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How to Host the Party that Works for You

1 Peter 4:9 says, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”

I love watching HGTV- the searching for the perfect home, the best location, and the creating of a place to grow your family. Two of the most common phrases that I hear regardless of the show I’m watching is, “This would be great for entertaining,” or “I can picture us entertaining our friends and family here.”

I think we have a deep desire to have others come to our home, host a dinner or party, and just be hospitable towards them. But how many times do we get frustrated just before our guests arrive? How many times have we thrown our hands in the air, along with our party decorations, and asked why we’re even hosting a gathering?

Party hosting is something that has been front and center for my sister and I in the last couple of weeks. As the holiday season approaches, hosting, with all of its joys and pressures, makes its way to the forefront of our minds.

Before the stress kicks in, here are some tips that can help you streamline your party plans. Not only do you want to host a party that your guests will love, but you want it to be one that you can enjoy as well.

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What is your party personality?

Are you an easy-going, laid back person, or do you enjoy going all out with decor and themes? Do you want your guests to feel at home and free to sit where they want to? Do you want a more formal feel with assigned seating and place cards?

Knowing your personality will keep you from planning a gathering that is out of your comfort zone and will leave you overwhelmed. It will keep you in the realm of realistic, no matter how strong the pull is to let Pinterest be your guide.

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Have your “person” there

We all have that close one or two people who will have our backs, do what needs to be done, handle what you can’t or may not know about, and in some ways just be an extension of you during the party. Make sure that person is there. Give them the green light ahead of time  to handle whatever needs to be handled if you are unable to during your event.

I grew up in a large extended family. At gatherings, everyone pitched in and just did what needed to be done to relieve stress from the hostess. I learned at an early age that having someone there for you, the hostess, during the party is so important.

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What’s your budget?

Although we all want to host a party that puts our best foot forward, being conscientious of our budget is important. The budget will decide how big your party can be, how elaborate the settings, or how much entertainment you can comfortably provide.

In your budget, be sure to include, food and beverages, any place settings, party favors, entertainment, and any clothing items that may be needed. All of these items can add up without notice. Setting a budget at the beginning helps in keeping costs in check.

How big/small do you want to make it?

Do you want a large gathering of family and friends? Or do you want your gathering to be more intimate with those you are closest to? How many people do you actually have room for? Are you willing to rent an off site venue for your party? Deciding this will help you determine the direction of your party. Set your guest list if you want a small gathering and don’t budge.

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To cook or not to cook…

Be realistic. Will you have enough time to cook and prepare the meal the week of your party? Or will ordering several pizza pies be enough for your guests? Are you comfortable enough with your guests to ask each person to bring a side dish? This would alleviate extra tasks off of your plate so you are free to handle other planning items.

These are all great options. Each one will will give you an edge to hosting a great party. At my sister’s party, she set a theme (peanut butter) and had each guest bring a dish that used peanut butter in some way. The excitement of discovering new peanut butter based dishes fit her party perfectly.

For my son’s recent birthday, I knew I would have no time to actually prepare a meal to serve. And when kids are your main guests, finding something everyone will like can be a challenge. Picking up several pizza pies was the perfect solution for our party.

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Entertainment

Depending on your gathering, you will need to decide what type of entertainment will be needed.

At my baby shower, the women were entertained with games and the opening of gifts. Meanwhile, the men were in a theater room with a college football game.

For Ian’s birthday party, we rented a bounce house to keep the kids entertained. Once the gifts had been opened, the children went into his room to play with the new toys.

For my sister’s peanut butter party, a gathering of women at lunch time makes for its own entertainment. She provided a comfortable area for women to congregate and we entertained each other with conversation.

As we head into the holiday season, remember:

Do what you can. 

Don’t overwhelm yourself.

If you’re new to entertaining, start small.

Find your groove.

But more importantly, enjoy yourself and your guests and host a part that works for you.

Hosting Is Where My Heart Is

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Give me a reason to host friends and family in my home for the day…and if I have the availability and the resources, I’m excited and ready for the opportunity.

Hosting a luncheon or special celebratory event is just something I enjoy.

Yes, there is always dusting, some cleaning, and preparation to do before everyone arrives, but to me, there’s nothing like the wonderful sense of satisfaction I feel as I look around and admire a clean and organized home before the first guests arrive.

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And while I may not have the largest home in the neighborhood, I know that’s not really what matters during these occasions.

What is important to me is that our home resonates with the love and peace of Jesus, so that all who enter feel loved, welcomed, and at home when visiting.

And this is just how it should be.

