Category Archives: Family

Easy Ways to Celebrate a Family Valentine’s Day

February 14th. When you are dating, or married with no kids, you might go on a date or cook up a fancy dinner at home. Once you have children, even if you do go on a date, will have to plan to celebrate a family Valentine’s Day as well!

mug and heart cookies for a family Valentine's Day

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I like to find simple ways to make memories with my children and Valentine’s is a perfect opportunity to do that. Sometimes, life can be crazy and money can be tight. We don’t have to be elaborate. Even small things can get them excited and make a special family Valentine’s Day.

Family Valentine’s Day

Food

Yes, food is always prominent for holidays. You have to feed your family anyway, so you might as well make it special. Look at doing all heart shaped or red colored foods! Your kids will think it’s so much fun. When they get older they won’t care about the shape, they’ll just enjoy eating! 😉

Check out these ideas:

Heart shaped pancakes
Heart shaped pizza
Spaghetti
Strawberries
Heart Sugar Cookies
Brownies cut with heart cookie cutters

Think of your family’s favorites and see if you can turn it into a heart. The pizza is our go-to every Valentine’s Day. The kids talk about the heart pizza all year.

I want to try this artificial color free food coloring!

Also, consider setting a fancy table and lighting candles to make the meal more special.

Treasure Hunt

We loved this growing up and it is now my kids’ favorite! Instead of just giving them their Valentine’s gift/candy, make them a treasure hunt.

For pre-readers, draw picture clues that lead to the prize. For young readers have simple riddles and as the kids get older you can use more difficult ones. We try and have 6-10 clues for each child.

I will try and update this post with the clues we use for my three kids this year. In the meantime, here are some ideas you can use!

Heart and Love Themes

You don’t have to go crazy, unless you want to, but put up at least a few heart and love themed decorations. You can make them yourself or use something you buy even as easy as window clings or a banner you bought. Check Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, and even the Dollar Store for options.

The same with crafts. Either purchase a kit or come up with your own. This post has 25 cute ideas! This is a perfect afternoon project.

Tip: Keep your eyes on the Valentine’s clearance to pick up some craft and decoration items for next year.

Love Your Family

Use this day to purposefully share with the members of your family how special they are. Have each person write a note to each family member and have them at each person’s place at the dinner table.

Throughout the day, secretly do special things and kind deeds. You could either do them for everyone or draw names the night before. The name drawn is the person you try to secretively do kind things for.

Give your kids ideas – it might be doing chores, picking up something their secret partner forgot, leaving a piece of candy, nice words, asking them if they need anything etc.

Spend Time Together

Just spend time together. Put away the phones and focus on each other. Engage with them, be excited to spend time with your kids. Plan something your family will enjoy and have a blast.

The options are numerous. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Game Night
  • Puzzle and popcorn
  • Movie
  • Park
  • Any other family outing or activity at home

Just intentionally putting a little thought into your family Valentine’s Day can help create memories and traditions that your kids will remember years to come. They might even carry on one to their own families.

You don’t have to be fancy, elaborate, or expensive. Just do something and have fun!

What are your favorite Valentine’s Day traditions with your kids?

heart shaped candies for a family Valentine's Day

Disney World Tips You Need to Know

Last year we took our kids to what some call the most magical place on earth. It also has to be one of the most expensive places. My husband is a Disney fanatic, so he spent lots of time figuring out how to get the most out of the parks.  What resulted are some great Disney World tips.

Disney world castle at night and Disney world tips

I’m the queen of living on a budget and saving money. Our budget still isn’t exactly extravagant so you might be surprised to hear we went on this trip. Honestly, it took me a while to warm up to it. We probably never would have gone at this time had it not been for a friend offering us 7 nights of free lodging. Since it was my husband’s dream family vacation, we went for it.

Free lodging helped tremendously, we also applied our Christmas budget (the kids okayed going on a trip over getting presents), and put Christmas money we received towards it.  We just made up the difference of what was left.

