Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fun to Make Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments

Fun To Make Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments or Package Decor

Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
Hello everyone, I’m Courtney. I hope you’re ready for AWESOME Christmas kids craft!
You can find me over at Crafts by Courtney where I blog about kids and home decor crafts with someDIY party inspiration!  I’m very excited to be guest posting over here at Simple as That for the talented Rebecca!
I was super excited when Rebecca asked me to guest post over here at her amazing blog. I really wanted to pick the perfect project for her readers. I thought why not a kids craft!! I have three boys so I’ve become a professional on kids crafts, LOL!
Plus I love working on projects with the kids and Christmas is right around the corner.
I did several Christmas ornament crafts with the kids last year and they were a hit. I’ve been stocking up on paper straws this year and I’ve really been wanting to use them for a project.
  • Decorative paper straws
  • Hot glue gun
  • Star punch or sticker
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors
Getting Started
Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
I rounded up all my Christmas-y looking decorative straws and the kids to get started on this project. I think we were all excited about this craft!
Step 1 – Create Back of Tree
Your are going to need two paper straws for the back of your tree. Add a little hot glue (with parents supervision of course) to the back to keep the straws together.
Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
Step 2 – Create Your Tree
Now it’s time to start putting your tree together!
Start off by adding the top of your tree, we cut our first straw about the same width as the two green straws. Then leaving a little more to the ends as we added for straws down the tree.
Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
Each straw we added a little hot glue to the back. My six year old was able to do this party by himself.
Step 3 – Trim Your Tree Trunk
Next your going to cut off any extra at the bottom of your tree trunk.
Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
Step 4 – Add Your Star
I pulled out my “trusty” star punch and some glittery paper. We hot glued on our star for the top of the tree.
Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
I think the glittery star finishes the tree off perfectly, don’t ya think?!
Step 5 – Add Ribbon
Finally we needed to add our ribbon so we can hang our ornaments up on the tree. We picked out a simple white and hot glued that into place as well.
Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
Finishing Touches
Now we are ready to hang our cute and super easy ornaments on the Christmas tree!! We really had a blast working on them together.  I really think these paper straw Christmas trees are adorable.
Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
Paper Straw Christmas Tree Ornaments
I want to give Rebecca a BIG thank you for letting me guest post for her blog today!
I really had a great time talking with her and getting the post ready. I hope you all can find some great holiday inspiration here and make some special memories with your kids.
Working on projects with your kids are great ways to have fun together and create beautiful long lasting memories together. And now you’ll have a special keepsake to pull out every year to decorate the tree with.
If you’d like to keep up with all my craftiness, be sure to follow me on my socials:
Thanks for reading and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday's Jewelry Spotlight features Wild Woman Beads by Meredith Jordan

This Tuesday's Jewelry Spotlight features the shop Wild Woman Beads by Meredith Jordan

A Passion for Creating Beauty!
Ten or so years ago, I discovered and began to collect beautiful artisan lampwork beads. In time, the beads took on a life of their own and started coming to me in dreams, showing me how they were meant to be put together into earrings, bracelets and necklaces. I took this as a sign that it was time to ease out of the business of counseling and into the business of making beauty.

Working on simple projects where making beauty was the objective (rather than selling or marketing my work), I re-discovered joy, color, fun and, well, whimsy. 

Beading became a meditation and, in many ways, a spiritual practice. My spirit was lighter, my life filled with more grace, tranquility, peace and serenity. 

For a long time I worked quietly and privately at developing as an artist. One piece sold here, another there, and soon others were asking about and following my journey from therapist to artist. Not only was I counseling women and men who wanted to make fearless career leaps from stressful workplaces and situations, but I was modeling a leap of faith as well.

A decade later, my life as an artist has taken wing. Oh, I still love working with clients, teaching, gardening and all the other ways I make beauty come alive in the world around me. I have a versatile and interesting life. But creating the wearable jewelry art of Wild Woman Beads seems like my destiny, and I am grateful to have found it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ready for the Weekend Recipes: Simple Shepherd's Pie


Simple Shepherd's Pie

Simple Shepherd's Pie
It doesn't get simpler than this easy ground beef casserole, otherwise known as a Shepherd's pie. This classic favorite never gets old with my family. Make up some Simple Shepherd's Pie for a wonderful weeknight meal.
Cooking Time: 45 min
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • garlic powder and seasoning salt to taste
  • 3/4 ounce package brown gravy mix
  • 2 cans (10 3/4-ounce) cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup frozen sliced carrots, thawed
  • 10 ounces package frozen peas, thawed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 to 3 cups potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
  • paprika to taste
Watch How to Make Fisher® Nuts Pecan Pie
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Brown beef and onion in a skillet; season to taste with garlic powder and seasoning salt. Drain; pour into a large bowl.
  3. Stir in gravy mix, soup, water, carrots and peas; mix well.
  4. Spoon into a greased 9 inch deep-dish pie plate; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread mashed potatoes over top; bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika.


