Category Archives: Ideas and Inspiration

Wait! Toddlers and Restaurants

toddlerYou have more than a half-hour to wait for your food and your dinner companions are not feeling patient with your whining or fussing toddler. Your toddler has NO intention of sitting patiently while the adults talk, especially while he is hungry.

Do you give up on eating out? No. Adapt. Grab a few things to throw in your purse and go eat out! Choose a relatively noisy restaurant popular with families.

The most effective distraction for your young child is humor and play. Even salt and pepper shakers can be fun if Daddy is making them talk. When another adult is asking for conversation, try one of these distractions to keep your little one occupied.

  1. Ask your server for a small cup of chipped ice and an empty cup. Combine with a spoon or straw for lasting play. Spills? No problem. It’s just water.
  2. Bring a sheet of stickers. Have your toddler go around your table and add stickers to knees.
  3. Crackers. Let the child unwrap them to make them last.
  4. Bring a small container of play dough for use on a hard table. Ask your child to make you a cookie. When finished, pack it away for later and use a napkin to wipe off the table.
  5. Ask your child to draw a picture of you or your home with crayons. Then you add the caption.
  6. Pile the different colored sweetener packets on the table and have your child sort them by color. Or hide one under your hand and have them guess the color.
  7. Race a match box car back and forth across the table to each other, adding a menu ramp as necessary.
  8. Bring washable markers and let them decorate their hands.
  9. With the adults, make “table art” sculptures from the condiments and items on the table. Oddly, this is quite entertaining.
  10. Keep a small, quiet-time toy with you that is reserved for restaurant time. Try a small puzzle, a container of slime, bag of trinkets, or small sack of “tokens”.

These days spin by really quickly. Relax and enjoy!

Picture Perfect Family Outing

kids with camerasWant a fun day with the kids that cost next to nothing? Try a photo excursion.  If your children are 5 and up, they are ready for a family adventure taking photos.

  • First off, each family member needs a camera for the day. A borrowed camera works just fine. It does not have to be fancy. A disposable one would work, but I prefer digital so they can see what they get with less expense. A cell phone camera, or child’s digital camera or any camera works. If you use a film camera, choose a limit on how many exposures each family member is limited to in advance, and help them pace their photos over the day.
  • Ready all the cameras before you go (batteries and memory) and spend a few minutes with each child, prior to the trip, showing them how to use the camera (set to auto mode). For many auto-focus cameras this only requires keeping at least three feet from the subject.
  • Keep in mind that their photo expectations are not as high as yours. Normally they are happy to see any image. Experience is a very good teacher.
  • Choose a destination. Opportunities for easy and varied photos include your local zoo, park, beach, botanical garden or even a walk among interesting architecture. As long as there are plenty of scenes to capture, it will not matter where you go.
  • Pack a lunch. Young photographers get very hungry and enjoy the picnic.
  • Talk to each child about composing their photos. Ask them to look at entire picture frame and choose carefully what to include within the frame. A five-year-old’s sense of composition may be less particular than yours, but the goal for the day is only awareness.
  • Take pictures together as you walk along. Demonstrate to them how to compose a shot by letting them look through a digital view finder with you. Demonstrate how you move around to find a good angle for your subject.
  • Be sure to get one shot of the kids together with their cameras.
  • At the end of the day, load all the digital photos onto a computer and watch a random slide show of them together. Your children will be quite proud to point out their shots. If you used film, you can review them together as a family when you pick them up from the photo lab.
  • If you want to go a step further, you could allow your children to arrange the best photos into a scrapbook, photo book or web page.

This is a no-worries project! Even if you think things are a bit crazy, and the photos are not suited for calendars, your children are still learning. Mostly they are loving the one-on-one time with you. Enjoy!

Five Quick Additions to your Anniversary Party

You are short on time and the days are spinning by. The party date and location are set. How the heck are you going to get the rest of the party details done in time? For the special touches, you just need an hour for some advance planning.

