Holidays – Frugal Novice
Browsing Category

Holidays

Oriental Trading Makes Christmas Parties a Hit!

I received items from Oriental Trading to help facilitate my review. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I love being room mom for my son’s class – and part of the fun of being room mom is planning the class Christmas party. I knew immediately that the place to go for all my Christmas party supplies was Oriental Trading Company. For one thing, I’ve used them many times so I’m confident in the quality of their products, but for another, I know they have a huge variety of items available, so I’ll be able to find whatever I’m looking for.

I found super cute plates and napkins (as you can see above). I always feel like those are key in setting a fun party atmosphere for kids, and these really do the trick.

My son’s favorite thing I got was these fun reindeer glasses. They’re so inexpensive that everyone in the class was able to get a pair – they make for great photos!

OrientalTrading_Glasses

I ordered some really awesome looking wood trees for the kids to decorate, but they ended up being out of stock (be sure and order early, since so many people shop at Oriental Trading) so I used some cute pompom balls and green paint to let kids decorate little wood rectangles and make Christmas ornaments.

No matter what kind of party you’re planning, Oriental Trading is definitely the go-to for all your supplies!

ICE! at Gaylord Texan is the Perfect Family Getaway

We received tickets to ICE! to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are our own.

We, like most other families, feel like we’re busy all the time – and especially so during the holidays. It seemed, then, like the perfect idea to get away and do something fun for the whole family. The Gaylord Texan is less than three hours away, and we set our sights on going to the ICE! exhibit.

We stayed one night at the Gaylord as part of our trip, and I can’t recommend enough adding this to your itinerary. It was so nice getting back to our room at the end of a busy day and just relax. I’ll tell you more about our room in a bit (spoiler alert: it was amazing), but first let’s talk about the whole reason we went – ICE! The theme this year is Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, a classic theme that was nostalgic for the adults and charming for the kids.

If you’ve never been to ICE! before, you should know that there are lines to get in – as with anything that’s immensely popular, there are a lot of people that want to go. We knew this ahead of time and were prepared, which made the waiting much more pleasant. Our solution? We bought a huge bag of popcorn and a big bag of cotton candy for the 5 kids to share. This worked great! You might also want to bring along a book for each child (something Christmas-themed would be perfect) to read while you’re waiting.

The Gaylord does a wonderful job of decorating the areas so that it feels magical and fun. In one waiting area, you’re surrounded by what looks like various machines for toy making. In another, there’s a giant rotating ice mountain and mist floating down with snowflakes shining on it.

waiting-gaylord

Once you get very close to entering the exhibit, everyone receives a thick blue parka to wear. Another tip is to bring along your own gloves, hats, and scarves – this helps keep everyone warmer! The kids looked adorable in their parkas.

bluecoats-gaylord

Brian and his mom looked pretty cute, too!

michelle-brian-gaylord

Once we got into the exhibit area I was really pleased with how easy it was to see each exhibit. It didn’t seem crowded at all, and we were able to go through at our own pace without feeling rushed. We could stop and look at all the details, and could take as many photos as we wanted – and trust me, there are so many things to take photos of! The attention to every aspect of the experience is beyond what you’d even expect. It was utterly impressive, and we were all wowed by the artists’ work.

clauses-gaylord-ice

ice-dungeon-gaylord

clauses-ice-gaylord

icetunnel-gaylord

family-ice-gaylord

Check out the beautiful nativity, too:

nativity-ice-gaylord

At the end of the exhibit there is a whole room filled with ice slides the whole family can go down – the kids thought this was a lot of fun and wanted to go down several times!

iceslide

If you want to check on tickets or get more info on ICE! click here – it’s running through January 1!

Once we left the exhibit we went and got hot chocolate – the perfect treat to warm up with after being SO cold! Afterward we went over to the adjacent area, which had all sorts of activities to choose from. We got to meet some characters:

character-meetup-gaylord

We also did the snow tubing, which was a hit with everyone. We got to go down the slopes 12 times, and the lines moved pretty quickly for this attraction. Living in Texas our chances for tubing down a snowy hill are pretty slim, so this was especially fun for all of us!

j-tubing-gaylord

c-tubing-gaylord

There are so many activities to choose from! We already decided we want to go back next year and try out some of the other options, like cookies & milk with Mrs. Claus, an elf scavenger hunt, and throwing real snowballs!

