12 Days Of Easy Christmas Decorating: Frame A Letter To Santa

12 Days Of Easy Christmas Decorating: Frame A Letter To Santa | laughingabi.com

One year my daughter asked Santa for a lizard. It’s the most unique gift he’s ever delivered to our house and the story surrounding it is one of my favorite family memories. So when I found this letter to Santa buried in a box of Christmas stuff I decided to do something special with it.

12 Days Of Easy Christmas Decorating: Frame A Letter To Santa | laughingabi.com

All it took was a garage sale frame, a piece of red scrapbooking paper, and double stick tape/adhesive ($0 because I had everything in my stash).

The instructions are as simple as framing any photograph.
1. Cut the red paper to fit your frame, mine is a standard 8 x 10″.
2. Center your letter on the red paper and use a couple spots of adhesive to hold it in place.
3. Put the frame pieces back together and you’re done.

I paired mine with this list-toting Santa (we’ve had him in our holiday decorations since we were first married) and a simple red votive holder.

12 Days Of Easy Christmas Decorating: Frame A Letter To Santa | laughingabi.com

12 Days Of Easy Christmas Decorating: Frame A Letter To Santa | laughingabi.com

letter to santa 6

PLAN B:
What if you don’t have a letter to Santa? Here are a few other ideas.

  • Frame a piece of Christmas artwork your kids made at school.
  • Frame a Christmas wish list.
  • Have your kids write a letter or draw a picture tonight before bed and frame it to surprise them in the morning.
  • Frame a letter or wish list from your own childhood. You never know, your mom might still have one in her attic.

My daughter loves seeing her letter every year, especially since it reminds her how she got her pet lizard. Are there other ways you decorate with holiday memories?

This post is Day 2 in the series “12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating”. Click these gallery pics to see all the projects in the series.

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Getting Organized For Back To School

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

I’m finally done getting organized for back to school! Which is good since my kids started two weeks ago.

I first shared this Back-To-School Closet Makeover a couple weeks ago and it’s come a long way since then. We’ve added shelves, and storage, and chalkboards — oh my.

First, just to catch you up, here’s a BEFORE pic.

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

Not pretty, I know. Then we installed some lockers from IKEA.

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

And finally, it was time for some details.

We started by cutting shelves to fit between the lockers. Nothing fancy, just some scrap wood (a piece from our first ooops on the shelf that holds the lockers up). As usual, Hubs cut & I painted.

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

We used the cheapest shelf brackets we could find, knowing they wouldn’t show once everything was installed.

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

The next challenge was to find the perfect size containers to fit those new shelves. They had to be cute. And cheap. And durable. And colorful.

Given all that, I expected to search for a couple months before I found something. But then the DIY storage gods smiled upon me, the clouds parted, and a rainbow appeared. At the end of that rainbow were these fabulous little blue buckets.

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

I found them at Marshall’s, and ring the bell people because they were only $6 each!

Oh, and those numbers on each one? Nothing but chalkboard stickers from the infamous Martha Stewart herself.

With that done I needed a few more storage containers to hold all the crap that lands in that closet. I shopped the house and found/stole two baskets from our bedroom.

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

Lastly, I prettied it all up with some DIY chalkboards, photos, hooks, and magnets.

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

Do you ever look at articles like this and think, “That’s total crap, there’s no way all the stuff from the before photo went back into that closet.” I do. So in an attempt to keep things real, here’s a breakdown for ya.
Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

Getting organized for back to school | laughingabi.com

1. Portable DVD player
2. I’m gonna be honest and tell you I have no idea what was in that bucket. Obviously it wasn’t something that belonged in the closet.
3. Purse
4. The basket on the left holds all the items from the plastic drawers. The basket on the right holds the paper work that sat on top of the drawers.
5. Backpacks/bags we use when we go downtown.
6. Hats, gloves, scarves, etc
7. Baskets of crap – these things did not go back in the closet because none of them belonged there in the first place! Half of it went in the trash, the rest was put away (or probably stashed under someone’s bed).
8. Window fan & bubbles – more items that didn’t belong here in the first place. We put them away.
9. Shoes (read about my shoe bins made from aircraft part shipping containers HERE.)
10. Yoga mats

Admittedly, not every single thing went back in the closet. Only the things that were supposed to be there or needed to be there —  which was the whole point of reorganizing in the first place.

Have you made any changes to get ready for school? Do you have a special place to store all the kids stuff?

Loft bed for a little girl’s room

Psst, to see this room update from the beginning, check out these posts:
Phase 1: Decorative storage update for a little girl’s room and no monsters in the closet
Phase 2:A modern tree mural update

Remember this post where I shared a cute way to display a little girl’s stuffed animal collection? Well forget all that. It’s gone. See, the problem with raising creative children is they get these ideas and the next thing you know you’re redoing things that were never even done yet. And yes, I realize I could have just old her “NO” but it was such a goooood idea. It had to be done.