Thursday, November 13, 2014



 Submitted by 
If you’re looking for some fun turkey crafts to make, you’ve hit the jackpot! We’ve collected over 170 turkey crafts for toddlers, preschoolers and older kids too! We’ve selected ten of our favorites below, but you can find all 170+ turkey crafts right here.
Over 170 Turkey Crafts for Kids to Make
  1. Rainbow Turkey
  2. Paint Chip Peacocks or Turkeys
  3. Paper Plate Turkeys
  4. Family Handprint Turkey
  5. Thanksgiving Sock Turkey
  6. Paper Plate Turkey Hat
  7. Leaf Art Turkey Magnets
  8. Thanksgiving Turkey Treats
  9. Mason Jar Turkey
  10. Turkey Utensil Holders

Monday, November 10, 2014

20 Healthy Holiday Treats

20 Healthy Holiday Treats

As soon as the weather starts to coolI start thinking about healthy holiday treats! The thing isI can make fruit salad for the family and they will be happy, but with office parties, get-togethers with friends, school parties etc., I feel like there’s a party every week. I need easy ideas for holiday party treats that aren’t candy!
healthy holiday treats 20 Healthy Holiday Treats
So, I decided I need to be prepared this year. Check out these 20 healthy holiday treats everyone will love.

 20 Healthy (But Still Yummy) Holiday Treats:

  1. Strawberry Santas are so totally adorable. Plus they taste amazing!
  2. Frozen Yogurt Trees are good for those of us who live where it’s still warm at Christmas time! (Like here in Texas, y’all!)
  3. I think these Snowman Popcorn Cups are just the cutest things ever.
  4. You can make the cutest little Santa’s Belly with Babybel Cheese.
  5. Or you can even make Santa’s face. Seriously, who knew Babybel cheese was so versatile?
  6. These little Snowman Cheese Sticks are super cute at a party, but I also just stick them in my daughters’s lunch every once in a while for an extra treat!
  7. Of course if you’re extra fancy, you can always fix a batch of these Spinach Artichoke Frittata Trees. (Side note: I really like saying frittata.)
  8. Make a little grinch fruit kabob. These are totally adorable!
  9. We always make this Reindeer Pretzel Candy and hand it out to the neighbors!
  10. But we also LOVE these little snowmen pretzels and can’t wait to make these this year!20 healthy holiday treats 20 Healthy Holiday Treats
  11. Snowy Chocolate Pine Cones are like, sort of healthy because they’re made with Fiber One. :)
  12. This little bento Christmas tree would be the perfect after-school and now the holidays are starting snack!
  13. Or you could make a little reindeer sandwich instead. I kind of want to eat a reindeer sandwich.
  14. I love everything candy cane. Including this totally adorable Candy Cane Jell-O snack!
  15. I like to serve these Santa crackers to little guests. (I use turkey pepperoni.) They love them so much!holiday treats 20 Healthy Holiday Treats
  16. I let the kids make their own banana snowmen. It’s tasty AND a great activity for kids!
  17. I love these little snowman milk jugs! So easy and your kids will just be drinking MILK!
  18. Make a Christmas tree fruit plate for everyone to enjoy. Who doesn’t love a fruit plate?
  19. Christmas tree pita snacks could totally be a whole lunch! Yum!
  20. Or you can even make Christmas Tree watermelon wedges. Adorbs.
I love the idea of a healthier Christmas this year. Maybe I won’t need to make as many New Year’s Resolutions!

Friday, October 31, 2014



Spaghetti Squash Sausage Lasagna Boats

If you're craving something decadent and delicious without overdoing the calories, you'll love these delicious spaghetti squash boats filled with everything you love about lasagna – chicken sausage, tomato sauce, ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

I even used whole milk mozzarella cheese because I wanted it to melt nice, I just used it in moderation. The whole thing is way under 300 calories and 8 points plus if you're on Weight Watchers, and it's filling! It's also gluten free – if you prefer to use part-skim mozzarella, the WW Points would be 7 pp.