Recently, I was so pleased to have the opportunity to host a sponsored event in our home through HouseParty.com. This website gives people like me- who enjoy hosting- a reason to have people over beyond just the normal holiday parties and get-togethers.

When checking out the site about two months ago, I noticed that there were open applications for a Peter Pan sponsored Simply Ground peanut butter party. And although I had never done one of these before, I was excited to apply.

Yes, I would create a party centered around peanut butter, asking my guests to all bring in a dish, appetizer, or dessert featuring this delicious, popular ingredient!

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While it took a couple of weeks to find out if my application was accepted, once it had been, it was only a matter of time before I received my box of free Peter Pan sponsored party supplies from HouseParty.com!

simply-ground-peanut-butter-house-party-pack Inside of the box, I was so thrilled to find basically everything I would need to decorate, sample, and promote the Simply Ground peanut butter products.

My free party pack included a jar of Simply Ground Original peanut butter spread, a jar of Simply Ground Honey Peanut peanut butter spread, a cutting board, a bag of Simply Ground balloons, silver plastic spoons with the sponsor’s name, small snack cups, a lot of coupons (1 for a free jar of peanut butter and several others for $1.00 off), an apron, and tote bags to give away.

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All that was left to do the morning of the party after the previous day’s cleaning was to decorate the house, set up the food and beverage areas, and cook my main dish of Spicy Peanut Chicken, a recipe I found on the Betty Crocker site via my search engine inquiry.

Prior to the party, I had  thought I would need to have games, putting a little pressure on myself to make it oh-so perfect.  But with all of the regular demands and busyness of life and preparation, I never had time to really get any games together…

And you know what?! No one even seemed to notice.

Everyone just enjoyed sitting and chatting together. It was just beautiful how everyone got along so well together.

Simply ground partyFrom family to friends from church to my sweet neighbor (who helped me perfect my spicy peanut chicken recipe which did not originally include peanut butter), everyone just hit it off.

And that’s one thing I love so much about these kinds of times together. It gives everyone the chance to get know each other…People who probably would never even cross each other’s paths in normal life… And even more so, it gives those of us who do know each other the opportunity to become more than just passing acquaintances, giving us more time to get to know each other on a personal level.

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Yes, hosting is definitely something that brings me a lot of joy.

The ability to share my home and a sweet experience with the wonderful people the Lord has surrounded my life with enables us all to get to know each other better, and we can find so much encouragement from each other during these times as well.

Yes, hosting definitely opens up opportunities for building beautiful relationships with others.

And you’ll quickly realize after get-togethers like this that these were definitely important times worth opening up your home for…

Even if it’s an event simply prompted by an opportunity to sample free and delicious Simply Ground peanut butter!

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Celebrate the Ordinary Days- Fall Edition

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September is here and with it comes the anticipation of all things fall. Sweaters, boots, leaves changing colors, and pumpkin flavored everything…. yes, fall is coming.

Here in Florida, we can only imagine what the rest of the world experiences for fall. We live vicariously through Pinterest photos and Hallmark movies and imagine the crisp feel of the air on Thanksgiving.

However, there are so many delightful, ordinary days sprinkled into the months of September through December that it doesn’t matter if our leaves actually turn color and fall in January. We can still enjoy these days along with everyone else who live in the perfect fall climates further north.

Here are some of my upcoming favorite ordinary days (this list is by no means extensive) and how I plan to recognize them in splendid ways or just acknowledge them in passing. After all, that is the beauty of ordinary days.

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September 22- First Day of Fall (We celebrate this day by decorating for the season of fall, not a particular holiday.)

September 23- Native American Day (I have several books about Squanto and Sacajawea that we read at this time)

September 29- Coffee Day (no explanation needed…)

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October 4- Taco Day (Tacos for dinner!)

October 10- Columbus Day (This year we are going to make this Christopher Columbus themed craft.)

October 15- Sweetest Day (Enjoy a sweet treat.)

October 17- Boss’s Day (A good day to show our children how to respect the ones who sign our paychecks.)

October 24- United Nations Day (We will take some time to learn about this organization.)

October 28- National Chocolate Day (Watch the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.)

October 31- Reformation Day (We will be “nailing” the 95 Thesis to our door using tape on the back of the papers and my son’s plastic hammer and learning the Five Solas.)

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November 3- Sandwich Day (This will be easy to celebrate…)

November 8- Election Day (Take your kids with you as you place your vote… and explain to your children that a secret ballot means they are not to announce your choice of candidate to everyone in your voting precinct.)

