Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day How to Honor Those Who Serve

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Memorial Day is a national holiday celebrated every year throughout our country. It is a time to really honor those who have sacrificially served our country.

I remember when I was in Middle School having the honor to be the drummer for the veterans in our local parade. At the time I didn't know what a privilege it was to be asked to march with them - in fact I was pretty sure these old guys chose me because I was the only female drummer in our band at the time and they got a kick out of having me join their group. I LOVED it! These memories are some of my favorite from Memorial Day.

Marching with the veterans, tapping out a cadence and enjoying their company along the parade route was amazing - until we came to the local cemetery. I remember how their faces, posture and a sense of serious respect flooded over them as soon as we got within sight of the cemetery. As a kid I didn't know what was happening and was a little frightened at this sudden change. I just marched on drumming out the cadence until we halted.

Their service and the memories they carried so selflessly became once again so real as we stood among the gravestones and small American flags. These "old guys" stood rigidly at attention waiting to fire off their salutes to their fallen soldiers. As they presented their arms, firing off in joined succession I remember having tears stream down my face as the emotion of this ceremony hit me full on.

Fast forward to the present - and this is where I ask myself - how can I pass along to my kids the meaning of Memorial Day? They love going to our annual parade, especially since they know there will be candy thrown towards them by those marching in the parade. I still get choked up every time the Veterans march by. It feels just like yesterday when I was playing my drum, marching along with these heroes.

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Here are some ideas to help you as a parent teach your kids how to honor our veterans and pass along the meaning of why we celebrate Memorial Day.

Read Stories of American History To Your Kids

Find stories documenting the experience our soldiers had while serving. Hearing about the danger, sacrifice and the reality of being a soldier through stories can help your child gain a better understanding of Memorial Day and why we as a country celebrate it. 



Talk to Veterans

My guess is that there is someone in your family, church or circle of friends who is a veteran. Learning first hand from someone a child knows is a great way to teach kids how to respect and honor Veterans. 

My grandpa, a fighter pilot in the Korean war used to tell us grand kids that his hair became wavy on top from flying under and over bridges in the war. He had a great sense of humor and as kids we loved to hear this story (over and over and over....). Later as we got older and began to learn more about the war in Korea, and heard small conversations from aunts/uncles about grandpa's tour(s) in the war I realized how dangerous it was for him and how hard he fought. He dropped bombs, he dodged bullets and he survived to come home and raise his family. 

Listening to the oral history straight from the mouths of those who walked those steps can be a way our kids (and us) honor our vets.

Learn About the American Flag

The history of our American Flag is fascinating. Exposing kids to how all those stars got there, why there are red and white stripes and what each star and stripe symbolizes is a great way to start teaching why we should honor our veterans.


Kids love to craft so why not help them make their own American Flag that they can proudly display at your local parade or in the house. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

via: Crafty Morning

Via: Housing a Forest

Show Your Thankfulness to A Vet

Monkey see monkey do - your kids are watching your every move, right? Why not show them how they can be thankful. It can be as simple as just telling a veteran (or police officer, firefighter or member of the coast guard) "thank you for your service". As a parent you will have to take the lead in teaching how to vocalize thankfulness but I guarantee this small act will stick with your kids forever. 

How about paying for their meal at a restaurant? Make sure you tell your kids what you are doing and why. Make cards and deliver them to your local Veteran's Home. The ideas of showing thankfulness are endless - it just takes some effort on your part to get it started.


However you celebrate Memorial Day don't forget to use this day as a way to teach your kids how to honor our current and past veterans. It is truly what it is all about! 

Thank you Veterans & Happy Memorial Day 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

10 Ways to Throw a Bridal Shower That Won't Break The Bank

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My sister in law is getting married in a few months and I volunteered along with another sister in law and my mother in law to help host a bridal shower for her. She comes from a fairly large family so I knew this would be a well attended and semi-large gathering - the "kicker" is that the budget for the shower is tight but we still wanted it to be a classy party.

