We use a TON of butter every year at cookie fest and this year was no exception. Look at that mountain of butter!
You can click the images below to download all of the documents I used to make this cookie fest the most epic of them all.
We've been hosting Cookie Fest every year since we were college babies and this year it got a bit of a make-over. My new friend group is much more into all of the craftiness that I love and are definitely competitive se we went all in on Cookie Fest in regards to the competition element this year. I made rubrics, a trophy, certificates for the winners and we had rules. It was a ton of fun and we ended up with some delicious cookies.
I love offering a custom cocktail and this year it was a masala chai digestive aid cocktail and let me tell you...it was BOMB! I printed out directions so everyone could make their own and I wouldn't be a drink mixer slave all evening. You can get the printable recipe below.
We use a TON of butter every year at cookie fest and this year was no exception. Look at that mountain of butter!
Above you can see the judges deliberating and scoring and the winning team with their trophy and prize cookie. (You got points for presentation and theirs included a shot to go with their cookie!)
You can click the images below to download all of the documents I used to make this cookie fest the most epic of them all.
After the baking ended and the winners were declared by the judges, all guests took home cookies in containers I purchased at the dollar tree and a custom oven mitt that I created using the template linked below. You can edit and make it your own by clicking the image.
This is a fun way to gift your teacher at Christmas time! Give them a punch out countdown calendar for the days leading up to Christmas break. Place goodies inside each cup, cover with tissue paper and add a number. It's easy, adorable and will definitely get the teacher excited!
You will need:
- foam board
- tissue paper
- paper cups
- small gifts
How to Make it:
1. Hot glue cups onto foam board with opening facing out. I placed mine in a tree shape and decorated it to look like a tree but you could make it look like anything.
2. Add gifts to cups.
3. Use a rubber band to hold a small square of tissue paper on top of the cup opening.
4. Decorate as you like.
I love gifting my co-workers at Christmas time but the struggle is finding something simple enough and inexpensive enough to gift to 50 people. This year I made simmer pot's in a bag and they turned out so cute! You can watch the full how to on my TikTok: @rennaissance.rachel and go ahead and follow me while your there! You can download the free tag by clicking the image below!
To make it all you will need are:
- cinnamon sticks
- evergreen branches or rosemary
- clear plastic bags
- free printable tag (below)
With Valentine's Day on a Sunday this year and our weather forecasting incredibly frigid temperatures as low as -14 degrees I planned for some fun, indoor activities to keep my kids from going nuts. Enjoy this variety of easy, low prep and minimal supplies needed activities!
Click the image to get the document.
Our new year's eve plans vary each year. Sometimes we go out with friends, other years we stay in. This year going out was clearly off the table so I planned some fun kid activities for the day.
We started the day off by making dream catchers. I used embroidery hoops for the base and a mix of yarn, ribbon, feathers and sequins to decorate.
Then we made some champagne cupcakes, chocolate truffles and midnight kisses. We also made a happiness jar so we can keep track of all of the good things that happen during the upcoming year.
We ended our evening by getting glammed up, taking some photos, watching fireworks from Pike's Peak, having a dance party and playing minute to win it games. You can check out my pinterest board with all of the inspiration I used for the activities here.
In my previous post I shared all of the activities I planned for this very different Halloween. As I stated in that post, I planned way more activities than I imagined would be possible to complete so, I'm sharing with you in this post about how the day went and the activities we did together from that list.
We started with monster pancakes that I managed to make healthy using spinach for their green color. The kids devoured them and I was able to begin my day feeling like I'd already won by tricking my tiny gremlins into eating a vegetable.
The plan after breakfast was a scavenger hunt to find their boo baskets but when I went to my stack of printed things the scavenger hunt was MIA. So, they just got to open them instead. Afterwards we headed to the park to eat our drive-thru Chikfila lunch and then enjoyed a walk.
After the park, I set up a witches potion station with glitter, soapy, colored water, metal pot, plastic eyeballs and spiders for the kids to get creative. Then they did the pumpkin punch board for fun prizes.
After the punch board we all carved pumpkins for the first time as a family. We've always painted them and I have avoided carving but I think it went really well and we will definitely do it every year from now on!
Once we set the pumpkins outside they made monster pizzas. While their pizzas cooked, they made their own soda concoctions at a mad scientist soda bar. I provided a ton of different flavors and they mixed up some delicious drinks to eat with their monster pizzas. I made them some candy corn fruit parfaits with pineapple, oranges and whipped cream to eat with their pizzas.
