Cute Candy Valentines

I made these sweet valentines for my kids last year using chocolate candies and scrap book paper.  Scrap book paper can be found at your local craft stores.  You can buy it in stacks of about 200 sheets for about 10 bucks!  There are many different patterns in each stack.  It is our go-to paper for all card making and other crafts.

These valentines were easy and fun to make.  Just cut out cute shapes of your paper, and glue them on the way you want.  Add chocolate candies to embellish your design.  I used chocolate hearts and kisses.



The kids were delighted to get these when they got home from school on Valentines Day.

Some other fun gift ideas for the kiddos on V-day are:

Coupon Books – make your own paper coupons for the kids to “spend”.  You can make them for things like a treat at the store, their choice of dinner night, hugs and kisses (my fav), read a story, trip to the mall (ugh), etc.

Scavenger Hunt – hide clues around the house making sure each clue leads to the next hidden clue.  At the end of the hunt, have the last clue point to the “treasure” (a small box of candy or a valentine gift).

Happy Valentines Day!  Love to you all!


Homemade Gifts for Grandparents

I wanted to share with you some fun and easy homemade gifts your kids can make and give to their grandparents, teachers, bus drivers, or whoever!  Grandparents are great.  And no matter what your kids make them, they’ll love it.  I think homemade gifts are so much more meaningful and appreciated than anything you could buy them.  Especially when you think they already have everything they would need or want.

Family Photo Calendar

Photo Calendar

These make great Christmas gifts just in time for the new year.  You can design your own cover photo, and we like to put in the photos from the past year according to the months they were taken.  We make one of these every year for each set of grandparents.  I get ours printed at the Walmart Photo Dept.  Simply go to then follow the links in the Photo Dept. page to create your own photo calendar.  They are much appreciated by the grandparents who live far away, and don’t get to see their grandkids as often as they would like to.

Shadow Silhouette Picture


This is a relatively easy gift idea, and gives a classy and homemade look to the pictures of your kids.  First, take pictures of your kids facing to the side making sure they’re about the same size.  Next, print the pictures out, and carefully trim around their heads.  Use the printed out pictures as a template to trace them onto paper.  We used fancy scrapbook paper to trace the silhouettes onto.  Carefully trim out the paper along the lines you traced.  (This is the hardest part.  I had my artistic daughter do this step for me.)  Trim, until the silhouette looks like that of your child.  Mount with a thin layer of crafting glue onto paper that complements the paper you chose for the silhouette.  Pop them into a nice frame, and your done!

Scrabble Art

Grandparents Day

Use Scrabble letters to decorate photos or just make a cool design out of your kids’ names and frame it.  You can also make things out of the Scrabble letters like coasters or small boxes.  This time of year, you can usually find Scrabble games pretty cheap.

Hand Print Art


This is a sweet gift for grandparents when your kids still have cute little hands.  You can take anything from towels to a T-shirt and decorate it with your child’s hand prints.  There are some cute patterns you can do, or just a random one looks cool.  Be sure to use washable fabric paint so the grandparents can actually use them and wash them.  Another cute idea is to use your baby’s foot prints for this project.

Homemade Ornaments


We’ve made these in past years using pictures of the kids as part of the ornament.  I used cookie cutters in Christmassy shapes to trace and cut out of cardboard.  I also used popsicle sticks to glue together in a star shape.  Once I did this step, we glued on the pictures of their faces, then I gave them the freedom to decorate them as they liked.  You can use things like glitter, jiggly eyes, pom- poms, cotton balls, etc.  Then you glue on a ribbon for hanging.  Now the kids’ grandparents can see the cute little faces of their grandchildren every time they decorate their tree.

We’ve also made ornaments out of cinnamon and glue which worked out beautifully.  Get my recipe for Cinnamon Ornaments!

Yummy Stuff


We like to make homemade candies like toffee and fudge, or just a sampling of our favorite Christmas cookies and put them in a festive tin.  The kids can help out with the mixing and cookie decorating.  We’ve also made gingerbread houses for the Grams and Gramps, then on New Years Eve, we come over, and help them smash it and eat it. Gingerbread House Recipe.