November 11- Veteran’s Day (Several state parks in our area offer free entrance on this day in exchange for supplies to be made care packages to be sent to our troops- a more than reasonable trade. Find out if any state parks in your area offer this service to you.)

November 15- America Recycles Day (Take note of what you and your children are currently doing to help preserve our environment, and decide what changes could be made to help even further.)

November 24- Thanksgiving

November 26- Small Business Saturday (Look into small businesses in your area that could use a boost during the holiday season.)

November 27- First Day of Advent (Begin celebrating the advent of Jesus and the Christmas season.)

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December 4- Cookie Day (Bake a batch or more of cookies. Package them to be given as gifts for your neighbors, friends, and teachers.

December 7- Pearl Harbor Day (Take some time to reflect on the impact this event had on our country 75 years ago.)

December 15- Bill of Rights Day (Review what the Bill of Rights are and show them Norman Rockwell’s paintings of the Four Freedoms.)

December 20- Last Day of Fall (Get ready! Christmas is around the corner!)

Let’s make fall’s ordinary days a memorable time for our families. 

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Building Monuments

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God loves a good celebration. So much so that He instituted times when His people came together to rejoice with food and symbols to represent what the celebration was for.

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But the celebrations were not meant to be frivolous. They were not meant to be commercialized. These celebrations were meant to be spiritual monuments for the people to look back and remember God’s goodness to them as they made the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. These celebrations were to mark specific moments in time when God showed His provision, protection, love, and mercy to His stubborn, stiff-necked people (Deuteronomy 9:13). These celebrations were to contain lessons that would be passed down from generation to generation so there would never be a generation who did not know the Lord or the things He had done (Judges 2:10).

As I think of my own life, I can remember distinct moments where God showed His hand of provision, protection, love, and mercy on my journey from childhood into adulthood.

He provided a piano for me when my parents could not afford to buy one. (In fact, my family nor I have ever had to buy a piano, but we have almost always had one in our home or access to one since I was 11 years old.)

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He provided the money needed for me to attend college through scholarships, generous gifts from others, and some savings my father had intentionally put aside without the need for college loans.

He protected us from an oncoming tornado when I was 7 years old and caused that tornado to completely turn around and head in a different direction.

His love and mercy allowed my mother to know she would have a granddaughter before she passed away.

His goodness provided for our children so much that we can look at their rooms and count on one hand what we have had to actually purchase for them.

I want these memories to be monuments for my children to see, for them to reflect back on when times get rough in their lives, when they are unsure how the end of the story will turn out. I want to retell these stories to my children so they will not forget them, and so they will have stories to pass down to future generations of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy.

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As I thought of our personal monuments, I realized that underneath the debris of our calendar holidays, there are beautiful monuments for us to refer back to when the going gets rough.

When you pull away the tinsel, the lights, the wrapping paper, the wish lists, and the empty boxes, there is a stable with a sleeping Baby who was given as the greatest Gift humanity has ever received. During those times when we feel that we have nothing, that hope is lost, that life is for those in high position and not for us, that Baby stands as a monument saying, “I was given to you.”

Hidden under the very last strand of shredded, plastic, green grass, eggs, and bunnies is a cross of raw wood that is stained with blood. When we visit that monument we are reminded of how very loved we are- so much that someone was willing to die in our place to carry our burden, and reap the punishment for what we sowed.

Some monuments are built as reminders to us of principles in God’s Word.

Buried under the flowers, chocolate, cards, and paper hearts is a man who, as tradition tells us, defied an emperor in order to keep those in his flock from breaking God’s law.

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Journey past the rainbows, the leprechauns, the pots of gold, and shamrocks and you will find a young English boy, kidnapped by pirates, and taken to Ireland to be a slave. Despite his circumstances he prayed to God one hundred times a day, escaped his captors, and eventually went back to Ireland as a missionary to reach the people he had grown to love for Christ.

Travel through the fields of cornucopias, feathers, black and white garb, and gaze upon the monuments of a small band of pilgrims who are celebrating what only the hand of God could have brought about and done.

I want the “holidays” to be more than just a stressful time filled with rushed trips to the stores, receipts, and commercialism.

I want these days to be “holy days”- days that turn our focus to God and His goodness towards humanity.

I want my children to visit these monuments yearly, not with the expectation of temporary trinkets they may receive, but with the expectation of receiving the long-lasting gift of hope these monuments stand for.