After dinner, we all put on our costumes and headed to our neighbor to show them off and say hi and then went back inside. Arthur wanted to go as "Business Cat", Alan was The Hulk, Derek was The Tiger King, I was Carole Baskin and Lilly was a leopard. Then, instead of the usual door to door trick or treating, they searched the yard for bags filled with candy and glow bracelets. Each one was given a specific color to find to make it fair and fight free.
We wrapped up the day with too much candy, popcorn and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" on the couch as a family. Arthur ate too much candy and regretted his life choices for a bit but didn't throw up. So...winning. Even though it was very different it was a lot of fun and honestly, a little less stressful than a regular year.
Thanks for visiting and celebrating with us! I hope you had a safe and fun Halloween!
Halloween this year will be different just like everything else in this dumpster fire of a year. But, just because we can't do all of the normal things doesn't mean we can't make the most of our time and have fun. Halloween is finally on a Saturday so that gives me the whole day to fill with fun and exciting things for my kids. So, I've compiled a huge idea board full of food, activities, learning opportunities and things to do as a family. I linked all of the things to the posts about them online so you can do it too! We may not get to everything but we definitely won't run out of exciting things!
What's the plan?
Morning: Wake up and make sneaky monster pancakes packed with spinach and covered with candy eyeballs! With all of the candy they will be eating throughout the day I want to make sure they get some healthy foods as well and they won't even know they're getting some leafy goodness with these green pancakes. After breakfast we will start our activities in no certain order.
Afternoon: Lunch will be a make your own monster pizza and healthy candy corn parfait made with just fruit and whipped cream. Then we'll continue with more activities.
Evening: Mummy dogs for dinner with popcorn and candy while we watch a movie after trick or treating in the house and going on a halloween egg hunt for candy in the yard.
What are the activities?
I've planned a ton of things but these are the ones I'm most excited about. You can find all of the activities and links by opening the document linked above.
-Pumpkin Punch Out - solo cups, tissue paper and small trinkets will make a pumpkin punch board for them to find treasures.
-Halloween Scavenger Hunt - cute clues from The Dating Divas and a boo basket prize at the end will make for a ton of fun
-Mad Scientist Drink Station - throw a variety of soda and juice in various plastic containers and let kids make their own tasty drinks, it'll be way more fun than when we used to make suicides at the drink dispensers
-Make a Potion - provide a bunch of plastic halloween trinkets, a bowl or plastic cauldron and colored water, soap and glitter so kids can make pretend potions
-Elephant Toothpaste Pumpkin - the classic elephant toothpaste science activity but inside of a carved pumpkin
-Candy Corn Science - another classic science experiment using candy corn
-Bob for Apples - a traditional activity that you don't see much anymore but will be sure to entertain
-Playdough Monsters- playdough, trinkets and imagination will keep the kids entertained for a good while
-Pin the Eyeball on the Zombie - my son specifically requested a pin the something game so this is for him
-In House Trick or Treating - they still get to trick or treat but this time they'll do it at eachother's bedroom doors.
-Glow in the Dark Halloween Egg Hunt - glow sticks and sharpie monster eggs hidden in the yard for a twist on the normal outdoor shenanigans
I think it will be a memorable and fun Halloween even though we are missing out on our annual door to door and party with friends. I'll post all of our photos and share our experience next week. Until then, enjoy the ideas and be safe!
With all of the crazy things going on this year we decided to lift our spirits and celebrate Christmas in July! We bought our kids a few gifts each and after putting them to bed got to work. We put up a few christmas decorations and wrapped the presents in christmas paper for them to discover in the morning. Then, we spent the next day like we would Christmas complete with baking cookies, watching our favorite movie, "Elf", playing with our toys and ordering Chinese food for dinner. It was a great surprise and definitely a bright spot in an otherwise dark time.
