Tag: christmas

Entertain the Whole Family with Merry Christmas Loteria {Bingo Style Game} with **Free Printables**

The weather outside is indeed frightful, and cabin fever may be setting in among your family members. Today I’m sharing my own version of Loteria, the Mexican Bingo style game, perfect for entertaining the whole family.  My mom is a Spanish teacher, so she taught me how to play the original Loteria as a kid and I’m starting a new tradition this year with my family.  If you’ve never played Loteria before, the game is incredibly easy to learn and can be played by anyone ages 2 and up, and even younger with help. Toddlers and adults alike can get in to it and it would be a great game night tradition to start during the holidays.   I’ve created a set of twelve cards for you to print free of charge, as well as a call sheet.  This game is perfect for family night, long days during school break, and to teach matching skills with preschoolers.  Everybody loves bingo! 
Everyone gets a Loteria sheet and a handful of beans or candy to mark the objects called.  As the caller shouts out the object drawn, the player placed their bean on top of the matching picture on their card.  The goal is to get four in a row in any direction, much like Bingo.  You can also play cover all, four corners, and 4 square to mix it up. Beans are traditionally used, but I like to use little candies like chocolate chips or M-n-Ms, and eat them at the end of the game.  You could have a big game with prizes for the whole family or use it as a teaching tool with your preschooler.  
Click the link below each image to head to the file in Google Drive. Each image contains two playing cards.  Print each sheet and cut in half to create two cards.  You can leave the call sheet whole and just call objects out at random (marking them with a bean after they’ve been called), or cut it in to pieces and draw each object out of a bowl.  When a player gets four in a row they yell, “Merry Christmas!” and win that round.  I hope your family enjoys this fun little game and starts a new holiday tradition.      
Click here to open and print page 1.
Click here to open and print page 2.

Click here to open and print page 3.

Click here to open and print page 4.

Click here to open and print page 5.

Click here to open and print page 6

Click here to open and print the call sheet
How do you keep your family entertained during the holiday season?
If you like this post, please share it with your friends on Pinterest or Facebook.
My free printables are for personal use only.
Please let me know if you have any questions. 

Why I’m NOT Dreaming of a White Christmas {And Never Will Again} ~ A NickMom Inspired Story #Motherfunny

I am most definitely NOT dreaming of a white Christmas, and I never will again.  Sure, the idea of a snowy holiday season is romantic, but the reality was just a little too much for us last year and I hope we never have a repeat.  For those of you from the northern latitudes, this tale of woe will seem ridiculous.  My sisters from the warmer regions of the world will most likely empathize with our story of Snowmageddon 2012.  You should know that I am one who takes the holidays a little too seriously and longs for a picture perfect celebration that never quite comes to fruition.  If you fall short of the Martha Stewart mark like me, take a minute and head over NickMom and you’re guaranteed to laugh and realize you’re not alone.

Last year, there was a lot of anticipation as Christmas approached.  I’m the oldest of four kids and all of us were finally going to share a holiday celebration after living spread across the country.  We all arrived in Arkansas at our parents’ house with our kids and dogs and spouses and presents and suitcases and got seriously amped up to celebrate. We glanced at the forecast, which was calling for snow, but dismissed it thinking it probably wouldn’t happen.  When you are from a mostly mild climate, everyone panics whenever snow is predicted and raids the grocery store buying all the things and then we get two minutes of flakes.  It is such a letdown every time.  So, you learn not to get your hopes up.  After all, it was in the 60s outside will full sunshine.  We hoped to wake up to a white Christmas, but just knew it wouldn’t happen.

Santa came and delivered in a major way.  Toys and boxes and wrapping paper littered the living room.  We ate a glorious lunch and then packed up two members of the family to make their flights.  The airport car returned and the storm rolled in, out of nowhere.  All of a sudden, it was raining, then sleeting, then snowing.  The sleet stuck to the tree branches and the snow stuck to it.  Branches started to fall, and the transformer in our neighborhood blew, knocking out the power.  Nobody panic, I’m sure it will be on again soon.  Little did we know, it was going out all over the state.  Craziness was about to let loose.

