The Candy Turkey

There are tons of ways you can deal with the insane amount of candy your child is likely to come home with during the month of October. Even if you don’t trick-or-treat, there are school functions, birthday parties, and fall festivities, all of which seem gung-ho on watching kids get a sugar buzz. Some families “sell” their candy to the dentist. Some send it to the military troops overseas. Some parents let their kids do a one-hour binge, eating as much as they can before the timer runs out, then tossing the rest in the trash.

We have a candy turkey.

TurkeyThe Candy Turkey is a sneaky dude. He loves Halloween candy, and only lets the girls eat one piece a day… but he’s hidden it somewhere in the house and makes them figure out a clue (written on the back of each one of his feathers) in order to get it. But he only does this until Thanksgiving, when he makes a mad dash out of the house before we eat him for dinner. ūüôā

If you’re looking for a fun way to ration out that Halloween candy, provide practice for your child’s deductive¬†skills, and teach them how to be thankful, this is a great way to do it!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Paper – I use a mix of solid cardstock and patterned scrapbook paper
  • Glue
  • Permanent marker
  • Ink pen

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Here’s how to make your candy turkey:

  1. Cut out your pieces
    You’ll need one feather for each day leading up to (and including) Thanksgiving, a body, beak, eyes, and the wattle – that’s the dangly thing hanging from the turkey’s beak. ūüôā
  2. IMG_2680Make your cheat sheet
    I¬†always plan out all my hiding places in advance so that I don’t repeat any during the month, and I write them down on a “cheat sheet.” This¬†also makes it easier for the Candy Turkey to know where he’s supposed to hide the candy each day.
  3. IMG_2677Write out your clues
    Number the back of each feather, and write the clue you want on the back below the number. It’s up to you how tricky you want the clues to be! I recommend keeping your words near the top of the feather, since you’ll need to glue at the bottom.
  4. IMG_2684Assemble the face
    Glue the eyes (don’t forget to draw the pupils!), beak, and wattle to the front of your turkey.
  5. IMG_2681Glue on the feathers
    Turn your turkey over. Beginning with the highest numbered feathers (in this case 21-27), glue them around the back of the turkey so that the written clues are on the back. These are the clues you’ll be pulling off last, so you’ll want them closest to his body.
  6. IMG_2685Layer your feathers
    Keep using the highest numbers first – around the back of your turkey so that when you are finished the lowest numbers (clues 1, 2, etc.) will be the top layer.

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And here he is!

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Each day, pull off the number that corresponds to the current date (November 1st, pull off feather 1, etc.). Read the clue on the back and send your kiddo(s) off on a candy hunt!

When our girls find their candy we use the opportunity to say a little prayer of thanks to God for something related to where the candy was hidden. Under the pillow? Thank you, God, for a warm bed to sleep in at night. In the bathtub? Thank you, God, for the clean water in our home. In the carseat? Thank you, God, for keeping us safe as we ride in the car.

And there you go – an educational and fun way to spread out that sugar – and practice thankfulness too! ūüôā

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My Blue Pumpkin

Teal PumpkinI cannot imagine what life must be like with a food allergy. Or even worse – being the parent of a child with a food allergy. It is estimated that 15 million Americans have a food allergy of some sort.¬†Thankfully, no one in my family possess any true allergy to anything, food-related or otherwise. But I have friends who deal with this, and it’s made me extremely aware of how limiting a food allergy can be.

Take Halloween, for instance. Tons and tons of candy being handed out by the handfuls, and since large percentage of it is made with milk or nuts (or is processed among candies with milk or nuts), most of it becomes taboo for kids with food allergies.

Enter the Teal Pumpkin Project.

Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) is hoping to start a new tradition this Halloween, one that encourages families to add a teal pumpkin to the front of their home, indicating that they offer non-food items for any trick-or-treaters with food allergies. The goal is to raise food allergy awareness as well as promote safety and inclusion, making this a fun holiday for all who wish to participate.

As I have friends with food allergies, our home will be eagerly participating in this new tradition. We’ve already spray-painted¬†our teal pumpkin (teal is the color of food allergy awareness), and we’ll be printing a sign to put beside it so that families will know that they can request a non-edible treat at our house. Of course, we also plan to have a bowl of candy for the kids who are able to eat it without worry… but why not make the night a little more fun for those kids who do have to worry? ūüôā

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Here are some suggestions of¬†non-food goodies that you could hand out – just be sure to keep them in a separate bowl from the candy to avoid cross-contamination. ūüôā

glow sticks
bubbles
stickers
tattoos
erasers
pencils
crayons
bouncy balls
notepads
mini containers of Play-Doh

IMG_2235I know my friend is super excited about this new tradition, and I’m thrilled that there’s something easy that I can do to show my support.