Introducing Baby Girl’s new loft bed.

Loft bed for a little girl's room | laughingabi.com

Loft bed for a little girl's room | laughingabi.com

Loft bed for a little girl's room | laughingabi.com

I know loft beds are nothing new but the genius of this one is it was TOTALLY FREE. We drug the bunk beds down from the attic and put them together without the bottom bunk. The chair is a thrift store treasure that was sitting in the corner of our bedroom, holding piles of laundry. And the little table was her nightstand. $0!!!

Here are some shots of Baby Girl hard at work putting it all together with The Hubs.

Loft bed for a little girl's room | laughingabi.com

Loft bed for a little girl's room | laughingabi.com

As for that Ugly Doll collection, it’s back next to the bed where it belongs – just a little higher.

Loft bed for a little girl's room | laughingabi.com

Loft bed for a little girl's room | laughingabi.com

Loft bed for a little girl's room | laughingabi.com

Some of you may remember that the bed used to be under a recently updated tree mural. Obviously we moved things around to make it all fit. The tree is still there but it looks more like this now.

Loft bed for a little girl's room | laughingabi.com

I’ll admit I’m sad that Baby Girl isn’t sleeping under that tree every night. I designed the whole thing around her bed. But when I see her all snuggled up in that chair, reading a book, I can’t help but smile.

I still have a long list of finishing touches for the loft and the bedroom.

  • Paint dresser knobs
  • Touch up paint on bunks
  • Find something to hang on walls under loft
  • Create some storage solutions under the loft so things aren’t just laying around
  • Cover ugly support boards on loft “ceiling”
  • Paint ladder
  • “Tape” two small IKEA rugs together to make one patch of “grass” under loft
  • Sew curtains to create “walls” under loft

My biggest challenge? To get it all done before Baby Girl gets another great idea.

Have you ever decided to redo a project when you were only halfway done? Did it turn out better than the original idea? Please say yes. I really need to hear a yes.

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

My kids’ after-school schedules are insane. The biggest problem is my oldest daughter’s show choir commitment. Her director throws a dart at the calendar for rehearsal dates then decides pick-up times based on the number of eggs in her refrigerator that morning. (Who’s sarcastic?) And of course when one kid’s schedule changes the dominoes topple until nobody knows when they’re coming home or how they’re getting there.

So of course I turned to Pinterest for organizational inspiration. I found gobs of “command centers” but they were too complicated for my needs. I wanted to design something just as functional but on a much smaller scale. Here’s what I did.

1. Started with a thrift store frame.

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

2. Bought a piece of foam core and cut it to fit. Cost me $3.

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

3. Found a piece of plexi-glass to fit.
Since my frame wasn’t a standard size I couldn’t find a cheap piece of glass to fit. Instead, I stole a piece of flimsy plexi-glass from an old poster frame stashed in my basement. It wasn’t my first choice but it was free and easy to cut so I went with it.

4. Next I tested some fabric options by placing them under the plexi and writing on them.
I needed to make sure the pattern didn’t make it hard to read the messages.

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

5. I used scrapbook adhesive to wrap the fabric around the foam core, making sure to keep everything square and smooth. Double stick tape would work just as well.

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

Almost done.

6. I designed a simple “how am I getting home today?” calendar and “where the heck is mom?” message center, and stuck them to the fabric-wrapped foam core. 
I decided to print them on vellum paper (from the scrapbooking section of any craft store) so the fabric pattern would still show through. I used Zots in each corner of the paper to stick the pages to the fabric. And yes, that does say, “walking a dog”. It’s one of my random jobs.

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

7. I decided at the last minute to add a piece of ribbon between the two sections. Forgot to take a picture. Ooops.

Finally, it was time to put everything together. This part was a little tricky but once I figured out a system it went pretty smoothly.

8. I drilled small holes into the inside edges of the frame – on the back where you would put the backing on a regular frame.
I didn’t go very deep, just enough to hold a nail in place while I tapped it in. I used this little hand crank drill thingy we have.

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

9. Then, with all the pieces sandwiched together in the frame, I carefully hammered a small brad nail into each starter hole.
I had to hammer at a little bit of an angle so afterwards I just bent the nail down toward the foam core to hold everything tight. Not very sophisticated but it works.

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

And VOILA! It’s done. (Sorry about the reflections.)

