How to Reuse Christmas Cards

One of my favorite gifts at Christmastime is all of the beautiful Christmas cards that come in the mail. Whether it’s the traditional store-bought card that is sold in bulk, or a handpicked Hallmark, or the popular photo card created online, I love seeing all of the beautiful Christmas depictions and reading the warm wishes of the season. I merrily display each one in my home.

But what do I do with them after Christmas? There are too many to keep year after year, and while I love receiving cards, I rarely hold onto but a precious few. I know it’s a bit morbid, but part of me wonders, “What on earth would my boys do with a thousand old Christmas cards after we die and they inherit every little item in our home?” So I throw them out.

This year, I decided to do something special with the Christmas cards. I wanted to give them a new life and value, after their purpose had already been fulfilled. I reused them. I turned this year’s Christmas greeting cards into next year’s homemade Christmas gift tags.

How to Reuse Christmas Cards: Homemade Christmas Gift Tags

You need:

  • Christmas cards
  • scissors
  • tape
  • card stock
  • hole punch

And then:

  1. Cut up the Christmas cards into small, usable pieces. For example, cut out Santa’s face or a Christmas tree or the snowman in the background. There is no rhyme or reason other than what appeals to you.
  2. Tape each piece onto a piece of card stock.
  3. Use the hole punch to make a hole in each gift tag.
  4. That’s it! Now you have beautiful, homemade gift tags ready to attach with a ribbon onto next year’s Christmas gifts! And your Christmas cards have been given new life.

(See photos below for an example of the process!)

Christmas cards, destined for the trash can post-Christmas.

Christmas cards, destined for the trashcan post-Christmas.

After cutting the useful pieces from the cards.

After cutting the useful pieces from the cards.

The finished gift tag!

The finished gift tag!

 

Beautiful gift tags, ready for a ribbon and a label.

Beautiful gift tags, ready for a ribbon and a label.

What do you do with the cards you receive? It’s also worth noting that you can do this with birthday cards, Valentine’s cards, etc!

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Last Minute Christmas Gift/Activity!

I say every year that I am going to start my Christmas shopping early. That I won’t wait until the last minute. And every year, I do buy a gift here and there in the fall to put away for Christmas, but somehow, I always end up scrambling at the last minute for SOMETHING. Whether it’s the stocking stuffers, the gift cards for those people that I just couldn’t come up with a better idea for, baking the cookies, or just a little extra touch of decorating, there is always something that I end up doing at the last minute before Christmas.

I want to share a couple of quick little gifts that I made for my children’s grandparents this year, just in case you are in need of a little something at the last minute too!

Angel and Rudolph Homemade Clothespin Ornaments

A few weeks ago, my dad gave me a bag full of old (vintage?) clothespins. I guess he knew if anyone could find a way to reuse them, it would be me! I painted one to look like a Rudolph reindeer and tied a ribbon around one of the “antlers” and I painted another one to look like an angel. I glued card stock wings to the back and then tied a ribbon around the “neck” for hanging on the tree! So simple, and yet I love that they made nice little gifts for grandparents and my son’s teacher.

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Santa and Reindeer Handprints

This one is my favorite, and even if you don’t need it for a gift, you can also use this as an activity for the little ones at your family’s Christmas party! Both of my boys just love getting their hands painted and my oldest was amazed at the way they turned out when I added the finishing touches!

For a Santa, paint bottom of the palm and thumb red, leaving just the tip of the thumb to paint white. Then paint a stripe of white above the red, right across the middle of the palm. Paint the next 1-2 inches of the palm a flesh color (mix brown and white paints until you get a color you like for the face). Finally, paint the remaining four fingers white for the beard. Press the hand upside-down on the paper and you have a Santa! When it dries, you can add eyes and a nose (and a mouth if you want a child-like look).

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For a reindeer, simply paint the whole palm brown, press upside-down against the paper, and let it dry. Add the eye, hooves, and antlers with black marker when the paint dries, and a dab of red paint for his nose!

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I taped both of them onto a piece of card stock and added a message to turn them into a homemade Christmas card for our children’s grandparents!

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Cute, huh? 🙂

Do you try to get all of your Christmas prep finished early, or do you end up doing something at the last minute like me??


5 Easy Ideas for a (Somewhat) Organized Family

I am NOT a naturally organized person. Although I know that making To Do lists every day helps keep me on track and to feel more productive, I’m not great at it. I like the way Bill at The Authentic Life put it: highly organized people make lists, while more creative types shun them. Given that I’ve always loved to write, I’d say I’m fairly creative. At least it helps me feel better about my lack of organizational skills. Sure, you can make a list. But I’m creative.

