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The last few rainy days have kept us inside in search of something silly and fun to pass the time. We do like to get out and dance in the rain, but today was just too cold. We were bored and in need of something different to occupy ourselves. I took a look around the house to find something new, something we haven’t already done a billion times. Well, as luck would have it I checked out a couple of books from the library last week with a ton of fun things for us to do! And I found a craft that is super easy, using only things we have in the house where we can stay warm and dry.

MATERIALS:

  • Tissue Paper
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Large dinner plate
  • Tape
  • Balloon

 

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Unfold the tissue paper completely and lay it flat on the table. Trace the outer edge of a dinner plate to create a circle.

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Draw a snake shape inside the circle, or simply cut into a spiral leaving room to make a head. If you want you can draw on eyes and tape on a small tongue.

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Next comes the fun part. Tape the tale of the snake to the counter. Blow up the balloon and tie the end. Now rub the balloon against your head (or something wool if you have it) to create an electrostatic charge. Now, laugh at how your hair stands straight up! Then apply balloon to the head of your snake. As you raise the balloon the tissue paper snake should attach its self and follow the balloon. This looks like you are charming the snake.

 

That’s it! A fun, quick craft that my kids enjoyed. They continued to play with the balloon without the snake because when you are six nothing is more special than a balloon; even if it can make you a snake charmer. Hope you are surviving the rainy days of Spring!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

UNION

With the warmer temps beginning this week I am looking forward to getting outside! However, it can be a challenge to get my kids outside. Once they are outside they will play, but I typically have to set the stage for them first. As a mom I am totally baffled by this. When I was a kid you could not keep me inside the house. I was happiest sitting outside under a big tree watching the clouds going by, or racing up and down the neighborhood street. Not sure how I ended up with two kids who need to be prompted to be outside.

I have discovered if I set a craft up outside they are more motivated to join me in the back yard and will likely stay outside longer. It can be a simple craft, or an entire project, but it helps transition to spending time outside.

By now you all know the benefits to getting kids outside. But just in case, here are 5 more reasons:

  1. Kids who interact with nature tend to engage their imaginations more and invent their own games. This involves critical thinking and observation of what’s in their environment.
  2. When kids are more physically active they are building gross motor and fine motor skills.
  3. Kids who spend time outside more tend to develop a lifelong love of nature and see the need to preserve it.
  4. Kids tend to develop more visual and spacial skills when learning to navigate natural environments.
  5. Anyone who spends time outside feels less stressed.

You may have heard the benefits of kids crafting. I like to be thorough so again, here are 5 more benefits:

  1. Crafting benefits executive functioning. Having to plan a project or craft and lining up each step helps kids with focus and memory skills.
  2. Develops fine motor skills. This helps with handwriting and coordination.
  3. Helps kids recognize patterns and sequence recognition.
  4. Crafting builds on long term academic skills like math and reading.
  5. Teaches social interactions like learning to share and use manners when sharing.

Why not combine these benefits and craft outside? The bonus is you can make a mess outside and not worry about having to clean it up right away, or any of the materials staining your nice dining set.

Outside crafts to do with your kids

If you are tired of the old standby of bubbles and sidewalk chalk try these 5 things to amp up your outdoor craft time.

Make colorful bubble art. Simply pour some bubble mix into a shallow bowl and add food coloring. Mix well and use the bubble wand to soak up the mixture. Blow bubbles right in front of the paper or canvas to be sure they land and splatter on the surface. This will make a really unique print for your house. Or turn the paper into personalized stationary.

Paint some rocks. You can paint rocks to add some color to your back yard, or create a fun tick tack toe set by painting three similar rocks to look like lady bugs, and another three rocks a solid color. If you really want to make a fun project sign up to paint some Kindness Rocks to leave around your community, or for friends and family to find in your back yard.

Make your own fossils. This was fun when we did it with cookie dough, now I can’t wait to try it with baker’s clay. Simply roll a small piece of dough into a ball and press flat between your hands. Then press a leaf, or pine cone, or blades of grass into the clay to create a fossil imprint.

Design a paint brush from nature. Simply dip flowers into paint and press flat against your paper to make a pretty print. You can also dip leaves, feathers, a bundle of pine needles or stems into paint and use them like a paint brush.