Besides¬†– why wouldn’t I want a pumpkin on my porch that reminds me of Tiffany’s?
ūüėČ

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Painting a Pumpkin Plaid

Want a super easy way to Fall-ify a pumpkin? Paint it plaid!

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 9.22.23 PMOkay, okay. I know pumpkins are already pretty Fall-y, and I’ll give God his due props for creating such an awesome fruit. I just love the squat shapes and bumpy surfaces of pumpkins – all those ridges and grooves, the short little stems, the flat bottoms. And don’t get me started on all that fabulously slimy goo inside.

The girls and I always paint a few small pumpkins every October, and this year I decided that it might be fun to have a little fall plaid to jazz up the dining room table. So while they attacked their pumpkins (Julia went for solid lilac and Emily worked in stripes and polka-dots), I went to work on mine.

Plaid is super easy to do! You just need four different paint colors in fall shades; two in lighter tones and two in darker. And, of course, some paintbrushes and a pumpkin. ūüôā I just used what I had in my craft stash – the brown and deep orange are the darker colors and the yellow and yellow-orange are the lighter.

IMG_1736Start with the vertical grooves on the pumpkin. Choose one of the lighter colors and use the grooves to help you paint vertical stripes on the surface.

IMG_1739Then, using one of the darker colors, paint vertical stripes between the light vertical stripes. Let the vertical stripes dry.

IMG_1741Once dry, take the second light¬†color and, beginning at the stem, paint a circle around the stem on the surface of the pumpkin. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect!¬†Continue painting circles around the pumpkin horizontally, alternating between the second dark color and the second light color.

IMG_1745Let it dry, and you’ve got yourself a cute little plaid pumpkin! I’m seriously thinking of making another one of these for the front porch – larger though, of course! ūüôā

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Halloween Costumes

*During the month of October I am participating in the 31 Days writing challenge, writing a post a day on calendar activities for preschoolers.¬†But for those of you who are¬†regular followers of my blog (thank you!), I still want to bring you posts on other topics. Thanks for sticking with me! ‚̧

Here’s how Halloween costume choosing works in our house: if you are under the age of 3, Mommy gets to pick your costume. If you are over the age of 3, Mommy has to suck it up and go with whatever you choose. ¬†This does not mean that Mommy won’t try to talk you out of the costume, using logic, weather patterns, pricetags, or the ever-popular “Mommy veto,” but it does mean that, once approved, Mommy will¬†suck it up and let you¬†get that costume.

From years 1-3, Emily was a pea pod, a pink leopard, and Little Red Riding Hood (one of my all-time favs).¬†And Emily was not a fan of any of them. Although, in all fairness, the pea pod couldn’t possibly have been the least bit comfortable. The pink leopard was not too bad, but the tail drove her crazy and she hated¬†wearing the hood. Durnit. She didn’t mind Little Red, since it looked like a dress, but again, I couldn’t get her to wear the hood that kinda sealed up her character. That was the year I became infatuated with matching the candy basket to the costume, a habit that still holds strong to this day.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.00.43 PMAfter she was 3, we¬†let her choose. And she immediately went for Cinderella. Now, I have nothing against kids choosing to be characters, but I’d kinda secretly hoped that she’d always want to be something the other kids never thought of.

DSC_0033Well, I got my wish when she turned 4, because she was dead set on being an elephant. All I could find were thick head-to-toe costumes that would have reduced her to a puddle of sweat inside had we put her in one. (Exhibit A). I successfully talked her out of that one, only to have her decide to be a seal instead. A seal. Back to the internet I went, but all I could find were things that would cause me to laugh. At my child. All night. (Exhibit B).

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 9.52.44 PMThankfully, Emily wasn’t a fan of the seal costumes once she saw them, and decided instead to be a monarch butterfly. Yes, she was that specific (I think the bug nut inside her was beginning to emerge). I started having heart palpitations at the thought of what that kind of costume might cost, but thankfully found a¬†cute, inexpensive, acceptable number. And boy, was she a scene-stealer that year.