That being said, I have always made an effort to be organized. It’s undeniable that the more efficient you are, the more productive you can be. My husband has gone to work wearing dirty jeans one too many times due to my getting wrapped up in blogging other important tasks. My choices are:

a) buy the man more jeans

b) give up things that I enjoy on a regular basis like playing with my baby boy, writing, reading a good book, or watching Parenthood on Netflix

c) find a way to get everything done around the house AND have time to do the things I enjoy

All decent options, but when in doubt during a multiple choice test, I always go with “c.” Don’t you?

To help me out, here are some of the new organizational tools that I have put into practice.

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1-Finding this household planner from The Confident Mom was the start of our newfound organization. What I love about this particular planner is that she covers it all. From vacuuming and making beds, laundry and cleaning toilets, even the small things like clipping children’s nails are covered in this planner. She plans out your days from January 1st until December 31st, and as far as I can tell, she leaves no household need unattended. The planner is divided into weekly pages, with a section for each day of the week and 3-5 chores per day. There is also a section for Daily Tasks that are the same every week with tasks that should be done every day like laundry (you’re welcome, hubby), dishes, making dinner, exercise, and even pampering yourself (relaxing in a long, hot bath, seeing what your favorite bloggers are up to, etc)! Of course, don’t feel like you need to take on all of these responsibilities yourself, stay-at-home parent or not. While I take on most of the household tasks so that my husband can have more well-deserved time to relax when he comes home from work, he does some of the tasks like taking out the trash and yard work. Our son has the responsibilty of feeding our pets, making his bed, straightening his room, helping with grocery shopping, etc. We have also implemented The Confident Mom’s “15-Minute Evening Pickup” as a family where we set a timer and go around the house putting things back in their place, throwing away trash, putting dishes in the sink, etc. Sometimes it takes only 5-10 minutes, but it makes a big difference on how the next day begins. It’s like waking up each morning to a clean slate rather than yesterday’s mess. I won’t post a close-up photo of the planner, because you should click here to see it for yourself!

2-After printing my new household planner, I wanted to create a special place to keep it, so I bought a binder from the dollar store, added a decorative cover to the front window, and put all the pages of the planner inside. I also put in the front inside pocket a monthly calendar to keep track of our family’s important dates, events, and appointments, as well as a spot for our bills. In the back, I put our address labels and stamps. This way, everything that I need to run our household on a weekly basis is tucked into one place on our desk.

I love this quote from Proverbs 31:17--"She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks."

I love this quote from Proverbs 31:17–“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”

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3-While the binder is a great place to store the planner, I didn’t like the idea of having to open up a big old binder every time I needed to check off a daily task. I wanted it accessible to the whole family, so that we can all see what needs to be done. So I hung a clipboard (another dollar store purchase) on the wall, attached a pen, and put up the current week’s page from the planner. It’s in the kitchen where it’s seen often and easy to access. I didn’t particularly like the look of a clipboard hanging all by itself, so I took a 5×7 frame, added some colorful scrapbook paper hung it above the clipboard. I wrote a fun quote on the outside of the frame with a dry-erase marker. I wanted the option to be able to change up the quote from time to time, but I really like this one.

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4-While I was in the organizing mood, I decided to create a space to hang my boys’ artwork. I wanted somewhere other than the fridge to showcase some of the cool stuff that my son does at school or a fun art project that we made at home. I added two 3M hooks to the wall, several feet apart, and I tied one end of a ribbon to each hook. My son and I decorated some clothespins and added them to the ribbon to hold the artwork. I bought letters to spell out A-R-T at Walmart and decorated them using spray adhesive and scrapbook paper. I was very pleased with our little art wall, and now I sort through my son’s schoolwork as soon as he brings it home, swap out a couple of the pieces on the wall, put the ones I want to keep forever into his schoolwork keepsake folder and throw out the rest! Clutter doesn’t stand a chance.

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5-Finally, I know that it’s just about time to send out Christmas cards, and I am perpetually that person that has asked you twenty-four times for your address. You would think by now I would have a place to keep them all, but I don’t. I’m sure most of you already have some sort of organized address book, whether it’s in your phone, or a traditional address book, or your computer. But just in case you don’t, I bought an index card notebook from the dollar store which was already conveniently divided into three sections. I made one section for Businesses, one for Family, and one for Friends. After I ask around ONE more time for everyone’s addresses, I will finally have all of those addresses in one place!