Re-imagine your water table. When my kids were really little we used the water table for more than just water fun. We filled it with things like shaving cream, a bubble bath for dinosaurs and cornstarch with water (it creates a really fun solid that melts into your hand).

Crafting outside has long term benefits for kids, and the combined benefits create life long skills sets. You don’t need to wait for summer vacation to give any of these ideas a try. As soon as the weather is nice enough to be outside skip the chalk and do something a little different! Your kids will always remember the fun you have together, no matter the craft.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

MORGANS

As the mountains of snow start to melt, it is finally starting to feel more like spring. This is the time of year we get outside more and watch everything spring to life again. Including winged creatures. Some are beautiful and some are down right annoying when they go buzzing by. But I bet everyone can agree that spotting a butterfly is a magical experience.

Magic wings bfly collage

That’s why we love our trips to the Magic Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in South Deerfield, MA. No matter what the weather, there is a tropical greenhouse waiting just two and half hours away from Northern Ulster County. It is easily a fun day trip your family will enjoy. Magic Wings is a tranquil 8,000 square foot greenhouse filled with tropical plants, a Japanese Koi pond and water features and of course butterflies. In fact, hundreds of them. Once we paid our admission we were ready for our self guided tour of the green house.

magic wings collage

The exhibit and display area before entering the greenhouse offers educational videos, the history of the butterfly and a whole bunch of tropical creatures. Spoiler alert there are some of the biggest cockroaches you will ever see on display. But no worries, they are all behind glass. My kids loved the tree frogs, snakes and other reptilian beasts.

Upon entering the green house there are large fans blowing and little kids might find them noisy. This is simply to keep the butterflies from hitching a ride out on someone’s back. The rest of the tour is calm and pretty serene with classical music playing and the sounds of the waterfalls.

magic wings lizard

My kids were mesmerized by the packs of fluttering wings and spent hours trailing them and watching them. All the employees are well trained in the different types of animals living in the green house. They can easily rattle of details about the lizards, birds, fish and insects from what they eat, to what their usual habitat looks like.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

There is a community coat closet big enough to park a stroller (not permitted in the green house), or to leave bulky diaper bags and your family’s coats. The gift shop has a wide range of gift items and kids toys. Some are more expensive, but definitely some affordable fun things for family budgets. You enter through the gift shop before the tour begins, so we let the kids shop a little without purchasing so they would know what they wanted when we came back through.

Bring your camera because there are a few little fun photo op spots to take family photos. Not to mention you will really want to capture some beautiful shots of the lush greenery and colorful butterflies.

The cost for a family of four (two parents, two kids) is $52 and kids under 3 are free. You can save on meals by packing your own lunch instead of buying in the cafe, or restaurant. There is a covered out door picnic area available in the summer, and there are tables in the lobby near the fire place in the winter. Overall, you are going to pay less for this day trip filled with educational opportunities and hours of exploring than probably getting your family into a movie theater for two hours of entertainment. We love it so much we always leave planning our next trip back!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

springfield-museums-easy-day-trip

If you are looking for something fun to do during the kids spring break then check out Springfield Museums in Springfield, MA. Located approximately two hours from Northern Ulster County it is an easy day trip for families with little ones.

One admission price grants access to all four museums on campus. Each museum and discovery center celebrates art, history, science and discovery. Located in the center of it all is the Dr. Seuss National Memorial sculpture garden.  During our visit we were delighted by hands on learning experiences and opportunities to soak in some extraordinary art work. The grounds offer a large area for picnics and room for kids to run. Although you cannot climb, or play on the sculptures in the garden there are benches painted in fun themes and some interactive pieces in front of the museums.

There is so much to do and see here that we spent an entire day exploring and playing.  I’ll just share with you the highlights.

SPRINGFIELD SCIENCE MUSEUM

The science building has hands on exploration of rocks and minerals, space, live animals, the African Hall and Dinosaur Hall. There are three floors in this building alone and we spent over an hour investigating everything. We even doubled back around to the African Hall so we could push all the animal sound buttons again. There is a planetarium, but we arrived in between show times.