Taking a cute Christmas photo doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg! Grab some matching pj's or outfits and give them some Christmas lights and voila! It may have taken my husband and I shouting things like "poopy face" and about 100 photos to make this magic happen but, I think it was worth it. After a quick run through a photo editor I ended up with some adorable and FREE Christmas pics that capture my crazy trio pretty perfectly.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays! Every year I make a good majority of our costumes because I like the craft factor and knowing that no one will have the same costume as me. Sometimes we go with a family theme like last year when we went as characters from "The Greatest Showman" and sometimes we mix it up with some of us going together and others not. This year, Arthur wanted to go as Pikachu so we put the boys in matching costumes as Pikachu, Pichu and Ash. I didn't really love the Pikachu costumes you could buy and decided to make my own. So, I purchased yellow pants and sweat shirts for the base. Then I got stiff yellow, black and brown felt and cut out ear and tail shapes. I used elastic waistband material to attach the tails to and glued the ears to black plastic headband blanks. Then I drew on a little black nose and red cheeks and voila! I thought they were super adorable. Plus, the clothing items can be worn again and again.
Ash was even easier. I ordered a blue hoodie and an Ash hat from Amazon along with a pair of green gloves. I cut off the fingertips of the gloves and we had an Ash. Easy.
As for my and Lillian, she wanted to go as a witch, but not a cute one. So, we went as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good! I happened to have a Glinda costume that I found at Goodwill several years ago so the majority of my costume was ready to go! I simply made a crown using pink glitter craft foam and gems. I also made a wand by purchasing a pre-made wand and painting it pink and adding gems. I also bought a red wig to complete the look.
For Lillian, I purchased all of her costume and didn't actually make anything. But, I did paint her green. I purchased all of her items from Amazon.
We also went to a pre-Halloween event but didn't want to ruin our costumes so we threw together a few more. Did I mention I love Halloween? I happen to be pretty ok at facepainting and Alan wanted to wear his Spiderman costume. So, I gave him a quick facepainted mask. Arthur wanted to be creepy and decided being covered in spiders fit the bill. So, I drew little spiders all over him. Lillian already had a vampire costume and chose to wear that with a bit of lipstick. I found a fun pic of Lisa Frank style leopard face paint and did my best to recreate it. And Derek went as the Brawny Man.
Hope you had a fun Halloween!
We had an eventful 4th full of pool time, sunshine, delicious food and, of course, fireworks! We also managed a few craftivities so check out our fun below!
We started out with making some festive t-shirts. These were super easy and looked adorbs!
After the t-shirt craft we braved the heat to decorate our driveway with some patriotic stars. I mixed corn starch, water and food coloring in plastic squirt bottles to create washable sidewalk chalk paint and cut star shapes (kind of) out of leftover cardboard for stencils. I also supplied the kids with some paint brushes to help spread the paint around. They looked pretty fun and washed away with the first rain.
After spending the morning swimming with friends, we hosted our neighbors and had some delicious food! I found a fabulous recipe for barbecue grilled chicken that we used. We also made a watermelon and arugula salad and Mexican street corn. Yum! I also had the great idea to make a layered drink in red, white and blue for both adults and a kid version. They were both an epic fail. But, my patriotic berry trifle did not disappoint!
We finished out the evening with a few less clothes (it was ridiculously hot), fireworks and friends. It was a great 4th!
I generally conduct a mini photo session in my living room for Valentine's Day each year. In the past I've shared those tips which include using a table cloth or wrapping paper as a back drop. This year I got inspired by a fun backdrop at Oh Joy! and had to re-create it!
It was ridiculously easy to set up and even though I don't have the fancy lighting used in the original I think they turned out adorable! To create the fans I simple followed basic directions and created an accordion fold on large pieces of butcher paper. Then I stapled them in the middle, cut the edges to be round and stapled the middle edges together. You can use this tutorial to help you out. It is for mini fans but is closest to what I did except I didn't use glue and instead used staples.
Once I created a bunch of different sized fans, I simply taped them to the floor and walls to create the backdrop area. It couldn't have been quicker or easier! I definitely spent more time taking and editing the photos. The Images below are before editing.
After running the images through a bunch of filters and apps I ended up with the images below.
I also made valentine message images for fun.
Happy Valentine's Day!
It's almost Valentine's Day and I've pulled together a valentine themed Mommy Camp for you guys! There are a ton of fun, cheap and easy to set up activities that are sure to keep your little ones entertained and maybe give you the opportunity to do a few chores or even read a book! So, grab the free printable by clicking the image below and enjoy!
As usual, we didn't get to everything in the MC but, that's the beauty of Mommy Camp! You don't have to do it all! You can see all of the fun we had by checking out our pictures below!
We started with painting and the heart stamp from tp rolls activity. They thought that was very entertaining. We quickly moved on to the symmetry heart art. Arthur decided he wanted to just paint his whole heart and ended up with a very pretty heart.