Today, I want to share with you some of the Disney World tips we found most helpful – so you can make the most of your trip and also do it as frugally as possible.

Disney World Tips You Need To Know

Touring Plans

My husband highly recommends this service. It’s run by mathematical geniuses who work full time analyzing stats about the crowds, the wait times, and various other planning aspects for a Disney trip.  Their website has some free information but if you want to fully take advantage of what Touring Plans offers they also sell a year subscription which includes a mobile app for use in the parks. My husband used it frequently during his plannings and it saved us lots of time in lines and we were able to do more while in the parks. You can buy a membership for the standard price $15.95. He used this link to get 20% off!

Buying Tickets

One of the free features Touring Plans offers is finding the best ticket prices. You can search at this page. They will check prices from authorized third party dealers to help you get the best price. You will save hundreds of dollars on all the tickets for your family compared to buying tickets from Disney direct or at the gate.  Also, scroll down further on that same page for more tips on how to save money on tickets. Our tickets ended up coming from The Official Ticket Center, but depending on how many days and family members you have, it could be cheaper from a different 3rd party vendor.

Important: If you buy tickets through one of the third party sellers, you usually have to exchange for the actual tickets at a park will call booth before you can enter the park. We didn’t want to take time doing this on one of our actual park days so we exchanged for them the day before when we were out riding the Monorail.

When to Go

Touring Plans has a free 2 month predicted crowd calendar, but with the subscription you can see what crowds should be like for an entire year. Take this into account when planning your trip! Also, use it to select which park to go to on which day. Less crowds is always a good thing. Granted, these are just predictions so sometimes they change slightly, but they are usually pretty close and you can even check their historical accuracy on the website.  The crowds on our day at Magic Kingdom turned out to be a little bit higher than predicted for some reason, but overall we knew that the week we went was going to be one of the least busy weeks of the year.

disney castle at night

Setting Up Fast Passes

If you stay at the Disney resort you can book fast passes for rides 60 days in advance. If you are staying off the Disney resort you can book 30 days in advance.  You will be able to schedule 3 fast passes per day via the My Disney Experience app. You’ll be able to enter your fast passes at 7am EST 30 or 60 days before the day you go to the park . Be sure to set your alarm if you want to get fast passes for the most popular rides as they will fill up fast.  Some rides such as “Flight of Passage” at Animal Kingdom and “7 Dwarf Mine Train” at Magic Kingdom were already out of fast passes before we could book them. But don’t worry, later on I’ll tell you another way to ride these popular rides quickly without a fast pass.

Once You Are At Disney World Tips

We continue with Disney World tips for once you are actually in Orlando and at the parks. First, you’ll want to have the following two apps handy on your smart phone:

My Disney Experience App

This is the official Disney World parks app.  You can view your fast passes, book dining reservations and more.  You can also schedule new fast passes in the park. (After your original three have all been used.)

Lines App

If you purchased a Touring Plans membership, you get access to this app. They give you average wait times which are more accurate than the wait times listed at the actual ride entrances.  Sometimes Disney either doesn’t update the correct wait times or changes them on purpose to manage crowd control in the parks.  Users can help with inputting data by timing your own wait in line if you desire.  There’s a timer right there in the app.

Rider Switch

If you have a child or infant that’s too short for a ride, take advantage of using the Rider Switch option. One parent stays with the too short child/infant and the other parent goes on the ride with the rest of the group. Once the first group gets off the ride, the 2nd parent goes right on through the fast pass line with up to 2 other people.  If group 1 has a fast pass for the ride, they get to use that, but if not they will have to wait in the stand by line.  Rider switches are scanned on your ticket/magic band by a cast member at the ride entrance. Take this into account when scheduling fast passes!

girl hugging minnie mouse

Rope Drop

There is a big advantage to being at the park before they open. For one, the crowds going through baggage check and the ticket scans will be way faster but you will also be able to go straight to one of the big rides with little to no line when the cast members drop the rope to first let people in. This is especially helpful for those popular rides you weren’t able to get a Fast Pass to. We did this to ride the new Avatar: Flight of Passage ride at Animal Kingdom. Its also good to do this for the 7 Dwarfs ride at Magic Kingdom and will probably be essential with the opening of the new Star Wars land later this year at Hollywood Studios.