Spaghetti squash when cooked has a lot of liquid, so I find it helpful to place it in a colander over paper towels to help get red of the excess moisture and it works perfectly.

You can prep this ahead of time, then put it on the oven just before you're ready to bake. If you happen to only find large spaghetti squash, you can place the mixture in a 9x9 baking dish instead of the shells. Enjoy!!

Spaghetti Squash Sausage Lasagna Boats
Servings: 6 • Size: 1 boat • Old Points: 7 pts • Points+: 8 pts
Calories: 246 • Fat: 13 g • Protein: 17 g • Carb: 17 g • Fiber: 2 g • Sugar: 7 g
Sodium: 701 mg • Cholesterol: 71 mg


  • 3 small to medium spaghetti squash (about 5 cups cooked)
  • salt and fresh pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley (or basil)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk shredded mozzarella cheese

For the sauce:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14 oz Italian chicken sausage
  • 14 oz (1/2 can) crushed tomatoes (I prefer Tuttorosso) 
  • salt and fresh pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil


Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and membrane. Season lightly with salt and black pepper; bake about 1 hour, or longer if needed on a baking sheet, cut side down. 
If you prefer the microwave, cut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and fibers and place on a microwave safe dish and cover. Microwave 8-9 minutes or until soft.

In a small bowl combine the ricotta cheese, 2 tbsp parmesan cheese and parsley.

In a large deep sauté pan, heat oil and add onions and garlic; sauté on medium-low for about 3 to 4 minutes, until soft. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces until browned and cooked through. When cooked, add the crushed tomatoes and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add the bay leaf and cover, reducing heat to low. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes, then add in fresh basil at the very end.

When spaghetti squash is cooked, let it cool for about 10 minutes keeping the oven on. If you microwaved this, preheat the oven to 400°F.

When the spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to remove flesh, which will come out in spaghetti looking strands reserving the shells. Drain the squash on a paper towel to soak up any excess liquid, then toss with half of the sauce. Place the spaghetti squash back into the 6 shells and place on a baking sheet.

Top each with remaining sauce, 1 tbsp ricotta cheese mixture, and 2 tbsp mozzarella cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes or until everything is hot and the cheese is melted.

Thursday, October 30, 2014



70+ {Awesome} Homemade Toys You Can Make for Your Kids

Over 70 awesome toys that you can make for the kids in your life!

70+ Homemade Toys to Make for Kids

70+ Homemade Toys to Make for Kids

With Christmas approaching I’ve been busy, rounding up homemade gift ideas. Recently, I wrote this post, sharing a dozens of really awesome homemade gifts that kids can make for grown-ups, and then there’s this one – homemade gifts grown-ups can make for kids. I got a little carried away because, holy cow, there are a TON of homemade toy ideas floating around on the internet. Toys for babies, toddler toys, toys for preschool boys and girls. Toys made from old furniture or from items in your recycle bin, toys made from stuff you already have around the house, and toys made from inexpensive thrift shop finds.
All in all, I’ve rounded up over 70 homemade kids’ toys that you can totally make at home. Whether you’re looking for a toy you can sew, craft or build for the child in your life, you’re sure to find inspiration in this collection. Enjoy!
All of these toys are fairly easy and inexpensive to make.  Some are knock-offs of brand name toys, and some of these toy ideas are truly original.  One thing is certain – they’re all perfect if you like to give kids handmade gifts at Christmas, birthdays or any day!
homemade lacing activities to make for kidsjpg

 Homemade Lacing Toys:

These simple lacing frames are easy to make and great for helping little ones develop their fine motor skills.  - Babble Dabble Do
Shaped foam lacers are easy for little hands to grip and a fun way to practice threading skills.  - Powerful Mothering
I adore this all-natural, stick threading game by Mini Eco.
homemade felt toys to make for toddlers

Homemade Felt Toys for Toddlers:

Here’s a soft and colourful way for toddlers to explore the alphabet: stuffed, hand-sewn felt letters by Buggy and Buddy.
Make a no-sew, alphabet pocket chart to help little ones learn their letters. – Lalymom
I see countless hours of creating and re-creating here with this gorgeous potato head felt set. – jocelynandjasonblogspot
Sensory boards to make for the toddlers

DIY Activity boards for the playroom or classroom:

Babies and toddlers will LOVE exploring all the textures and gadgets on these awesome sensory boards by Fun at Home with Kids.
Make a latch board like Domesticesq did with random bits and bobs from the work shop or hardware store.
My boys would’ve LOVED a life-sized dashboard  like this one made from used parts. – And Next Comes L
easy dollhouses to make for kids

Upcycled Homemade Dollhouses:

Got cardboard? Handmade Charlotte shares 6 ways to make a dollhouse out of a cardboard box. 
Mama Papa Bubba shows you how she and her daughter made this simple but beautifuldollhouse from an inexpensive bookshelf. 
Check out how Roadkill Rescue turned an old dresser into a larger-than-life Barbie house. Handy storage drawer in the bottom!
Upcycle the drawers from an old bedside table into this adorably charming dollhouse by Semi Proper.
homemade stamps for kids

Homemade Stamps:

6 ways to make homemade stamps for toddlers using common household items. – Happy Hooligans
Help your little one learn to spell his name with this simple homemade name stamp by Mama Papa Bubba.
Decorate homemade cards, wrapping paper or fabric projects with this spring flower wine-cork stamp.  Happy Hooligans
Kids can make imprints in play dough with these rustic tree block stamps by Two-da-loo.
kids toys made from upcycled furniture

Toys from upcycled furniture:

I adore this workbench/tool station that The Frugal Granny made from an old bedside table.
How about this AMAZING upcycle?  A deluxe play kitchen made from an old tv/entertainment cabinet! – Giggleberry Creations
Fresh Crush transformed a night-stand into a play kitchen for about $30 using cast-offs and inexpensive accessories.
homemade toys to make for baby

Homemade toys for babies:

Turn your recyclables into a variety of colourful, fine-motor toys for babies and young toddlers. The Imagination Tree
Crafts on Sea has a homemade tag blanket that will delight babies with its crinkling sound and soft, satiny tags.
Childhood 101 shows you how to turn your family photos into a cloth baby book for your little one to enjoy.
homemade toys to make with socks

Homemade Sock Toys:

Attempting Aloha transforms a sock into a glamorous hobby-horse that any little rider would love.
Turn a sock into an adorable baby rattle with some stuffing and a few simple stitches. – Homemade by Jill
toys to make from your recycle bin

Toys from the Recycle Bin:

An empty plastic bottle + 3 basic kitchen ingredients = a mesmerizing “ocean in a bottle”. – Happy Hooligans
Kids who love to build will enjoy this homemade construction set made from a few pieces of sturdy cardboard – Happy Hooligans
Teach shapes, colours, letters and numbers with this cardboard box turned drop box.  The kids have been using ours for years.
Outdoor toys to make for kids

Homemade Toys for Outdoors:

It would be so dreamy to spend an afternoon reading in one of these Hula Hoop Hideouts. – Alanna George
Ok, I totally want to hang out on this DIY water blob by Homemade Toast.  Bonus:  It’s leak-proof!
Check out how Dyan turned a few dollar-store shower curtains into this awesome toddler parachute. – And Next Comes L
quiet books to make for kids

Homemade Quiet Books:

A quiet book is perfect for those times when you need to keep your kids busy… and quiet. I lovethis no-sew version by Powerful Mothering.
This busy book by Mouse House has “pages” of colourful quiet activities to keep little hands busy and learning.
homemade activity boards to make for kids

Homemade Activity Boards:

Turn an inexpensive oil-drip pan into a gigantic magnet board for the playroom or classroom. – Mama Miss
Make an outdoor easel for your kids to get artsy and creative with in the backyard. – Fantastic Fun and Learning
See how Mama Papa Bubba quickly turned an inexpensive frame into a homemade felt board.
*Want to know an easy way to cut your own felt pieces for your felt board?  Check out this awesome felt-cutting tutorial by Juggling with Kids.
homemade dolls toys to make for kids

Homemade Doll Toys:

Make a fabric doll sling for your little one to carry her babies around in. – Mama Smiles
Check out this whimsical family of wooden spoon dolls decorated by Jess Quinn.
Paint up a set of wooden alphabet dolls for play and learning. – No Time for Flashcards
homemade play doughs to make and give
This really is the best-ever play dough!  It keeps for months, so it’s perfect to make ahead and give as a gift.  - The Imagination Tree
Did you know you can make your own silly putty? - Coffee Cups and Crayons shows us how.

hopscotch toys to make for kidsHomemade Indoor Hopscotch:

I had fun making this homemade cardboard hopscotch.  Laying the tiles out helps the hooligans with their number recognition and ordering skills.
Make a new-sew hopscotch mat that you can roll up and tuck away when not in use.  There are games on the reverse side too!  - A girl with a Glue Gun
forts to make for kids

Homemade Forts and Tents:

Set up a 5-minute teepee in the backyard!  What a magical place for a little one to spend a summer afternoon. – Mama Papa Bubba
For those of you who like to sew, Cakies shows you how to make a simple A-frame tent for the kids to use indoors or out.

homemade puzzles to make for kidsHomemade Puzzles for Toddlers:

Adventure in a Box shows you how to make a wooden name puzzle for your child.  You’ll have this lovely keepsake for years.
Turn a set of wooden blocks and some family photos into these nifty, interchangeable people puzzles. – Meaningful Mama

gross motor toys to make for kids

Homemade Toys for Gross Motor Development:

See how Hello Wonderful turned a skateboard deck into homemade balance board to help develop core and large-motor strength.
Build a set of simple wood block stompers.  They can be used at two different heights depending on the age of your child. – I Can Teach My Child
This bucket and rope contraption was free to make, and it’s provided hundreds of hours of open-ended play here in our backyard.
colour and texture blocks to make for kids

Homemade Coloured and Textured Blocks:

Fun with Kids at Home shows us how to easily add a pop of vibrant colour to a set of plain wooden blocks.  So gorgeous!
Babies and toddlers will love exploring the colours and textures of these homemade sensory blocks. – Fireflies and Mudpies
$3 bucks, a trip to the dollar-store, and some hot-glue will get you this fab set of coloured light blocks. -And Next Comes L
homemade fine motor toys

Fine Motor Toys to Make for Kids:

colourful button snake is easy to make and helps little ones develop their fine motor and buttoning skills. – Happy Hooligans
Put together a sewing basket  filled with lots of goodies for a preschooler to explore and practice early sewing skills with.
I just love Crayon Box Chronicles’ homemade geo board.  Little ones can sharpen their fine motor skills while learning about shapes and geometry with rubber bands or fabric loops.
toys to make with stones for kids

Stones for Play:

Make an adorable stone tic-tac-toe game to match your child’s favourite colours, like this one from Eighteen 25.
Paint up a set of non-traditional, rock dominoes for the kids to play and learn with. – Childcareland Blog
Story Stones are fun and easy to make, and great for narrative play, and developing story-telling skills. – Happy Hooligans
Alphabet stones are perfect for a game of outdoor “hangman” or to simply teach your child their letters through open-ended play.
homemade roadway toys to make for  kids

Homemade Toys for Car-Loving Kids:

Turn your old jeans into fabric roads!  Easy to make, and to stash in the diaper bag when you’re going out. – Lil Mop Top
Visit Picklebums to get these free, printable roads.  Your kids can build a whole city!
Buggy and Buddy painted up a set of simple wooden roads and ramps for her son.  Think of the hours of fun these would provide.
If you love to sew, this amazing car mat would be a super project and keepsake to make for your child or grandchild. – Homemade by Jill
play kitchen toys2

Homemade Play Kitchen Toys:

And Next Comes L has some great felt food ideas that you can make for your child’s play kitchen.
Turn a package of inexpensive kitchen sponges into colourful foam cakes and cookies like the ones Inner Child Fun made.
LOVE this!  Turn a plastic storage container into a pretend cook-top.  Store the baking instruments inside! – And Next Comes L
homemade light tables to make for kids
Make an inexpensive, portable light box using a kitchen storage container and an LED light.  Store the toys inside!
And Next Comes L shows you how to turn a basic pegboard into a light bright game for your home or classroom.
Want a full-size light table for much less than it costs to buy one? Check out this step-by-step tutorial from And Next Comes L.
homemade blocks to make for kids

More homemade blocks to make:

I love these colourful magnetic blocks that You Clever Monkey made for their magnet board.
How inviting are these Waldorf-inspired nature blocks that Adventure in a Box made.  What a lovely way to build and create.
And last, but not least:  take your block building into a new dimension (literally) with a set of these homemade velcro blocks by Chasing Cheerios.

Want more homemade toy and game inspiration?

And there you have it!  No shortage of inspiration for your crafty-lovin’, toy-making heart!  If you are, however, looking for even MORE homemade toys and games to make, head on over to my Homemade Toys and Games Pinboard.  You’ll find loads of ideas there.