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One of my favorite books is Jerusalem Jackson Greer’s book, A Homemade Year. In it, she lists dates that are significant to the history of the Christian Church at large- spiritual monuments. Days that I usually breeze by as I go about my year have a spiritual significance and lesson to teach me and my children. Days that I would have scheduled a doctor’s appointment or a library trip were monuments meant to turn our hearts towards the Lord.

Many of these dates are not on our calendars.

They are probably not even on the radars of marketers.

But these dates are there, and they are a gift. Not just to me, but to my family as well. They are days that I have an opportunity to use as monuments for my family. Monuments with a beautiful history that my family can look back to and remember God’s goodness in the past and His promised faithfulness in the future.

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The Beauty of Ordinary Days

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I have grown to love July 5 through Labor Day weekend.

There is nothing special about those days, nothing flashy, nothing that takes our breath away.

As much as I love holidays and making those days special for my family, there is something about those two months in the summer that has become precious to me.

They’re ordinary.

For me, these are the slow days.

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The days when we don’t have to leave the house… or we can if we choose to.

These are the days when trips to the beach with a picnic lunch are for more than a tan. They are refreshing to the soul.

These are the days that bring us peace before the storm of back-to-school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

These are the days that Pinterest has not affected… yet. There are no articles on how to make these days spectacular, to decorate your home for them, or to throw elaborate parties for them.

These are the days of solitude. The days when we stay close to our immediate family before schedules pick up and send us flying in different directions. Days when we stay home without the worry of letting others down.

These are the days when our children can play to their hearts’ content without the pressure of being rushed here and there.

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But it was not always this way for me. As Jerusalem Jackson Greer says in her book, A Homemade Year, “Embracing the ordinary is something I had to learn.”

I had fallen into the pattern of thinking that I wasn’t giving my children everything they deserve. I felt that keeping them busy, always with something to do, somewhere to go, or someone to see, was going to give them the best childhood experience I could offer.

Then one day, my four year old asked what we were doing that day. I listed what I had planned, so proud of myself that I was giving him so many experiences. He looked at me and said, “But I want to stay home.”

It never occurred to me that my children didn’t need or want all of these experiences.

We began to cut back our activities significantly. “Less is more,” as my husband always says. No more trips to the summer movies. No more library classes. No summer art classes at a local craft store.

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Instead, we filled our time seeing family, going to the beach, and swimming at my sister’s community pool.

We watched Netflix.

Happy messes were made and left for a day or two (anyone who knows me knows this was a huge step for me).

We colored… I colored, too.

The ordinary, the mundane became beautiful.

And I saw why God instituted the day of rest (Genesis 2:2-3).

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Life is busy. There are schedules to keep, appointments to be made, work deadlines, school events, and it doesn’t ever seem to end. Unless we make a point of taking a time to rest, to refresh ourselves, to bring quiet to our souls, and give ourselves space to hear from God.

As it turns out, our summer was not boring, and when special days came up (like an unexpected trip to Legoland for one of the kids), they were extraordinary!

As the school year picks up, my heart feels a tinge of sadness. I know that schedules will resume, activities will find their way onto the calendar, and life will start chugging along at a rapid pace again.

But I have learned over this summer, that I can limit the appointments, the activities, the busyness, and we can continue to enjoy ordinary days throughout the year.

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Don’t Be a Football Widow

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football-widow It is coming up very quickly!

What is IT, ask?

Football season, of course!

If your husband is like mine, then he starts gearing up for football season in April when the NFL holds its 3 day draft. He is on at least one or two Fantasy Football leagues, watches footage on his favorite players and the draftees as everyone is in training camp, and takes special notice of how these new players will work well with the veteran players….

or it might be that my husband is the only one like this……

So what is a girl to do?

I have two choices. I can sulk, sigh, pout, plan events on the days of his much anticipated football related events, and treat him and his hobby like they are worthless or….

I can join him!

That’s right, ladies! You heard me!

Join him!

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Usually, I sit with him (or do something in the living room where our main TV is) during the 3 days of the NFL draft (after the kids have gone down for the night). I enjoy the back stories of the players, the red carpet walk, and I cry along with them when their lives change because of one phone call.

I help him host the Fantasy Draft at our home every year. I enjoy opening our home and turning our dining room and living room into a war room for 4 hours. Picking up the pizza and helping with the flow chart has been my job since I was pregnant with Addie 9 years ago.

I have found the dates for the free evening practices at Raymond James Stadium so we can go as a family (all of us sporting our Tampa Bay Buccaneers colors).

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I try to watch the televised games when I am not rounding up one of our stray Buccaneers, or I give him the time and space to watch without interruption.