Then we moved on to the heart hand tree art and instead of cutting a bunch of paper hearts and glueing them (which I thought would take a bit and that they would lose interest quickly) we decided to make finger print flowers on our trees which they of course loved.
After painting, we made some Valentine themed headbands with stickers and paper and then headed to the kitchen for some love potion science. I ended up kind of mixing two activities together because I realized that I forgot to buy baby oil and couldn't do one of the science activities I planned. So, good ole' baking soda, vinegar and food coloring to the rescue. This activity never fails to keep them busy for at least 30 minutes and I use it often. It's great for their dexterity skills because they use a medicine dropper or syringe to suck up the vinegar and squirt it on the baking soda. I find that hiding little doo dads and a few drops of food coloring under the baking soda so they get a bubbly surprise.
After they were done with their bubbly science, we pulled out some pink and red paper cups and stacked them so we could knock them down. Again, this activity is a favorite and keeps them entertained forever. I actually took a shower and did my hair and makeup while they were happily playing with paper cups for 45 minutes. If you haven't done this with your kids you should. You can extra fun by throwing in a nerf gun or ball for the destruction element.
I hope you and your children find joy with this MC like we did! Have a happy Valentine's Day and thanks for visiting!
I am sure you know how difficult travelling with kids can be. However, I truly feel that it is worth all of the stress and hard work and science backs me up on this. According to this article, taking your kids on vacation can enhance their executive functions and overall intelligence, help support their exploratory urge and can essentially refuel your family's affection for one another!
So, now that we've discussed how it can benefit your kids, let's talk about ways to make it not be a total shit show for you! Because, let's face it, going anywhere with kids can be a nightmare.
When I begin to plan a trip the biggest thing I can recommend is RESEARCH! Go to the internet and ask it some questions. Here are a few of the ones I always check on.
-What restaurants are kid friendly, offer kid discounts or even have a play area?
-What activities should you do? How much do they cost? What are the operating hours? Are there discount days?
-What is the driving distance from your hotel to the various activities you plan on doing?
After doing some preliminary research I begin to form my plan. First, I plan the trip there. We have not taken a trip requiring a flight with ours yet (mostly due to the extreme cost that involves) so, I have to do a good amount of planning for the drive.
Kids can't sit in the car for too long without a stop for play or pee or whatever. I usually use this site to find the halfway point between my start and end locations. Once I've found it, I will try to pick a good spot for us to stop somewhere around that spot, preferably a place that gives kids the opportunity to play.
For example, we recently went on a quick weekend trip to Huntsville, AL to visit the Space and Rocket Center. We live in Jonesboro, AR so halfway was a pretty small town. I started looking at a larger area not too far off and found a great indoor play center with a Red Robin close by! Winning! So, we ate and then played for a few hours. The play place was super cute AND offered free coffee for parents. They even had a giant ball pit that ALL of us enjoyed.
They were all really worn out and slept for the majority of the remaining 3 hour drive. The key is not to be in a rush. Take your time getting to your destination. It makes the drive there PART of the vacation! Also, this is important for the return trip too. You can repeat the same activities you did the first time or mix it up but, unless you are driving through the night, you should probably plan to have a fun stop in the middle.
Once I've planned the driving, I pick the hotel. I am very picky about hotels and generally want a suite that has a separate bedroom but, I'm also cheap AF. I am a Hilton Honors member which gets me some perks and discounts so, I generally stay at one of the Hilton affiliated hotels. I really like Homewood Suites. They have a free breakfast that is yummy, the hotels are usually very updated if not new and their suites include a full kitchen. Also, they usually have a pool. You should choose what your priorities are and go from there. I like to look at reviews and customer images on Tripadvisor when deciding between hotels.
After picking the hotel I get into all the details and actually create an itinerary for each day. Now, just because I have a plan does not mean that I stick to it hell or highwater. I leave it as an option but change based on how the day goes. I will often put some alternative activities or options on my list for the day just in case things don't go as planned.
I know it sounds super OCD of me to have it all planned but, with kids, it really does make it SOOO much better. When we went on our first family trip with an itinerary my husband scoffed and thought I was crazy but, because it was so informative (time to get from hotel to restaurant, addresses, business hours and cost) it made it easier for us to make decisions about our day and unplanned events didn't throw us for a loop.
