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Provo, Utah
South Jordan, Utah
Goodyear, Arizona.

My readers get to save! Use code "USFAMILY17" to receive 15% off tickets! http://christmasincolor.net/

The Ultimate Guide to Family Christmas Cards

I love sending out family Christmas cards every year. I think it's a fun tradition, and I love getting cards in return. I love seeing what other people are up to in their lives, how their family has grown, and just a little glimpse into their year. Likewise, I feel like with so many moves, and so many big and small things going on with our kids, I love to update people from our past lives and let them know how our family is doing, and almost catch up with them in a way. 

This year though, we had about 100 people to give Christmas cards to. As I was looking at making our cards and seeing the cost options all over the board, I really stretched myself to get creative and make this as much of a fun, but frugal experience as possible. In this guide I want to share with you how to take pictures, where to get your pictures printed, how to decide who gets a card, and what to do with your card, and the ones you get from other people when the holiday season is over! 


Step One: Take Family Pictures: There are a few ways you can go about doing this. You can either use a random family picture taken throughout the year (think: a fun family trip or outing that you all took together!) You can take your own family picture (I did a blog post a few years ago right here where I show you how I do my tripod, camera settings, and how I edit my own pictures!) Lastly, you can hire a professional photographer. This year we did mini sessions with Pure Light Photography. Mini sessions are a great option because you can get a 20 minute session with an amazing photographer at an awesome discount. And lets face it, your kids aren't going to last longer than 20 minutes anyways. 

Step Two: Print Some Christmas Cards: There are so many ways you can do this. You can upload your pictures to an online card store like Minted, or Shutterfly. This year, I found these options to be pretty expensive. After you make your card and pick the envelope, the options from what I could see were over a dollar per card, after a 40% off promo code. That was more than what I wanted to be spending, since that would make the cards alone for 100 people cost $100. 

I went on Instagram and crowdsourced from friends what they do, and I got a lot of good options. One friend mentioned that printing cards at places like Sam's Club and Costco were considerably cheaper. One friend mentioned that she bought a Groupon to get her cards printed and wound up getting some GORGEOUS cards for about $30. 

Then there is what I did, which I believe to be one of the cheapest option out there. A family Christmas letter. I used Snapfish to get 4x6 prints made of the picture we wanted to use, and they had a promo code for prints for a penny. I got 100 prints made, and after taxes and shipping, my 100 prints cost me $10. 

After that I went onto my computer and typed up a little letter about what our family did this year. I love this option because it gives such a personal touch, and gives real insight as to what happened that year. I wrote a small paragraph about each person in the family, and then folded the letters and put them into basic white envelopes. I paid $2.89 for 125 envelopes at Target for anyone interested. I also printed the letters on my home computer and didn't have to pay anything for that since I already had all the ink and paper that I needed. 

Next I needed to gather addresses. There are a few ways to do this. You can gather from your local school and church directories, you can crowdsource for addresses on Facebook, or simply text/call the person and ask. If you want to get it done fast and don't want to wait on people to respond to you, you can try looking them up on whitepages.com. That's where I got a ton of my addresses from, and it makes it faster since you're not waiting on people to get back to you. 

Once you have your addresses gathered, you can compile them into an excel spreadsheet and print off basic labels that way (I used these ones), or you can go to avery.com and design your own address labels and copy and paste your addresses onto the sheets, and then print them off that way. I chose this option and love how they turned out! I store all my addresses in an address book on Shutterfly.com, simply because that's who I printed cards with in the past, and then I just copied and pasted my addresses into the Avery.com templates. 

Step 3: Decide Who Gets A Card: First and foremost, send to family first. After that I went through all my Facebook friends and made a list of the people that I really admire, who I'm good friends with, and people who have made a positive impact on my life over the last several years. Once I had those people, then I went and compiled the addresses. 

Last night I was on the phone with my friend's mom and asked her how to determine who stays on the Christmas card list, and I loved what she had to say. She said that she takes her master list, and she sends a card to everyone for two years in a row. If two years go by and she doesn't get a card back from that person, then their off the list. It sounds mean, but at the rate Derek and I are going, our Christmas card list is going to get out of hand by the time we're 50, so it's a good way to keep in check who to send cards to. 

Step 4: What To Do With The Cards After Christmas: Growing up my Grandma always kept her cards taped up on the back of her apartment door. That's something that I've adopted in my home, and this year they're taped on our garage door in the kitchen. When the holiday is over though, what do you do with the cards?

