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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chalkboard Crayon Letter Art Teacher Gift & $50 Dollar Tree Gift Card Giveaway!!

This post is brought to you by Dollar Tree.  All opinions and project photos are my own.

Today I'm excited to share how to make a fun Crayon Letter Art piece that can be used as a thoughtful back-to-school teacher gift!

I recently joined the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club and was so inspired by the plethora of creative ideas there.   From crafts to recipes, to decor and tips, to frugal fun ideas and contests, this club will keep me busy for a long time!  Ha! It's FREE to sign up for and features fresh content every month!  My favorite part is that I can print a project tutorial and supply list all-in-one from the site and take it with me to the store to use as a shopping list, so I'm sure to remember everything.

After browsing the ideas there, I decided to make a fun and inexpensive back-to-school teacher gift.  This framed Crayon Letter Art was just the thing!

The summer break went by way too fast, don't you agree?  We packed in a lot of fun, but I still wish we could have squeezed in a few extra weeks.  :)  My daughter's a big second grader now and loving it.

Because we weren't sure who her new teacher would be when I made this gift and since we adored her last year's teacher so much, I chose to make a fun back-to-school gift for Ms. Lewis.  We dropped it off at her classroom on our way to my daughter's new class on the first day.  She was pleasantly surprised and so excited to display it.
I love how bright and colorful it is, and the best part is that it only cost around $3 to make!  That's a major win in my book!

Here's what you'll need to re-create this inexpensive Crayon Letter Art from the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club.


{SUPPLIES}

Posterboard from Dollar Tree
Crayons from Dollar Tree
11"x14" Frame (or mirror like I used) from Dollar Tree
 Glue
Pencil
Spray Paint (optional)
Chalk Marker for Labeling (optional)

I couldn't find an 11"x14" frame, so I grabbed a mirror in the same size and simply cut the poster to be just the right size to slip a little under the lip of the frame.

Follow the instructions from Dollar Tree's Value Seekers Club to complete this fun project!  I added my own flair to it by spray painting my posterboard with chalkboard spray paint (you can just use black posterboard instead).  I also spray painted the frame white and labeled the teacher's name underneath with a white chalk marker.  I cut my crayons for portions of the letter, but depending on which letter you choose, you may not need to do that.

That's all it takes to make a cheap, cute teacher gift that's sure to be enjoyed by a great teacher!

Now I'm pretty sure you're going to really love what I say next....

Because I appreciate my readers so much, I'm giving away a $50 Dollar Tree Gift Card!  Hooray!





All you need to do is to sign up for the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club (it's free and super easy!).  Then, please leave one comment below telling me the email you signed up under and which project you're most excited to try from the club!  Contest is open to US residents, ages 18 and older, and will run until Wednesday, August 27th at 11:59 PM MST.

Be sure to join the club for lots of great, inexpensive ideas!  I'm glad I did!

Best of luck and happy creating!

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Here's what other creative bloggers made with ideas from Dollar Tree's Value Seekers Club!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Grilled Sloppy Joe Pizza

This post brought to you by Manwich. All opinions are 100% mine.