DSC_08305 years old brought about another Disney princess, this time it was Belle. A friend loaned us her costume (yay for free!), and despite the rainy weather (hence the boots), it was a great night. Since big sister had been a pea pod for her first Halloween, it felt right to dress Julia up as food for her first Halloween too, so out she went as a cupcake. Yummy.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 10.01.04 PMWhen Emily was 6 she made me proud again by asking to be a peacock. I was proud… as a peacock. Yeah, that was lame. Anyway, her costume was gorgeous and immediately became a tie for my favorite, along with the monarch. Julia was a bumblebee, which completely matched her personality perfectly. She might have actually stung me that night, now that I think about it…

IMG_0132And then there was last year. I’ve said it before, but I will never beat last year’s costumes. Emily was the most perfect Padme Amidala. Ever. The hair… the costume… the attitude. She¬†nailed it. And since this was the last year I could choose Julia’s costume, I did something I’d been dying to do for years and dressed her up as Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, complete with her little shopping bag from Tiffany & Co. Total perfection.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.09.28 PMThis year,¬†the girls are in the process of making their choices. Emily’s pretty settled on being a tiger – can’t wait for that one. Julia, well, isn’t so sure. This is her first year choosing, and so far she’s asked me to get her the following costumes:¬†Jasmine, My Little Pony, Olaf, a unicorn, Ana (from Frozen), crayon, and my favorite: a Julia costume.

Should be an interesting Halloween. ūüôā

Okay Christmas, NOW it’s Your Turn

I’m not a fan of Christmas before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving comes first, but due to the fact that it’s wedged almost exactly between Halloween and Christmas it’s almost completely skipped over. ¬†It’s no secret that stores seem to jump from Halloween straight to Christmas, sometimes taking down Fall decorations to make more room for Christmas. ¬†Not cool. ¬†A good friend’s daughter even noticed it this year, asking her mom, “Where’s Thanksgiving?” ¬†And while texting a friend today I was looking for a cute Thanksgiving emoticon, and this is all I saw:

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Notice anything missing? ¬†Even my iPhone doesn’t recognize Thanksgiving, jumping straight from Halloween to Christmas. When typing, it will automatically capitalize those holidays, but not Thanksgiving. ¬†Definitely not cool.

I’m not a grinch. ¬†I LOVE Christmas. ¬†But everything has a time of its own, and I like Thanksgiving to get the time & focus it deserves. ¬†I’m often asked why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and my answer is this: it seems to be the only holiday that has successfully escaped over-commercialism. ¬†There are no special games to play (think Easter egg hunts), no presents to give, no candy to hand out, no expectation of cards, no special outfits or costumes to wear, no special songs to buy CDs of, no fireworks, no special decorations. Except maybe this giant inflatable turkey we found in our neighborhood:

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Thanksgiving is about family, friends, and food. ¬†Plain and simple. ¬†Sure, you can do any or all of those things (I love my Fall cinnamon broom), and maybe your family even has traditions of wearing special clothes or playing specific games together. But generally speaking, it’s family, friends, and food. ¬†Three things we all need desperately, three things that can make us happy without spending hundreds of dollars to make it happen.

Thanksgiving is basic. Dining with the ones you love¬†offers something that stores can’t sell you: memories. ¬†That’s why it’s my favorite. ¬†That’s why I refuse to let Christmas overshadow it. ¬†It will come fast enough with its whirlwind of activities, decorations, and baked goods. ¬†And I will enjoy every single minute of it, just as I do every year.

In fact, our guests just left, the kitchen is clean, and as far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving is officially over and Christmas is now welcome in our home. ¬†Bring on the whirlwind.

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Padme and Ms. Golightly

This was the BEST Halloween ever.  Jay was in town, we hung out with great friends, and even the weather was great.  But the costumes.  The costumes!  I gotta say, I was pretty gosh darn proud of myself this year.  I tooted my own horn, gave myself high-fives, cookies, and pats on the back.  The costumes were that good.  

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Emily has recently become obsessed with Star Wars. She originally wanted to go trick-or-treating as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, but she took one look at a Padme costume in a catalog after seeing all six Star Wars episodes and she was instantly set on being Padme.  She especially liked the outfit Padme wore on the planet of Geonosis when she had to fight the nexu in the arena:

IMG_3938The costume itself was pretty basic, just a one-piece jumpsuit.  It came with a faux gun holster, and I drove myself crazy looking for a fake gun to spray-paint silver before realizing it wouldn’t even hold a gun.  Even more frustrating was when we realized while trick-or-treating that we’d completely forgotten to even put it on.  Ah, well.  I found shoes that wouldn’t take away from the overall look and that she could still wear to school Рbeautiful silvery sparkly sneakers.  She even had her nails painted silver Рwhich of course meant Julia wanted hers done too.  But the final touch was the hair.  Originally I thought that Padme just had her hair pulled back into a tight bun, but when I double-checked online I discovered it was much more elaborate than that (I should have known better).  