Bring Food and Water

One of the generous things Disney lets you do is bring in your own food.  We saved so much money packing food. Sure, it might not have been the most amazing food, but it saved us hundreds of dollars versus buying food in the parks. Even if you want to purchase some Disney food, at least considering bringing your own for a few meals. We packed granola bars, fruit, vegetables, snacks, sandwiches, chips etc. Enough to get us through until we got back to our resort (at 10-11pm) each night. Store in a backpack or bag attached to your stroller. No glass containers.

We also brought bottles of water, however you can get a free cup of ice water at any Disney quick service location in the park or refill your own water bottles at drinking fountains.

Souvenirs

You will save so much money buying these off site. Check out a Wal-Mart near Disney World and there will be vast options. Countless t-shirt options, hats, autograph books, mouse ears, bags, magnets, postcards, mugs, and on and on! We were surprised at how much there was. One thing our kids enjoyed buying in the park were those souvenir pennies from the machine.

family with mickey mouse

Stroller

If you have young kids, bring a stroller. It’s great not only for the kid, but also for hauling your stuff around in. All the food, jackets if it’s cool, umbrella etc. Our youngest was 2 1/2 and used the stroller most of the time. The 7 1/2 and 5 1/2 year old did lots of walking. The only time the 5 1/2 year old used it was getting from the bus back to the car because he fell asleep.

Parking

If you drive and park at Disney, it costs $25 a day! Crazy expensive – especially if you go multiple days. Staying at a Disney resort, you have access to their bus system. If you are staying off site, there is one parking hack you can use. It will add a bit of time to your commute, but you will save a lot of money.

Park at Disney Springs in the Strawberry parking lot. You will want to go as far back as you can. These lots are free. Hop on the nature trail sidewalk and walk across the bridge that goes through the golf course, keep following the trail and turn right at the guest drop off area when you first get to Saratoga Springs Resort. You’ll then take a left at the first sidewalk and use the bus stop on the other side of that road. It is called The Springs. Because this is a resort bus stop, that bus will take you directly to any of the parks. Be sure to have your stroller folded before loading the bus.

Why walk to Saratoga Springs instead of taking a bus at Disney Springs? If you take the bus stop at Disney Springs Town Center, it won’t take you directly to a park. It would take you to a resort and then you’d have to get on another bus to go to a park.

Monorail and Downtown Disney

If you have free time on a day before you go to a Disney park, there are a some free “teaser” adventures you can do.  One thing is to ride the monorail.  There are 3 monorail lines.  The Epcot line actually goes in and around the park.  You can also stop and get off to walk through the resorts it travels to. Another free area of Disney is the recently renovated Disney Springs shopping area.  The Boardwalk is another nice free place to stroll through and shop or eat at.

Space Your Days Out

If you can plan a day off between park days, do it. If not, try and do no more than 2 days in a row. We had all 3 park days back to back (simply because that’s how it worked with our schedule) and I don’t know that any member of my family could have done 4. It was exhausting. We left where we were staying between 6:30 and 8 each morning and didn’t get back to the resort until between 10-11pm. The kids definitely slept soundly. Off days would have helped them recover, though, and we probably would have been able to make more than one rope drop.

I hope these tips help you if you are planning a Disney World vacation.  If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll try and help (or I’ll have my husband answer 😉 ).

Have you done a Disney World trip before? What are your best Disney World tips?

P.S. If you can’t afford a Disney vacation right now, be encouraged. The first 12 years of our married life, our trips have been to see family/with family and a few mini 1 or 2 day trips we took our kids on. Not going to Disney doesn’t make you a bad parent. Find ways to make memories with your kids without the expensive vacation. Work on getting situated financially and then you can start saving for your dream trip.

