My New Years Resolutions

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2015 is coming to a close and we'll be celebrating a new year in less than 48 hours.  Crazy!  It's hard to believe how much can happen in a year's time and yet feel like it went entirely too fast and you didn't get to do all the things you would have liked.  Time definitely speeds up as you get older and life gets busier.
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Crock Pot Minestrone Soup

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Crock Pot Minestrone Soup--an easy, delicious soup that is perfect for busy days, sick days or any day!
It's been a crappy week or so in my house.  Everyone got sick with this yucky cold, which then turned into acute bronchitis for my husband and I.  Yeah.  Fun stuff, let me tell you.  And when I'm sick, I really hate having to put too much effort into cooking.  So I was relieved when I opened the fridge and found a big plastic container full of one of my favorite soups: Minestrone.  It was leftover from Christmas Day when we had dinner at my in-laws home and we ended up with about half to bring home.

So today I'm sharing this recipe with you in hopes that you'll find it as delicious as me and my family do.  I wish I could say that I made up this recipe and take all the credit for the yumminess that it is, but I’d be lying and that is generally frowned upon…  The truth is that I found the recipe on Pinterest on a blog called Yummy Healthy Easy who adapted it from another blog (Foodtography).  I have adapted it a little more to suite me and my family.
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Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas

I'm so grateful for this time of year when I get the opportunity to be surrounded by reminders of Christ and His birth.  It is a truly wonderful time of year.  I hope you get to spend the day with family and friends and make memories to last a lifetime. I know that's where I'll be.  Merry Christmas!
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Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic

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Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!
Can you believe Christmas is in two days?  I distinctly remember one Christmas where I was about 8 years old.  I was sleeping soundly, but woke up for some reason.  I looked towards my window where I could see a faint red light and then I heard the sound of bells.  We didn't have red lights on our house and my mom didn't have any bells around that I remember.  I told my mom what I'd seen and heard the next morning and she looked surprised.  Whether it was my imagination or something else, I have always kept that memory as a little reminder of the magic of Christmas.
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150+ Christmas Coloring and Activity Round Up

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The last few days in our home have been filled with crying, whining, fighting, cabin-fever crazy kids.  It seems like the closer it gets to Christmas, the more the bad behavior increases.  Maybe we are all just sick of being with each other day in and day out since the weather turned really cold and we are stuck indoors more often.  I am usually a pretty patient mama, but lately I have been prodded and poked and pushed to my limits.

One thing that I always have in the back of my mind is trying to come up with new activities to keep my kids entertained.  Since my kids are still small, they need more guidance and instruction when it comes to the activities we do.  My daughter is only in preschool but her teacher follows the same schedule as the school district, so the kids are out the whole week of Christmas.  This can lead to less merry and more scary when it comes to everyone being at home together.  So I thought that doing a fun round up of Christmas/winter coloring pages, activities and crafts might be just the thing to keep us all sane.
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25 Easy Neighbor Gifts

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25 Easy Neighbor Gifts--also great for friends, family and co-workers.  Lots of fun ideas!

Today I opened my front door and found a jar of jelly sitting there with a cute note attached: "He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed, like a 'jar' full of jelly".  Aaaannnddd...cue the fun, creative and yummy treats that start popping up on doorsteps during this Christmas season!

Every year, I like to think of fun treats to give out to friends, neighbors and my husband's coworkers.  There are so many cute ways to package and label gifts that it seems a shame to repeat any one gift twice!  (Although, I'd probably be the only one who would know...)  Since it would be impossible to make all of the treats I would want to and show you how to present them, I've put together a friend and neighbor gift round up for you to pick and choose what you'd like to give.  I've just made your holidays easier.  You're welcome.  *wink*  (Please follow the links for more information and pictures.)

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Reindeer Day

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Reindeer Day--fun crafts and activities to do with the kids centered around reindeer

There is something so magical about reindeer.  Maybe it's the thought of them flying through the air pulling Santa's sleigh.  Or Rudolf's red nose.  Whatever it is, my kids can't get enough of them.  So I decided to put together a couple of fun activities and create a "Reindeer Day" for them.

