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LIFE | Ella Moments for 2013

Monday, December 30

I'm still enjoying time with my kids for the holiday break but wanted to pop in to say hello and share a quick video I put together the other day using the Flipagram App. I just went through my Instagram feed and picked my favorite photos of Ella from 2013 and then added Ella's favorite song and voila! I have a fun slideshow of my favorite "Ella Moments"...

Approaching a new year is always so emotional for me! I'm sure it is for all of us.
There's a lot of reflection we all do about the past year of our lives and of course we all do a lot of dreaming for the new year ahead too!

My heart has been really, REALLY heavy lately about simplifying.
I'm going to be very intentional with my time in the coming year…
and to avoid getting into any deep conversation about it for now…I'll leave it at that.

Big changes and big decisions are standing right in front of me…
they are literally blocking my ability to move until I address them head on.
Change can be scary but ready or not…here I go...

CELEBRATE | Sparkly New Year's Eve Food Flags

Monday, December 23

Two days until Christmas everyone!!
Are you ready? I've still got a few more presents to get, how about you?

While you are finishing up your last minute Christmas preparations, be sure to pin this cute idea for your New Year's Eve celebrations that will surely sneak up on you! (or am I the only one that happens to?)

You really don't want to get caught without some sort of sparkle for your NYE plans!? Am I right?
These sparkly food tags I'm sharing on SNAP! today are so easy you can whip these up in less than 30 minutes! And of course - you get the FREE printable too!!

See you over on the SNAP! Blog!!

No lights on the house this year but let's focus on the positive:
We did go to Santa's Christmas Tree Forest again this year (about 3 weeks ago) to get our tree. (although as we were trying to leave, Clara and Ema decided they were too old to go this year which really upset me.  Determined to make them regret their choice for not going, I was all set on coming home with the most scraggly "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree ever but I ended up just settling on a small tree. I also tried to have Ella and I eat the entire bag of kettle corn, (one of my favorite parts of the whole "picking out a christmas tree" process), before we got home so I wouldn't have to share any with the Clara and Ema!) Ha!
The Christmas tree is fully decorated.
Stockings are hung.
Almost all of the presents are wrapped.
Stuart has been popping up in unexpected places every day…keeping an eye out on all of us.
We had our annual Cookie Baking with my aunt Susan and cousins Kalie and Beau. I missed my mom joining us this year because she was up in North Carolina helping out her sister, my aunt Joyce, who's husband had a stroke in October.
The girls and I went to see the Nutcracker together this weekend. (although the mood was almost completely ruined by a heated discussion Ema and I got into right before we left - ugh!! AND this year's performance was called "Clara's Dream" and it actually seemed like more of a recital than an actual "production" PLUS there was never one mention of the Nutcracker? Not even one? Unless you count the nutcracker garland Clara and her mom hung on the tree together? Weird.
We also took Ella to see a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Musical on Saturday afternoon. She LOVED it. It was actually much more entertaining and impressive than the Nutcracker. Hmm?

CRAFT | DIY Hand Glittered Clothespins Gift Package - Michael's Recollections Glitter

Wednesday, December 18

Hand Glittered Wooden Clothespins? Oh yes!
The glittered clothespins may not be an "original" idea but I bet you've not ever seen this adorable DIY Packaging for gifting a set to someone you know?! *wink*
I LOVE how this turned out and I'm going to show you how to make this…but first…
let's talk GLITTER!!

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Ella and I have been crafting together.
One of our most recent projects involved glitter…really pretty glitter in fact…and lots of it.
We were so excited when Michael's sent us a box filled with a variety of Recollections Glitter we moved everything off of the dining table and started crafting immediately. It was really hard choosing between the fine, tinsel and chunky glitter varieties, not to mention the different colors available. So instead of picking one or two, Ella and I used them ALL! *wink*

The jars start at $3.99 and can be purchased as a set or individually. I found myself reaching for the Raspberry, Peacock and Citron fine glitters repeatedly and I actually have a favorite now! 
It's this one right here called "Bling"! Ella calls it the "rainbow" glitter and it actually reminds me of a disco ball! It's really pretty and sparkly and sort of has a touch of each color! LOVE!! *wink*

I decided to get out some wooden circles from my craft stash and we started gluing and glittering. I wasn't sure what we were going to do with them when we were finished (magnets, banner, tic tac toe game pieces, etc.) but we couldn't contain our excitement for adding sparkle to things so we just went with it and knew we would figure something out along the way.