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GEORGE WALTER VINCENT SMITH ART MUSEUM

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We found the most wonderful exhibits for everyone in my family. My kids favorite by far is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit (until September 3, 2017). It includes original comic book art and incorporates replicas of the shields and weapons the TMNT used in their stories. My kids’ were super excited to play the original TMNT on Nintendo. Yep, I am so old I remember the original Nintendo which is now old enough to be an exhibit in a museum.  My husband enjoyed reliving his glory days by schooling the kids with his video game codes. The building houses a collection of Japanese arms & armor, Asian art, Islamic art, Tiffany windows and more.

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The children’s art discovery center is the most amazing kid’s area we’ve ever played in! The discovery center is decorated in colorful Buddhist, Asian and Chinese Zodiac art. There is a simple craft left out for kids to partake, a puppet theater, dress up area, a wishing tree, reading area and so much gorgeous art work to drink in. My kids stayed in this sunny bright spot for an hour exploring every nook and cranny.

MICHELE AND DONALD D’AMOUR MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

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There are several different galleries on both floors of this museum. Each gallery contains a comprehensive collection of art work from Impressionist art, French & Dutch art, and American art to the Currier and Ives collection. In the upstairs gallery there is a kid’s art area that is perfectly placed in location to the other gallery rooms. The Cat in the Hat exhibit (through April 30, 2017) includes fun dress up hats and cute little stuffed kittens kids can arrange to make their own exhibit. We found it easy for one parent to stay with the kids in the kids area while the other parent took their own guided tour of the galleries. I studied many of the works and painters in these collections, so it was a thrill to walk through alone and see some of my favorites up close.

LYMAN AND MERRIE WOOD MUSEUM OF SPRINGFIELD

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This building houses a great collection of Indian motorcycles and classic cars, local Springfield history and the Hasbro Game Land (our favorite). We spent the least amount of time in this museum since the staff was setting up for an event and some parts were closed off. But the larger than life sized game pieces were our favorites.

DR. SEUSS NATIONAL MEMORIAL SCULPTURE GARDEN

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During our picnic lunch on the quad we enjoyed the Dr. Seuss sculpture garden. The grassy quad is big enough to let kids roam and there are plenty of benches to sit down to eat. Thankfully, the parking lot isn’t far so you can leave your cooler in the car while you check out the exhibits, and retrieve it for your lunch break. There is a cafe right  next to the museum main entrance if you’d prefer. It was hard to keep the kids from climbing on the sculpture, but it was really fun to see their faces light up at the life sized characters they love!

By purchasing a membership you get free admission to a host of other museums across the country (including the Mid Hudson Children’s Museum, the MiSi Museum in Schenectady and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum to name a few).  Imagine the trips you could plan! They also deduct the price you pay for your family admission from the membership price which makes it really affordable, and pays for future adventures.

Spending the day at the museums is a great getaway from the usual routine of things. It’s an easy day trip and if you plan it just right you can be there in time to see the newest addition of the Dr. Seuss museum coming in June! I know we can’t wait to go back!

Would you travel two hours to see works of art?

You might also enjoy some of our other adventures: Howe’s Caverns, Lake George, Mystic Aquarium and The Eric Carle Museum of Story Book Art.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

basten-house

Did you know about this adorable, family friendly Teddy Bear museum in Marbletown? During a fall open house, my family and I visited the Den which is set back from the road on 209. The Den of Marbletown is simply adorable and perfect for any teddy bear fanatic! There are a ton of different bears displayed and opportunities to learn the history of the teddy bear, the Steiff Company and the museum location.

The Basten family farm house was converted to a bed and breakfast and has expanded to include a teddy bear collection museum. The original collection belongs to the owner’s mother and many of the temporary exhibits include her personal favorites.

The Steiff Company has been around since 1880 and has been delighting children and adults of all ages and stages with stuffed animals. From plush baby safe cuddle blankets to luxurious fiber collectible bears for adults.