We make an event out of the Superbowl, whether our team is there or not.

I have even joined all female fantasy football leagues in the past.

Why?

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Oh, darling! What a fabulous question!

Because……

……this is the one thing that my husband enjoys as a hobby (and believe me, there are worse things out there that he could be involved in).

……he is self-sacrificing for his family and only asks for the 16 games in the fall to enjoy (5 months of football season….. only Sundays…… some Monday nights…… occasionally Thursday nights….. but at least he is home!)

……I love him, and I want him to know that I love every aspect of him (he is absolutely brilliant and has such a sports mind. He amazes me!)

There are other ways to make football season memorable and fun for you and your honey. If you have never been there, check out the Dating Divas website. It’s full of wonderful ideas for keeping you close during football season.

Make this his best football season ever.

He will thank you for it.

Originally posted here at The Joy of Homemaking.

Celebrate the Ordinary Days

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Making ordinary days special for my family has always been a goal for me.  In fact, one of my goals when I first became a mom was to make life wonderful for my family. Not just the big days, but more importantly, the little days- the days that no one else but us would see and know about.

Then I began noticing that there were “special” days everywhere. National Popcorn Day. National Donut Day. National Hot Dog Day. And my personal favorite, National Coffee Day!

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I like that  there are special days because it makes ordinary days just a bit more special. I am the mom who makes the popcorn, gets the free donuts (with the purchase of a beverage…. and then my donut is not so free anymore), makes hot dogs on that particular night, and takes her kids out in the pouring rain to get the coffee (because coffee makes my world go around).

Yet, those were not the only special days that I wanted to create for my family.

I wanted to make the ordinary days special- the special days that do not show up on the calendar.

I wanted to purposefully plan to make a regular Tuesday special by planning ahead a simple but memorable activity for my kids to look back on.

I wanted to plan ahead for a special time for my husband and I to enjoy after the kids had gone to bed.

So I did.

I began thinking about ways to make some of our ordinary days special. These are just a few ideas to get you started on making ordinary days special for your family.

  • Donut Day- Get your donut and then read your littles the book If You Give a Dog a Donut while you eat your donuts.
  • Chick-Fil-A Cow Appreciation Day- It is so much fun to dress up for your lunch or dinner! Pull out the paint, the old t-shirts, and some construction paper and make an event of going to your local Chick-Fil-A. special-days
  • American Girl Girl of the Year movie premier- If your little girl is a fan of AG like mine is, the date of the movie premier can turn an ordinary day into something special. We tend to make a girly afternoon of it. I pull out my nail polishes, curlers, hair straightener, curling iron, and then I paint my daughter’s nails and do her hair. She picks out a cute outfit complete with as many accessories as she wants, and we watch the movie together.
  • Beach Day- One benefit of living in Florida is the nearness and accessibility to beaches. The surf and sand have a way of making any ordinary day special. Pack a light lunch such as fruits, cheese sticks, pretzels, trail mix, plenty of water, and sunscreen and let them play. Sometimes we bring beach toys, sometimes we don’t.  ordinary-days
  • National Puppy Day- Do you have a dog? We don’t. But we can still celebrate National Puppy Day by going to a pet store and playing with the puppies.
  • Ring in the Olympics- There are so many ways to make the Olympics a special time for our families. We make our own torch, and, during the opening ceremonies, we have our very own torch relay. This time around, we have also chosen a particular sport to follow (gymnastics) and particular athlete to root for (Gabby Douglas). special-days
  • Cookie Day- As a little girl, every year, our mom would take one day around Christmas to do nothing but bake cookies. One year, we baked 500 cookies. Then we gave those cookies to others in our church as gifts.
  • First Day of Each Season- It doesn’t have to be anything special, but commemorating the first day of each season can make that day special. For the first day of spring, we love going to Rita’s for a free ice. On the first day of fall, we decorate our home for fall- adding autumn colored leaves to our arrangements and decorative greenery, pulling out our previously made fall crafts, and even some of our Thanksgiving items. For the first day of summer we enjoy going to the beach, and on the first day of winter, we typically celebrate Snowman Day (mentioned below).
  • Snowman Day- Here in Florida, my kids can only dream of snow, so snowmen are an impossibility for us…. or are they? We made an entire day based on snowmen, complete with homemade snowman shirts, snowman shaped pizza, have a “snowball fight” made of crumpled paper towels, and then collecting all of our paper owls on white garbage bags to build a snowman. You can see more of our first Snowman Day in this Smilebox slideshow.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make an ordinary day more than just a day.

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