We got out some wooden stars and glittered those up too. We then added some of the Christmas Tree and Snowflake Glitter to some of the circles and then decided to turn them all into tree ornaments for Ella's little Christmas tree in her room. We just glued on a loop of Baker's Twine, let them dry and then Ella was happy to add some sparkly ornaments to her already sparkly tree. I think these would be cute tied onto gift packaging too!!

My favorite ornament ended up being one Ella created - by accident - when she partially painted glue onto a wooden star and then dunked it into the Raspberry glitter. She immediately recognized it as a buffalo - so that's what we are calling it! Our Buffalo Christmas Star Ornament! This is one of those "I'm keeping it forever" ornaments.

See the buffalo's head bent down on the left? It's a silhouette of the side of a buffalo - see it?
If you don't see it, don't tell Ella! I absolutely see it and love that she's the one that told ME what it was!

Over the course of a few days, Ella and I went on to experiment with adding glitter to other wooden objects I had around the house, like these rock candy sticks from The TomKat Studio. All I did was add glue to the ball on the end of the stick and then I dipped the ball into the jar of green tinsel glitter. I then did another one dipped in red tinsel glitter. I twirled it around in the jar to make sure it was coated nicely and then pulled it out! Super easy and no clean up! *wink* You could use these for those adorable Hot Chocolate Sticks Kim posted!

And that's how we eventually arrived here...

Mini Glittered Clothespins

I experimented with several different ways of applying the glue: painting it on with a paintbrush, dipping the clothespin into a puddle of glue poured on a plate, spreading a thin layer of glue on a plate and then dipping. I found the easiest way to make these was to designate my pointer finger as the "glue" finger and I just rubbed a small amount of glue onto each clothespin (avoiding the crevice) and then dipped the clothespin into whatever glitter I wanted. Really easy. I also kept a toothpick on hand to remove any extra glitter or glue that tried to attach itself to the crevice found on top of the clothespin. (where the metal spring is exposed).

I plan on using these pretty clothespins to string up the various works of art Ella creates. I'll also be using them to hang up a New Year's Eve banner in our home too and they will be so cute to mark magazine or book pages. When I was finished making them I wanted to gift them and share them with everyone.  So that's when I decided to come up with a creative way to package them up!

Recollections Glitters shown above include:
(left to right: Peacock, Raspberry, Ocean, Citron and Bling)

So let's get to the how-to, shall we?
I've created a free printable so you can easily make your own packaging to gift your own hand glittered mini clothespins. These would be a great gift for the kids to make too. (just saying)

Print onto 8.5" x 11" white card stock and cut out the two separate packaging pieces.
(Fold-over printed packaging and Clothespin Attachment Card)

Punch out a circle window from the packaging just under the printed text using a 2.25" round craft punch

Fold back opposite edge using crop marks as guides

Insert Clothespin Attachment Card into the lip you created and staple the two pieces together. 
(The concept resembles a book of matches).

Fold over the packaging cover and tuck inside the lip you created with the staple. 
Flatten packaging using a bone folder or other item to create a nice crease.

Add the clothespins. 
Open package cover and start adding the clothespins. It's easiest to start with one clothespin in the middle (should line up with staple) and then add the others to each side of the middle clothespin.
Keep them grouped close together so they fit nicely inside the circle when the cover of the packaging is closed. 
I designed the package to fit five small clothespins. 
I used "Small Wooden Clothespins" packaged as a set of 20 found in the Office Supply section (not in the craft section) of WalMart. 

If you want to get all fancy and protect the glitter on your clothespins you can add a piece of clear cello film to the inside of the packaging to create a see-thru window. I just cut a square from a clear cello envelope I already had and used a glue stick to secure it. Easy.

Here's the finished packaging WITH the clear cello added to the circle window.

And here's the finished packaging WITHOUT the clear cello added to the circle window.