We gathered candles and made it a fun game at first.  Then it started to get cold.  Really cold, really fast.  We added layers and figured out dinner, thinking surely the power would come on soon.  The snow kept coming.  This type of weather is normal in Minnesota, but not down south.  Most towns in Arkansas don’t have sand trucks and most southern people wouldn’t know what to do with snow chains.  We just stay inside and huddle up.

What you need to know about a power outage, is that the first day is pretty fun.  You feel like you’re on a camping trip and the kids feel like everything’s a big adventure.  I pretended I was a character in a Jane Austen novel carrying my candle around and blowing it out before bed.  The FIVE dogs we had in the house where an asset, really, because they provided warmth.

A white Christmas may make you feel like this.  Be careful what you ask for.

Day 2 of a power outage, the fun quotient goes out the window.  Survival mode sets in and everyone is in a bad mood.  The carnage of our Christmas feast mocked us.  The dishes were unwashed and we were too cold to deal with them.  The toys sat abandoned as our children shivered and asked when the lights would come back on.  It was a Christmas disaster.

Did I mention the trees? Not the beautiful Christmas tree my mother painstakingly decorated.  Oh no, I’m talking about the trees in the backyard.  In the middle of the night, we woke to a huge crack.  It wasn’t a return visit from Santa’s sleigh, but a giant pine tree careening towards the house.  The fall was broken by smaller trees, and we all ran downstairs in a panic because my brother was asleep in the den directly in the tree’s path.  All of the adults stared out the glass door awestruck.  We woke my brother and told him the tree was coming for him.  He sat up, looked out the window, and then said, “Nope, it’s not going to hit me.” Then he went back to sleep.  Seriously, dude?  He is a decorated war veteran who lost a leg in Afghanistan, so his reaction to danger is a little different than your average person.  He’s not one to panic.  He was right, too.  The tree didn’t hit our house, but instead took out the neighbor’s fence.  And several other trees.  Good times.  

Branches in the backyard at the beginning of the storm.

By the afternoon of Day 2 we knew we had to get out of there.  Miraculously, we discovered the power was on at my great aunt’s house.  We loaded all of our stuff up, with 6 adults, 3 kids, and the 5 dogs.  We picked up my grandmother and headed over to camp at Aunt Freda’s.  Let me set the scene.  Freda has lived alone for the last 50 years since her parents died, and was in a rehab facility because of a recent stroke.  She was thrilled to help, but to move 10 people and 5 dogs in to a house where one person has lived alone doesn’t always work well.  We learned a lot about Aunt Freda that week.  For instance, the only things in her cupboard were 24 boxes of waffle cones.  And in the fridge… you guessed it, lots of ice cream and not much else.  Perfect for a snow storm {sarcasm font}.  The alarm system went haywire and Freda couldn’t remember the codes.  Jed had to get creative to get the endless beeping to stop before we all lost it.  The plumbing in the kitchen backed up because it was used more than it could handle.  My brother showed up after a grocery store run with a super intoxicated friend he didn’t want driving.  The Bear stepped in a pile of dog poop from one of the FIVE dogs we had in the house, and he FREAKED out.  It was an adventure.  

The power was out for about 10 days, but we all cleared out as soon as the roads did leaving my parents to deal with the aftermath.  We’re jerks, I know.  Most of the state of Arkansas was without power for a week and the destruction was epic.  Lots of folks were in the same boat as we were, and I’ve heard many hilarious stories from friends whose holidays were affected by Snowmageddon 2012.

Our perfect Christmas went down in flames, or rather in a bank of snow.  We still had a great time together and spent more time talking and laughing than we would with the normal distractions that things like electricity bring.  I hope you enjoyed our snowy story.  If you’re looking for more holiday funnies, check out this post and this one as well on NickMom.com.  You can also follow @NickMom on Twitter and on Facebook for more giggles during this crazy season.

Handmade Holiday Gift Guide Review: Personalized Fishing Lures by Stamped with Hope

Handmade gifts for men are notoriously hard to find, but Stamped with Hope has you covered with gifts for the fishermen and golfers in your life, as well as jewelry and other gifts perfect for anyone.  One of the main reasons I wanted to feature Stamped with Hope is that the shop owner, Jennifer, is a woman with a dream.  Proceeds from her sales are going to help establish Hope Ranch, a home for children with special emotional and developmental needs.  Shopping for a cause is my favorite kind of shopping.  Don’t forget to enter to win the HUGE Handmade Holiday Gift Guide Giveaway that ends on November 23rd.  Stamped with Hope is giving away a $20 shop credit that can be spent at any of her three shops.  