My kids are still fairly young (21 months and almost 4), so I had to keep it simple.  We spent a total of about 3 hours doing these activities over the course of the day, however, if you didn't want to do reindeer activities all day, you could choose any one of these, or split it up across a few days.

Hand Print Reindeer

My kids loved this activity!  They are super hands on and don't mind getting a little messy, so paint is right down their alley.  They thought it was so fun to create a reindeer using their hand prints and some paint.

Step 1: Gather your supplies--We pulled out some blue construction paper, acrylic paint (white, red, brown and black), googly eyes, red or black pompom balls, bells and glue.  You will also need a foam brush, paper plate and paper towels or baby wipes.

Reindeer Day--fun crafts and activities to do with the kids centered around reindeer

Step 2: Squirt some brown paint on your paper plate, grab your foam brush and paint the palm of your child's hand (just one hand!).  If they are old enough, you could let them do this part themselves.  I had to make sure and use a little more paint on my kids' hands since acrylic starts drying quickly.  They thought this part was so funny and kept squishing their hands to feel the paint.

Step 3: Have your child press their hand onto the paper and push on the fingers to make sure the paint touches the paper before lifting it off.

Reindeer Day--fun crafts and activities to do with the kids centered around reindeer

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My FAVORITE Roll and Cut Cookies

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My Favorite Roll and Cut Cookies--the perfect cookie to use with cookie cutters.  We make these year round!
I love to bake, especially yummy treats.  My husband is not so much of a treat guy.  It took a little time for me to figure this out after we first got married and I'd make what I thought was a delicious dessert, only to have him take a tiny bite to appease me.  It hurt my feelings and one day I asked him why he didn't like to eat any of my desserts.  Well, it turns out he's more into fruity desserts, candy or ice cream shakes, so what I was making wasn't bad, it just wasn't what he preferred.  Now, I've learned to either half dessert recipes or make sure and share them with my friends and neighbors.

However, one recipe that my husband and kids LOVE are these cookies I learned to make growing up.  For sake of a better name, they were called "Good Roll and Cut Cookies".  Creative?  No.  Descriptive?  Yes.  These cookies are perfect for...you guessed it: rolling out and cutting with cookie cutters.  I can't count the number of times I've made these, but I would venture to say I've made them more than any other cookie recipe I own.  The reason is that they are super simple, they make a decent amount and you can use them any time of year.  They are definitely my go-to for cookie cutter cookies.

Let's get started!

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Gift Guide: Men

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Gift Guide: Men--HUGE list of ideas for gifts to give the men in your life
If you ask my husband, he thinks that guys are really easy to buy for.  I tend to disagree.  When it comes to trying to figure out what to get him for a gift (whether it's Christmas, birthday, Father's Day, anniversary), it usually takes a lot of thinking on my part to come up with a gift I think he'd really like.  Thinking back on the types of gifts I give him, I realized they generally fall into three categories: practical, interest-based and sentimental.
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Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents

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Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents--great list of all types of gifts for parents and grandparents that they will love!
Trying to find meaningful gifts for parents and grandparents is tough, mainly because in many cases, they could purchase the things they want or need.  So what do you give them?  Most gifts fall into two categories: tangible/physical gifts and consumable gifts.  I've compiled lists from both categories that will hopefully help you find the perfect gift for your parents/grandparents.
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Splitting Time Between Family During the Holidays

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Splitting Time Between Family During the Holidays--great tips on how to balance holiday time with family
The first Christmas my husband and I celebrated after getting married was probably my least favorite.  And it had nothing to do with him!  It had to do with the fact that we tried to split our day between five different places.  By the time we made it to our last stop of the day, we were tired and cranky.  We did our best to muster up the last bit of energy we had, but I'm sure everyone (including us) could tell that our hearts just weren't in it.  On our way home that night, we vowed that we were never going to allow ourselves to do another Christmas like the one we'd just had.

