one of those lucky kids chopping up coffee filter flowers in elementary school. I never had a tutorial on this in my art class though, but I have been dying to make coffee filter flowers and wanted to share with you just how easy and inexpensive it is to make these for a fun table centerpiece for the holidays or just a few posies on your nightstand in those cold winter months.  If you made the Coffee Filter Wreath from last week, you should have enough left to make a few of these pretty posies!

To begin our flowers, we will need to dye our coffee filters. The trick with getting these to look like real flowers is to divide the filters into three different bowls with three different shades of dye.

Pour a 1/2 cup of hot water into each dish, two tablespoons of vinegar, and ten drops of food coloring your first bowl. In the next bowl add the hot water and vinegar, but add only eight drops of food coloring. In the last bowl, we will be doing the same thing again, but only six drops of food coloring. Submerge fifteen coffee filters into each bowl and wait ten to fifteen minutes.

I used the Betty Crocker pink neon food coloring for this project (leftover from our marbled egg dying from this past year) so these only required about five minutes in the bowls.  Just keep half an eye on them until you reach the desired color that you are going for.

Once the coffee filters are done, you need to spread them out on an old towel and let them dry.  Ignore comments from your husband like, “Yum, yum! Coffee filters for dinner?” or, “Oh, wow! ANOTHER craft project?”

You are on the fast track to being another Martha Stewart even though the house looks like a bomb exploded and it WILL be coffee filters for dinner tonight. You can’t be good at everything.

If you want to speed up the process a bit, you can blow dry these coffee filters. Again, ignore your husband when he busts in on you hunched over with coffee filters blowing around the bathroom as you blow dry them. Just keep thinking,

“Martha would totally do this…or,ahem, she has PEOPLE who would totally do this. Totally.”

Grab some floral tape and floral wire from your craft supplies (or over in the floral section of the craft supply store. Cut the wire to the length that you desire and twist and wrap the floral wire with the floral tape until the wire is covered. You can also cover a wooden skewer with floral wire if you want a flower that stands straight up. I prefer the wire because you can bend it a bit and make the flowers a little more droopy so they look a little more natural.

Here is a handy chart for what we are going for with these. You need two of the darkest coffee filters cut like this for the center of the flower, two coffee filters in the medium dye for the middle of your flower, and just one coffee filter cut like this for the outer part of the flower.

To make the center, fold your coffee filter in half, in half again, in half again, and then in half again (four folds). Take your scissors and cut it as pictured above. Repeat with another filter in the same shade.

To make the middle of your flower, fold your coffee filter in half, in half again, in half again (three folds). Take your scissors and cut it as pictured above (but better than me since I am not the brightest with my cutting). Repeat with another filter in the same shade.

To make the outside of your flower, fold your coffee filter in half and then in half again (two folds). Take your scissors and cut a scalloped edge to your flower. You just need one of these.

Stack your flowers (still folded) and then trim the tiniest little end off of the bottom of them. This will create a small hole so that we can insert the wire into the center of it.

Slip the first filter over your wire twist it at the base, and then wrap a little floral tape around it to hold it all in place. Repeat with the next dark filter, than the each medium filter, and finish with the exterior of your flower. Finish the flower with a little more floral tape to secure everything in place.

Behold your posy! Isn’t she pretty? Make as many as you like for a fun addition to any room. I saved a stack of coffee filters and plan to make this pretty flowers to adorn my daughter’s birthday presents this year.

These posies have found a home on my daughter’s nightstand in her new big girl room. I found a short glass vase for $3.99 at Meijer Supermarket that was just the perfect size to hold three of these coffee filter flowers.  I think these would make such a fun birthday centerpiece addition though with hanging tissue paper pom poms in the same shades for a birthday party.

Right next to those flowers is this handmade lampshade that I made. I will show you how I did that last week. It is another fun, easy, and inexpensive craft that would be a cute addition to any room.

What craft projects have you been working on? Did you ever make coffee filter flowers when you were a kid?  Feel free to share any links to what you are working on! Access all of our craft fun on MomAdvice by visiting our Craft Section. Happy crafting, friends!

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How to Make a Monogrammed Coffee Filter Wreath

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

When my book proposal went out in the literary world, I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into two bedrooms that were both in need of a serious overhaul, to prevent me from thinking about the big decisions being made. All of that nervous energy turned into fuel into creating my daughter and son’s room into what I had envisioned their new big kid spaces to be.