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It turned out to be pretty easy to duplicate though, all I needed were some pipe cleaners, bobby pins, clear elastics, and gel.  I pulled her hair into a tight ponytail, then inserted a pipe cleaner into the ponytail, wrapped hair around it, then pinned it back onto her head.  It turned out pretty spot-on for the movie, I think, and Emily was in Padme-heaven!

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As for Julia, I chose her costume about 3 years ago.  I found a picture of a little girl dressed as Holly Golightly on Pinterest, and since Emily was too old I swore if I had another little girl she would one day trick-or-treat as that iconic movie character.  Well, I had another daughter, and she was the perfect age this year Рsmall enough to still dress her up how I wanted but old enough to walk around and work her costume cuteness.

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I made the tutu myself, and for the shirt I cut the sleeves off of a long-sleeve black top I found for $3 at Wal-Mart.¬† I tied little black ribbons at the shoulders and found some black Mary Jane shoes at a yard sale (also only $3).¬† She borrowed pearl necklaces from Emily‚Äôs dress-up stash, and wore a little tiara I found for a quarter at the party store.¬† The finishing touch was letting her trick-or-treat with an actual shopping bag from Tiffany & Co. ¬†My friend Sanne’s cat even followed us a for a bit, adding a bit more authenticity to the whole ensemble. ¬†

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Unfortunately, no one seemed to know who she was while we were out trick-or-treating.  I received lots of compliments on how cute my little ballerina was, what a cute princess she made, and one lady even thought she was a witch.  Everyone loved the familiar blue shopping bag, but I was surprised nobody made the connection!  Honestly, though, it didn’t take away any of it for me.  She looked like a perfect little Holy Golightly, and I was beside myself with giddiness at how adorable it turned out.  

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I don’t foresee outdoing these costumes Рever.   I haven’t decided if I’ll try to or not.  I’m perfectly happy knowing that Halloween 2013 my beauties were completely and perfectly costumed.  It won’t be long before Emily outgrows it and Julia has her own strong opinions about what she wants to wear.  So I’m going to hold on tight to 10-31-13.  Toot toot!

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My First 5K – Done!

So, almost a month late, here’s how things went down at Disney’s Happy Haunted 5K!

Sanne (my 5K Partner in Crime) and I headed to Orlando on a Friday afternoon.  RunDisney had been sending us emails leading up to the event with instructions on how things were organized, and the first stop was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. They were holding a Health & Fitness Expo, which is where all participants had to go to pick up their race day packets.

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Our packets consisted of a clear bag (to put any items in that we might bring with us to the race), a program of events, a t-shirt, and most importantly Рour bibs!  Since we had registered early we were able to have our names put on them.  So cool.

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When you registered you had to give an estimate of how quickly you thought you’d complete each mile. ¬†Based on that information you were assigned a corral. ¬†Sanne and I had registered separately, and without meaning to had chosen different times, which placed us in different starting corrals (that’s why her bib has a “D” on it and mine has an “E” on it). ¬† Sanne was allowed to move into my slower corral though, so we were still able to start the race at the same time.

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Everyone was supposed to be in their corrals by 7a, but we arrived much sooner and had the benefit of watching the sun rise.   We are seriously too cute here.

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At about 7:30a they started allowing Corral A to head to the starting line. ¬†They released another corral about every 5 minutes, giving the group ahead time to get going. ¬†As soon as they called our corral I started to tear up. ¬†As in, I was crying. ¬†It was so emotional for me to finally be doing something I’d dreamed about for the past year and a half. ¬†But to be honest, I think every time I go to Disney something makes me cry. ¬†I should have been more prepared for it – thank goodness for sunglasses!

We started out running in the grass around the fields, then started into the forest. ¬†The trails were unpaved and twisted all through the trees, keeping us on our toes the whole time. ¬†Many of the participants were already walking, so we passed by as best as we could (making me thankful it wasn’t a timed race). ¬†Along the trail every so often there photo-ops with villains, like Captain Hook, Prince John, and the Big Bad Wolf, which we decided not to stop for. ¬†There were also two stations with water and Porta-Potties, but we opted to pass by these too since the goal was to run the whole thing. ¬†There were also fun mile markers along the trail, which definitely helped motivate us to keep going!

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As we came out of the woods the trail led us onto the fields and track, where a ton of photographers were snapping at us like paparazzi. ¬†Disney employees were stationed all along the track cheering us on too. ¬†It felt like everyone was there for us, waiting for us to cross that finish line. ¬†It was overwhelming. ¬†So, when we crossed that line, I cried again. ¬†Next thing I know a reporter is sticking a microphone in my face asking why it was so emotional for me. ¬†I blubbered something dumb while Sanne talked about what a great job Disney did. ¬†She’s smarter than me, obviously. ¬†The guy watched us get our medals (everyone who completes the 5K receives one), and a few weeks after the race we learned that we made it on the runDisney video!