My husband and I are in a somewhat unique situation in that our families and most of our siblings are all in the same state.  In addition to this, my parents are divorced which means we have three sets of parents.  While we love having so much family nearby, we don't like it as much during the holidays because it always seems like someone doesn't get visited or an event can't be attended.  We've experienced a lot of frustration and guilt over the years as we have tried to make everyone happy, to the exclusion of ourselves.
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How to Make a Holiday Glass Block

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How to Make a Holiday Glass Block--an easy decoration to make for yourself or as a gift for holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc
Over the last few years, I've been working on discovering my own personal home decorating style and slowly but surely things are coming together.  This has, of course, extended into my holiday decor.  Each year, I've been getting rid of decorations that I no longer like or use and buying or making some that contribute to the overall cohesiveness of the look I'm going for.

A while back I was browsing through a local boutique that was closing their business.  They had a back room with tons of random items I wouldn't have expected to find there considering it was a clothing and jewelry boutique.  Out of everything in the store, I didn't buy jewelry or clothing--I bought glass blocks.  They only had three of them but I took them all and at a killer price.  I had the best of intentions to make something cute out of them for my home but never got around to it.  (This happens fairly regularly and it drives my husband crazy.  But I do get around to it eventually. *wink*)
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Traditions I'm Starting This Christmas

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When I think of Christmas as a small child, I think of all the different traditions we had growing up.  My mom loved (and still loves) traditions and Christmas is her favorite holiday so we had a lot of them.  Now that I have a family of my own, my husband and I have the opportunity to create new traditions as well as adopting some of the same ones we had in our family.

I remember loving Christmas as a child and wondering how it could get any better than unwrapping presents, playing with new toys and eating yummy food.  And then I became a parent and I was able to see the world from my parents' eyes as I watched my own kids experience the anticipation on Christmas Eve, their excitement on Christmas morning and just the overall feeling of happiness that seems to radiate from their being.  I loved Christmas as a kid, but I love it even more as a parent.
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Winter Bucket List {plus a FREE printable}

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Beating Wintertime Boredom--fun list of things to do as a family in the winter plus a FREE printable bucket list!
I'll be honest: I don't like winter.  I don't like being cold.  In my ideal world, it would only snow on Christmas Day and then melt the next day.  Oh, and it would be 85 degrees outside at the same time.  I'm just a warm weather girl.  BUT don't think that means that I don't try my best to embrace the season and everything that comes with it.  I have a lot of wonderful memories surrounding winter: My husband and I met in the fall and dated during the winter.  Our first date was ice skating and hot chocolate.  We got engaged on New Years Eve.  So while I don't like the cold, I do my best to bundle up in cute clothes and think about the things that make winter fun and magical.  Now that I have kids, I see how excited they get when they see the snow falling, put on their snow clothes and run and jump and play and lay down in it.  After all, I grew up in Utah and I still live here and there are some things that I actually love doing during the winter.
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Happy {Day After} Thanksgiving

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I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday!  I know we sure did.  I loved starting new traditions this year and we will definitely be continuing them for years to come.  One thing I especially love about these new traditions is that they can be used in any situation or circumstance and they can be adapted to your own family and resources.  You don't need money or time to share what you're thankful for.
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What I'm Thankful For

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Today, I am thankful.

I am so incredibly grateful for all that I have and I have been given so much that I want to share with you the things that I am most thankful for...

--I am thankful for my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ.

--I am thankful for my family, both immediate and extended.  They are a great support system in good and bad times. Due to my parent's divorce, I don't have just two sides, but three, which gives me more people to love and who love me.