Either finish looks great!  Personalize your little gift sets by including colors you think the person will love. OR just pick your favorite shade of glitter and create an entire set using it.
 You know I'll be doing that with the "Bling" fine glitter! *wink* 

I hope you love this idea and will use the FREE download to create your own packaging.
I'm absolutely loving the Michael's Recollections Glitter and will be continuing to use it for a variety of craft projects!

It took me forever to get the packaging JUST right on this. I wanted to make sure you didn't have any issues printing or assembling it exactly the way you see it here so I tweaked it and tweaked it until it was just right. I may have been OCD about it too. But I'm not confirming that! *wink*


POPCORN | Popcorn Cupcake Recipe, Kernel Season's Giveaway + TRYditions

Tuesday, December 17

I've got POPCORN on the brain this week - for several different reasons.

It all started with posting the Restyled Chalkboard Popcorn Bar last week. I received so many emails about how much you all loved the new edition to the original Rustic Popcorn Bar I styled - sweet, sweet emails from brides asking for tips on incorporating this idea into their wedding. I even gave out 3 FREE SETS of the new Chalkboard Style Popcorn Bar printables here on the blog!

All of this popcorn talk reminded me of a recipe I'd been wanting to make. I discovered the recipe in the September issue of Food Network Magazine. There was actually an entire section dedicated to "Fun Popcorn Treats" and the Golden Butter Popcorn Cupcakes recipe was what caught my eye and made me purchase the magazine. Not to mention the cute Kids Mini Mag inside. (there were some ideas in the mini mag I was going to use for Ella's 5th birthday party but I ended up not having time to execute the ideas - a recurring theme in my life).

Needless to say I was very intrigued by the thought of a Popcorn Cupcake! So just last week, after posting the long-awaited Restyled Popcorn Bar - I knew it was time to finally try out the cupcake recipe.

If you'd like to try out the recipe HERE'S THE LINK.
Also, here are some of my recommendations

1. The popcorn topping I used on these Golden Butter Popcorn Cupcakes was made using Kernel Season's Popping Corn and it popped perfectly!

2. I did not crush up the white chocolate covered popcorn to incorporate into the whipped topping as recommended. I didn't think it would look as pretty when I piped it onto the cupcake and honestly, I didn't see any chunks in the photo of the cupcake shown in the magazine. The chocolate covered popcorn was a little on the chewy side for my tastes. I would've liked it to be more crunchy. (Which is another reason I didn't add it to the whipped topping).

3. I think I would wait to add the popcorn topping just before serving. Like I mentioned above, the popcorn tasted a little chewy to me so I'm not sure if it was because of sitting in the whipped topping or if it's just from the white chocolate coating?

4. I personally would add a little fleur de sel to the popcorn topping - maybe just after you've added it to the cupcake just before serving?  I prefer the salty & sweet combination. In fact, I'm thinking instead of adding a white chocolate coated popcorn topping, I'd probably prefer to add some kettle corn instead. (See this recipe) That would satisfy both my salty & sweet craving along with giving it more crunch.

Now that you've got a fun Popcorn Cupcake recipe to try out…it's time for more POPCORN fun!

How about a FUN GIVEAWAY sponsored by the awesome people at Kernel Season's! After posting the Restyled Chalkboard Popcorn Bar last week, Kernel Season's reached out to me to extend a FUN offer to my PNPF blog readers! 

Would you like to be one of FOUR WINNERS 
to receive one of these adorable Party Popcorn Gift Sets?

Kernel Season's is generously offering up TWO of these...

and TWO of these…

Here's a peek at what's inside the 8 Seasoning Gift Baskets
8 bottles of seasonings + 2 bags of microwave popcorn 

And here's a closer look at the Popcorn Party Packs
3 mini bottles of popcorn seasoning, 1 popcorn spritzer + 1 bag of popping corn
Those MINI seasoning bottles are so adorable!! LOVE them!!

These party packs will be perfect for the popcorn we'll be popping on New Year's Eve!
If you'd like to win one of these Popcorn Party Packs or Gift Baskets
use the Rafflecopter app below to enter.
Each task has a certain number of points associated with it.
Each point represents your name "in the hat". Do one task or do ALL of them. You choose!