If you're a fan of the traditional Sloppy Joe, you'll do jumping jacks for this Grilled Sloppy Joe Pizza using Manwich!  We now prefer it to the sandwich form, which is really saying something. 
This spin on the original "Sloppy Joe" is a family-pleasing, knock-your-socks-off meal! I imagined it being yummy, but the actual result blew my mind with its complete deliciousness.  The grill gives it a nice, subtle smokey flavor and, along with the combo of sweet and tangy Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce, ground beef, and cheese blend, it's simply irresistible!  
Where has this been all my life?  You'll ask yourself the same thing if you have the pleasure of sinking your teeth into a slice or four.  This is one of those Easy Weeknight Meals that your family will praise you for making.  Mine certainly did.
Just in case you missed my Grilled Pizza Tutorial, I'll give another quick run-down today on how to do it.  The grill gives it a unique flavor and the pizzas cook in just a few minutes!  This is definitely a spur-of-the-moment type of meal.  You know, the kind where it's 6:00 in the evening, you've had a crazy day and you're wondering what's for dinner, but not wanting to put much effort into making it.  When this happens, whip up some Grilled Sloppy Joe Pizzas!
You'll need a can of Hunt's Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce.  We used the  "Thick & Chunky" variety. We love Manwich because the flavor is bold, just the way we like to live life.  :) 
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Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat, then begin my preparing your pizza toppings.  
{SLOPPY JOE MIXTURE}
1 lb. ground beef
1 can Hunt's Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce (15-16 oz.), we used Thick & Chunky
Cook beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  Drain, then add Sloppy Joe Sauce. Stir until combined.
Shred some cheese (we did a combo of Monterey Jack and Colby Jack).  Place shredded cheese, Sloppy Joe mixture, and olive oil by the grill.  The grilling process is done in a flash, and you'll want to have everything handy.
Make your favorite pizza dough.  Try my easy go-to, quick recipe for pizza dough if you'd like.  You don't even have to let the dough raise!
Pinch off a small piece of dough and roll it out on the counter.  Smaller pizzas, when grilling, are much more manageable.  
Place the dough on a cookie sheet and brush the top with olive oil.
Take it to the grill and place it, oil side down, on the grill.  Brush the top with olive oil.  Let it grill for about two minutes, with the hood down, checking the underneath occasionally.  You'll want to see nice grill marks and it will start to turn a golden brown.  The time will vary with every grill, so be sure to keep a close eye on it.
Flip the dough.
Now add your toppings, starting with the Sloppy Joe mixture...
...then cheese and any other toppings you may like.  Let it grill for another few minutes, with the hood down, until cheese is nice and melty and the bottom of the pizza has distinct grill marks.  Cut into slices.
Now enjoy just like this!  Manwich's "kid-stopping" powers worked magic on this little guy.

Another meal made easy with Manwich! Grilled Sloppy Joe Pizzas will become a regular dinnertime occurrence around here, that's for sure.  Just wish I'd had the idea sooner!  I'd highly recommend making it ASAP!
Find more great Manwich Recipes here!
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Monday, August 18, 2014

DIY Baby Diaper Wreath Shower Gift/Decoration

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BabyDiapersSavings #CollectiveBias

I'm always trying to think of creative and unique baby shower gifts to give, so I came up with an adorable baby diaper wreath that is so easy to make and includes necessities for the sweet little one! 
It's an inexpensive and thoughtful way to congratulate the mom-to-be and can double as a baby shower decoration!  Because cute and functional are my middle names.  :)

I decided to make it gender neutral so I can give it to a friend who doesn't know what she's having.  Because I'm not good with surprises, I always find out the gender of my babies, so when I hear of women who can wait until delivery day to find out, I am full of nothing but awe and admiration.  :)  I chose a yellow, green and orange color scheme, but this wreath would also be cute in pink or blue, or any color for that matter!

I made it in less than an hour.  The simplicity of it will baffle you!  Come see.
For this wreath you'll need oodles of diapers of course, so I chose my favorite kind, and the brand I have always used for my babies...Parent's Choice from Walmart.  I'm a very frugal mama, and I've said before that I challenge myself to save money whenever possible so we can spend it on more important things like an upcoming family vacation to Disneyland.  Woohoo!

I've always been a big fan of not only the low price of Parent's Choice diapers, but also the fact that they out-perform any and every other national brands that I've tried on my babies.  They fit snuggly and have great absorbency so we go through fewer diapers in a day.  That equals more green in my pocket, which I'll happily accept!

Use the coupon HERE....
...after visiting the baby aisle there at Walmart to save even more money on this already wallet-friendly gift!