Jennifer sent me a beautiful hand stamped fishing lure for my dad, our #1 Poppy.  It is a real and functional lure with a special little heartfelt message attached, perfect for a stocking stuffer.  It comes ready to gift in it’s own bag, and would be the perfect item for any fishermen (or women) in your life.  She will customize the lure of your choice with the message of your choice, so the possibilities are endless.  

For more custom fishing tackle options, check out Custom Fishing Tackle, another shop by Jennifer.  
Shop owner Jennifer and her grandmother Lorene have partnered to create Lorene’s Locket, a specialty shop creating covers for medical alert necklaces.  I cried reading the story behind it because my own grandmother hated wearing her medic alert necklace and thought it was so ugly.  Jennifer and Lorene created a unique solution to a common problem.  If you have a person on your list who has to wear one of those life saving devices, check out Lorene’s Locket.  
Stamped with Hope also offers a variety of personalized golfer gifts, best friend gifts, hand stamped necklaces, teacher gifts, and so much more.  If you love to shop while giving back, Stamped with Hope is perfect for you.  Jennifer is super easy to work with and has a fast turn around.  Head over and pick out stocking stuffers for your loved ones today.  
Ready to shop?
   Use the coupon code HOPERANCH1 for a 10% discount at all three shops.  
Check it out: Shop  Facebook
Gifts for: everyone on your list
Price Range: $13-165

Prepping for Christmas with Disney Planes and Cars

As part of a sponsored opportunity with Collective Bias, I decided to get some early Christmas shopping done with Walmart’s selection of Disney Pixar Cars and Disney Planes.

Dusty, Bravo, and Skipper

I needed stocking stuffers and thought the  Disney Planes and Disney Pixar Cars toys would be perfect for my little man.  The Bear loves to play with vehicles of all kinds, and fell in love with Cars the Movie during our beach trip this summer.  We are taking him to see Planes the Movie for his first ever real movie in a theater.  I wanted to get a few Disney Pixar Cars toys before they are gone, and knew the Disney Planes toys would be a huge hit in his stocking.

Pull and Fly Bravo

You may think I’m totally crazy for Christmas shopping this early, but the truth is I’m actually finished shopping for our son. I still have to finish shopping for everyone else, but I love getting it done throughout the year, rather than waiting until the last minute.  You can read more about my frugal Christmas tips here.  Shopping early allows me to pick and choose my gifts carefully and stick to our budget.  All of the Disney Pixar Cars toys are on clearance right now at Walmart, so I got some fabulous deals. You can see more of my shopping trip here on Google+.

Checking out Mater.

The toys fit in perfectly with the Bear’s big gift, and will take up residence in his stocking on Christmas Eve.  I’m so glad to have the stocking stuffers checked off the list, because they are always the last thing I find.  I want to choose thoughtful gifts rather than whatever is available at the last minute.  If you are a fan of the Disney Pixar Films, now is the time to snap up the World of Cars toys before they go away.  

So in love.

The worst part for me about shopping early is waiting to give the gifts.  I couldn’t take it, so I gave the Bear his Mater truck as a reward for all of his work potty training these past few weeks.  My reward for hard potty training work was two hours of laying out at a friend’s pool with my girlfriends and no kids.  Everybody’s a winner at the Eby house.  The Bear absolutely loves Mater and carried him around all day.  He recognized him immediately and quickly introduced him to his other cars and trucks, saying “meet friends” over and over.  So cute, my heart melted in a puddle.  I can’t wait to see his little eyes light up when he recognizes his new planes on Christmas morning.  His big gift will give him lots more space to drive his cars and fly his planes, but for now he is completely entertained with the road we made out of a cardboard box and duct tape.  I love this kid.          

Mater meets the duct tape road.
Have you started holiday shopping yet?  