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Having some simple household organization tools in place has created a lot of peace for me. I thought I might feel more pressure to “get things done,” but it’s just the opposite. Knowing that there is a well-organized plan eliminates the constant stress of “I should do this today. Oh, but this other thing really needs to get done too. And when will I be able to do this…” Knowing that everything is going to get covered in small, manageable steps gives me more time to BE instead always feeling like there is something I should DO. And most importantly, my husband has clean jeans. Ta-Da!

How do you keep your home organized?


Homemade Birthday Card

It’s an equal combination of being cheap and being able to add our family’s personal touch that I prefer to make our own cards rather than buying them. Here is a quick and easy tutorial for a homemade birthday card that I made for my mother-in-law last week for her big 60th birthday:

The “You’ve Touched Our Lives” homemade birthday card:

What you’ll need:

-a blank card

-ink pad or paint

-scrapbook paper/cardstock

-marker

How to make it:

-First, use the ink pad or paint to put fingerprints throughout the front and inside of the card, one fingerprint for each year of the card recipient’s age. If you’re making this for a parent or grandparent, having the children in the recipient’s life do this part is a sweet little touch. In our case, each of our two children did thirty fingerprints to make a total of 60 for my mother-in-law.

-Then use the scrapbook paper or cardstock to decorate the rest of the card. You could choose to do this step first and the fingerprints second, whichever seems easier for you.

-Finally, add the message to the card–the age on the front and the following on the inside:

This card was touched (#) times.

One touch for each year that your life has touched all who have known and loved you.

It took us about fifteen minutes to make this card (including setup and cleanup), which is less time than it would have taken to drive to the store, pick out a card, and drive back home. And the personal “touch” of a homemade card always goes over really well!

Do you usually make your own cards or buy them? If you have a link to a homemade card tutorial on your blog, feel free to leave a comment with a link to it!


Homemade Halloween Card for Kids

Although giving children the tools to express themselves creatively–with no specific end result in mind–is important, it is also fun to occasionally create a project. I also love making homemade gifts for my boys’ grandparents. They are a huge part of our lives, and we love to make them feel special and to thank them for all they do for us whenever we can.

In the spirit of Halloween, we made a homemade ghost Halloween card that is super easy, and it cost us nothing, because we used materials that we already had around the house!

What you need:

  • cardstock (one piece of black + a couple of any fun fall colors/patterns)
  • blank card
  • white paint
  • black paint or black stamp pad
  • glue
  • pencil

How to make it:

  • Paint your child’s foot (or let older children paint their own!) with white paint.

  • Place the painted foot upside-down on the black cardstock.
  • Cut down the black cardstock to make a rectangle around the ghost.

  • Cut a couple more pieces of the fall-colored cardstock, so that they will fit into layers on the front of the blank card.
  • Glue all of the layers together.

  • Let it all dry, and then paint your child’s thumb with black paint or help them dip it in the black stamp pad. (Tip: Use a big toe with a baby. Since they like to clinch their little fists, it can be hard to get the thumb!)
  • Press the thumb/toe onto the top of the ghost to make two eyes and a big open mouth! I also dipped a pencil in the white paint to write the “Boo!” Again, older children can do this part themselves.

  • Once everything is dry, you can add your own personal touch to the inside by either writing a message like I did, “Have a SPOOKTACULAR Halloween!” or let older children practice their writing and spelling skills by writing their own message!

The finished product! Sure to make grandparents say, “Awww!”

He liked playing with the scrap paper while Mama put it all together! 😉

 

What do you think about this homemade Halloween card? Do you like to make your own cards, buy a card, or skip the cards for holiday gifts?


Organizing Your Child’s School Work

Ever since school started in August, my son has been bringing home a small collection each week of the school work that he is accomplishing. This may be letting the inner-geek in me show a bit, but I love paperwork! I still remember how fun it was to do various worksheets at school, to get a sticker or a star or a stamp of approval from my teacher, and then tote it home to mom and dad to show off what I’d done. It was fun to me! (And yes, I was definitely a “teacher’s pet” in school and proud of it!) 🙂 Although my son doesn’t seem to be quite as excited about doing that sort of work at school (It’s more like “Here, Mom,” as he tosses over a stack of papers and runs away in search of his football), he does well in the work that he brings home, and I am proud of it. I’m proud of his accomplishments, big or small. And with this being his first year of school, it’s hard for me not to hold onto every piece of paper that he brings home.