santas-snowballs-gaylord

We really enjoyed walking around the vast atrium of the Gaylord and looking at all the different decorations. It is absolutely beautiful, and we had fun taking photos at various settings.

reindeerpic-c-gaylord

large-gift-gaylord

kids-wreath-gaylord

kids-fountain-gaylord

wine-trees-gaylord

traintracks-gaylord

gingerbreadhouse-gaylord

kids-sign-gaylord

We did photos with Santa, too!

santapic-gaylord

I’ve got to talk about our room a bit, too, because it was honestly a huge highlight of the trip for the kids too. We walked into the suite and all three of them said “Wow!!!” – I decided to do a little video tour so you can see for yourself what a perfect setup this is for families:

j-roomview-gaylord

e-roomwindow-gaylord

The kids loved the view outside our room and spent a ton of time hanging out on the balcony, looking at lights and watching people walk by. This was our view at night – so pretty, isn’t it?

nightview-snowflakes-gaylord

This was an absolutely wonderful getaway for our family – the kids loved it and didn’t want to leave! They shared their favorite parts of our stay:

We can’t wait to go back and stay at the Gaylord again – they have fun things all throughout the year so we’ll be looking for opportunities to go and have another wonderful weekend getaway!

Hallmark Holiday Traditions Continue!

We received ornaments to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are our own. 

Traditions are incredibly important to me when it comes to the holidays, and I’ve loved it as Brian and I have figured out what we’d like to do with our children each year. Hallmark Keepsake ornaments are a big part of our Christmas tradition, which I wrote about in 2014 – and last year, too! Each year the kids pick out an ornament that represents their interest for the year – and Brian and I pick one out, too. The plan is that when the kids are grown and have their own Christmas tree they’ll be able to take all their ornaments from over the years.

Here are the ornaments we picked out for 2017:

bb8-ornament

J picked BB-8. He loves Star Wars, and was a big fan of The Force Awakens when we went to see it last year. The attention to detail on this ornament is amazing – it looks so good!

C loves cooking and baking, so it was no surprise to us that he picked this Santa’s sleigh ornament:

santasleighornament

It is seriously adorable. The candy canes, the icing details, and the fact that santa’s hat is a piping tip all just add to the charm.

E was entirely predictable with her ornament selection – Elsa all the way!

elsa-ornament

Brian and I went with a classic, and chose the Crayola coloring box. It opens and closes, and again, the attention to detail is incredibly impressive (see the front view above).

crayolaornament-back

Check out all the various ornaments available on the Hallmark site!

Veterans Day Deals From Boston Market, Fogo de Chão, & Ruby Tuesday

Veteran’s Day is a week from today, and it’s the perfect time to thank those you know who have served our country. These men and women work hard and sacrifice time away from their own families to keep us safe, and their actions are definitely worth celebrating.

If you’re looking for a way to thank a veteran, here are three great restaurant deals to take advantage of:

Fogo de Chao Brazillian Steakhouse Restaurant wall sign

Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse

  • All military veterans and active duty personnel with valid military ID will receive 50% off their meal on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11); up to three additional guests will receive 10% off their meals, as well. (Offer is valid at all U.S. and Puerto Rico Fogo de Chão locations. Beverages, dessert, tax and gratuity not included.)

Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday

  • All veterans, active duty and reserve military service members with valid military ID can enjoy one free appetizer (up to a $10 value) on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11). (Offer is valid at all Ruby Tuesday locations, excluding those in Guam, Hawaii, Manhattan, airports or outside of the United States.)

Boston Market

Boston Market

  • All active duty or retired military personnel and their families can receive one free brownie or cookie with any purchase on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11). No ID required.

 

Fill Your Friends’ Halloween with Boo-tiful Fun!

At Home funded this amazing Boo! fun. All opinions are honest and my own.

Thanksgiving and Christmas often get associated with doing nice things for others, but I’ve decided Halloween has gotten unfairly left out. There are plenty of opportunities for random acts of kindness, and this past week we tried out one of my favorite Halloween traditions – “booing” someone!

One of my best friends started a new chapter in her life this summer, and has recently moved into a new home with her two kids. I thought she would be perfect to surprise!