When we arrived my girls could hardly contain their excitement. They were surrounded by thousands of stuffed loves all in need of a good hug (according to the six year olds, not the store staff). After touring the gift shop we took the self-guided tour to learn more about the history of the museum and the teddy bear. We wound our way through each room filled with displays of adorably staged stuffed animals.  And just when we thought we were at the end we found the upstairs portion of this old Farm House was also converted to hold exhibits. Each room in The Den has a theme and is filled with adorable dioramas of teddy bear hijinks.

diorama-bears

There is an overload of teddy bears and stuffed animals throughout the museum, but in a small converted closet in one upstairs room there are plenty of old school Barbie Dolls and Madame Alexander Dolls. Across the hall from that exhibit, there is a special room called the, “Mama Bear Lounge.” This room was designed with working moms in mind. Moms are encourage to grab a coffee and their lap top and let the little ones play. Or, meet up with other moms for play dates. There is a toy box filled with blocks and other toys and a soft carpeted area for kids to play. There is free Wi-Fi where moms can get a little work done, or take a break and scroll through Facebook. The small room behind the mama bear lounge is the “kids cub cave.” It’s a small room where the kids can climb in and out of a faux cave, or grab a game or coloring page from the shelves to play at the table.

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One unique feature we did not experience is renting a guest room to spend a night at the museum. This would be an incredible birthday experience for any kid age 6 or older to sleep that close to so many squeezable bears. There is also a café and snack area inside, as well as picnic area just outside. The website boasts a picnics to go service, local fresh baked goods and a marvelous closet filled with extra amenities.

You can tell the folks in charge really put a lot of thought into the details. This museum is perfect for your teddy bear enthusiast age six and older. There are many exhibits behind glass, or under display boxes, but still many places they can hold a stuffed animal.  More active kids will love the mama bear lounge area.

Keep an eye on the Den News section on the website to check out some of the fun events planned at the house. Some previous events include a teddy bear tea, cookie decorating, jewelry making and art workshops.  The admission price to the museum is really affordable at $2.00 per adult, and $1.00 for kids to age 17 (under 1 are free) and a family rate of just $5.00. Pack a lunch and make this an affordable fun day out learning a little history and enjoying the bears!

Photo credit: The Den of Marbletown website.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

visit-eric-carle

A few months ago we decided not to throw our kids a birthday party. I know, how horrible. Instead we took a week-long vacation in the Berkshires. I get that sounds all pretentious but I swear we are average folks. I smuggle my peanut butter jelly sandwiches into places just like every other mom. But we decided for the cost of a two hour party we could give our kids some really fun experiences they will always remember.

We visited a lot of great places and enjoyed trips to several museums where we found science, art and history exhibits. We even saw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit which made me and hubby feel a little old. Not only do we remember the first time we watched the original movie (which was playing on a continuous loop), but we remember playing a Nintendo game unit like the one now old enough to be on display as a “classic.”

I digress.

One of our favorite stops was the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. My kids loved making art in the art studio, reading and relaxing in the library and seeing art work from their favorite authors on display.

Here is what we enjoyed!

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The art studio is a large sunlit room bursting with creativity. The resident artists select a craft project each day to share with visitors to the studio. All the materials and instruction are free. There are convenient drying wracks just outside the studio entrance where you can leave your creations while you tour the rest of the building. If you have kids of different ages and stages there are fun hands on play stations for your little ones to enjoy.

The galleries offer a look at original art work created by Eric Carle and other renowned picture book artists. Our favorite by far was the Brown Bear 50th Anniversary exhibit. We could see different versions of the way the animals were drawn. We immediately found the reading area which provided books and comfy brown bear cushions to cozy up to while reading. There are a variety of ways kids can interact with the art and games to help them talk about what they see. Each of the gallery rooms is minimal with plenty of room to navigate a stroller or wheel chair through. But no pictures are allowed for this exhibit.

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The library was the big hit for my kids. Not only did they have access to kids’ books, but they were obsessed with the giant stuffed versions of the book characters they love. Brown Bear was carried around by just about every kid that came in. There are also lots of learning toys like latch puzzles, magnet puzzles and coloring pages. Hubby and I enjoyed getting to sit down and relax a bit while our kids had a safe place to roam. There are kids story times and other events taking place so be sure to check the schedule before you travel!

The Auditorium offers concerts and educational films. We arrived between movie viewings so we did not get to check out the auditorium. But you can check online to see what film or concert is being offered on the day you visit.

The Bookshop is filled with a lot of fun games, stuffed animals and unique gift ideas. We found some great post cards featuring art from our favorite Eric Carle books. I bought extras to frame when we return home.