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The entire experience was incredible. ¬†It was so much fun to be a part of something so big – I think I’m officially addicted to 5Ks now, and I’m going to keep my eyes open for any (cheap) runs I can be a part of locally. ¬†I’ve actually already signed up to walk the Royal Family 5K at EPCOT in February with my mom!

I’m so thankful for so many things – my health, my supportive husband, my encouraging daughters, and of course, for Sanne. After our race we cleaned up and immediately headed to Islands of Adventure. ¬†Best Mommies Day Out ever.

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Halloween Pops

I promise my next post will be about the 5K I just completed, but since tomorrow is Halloween I’m thinking that I better get this one out the door first.

I’ll give you one chance to guess what I made (if you read the title you cheated)…

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Yup – Oreo Pops! ¬†These seem to be a favorite treat of Emily’s and Julia’s, and it’s the only time I ever allow Oreos in the house because they are SO addicting! ¬†(I wasn’t surprised when they broke with this story). ¬†And they just happen to be the perfect shape for making little Jack-o’-Lanterns! ¬†I made them the same way as usual, then let Emily decorate them. ¬†I tried to let Julia help, but she just picked it up and licked it. ¬†Sneaky.

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Here’s how they turned out:

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We also decided to try something new – you can have more guesses this time to figure out what we created…

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Hmmmm… who’s got an icky green box-shaped head?

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That’s right! ¬†We decided to make little Frankenstein heads! ¬†(I really don’t know if you got it right, I’m just a super encouraging kinda gal).

I basically used the same method as the Oreo Pops, smearing the melted candy over the marshmallows with my finger.  Once the green had dried I dipped the tops in black melted candy for his (their?) hair.  Then we went to town decorating!   I managed to keep Julia from licking one of these, but not from eating one.  Oh, fine.  We all had one.

I’m starting to notice a vampire trend with the one Emily decorates… I’m praying hard that we don’t have a future Twilight junkie on our hands….

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The last thing we made were ghosts. ¬†They make white candy melts, but it seemed silly to coat white marshmallows with white candy, especially since the kids who would be eating them wouldn’t be moving slow enough to notice.

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We tied up a few of each with saran wrap and pretty ribbon to give to our annual Trick-or-Treat posse. ¬†Let me just confess two things right now. ¬†1) I HATE HATE HATE saran wrap and can never make it do what I want it to. ¬†2) I also have no idea how to package desserts that have decorating gel on them. ¬†It smears and smooshes everywhere, and now our artistic creations are a hot mess. ¬†Hopefully the kids won’t be too scared to eat them!

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A Pumpkin, a Toddler, and Stickers – Oh My!

Like just about everyone I know, I love Fall. ¬†I’m sure most people love autumn because they’ve actually seen a real autumn, but for me it’s always been about Thanksgiving. ¬†And my birthday. ¬†But mostly Thanksgiving. ¬†The day I finally let myself eat turkey. ¬†Mmmmmm.

My favorite thing about the season (aside from a cinnamon broom) is decorating pumpkins. Usually that means scooping all those wonderfully goopy pumpkin guts, but when we’ve wanted our beauties to be involved in the festivities we’ve skipped using a knife and instead tried to find other ways to allow the girls to have some decorating fun.

Some of our previous non-carving adventures include the Pumpkin Head Princess Emily made when she was 2…

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…tissue paper circles and Mod Podge…

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…and painting them. ¬†The Angry Bird is Jay’s handiwork.

169448_3820963614606_1781599378_o (1)This time I decided to use one of Julia’s favorite mediums ever – stickers. ¬†I found some cute bags of Halloween-themed foam stickers in the dollar bin at Target, grabbed a pumpkin, and let Julia have at it!

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She had the best time!  I was peeling off the backs of the stickers for her, but at some point I realized that she was doing that herself, so I found another way to keep myself busy by poking all the little eyes and mouths out of the ghosts and jack-o-lanterns. Seriously, could she be any more adorable?

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I think it turned out really cute, and we only used up about half the bag of stickers, which means there are enough for another fun activity another day!

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And here it is again keeping my fabulous cinnamon broom company at the bottom of the stairs.

IMG_3270By some miracle Julia hasn’t pulled any of the stickers off, her next favorite thing to do after putting them on. ¬†I’ve since moved it up to the window, and I love seeing it when I pull into the driveway. ¬†Next it’s my turn to decorate one – I can’t wait to head to the pumpkin patch and choose my victim for carving!