Brian and I went to At Home to stock up on supplies. It was SO much fun looking through all their Halloween items to decide what we wanted to get.

athome-storefront

yard_setup_athome

inflatables

halloween_signs

whiteblack-signs

jack-o-lanterns-aisle

trickortreatsign

cart_athome

We settled on a fun light-up inflatable arch, stake light pathway markers, a jack-o-lantern doormat, two metal signs, a cauldron perfect for holding Halloween candy, and a light-up jack-o-lantern. Once we had everything picked out, we just had to sneak over to my friend’s house and set everything up!

flowerbed

In front of her flower bed we set up two colorful metal signs and the orange stake lights. These bring a great amount of color to the yard and are fun and cheerful!

orangelights

jack-o-lantern_stackedsigns

cauldronsign

On the front porch we placed the doormat, jack-o-lantern and cauldron – a perfect doorstep setting for any trick-or-treaters on Halloween!

frontporch-closeup

I think my favorite thing in the yard, though, is the inflatable arch. It’s so fun with the monster eyes on it, at night it lights up, and it’s a great entrance for trick-or-treaters to walk through as they head up to my friend’s porch.

Continue Reading…

[ad] Two Ingredient Chicken Mummies

This post is written by me on behalf of Tyson Foods, Inc. All opinions are entirely my own. This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SpookyGoodSnacks #CollectiveBias

It’s October, and that means our kids are all about Halloween. On Saturday we put out all our Halloween decorations, and before long we’ll be picking out pumpkins. I send jokes in my boys’ lunch boxes each school day, and I’ve started bringing out some Halloween-themed gems like What do birds do on Halloween? Trick or tweet! We are imparting Halloween fun (nothing creepy – our kids are young and, well, I’m a wimp) in lots of ways, and I’ve even come up with a spooky good (and quick, and easy) snack/dinner option my kids adore: Chicken Mummies!

chicken-mummies-closeup

Aren’t they SO fun? Before you worry that you’ll try this and end up with a Pinterest fail, let me tell you this. There are just two ingredients to the mummies – or three, if you count the “bloody marinara” dipping sauce. They’re delicious and a great source of protein, too!

First, snag some Tyson® Any’tizers® Chicken Fries. I sent my husband to H-E-B and he found them on the frozen food aisle.

heb-tyson

Continue Reading…

Christmas Decor with a Twist

As I sit here in my living room writing this post, I can see our Christmas tree aglow with lights, our stockings hung above the fireplace, a large glass vessel housing vintage ornaments on our dining table, and many other special pieces that help give our home a festive feel.

If you’re looking for ways to add a Christmas touch to your home, take a look at these traditional Christmas decor alternatives – you might just want to try one of these fun ideas!

Check out Winter Wonderland: Traditional Christmas Decor Alternatives

by Tend Editor at Mode

Spread Cheer with Betty Crocker this Christmas!

We’re in the midst of the Christmas season, and I’ve been trying to brainstorm about what to do for our neighbors. They’re great – always happy to keep an eye on our house when we go out of town, and just all-around good people.

We decided it’d be fun to spread a little holiday cheer to them by making some cookies to surprise them with. Betty Crocker inspired the idea with their free gift tags and info sheets about how to participate in continuing on with spreading the fun to others.

It’s a busy time of year, though, and we knew there’d never be a perfect time to work on cookies. Then I remembered how quick & convenient the Betty Crocker cookie mixes are, so we knew we could make some great cookies even on a busy weeknight. We ran over to H-E-B to pick up the mixes and the few other things we’d need.

BettyCrocker-CookieMixes

We decided to make sugar cookies, and besides the mix we only needed two other ingredients – a stick of butter (melted) and one egg. SO easy, and stuff we already had on hand in the fridge.

Continue Reading…

Hallmark Holiday Traditions

We received four Hallmark ornaments to review. We were not compensated monetarily for this post, and we truly love Hallmark Keepsake ornaments and their Charlie Brown sets.  All opinions are honest and our own.

If you saw my Hallmark post from last year, you know we are huge Hallmark Keepsake ornament fans. Getting new Hallmark ornaments each year is a favorite tradition of our family and is one we always plan to incorporate into our Christmas festivities.

Beyond the ornaments, Hallmark offers all sorts of other really fun Christmas decor. For instance, back in 2011 we got this set of Charlie Brown characters; they each play an instrument, and they interact with each other remotely to all play songs together. They’re so fun, and our kids adore them.