In years past I've felt overwhelmed with what to do after the holiday season and so I threw them out. I feel so guilty and awful saying that, but I was so overwhelmed with figuring out what to do that it was just less stressful for me to do that. My friend's mom told me last night that she just gets a manila envelope and writes the year on the outside and sticks all the cards in there, and then in a box in her basement, and I love how easy that is. It keeps the cards organized and in their own space, but doesn't take a ton of brain power.

Another option that I picked up from my friend Janssen is to make a valentine's day garland out of the cards. She cuts the family pictures out into a heart, and then strings them together into a garland on her mantle, and then puts a little tag on it with the year, and stores the garlands in a box after Valentine's day is over. I thought that this was such a fun way to repurpose the cards for another holiday, and then save them for years down the road as well. 

When it comes to your own holiday cards, get a photo album and store each year inside the album. In 20 years it will be amazing to see how your family has grown and changed each year, and it will be a precious keepsake that your family will enjoy for generations. 

Alright. That is all I have to say about Christmas cards for the time being. If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments below! 

17 Fool Proof Neighbor GIfts

Today I thought it would be fun to dig deep into the blog archives... and I mean way deep! I've scoured through the 306 recipes that I've shared over here in the last 6 years to find the 17 best recipes that I think will make awesome neighbor gifts this holiday season. All of these recipes are fool proof. Meaning, if you follow the instructions exactly, you should get a pretty favorable end result. Most of them don't require a ton of ingredients, and they're all recipes that we've made many times over the last several years. 


Thumbprint Cookies: This recipe was originally for Easter, but swap the Easter colored M&Ms for Christmas, and they're ready to go! 

 Snickerdoodles: I made these for the first time last year with the kids and could not believe how easy and delicious they were. Definitely a Christmas classic.

Cut Out Sugar Cookies: While my royal icing skills haven't been mastered yet, these are my favorite cookies when I need to make some cut out cookies. The dough is delicious, and doesn't require refrigeration! 

Christmas Crack: This is my all time favorite Christmas treat! Just trust me. 

Vanilla Spice Pear Butter: This was my first dabble into canning last year and it turned out amazing. This is what we did for neighbor gifts last year, and all my friends gave it rave reviews. 

White Chocolate Chip Craisin Cookies: There is something about the combination of white chocolate chips and craisins that just can't be beat in my opinion. I love these cookies!

Gingerbread Cookies: Gingerbread is Derek's all time favorite cookie. I made these ones a couple years ago and he said they were absolutely perfect! We try and make these at least every year now! 

Sweet and Salty White Chocolate Popcorn: I made this a few years ago for a sponsored blog project and it's another one that tops the list of my all time favorite treats. It's just so so good. 

M&M Cookies: They need no introduction. They're just delicious. 
THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: I passionately believe that this is the very best chocolate chip recipe on the entire planet. I've had many friends ask me if I bought these cookies from a bakery because they're astound that something this good could be made at home. I've made these probably 50 times in the last 6 years and I just love them so so much. 

LDS Living Dream Cookies: A few years ago I saw this recipe in a magazine at my in laws house and made it when we got back to NC one Sunday night. They were delicious and have been in our cookie arsenal ever since. 

The Best Brownie Recipe: A good homemade brownie recipe is hard to come by. This is another one that I've made countless times over the years and they come out perfect every time. 

Oreo Truffles: I used to make these a lot more when the whole cake pop craze was huge, but they are a quick and easy treat that literally everyone loves. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies: The name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but these cookies are amazing, and I have many mouthes that can vouch for that. 

Three Ingredient Fudge: This is one of my all time favorite treats to make because it's so so easy! One bag of chocolate chips, one can of sweetened condensed milk, and whatever you want on top! Mix the first two ingredients together on low heat on the stove, pour in a wax paper lined pan when its thick and all combined, and then press M&Ms, chopped Reese's, crushed candy canes (even better with white chocolate chips!), and you're ready to go! 


Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies: I'm fairly certain we all know how to make these, but just in case, here you go! 
No Bake Cookies: If you have a lot of people to bake for, you could easily make a massive batch of these in a large pot on your stove in no time!

Chex Snack Mix: This is another one of those recipes that a quick change in the M&M color can make this viable for anytime of year. I love this chex mix snack during any season! 

