Holidays – Frugal Novice
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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.


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.

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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.


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.


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.

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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?

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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.


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.

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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:


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:

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Free Fourth of July Printable

I love to decorate for all the various holidays, and with Fourth of July right around the corner that means a lot of red, white, & blue.

One of my favorite low-cost methods of decorating is by displaying framed printables. Just buy some inexpensive frames (it’s especially fun to go thrifting or antiquing to find unique options) and paint them to fit with your aesthetic; then it’s so easy to swap out art as the various holidays roll around!

I love the idea of layering frames with different printables along a mantle or tabletop – you can easily achieve pops of color, and you can find all sorts of great quotes on Pinterest. Of course, since I’m a graphic designer I like to create my own printables so I can achieve the look – and convey the thoughts – that really fit our family.

I created a new Fourth of July printable recently and I’m sharing it with you today so you can add it to your patriotic decor. Just click here to start your free PDF download. This is sized for an 8×10 frame, but you can print it smaller for 5×7 if you prefer.

Enjoy, and Happy 4th!


Oriental Trading Makes Class Parties Easy & Fun!

Note: We received items from Oriental Trading to facilitate our post. We were not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and my own.

We love Oriental Trading. It’s my go-to for party favors and decor when the kids’ birthdays roll around, but it’s also great for class parties, too. I love how affordable their items are, which makes it easy to purchase in bulk for 22 kids in a class.

This year I’m room mom for both my boys’ classes, and coordinating their Christmas parties was a part of my duties. I sent out notes to all the parents for contributing snacks and drinks, but all I had to do to cover the crafts, plates, and napkins was make a quick visit to The hardest part was deciding between all the craft options – they have a ton! 

I ended up choosing a snowman craft and a button wreath craft. The kids loved it, and I heard parents complimenting them, too.


One tip: a lot of crafts require glue, which can be messy and take time to dry. I went to the local craft store and purchased a roll of glue dots, which made it really quick and easy to complete the projects. Aren’t they so cute? We have ours hanging on our tree!

For the plates and napkins, I went classic with Santa & Rudolph; can’t really go wrong with that! They made for a cheery & festive atmosphere at the party.


No matter what kind of party you’re planning for, Oriental Trading provides a wide variety of options to choose from. It makes purchasing party supplies an affordable and easy experience! For the next class parties I’ll be making a visit to Oriental Trading again, for sure.

Hasbro Stocking Stuffers Fun For All

Note: We received a variety of Hasbro toys to facilitate this post. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

When it comes to stockings, I like to fill them with things I know my kids will play with for a long time. It’s easy to be tempted by all the knick knacks that fill the aisles at Christmastime, but I think we all know those end up breaking or being discarded within a week or two after the holidays.

Hasbro has a ton of toys and games; I know we’ve already got many Hasbro items in our house. But did you know they have a lot of stocking stuffer options perfect for your kids?

Since the kids don’t read my blog yet (I’m sure one day they totally will) I can share with you some of what they’ll be getting in their stockings.


J, our 7-year-old, will be getting a Transformer from the new Age of Extension Transformers movie – it can convert from a great robot action figure into a vehicle in just one step, which is great and frustration-free! These retail for $9.99 each. He’ll also be getting Star Wars Rebels action figures, which he’ll be thrilled about because he loves that show!  These also retail for $9.99 each. He’ll love playing with both of these toys for a long time to come!


C, our 5-year old, will be getting a Transformers Rescue Bots set – it comes with a robot and a female character from the show. I love the idea of him having a great female action figure to play with! These retail for $6.99. He’ll also be getting the classic game Barrel of Monkeys. I loved playing this growing up, so it’s fun to pass it along for our kids to play too! I can imagine there will be a lot of creative play with the monkeys, too. This game retails for $4.99.


The boys will love playing with this Marvel Battle Masters Challengers toy, too – we got Captain America but there’s also Spider-Man, Wolverine and Thor to pick from. These retail for $14.99 each.

Hasbro also makes wonderful stocking stuffers for girls, too, like these:


The Littlest Pet Shop animals are just $2.99 each and are adorable fun! There are 24 pets to collect. And the My Little Pony POP starter kit lets kids pop out and build any of four My Little Pony Pop characters; they can personalize each pony with pop-on manes and stickers. These retail for just $3.99 each, making them a really affordable choice!