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Everything about this museum is designed with families in mind. You can request extra diapering supplies from the front desk, borrow a stroller or wheel chair and the coat room has individual lockers with a key to stash your diaper bag and extra stuff you don’t want to carry. There are activity kits to borrow to help your kids have a more interactive experience (I didn’t see those until we were on our way out). The museum admission price is also family friendly $22.50 covers a family of two adults and two kids.

Since our visit was in November it was a little too chilly to check out the art sprinkled along the walking trails and museum grounds. You can also find picnic tables outside to enjoy that homemade peanut butter sandwich right out in the open.  Or you can stay inside and enjoy a non-smuggled lunch right in The Carle Café where they offer free coffee and organic/natural vending machine fare.

The museum is located in Amherst, MA which is approximately 2 hours from where we are in Ulster County. This is a great place to take your young art lover and little reader. It is a perfect day trip for families and especially accommodating for every age group. Older kids can read and learn details about the art exhibits, create art and there is plenty to keep their younger siblings busy and engaged.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

When I was a kid New Year’s Eve was so exciting! My parents would let us stay up until Midnight to take us out to breakfast. We called it “First Breakfast” because it was literally the first breakfast of the New Year. One year we went to the diner with my parents and their friends, another year the local firehouse hosted a first breakfast event. I was just four years old when my parents started this tradition, but I still remember it today!

I knew I would make this a tradition for my little family one day. The only problem is, at age 6 my kids still “can’t hang.” If they do not go to bed at the same hour every night we have horrible, monstrous humans we can’t face the public with. So our solution is to celebrate a big first breakfast at our kitchen table every year. We make it special with colorful decorations and drink out of fancy glasses. It has become such a big hit at our house that I now keep a kit ready. I pull it out on New Year’s Eve after they fall asleep and set it up before I go to bed (hours before midnight).

The traditional colors for New Year celebrations are silver and gold, or black and white. However, we prefer the colors of Mardi Gras- green, gold and purple. These are all colors of royalty and represent prosperity and good fortune; all great things to hope for in the New Year and they make a pretty colorful back drop to our first breakfast.

Here is what I have in my first breakfast celebration kit:

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Champagne Flutes– We don’t actually serve champagne (to the children) for breakfast, but we do like feeling fancy. So we serve up their morning OJ (and our mimosas) in these colorful, reusable flutes. The kids really get a kick out of it!

Hats, Noise Makers and Beaded Necklaces – every year I set the table with these fun accessories for each person in the family. As soon as the kids come out in the morning we put on our fashions and march in a noisy parade through the house. Since mommy and daddy can no longer hang till midnight either, this noise isn’t so horrible after a full night’s sleep.

ny-kit-collage

Holiday Crackers- these are just fun! You pop them open and there is usually a paper crown inside along with some jokes and a little trinket. It keeps the kids busy while I am cooking up breakfast. They take turns cracking each other up and I get to enjoy hearing them laugh instead of argue for a minute. P.s. Holiday crackers usually go on sale for half price after the holiday season.

Tableware- I use disposable decorative paper plates with matching napkins. After cooking a big breakfast of omelets, bacon and fresh cinnamon buns, and drinking a few mimosas, I could use the break from washing dishes. P.p.s I hit up the dollar stores after the holiday and pick up festive prints for 50 cents each. I stock up to keep on hand for the next few years.

Masks- one of my kids wanted to start wearing masks for our parade one year and so the tradition has stuck around. We don’t wear them while eating breakfast because that would just be weird. Unless you are six then it’s just breakfast time. (I don’t even ask anymore).

ny-kit-masks

Clock– another kid created tradition. It makes a great centerpiece for our table.

Not included in the kit are colorful foiled chocolate coins I toss around the table to represent money and sweetness. I buy these every year because obviously chocolate is not going to survive more than a day in my house. And it could get pretty gross in storage for a year. I keep all our decorations in a reusable clear tote and put away until our next first breakfast.

Our version of First Breakfast may not have the same kind of thrill as when I was as a kid, but it is our own. Right now while the kids are still little and so dependent on routine, we are happy keeping the first breakfast tradition alive eight hours after the official start to the new year. It feels more manageable and sane for us. Maybe one day my children won’t turn into gremlins and we can move this tradition to a new location. Or, maybe we’ll return to this cozy tradition year after year. Either way I just hope they remember these first breakfasts as fondly as I remember mine.