Disney world castle and Disney World tips Disney castle at night and Disney world tips

Things to Do On Christmas Day

Christmas comes around every year. Often times we find ourselves doing the same things year after year, just because. This year let’s get intentional as we discuss things to do on Christmas day.

Ever wondered what are things to do on Christmas Day? Here are lots of fun and frugal Christmas family traditions you can start this year!

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Christmas normally means opening presents, eating food, and maybe seeing extended family but there are other ideas we can build into our family culture and enjoy making into traditions.

Life is all about finding what works for us and the life our family has been called to live. The same is true when we brainstorm things to do on Christmas day.

Things to Do on Christmas Day

Read the Christmas story. Read it straight from one of the gospels. Afterward you could also read it from a children’s bible. Something like Jesus Storybook Bible or The Big Picture Story Bible.

Special Breakfast. We grew up having homemade cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning. Add in a breakfast casserole to have some protein on the table and you are all set. Set out hot chocolate and hot tea to have throughout the day.

Opening Stockings. This is the first thing we open Christmas morning. There is something exciting, as a kid, about opening up stockings filled with little gifts. You can find many, many options for purchasing or making stockings. My stocking is the one my mom made me when I was born. I have now made all of my family one using the same pattern.

Open Presents. Of course, opening presents will still need to happen. Unless, of course,  you decided to go for the experience gifts. You just have to think about if you are going to have a free for all or have everyone take turns opening one present at a time. With my kids, they each take a turn giving out the presents they purchased for everyone else and they are opened one at a time. It also helps made opening presents last longer than 60 seconds. 😉

Fancy dinner or supper. Go all out for a formal dinner with turkey, ham, or even steaks or go simpler with something like a soup buffet. Lighting candles always makes meals more special. Have Christmas music playing softly in the background.

Snack supper. If you don’t want to spend the day in the kitchen, there is nothing wrong with putting on an snack feast! Pull out all your easy to throw together or make ahead appetizer recipes and I think you won’t find your kids complaining. 

Have Company Over. Find a family or individual that doesn’t have anyone to spend the day and invite them over for food and fun.

Watch a movie. Pull out a family favorite Christmas movie (Elf is a go-to for us) and spend a couple hours relaxing as a family.

Board game competition. Play any new games that were received for presents and get out some of your family favorites and let your competitive sides show.

Christmas themed games. Try some fun Minute to Win It style games or one of these Christmas games.

Play in the snow. Get outside for at least a short while. If you happen to have a white Christmas, build a snowman, go sledding, or have an epic snowball fight. No snow, still get outside for a brisk walk of a family football game.

Drive to look at the Christmas lights. You are in the last week of being able to enjoy all the bright lights. If you didn’t do it Christmas Eve, drive around and see the sights one last time.

Serve Christmas dinner with a food pantry, church, or other local ministry. There is most likely at least one or two organizations in your town that are serving a Christmas meal to those who can’t afford to cook their own. See if you can help!

Go caroling. Go caroling around town – stop by your friends’ homes to sing a song outside their front door. Don’t stay, just sing and leave you won’t have to worry about imposing on anyone.

Visit the nursing home. Not only will there will be individuals in the nursing homes that don’t have family to celebrate with but also employees that have to work. Stop by with some goodies and sing carols or just visit a while and give out hugs.

Bake cookies. Whip up the last of your cookie recipes you didn’t get to on Christmas Eve or earlier in the season!

Drink hot cocoa. Hot beverages are perfect for winter and especially Christmas day.

Write thank you cards. If you have time, get a jump start on those thank yous. Have everyone sit around the table and tackle them together.

Go technology free. Commit to Christmas being a family day – put up your phones and any other hand held devices. Enjoy giving your family your undivided attention.

Call or video message your family. Connect with your family that you aren’t able to spend the day with. Do at least a quick group video call to say Merry Christmas.

Share memories. Share stories from Christmases past. Tell about when you where a child and even when your parents were children. Let your kids share about their favorite Christmas memories.