So with the challenge before us to throw an epic family bridal shower and stay within budget I sat down and let the creative juices start to flow (with the help of Pinterest of course!).

It costs more than you think to be part of a wedding even if you aren't an actual bridesmaid. As a close family member you have to consider the costs of a shower(s), gifts, attire, lodging....you get the point! Here are some great ways to throw a bridal shower on a small budget that is still memorable, fun and classy.

10 Ways to Throw a Bridal Shower That Won't Break The Bank


Party Venue
1. Be creative when considering a venue for the shower. If the budget doesn't allow for something like a restaurant or hall think about other options like a state or local park with a pavilion. Also consider asking one of the guests to "borrow" their home as the shower venue. All you need is a big living room or if the season is right, a big porch to throw a great shower.

Invitations

2. Sending out custom paper invitations can be quite costly. The options to send out free invitations online are endless so why not try doing this to save a few bucks. For those guests who aren't very tech savvy and aren't able to receive and "e-vite", grab a package of pre-printed invites to send to them.

Here are a few free electronic invitation sites you should check out:

EVITE - easy to use, customizable invites for any type of gathering you need to send invitations.

PAPERLESS - not only do they provide online invitations but they can track RSVP's and link directly to a gift registry.

 

 Party Planner

3. Skip hiring a party planner to do the work of setting up a party - you can do this with the help of a few friends or family members all by yourself. Assign each person a task like setting up the shower space, decorating, plating food and organizing games. 

Decorations

4. Party decorations do not have to be brand new or extravagant. Use what you have around the house like a small mason jar with jute twine wrapped around the center as a vase - add a few sprigs of baby's breath and prest-o chang-o - you have a simple and elegant floral arrangement. Also, spray painting mismatched vases the same color will give your decorations a sense of unity and style. Gold or silver are great wedding themed colors to stick with. Pull out those twinkling white Christmas lights from storage you already have and string a few strands around to decorate. Balloons and even streamers in the wedding party colors can be great party decor.







  Food

5. Food is a big budget item for any party especially if it is wedding related. If catering is out of the question consider asking a few guests to help prepare food ahead of time. Depending on the time of day that the shower is being held you could serve finger foods versus a full meal. A brunch or late afternoon shower where you only serve appetizer style foods could really help keep cost down. If the shower is in the winter serving soup can really help you stretch your budget without sacrificing quality.

Here are some simple finger food ideas you might like to try at your next shower:

Festive Fiesta Bites via: Kraft Recipes



Pinwheel Sandwich
Mojo Pork Kabobs - via: marthastewart.com



Beverages

6. Keeping the drinks simple can help keep the cost of a bridal shower down. Boxed wine or pre-mixed pitchers of cocktails in a punch bowl are much cheaper than hiring a bartender. Coffee, tea, water and soda are also acceptable drinks to serve if you want to stay away from the more expensive alcoholic beverages.

Need a simple punch recipe? Here you go:

  • 2 quarts of cranberry juice
  • 2 quarts of ginger ale
  • 46 ounces of pineapple juice
  • 1 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 container orange sherbet
Mix together in a punch bowl, add ice and it is ready to serve.

Dessert

7. Everyone looks forward to dessert at a bridal shower but you don't have to break the bank with a custom bakery cake. Whipping together homemade alternatives like fruit pizza cookies, brownie/marshmallow/strawberry kabobs or chocolate dipped pretzels rods can keep you within budget while still offering guests a sweet treat. Still want cake - how about dressing up a grocery store cake with your own decorations and frosting accents.