You'll also need other small baby items to accessorize the wreath (i.e. binkies, wash clothes, lotion, shampoo, powder, rattles, nail clippers, hair brush, and medicine measurer, to name a few ideas).  Grab a wire wreath form (mine is 18" in diameter), some rubber bands and ribbon too.
Start by rolling the diapers (I used 24) and securing each with a rubber band in the center to hold it in place.
Now string a piece of ribbon through a center wire, place a rolled diaper on it and tie the ribbon tightly around so the diaper doesn't slip or wobble on the wreath form.   Repeat this process, placing your diapers snuggly together and angling them slightly all the way around the wreath form.
Now tie your accessories tightly to the ribbons already in place.
Now show the pretty outcome off at a baby shower as a decor piece and then gift it to the expectant mother afterwards!  How perfect is that?
This wreath is sure to be a conversation piece at any baby shower, and we all know that the items will be put to good use after the little one arrives!  :)

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Cheesy Ranch Potato Casserole: A Salad Dressing Recipe to Rock Your World!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FoodDeservesDelicious #CollectiveBias

Cheesy Ranch Potato Casserole is a totally family-pleasing meal with the wonderful flavors of bacon, Kraft Pourables Ranch Dressing and sour cream over potato chunks, then covered with a perfectly crunchy corn flake topping!  Yes, please!

It's kind of fun to think outside the box sometimes and include salad dressings in recipes other than the traditional leafy green dish or the standard marinade, don't you think?  There are so many tasty ways to incorporate them into everyday meals.  
Like in this hearty casserole that's loaded with "Ranch-y" flavor and down-home goodness!  I imagine the cowboys back in the day would have loved everything about this one.  I can picture it now...they'd come back at nightfall, from a long day of herding cattle and gobble it right up, while thanking the cook for the comforting food.  

Cowboy or not, the hubby certainly did his share of raving about this one.  I gladly took his side on the matter, not just because we're married, but because this dinner rocked the house! There was no debating about who got the leftovers the next day since it feeds a crowd and left plenty for both of us.  Score!
I need to confess...I don't often make casseroles.    Growing up, we'd moan if mom replied with the taboo word when we asked, "What's for dinner?"  Our immature taste buds grew tired of the same ingredients used in slightly different ways and haphazardly tossed together in a single pan.  

But trust me when I say today's casserole is in a whole different class.  So much so, that I hesitate to even give it the casserole tag.  Call it "Rock Your World Potato Hash" instead, but no matter how you say it, it tastes fantastic!
Because I love cooking with salad dressings, I threw some Kraft Pourables Ranch Dressing in the sauce mix that coats the potatoes.  I explained to Mr. Ranch that I don't take my food bland, and he said not to worry.  In the end, he totally pulled through and lent a creamy, herb-y flavor that's key to the overall amazing taste of the casserole.  Way to go dude!  Classic Ranch is definitely creamier than I remember, with more buttermilk and savory herbs and a new, even better taste!
I stood in this spot at Walmart for about ten minutes, in awe of all the awesome Kraft dressing flavors available.  I just about grabbed one of each, but settled for Classic Ranch for today's recipe and then Zesty Italian for later use.
Cheesy Ranch Potato Casserole is a great family meal, but would also be perfect for a potluck!  Something this good just begs to be shared!

{CHEESY RANCH POTATO CASSEROLE}
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

6 to 8 medium red or yellow potatoes (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup (full fat) sour cream
1/2 cup Kraft Pourables Ranch Dressing
1/4 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup cooked ham, diced (I just used deli lunch meat)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 c. (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

TOPPING:
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 c. coarsely crushed cornflakes
1/2 c. (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Cook potatoes until tender.  Dice (leaving skins on if desired) and set aside.  Combine the sour cream, dressing, bacon, ham, basil, parsley and 1 c. cheese.  Adjust the amount of meat to your taste. Place potatoes in bowl and toss to coat completely.  Place mixture in a greased 13"x9" baking dish.  Top with 1/2 c. cheese.  Combine cornflakes and melted butter.  Sprinkle over top.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-45 minutes.  Serves approximately 8.
Serve this up one evening soon, and listen to your family sing praises like mine did!  Enjoy!

