Kid-Friendly Christmas Home Tour 2016

Welcome back!  My husband and I are anxiously counting the days until all our children and grandchildren are here for Christmas!  Making the house and decor safe for everyone has been the real theme of this year's decorating plan.

Now that the tree is up and we've got some natural and neutral ornaments, lets continue the theme with some parent-approved fun things that the kids can touch and play with!

For the past few years, I've looked around for an affordable kid-friendly nativity set.  Most of them didn't fit into my budget, or the parts were too tiny to have around babies.  When I saw this terrific DIY Nativity set made from 2x4's and with FREE printables, I knew it would be perfect!  (You could even make them double-sided, if you would like.)  Click on the link to go to Ginger Snap Crafts and make a set for your family!

Ginger Snap Crafts

A Christmas tree naturally attracts the little ones because they want to touch all the pretties on it!  To give the kiddos something of their own that they can touch, I made this cute felt Christmas tree and ornaments for them to decorate to their heart's content!

To make the tree, I used a large piece of green felt about 30" W x 48" L, and cut the tree out freehand. I used the sticky pieces from Command Strips to anchor it to the wall.  For the ornaments, I printed out shapes, and traced around them onto colored felt.  Fabric glue was used to add some trims onto the snowman, package bows, etc.  Even though felt sticks to felt,I recommend adding a small square of the hook part of Velcro to the backs of the ornaments, using hot glue.
The felt tree idea came from: Sol and Rachel; I Can Teach My Child; and Wild and Wisdom.   Check them out for even more inspiration!

To see other fun ideas, visit my Pinterest board, Kid-Friendly Christmas to find other great ideas to incorporate into your Christmas decor.

Now, how about a quick photo "tour" of our Christmas decorated home?

Brown paper packages, tied up with string (and red velvet bows)
These are a few of my favorite things!

Tree and ornaments

Real logs wrapped in red mini lights!

O Holy Night Printable Banner

Shiplap Sign

TV Media Console
Gallery Wall

Updated Craigslist Furniture

DIY Mug Holder
Sending my very best wishes for a happy and blessed Christmas for you and your family!

Kid-Friendly Christmas Ideas - Part 3

Would you look at how far we've come in such a short time, preparing for a kid-friendly, and hopefully-less-stressful Christmas!  So far, we've cleared out unnecessary furniture, put breakables and dangerous items out of reach, crafted pretty wall decor, and created a smaller tree to allow room for everyone's gifts.

Making the Tree Safe

We are lifting our small tree onto a table so that it will sit tall and proud, but with the little kiddos coming for Christmas, of course we have to make it as safe as possible.

We purchased a square board at ReStore Habitat for Humanity, to make the tabletop a bit larger so that the base of the tree would be more stable.

We secured the tree and the board to the table with ratcheting straps, one in each direction, criss-crossing over the tomato-cage tree's lowest ring and under the table's drawer.

If you would like your tabletop tree to sit even taller, try elevating the table itself, as we are doing by placing it on my DIY Industrial Factory Cart. It not only makes the tree visually more important, it gives another layer under the tree to place gifts, and makes use of the cart instead of just hiding it away somewhere.  Again, Ed will also run a strap between the slats in the cart, and around the table's lower shelf.  This will all be hidden by the tree skirt. (More about that next time!)

No matter what the size or shape of your Christmas tree, keeping it upright and safely secured will be one of your biggest challenges.  One thing we definitely will be making is a box-barricade just like this one pictured.  Just take boxes, add some weight inside, wrap them in Kraft paper, and add a pretty bow.  It wont' keep babies from attempting to touch the tree, but it will give parents & grandparents a few extra seconds to distract them.

(source: Pinterest. Original pinner unknown.)

Natural and Neutral Ornaments

I decided to start from scratch for the ornaments on this small tree.  Of course I turned to Pinterest for inspiration and instructions, and found pages of great ideas!

Here are inspiration photos for three of the ornaments I will be making for our Natural and Neutral theme; just click on the photos to link to the tutorials:

 Jingle Bell Pinecone Ornament

Hobby Lobby is my go-to place for most craft items, and that's where I picked up some mini-wood cuts, mini-pinecones, magnets, extra glue sticks, and ribbon; I headed to Walmart for canning jar lids; I also stopped by Dollar Tree for some jingle bells! I already had the canning rings, photo paper, and the chalkboard paint.

It looks like I'll be making five of the mason jar magnets, one for each of our five grandchildren, and also turning them into tree ornaments just by adding ribbon around the outside of the ring.  After Christmas, they can go on the fridge!

(Just a word of caution, although these ornaments should be unbreakable, the bells and tiny pinecones are small enough to pose a choking hazard, so please be watchful around young children.)

Be sure you stop on over to my Pinterest board, Kid-Friendly Christmas, for more great ideas and inspiration for your own family Christmas celebration.  Don't forget that you can always catch up with me on Instagram or over on my Facebook page.