 

A New Toy For Christmas: Moose Toys Oonies

Thank you Moose Toys for sponsoring this post. Get crafty with your kiddo and make “ooniements” with Oonies by Moose Toys this holiday season!


I try and be really intentional about the toys that I bring into our home. Things I think about are: Is it something Jay and Em will both enjoy? Is it something that is going to break and create clutter? Is it something that will cause fights? Is it something that will ignite creativity? What therapeutic benefits will this provide for Em? 


Needless to say, when purchasing toys for our home, it can sometimes be quite the deliberation process. A new toy we recently came across was Oonies by Moose Toys. (Obviously anyone who knows about my moose obsession can guess that the brand was a deciding factor as well...) Oonies are essentially small rubber balloons that go inside a plastic pump. The pump fills the Oonies with air, and they get to be about two inches big. Your kids can then create towers, trains, or whatever they can imagine, by sticking the Oonies together once they're blown up. They even come with fun things like rubber feet, wings, eyes, etc... so that you can make animals and other creatures. Oonies are the coolest way to create, without making a mess!




Em has really loved playing with these for a fun sensory play activity. She has been able to play and identify the pieces as "stretchy", and likes to name the colors, and count the amount of inflated Oonies that she has.


For family home evening this week we made little "Ooniements" for the Christmas tree, and the kids thought that it was the greatest thing ever. Em made a little bird that she was super enamored with. She pretended to make it fly for a solid 10 minutes and kept calling it a, "baby bird!" Jay made a snowman, and had a blast filling up the Oonies with the pump. He's at the perfect age (5), where he was able to watch me fill a couple, and then he was able to take over from there. 


Oonies really are such a fun toy. I love that my kids are close enough in age that they can find joy in playing with the same toys together. Anything that gets my kids using their brains and creating things in a fun and unique way is always a win in my book, and Oonies checks off each of those requirements for our family.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

My Cookbook Came! CreateMyCookbook Gift Idea!

This post is sponsored by CreateMyCookbook, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

A few weeks ago, I mentioned how I was working on compiling my recipes into one book with CreateMyCookbook. My book came in the mail a week or so ago, and I was blown away by the quality of the book. For a lot of the pictures, I just saved old ones from my blog that were several years old, and slightly poor quality, and even those pictures which I imagined weren't going to print well, surprisingly looked really good for what they were. (Please don't go back three years ago and look at my old and very poor photography skills!) 

Since having this book, there have been several times where I've gone into the kitchen to cook dinner, and I've been so happy to have this book ready and waiting for me, instead of having to look up a recipe from my blog, and use my laptop or phone in the kitchen. This book really brings me joy every time I use it! 


Like I mentioned in my post about making your own cookbook, this is such a great gift idea for parents to give to their older kids, or for grandparents to give to their kids and grandchildren. For me, cooking really is all about family, and passing down part of your legacy, and family traditions through food. I really am grateful to have some of our family recipes compiled into one place, and that I'll be able to give this book to my kids when they're older and leave home too. 


If you're still in the market for an awesome Christmas gift this year, there is still time for you to login and make your own cookbook before Christmas with CreateMyCookbook's easy recipe software. You can type and upload the recipes yourself, or take a picture of your recipe cards and let them do the typing for you! I love the idea of having a family cookbook, especially since this is a gift that will last far beyond when the holiday season is over. 

Thank you for supporting the brands that make this blog possible. 

My Favorite Blueberry Acai Breakfast Smoothie

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Emergen-C®. All opinions are mine alone. #FallImmuneSupport #CollectiveBias


With fall weather rapidly approaching here in Utah, I've been on the hunt to make sure our house is well stocked with everything we'll need for the cold months ahead.
Hover over the below photo to shop for some of our favorite products now.