Here are two ideas we used at the shower for my sister in law

Strawberry, Marshmallow & Brownie Kabobs via: clipzine

Fruit Pizza Sugar Cookies via: cookingclassy

Shower Games

8. Shower games don't have to cost a lot (if anything) and can still be quite a hoot! Here are a few that have a high fun factor but low to no cost:


  • What's In Your Purse - have a list of items with point values and ask guests to tally up how many points they have based on what is in their purse from items on the list.
  • Mad libs Wedding Themed- there are lots of examples on Pinterest that you can use for the mad lib game. Ask the bride to select her favorite of the completed mad lib vows to select a winner. Click here for a bunch of free mad lib ideas.
  • Toilet Paper Wedding Dress - divide guests up into groups and give them a few rolls of toilet paper. One guest per group is the "bride" and the rest have to create a wedding dress with the toilet paper to display on the "bridge". The real bride votes for the best toilet paper gown.

Prizes & Party Favors

9. The Dollar Store is your best friend when it comes to gifts for prizes. You can really find some great items for cheap! Think candles, bath soaps, oven mitts, spa items - the Dollar Store has it all, If you aren't into giving store bought prizes how about whipping up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies and packaging them in a cute gift bag to give as prizes. (Need a good chocolate chip cookie recipe? Click HERE for my Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe)


10. Individual party favors for your guests can really add up so why not turn it into a make-n-take activity for the guests and bride to do together. Small terra cotta pots and colorful sharpie markers passed around for all to sign make a great memorable party favor that won't break the bank.

* * *

No matter what your budget - using your creativity and enlisting a few friends to help is always a good idea when it comes to throwing a party or a shower. Have fun with it! 





Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Best Sleepover Guide For Girls

find it here on Amazon
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure here.


The Best Sleepover Guide For Girls

Plan the sleepover of your dreams! The only thing more exciting than a sleepover is planning one! Filled with awesome slumber party ideas for girls, this book guides party hosts from planning to clean up. Inside, you'll find tons of ideas for crafts, activities, yummy foods and snacks to help you with your totally unique and super fun sleepover. This book includes examples of themed sleepover invitations, 3 detailed DIY craft projects and a big list of games and how to play them. You’ll even find the most amazing pancake recipe to make for breakfast the next day!


Whether you want to have a simple pajama party or go all-out with a theme party, this guide has all you need to plan the epic party you and your friends will never forget!

* * *


As a mother of 4 kids (2 being pre-teen girls) sleepovers have become a big deal in our house! My girls spend countless hours thinking up sleepover ideas like crafts, activities and games or movies to do with their friends.

We have hosted many sleepovers at our house with their friends and the girls have attended many sleepovers at their friends' houses. These sleepovers were the inspiration for me to write this ebook so that you and your kids can come up with some great ideas to do at your own sleepover parties.

When my girls first started hosting/attending sleepovers I enjoyed telling them about the sleepovers I had when I was a kids. They love to hear stories like this! Now it is their turn and they love planning and throwing a good party!

The Best Sleepover Guide For Girls is chocked full of ideas from activities and games, crafts and even food/snacks for a sleepover. Also included are three detailed craft projects that your daughter can do with their friends. Oh, and don't forget about breakfast the next day - the ebook even has the Ultimate Pancake Recipe included at the end. This book will help your daughter get ready for her first or 100th sleepover by inspiring new ideas to make this an epic party!

For a limited time I'm running a promotion for this ebook for the Kindle from May 18 - May 22, 2017. Get your FREE copy of this book on Kindle during this five day free download period.

If you don't mind please leave a review for the ebook so others can find it on Amazon too!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How to Make Lasting Memories With Your Children and Grandchildren



This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure here.

Recently my grandmother passed away at the age of 95. She lived a long full life, raising 7 kids in the suburbs of Detroit. She is survived by 17 grandchildren and 22 (and counting) great grandchildren! Wow, that is a lot of family and I'm so glad I get to be a part of it.

Reflecting back on the years of memories with my grandmother has reminded me how intentional she was with each of her grandkids. After 7 kids I think she became an expert in making every moment count even with very simple activities or gestures.

As a parent I hope that the small and big things I do with my kids are all part of the great memories they will cherish as they grow up. Some of my most embarassing moments witnessed by my kids will probably be memories they will have forever (and never let me live down!).