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Family Game Night with Q's Race to the Top + Peanut Butter Cup Cookies!


This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and EQtainment, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia  #Qsracetothetop http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV.

Sometimes life just calls for a fun and silly family game night with yummy Peanut Butter Cup Cookies for dessert!  Am I right?
We are a game-playing family for sure.  We have an entire overflowing bookshelf devoted to storing them.  My kids love getting in on the fun too, but often they don't understand the rules of play, so they end up being on my husband's or my team.  When that happens, they feel like they got the short end of the stick.  

So you can imagine how stoked I am when we find something we can play all together. Q's Race to the Top is one of those amazing games.
It comes with a perfect short story book to introduce the game's theme and main character...a "book smart" little monkey named Q who needs some help learning how to behave.  These kiddos got sucked right into it. :)
The game also includes a colorful board with four cute monkey playing pieces who "race to the top" of the path, fun artwork, and three sets of cards that can be chosen based on the color of space landed on after rolling the dice.

The blue cards are "You" questions i.e. they ask questions about you, go figure. :)

The green or "Q" cards explain a scenario and ask you to advise Q on what to do.  For example, one of the cards stated, "Q played a game with his friend and didn't win, so he stormed out of the room.  What should Q have done instead?" I especially liked when my kids chose this color because it tested them on certain life skills such as social awareness, managing emotions, and having a positive attitude...all the areas where they could definitely use some reinforcement.  :) In this sense, the kids become role models and teachers, which makes them feel extremely important. Q needs their help, after all!

The red or "Do" cards are meant for practicing teamwork, self-control, coordination, balance, and feeling identification. 
 These silly kids were all over it, as you can see.  Studies show that in order to develop mental and emotional self-control, children must first learn balance and coordination.  I believe it! We got some good laughs out of some of the card requests, for sure.  Hmmmm....who can make the silliest face while balancing on one foot?  We'll call it a draw!
One of the red cards asked them to touch their feet together and hold hands while trying to stand up all at once.  They were successful even with the huge difference in height. :)
This little guy is a pro at the silly faces, so he had no problem with those card prompts. :)
Dad read the cards and then we listened for their very candid responses. We got a kick out of my four-year-old's solution to the situation..."Q wanted to show his brother Redmond how to build a better sand castle, so he knocked Redmond's castle down and built him a better one.  What should Q have done?"  He immediately came back with, "He should have listened to Jesus!"  Ha! Out of the mouth of babes. :)

Those happy faces say it all...this game was a hit!  We've played it too many times to count.  We're definitely adding it into our regular rotation for family game night! 

The game is made by EQtainment, a company that produces games, videos and books to help kids learn valuable skills outside of the traditional "book smarts", such as self control, empathy and how to act appropriately in certain life situations.  This is called EQ (or emotional quotient), as opposed to IQ, with which many of us may be more familiar. 

Studies show that having a high EQ often translates into greater career success, relationship satisfaction and leadership skills, to name a few.  To me, EQ means being well rounded.  The ability to reason is crucial, but so is knowing how to handle ones self in social situations.  I want my kids to not only be well educated academically, but kind in their interactions too!
Because it wouldn't be a family game night without dessert...we broke out the Peanut Butter Cup Cookies!  They got a big thumbs up, just like the new game.
These cookies are a perfect way to end an already perfect evening!  It doesn't hurt that they include one of our favorite chocolate and peanut butter candies ever!

{PEANUT BUTTER CUP COOKIES}
Adapted from Taste of Home

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups chopped peanut butter cups

In a large bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips and peanut butter cups.

Form into balls and place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.
Serve them with some ice cold milk and indulge in one or four while playing Q's Race to the Top!


I hope you'll support the kickstarter for this fun family game.  We thoroughly enjoyed it! 

Here's a video about the game with kids in action!