Over the next few weeks, I wanted to showcase some of the crafts that I created and how I decorated their bedrooms on a budget. The first tutorial I wanted to share was for this easy monogrammed coffee filter wreath for my daughter’s wall.  I am not the first to create a coffee filter wreath and I know I won’t be the last. I read a billion tutorials for making these and then decided to do it my own way with a few tips from each tutorial. When you create yours, I am sure you will do the same on your wreath to create a masterpiece for your home.

These are a beautiful accent to decorate any room in your house. These would also make fantastic holiday gifts for your friends, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, or teachers and cost about $8-10 in supplies.

Let’s get started. You need a wreath or wreath form of your your choice (I found this flat Styrofoam wreath at Hobby Lobby), a package of 200 coffee filters, hot glue gun, glue sticks (you will need about six for this project), a screwdriver, a lightweight monogram letter of your choice, and a can of spray paint of your choice.

Fold your coffee filter in half as shown here.

Fold your coffee filter in half again as shown here.

On the tip of this you will apply your hot glue and then fold the tip a bit to apply it to the wreath. Secure the glued end to the wreath, flattening it a bit and adjusting as needed.

The top of your filters will look like this. That screwdriver can go into the center to help push the filter into the wreath and save your hands from getting burned. You can risk it and just burn those hands up, but I found the tip of the screwdriver really works to help prevent burns as you add those filters in. I wish I could take pictures of myself doing this as I am doing it, but, unfortunately, I only have two hands and no one to work the camera for me.

Start filling the wreath in with the filters all over. Anywhere that you see that wreath form sticking out should be covered with your filters. You can bend and twist them into the spots, securing these with hot glue. Catch up on all of your favorite shows since you need to do this approximately 150 times.

Please don’t judge me on my favorite show. A girl needs an escape when doing her billions of loads of laundry and other mundane tasks around the house. It makes me feel hip and chic, unlike the 33 year-old woman sitting on her carpet making a coffee filter wreath.

Keep on going around and around and around. Don’t worry if it isn’t even, just do the best you can.  You can trim it all up in the end and no one will ever know.

Once it is all filled in on top, we need to cover the sides of the wreath so we don’t see any of the wreath form peeking out. Fold the coffee filters as I showed you above and this time we will lay them flat against the side to cover the wreath.

Just keep overlapping this final layer to cover up the wreath form as I have pictured here.  This wreath will be very full and the little spots that aren’t covered won’t be seen, so don’t worry!

Once you flip it over, you will see that the back layer is a tad longer than the other layers. Trim those up with a pair of sharp scissors and cut them down so they fit in with the other layers on your wreath.

Once the wreath is all trimmed up, you can mount a monogrammed letter of your choice. I spray painted mine green to match my daughter’s room. I found this little letter at Michael’s back by the wooden craft supplies. This letter was just, $1.99. The key to this is to find one that is lightweight so it stays on easily. Hot glue the back of the letter and secure it in place on your wreath. You can then hang your wreath with ribbon or just hang it on a nail, as I did here, to keep things sweet and simple.

This wall in her room is making me very, very happy right now. It is the first thing I see when I walk up the steps and was so inexpensive to do.  I framed three of my favorite pictures of her, all printed in black-and-white.

The, “Will We have Rainbows Day After Day?,” printable was found for free printing on Making It Lovely.  I found a frame for this at Michael’s for half off and printed it on my printer at home.  It is so sweet and fits perfectly with her personality and color scheme.

I could not be happier with how this wreath turned out and definitely recommend making one or two for yourself or someone you love.

Don’t toss the rest of your coffee filters out after making this wreath. Next week I will show you how I made this bouquet of coffee filter flowers to adorn a nightstand. No one will believe these are made from this household item and it can be a fun craft to decorate any table in your home.

What craft projects have you been working on? Feel free to share any links to what you are working on! Access all of our craft fun on MomAdvice by visiting our Craft Section. Happy crafting, friends!

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Happy Halloween from the Clark Family

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Happy Halloween to your family from ours!  I wanted to share with you a few of the pictures I took of the kids in their Halloween costumes. This year the requests were to be a Ninja and to be Rapunzel.

Last year’s fairy costume that we picked up from Cracker Barrel magically transformed into the perfect Rapunzel dress. After buying a terrible, terrible wig to go with it from the local costume shop, I found myself at the Disney store to pick up the authentic Rapunzel hair that she could play dress-up with all year long. She was so excited when she saw it and was willing to compromise on not having the official Rapunzel dress as long as she could wear a pink sleeved shirt underneath to make it look like the real Rapunzel.