Whatever you decide to make, try to let the kids do as much as possible to really make it be from them.  It might be hard not to step in and make it look perfect, but the receivers of their gifts will know that it came from the hearts of the little ones they love.

Gingerbread House



My kids love making gingerbread houses.  (Probably because of all the candy involved).  But they really are exciting and fun to make.  The kits they sell at the store are nice and easy, but we think the homemade ones looks and tastes much better.

I created my own template for the house by drawing the walls and roof on a piece of cardboard with a ruler.  This way, you can make your house look any way you want, and be any size you want!  Just make sure your cardboard pieces fit together the way you want them to before using them to cut out the dough.  For example, I wanted to have some overhang where the roof connects to the house, so I had to cut the front and back sides of the house a little narrower than I had originally drawn it.  Don’t forget to cut out some windows and a door!  And don’t worry, with the Royal Icing in this recipe, you can have no fear that your house will fall apart while building it.  It dries fairly quickly, and holds like cement.

Gingerbread Dough Recipe


5 cups flour

1/2 cup baking powder

4 tsp ground ginger

4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves or allspice

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

1/2 cup dark molasses

1 Tbsp water


Whisk all the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Beat butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of a mixer on medium speed intil fluffy.  Add the eggs, molasses, and water and beat until well combined.

Beat half of the flour mixture into the mixer until blended and smooth. Add the remaining flour mixture and then knead the dough until firm and manageable, but not dry. Add more flour if the dough is wet.

Place the dough in a sealable container or zip-top bag in a cool place for up to 2 hours. If you make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it, bring to room temperature before working the dough.

When ready to roll out the dough, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray your cookie sheets with nonstick spray.

Roll out dough about 1/2 inch thick and cut into desired shapes using a sharp knife and the cardboard templates you made, working in batches and keeping the remaining dough in an airtight container so that it does not dry out. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. The gingerbread will be light brown when it is done. Let cool completely before putting together.

Once you have your gingerbread pieces baked and cooled, you can trim them if necessary making sure your walls will be straight.

Royal icing with fresh egg whites:
1 large egg white
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Combine egg white and powdered sugar in a microwaveable bowl and microwave until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. The best way to do this is to microwave the mixture on high power, stopping every 20 seconds to take the temperature; it will take about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, but cook time will vary based on microwaves. Make sure to use clean utensils each time you check the icing. The other option is to microwave the mixture for 45 seconds on high, but the consistency will not be as good.

Beat on high speed until the icing cools and holds a stiff peak, about 2 minutes. If the icing needs to be thicker, add up to 2/3 cup more sugar; you will probably need to add about 1/3 cup more sugar. Food coloring can be added, if desired. Work with the icing in small amounts, keeping the remaining icing in an airtight container, as it will dry quickly.

Royal icing with powdered egg whites:
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon powdered egg whites
2 tablespoons water

Beat all ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer until stiff peaks form. Food coloring can be added, if desired. Work with the icing in small amounts, keeping the remaining icing in an airtight container, as it will dry quickly. The icing can be re-beaten if necessary.

Building the House

First prepare a platform for your house by covering a tray or board with foil.

Place your Royal icing into a pastry bag or a plastic zip-top bag with the corner cut off.

Start building your house by squirting some icing on the bottom edge of one of your walls and placing it on the platform in the desired spot.  Hold until icing is set.

Next, take the adjacent wall piece and apply icing to the bottom and the side that will be touching the standing wall.  Put into position, and hold until set.

Add the remaining walls, using the icing to glue them together.  Let dry for about 5 minutes before icing the tops of the walls and putting the roof into place.

Now you can use the remaining icing to fill in any gaps between the walls, roof and create icicles, snow, and for attaching candies to your house.  Add gumdrop trees, bushes and a pathway to your house.  Be creative, and have fun!

