There is something to be said about real trees…they’re unbeatable if you ask me. First, there’s the search for the perfect tree. Then, the decorating. And the smell…there’s just no comparison!
Unfortunately, there’s always the vacuuming. Urgh. BUT with the help of a simple recipe I found for a DIY Tree Preservative, you can extend the life & health of your tree by several weeks! It’s pretty easy, and with 3 simple ingredients (that you probably already have in your home) you can have it ready in no time. Ultimately, it will be wayyy cheaper than buying the store-bought kind. And for me, anything that minimizes vacuuming is a must.
I was so excited to run out and get “Elf on the Shelf” this year, I knew McKenzie would love it. At $29.99 it was a little overpriced if you ask me…but I figured we will use it for several years, so I considered it an investment. We named him Edwin “Eddie” the Elf.
Initially, I was a little surprised that he wasn’t more pose-able…he kept falling off the shelves I would put him on, so I googled a quick solution: Elf on the Shelf Hack. You simply add some wires, velcro, and magnets! I ran to Michael’s craft store and bought the supplies right away. After the modifications, he can now bend, hang, and climb to his heart’s desire! And I even gave him little feet, ’cause I though he looked a little weird with stick legs. Anyhow…
16 gauge wire (I found it at Michael’s in the bead aisle)
Needle & white/red thread
Stitch ripper (I don’t have one, so I used a pin to pull out the stitches, then a scissors to cut them free)
Step 1: First, snip the thread connecting the hands. Then, gently rip 2 stitches from the end of your Elf’s hands…or enough to fit the wire. This was pretty easy and I didn’t have any issues. Start heating your glue gun for the velcro in Step 5.
Step 2: Measure the wire to the size of his arm, adding about an inch so you can curl the wire ends over (you don’t want it to poke through!). Then measure another piece of equally sized wire and wind them together. This makes him/her stronger.
Step 3: Fold the ends of the wire to the exact length of the arms, and insert the wire into your Elf’s arm. Be sure to get it all the way to the end. There are circular tubes in the arm…try to get the wire to go through them. It was tricky, but I managed after persistent wiggling. Then sew him up! (Be sure to use matching thread, and use whatever stitch you think looks best.)
Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 with other arm & then the legs.
Step 5: Next, you will add velcro to the bottom sides of your Elf’s hands. First, cut the pieces to size and use your glue gun to secure the velcro on both hands. This will make the elf easier to hang on things! (Be sure to use the different sides of velcro so they stick.) The velcro option is great…you can use it to have him display clever little notes! The possibilities are endless.
Step 6: Get your magnets ready and cut velcro to size. Again, be sure to use opposite types of velcro. Also, ensure you are not using the sides of the magnets that stick together. I love the magnet option, because now he can “chill” on the refrigerator (get it? haha), but they’re still removable. That’s it! You’re done!
If you’re like me, every year I struggle to come up with awesome kid’s gift ideas for the holidays. And if your child is like mine, they probably have a lot of stuff that they rarely play with already…so why add to the junk? That said, over the past few years McKenzie has gotten some pretty cool stuff that she regularly plays with and/or uses. In my opinion, the best gifts are those that encourage creative family play, and are ones that I actually enjoy playing with her. Here are my top 10 (mostly) gender-neutral gift ideas, that are fun and reasonably priced…we either have these already, or they’re on our wish-list!
Marble Race($24.99) McKenzie got this last year for Christmas, and both Jon & I have fun building it with her. She still needs help at age 4, but it’s a great way to spend time together. It provides hours of entertainment! Just be careful if your child has younger siblings, the marbles could be choking hazards!
Marble Race $24.99
Melissa & Doug Wooden Blocks ($69.99…currently on sale $48.99) I love these because they’re gender-neutral and full of potential…the possibilities are endless! Towers, castles, bridges, etc. They are extremely good quality and come in a convenient, matching wooden crate for easy storage. These will easily last for whenever we have a 2nd child, or even grandchildren!
Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Wooden Block Set, $48.99
High Five Magazine($34.44 for 12 issues) Perfect for a boy or girl, this gift keeps giving all year ’round! McKenzie loves the “Tex & Indi” stories in each issue, the “hidden pictures,” and also the interactive activities at the back of each magazine (ie: matching games, build-a-book, etc). She really looks forward to getting her own “mail” each month!
High Five Magazine (Ages 2-6) $34.44 for 12 issues
Discovery Kids 77-Piece Build & Play Construction Fort Set($24.99) I got this for McKenzie this year, so we haven’t opened it…but it just looked really fun for building forts! Maybe regular ‘ol chairs and blankets would be better, but it looked pretty cool. You can make rockets, tunnels, castles, or whatever their little hearts desire! My husband mentioned that you could probably buy two and combine them for an even more awesome fort. We’ll see how she likes it! Blanket not included. ;)
Discovery 77-Piece Construction Fort Set, $24.99
IKEA 20-Piece Train Set($9.99) If you’re fortunate enough to have an IKEA nearby (or maybe a relative does?!) this little set is great for preschoolers & kindergarteners. McKenzie got this when she was 2½, and she still plays with it. For $9.99 you can’t go wrong!