Kid-Friendly Christmas Ideas - Part 2

Welcome back! I'm so happy you stopped by today!

Last time, I told you about how excited we are about having ALL of our kids and grandkids here at our house for Christmas this year!  Now that we've kid-proofed the house, let's move on to some decor!

Kid-friendly Christmas decor doesn't have to look like you walked into a coloring book or cartoon! And it doesn't need to be costly, either. This year, I chose a "Natural and Neutral" theme, and all of it is kid-safe, and easy to create!  In some of my next posts, I'll walk you through how to make adorable ornaments for the tree, and a nativity that the kids can put their hands on and play with.

Wall Decor

A couple of years ago, when we were living in Hawaii, I needed some quick, inexpensive Christmas wall decor for our little apartment.  Today, as I was going through some older posts, I realized how this is such a great idea to use when you have kiddos around, too!  Nothing breakable because it's up on the wall, it's all FREE printables, and you can adapt the letters for whatever holiday saying you choose!
This year, the O Holy Night banner will probably go on the fireplace mantle, since we are forgoing the traditional Christmas stockings.  Look for it in the weeks to come, to see where I've decided to display it.

The Tree  

We normally put up an artificial tree due to my allergies, but this year the big tree is staying in the box because of space-constrains. When I started thinking of a smaller tree, I remembered that we already had the perfect one! Normally, it's on the front porch or in the front garden. I made it from a tomato cage and some faux green garland that we already had.

Here are the easy steps:
Supplies are one tomato cage, some faux green garland (I think I used 2 strands), floral wire, wire cutters, packing tape, and mini-lights.

First, turn the tomato cage upside down, with the wide round part on the floor.

Then, using floral wire, tie the loose ends together into a point. For safety, wrap some packing tape over the wire, so you don't accidentally cut yourself.

Next, starting at the bottom, begin wrapping the garland around, using the branches to tie around the tomato cage wire at the junctions. Wrap all the way to the top.

Lastly, add the lights, again use the branches to hold the lights, using them like a twist-tie.  Fluff out the entire tree to hide the wires of the cage.

Next time, I'll show you how we are setting up the tree on my skinny little table that won't take up a lot of precious space in the living room!

What are your plans for Christmas this year?  Will your home and table have friends and family gathered around, or will you be going "over the river and through the woods" to someone else's home?  I'd love to hear from you so please keep up with me on Instagram, Facebook & Pinterest!

Kid-Friendly Christmas Ideas - Part 1

Even though Halloween has not yet arrived, I've already been thinking about Christmas.  The special reason this year: ALL of our kids and grandkids will be here!  Which means, Grandma & Papa need to do a little "kid-proofing" in our house.  Do you have kiddos or grands visiting for the holidays? Here's some tips, tricks and hints on how to prep your house before their arrival!

Making the house safer for kids doesn't mean you have to live in a completely sterile space.  Moving treasures, heirlooms, and other breakables out of reach, is really for your own peace of mind, as well as the safety of the little ones.  For Ed and I, these changes will be short-term anyway, because most of our grandchildren live far away.

  1. Make lots of space, if you can!  Move out furniture that isn't  going to be needed for a few weeks.  Move in furniture that gives enough seating for adults, but still allows enough floor space for kids to crawl and play nearby.

  1. Move breakables & irreplaceable items to closet shelves, safely out of reach. Anything that's within a child's reach should be kid-friendly, so you won't be saying, "don't touch" like a broken record!  This will save stress on you, as well as the kids' parents. 

  1. If you have a working fireplace, you might want to invest in a special fireplace gate for safety. Currently, we don't use our fireplace for burning wood, however we do use romantic candles in place of logs.  This year, I want to light up the fireplace with some mini-lights and logs, as in the photo below, to give it a warmer, more Christmas-y feel, and still be kid-safe.

  1. If families with young kids are staying in your guest room, you might want to invest in child-sized cots (like these here and here) that fold up to store easily out of the way when not needed. Remember that some younger children will still need naps during the day, so this will be a safe place without the fear of falling off of Grandma's big bed!

  1. Although the myth about real Poinsettias being poisonous to kids and pets has been de-bunked, you might still want to use faux plants, to avoid the mess if they are tipped over. Here's what you should worry about children swallowing during the holidays: holly berries (which are toxic), hot drinks (which could scald) alcohol left in glasses, and small ornaments that look like food.

  1. Check under your bathroom sinks and remove anything hazardous, like cleaners, razors, shaving cream, medications and the like. Put it out of reach, or in a locked cabinet. You'd be surprised at how quickly a toddler can get into trouble, when "washing their hands".  I clearly remember my then-4 year old blonde girl putting clear nail polish on her eyelashes because she thought it was her Grandma's eye makeup!  We had to call poison control for that one, and thankfully she was fine.  Oh, which brings me to:  Look up the phone number for Poison Control in your area, and keep it on the fridge!  