What New Year traditions do you and your family celebrate?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

holiday-photo-whole-family

I love the idea of doing holiday portraits, but the thought alone sends me into an anxiety-ridden tailspin. I have to get three kids dressed in holiday attire, do their hair, and get them to the portrait studio on time. Then I pray we get a photographer who takes their time and makes sure we have several shots to choose from. This means photos without blinking, super cheesy grins (my son Jayden’s favorite smile) or too much head tilt (Hannah and I are notorious head-tilters).

Then there is the really hard task of getting the toddler to both look at the camera and smile, which is no easy feat especially when dealing with a photographer she doesn’t know. So, when my neighbor and best friend Allison offered to do a holiday photo shoot at her house, I was like, “Yeah, sign me up.”

If you want to create some rocking holiday cards this year, you can save some money and stress by doing it yourself. Here are 5 easy steps.

1. Set The Stage – Create your own portrait studio by setting up a backdrop. My friend Allison draped a simple white sheet from her back sliding glass door and put three small stools underneath the bottom half. Presto, instant studio. You can even get out your holiday decorations and throw some props in the shot or have your kids hold a wrapped present.

My friend and neighbor Allison was the photographer for our holiday photo shoot. I returned the favor for her family.

My friend and neighbor Allison was the photographer for our holiday photo shoot. I returned the favor for her family.

2. Get A Photographer – If you just want your kids in the shot, you can take your own holiday portrait, but if you want the whole family have a friend or family member come over to help you. You just need a steady hand, a decent digital camera and the patience to take a lot of shots. You want plenty to choose from.Get creative and experiment with different camera angles and position family members in different ways to get a variety of shots. Be sure to take some funny shots in between to both lighten the mood and get it out of your kids systems so they can focus on nice smiles for the other pictures.My friend Allison photographed my family and I did hers. It worked out great.screenshot-2016-11-21-11-44-02
3. Do Some Basic Photo Editing
– Free photo editing websites like picmonkey make it super easy to do basic editing like resizing, cropping and even red eye reduction. If you’re feeling creative, you can play around with different features like adding text, overlays and fun holiday inspired themes.

I played around with some of the features on picmonkey and created a whimsical card for my family.

The whimsical holiday card I created using pickmonkey.
4. Pick A Card
– If you want to do less photo editing, you can just pick a ready-made design on sites like Shutterfly or Walmart.com and add your photo to it. Then pick your size, quantity and pay. No muss, no fuss.

5. Print It – If you design the holiday card yourself, you can simply print them at home on nice photo paper. The other option is to upload it to your favorite retailer that does photo printing like Walmart, Target or Walgreens.If your best friend is a photographer a DIY holiday card is a no-brainer, but honestly anyone can take a good photo.Remember the cardinal rule of portrait photography – aim for faces, not spaces. So zoom in when you can, but don’t worry if there’s still a lot of white space. You can always crop it. My favorite part of creating my own holiday card this year was that it’s practically free except for the cost of printing and mailing the cards. It also was so much less stressful than heading to a portrait studio. We literally waited for my toddler to get up from her afternoon nap, got everyone dressed and drove two seconds to my neighbor’s house. It was fun because everyone was relaxed and we got to create memories with our friends. We even did some fun group shots at the end.

So rock your holiday card this year. You got this!

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

5-tips-for-more-thoughtful-christmas-gifts

How crazy is it that we had snow four days before Halloween? Then, the very next day it’s a typical fall day? I expected a nice dusting of snow that we could simply leave a few foot prints in on our way to school, and then it would all melt away. But noooo. I had to break out the shovels!  While my kids were helping me clear the driveway they began singing Christmas carols and asking me when Santa is coming. They forgot entirely that we didn’t even get through trick or treat yet!

But all that caroling had me thinking about Christmas and our Christmas list. In the past I have shared my $150 Christmas spending plan with tips on how to spend less to get more. This year I am going for no plastic toys and all the crap that comes along with it. We have so much stuff in our house it is almost impossible to keep up with. No more toys with tiny parts. No more Lego sets that are eventually dumped all over the floor. No more extra pieces. This is the year we say no more crappy toys for Christmas!