What I'm Thankful For

What I'm Thankful For

What I'm Thankful For

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23 Free Thanksgiving Coloring Pages and Activities Round-Up

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23 Free Thanksgiving Coloring Pages and Activities--a great round up of coloring pages and activities to keep the kids (and adults) busy until dinner
One of the hardest things about Thanksgiving is the waiting.  Waiting for everyone to arrive.  Waiting for the food to cook.  Waiting for everyone to gather and get settled at the table.  And as hard as it is to wait as an adult, it's even harder for kids!  So to help keep everyone happy, I've done a round-up of free Thanksgiving coloring and activity pages for all ages so you don't have to do anything except print them out.  Just remember to bring the crayons.
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DIY Dollar Store Hurricane Vases

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DIY Dollar Store Hurricane Vases--Use dollar store glass vases and candlesticks to make these inexpensive hurricane vases!
When it comes to home decor, I have a hard time committing.  I can find colors that I like, but figuring out the details can be challenging.  Or I find a knick-knack that I love but I'm not sure it's the right fit for my house.  (This is probably partially due to the fact that I am still trying to nail down my own personal style.)  However, I do have a few items that I consider classic pieces.  One of these is hurricane vases.  I love them because I can easily change out what I put inside to match whatever decor I have up, whether seasonal or part of my everyday home decor.  There are various sizes, shapes and even colors to fit any style.
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Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

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Pumpkin Gingersnaps--the perfect combination of pumpkin and spices.  I make these every year and everyone loves them!
My mom loves gingersnap cookies so I grew up eating them.  There is something about the ginger and the molasses together rolled in sugar that just makes me happy.  My mom also loves pumpkin pie and has been known to make it any time of the year so I grew up eating pumpkin pie year round.  I love the way that pumpkin and spices smell and taste together and it always reminds me of fall.  So when I stumbled upon this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod for pumpkin gingersnaps about four years ago, I knew I had to try them.  And let me tell you, I was not disappointed!  I've brought these cookies to many a holiday party and everyone loves them.  Even people who don't like pumpkin or gingersnaps, like my brother-in-law, have requested them multiple times.  They are perfect for cookie exchanges, holiday treats or just something yummy to munch on at home.  I love that they are not your typical pumpkin cookie, but they still bring the warmth of pumpkin and spices into your holiday baking (and kitchen).
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Finding the Balance Between a Clean House, Happy Kids and Your Sanity

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Finding the Balance Between a Clean House, Happy Kids and Your Sanity--great tips on how to find balance at home in these areas.
Today, like most days, I was straightening up the house—putting away toys, starting the laundry, cleaning off the counter—with my kids trailing behind me.  From the 3 (almost 4) year old: “Mom, what are we going to do today?  Where are we going to go?   Can I watch a show?  Can we do a project?”  The questions keep coming, like they do from curious preschool-aged kids.  And then there’s me, trying to answer the questions as they’re asked, still while trying to clean up: “I don’t know what we’re doing today.  We’re not going anywhere until the house is clean.   No, you can’t watch a show right now, I need you to help me clean up.  We'll do a project when your brother's asleep.”  Meanwhile, the 19 month old is pulling out all the toys I just put away and dumping blocks all over the floor.   Does this sound familiar to anyone else?
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Book of Thanks Tutorial

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Book of Thanks--quick and simple tutorial on how to make a Book of Thanks for commemorating Thanksgiving each year!
Last week I posted about new traditions I'm going to be starting this Thanksgiving.  One of the traditions is a Book of Thanks, which is basically a journal or binder that you can bring with you each Thanksgiving, wherever you are, and have everyone write what they are thankful for (or draw a picture) in it.  (You can read more about it here in the original post.)  Today I am sharing a tutorial on how I created my Book of Thanks.  Hopefully it will give you some ideas about creating your own.
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Glow in the Dark Bath Paint

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Glow in the Dark Bath Paint--a great indoor activity and so much fun for the kids!
You know those glow in the dark stars that every kid growing up in the 80's and 90's had?  I remember wanting them so much that I asked for them for my birthday and was so excited to get them!  I put them up all over my walls and ceiling and would rearrange them into different shapes or the initials of my latest crush.  Now that I have kids of my own, they are just as fascinated by things that glow in the dark.  So when I found a "recipe" for glow in the dark bath paint, I was excited to try it out with them.
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Junk Drawer Organization