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

Simple Dry Erase Calendar & Memo Board | laughingabi.com

This post is part of the Pinterest Challenge over on Young House Love. Make sure you check out all the other link ups HERE.

pinterest winter-challenge

Also, here are links to the projects on Pinterest that inspired this whole thing. Make sure you take a look at them too.

sas interiors

Hi Sugar Plum

The Caldwell Project

24 Cottonwood Lane

How do you keep all the people in your house going to the right places every day? Do you have your own version of a “command center”?

Displaying your kids’ quotes in photo frames and stalking Nate Berkus

Display kids' quotes in photo frames | laughingabi.com

I am obsessed with Nate Berkus. I can’t help myself. He’s freakin’ adorbs and I love his ideas for decorating with “The Things That Matter“. So when I heard he was going to be on the Rachael Ray Show I was on it like a stalker on a binocular sale.

One of the tips he shared was using photo frames for things like handwritten notes or thank you cards. I don’t have any notes or cards but I do have a couple kids that say funny things, and a handful of empty frames. So I grabbed some pretty paper and whipped up this little number. So cute and so easy. You could probably put one together by looking at the picture – but just in case, here’s how I made it.

Supplies:
Frame
Two coordinating sheets of scrapbooking paper (1 pattern and 1 solid or lightly textured)
Scissors
Pencil

The key to this project is the scrapbooking paper. It adds color, texture and personality. It’s super cheap at Michael’s or JoAnn’s and comes in a zillion different patterns and colors. Sometimes you can even get 4 sheets for $1 if you catch it on sale.

Instructions:
1. Remove the glass from your frame and use it as a template for your patterned paper. Trace around it with a pencil and cut along your lines with scissors.

Display kids' quotes in photo frames | laughingabi.com

2. Type or write your quote on the solid paper, remembering to make it smaller than your patterned paper so you will be able to see both pieces when you’re done. I used my computer for this part but it would be really cute to have the kids write the quote themselves. Play with different shapes and fonts then print them out on plain paper so you can see which one you like best. Here are some of the ideas I tried.

Display kids' quotes in photo frames | laughingabi.com

3. When you have everything how you want it, print on your scrapbooking paper. (NOTE: Most scrapbooking paper comes in 12″ x 12″ sheets and will need to be cut down to 8.5″ x 11″ to feed through your printer.)

Display kids' quotes in photo frames | laughingabi.com

4. Trim out your quote. Place the quote on the patterned paper – use a tiny dot of glue or adhesive to hold it in place if you need. All that’s left is to put everything together in your frame and admire your work.

Personal note – This quote is especially significant because it’s something I also told my mom when I was a young girl. I’m not sure what scares me more, knowing I used to act like my daughter or realizing I will soon act like my mother.

Display kids' quotes in photo frames | laughingabi.com

Display kids' quotes in photo frames | laughingabi.com

Display kids' quotes in photo frames | laughingabi.com

Do you use your picture frames for something other than photos? Or do you have a favorite quote you want to frame?

The truth about my Christmas guilty pleasures.

This isn’t an ooey-gooey- sweet post describing how the spirit of the season moves me. This is about the truth. This is about some of the things I honestly love at Christmastime. You can judge me, or you can just fess-up and admit you love them too.

1. Starbuck’s gingerbread lattes.
If loving a $5 cup of coffee is wrong, I don’t want to be right. You can only get this liquid gold in December and I lap up every drop I can. Ain’t no shame in it.

2. Watching my teenage daughter try to be nice to me.
It’s obviously painful for her but she does it anyway because she wants the goods on Christmas morning. I realize her affection is shallow and self-serving but, like my beloved gingerbread latte, I’ll take it while I can get it.

Christmas guilty pleasures

3. Black Friday.
Yep, I’m one of those sickos who like to shop on Black Friday. I don’t camp out in front of Wal-Mart or anything but I do love the hustle and bustle of the crowds. And nothing makes me more tingly than a good deal. I also think it’s the best day ever to people watch – there are some real doozies out there. One caveat: under no circumstances do I enjoy Black Friday shopping with my children. That should be against the law.

4. Justifiable shopping.
Shopping makes me feel happy. Really, really happy. Most of the year I have to restrain myself  like an AA member at a tequila factory. But in December I can go to Target three times a day, every day, and nobody says boo.

Target store

5. Buying presents for myself.
I won’t even bother explaining this one. I know I do it and you know you do it. Enough said.

6. Out-decorating my neighbors.
I could tell you I put out a dazzling display of lights and scenery for Christmas that puts all others to shame, but I promised to be honest so here’s the truth. Of the four houses surrounding mine one is abandoned, two don’t decorate at all, and one hangs up three strands of lights. My holiday decorations may be small and simple but I can still say they’re the best on the block. It’s all about perspective people.