The Ninja outfit I picked up at Walmart for  $12. Of course the only way I could get my son to agree to do pictures with his sister were in full Ninja attack mode.  After we were done with the photos, I couldn’t stop laughing and looking at them. I think my daughter has her mama’s flair for the dramatics. I wonder if I will be watching her on the stage like my parents watched me.

Not to be outdone by our children, my husband and I schemed and dreamed of costumes for months this year.  I don’t mean to gush, but it is moments like this when I look at my husband and think, “How did I get this lucky?” I have been with this man since he was fifteen. Our parents used to drop us off for our dates because neither of us could drive. We were high school sweethearts that really worked out, and I think I know everything a girl could know about him.  Then something like this comes up, and he surprises me.

In case you couldn’t tell from the pictures, we went as Marry Poppins and Bert from my favorite childhood movie.  We both wanted to make sure we got the look right.  The clothes we both already owned. The bow tie I am wearing was his  from our third prom together (I still had it in a box of mementos from our high school days). I tied grosgrain ribbon around my waist and grabbed the umbrella from my husband’s car. We found Ryan’s hat and gloves at Walmart and my hat from a local costume shop.  The broom was an inexpensive broom from Target that he took the stitching apart and spray painted with a $.98 can of spray paint from Walmart.  I got a sprig of daisies to weave into the hat and just took my giant purse that I use daily as my, “carpet bag.” We probably spent about $20 or so on the whole look, but had the best time making these outfits happen.

I did splurge and buy myself a tube of fancy red lipstick. I have always wanted to wear red lipstick, but never felt confident enough to do it.  I am hoping to wear this on a date night or two.  The color is Red Zin from Bare Escentuals and I am really liking it for a little something different.  Maybe this old girl can surprise her husband once in awhile too!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Have a safe and fun night with your family and friends this evening!

Watching Your Pumpkins Grow

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

It was another fun day at the Pumpkin Patch this year. Some of us (ahem) may have had more fun than others. I finally have some photographic proof that sometimes I am a fun mom. Just sometimes.

Every year I take a picture of them doing the same pose at the same pumpkin patch so that I can see how big my little pumpkins are getting. Sometimes I forget how different they look from year to year. Seeing it all side by side… well, it makes me happy and makes my heart ache all at the same time. The differences are quite remarkable to me.

Try doing this at your pumpkin patch and see what results you find. Line them all up in a Picnik collage and marvel at how big your kids are getting. Those pumpkins grow so fast, don’t they?

How to Decoupage Pumpkins

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

I love to create inexpensive decorations for fall and these easy decoupaged pumpkins are a craft that I have been wanting to try for awhile after spotting this technique in an old issue of Better Homes &  Gardens Magazine. You won’t believe how easy it is to decoupage a pumpkin and since they were so easy to create, I made two to adorn each side of my console table.  Today I wanted to share with you how to create your own decoupaged pumpkin that you can do with your kids or as a fun craft after the kids head to bed.

All supplies for this project were purchased at Walmart and each pumpkin cost approximately $7 to create.

Supplies Needed For This Project

Faux Pumpkin

Modge Podge (or make your own for less)

1 package of paper cocktail napkins (in the party supplies section or in the seasonal section of the store)

Foam brush

Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

Yarn (optional)

Size 5 Double-Pointed Needles (optional)

Twist off the stem on your pumpkin. It should come off pretty easily. Set this aside for later.

Grab your stack of cocktail napkins. When choosing these, I would go for a darker color than this if you don’t want to have to do two layers. Another option would be to spray paint your pumpkin white. I just did two layers of napkins on mine, but you can do whichever works best for you.

Unfold the napkin, and then cut it into two long rectangles down the middle where the fold is.

Using your foam brush, spread your Modge Podge on the pumpkin and then cover in one of your paper napkin rectangles.  Apply the napkins very gently and try to smooth out any wrinkles as you go.  No matter what you do, there will be wrinkles and possibly tears because the napkins are so delicate.   I like to think they add a lot of character and texture to the pumpkin though.

Repeat this layer of paper all the way around. Repeat, as needed to cover the pumpkin.

Once the pumpkin is covered in paper to your satisfaction, apply one or two layers of Modge Podge over the entire pumpkin. Allow it to dry for several hours or until the glue has hardened.