For example, when we went to St. Louis for a week last summer, the first night we were there my son began to complain of a pain in his leg. Upon inspection, we found that it was hot, hard and red. Not good. So, we dosed him with some tylenol. (You should ALWAYS bring tylenol/motrin you'd be surprised how often you need it.) Then, the first thing the next morning we took him to an urgent care clinic nearby. Because I had planned so well and we knew what our plan was supposed to be along with hours and distance, it didn't mess with our day at all. He got treated and we went about our day.
Now, how do I keep up with all of this info? If you are picturing a jumbled up mess of papers and post-its to keep up with all of this info you'd be wrong. I created a doc to edit and use with each trip. It is graphically pleasing, well-organized and FREE for you to download! Just click one of the images below to download the free file!
I hope that my tips are helpful and give you the tools you need to plan an awesome family trip! Let me know how it goes and if you have any tips for me! I'm always eager to learn something new!
Thanks for visiting!
We tried something a bit different this year and celebrated New Year's Eve at our house with our kids and a few friends. We did some fun, kid activities in the early evening and then celebrated "midnight" using a Netflix kid countdown. Once the kids were all in bed, we enjoyed adult time and celebrated the true midnight countdown while the children were all snoozing. So, I created a day of activities for kids and thought I'd share it with you! It includes food and snack ideas, games, crafts, science and art projects. I hope you enjoy! You can read about our fun and see all of the pics below!
We kicked off the evening with making glitter slime, conducting fizzy, sparkly science experiments with baking soda, vinegar and glitter and making exploding soda with diet coke and mentos!
Alan didn't get in on the slime making but he did enjoy a balloon while his brother and sister mixed!
Once it was made, Alan had no interest in playing with the slime so he had fun with some dot markers instead.
After we played with slime we broke out the fizzy science (always a favorite). I used clean milk storage container lids that I have been holding onto for ages to house the fizz mixture. I first poured glitter into the lids and then covered it with baking powder so you didn't know that it would be sparkly until you added the vinegar. Then, I gave the kids a pipette and bowl of vinegar and let them watch the reaction.
After fizzy science we headed outside for our soda "fireworks". Kids dropped a mento into a bottle of diet coke to see the fizzy explosion. It was a huge hit!
Everyone was ready to eat after all of the fun so we headed back inside to make pizzas! Originally, we were going to make them say "2019" but, by this point we (the parents) were maxed out on kids and such so we just let them make mini pizzas and made ourselves a big, adult pizza and a few fancy cocktails to recover. We used gold sprinkles to rim our martinis and the recipe was one of our favorites that we discovered on Halloween this year that you can find here (We didn't make them black this time but we did add the luster dust to make them extra fancy.) While the pizzas cooked and after we had a recover martini or two, we set up the balloon drop. Details can be found in the MC document but, basically, tape a few plastic table cloths together and hang it like a basket from the ceiling. Then fill it with balloons and pull it down when you're ready.
After dinner we had a bit of fun with the photo wall and conducted year in review interviews with all of the kids. This was a super fun activity that we intend to repeat every year. I created the photo wall with tape, a plastic, gold tablecloth and a gold fringe backdrop. I saved the props from last year (tossing anything that said 2018) which I purchased at Aldi.
After the photo fun and interviews we enjoyed some festive cupcakes courtesy of Betty Crocker and a fancy icing tip. I'm all about easy but fabulous.
Then we realized that is was almost 9:30 and it was time to wrap up the kid portion of the evening. So, we found a Netflix countdown video, gave all of the kids light up cups (purchased at Aldi) with sparkly juice and handed out party crackers. We also participated in a Spanish tradition (since I'm a Spanish teacher and I think it's super fun.) where you try to fit as many green grapes in your mouth as the clock chimes to gain good fortune in the new year. So, all of the kids got a bowl of grapes too. I only got a video of the ball drop and am having an issue getting uploaded so, just know, they loved. It was great and worth the time to make. I also have very fun videos of them with party crackers. They were messy but very fun.
After we put the kids to bed (They got to have a sleepover so that made the evening even more awesome for them.) We took a few photos and then played card games until midnight. When we participated in eating grapes and, of course, enjoyed some champagne.
I hope you had a great New Year!
Rachel is a mother of three, elementary Spanish teacher and part-time blogger who loves crafting, creating fun and engaging activities for her children and students and hanging with her friends and family. She blogs about what she's doing and her interests at any given time which vary. She's a little OCD and always looking for her next project. Her husband calls it, "focusing her crazy", but she just calls it fun.