One way we like to prepare for the cold weather months is with making sure our bodies are getting the nutrients they need and stocking up (at Walmart!) with some of our favorite Emergen-C® products. We love Emergen-C® Super Orange since it’s packed with vitamin C plus other key antioxidants such as zinc and manganese to support your immune system along with B Vitamins to enhance energy naturally.* Emergen-C® dietary supplements are the delicious way to start your day. I also love the Emergen-C Immune+® Gummies Orange for many of the same reasons. Bursting with fruit-y deliciousness, chew your way through Emergen-C Immune+® Orange & Raspberry Gummies to support your immune system with Vitamin C and Vitamin D.* They’re your favorite fizzy flavors, now in a yummy new form! Emergen-C Immune+® Gummies support your immune system with Vitamin C and Vitamin D, support your energy with B Vitamins,* and are made with natural fruit flavors. No water needed!
By far though, my favorite Emergen-C® product is Emergen-C® Energy+ Blueberry Acai. It comes in portable packets that you can keep stashed in your purse. It's an anywhere, anytime product for your energy and immune support needs.* Just add water to create a fizzy, refreshing, vitamin drink mix. If you have extra time on your hands though, I highly recommend making it into one of my all time favorite smoothies.


It shouldn't be a shocker to anyone that I love acai. I usually have an acai smoothie or smoothie bowl every morning for breakfast. If I happen to be heading out for a run while the kids are at school, I'll pour one of the Emergen-C® Energy+ Blueberry Acai packets into my smoothie to give me that extra boost of energy and support to get me through my run!











Ingredients:
1 banana
2 frozen acai packets
1/4 cup orange juice
1 Emergen-C® Energy+ Blueberry Acai packet
Berries and granola for topping (optional)

Directions:


Blend together the banana, acai, and orange juice until well blended. Pour into a glass, then stir in one Emergen-C® Energy+ Blueberry Acai packet. Top with optional ingredients if desired!



emergenccolalge.jpg
What is your favorite way to use Emergen-C® products? I'd love to know in the comments below!
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

How to Keep Your Family's Teeth Holiday Healthy

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the American Dental Association.

This isn't something I've talked a lot about on the blog is that I'm actually a certified dental assistant. If you've been a long time follower, you may remember back in 2012 when I announced that I'd graduated from my program, but that's been about the only mention. But many of you know my undergrad degree is in public health, and pairing both my knowledge of dental assisting and public health, I'm actually pretty passionate about the two.


With the holiday season upon us, we all want bright healthy smiles to show off in our family portraits, and a trip to the dentist for a cavity is a quick way to put a damper on holiday festivities. Today I'm partnering with the American Dental Association to give you some tips and tricks to keep you and your family's teeth healthy and bright this holiday season.


Use the right products: A few weeks ago, Derek was in charge of buying new toothbrushes at the store. He bragged about how he got all 6 for a dollar. A couple weeks in I could have sworn my teeth were turning yellow. Sure enough, I bought a new toothbrush and after the first use, my teeth were visibly cleaner after getting off all the buildup that the cheap toothbrush wasn't getting.

You want to make sure that you're brushing twice a day with toothpaste that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance, and that has fluoride.  Derek and I have a favorite for ourselves, but you can see the full list of ADA-Accepted products on their site when you click on the "ADA Seal Products" tab.



Make Smart Food Choices: Of course, we want to make sure we're not over-indulging this holiday season, but there are certain foods that we heavily restrict with our kids. The number one being things that are gummy or chewy. At Jay's semi-annual teeth cleaning, our dentist mentioned that he has deep grooves in his back molars. If fruit snacks get stuck back there and sit on his teeth all day, he’s more at risk for a cavity. For this reason, we limit fruit snacks and those types of treats from our kids’ diet. I'm not nearly as worried about chocolates since they brush off the teeth significantly easier. We also try and limit overly acidic foods like soda and orange juice which can lead to tooth decay and gum damage over time.


Obviously, moderation is key. If you're going to be eating lots of sweets this holiday season, make sure to also include foods like nuts, seeds, dairy, and high fiber fruits and vegetables which can replenish the necessary phosphates, vitamins, and minerals in you need for healthy and strong teeth.

Be sure to check out MouthHealthy.Org for some creative holiday snack ideas, and click here for some more tips on avoiding cavities during the holidays.


Make Your Check Ups a Priority: This is something that Derek and I need to be better at for ourselves, but we make sure to get the kids into the dentist regularly. The benefit to regular checkups is that you can catch things early on before they become a big problem, and you can change habits and adjust as needed. Jay used to eat fruit snacks daily, but once our dentist explained to us how prone to cavities he was, we were able to adjust and remove them from his diet before it became a problem.

These are all the major tips I have for oral health during the holiday season. For more ideas on keeping your pearly whites healthy, be sure to head over to MouthHealthy.org for more tips, tricks, and awesome meal ideas!

Thanks to the American Dental Association for sponsoring this post.