Frugal Friday: Confessions of a Gift Wrap Hoarder

Y’all know I love to clean out, clear out, sell stuff, and give it away.
That is still true about most things in my life, with a few exceptions.
Today I’m confessing the ugly truth.
My name is Becca, and I’m a gift wrap hoarder.  
Why do I hoard gift wrap?  I do it because it saves us tons of money at every gift giving holiday, birthday party, baby shower, and wedding.  I rarely spend money on gift wrap.  It started with our wedding five years ago.  If you’ve had one, you know you get tons of presents, all beautifully wrapped, and it seems like such a waste to throw away all those bags and tissue paper.  I started folding it all up neatly and holding on to it.  I moved my collection cross country and 3 times since.  It is totally worth it.  For every shower and birthday I’ve saved at least $3-5 in gift wrap by using my stash.  
At Christmas I buy one roll of brown packing paper from the dollar store and use it to wrap all my box presents.  I tie the packages up with recycled bows from my stash or plain ribbon.  Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things.  
I never have to run by Target or the Hallmark Store at the last minute to grab a gift bag, and our presents always look super cute for at no extra cost.  Lots of people don’t keep gift wrap because it takes up space, and quite frankly we live in a disposable culture.  I rack up every Christmas on new gift wrap because no one else can be bothered to keep it.  Oh, I’ll always take it off their hands.  Don’t mind if I do.  
Do you have a gift wrap stash or a frugal gift wrap solution? Share it in the comments section below.       

Frugal Christmas: Five Easy Ways to Save Money Next Year

This year marked our fourth Christmas being debt free with no credit cards!  I cannot believe it has been that long.  The sense of freedom when debts are gone doesn’t go away or lessen over time.  When we started following the teachings of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and Financial Peace University in 2009 we had NO idea how much our lives would change for the better.  You can read more about our financial story here if you’re interested.  This past year we transitioned to one income.  Funny story: I actually called in to Dave Ramsey’s radio show to ask if we were okay financially to quit my job and become a stay at home mom in a few months and he told me to do it that day.  I waited six more months, but it was so great having the advice our one of our financial heroes.  Christmas is a tricky time for money and frugality.  We all want to make it special for ourselves, our kids, our friends, our loved ones, and even our pets.  It is totally possible to be frugal and still have a fabulous gift giving, charity helping, generous, festive Christmas.  I promise.  We’ve done it for the last four years and we get better at it every year.  
To start you off I’ll share five easy ways you can start NOW to have a frugal Christmas next year.  
1)  BUDGET!!!  Yes, I mean it.  Plan now for how much you want to spend on everything from decorations to Santa gifts to cookies for your child’s classroom.  Christmas will be here on December 25, 2013, just like always and as Dave says, it is not an emergency.  If you set your budget and start putting a little bit aside in your gift or Christmas fund in January, you won’t be strapped for funds and it will make it easier to save on other things.  Don’t know where to start? Write down how much you spent this year on everything.  If you will be paying it off for months you know you will have to reduce.  I’ll share our Christmas budget as an example.
Cards: $20 
Stamps: $25 
Gifts to each other: $200 ($100 each) 
Gifts for Bear: $50  
Gifts for Family: $160  (We draw names but still buy a little something for our parents and nieces/nephews.)
Decorations: $20
Total: $475
That total may seem super low to some of you and super high to others.  Jed polled his 9th grade students and they guessed overall that we would budget to spend $500 each on each other and about the same on Bear.  Let’s just say they are a little bit confused about how much their teachers get paid.  Our budget will go up next year with our new addition, so we will probably budget $50 per month over the year.  If you like to do holiday specific charitable giving, plan for that as well.  We give monthly to our churches and causes, so we don’t do a big year end gift.  Most folks do get a lot of charity asks in December though, so it might be wise to set aside a bit to cover the unexpected.
2) BUY ON SALE AND HIDE  I start looking for Christmas stuff at after Thanksgiving sales, the year before.  Then I strategically hide everything.  All of the Bear’s presents were purchased at consignment sales, thrift stores, garage sales, discount stores like Ross and Marshall’s, or were at least 50% off at retail stores.  They all looked new and he loved them.  The wooden activity block came from a Rhea Lana consignment sale and cost $12.  They retail from $75 to $150.  I bought it in October of 2011 and saved it for this year.  Your toddler will never know that you got that doll off Ebay, I promise.  We have all fallen prey to the “my baby deserves the best” ploy so many times.  Your baby deserves a stable home with no money problems.  This premise applies to other categories as well.  Decorations are on clearance everywhere right now.  Buy Forever stamps for next year and set them aside.  They will only go up in price.   
3) LOOK FOR DEALS AND THINK AHEAD  If you like to send out photo cards, take a cute family picture in  August and have it ready.  Sign up for emails from printing sites like Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, Minted, and Snapfish.  Companies start sending out emails offering 10 free cards in September this year.  I sent out about 50 cards and paid around $12 total using deal emails like those.  I ordered from several different sites and only paid shipping.  On other things always shop around.  Always, always, always check Amazon.  Download the app and do it in the store.  Target now price matches year round, which rocks.  
4) USE CASH MONEY, HONEY  Studies show that your brain actually reacts differently when you use cash as opposed to cards.  You feel it more and it triggers pain receptors.  This is a GOOD thing.  Remember that money you budgeted each month in #1?  Take it out of the bank and put it in an envelope marked “gifts” and use that to make your purchases.  If you find a deal online, write that amount on the envelope and put amount of cash back in the bank.  Using cash is hard, but it is worth it.  By the end of the holidays next year you will know exactly how much you spent and will have paid $0 in interest on your cards.  Winning.  You can read more about how we use a cash system year round here.  
5)  MAKE MEMORIES, NOT MONEY MISTAKES  If you think back on all your holiday gifts and experiences, you will probably be hard pressed to remember more than a few gifts.  What I remember most are the experiences: cooking together, driving around to see lights, decorating the tree, caroling (or kazooing – I had a really fun youth pastor),  volunteering, Christmas Eve services, etc.  Think about what makes your holiday special to you.  Ask your spouse or siblings what matters to them.  Most people probably won’t say the gifts.  Draw names and set a price limit with your adult siblings, their spouses, and parents to take down the stress level for everyone.  We do a $50 limit with my family.  Buying one thoughtful gift for a family member is sooo much nicer and less stressful than buying 18 crap gifts for the whole bunch.  Give priceless but cost free gifts to friends and family like a night of free babysitting or offer to take their family photo.  Use your natural talents to make special presents for your loved ones.   Our consumer culture has turned Christmas into a competition, instead of celebration of God’s love for us and our love for each other.  Let’s take it back. 
How do you save money during the holidays?
Do you plan ahead?  
Send me your favorite frugal holiday tips by email or blog post comment and I’ll link to you in an upcoming post.  