First, ask for help. Many family anniversary parties are headed up by a lone “volunteer.”  That would be you. That does note mean that you need to do all the party prep. Help is easy to find when you assign specific, bite-sized tasks.

    1. Ask your siblings and other close relatives to help by making a short, 30 or 60 second toast to the anniversary couple. See our anniversary toast ideas.
    2. Assign each sibling and grandchild to bring one thing to add to a memory table at the party. A photo, a momento, or a symbol of the marriage and the family they have built.

  1. anniversary memory cardHave memory cards printed and available at the party. Either in lieu of a guest book, or at each place setting, each guest can bring a personal fond memory of the couple.
  2. Ask a responsible grandchild to take the things from the memory table and the memory cards and assemble them into an empty scrapbook or momento box for the anniversary couple.
    keepsake box

    You can pick up a nice photo box at photo specialty stores, or get a personalized on many websites.

  3. Have a favorite old song ready for a special dance. After the anniversary couple has had the spotlight for a short while, gradually add other family couples until the dance floor is “open.”

If you are looking for more ideas for your anniversary party, be sure to check out these related articles.

The Who, What, When, Where and Why of Anniversary Party Planning.

Gold Anniversary Party Decorations

The Golden Touch

Irish Anniversary Party Planning

Planning an Anniversary Party

Wedding Anniversary Party Trends

Anniversary Ideas for Your Parents, Without the Big Party

You’d love to throw a party for your parents celebrating their 50th or 60th anniversary, but travel or health issues make it impossible to hold a reception. How can you make the day extra special without a party?

anniversary card shower invitationThrow a Card Shower!

  • Snail mail can be a fun part of an anniversary celebration, providing anticipation, memories and an easy, inexpensive way for distant friends to take part.
  • To host a card shower, send out anniversary announcements to friends and family of the couple, suggesting that they send a card with a personal message to arrive on or near the anniversary date. If you mail your “card shower” announcements a month prior to the anniversary, the recipients should have plenty of time to get a greeting card ready.

Arrange A Special Dinner

  • If you are not nearby, arrange for the anniversary couple to have a special romantic dinner served at home by a local caterer.
  • Bringing distant families to the anniversary couple may be impossible, but how about a short visit by a couple of their children? There are few things parents like more than to see their children, especially together.
  • Host a small family dinner at a nearby restaurant, bringing a few nostalgic items if possible.

Video Greetings

  • Have each family branch put together a short video with anniversary greetings and send it on time for the big day. Each family could record a simple interview. You could make this simpler for the creative-challenged by providing a list of questions to answer, like, “what trait did you get from each of your parents” or “what have you learned from grandma and grandpa?”If your anniversary couple is technology challenged, have a local grandchild take over a laptop and show them the videos you posted on You Tube, or set up a Skype video call.

anniversary announcementMore Distance Greetings

  • Arrange for a series of phone calls on anniversary day to the celebrants.
  • Make a small poster, collage or drawing to commemorate the event. Cut it into the same number of pieces as the anniversary year to make a puzzle of sorts. Mail one or two pieces a day for a month. They can work on this puzzle leading up the new day, looking forward to more pieces in each day’s mail.
  • Find out what  flowers and colors were in the wedding and send a special floral arrangement with those favorites.
  • Arrange a singing telegram for delivery on anniversary day
  • Put an anniversary announcement in their local paper and their hometown paper if they have relocated over the years.
  • Contact the church they attend and ask if  their wedding anniversary could be mentioned during the church service that week.

The perfect gift for First Communion

celtic cross rosary
Rosary in gift box
Girls rosary with personalized keepsake box

A child’s First Holy Communion is one of the most significant events of their religious life. Such an important occasion warrants a gift to celebrate, but receiving a first communion invitation does not translate to a difficult gift shopping task.