IKEA 20-Piece Train Set, $9.99
Melissa & Doug Sandwich Making Set OR Wooden Food for Slicing($19.99 each) These foods are fun, gender-neutral, and encourage hours of imaginative playtime away from the TV. Who can complain? As with all Melissa & Doug toys, the solid wood quality and craftsmanship ensure the product will withstand preschooler/kindergartener play. In my opinion, the only down-side is the multiple small pieces eventually disappear over time…but they always seem to re-appear, too. ;)
Melissa & Doug Food Sets, $19.99 each
KidKraft Fire Station Set or KidKraft Dollhouse ($109.99|$99.99) Although we don’t have the fire station, it could easily be fun for a girl or boy. I love that all the pieces are included and it sits atop a lazy-susan, so it swivels around. If you’re looking for something more girly, McKenzie has the dollhouse. Again, all the pieces shown are included, and I love that it has a removable roof. I chose it because it’s portable, and we can easily move it around from room to room. I’d recommend purchasing a couple extra dollsthough, ’cause it only comes with two. Assembly is super-easy, and it has stood up to hours of play.
Annual Family Zoo Pass ($109 in Milwaukee…check local pricing!) Although Madison has a free local zoo affiliated with the University, Milwaukee’s Zoo is much larger and has a lot more animals. Check your local Zoos to see how much an annual family pass costs! In Milwaukee it’s only $109 for the Membership Plus package, which includes parking. Great for making memories together as a family!
Annual Family Zoo Pass “Plus,” $109
Huffy Bike ($39.97) According to the LiveStrong website, 12″ bikes are ideal for ages 3-5. Kids always love a new bike, and at less than $40 (including training wheels!) you really can’t go wrong. Hopefully McKenzie will be getting one this year. She was lucky enough to get a hand-me-down from a neighbor, but there’s something about having a sparkly new one to to call your own, ya know? She already gets enough thrifted clothing and toys, she can be spoiled by her Grandpa a little. ;) Maybe we’ll even jazz it up with these cool princess accessories. Also, since we don’t have this bike yet, I can’t speak to the ease of assembly, so if you’ve done it, please let me know. Annnnd of course if you do get your kiddo a new bike for Christmas, be sure they start practicing bicycle safety early and always wear a helmet!
Huffy 12″ Bikes, $39.97
Disney Sleeping Bag Girl or Boy($19.99) These sleeping bags could be used anywhere, from Grandma’s House to a sleepover, to a sick day in the living room. They are inexpensive, and yet they take up a lot of room under the tree…which is awesome. Although this sleeping bag is clearly not intended for outdoor/cold-weather use, it would be really fun for a kid to curl up and snuggle in it, even in his/her own bed! As an added bonus, it comes with a pretty cool carrier backpack. Score. Please note, the suggested age is 4+
Disney Sleeping Bags, $19.99
**If you’re looking for an awesome 1-year old gift, I like this KidKraft Deluxe Activity Walker ($46.99). We’ll probably be getting it for our friends who have 8-month-old identical twin boys. =)
KidKraft Deluxe Activity Walker, $46.99
Do you have any great gift ideas for kids? I’d love to hear them!
Today I decided to get an early start on the Holidays and ordered our Christmas Cards! I used Shutterfly and I love how they turned out. I think they look like artwork! And you all know how I love a deal, so I used 2 coupon codes: 40% off holiday cards (code: holiday) and free shipping on orders of over $30 (code: ship30)…my order of 50 cards went from $97 to $57. Score!
Also, this past weekend Nina (grandma) came to visit. ((“Nina” used to be called “Nana,” but when McKenzie was a wee toddler she couldn’t pronounce Nana, so she’s been Nina ever since.)) Anyhow, we had a girl’s morning and went to the farmer’s market together with McKenzie, while daddy stayed homeand did homework. McKenzie had a ton of fun climbing a tree on the Capitol Square, and Nina got some delicious, local whipped honey. Yummmmm. And as you can see, they maintain the grass very well there…it’s so green. =)
At the last farmer’s market of the year with Momma & Nina.
Later that day, after Nina left, we made the 2 hour drive up to Wausau to visit Jon’s cousin and his family. I just love to see McKenzie play with her cousins, and frankly it’s fun to get just out of the house and chat with other adults.
I also love visiting their house simply because they have such a lovely home. It makes me SO excited to buy a house someday. I love that we own our condo, but I can’t wait to have my own home and yard. It will be so nice when I can just let the dogs out the back door! *sigh* Someday. So tell me you guys: is home-ownership everything it’s cracked up to be?