Birthday Party for Jesus. Make a cake, put candles in it, and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. If Christmas day is too crazy for this, have a little party on Christmas Eve.

These are just a few things to do on Christmas day this year. Get your kids involved and see what would make Christmas special to them. None of these things cost much (or any) money – you can make them work on your budget.

What are your favorite things to do on Christmas day?

Ever wondered what are things to do on Christmas Day? Here are lots of fun and frugal Christmas family traditions you can start this year!

Saran Wrap Ball Game for Christmas

This Saran wrap ball game is a blast!

This Saran wrap ball game is SO much fun! Here's how to play, ways to wrap the ball, and ideas for what to put inside. This is perfect for your family Christmas or with friends. Do a plastic wrap ball for the adults and one for the kids and have a blast.

This post uses affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more info.

Christmas shopping can get (more) difficult as our families grow and siblings get married and have kids. Do you buy for everyone, draw names, just do the kids, or skip gifts all together?

For many people, it’s something that just has to be done. It can be hard to buy for adults who simply purchase what they need or have specific tastes that make them difficult to shop for.

Saran Wrap Ball Game

This Saran wrap Christmas game is such a fun alternative!

Perfect for adults and teens.

You could even have a separate Saran wrap ball game going for the kids. I would not recommend combining the kids and adults – things get a little too competitive and it’s easier to shop if you do them separately.

Supplies:

  • Plastic wrap
  • Prizes
  • 2 dice
  • Paper box lid

What to Put Inside the Saran Wrap Ball

First off, set a budget (ours was $15-$20 per person) and have everyone purchase assorted gifts and a roll of plastic wrap. Any brand works.

You can do anything with the gifts – so be creative!

One tip is to try to stay gender neutral.

Also, have “prizes” from all price points – even $1. The more little gifts throughout the Saran wrap ball, the more fun there is.

Gift Ideas:

We had things from candy, fun socks, Paper Mate felt pens, mini notebooks, gift cards (numerous $5 ones and then at least one $10 one), snacks, batteries, lip balms, Oregon Trail card game, dollar bills, Bananagrams, and other assorted items.

This is where having all adults or all kids playing makes shopping a little simpler.

Have all the gifts and plastic wrap delivered to one person so the ball can be made before the event starts.

Wrapping the Saran Wrap Ball

Wrapping this giant Saran wrap ball is an event in and of itself. Make sure you have at least a couple of people there to help with the prep.  It’s also a lot of fun. One of my sister’s had their phone disappear – someone wrapped it up in the ball. 😉

The Saran Wrap:

You have two options when it comes to wrapping. One is definitely more difficult.

You can either wrap each roll as one continuous piece (the easier method) or cut the plastic wrap and restart at varying intervals. Do some ridiculously short, some crazy long, and others in between. This method is more frustrating (in the fun, competitive way) and will make the game last longer.

If you are doing the Saran wrap Christmas game for your young kiddos, I’d suggest doing each roll as one continuous piece.

For adults and teens, I recommend mixing it up and going hard.

Our game, with 8 adults, lasted over 27 minutes and every second flew by!

Adding the Gifts:

Start with wrapping your “big” prize (because this will end up the center of the ball). Our grand prize was a gift card. This little gift card was wrapped in several pieces of plastic wrap.

As you start working your way out on the ball, simple add in gifts periodically. We tried to have the more expensive gifts on the inside and the less expensive gifts end up on the outside. You will also need to take into account how certain things will wrap. The pens in our ball needed to be wrapped once the ball was larger because of their length and inflexibility. Bananagrams, though large, worked to wrap toward the center because of its flexibility.

We wrapped whole bags of candy and also opened up a package of Hershey Kisses and peanut butter cups and had those sprinkled through out the ball.