Invert your dried pumpkin, and cut a square of napkin  to cover the bottom of the pumpkin. Apply two layers of Modge Podge to the bottom and any missed layers on the bottom of the pumpkin. Let it dry.

You can leave your pumpkin as is and just hot glue the top back on, but I wanted to add one other layer to these pumpkins. I knitted two leaves for each one, out of scrap yarn, to decorate the top of the pumpkin. This is a great time to use any yarn up that your kids claimed was too scratchy or the end of a ball of yarn that you just couldn’t part with.

I used this free knitted leaf pattern (leaf number one) to create these little yarn leafs for the tops of my pumpkin. The picture above shows the back of the leaf, you want the other side of the leaf to show on your pumpkin. Create your leaf stem as long as you like for your pumpkin.

Hot glue the ends of your leaves to the top of your pumpkin. Hot glue underneath the stem, and then secure it to the top of your pumpkin. Hold this all in place for a minute or two to make sure that it is secure.

Enjoy your little pumpkins in a favorite corner of your home, on your kitchen table, or wherever else a pumpkin might look beautiful. I am looking forward to using these all through the fall and I even think this gray and white one might be a perfect one for the winter holidays too!

It matches perfectly with my Yarn Wreath on my door and adds a fun element to my fall decorating.

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.

How to Paint a Kitchen Table: Our Kitchen Table Makeover

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

I never dreamed that I would ever paint my kitchen table when we bought it. For ten years though we abused it daily, it survived a brutal move with a terrible moving company, and the polyurethane coating never did look right after it was damaged in route to our house on the day we bought it. The table was loved to pieces, literally, and that is why we had to paint it.

Passing through our kitchen, you might not have noticed the table’s beat-up appearance. From far away or cleverly covered with a tablecloth when it got really embarrassing, the table just didn’t look that bad.

Upon closer inspection though, your eyes are assaulted with the damage that has happened to it. The polyurethane coating was flaking away, the ends were terribly damaged on the table, and a huge gash went right through the center of it that I never thought the table would ever recover from.

We decided that we would stain the table and restore the tabletop with a nice deep and rich color. We bought lots of supplies to stain the table and I couldn’t wait to get started.

For two days I sanded the table to within an inch of its poor little life. The polyurethane coating remained. I bought polyurethane stripper and left it on the table for twenty-four hours. The polyurethane remained. I sanded the table more. The polyurethane remained.

I cried.

I rocked in the fetal position.

I kicked myself for starting a project that I didn’t feel as confident in.

I gave up.

We ate at a sad folding table and chairs for an entire week, only to discover this staining would not happen at my novice level of furniture staining.

At this point, I had nothing to lose.

We decided to paint the kitchen table.

The chairs were in good condition other than a quick reupholster to the tired fabric that had been on them. The table legs also happened to be in decent condition so we made the decision to leave the table legs and chairs in their natural wood color (partly out of laziness and partly because we needed our kitchen table back) which definitely cut down on the work.

I am no expert on painting furniture so I consulted with my best friend who has been painting her furniture recently and the ever amazing and wildly talented Kate, from Centsational Girl, who has this amazing tutorial on how to paint furniture. Between the two of them, I felt a tad more confident than I did before.

Once the table was sanded and wood filled in the spots that were really rough on the table, we applied two coats of the Zinsser Cover Stain Primer over the table. Between each coat, once the tabletop was fully dry, I gave it another good sanding and wiped it clean with a cloth. I had to admit, even with just the primer, the table was already looking better.

Once the primer was dry, I applied two coats of paint to the tabletop. We wanted our tabletop to match our kitchen cabinets so we chose Valspar Blanched Pine (7005-15) for the shade of white we were looking for. Two coats of paint were applied to it. The first coat was applied with a brush and then the second coat, I used a roller and then used a brush to smooth out any roller marks.

I did take Kate’s recommendation and added Floetrol to the paint (as directed on the packaging) which really did seem to help cut down on the mistakes that I usually make when painting. This paint conditioner will definitely be used again when I tackle another painting project.

After the paint was dry, we then applied two heavy coats of polyurethane to the tabletop with an angled brush. We allowed the polyurethane to set on the tabletop for four days with no use. I think this was one of the hardest parts about the process, but we wanted to make sure that the tabletop would really be able to withstand our daily abuse once we brought it inside.

The table legs were reattached, the new-to-me chairs were slid under it. We were in business.