So I began putting them in a neat little pile on our dining room table. And the pile grew. And grew. And grew. It’s amazing how big that stack grew in just one month! And it wasn’t just his stack of school papers that began accumulating. I started adding other piles to the table for insurance paperwork and paperwork from doctor’s visits. Small toys somehow started ending up on the dining table as well. A camera. Playing cards. Batteries. A broken X-Box system. It seems to be a scientific fact that if you add even the smallest amount of clutter to a space, the clutter will just keep multiplying. Our dining table quickly became a dumping ground, and my son’s schoolwork simply got lost in the clutter. I was devaluing something that I truly valued and wanted to preserve.

So this week, I’ve saved my dining table and my son’s  school work at the same time. I purchased an inexpensive expandable folder, and I started going through the pile, choosing my favorite pieces to keep and tossing the rest in the trash. As much as I love all of his little worksheets and art projects, it’s simply not practical to keep all of it. Having a set amount of space to organize his school work is important, because it keeps my paperwork hoarding tendencies at bay.

After I narrowed the paperwork down to the pieces I thought were the most meaningful, I wrote little descriptions and dates on them. Years from now, my son and I may not remember the significance of the pieces or what made us so inclined to keep them, so adding this step will help jog the memory.

I then labeled the expanding folder tabs with Preschool-5th grade.

 

And put my son’s school work in the Kindergarten slot.

Since we are only a month into the school year, and there is not an enormous amount of space in the expanding folder, I may need to look through the selection from time to time and pull out more pieces that may not be as significant to keep. Holding on to it for a while first allows me to gain some distance from each piece. For instance, when he brings a cute little cut-and-paste worksheet, it seems like something I have to keep. But as the school year goes on, and we have ten similar worksheets, I will be able to narrow it down to only a couple of worksheets within the same category. By the end of the school year, we will have a nicely organized collection of all of his accomplishments for his first year of school, and my dining table can stay clutter-free!

Do you have a place that has become a “dumping ground” in your home? How do you preserve and organize your child’s school work?


Underwater Adventures… From the Kitchen Floor

Our school district only goes to school Tuesday through Friday, so I am blessed to have both of my boys home with me every Monday. There is something about Mondays that I am growing to love. Our weekends are usually pretty full. It seems that there is always somewhere we need to go, whether it’s a soccer game, a birthday party, or visiting with friends and family. I love the weekends, because my husband is home, and it’s generally just an all-around good time, no matter what we are doing. But then Mondays come, and the pace is much more relaxed than the rest of the week. I don’t feel such a push to get things done around the house, because I’d rather spend the time enjoying being with my big boy. Another reason I’m loving Mondays is because I’m using that day to find something special (but inexpensive!) for us to do. Last Monday, we went to a local state park where we enjoyed the beautiful weather with a picnic lunch, read books while lying on a blanket in the grass, and went for a short walk on a hiking trail.

This week, we had another fun adventure, but this time it was in our own kitchen. My parents and sister came back from a beach vacation in Mississippi this past weekend, and they brought the boys two windup submarine toys. Two very simple toys, but the newness of them had my oldest son very excited. As soon as we opened them, he wanted to test them out.

Even the baby boy was giggling and watching with awe.

He had so much fun playing with them, that when Monday came, we took a trip to the local dollar store in search of some fun treasures we could add to our submarine play. Here is what we came up with:

Some rocks and treasure coins.

A couple of different textured sponges and a scrub brush.

Stacking cups.

All of these items can easily be repurposed to do other sensory or art activities, so it was totally worth the few dollars that I spent.

I put a beach towel down on our kitchen floor and filled a large mixing bowl with water. Any large bin would work, and a sensory or water table would probably be better. I think I know what my baby boy is getting for his first birthday already…

Anyway, then we started adding things to the bowl. We took turns winding up our submarines and watching them spin and dive and race.

We sorted the stacking cups from smallest to biggest. We did a science experiment to guess how many rocks each cup would need in order for it to sink. (And I learned that my son is pretty good at making and testing a hypothesis.)

We also purchased a pair of swim googles that were on end-of-the-summer clearance, and my son loved those! He loved diving into the “ocean” face-first like a regular underwater explorer.

He also liked putting every, single item available into the bowl to make a “traffic jam” and using the sponges to create a “secret hideout” for the submarines.

 

Can you see why I’m loving Mondays? 🙂

**I’m linking today’s post with The Kid’s Co-Op! There are some awesome family friendly activities linked here every week. Please click to browse around or link up an activity of your own! Lots of wonderful inspiration here.**