Frugal Christmas: Our Red and Aqua Mantle and Color Scheme

My goal this year was to decorate our new house in as festive a manor as possible while spending as little as possible and repurposing old decorations.  For this project I ended up buying only one can of spray paint and two spools of ribbon.  Everything else came from old decorations or prior projects.  Mission accomplished.  I just love red and aqua together, and I had some candles, mason jars, and Christmas balls that worked toward the color scheme, so I went for it.  

 These blue mason jars were a gift from my Meme (that’s southern for grandmother) and I use them all the time.  I filled them with Smell of Christmas potpourri by Aromatique, an Arkansas company.  I tied red ribbon leftover from other projects around them and placed this cute little trio on one end of the mantle.  

 Our stockings are hung by the chimney with care.  I made Jed’s and mine, but ended up throwing the one I attempted for the Bear away in a fit of crafting rage last year (long story).  You can read about how I made ours here.

 For the wreath I took apart this spring wreath, spray painted it white, and wrapped it in aqua ribbon.  I used pine cones that were already wired from my bouquet in Marci’s winter wedding, spray painted them white, and tied them with aqua and white ribbons.  I attached three red jingle bells leftover from the Bear’s toddler friendly Christmas tree.  I hung it with wide aqua ribbon.  

 I bought the joy sign at a yard sale a few years back, and the red and aqua Christmas balls were from after Christmas clearance years ago.  I nestled them in aqua fine net tulle that I also used the last few years.

 The red candles normally live in other spots around the house, but they look cute as a trio mirroring the trio of mason jars.