Here is our newly painted kitchen tabletop.  It is not perfect, but we truly did the best we could to improve upon something we already owned.

I am so happy to have a tabletop that I don’t have to cover with a tablecloth. I am just hoping that this will be able to stand up to our daily use, but I will be happy if we can get a couple more years out of this set.

I will tell you a secret.

Every time I see a crumb on it, I start freaking out that paint is chipping.

A major freak out ocurred after the kids dined on pumpkin bread for snack one day.

I am wondering when I will get over that.

Perhaps, never.

For now, my husband is just thankful I am done with this project, I am thankful to have reclaimed the garage, and we are all thankful that we didn’t have to purchase a new set of furniture for this room.

How to Reupholster A Chair

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

We have been hard at work on completely redoing our old dining set. My kitchen chairs were in solid condition and didn’t require any painting, but I was tired of the faux leather fabric that I had purchased for the chairs when my kids were little. Today I wanted to share with you just how easy it is to reupholster those chairs and add a little pizzazz to a tired dining set for very little money.

Supplies Needed For This Project

New Fabric (I am using outdoor fabric to help prevent staining from spills. You could also choose a faux leather fabric or any type of fabric and then treat it with Scotch Guard to prevent staining). This fabric should be measured to the width of your chair and then add 4 inches  to each measurement so you have enough fabric to reach around the cushion.  My chair seat was 20×20 so I needed 24×24 for each seat. For all six seats it required 2 yards of fabric total.

Upholstery Staple Gun (available at fabric stores)

Upholstery Staples (heavy-duty)

Needle-nose pliers

Screwdriver

Pinking Shears (or regular sewing scissors)


Invert your chair and use your screwdriver to remove the four screws on the bottom that are securing your cushion to the chair.

If the cushion has fabric stapled on it already, use your needle-nose pliers to remove the old staples and fabric from the cushion. If you only have one layer of fabric, it should be okay, but this chair had two so I had to remove my last round of reupholstering to get back to the base of the chair.

Now it is time to cut your new fabric to replace the old fabric that was on your chair.  This fabric should be measured to the width of your chair and then add 4 inches  to each measurement so you have enough fabric to reach around the cushion.  My chair seat was 20×20 so I needed 24×24 for each seat. For all six seats it required 2 yards of fabric total.

I prefer to cut my fabric with a pair of pinking shears instead of regular scissors because the fabric does not fray with these and I don’t have to mess with trimming and pulling strings on fabric. If you don’t have a pair of these though, you can always use regular shears.

When buying your fabric, be sure to ask if they offer any specials or discounts to customers. I got this fabric at Jo-Ann Fabrics and signed up for their email list while I was at the register. They gave me a coupon that took $16 off of my total fabric purchase so I was able to get fabric for six chairs for $25!

Once you have your fabric cut, it is time to staple. Center your cushion upside down and make sure there is approximately the same amount of fabric on all four sides and then pull the fabric tightly over your cushion and staple it. You are going to want to put your whole body into this one, friends.  Staple all the fabric down along the cushion securely.

Corners can be a tricky terrain, but they don’t have to be. I like to bring the top part down and then fold in the other side of the fabric on top. You can do your corners on your cushion however you like. I think the trick with this one is just to play with it, flip it over and take a peek, and then play with the fabric again until you find a corner you like. Once you figure out how you like your corners, replicate it with the three other corners and then again on your next chair. Trim the excess corner fabric.

Center your cushion back on your chair and make sure all of the fabric is tucked nicely underneath and on top. Secure your cushion back on with the four screws again.

Now just repeat the same process over and over and over again until all of your chairs are done. I was able to get six chairs reupholstered in one afternoon. It isn’t hard to do and is a great job to tackle while watching your favorite shows.

I am madly in love with this fabric that I chose and can’t believe how much more I love these chairs. They look like brand new and I only spent $25 to shine them up.

Of course, what are new chairs without a new-to-me table? Looking forward to revealing what I have been up to this past week and sharing with you our new kitchen tabletop!

This tabletop has needed attention for eight years now and I am finally doing it.

Procrastination is the name of the game.

I hope I am not the only one with an eight year project that has been bugging her.

What is one home improvement project you have been vowing to do, but just haven’t made time to tackle yet?