  1. Look around for tripping hazards.  With all of our TVs, computers, tablets, etc. we often have all those charging cords everywhere.  Little people learning to crawl or walk can get tangled up, or accidentally pull something down.  This also applies to the elderly or anyone with a mobility issue. In addition, curtain or mini-blind cords, etc. can be a strangulation hazard, and need to be tied up high, and non-accessible to little ones.

As you can see, making your home a safe environment for young children to visit can also give you a clean slate on your way to decorating for the holidays!  

In upcoming posts, I'll show you how to make kid-friendly, unbreakable tree ornaments, that are still classic and neutral enough to add to your regular collection!  I'm anxious to show you some great ways I've come across to deter little ones from touching the tree; how to make a child-friendly nativity; and a tree that kids are encouraged to touch and decorate all on their own!

Christmas at Grandma and Papa's house is going to be fun for everyone!  So you don't miss a thing, be sure to follow me on Facebook, and catch up with me on Instagram and Twitter!

Slow Cooker Squash Recipes

Hey Y'all!  Are you enjoying Fall where you are?  Here in Central Texas, our temps are finally cooling down (a bit) and that means I'm doing more baking and cooking!  I especially enjoy adding healthy, comfort foods like Spaghetti Squash, Butternut Squash, and Acorn Squash to our menus for some tasty variety.

Slow Cooker cooking makes the effort of preparing squash a lot easier, takes less time in the kitchen, and gives you more time to spend with your family.

Spaghetti Squash:

Spaghetti Squash
  • All you need is a slow cooker (crock pot) that will hold your whole spaghetti squash.
  • Wash the squash, and poke the skin all over with a fork.
  • Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. This will depend on how large your squash is.
  • Carefully remove the squash & let rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes, so you can handle it.
  • Halve the squash lengthwise with a sharp knife (it should be very easy to cut open).
  • Scoop out the seeds, and discard. Hint: I use an ice cream scoop.
  • With a fork, shred the squash into spaghetti-like strands into a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Reheat in microwave, and serve. (Or reheat in a pan on top of the stove.)
  • We enjoy spaghetti squash with butter, salt & pepper; some people rave about how great it tastes with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese and meatballs!
  • (Note: to test for doneness, pierce squash with a fork. It should go in very easily.)

Butternut Squash:

Butternut Squash
  • Use the same prep and cooking method as for Spaghetti Squash. Cook on low 4 to 5 hours, or on high about 3 hours.
  • Remove the squash and let it rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes to cool down.
  • Carefully halve the squash lengthwise with a sharp knife.
  • Once you have removed the seeds, use a sharp knife to score it into cubes, or scoop it into a bowl.
  • Reheat in microwave, and serve.
  • Try with garlic butter, salt & pepper. 
Acorn Squash:

Green Acorn Squash
  • Use the same prep and cooking method as for the above Squash. Cook on high for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or on low for about 4 hours.  Remember to test with a fork.
  • Remove the squash and let it rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes, so you can handle it.
  • Halve the squash with a sharp knife, and remove the seeds.
  • Once you have removed the seeds, scoop out the cooked flesh with a metal spoon, into a microwave-safe bowl. 
  • Reheat in microwave, and serve.
  • Try with butter and brown sugar or pure maple syrup. MMMmmmm!
Babies love plain, cooked squash!  You can put it into a Baby Bullet or whisk it to make it into a puree for infants age 6 to 8 months old and up. Older babies and toddlers can eat small chunks or mashed squash easily; for spaghetti squash, I recommend you cut the strands up pretty well, to make it easier to swallow.

Cooked squash freezes well. Just let it cool down, put into a freezer-safe covered container or freezer bag, and freeze for up to six months. Don't forget to mark it with the date!  When ready to eat, thaw and then reheat on stove top or in the microwave.

Now that you see how easy it is to cook in the slow cooker, you'll want to explore new recipes, like Butternut Squash Soup, Cheesy Garlic Parmesan Spaghetti Squash, and Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash.  Mmmm, who's hungry?!

Thanksgiving Printables

Sometimes, being a DIY blogger living in a rental house can be frustrating!  Can't paint the dark kitchen cabinets so that they are more farmhouse-style. No stenciling my favorite scripture verse over the entryway. However, what I can do is decorate with printables, and change them out with the seasons, holidays or just because!

Today, I'm sharing with you six Free Printables for your Thanksgiving decor. The backgrounds were created using Joanna Gaines' Market Collection colors "Shiplap" and "Ella Rose" so they would be neutral to fit into your home decor.  (Online colors may appear differently than actual printed signs, or from actual paint.)

Clicking on the photo above will take you to where each file lives, so you can download them.  Use one or all, but please remember that they are offered to you for your personal use only.


As always, I would love it if you would share this with your friends by pinning, sharing on Facebook or Instagram!

Keep checking back for some upcoming Fall Recipes, too! (Crockpot Squash Recipes will save you effort and time!)