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Junk Drawer Organization--Easily organize the junk drawer with a few simple tips.
Ah, the junk drawer.  Everyone has one somewhere in their house.  Maybe two or three.  It's that convenient place where you throw anything and everything, thinking that you'll "put it where it really goes later".  But later never comes and pretty soon you can't open/close the drawer without having a little fight with the inanimate object.  It's ok.  I've been there too.
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Traditions I'm Starting This Thanksgiving

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Traditions I'm Starting This Thanksgiving--New traditions to start this year that remind us to be thankful.
Family.  Food.  Football.  The three F's of Thanksgiving.  In three weeks, families all over the U.S. will be indulging in these activities in abundance.  Homes will become full of the smells of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, warm rolls and three different kinds of jello salad.  Growing up, I attended Thanksgiving dinners with family and friends in their homes, apartments and camping trailers, with no two years being the same.  Each year holds special memories of talking and laughing over food, napping in the afternoon and, of course, football, both on the TV and out in the yard.  And with Halloween past and Christmas coming up, there's Thanksgiving--tucked right in between the two.  I wouldn't go so far as to call it a forgotten holiday.  I think that pretty much everyone celebrates it in some form or another.  But I do think that it gets overshadowed by Christmas and that has always bothered me.
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Kid Science: Color Explosions

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Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!
As an adult, I forget sometimes how neat the simplest science experiments can be for kids.  So many of these experiments can be done at home with items you already own or are inexpensive to buy.  One such activity is combining baking soda and vinegar and watching the bubbles form.  Add some food coloring and dish soap and you've got an even better homemade explosion that will impress your little ones for sure!
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Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles

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Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles--Use a rotisserie chicken to simplify the meal!
Growing up, my mom would regularly make meals that were so yummy we'd all ask her to make it again.  She'd then shrug her shoulders and tell us that she just made it up and didn't write down the recipe, so the odds of duplicating it exactly as we'd had it that night were slim.  It became a running joke in the family to ask her if she'd remembered to write down the recipe, or at least all the ingredients, when we'd sit down to a dish we'd never had before.  One of the meals we had many times growing up, and that my mom did have a recipe for, was chicken noodle soup with homemade egg noodles.  We knew if we saw a whole chicken going into the pot that chicken noodle soup was on the menu.  My family loved (and still loves) it, especially in the fall and winter or when we were sick.  There is just something about the homemade stuff that can't be poured out of a can.
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Easy Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

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Quick and Easy Peanut Butter Cup Cookies--Just a cookie mix and a bag of Reese's miniatures and you've got yourself a great dessert!
Let me just start out by saying that I love peanut butter.  I'll scoop it out of the container and eat it straight off the spoon.  Peanut butter and jam sandwich with extra crunchy peanut butter?  Yum.  But I especially love peanut butter in desserts.  This recipe I'm about to share with you today is one of my favorites and the bonus is that they are super quick and easy to make.
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Awesome Non-Candy Alternatives for Halloween

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Awesome Non-Candy Alternatives for Halloween--Some great ideas for non-candy items to give out to the kids on Halloween!
Phew!  Is it just me, or does it feel like October flew by?  I was realizing that I just celebrated my birthday at the end of last month and here it is already the end of another month.  That being said, Halloween is going to be here in three days and there are going to be lots of little (and maybe not so little) people coming to your door looking for a goody to put in their bags.  As a kid, I'd come home with my loot and dump it out on the table then sort it according to type: candy bars in one pile, tootsie rolls in another, etc.  (I still sort my M&Ms by color and then eat them in a pattern.  I'm weird, I know.)  Then I'd pick a few, eat them and save the rest because I remembered my mom's warning: "Eat as much candy as you want, but you'll have to have milk of magnesia afterwards."  That right there stopped me from eating more than 3-4 pieces.  (Have you ever had milk of magnesia?  Imagine trying to swallow an entire mouthful of pasty chalk.  Disgusting.  Just the thought of it makes me cringe. *shudder*)