Here’s the gingerbread house we made this year:

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Cinnamon Ornaments


Theses ornaments are so easy to make and the kids love to help make them.  We made ours a few years ago, and they have held up wonderfully, and still smell great!  As you can see, we used lots of different holiday cookie cutters.  We used glitter glue, giggly eyes and pom poms to decorate them once they were dry.  Each kid got to make a few of their own.  We gave them as gifts to family members and teachers, and kept some for our tree.  You can also write on them with a glittery sharpie or puffy paint and use them as gift tags.  These smell so good, you have to remind yourself and the kids that they’re not edible!

Cinnamon Ornaments Recipe

1 cup Ground Cinnamon

1 Tbsp Allspice (optional)

1/2 cup Flour

3/4 cup Applesauce

2 Tbsp White Glue


  • In a medium bowl, stir everything together until you can form a ball of dough.
  • Sprinkle some cinnamon on the counter, and roll out the dough ball to about 1/4 inch thickness.  (Be careful not to roll them too thin, or they might crack.)
  • Use cookie cutters to cut out the desired shapes.  Use a straw or toothpick to cut out a small hole for hanging.
  • Place them on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
  • Slowly dry them in a 200 degrees F oven for about 4 hours, turning them every half hour to prevent sticking.
  • Allow them to cool and dry completely, then decorate, or hang them just as they are.

Tip:  You can usually find a big bottle of cinnamon at the Dollar Tree, since they aren’t going to be eaten, the quality won’t matter too much.


Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach your kids the value of feeling gratitude for what they have.  I know when I think about the things in my life that I’m thankful for, I get a sense of peace and happiness.  I want my kids to feel this way too.  Instead of always focusing on what we don’t have, or what we want,  it feels so good to be reminded of what we already have.  Sometimes, your kids may even remind you of some things you didn’t even realize you’ve been taking for granted.

Thankful Sign

To get the whole family focusing on the things we’re thankful for, I wrote “We’re Thankful For…” on our dry erase board, and left it blank.  It wasn’t long before it was filled up with words and phrases written by my kids.  Some of the things they wrote were silly and weird like “Coco’s wiener” (our dog, Coco is a girl, and therefore doesn’t have a wiener, but she does have an outie belly button that apparently my kids are thankful for), but they also wrote some nice things like home and family.  Regardless of what they actually wrote, at least I got my kids thinking about what they’re thankful for.


If you don’t have a dry erase board, you can use a poster board or make a really cute bulletin board with little note tags like the one I found here on

DIY Thanksgiving “Gratitude Board”

Another cute idea is to make a Thanksgiving Tree.  You can use sticks and branches to make a little “tree” for hanging paper leaves with things that you’re thankful for written on them like this one:

thankful tree

Bring Awareness of the Less Fortunate

Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own lives, that we’re simply unaware of those that suffer daily from lack of the basic necessities of life like clean water, food and shelter.  A good way to bring awareness to our kids, and spark the desire to help others is to show them pictures and movies of the children growing up without the things that most people take for granted. By actually seeing the way less fortunate people live will help our children appreciate what they have.  Just be aware that some videos and pictures could be very disturbing, so make sure you watch them first, and decide whether or not they are appropriate for your little viewers.  I liked this one called  The Bedrooms of Children Around the World from a book by James Mollison:

Give Thanks by Giving Back

Encourage your kids to volunteer their time and help donate to the less fortunate.  With Christmas approaching, it’s a great time to teach children that it is better to give than to receive.  There are so many great charities out there for kids to get involved in.  My kid’s schools are frequently asking for donations for food banks, health related charities, and even a playground fund.  Your little ones can help out by visiting nursing homes or animal shelters.  Little kids love to drop change into the Salvation Army bell ringer’s kettle outside the stores.  Lots of families like to volunteer annually at soup kitchens, and/or homeless shelters.  I grew up in a very religious household where we were always volunteering at places like The Ronald McDonald House, and a farm where we helped harvest food for the needy, and I really enjoyed the feeling that I got from helping others.

Service doesn’t have to be organized.  Raking leaves or shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor is just as helpful and important.  You can take walks around the neighborhood and pick up litter as you go.  Extend an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner to someone you know who might be all alone this holiday.  Have your kids use their imaginations and brainstorm their own service projects to help others.  Just make sure they’re age appropriate for your little givers.

What are some of the ways your family remembers to give thanks?

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!