Playing The Saran Wrap Ball Game

  1. Have everyone sit on the floor in a circle. A little space between each person but making sure to still be within arms reach.
  2. Deciding who is going to start. (Youngest player might be a good option.)
  3. Give the starting player the Saran wrap ball and the next person the dice. When we played the game, we found it easiest to use a paper box lid to roll the two dice in. It kept the dice from rolling around the room and made it simpler for the next person to just grab the box when it was their turn.
  4. Player with the ball finds the end piece of Saran wrap and starts unwrapping while the next person is rolling the dice. As soon as they roll doubles (of any number), they shout “doubles” and grab the Saran wrap ball and the next person grabs the box with the dice and the game continues.
  5. Any prizes you unroll are yours.
  6. Important Rule: NO tearing the Saran wrap. You HAVE to find the end of the strip. This is where it gets harder when you use shorter pieces of plastic wrap. Sometimes finding the end is super difficult! It’s all a part of the game.

That’s it! You keep playing, laughing, screaming, and grabbing until the ball is completely unrolled and the last prize is captured.

Give this Saran wrap ball game a try at your family Christmas or even a Christmas party. It will be a fun memory for sure!

Frugal Winter Bucket List for Families

Winter can be long and depressing. After the first round of cold and snow, it’s easy to find ourselves longing for warmth. Instead, here is a frugal winter bucket list for kids that your family can use this year to create special memories during those frigid months.

Playing in the snow! These frugal and fun winter bucket list ideas will take your family from winter blues to creating memories your kids will cherish.

This post uses affiliate links, see our disclosure page more more info.

I’m one of those people who is completely satisfied staying inside curled up on the couch with a good book. Often times I need a little extra motivation to face the cold and have fun with the kids.

Moms of littles, I think winter is harder for us. We have kids with a lot of energy cooped up in a house. Bundling up to head outside is a chore and often little kids don’t last long before cold fingers bother them (or they have to use the bathroom and you have to completely unbundle them and then redo it)!

Hopefully using this winter bucket list for families will encourage us to embrace cold weather activities as well as the warm and cozy indoor ones.

Let your kids pick an activity each week (or let each child select an activity each week) – give them something to look forward to!

Disclaimer about the word frugal. Some of these items are only going to be frugal depending on where you live! Skiing in Oklahoma is in no way going to be cheap. But where I grew up skiing and ice skating where super accessible.  Just select the ones that work for you.

Frugal Winter Bucket List Ideas

  1. Ice Skating
  2. Skiing
  3. Snowboarding
  4. Sledding
  5. Ice Fishing
  6. Build a Snow Man
  7. Make Snow Angels
  8. Snowball Fight
  9. Build a Snow Fort
  10. Go to a Hockey Game
  11. Go Caroling
  12. Looking at Christmas Lights
  13. Truth in the Tinsel
  14. Peppermint Playdough
  15. Bubble Bath
  16. Make Snow Ice Cream
  17. Decorate Sugar Cookies
  18. Deliver Sugar Cookies to friends and neighbors
  19. Make a fire
  20. Family Game Night
  21. Indoor Camp Out
  22. Read Winter Themed Books
    The Snowy Day
    The Mitten
    Katy and the Big Snow
    Chapter Books:
    Miracles on Maple Hill
    The Long Winter
    Snow Treasure
    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  23. Make A Scarf
  24. Winter Crafts for Kids or adults
  25. Frozen Bubbles
  26. Advent Calendar
  27. Bake Something with Peppermint
  28. Bake something with cranberries
  29. Hot Chocolate Bar
  30. Watch a Christmas Movie:
    Elf
    The Santa Clause
    Nativity Story
    Star
  31. Nutcracker Ballet
  32. Family Christmas Card
  33. Volunteer at the food pantry
  34. Winter Science Experiments

What are your favorite winter traditions for your family? What do your kids look forward to each year?

Hopefully, taking the time to plan some special moments will keep the cold, dreary gloom from taking over your family.

Even a few minutes of purposeful fun each day can go a long way in bettering attitudes, beating the winter blues, and creating memories your kids will remember!

Hot cocoa in the snow! These frugal and fun winter bucket list ideas will take your family from winter blues to creating memories your kids will cherish.