And here's one more reason to LOVE Kernel Season's…
I just LOVE that!!! I'll be purchasing a couple myself knowing my purchases will allow a couple of packs to be sent to those who sacrifice so much for us!!

Good luck to everyone who enters the giveaway!
And thank you to Kernel Season's for offering up such a fun treat to PNPF blog readers and fans!

One final thought on popcorn…
Ema has requested we do our annual "TRYdition" of stringing cranberry and popcorn. I call it a "try"dition because there are some family traditions I've started over the years that we LOVE doing (or maybe it's just me that loves doing them?) but sometimes we just aren't able to squeeze in every year. So I guess since these traditions don't actually occur every. single. year.  they can't truly be considered a tradition in the authentic sense of the word. So I just made up the word "TRYdition" - anyone else have some tryditions of your own you'd like to share? (because I'm curious and also because I'm looking to eliminate some of the guilt I feel for not being able to follow through on every single brilliant, cute, fun tradition I've ever started - which would be absolutely impossible, by the way). *wink*

I was really hesitant about what the turnout would be when making the Golden Butter Popcorn Cupcakes. I brought 8 of them to a church activity and let some of our church friends taste-test them.
They all gave them a thumbs up and agreed a little fleur de sel might be a good addition otherwise they had great flavor and the "cake" part was nice and moist.

GIVE | Mini Hot Cocoa Cup Gift Idea

Friday, December 13

Hi everyone! Have you seen anything more adorable than these miniature beverage cups? I'm in LOVE! I love all things "kraft paper" so these immediately caught my eye in the TKS Shop.

I was on The TomKat Studio yesterday sharing how to turn these into a super simple (and ridiculously cute) idea for holiday gifting!

These are something that would be darling for party favors, classroom parties, Secret Santa gifts and maybe even for "Elfing".

Join me over there for all of the details and then come back here to print off your very own...

FREE Mini Cup Wrappers and Instructions Tags

Hope you love the idea and will use it in your gift-giving this Holiday Season!

And hello weekend…looking forward to wrapping my arms around you!!

I seriously about fell over when I opened the box and saw how tiny and adorable these mini kraft ripple cups are! The mini beverage lid is crazy cute! LOVE them!

GIFT IDEA FOR KIDS | Care for Our World Play Set

Thursday, December 12

Over the Thanksgiving break, Ella and I found ourselves on several occasions crafting and doing puzzles together. As we were setting up this "Care for Our World Play Set" I realized I hadn't ever shared this on the blog and what better time than now - as you are searching for fun gifts for the holidays.

As an brand ambassador for Live Inspired aka Compendium, when I received this item last year, along with some other special treats they sent me, I was in love with it immediately. Without trying to sound like a commercial, I have to say I was really impressed with the high quality of this "punch-out the pieces and assemble" interactive play set and even more than that I was drawn in by the pretty colors and the overall design. The play set comes with over 2 dozen animals, birds, insects, frogs, trees, bushes, a little boy and girl and a coordinating book. The box it all comes in is also a sturdy storage box to neatly tuck in the punch out cards and pieces and there's room for the book too when you are done.

The more Ella and I have continued to play with it, the more impressed I am. As a designer, I really appreciate the small details that most people might overlook. These pieces are double-sided but even more than that, the double-sided images are not the exactly the same. For instance, when you look at the front of the panda bear shown in the background of the picture above, you see it's face and you'll notice it's holding a leaf. 

However, when you flip the panda over, instead of seeing the same image on the backside, you instead are actually looking at the "BACK" of the panda, which has a little grasshopper sitting on the panda's shoulder. (Ella's pointing to it in the photo above). All of the pieces are like that! I LOVE that. It would've been just as easy to create this play set using the same exact image on both sides. The fact that the artist/designer went above and beyond is something I really, really appreciate. 

I love that you can attach the butterflies, birds and other animals to the trees and bushes. (Or even attach them to the animals like Ella did to the bear. (see photo above).