Frugal Tips for Throwing a Fabulous Birthday Party On a Budget

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

It is hard to believe that my little guy turned nine this year!  When people told me that the years would go by quickly, I did not believe them. It has seemed though that I blinked my eyes and he has grown up. As we do each year, I look forward to celebrating him and wanted to share with you the results of another fun patriotic party that we threw to celebrate Ethan and his awesomeness.

This year’s Walmart Moms challenge was to embrace the 4th of July using supplies from their store and I hope you will love these inexpensive additions that I added to our party this year.

I am lucky to have one child who has a 4th of July party every year and one child who has a Christmas birthday.  I always pick anything that is red for these parties because I know that they will serve double duty for our birthday bashes.

I hate to waste any money on paper products and decided this year I would make an investment into napkins for outdoor party. These bandanas in navy and red were the perfect solution for outdoor entertaining and a steal for just $1. I grabbed these over in the Women’s department by the purses and accessories for women. Honestly, if you have any party theme, they had everything from zebra print, to camouflage, to hot pink designs. I picked up sixteen (a $16 investment)  of these and rolled silverware sets in each one and put them in the glasses for easy grabbing.

Last year, I got these silverware sets for very little money at the wholesale club.  They aren’t the best quality, but they work so wonderfully for occasions like this. Thrift stores also sell silverware and you can often find bags of it very inexpensively. Rolling these into sets made it easier for everyone to grab what they needed and kept the line for the food moving a little quicker. When you are serving a large group, taking an hour to get everything set up like this will really pay off!

Our burger baskets from last year are still going strong and are always a hit at parties. I found these at our local restaurant supply store ($14.99 for 12) and I purchased one package of delicatessen paper ($4.99 for 500 sheets) for my family celebrations. These are not only used for our parties, but for pretty much any cookout our family does.  I couple these with small plates for appetizers or sides that just won’t fit in the baskets and an additional plate for the dessert table. These really have paid for themselves over and over again and I love a nod to anything retro.

Tissue paper pom poms are my new favorite thing to make. I made these in shades of pink for Emily’s Barbie birthday party this year and thought it would be fun to have these on hand for our patriotic parties too.  These cost $1 in tissue paper to make (I grabbed the tissue paper over by the Hallmark displays at our Walmart store) and can all be done in about thirty minutes.

Visit this tutorial to get the scoop on how to make these.  I did the same thing as I did with that tutorial, but cut the corners to a point instead of the rounded, more feminine corners that I did for my daughter’s party. I have packed these away to be brought out for next year’s party or (minus the blue) these could be added for a Valentine’s Day celebration with the addition of one of my pink pom poms from my daughter’s party.

I love a good red, white, and blue theme, but you have to appeal to what your kids desire too. Each year I let my children pick their own cake out of my stack of cookbooks and then I ask them what character they would like to go with for the year. This year, Ethan said he wanted a Bakugan cake. I visited the  toy section of our store and found these little guys for $10 to put on top. Whatever tops the cake, doubles as part of their birthday gift so these little guys were rinsed after their cake debut, and are now performing Bakugan battles in my son’s room.

The cake itself was a melted ice cream cake created from a cake mix and a pint of the birthday boy’s favorite ice cream. Tune in on Monday for that recipe and for the homemade chocolate marshmallow ganache that frosted the top. The Wilton sprinkles were leftover from last year’s party and worked perfectly again to add a little nod to the 4th of July theme.

Last year’s star garland was hung (free), a red tablecloth that I have had for about eight years was placed on the table (free), three flags from our party two years ago were nestled in red tissue paper and a glass apothecary jar that I had in our family room (free), and a navy bandana was angled beneath the cake for to add a little bit of color to the display ($1), with the three tissue paper pom poms hung from white ribbon above ($3).

The trifle that I shared with you is a new family favorite and I couldn’t wait to make it. This glass trifle bowl was only $6.97  at the store and will be used over and over again in our house. Everyone must have had the same idea as me because they were all out of these at our store. Thankfully, my girlfriend happened to be at another Walmart when I called, and she snagged one at her store and saved the day for me!  I can’t wait to try other desserts in this and even use this bowl for decorating in our house. Be sure to check out the recipe for the red, white, & blueberry trifle!

Two summers ago we bought one of those atrociously large water slides to put up in our backyard to keep the kids entertained. Bought on clearance towards the end of the summer, it has paid for itself in party entertainment and for days when I just want the kids to entertain themselves.  The past couple of parties the weather has not cooperated with this form of entertainment for our guests, but this year proved to be just the right amount of humidity and sun that we could put this up for lots of slides and fun with our cousins.  I hate putting it up, I hate taking it down…but anything that can keep the kids happy and entertained for hours on end seems like a fantastic idea for a party.