CharlieBrown-Musicians

This year Hallmark has released the Charlie Brown Peanuts Gang Light Up Show.  There are five, although not all of the characters have been released yet (we’re already planning to go this weekend and get Linus & Snoopy!); this set not only plays music, but it has an interactive light show timed with the music and coordinated between each piece. It’s colorful, fun, and incredibly impressive. We’re so glad to have it as a part of our Christmas decor.

CharlieBrownLights-LitUp-Table

Of course, I’ve also got to share which ornaments we picked this year! The kids loved looking through them all, and each one found an ornament that’s truly a perfect fit for their personality.

Continue Reading…

Spread Care This Holiday Season

With the holidays approaching, my mind starts to focus on ways to teach my children about the spirit of giving. It’s something we want to instill in them year-round, but when Christmas can easily have the focus of all the gifts they want to get, we especially want them to think about ways to help others.

A couple of years ago my friend and I took my kids out on Christmas Eve with the goal of finding ways to help others. We brainstormed different things to do, but I think one of my very favorite things we did was also one of the simplest; we brought a big tub of assorted candy to Target, and let the kids wear Santa hats and hand it out to people who were shopping or who were working. The kids loved it, and it brought a smile to people’s faces.

It’s easy to feel like you really need to do something big in order to make a difference, but the truth is little acts of kindness can go a long way. And doing several little things that are within your means is better than doing nothing because you don’t have the time or resources to accomplish it, don’t you think?

Continue Reading…

You’ll FLIPP for These Great Halloween Deals

Note: I received compensation to facilitate purchase of deals found with the Flipp app. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Halloween is next weekend (!) and the kid in me was pretty thrilled to discover that it falls on a Saturday evening. It works out perfectly -Friday night we’re having friends over for a pumpkin carving & painting party, and we’re having a Halloween-themed meal for the kids, since Saturday will be busy with trick-or-treating. It’ll be a lot of fun, and I decided I needed to ramp up my Halloween decor and supplies to get ready.

I knew that, when shopping, I didn’t want to break the bank on items we’ll only get to use for a short time each year, so I turned to my Flipp app on my iPhone to help me find the best sales and coupons. If you haven’t heard of Flipp before, it is a free iPhone & Android app that aggregates all your favorite retail circulars onto one super-handy digital device for seamless access to the very best deals on everything you’re shopping for. There are all sorts of categories to pick from, or you can do a search to find the specific item(s) you want.

The screen below is my favorites screen; it shows me circulars for the stores I shop at most.

Flipp-Favorites

I was on a mission, though – to find great Halloween deals. I did a search for Halloween, and it brought up all the deals in my area.

Continue Reading…

Three Low-Cost Ideas for Family Holiday Fun

This partnered post is brought to you as part of my Denny’s Ambassadorship. All opinions are honest and are my own.

The holidays will be here before we know it. I know from years past that we’ll get busier and busier as the holidays get closer, so I’m already starting to plan ahead – I know I’ll be thankful when we’re in the midst of the holiday season. And since the holidays can also be one of the most expensive times of the year, I’ve got three great – and affordable – ideas for family holiday fun. You could do all three in one evening, or you can split them up. Either way, these will make for some fun family memories:

ChristmasLights

1. Make looking at Christmas lights extra special.

Driving around town to look at Christmas lights is a tradition many of us probably experienced as children. I have lots of memories of driving past a particular neighborhood in Fort Worth, where the lights from houses reflected on to a small pond and seemed almost magical. If you’re planning on taking your kids to look at lights, you can easily (and cheaply) step up the experience a bit with a few special touches:

  • Line the car seats with cozy fleece blankets, and have extra blankets and pillows for each car rider.
  • Have everyone (you too, Mom & Dad) wear pajamas.
  • Pack a travel mug of coffee or hot chocolate for everyone, complete with peppermint for an added Christmas flavor.
  • Bring along popcorn, cookies, and/or candy for the kids to have a special treat while you drive around.
  • Have a Christmas music playlist ready to go for background music.
  • Get a cheap pair of binoculars and let the kids take turns looking at houses up close and personal!
  • Play a version of BINGO, having the kids look for various decorations (i.e. inflatable snowman). Here’s a link to a free printable card.

2. Have a fun holiday-themed meal.

Eating out as a family doesn’t have to be expensive – in fact, I’ve written before about how we fed our family of five for just $20 at Denny’s. You can have an affordable – and extra-fun – meal for you and the kids with Denny’s great holiday offerings for kids and grown ups alike:

Continue Reading…