Again, as Ella and I continue to get this out and play with it, I've begun to recognize the sheer brilliance of this clever "toy".  Not only does it provide the obvious - imaginative play; Kids are also using eye-hand coordination when assembling the pieces and then the play set actually becomes a PUZZLE when the kids take the pieces apart and put them back into their cards during clean up.

We haven't even talked about the important message the book helps teach children:
"…inspire children to care for the earth they call home: a timely reminder of the responsibility every generation shares to nurture and respect life in all its many forms." Pretty awesome, right?

I'm all about giving my kids "toys" that are fun AND educational.
It's one of the reasons I love Chick-Fil-A so much but that's another blog post! Ha!

So if you share my passion for giving high-quality educational gifts, this one is a must!
You can purchase the Care For Our World Book all on it's own or you can get the Care For Our World Play Set which includes the book. I highly recommend the play set - for sure!

Being a Live Inspired Brand Ambassador has afforded me with the opportunity to fall more deeply in love with the products I've been in love with for years now! And to keep up with the beautiful new things they continue to add to the Live Inspired Website.  I hope you can see beyond the "ad-like specifics" of the products I share sometimes and see my heart in the photographs and details instead! *wink*

This will be one of those things I will stash away for my "grandchildren" - yes I said grandkids.
I'm sure I'm decades away from being a grandmother, (that's what I'm telling myself), but I've been tucking away my favorite toys the girls have loved on and outgrown for some time now. Toys I feel are or will be classics that might be hard to find when my babies start having their own babies. Is that weird that I do that?

SUGAR | Holiday Classroom Party Treat • Rudolph Cookies

Wednesday, December 11

I grabbed some cute red Sixlets from Sweetworks last week and used them to whip up these adorable Rudolph Cookies. Red Sixlets make the perfect Rudolph nose and really gave these cookies some character! I love how they turned out. They look even more adorable served on this beautiful cake plate filled with red sixlets, shimmer white sixlets and shimmer lime green sixlets too!

I made these chocolate covered Peanut Butter Oreos™ in a snap using my Spinning Leaf Cookie Molds. (see THIS TUTORIAL and MORE EXAMPLES HERE). Once the chocolate was hardened, (10 minutes in the fridge), I popped out the cookies from the mold and I added the pretzel antlers, googly eyes and a red Sixlet for Rudolph's nose. The leftover melted chocolate from covering the Oreos™ is what I used as the "glue" for attaching the decorative edible elements.  Allow the decorative pieces to harden and dry - about 30 minutes. Easy and cute!

Ella was stalking the cookies the whole time I was photographing them so she got herself wrangled into the photo shoot. I promised her she could eat one if she'd let me slap a dress and red sweater on her and take some pictures of her with the cookies! We were both very happy with the deal we made. *wink*

Of course Ella's favorite part of the photo shoot was when she was finally allowed to bite into one of the cookies…and nibble off the antlers.  See the peanut butter filling inside of these PB Oreos™? YUM!

I threw this last photo of Ella in here…just because I think it's cute!

I'm going to make more of these for Ella's class party next week.
I'll substitute regular Oreos™ instead of the peanut butter ones - just in case there are kids with peanut allergies? (that's a safe substitution, right?)

I hope you'll make them too and share your results with me!

Do NOT put your finished cookies back into the refrigerator after you've put on the red Sixlets noses.
The change in temperature causes the shiny red finish to dull.
Just carefully store these in an airtight container on your kitchen counter to keep "Rudolph's nose so bright"..until you are ready to devour serve them! *wink*

I shared the important tip with you above because I made that mistake.
So when I went to photograph the cookies they weren't nearly as cute and pretty with a dull red sixlet.
No big deal. I popped off the dulled red noses, reheated the extra "chocolate glue" and attached shiny new ones. You would've never known, *wink*

I totally thought I'd deleted these photos from my camera when I couldn't find them on my computer the other day. I was really upset about it. But the more I kept obsessing thinking about it, the more I remembered looking at them on my computer so I KNEW I had to have uploaded them from my camera. So...with a little more searching on iPhoto I finally found them. Anyone else have issues with photos loading into the "Photos" folder instead of "Events" within iPhoto? Maybe I just don't understand how the whole process works - that's probably my bet. *wink*

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