Christmas guilty pleasures

7. The “threat” of Santa.
Right or wrong, we’ve all played the Santa card before. Melt-down at the mall? Santa’s watching! Won’t go to bed when they’re supposed to? Santa’s watching! Didn’t mix mommy’s vodka-tonic properly? Santa’s watching!

8. Eating, drinking, and eating and drinking some more.
You know those holiday tips for not overindulging during the holiday season? BAH! If I’m at a party and something looks yummy, I’m eating it. If someone wants me to toast the season, I’m drinking it – twice. I’ll worry about calories in January when I’m reorganizing my closet and donating all the pants that don’t fit anymore.

9. Watching cheesy holiday TV specials.
Traditional. Musical. Animated. Old. New. I watch them all. I know some of them are awful but I don’t care. I love them. My favorite this year is Michael Buble’s “Home For The Holidays”. He’s so dreamy. Sigh.

Christmas guilty pleasures

10. Guilt-free lying to the children.
Lying is bad – unless it’s during the holidays. Then, it’s actually a requirement. Think about it, how many Christmas surprises would be ruined if we were totally honest with our kids? So lie away, it’s ok. Besides, it’s not like you’re breaking a commandment or anything. (Wouldn’t that be ironic?)

How many will you admit to?

Santa Claus and the Bearded Dragon: I Believe

My daughter wants a bird for Christmas this year. I told her no, but remembering what happened last year maybe I should start shopping for a cage. Here’s the story.

bearded dragon

(Originally posted March 26, 2012)

This was the conversation between me and my 8-year-old daughter right before Halloween:

Her: I want a lizard for Christmas.
Me: Um, no.
Her: Please mommy.
Me: No. No way. No way in H-E-L-L.
Her: Why?
Me: Because they’re yucky and icky. And because I said so.
Her: Fine, I’ll ask Santa for one.
Me: Santa doesn’t bring gifts mom and dad haven’t approved.
Her: You don’t know about Santa or lizards mom. I’m asking him for one!

Now repeat this conversation each and every day for the next month or so, which puts us somewhere in late November. I’m at a neighbor’s house (a neighbor who knows nothing of the convo between daughter & me) for a fund-raiser/party when she pulls me aside to show me this “crazy new thing” she has. I follow her into the next room and find myself face to face with a large, scaly, beady-eyed bearded dragon lizard.

Me: WHUCK?!
Neighbor: It’s not mine. A friend found it abandoned in one of his rental properties and couldn’t leave it there to die so he brought it here. I don’t know what to do with it. If you know anyone who wants or needs a lizard, let me know.
Me: (Insert stunned silence here.)

Folks, I’m not a religious person but I think my little girl must have been praying every single night for Santa to bring her a lizard. Praying hard. And since I’m too smart to spit in the face of divine reptilian intervention, Santa brought a bearded dragon to our house on Christmas morning. Her name is Elizabeth, Lizzy for short, and it took about a day for her to melt my heart. I’m not ashamed to admit I was wrong – she’s not icky or yucky. I love her. When I pet her I’m reminded that Christmas is a magical season, that you’re never too old to believe in Santa, and that my youngest daughter is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

bearded dragon

Last minute Thanksgiving decoarations

I don’t know if you’re aware but Thanksgiving is only EIGHT DAYS AWAY. This time next week people will be arriving at your house. Putting their feet on your furniture. Their heads on your pillows. Their bums on your toilets. It’s crunch time and while I’m no meal-planning or entertaining expert, I can offer some simple, last minute decorating ideas.

last minute Thanksgiving decorations

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Easy fall decorations

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the smells, the cool air, and of course, the decorations. I like to keep it simple and incorporate little bits of family. This bookshelf features a photo of my girls in this year’s leaf pile and one of the leaves, too.

easy fall decorations

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Fall Goody Bags

Fall goody bags  |  laughingabi.com

I’ve always made goody bags for my daughters’ classroom parties. Not because I’m one of “those” moms, but because we love to make things together and it’s become a mother-daughter tradition over the years.

Halloween is a challenge because our school district doesn’t allow “Halloween” parties. (We wouldn’t want to offend anyone, would we? Insert sarcasm here.) Instead we have fall “Harvest” parties. That means the obvious goody bag ideas are not allowed. No witches, spiders, monsters, skeletons . . . you get the idea. My solution? Owls. Here’s a peek at the fall goody bags we made this year inspired by this post from Tales of a Trophy Wife.

Fall goody bags  |  laughingabi.com

Fall goody bags  |  laughingabi.com

And here are the lovely little hooters we made last year.

Fall goody bags  |  laughingabi.com

Fall goody bags  |  laughingabi.com

I love their crossed eyes. Makes me smile. Do you have any creative fall or Halloween traditions?