Hope these ideas help you with all your last-minute stocking shopping! Happy holidays, everyone!

Make Gifts Extra-Special With DIY Customized Ribbon!

Note: We received the Epson LabelWorks Printable Ribbon Kit to facilitate this review. We were not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are our own.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I’ve wrapped more presents than I can count on two hands. I’m admittedly not the best at wrapping gifts, but I love picking out paper and ribbon to make gifts look special.

This year I’ve learned about a way to make gifts customized with the Epson LabelWorks Printable Ribbon Kit. 



You can print personalized satin ribbons for crafts, scrapbooks, decorations, gifts and more. You can have birthday party favors that have their very own name on them. You can even get creative and brighten up your own homemade crafts.

You can customize your ribbons using a wide variety of fonts, symbols and frames, and up to 30 of your favorite ribbon designs can be stored and used again.

The printer is really easy to use – I have to confess that I didn’t read any of the instructions for loading the ribbon or for creating  my first design.



There are tons of cute icons for all sorts of occasions, including the various holidays. I made a ribbon for each of the boys’ teachers that had their names and snowflakes on it – so cute!



I made some ribbons for my mom’s coworkers, too – the quality is really nice and truly adds a perfect finishing touch to gifts.


If you’re a crafter, or if you just want to have an easy way to customize gifts, you’ll definitely want to get the Epson LabelWorks Printable Ribbon Kit!

Get Your Bathroom Holiday-Ready with Charmin

Note: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Charmin. I received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

We love to have friends and family over, especially during the holiday season. And I love to decorate for Christmas, which you can easily see as soon as you walk in our front door. Getting the house ready for holiday entertaining is always a lot of fun for me, but in the past I’ve accidentally neglected a pretty important room – the bathroom!

Thankfully now I’ve gotten a handle on making our guest bathroom a welcoming spot for guests:

I mentioned in the video that I like to switch out our hand towel for one with a holiday influence – I also use a fun soap dispenser (my mom got us an adorable snowman that the kids love), I light a candle (bonus points for a cinnamon or peppermint scent) and I’ll even take surplus Christmas decor from elsewhere in the house to use in the bathroom. The Christmas tree seen at the end of the video used to be our tree topper, and now it’s a great accent piece on our bathroom counter.

Not only do I want our bathroom to look cute and festive, I want it to be a functional space that can get plenty of use without us having to worry about a clogged toilet in the middle of a party, so we use Charmin.


Did you know?

  • Consumers who buy Charmin ensure their plumbing will stay clog-free even during the busiest of times, such as the holiday season.
  • Charmin and Roto-Rooter, America’s largest provider of plumbing & drain services, have teamed up again this year to remind consumers of the clog-free and septic-safe guarantee that only comes with Charmin. Roto- Rooter plumbers recommend Charmin more than any other brand.
  • Not only does Charmin have Roto-Rooter’s stamp of approval to be clogfree and septic-safe, but it is also used by plumbers more than any other brand.

Charmin is one of those unsung party heroes – when it works well like it does, people don’t think to talk about it. But let me tell you, if you’re that house that has a clogged or overflowing toilet, you’ll be wishing you’d used Charmin instead.


Coupon for 82% off Custom Canvases Nov.27-30!

Note: I will be working with Picture it on Canvas to review a canvas in an upcoming post, and will receive a canvas to facilitate that review. This post is not compensated monetarily, and all opinions are honest and my own.



I love photos, especially of my three kids. But all too often I am horrible about actually printing these great photos out, and they end up just sitting on my computer! That won’t be the case after this week, when I plan to take advantage of a great coupon code at Picture It On Canvas!

We have one canvas in our house that’s from two years ago, but it’s about time we update our art and get a new family photo on the wall. Kids change so quickly, and E looks entirely different at 2 than she did at not-quite-one!
Picture It On Canvas has graciously provided me with a coupon code to share with my readers that will give you 82% off your purchase.

Just enter PIOC82 at checkout and you’ll be good to go!

Don’t forget, though, that this code is only good from Nov.27-30, so don’t miss out on the savings!
You can also find other great photo gift ideas beyond canvases – everything from decorative throws to baking pans, serving trays, and phone cases. Everyone loves photos, so you can’t go wrong with a great custom photo gift that’s unique to the recipient. The only problem you’ll have is narrowing down which photos to print!