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Friday, August 15, 2014

Candyland-Themed School Lunch Box

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MyGoodLife #CollectiveBias

This cute Candyland-themed lunch is sure to put a smile on a very lucky kid's face during mid-day break at school! I mean, common...how cool is this? I'd go back to school if it meant opening my backpack to such a sight.

My daughter is a super picky eater, so I have to get creative when it comes to lunch at school, if I want her to refuel her energy when she's not on my watch.  This Candyland lunch is sure to draw her in and entice her to partake.  :)

I used to love playing Candyland as a kid.  Heck, I still love playing it with my own children.  I haven't grown up all the way yet.  There's just something so enticing about sweet things no matter how old I am. :)

I seem to have poor luck, so more often than not, I end up drawing a picture card that sends me back to the beginning.  I cry and stamp my feet, pout for a bit, and then move on.  I'm only half kidding.  There are lessons to be learned when Mom throws a mimicking fit to top them all. :)  But usually it's all kicks-and-giggles when we play Candyland at our house.  We try to find joy in the journey, whether it takes us forward or back a few spaces.

So I thought, how fun would it be to incorporate the colorful essence and happy memories of the game into a lunch for kids to enjoy at school?!  Here's my solution:

All the colors and fun of the game board in edible form!  I'm a fan.  I'll live my unfulfilled childhood dreams vicariously through my children as I watch them enjoy this lunch.  And then I'll eat one myself when no one's looking. :)

I know you're thinking, "Now that's cute, but I would never go to that much work for a lunch."

I hear you.  Most days we're lucky if we make it to school before the bell rings with a simple peanut butter sandwich in tow.  I've even dropped the ball on that at times and have to run it over just in the nick of time.  But I'm serious when I say this meal was deceivingly quick to put together and will be the talk of the lunch table.  It can be made the night before, too, if your mornings are hectic like ours.

It's also a perfect celebration lunch for birthdays, after tests, and even just to say, "Hooray, it's Friday!"

I used a few inexpensive items that I added to my weekly Walmart grocery list, to put this fun lunch together:

I looked in a few different areas for the Nesquik and ended up finding it by the snack foods.

My kids are total milk-lovers, but add chocolate to it, and they are in heaven!  Are your kids the same way?  These 8-ounce NESTLÉ® NESQUIK® Chocolate Milks fit perfectly in lunch boxes and are ready for immediate drinking!

Candy just tastes better in "fun size", am I right?  The mini WONKA® NERDS® are ideal for making lollipops!  I'll explain myself below.

Make this cute candy-wrapper sandwich by preparing the sandwich as you would normally (I did PB&J), and then using a cookie cutter or the top of a cup to cut a circle in your sandwich. Then simply wrap in patterned cellophane (I used a cellophane party bag) and tie each side with ribbon.  It's almost too pretty to eat!  Almost.

It wouldn't be Candyland without the peppermint sticks, now would it?  This one is a cheese stick that I removed from its original packaging and wrapped a small piece of cellophane around, which I had drawn slanted stripes on with red permanent marker.  Just make sure the writing is on the outside and not touching the food, or it could become an icky situation.

The chocolate milk is actually wrapped with a napkin that includes a straw for easy sipping.  I love when cute and functional collide!

You can watch this short tutorial to see how to quickly put it together.


Don't you just want to take a lick?  I can guarantee the tiny, adorable candies inside taste much better though. :)
To make the square NERDS® Lollipops, I wrapped a few boxes of fun-size NERDS® in orange and white striped wrapping paper.  Then I taped a sucker stick on the back.

For the fruit pops I just threaded popsicle sticks with sliced strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, kiwis, and some blueberries to incorporate key colors from the Candyland game board. I arranged it all in a simple clear plastic container with a seal-able top, because it's what's inside that really counts!

So there you have it!  A colorful lunch filled with magical, edible Candyland memories!



It may require more effort than a typical school-day lunch, but the kids will treasure the moment when they see what's inside their box that day!


 

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