 I carried the red and aqua theme into our bedroom by decorating another mini tree with leftover jingle bells and white ribbon.

What’s your favorite Christmas color scheme?
How do your stay frugal with holiday decorating?

Frugal Christmas: A Toddler Friendly Mini Tree

 I LOVE decorating for Christmas.  I long for a touch of Christmas cheer in every room of the house.  The Bear’s room is a special challenge because he is now 18 months old and into EVERYTHING.  He can reach to grab things off his shelves and has a special gift for taking things apart.  I decided the answer was a toddler friendly mini tree, but my budget was only $5.

I found this mini tree in the dollar section at Target years ago, along with the hat topper and mini tree skirt.  They cost $2 total.  Target has mini tinsel trees right now, and all of their Christmas stuff will go on sale soon if it isn’t already. 

                                 

 I looked at mini tree ornaments at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and Target, but most of what I found was either breakable or a choking hazard.  Yikes.  I remembered seeing a fun idea using plastic animals on Young House Love last year, but I couldn’t find the post and got frustrated.  After strolling the aisles of Hobby Lobby I came across a big container of large red jingle bells on sale for $3.50.  Jingle bells are festive, give a pop of color on my little silver tree, aren’t breakable, and are too big to be a choking hazard.  Hooray!  I bought white grosgrain ribbon on sale for $1 and pieces through each bell.

 The Bear had a fabulous time playing with the bells and was able to help me decorate his tree.  Hello, fine motor skill development!  I love the simplicity and festiveness of his tree, and the fact that he can’t break it or hurt himself on it.  Let’s call it a Christmas Mini Tree Miracle.

Here’s the toddler eye view.  Shiny!
Do you decorate your kid’s rooms for Christmas? How do you make it kid proof?

Frugal Gift Ideas: Personalized Coffee Mugs

I saw this idea on Pinterest a while back and thought it would be a perfect craft for my MOPS group.  I’m one of the craft leaders for our MOPS group this year.  The original pin recommended using a Sharpie marker to decorate a dollar store coffee mug, then baking it for 30 minutes at 350.  After a little research I discovered that Sharpies are not food safe.  Uh oh.  Acrylic paint is food safe, so I tried to find a way to incorporate it into the idea.  I found another pin that used paper doilies as a stencil and thought that might work well with the acrylic paint.  I found mugs and doilies at our local Dollar Tree and brought acrylic paint, foam brushes, and Sharpies as well.  Here’s how it went down.   

 Everyone found a mug of their choice.  There were three different shapes and sizes.  I told everyone the could use Sharpies as long as they didn’t put it near the lip of the mug or on the inside.  I shared the doily stencil idea, and demonstrated how to tape the stencils onto the mugs.  Then everyone went for it.  Some folks used just Sharpies, others used just acrylics, and still more used a combination of the two.  I let them all dry, baked them at 350 for 30 minutes, and then let them cool.  The Sharpies ran until they dried, FYI.

Take a look at a few of our finished products.  I used a Sharpie to paint my mug, but kept the marker clear of the area where my mouth would be.  You can see the pattern the doily made on a few of the mugs above and below.

 Some of the mugs that were totally covered in acrylic needed to be glazed after baking.  They ended up with a rough, dry finish.  The Sharpied mugs and mugs with smaller patches of paint looked great after being baked.  If you make these as a gift, be sure to let the recipient know that they need to be hand washed.

What frugal gifts are you giving this year?  

Call Me

The Bear is showing off one of my favorite Christmas gifts.  Jed bought me this awesome Moshi phone attachment off Amazon and I’m obsessed.  I just bought my Dad one for his birthday.  It is an old school phone receiver that attaches to your cell phone.  It is one million times easier to balance on my shoulder while baby wrangling, and I hear so much better through it.  My iPhone is carefully wrapped in an Otterbox case because I am oh so slightly accident prone.  Seriously, my nickname is the “Spill Queen”.  The case makes my phone almost bulletproof (or drop proof), but it also makes it a little hard to hear the conversation.  I know, I’m weird, I actually like to talk to people instead of text.  I’m old fashioned like that. 
PS- I’m not affiliated with Amazon or Native Union (the manufacturer).  I’m just obsessed.