There is nothing catered at this party and I try to mix in a few old favorites with new recipes each year to our party menu. I work hard to make the party planning process as painless as possible. Everything is done in stages during the week so the last day is just a matter of pulling everything together.  The cake is baked and frozen until the big day, all ingredients are chopped in bags and ready to go, the decorations are hung the day before, I try to incorporate one recipe that can be thrown into our slow cooker, and I do my best to make the last day as fun as possible for me too!

A few of the standby recipes we used this year were our Perfectly Pulled Pork Sandwiches, our Pesto Pasta Salad, and our Birthday Party Punch. More recipes will be coming in the next two weeks!

Of course, no party would be complete without the birthday announcement on the door. The kids have really come to love this tradition of hanging our birthday balloon wreath so everyone knows that their special day has arrived. It isn’t a party without a wreath.. at least that is my philosophy. There is nothing that makes me happier than these simple traditions of fun, food, and family.

happy 9th birthday, ethan alexander!

I hope this gives you a few ideas for your own parties and would love to hear how you keep your parties fabulous and frugal!

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.

Father’s Day Gift Basket: A Fun Movie Gift Basket

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

It’s no secret that I love my dad like crazy! This week we got the opportunity to celebrate him at a dinner in honor of his 35 years of employment with Bayer. This picture of my sister & I with him is one of my favorites from that evening together.  Sadly,  for us, our brother hit the road to start a fresh new life in New Orleans so one piece of our puzzle was missing in this picture. We are missing him a lot already.

Regardless, this gave me an opportunity to give him his dad’s day gift a little early and shower him with love for all of his hard work our entire lives. I shared with you this week, a power-packed punch of a gift to give your favorite superhero dad. I hope that gave a few of you a fun idea for a quick gift to pull together. Now I wanted to showcase one other cute idea I have for a Father’s Day gift basket that I thought you guys might like.

For your basket, look for a popcorn bucket or tub that you can use to fill it with your movie supplies.  I found this tub at our local dollar store, but you can check near the popcorn aisle or over by the popcorn poppers for another fun tub that you can use for the base for your gift.

Next fill the bottom of your popcorn tub or bucket with a little shredded paper or tissue paper. Someone shipped something to me in a million pounds of this shredded paper so that is why I am such a fan of it for a free filler in our house. Whatever you might have in your wrapping supplies will work beautifully for this project.

Fill your popcorn tub with your dad’s favorite snacks. My dad loves black licorice and movie theater popcorn so we filled his up with those snacks to enjoy while he watches his favorite movies. I spent roughly $5 on snacks, but you can spend however much your own budget allows on the snack portion of this present!

Now comes the fun part. Grab your kids and take a few pictures of them pretending to watch a movie. Use your movie bucket for a prop and snap a few pictures that you can use for your gift.

Upload your photo to Picnik. Under the CREATE tab,  select EFFECTS, then select the BLACK & WHITE option to change your picture to a a black and white image. While still under the CREATE tab, select the option for TEXT. Once you are in text, put in your message for your dad. Make sure not to put your text all of the way to the edge of the photo because it may cut it off when you print it. It is better to get it a little further in to assure that you don’t waste ink, paper, or your time!

You can choose from a variety of fonts and colors. The font I choose for these images was Budmo Jiggler. I loved this font because it looked a little like a movie theater sign with one’s name in lights. Add a fun movie message, as we did here. You can do all of this with a free membership to Picnik.

Save your image once you have finished it. If you have a photo printer, you can print these out at home. I printed mine on 4×6 Kodak paper with my photo printer. Attach this image to the front of your movie tub.

To include in our movie tub, we added a gift card for two month’s of Netflix for only $15.98. With our five dollars in snacks, this gift is just a little  over twenty dollars, but is worth two month’s of fun! We tied the gift card with this photo that we also printed on 4×6 paper and finished it all with a little red ribbon.

This quick and easy gift is ready to go and can be pulled together in just a few minutes!  I hope this gift will offer a little more inspiration to your Father’s Day gift ideas and we wish all of our dads out there a very Happy Father’s Day from us!

We happen to have a pretty amazing dad in our midst that we are looking forward to showering with love this year! I feel so incredibly blessed that our children have such an awesome father and am a lucky girl myself!

Happy Father’s Day, Dads!