It isn’t just the overkill of toys that I am looking to change; I’m looking to add more thoughtfulness to our holiday.  When I was growing up there wasn’t enough money to go around, so we put a lot of thought into what we did buy and dressed it up really pretty. Or we made it a funny experience by wrapping small gifts inside of a box, wrapped inside of a box, wrapped inside of another box. Sometimes we’d have to hunt for a gift somewhere on the tree.  And sometimes we even made gifts for each other.

Today it is just too easy to lavish our families with flashy electronics, or a brand new ride on toy, or toys with lots of lights and sounds. But what happens to those toys in the long run? You can hand them off to another child eventually, but plastic things never truly go away. Once they’ve outlived their use they get tossed directly into the trash. My husband and I decided to keep eco-friendly in mind when making our purchases this year.

As I put together my shopping plan this year, here are the questions I am asking myself:

  1. WHAT DO MY KIDS PLAY WITH? My kids really enjoy special characters like the Octonauts, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony. Instead of buying them the plastic characters and accessories (which we already have a ton of), I am keeping an eye out for plushy toys, puzzles and books and clothing sets with those characters. These are all more eco-friendly and still fun.
  2. WHAT DO WE DO FOR FUN? My kids love going to places like Fun-e-farm, Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum and eating at their favorite restaurants. Those places ALL offer gift certificates. Buying them tickets, or gift certificates for an experience to enjoy together means no toys cluttering up my house.
  3. WHAT DO MY KIDS NEED? Do they have enough warm shirts? Enough pants? Do they need shoes, or sneakers? Yes, it is the cliche mom thing to slide packages of wrapped socks under the tree in stealth like fashion. But why mess with tradition? And again, no tiny pieces to step on here!
  4. WHAT ARE MY KIDS LACKING? In our house it can be difficult to get enough time one on one with each kid. With busy work schedules, school routines and all the “adulting” we do as parents we often fall short on spending time together with just a parent and one child. I’m thinking those gift certificates will pair nicely with a calendar filled with special date days.
  5. HOW ARE MY KIDS SPENDING THEIR TIME? Right now we aren’t participating in any extra curricular activities. But my girls do like to take swim lessons during the winter to learn water safety skills as well as get some good exercise. Swim lessons or a membership to a Karate school or gymnastics school take up zero space in the home!

This year we plan to go with the less is more concept with a smaller quantity of better quality gifts. There may be a few toys in there to enjoy along side of the prepaid experiences we are putting under the tree. But with enough thoughtful planning we won’t find any plastic, cookie cutter toys among the gifts.

Stay tuned for my post next week where I share our actual gift giving list!

Do you plan your gift giving, or just wing it?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

This weeks craft is short and sweet and it is inspired by my friend Anne. We were outside at a Halloween party this weekend when I mentioned I was in need of something fun for us to do this week after school. I wanted something different and artsy all at once. Her suggestion for paper lanterns had me intrigued!

Anne’s suggestion was to use crayon shavings because it has a spectacular effect when melted between sheets of wax paper. However, we opted for cutting tissue paper instead. My girls need practice with their scissor skills so cutting squares and different shapes was perfect!

Here is what you will need:

Wax paper

Scissors

Craft Sticks (we used a medium size)

Glue and tape

Colorful tissue paper

I am just awful at measuring when crafting. I often simply eyeball everything, or I find a way to measure without having to get all “mathy.” I rolled out enough wax paper to equal the length of four craft sticks. Then, I folded the paper in half lengthwise to make it just as tall as one craft stick.

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Next we cut out our shapes.

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Layer the pieces of tissue paper between the folded wax paper. Place between a folded towel, or on an ironing board with a pillow case over top. You don’t want the wax paper to melt to the iron, so it’s important to use a thin cover.

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Use Elmer’s glue, or craft glue to make individual frames on the wax paper. This will create a unique block of print for each window of the lantern.

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Allow the glue to dry thoroughly before you fold in to form a square. Use clear tape to tape the edges together. Since this is made from paper and wood, which can be flammable, use an electric candle to light up from the inside of the lantern.

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This project was slow paced and really easy to do. It is more steps than I usually put into a project, but my almost six year olds tolerated it well and they loved the final results! Pretty spectacular for using just wax paper!

I could just imagine this with leaves pressed between the paper. What other things do you think would work?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

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