Now that I am a parent and I have to worry about my own children's health (and pay the dental bill), I've been thinking about alternatives to candy that I can give out on Halloween and I've put together a list for you to consider if you'd like to give out something different.
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How to Make A Bouncy Ball

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How to Make a Bouncy Ball--My kids love to make and play with these fun homemade bouncy balls.  So much cheaper than buying them when I know they'll just get lost!
My 3.5 year old daughter is at the stage where she will take an afternoon nap about 50% of the time.  This means that some days I have kid-free time and other days I need to think of something to do with or for her that will keep her entertained so I can have some semi-kid-free time.  A while back I had seen a recipe for how to make a bouncy ball.  This sounded like something that my daughter would be interested in and I thought it seemed easy enough to do.   I did have to do a little planning ahead for this activity since it calls for Borax and white glue, which I didn’t have on hand.  I didn’t mind buying the items since I’ve seen other activities call for Borax and white glue is dirt cheap.  I already had corn starch and food coloring so when nap time didn’t happen, I was ready.
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6 Simple Ways to "Halloween-ify" Your Home {plus a FREE printable}

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6 Simple Ways to "Halloween-ify" Your Home {plus a FREE printable}
So...Halloween is next week and you might be like me and realize that there's not much Halloween-ish-ness going on at your house.  While I do like to decorate during the holidays, I generally just have a few places in the main living area that I put up decorations.  (I've also got littles in my house who like to play with the decor if it's not out of reach.)  I'm not into creepy or spooky so my Halloween decor leans more towards pumpkins and witches, rather than skulls and zombies.  But whatever your Halloween decorating style is, there are a few staples that you can't go wrong with.
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DIY No-Sew Burlap Table Runner with Tassels

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DIY No-Sew Burlap Table Runner with Tassels--Make this easy burlap table runner.  No sewing required!
With the changing of seasons, I've been swapping out my summer decor for more fall themed decor.  I was looking around the house today and noticed that the credenza (fancy word for table) in the front room was looking a little bare and I had two words pop into my head: burlap and runner.  I ran downstairs and grabbed some burlap remnant I'd bought who knows how long ago thinking it would be nice to have on hand.  (I have a hard time resisting the remnants bin.  It's a problem...)  Turns out that I had the perfect amount to make a cute and easy table runner.
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Welcome to Sunshine and Munchkins!

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Sunshine and Munchkins--blog about family, marriage, parenting, food, kids activities and more 
Hello!  Welcome to Sunshine and Munchkins!  (And before you ask, no, this blog has nothing to do with The Wizard of Oz...)  My name is Shani and I'm so glad you decided to stop by.  I am mom to two beautiful kids, a girl (3) and a boy (1), who I get to stay at home with.  They are both crazy, curious, happy kids and they keep me on my toes!  I am also married to the best husband in the world.  (Can a girl get any luckier?)  I love to read, craft, scrapbook, DIY, cook/bake, dance, laugh, take pictures and soak up the sunshine any chance I get.  I graduated in Marriage and Family Studies and love applying the things I learned in college to me and my family’s life. I love sharing and discussing new ideas and viewpoints and am fascinated by the way people think and their life experiences that got them to where they are now.  I am a self-proclaimed “ambivert” so while I enjoy getting out of the house and doing things with family and friends, I’m also perfectly content to read a book for hours alone (which with 2 kids pretty much never happens, but I can dream, right?).

The idea to start a blog of my own has been in the back of my mind for a while, but it wasn't until recently that I thought, 'What the heck?  Let's do this thing!  Maybe I've got something to say that someone else will find helpful.'  And I hope that's the case.  But I also want to hear from you!

On this blog you'll find a little bit of everything, from recipes to crafts, holiday and seasonal activities to marriage and family topics, with a little bit of hair and beauty tips thrown in for good measure.  I am not an expert in any of these areas, but I do have a passion for them.

So join me as I raise my little munchkins and search for and share the sunshine in this beautiful, crazy thing called life!
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