Kids seem to remember our most embarasing moments like it happened yesterday! Know what I mean? So of course one of my favorite memories of my grandma is when she had something embarassing happen to her while spending some time with my sisters and me.


We convinced my grandma to go out on the lake we lived on in a small paddle boat. We wanted to show her how good we were at navigating our little boat and show off the places where we loved to fish. My two sisters and I let grandma sit in the back of the paddle boat while two of us paddled out to the drop off and the big weed beds so we could look for fish. It was a partly cloudy day, great for spotting fish in the water below. We were all leaning out over the water watching for fish. Suddenly we heard a small splash, followed by a angy explitive from grandma! Knowing my grandpa was on the shore a short distance away watching my grandma very quietly told us her glasses just fell into the water and sunk to the bottom. Not wanting to alarm grandpa (or even let him know this had happened) she asked that we make a few passes over the spot where they fell hoping to spot them.

We all felt bad for grandma but knew that this was her problem and she would deal with it all on her own (a.k.a don't tell grandpa). When we arrived back on shore and grandpa asked how the boat ride went, my grandma, with a big smile and sparkling eyes complimented my sisters and I on our excellent paddle boating skills and told how much fun it was to spend time with her granddaughters. We instantly forgot about the glasses basking in the compliments.

Over the years memories of time spent together, cards, gifts and advice have been made leaving me with a full list of memories of my grandma. My grandma loved to read action and mystery novels (Clive Cussler, Mary Higgins Clark were two of our favorite authors) and she and I would swap books whenever we came to visit her. Our enjoyment of this book genre was something we had in common that none of her other grandkids shared. I think each one of us (all 17) can attest that each shared something special like this with her.

So how do you go about creating these types of long lasting memories with your kids or grandkids? Spending time with them is the first step but if you are too far to see each other you might have to get creative.

With the advancement of technology there are so many ways to stay in touch - email, Facebook, Skype, Face Time, ect. Don't underestimate the power of technology - use it to your advantage.

Here is a list of five ways you can begin to create lasting memories with your children and /or grandchildren:

1. Scrapbooking 

Creating a collage of pictures of you and your children/grandchildren with their help is a great way to make a memory together. Reminising over pictures is a great way to talk about past adventures or memories all while creating one with them.

2. Pen Pals

Make a simple cardboard mailbox and put it somewhere in the house where you and your children can write letters to each other and put them in the mailbox. Get ready for some super special artwork, letters and notes from your precious children!

If you are a grandparent and don't live close to your grandkids why not become pen pals. Even if you do live close (maybe down the block) getting a letter in the mail from someone special is a treasure to be kept for a long time.

3. Spontaneous Activities

Think trip to the park, fishing, pick-up game of ball or even going to a game together. The fun part is that it is unplanned and anything goes. As kids get older the activities can change to fit their interests. Remember though this is memory making - NOT time for you to be on your cell phone!

4. Make Meals Together

Time spent in the kitchen preparing a meal together is therapeutic and a great way to make memories. I hope my kids remember the first time they made an omelet, cake from scratch or their own mini pizza with homemade dough. If you aren't handy in the kitchen find a simple recipe to try together. Mess-ups = memories!!

5. Start Traditions

One of my favorite memories as a kid are the traditions my parents did with us every year. Most of them revolved around holidays like carving pumpkins, dying eggs for Easter or decorating the Christmas tree together. Even though we did the same activity every year there were always great memories being made. If you don't have some traditions in your family why not start some new ones with your kids or grandkids.

We make homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning breakfast every year. My kids love helping with this and every year we talk about our memories of past preparations - like somone knocking over the flour or the year the rolls were left to rise so long that the oozed out of the pan!

Making memories with your kids and grandkids is so special! These memories will last a lifetime and be cherished when you are gone. Be creative and start making memories with those who are special to you today!