Communion Rosary Bracelet

There are always the conventional rosaries, medals and bibles. Rosaries are one of the most popular communion gifts for children, and while a common gift, they shouldn’t be crossed off the list of possibilities.  It is possible to receive and use more than one.
Jewelry or medals are also an option.  They can be saved or worn for years to come.

first communion medal
Eucharistic Five Way Medal

But what if a family member or friend is uncomfortable giving a religious gift?  The gift given doesn’t have to be religious to be meaningful.  There are alternative ideas that acknowledge how special the day is without being religious.  Cash is always an option.  It may not seem like a personal gift but it is the easiest and is always appreciated.  Money gifts can be in the form of a gift card to a favorite store or a savings bond to be used for a college fund. You may even want to consider a donation to the family’s favorite charity in the child’s name.

37 Bible Stories in this First Communion Bible

Another idea is a good leather wallet.  The children are at an age where they are becoming aware of the responsibilities of money and the pleasure of having some of their own.  A watch is another option.  They are at an age where telling time is a new learning experience and a nice watch to wear either for everyday or dress-up will be a constant reminder of your thoughtfulness. Consider engraving the date of their communion on the back.

It is not uncommon for adults to still have keepsakes from their First Communion.  Your thoughtful gift may be one of them.

Wedding Anniversary Gift Ideas

50th Anniversary Invitations
Invited to an Anniversary Party?

The golden anniversary is one of the most celebrated anniversaries, and rightly so.  A half century in love with the same person is a gift in itself.  When choosing that “ something special” to commemorate the occasion you will need to keep in mind that after 50 years of marriage the celebrated couple has probably accumulated most of the usual anniversary gifts. When considering gifts, think twice before purchasing anniversary plates, jewelry, knick knacks, etc. Many celebrants of that age are trying to reduce clutter and possessions in their lives.

Most anniversary invitations today request, “no gifts,” in a polite way. Yet, it’s always a temptation to want to give the couple something lavish, but here are just a few out-of-the-ordinary tokens of recognition you can consider giving as your gift to them:

  1. Purchase tickets or gift certificates for a movie, favorite restaurant, sporting event, concert or theatre and wrap the tickets with a gold ribbon.  A little extravagance they may not always give to themselves.
  2. Put together a cd with songs from the year of the wedding.  Just listening to the cd will bring back constant pleasant memories.
  3. Create a family quilt with each square done by a family member. Something to keep them warm in body and soul.
  4. Assemble a photo album, something small enough to fit on an end table with pictures of their 50 years together.  Include the wedding, their children, grandchildren, life long friends, trips taken together, homes lived in.  You can include stories from family and friends. Just the flip of a page will take them back to a pleasant memory.
  5. A nice momento that not everyone has is an anniversary greeting from the White House!

The Art of Thank You Notes

Unfortunately, the courtesy of sending a thank you note is becoming a dying art.  With the email/Facebook/cell phone era in full swing, the simple act of sitting down and personalizing a thank you note has fallen by the wayside. Emily Post aside, thanking someone for a gift received or an act of kindness should be an automatic response.

Gifts should be acknowledged with a note unless the gift was opened in front of the giver and a verbal thank you was given.  Many of the older generation expect a handwritten note and providing them with one is a gesture of respect and consideration.

Gerbera Daisy Thank You NoteYour thank you note should be sent as soon as possible, but it is never too late.  A sincere thank you is always appreciated no matter when it is received. And speaking of emails, while they are not as personal as a note written in your own hand, if yours is a casual relationship with correspondence being generally by email, an email thank you is appropriate.  For just about everyone else, an electronic message can be a disappointment for that friend or relative who took the time to personally acknowledge you with a gift.

To manage a long list of thank you notes, try breaking up the task into several days rather than sitting through a thank you card marathon. And remember, if you see writing a thank you note as a chore, so will your child.  Teach them from an early age that thanking Uncle Ted is a way to make him feel as warm as they did when they opened their gift from him.

photo thank you cardsIf you choose to make your own thank you notes, try tracing your child’s handprint on decorated or colored paper and have them write a little ‘thank you’.  Taking a photo of them opening a particular gift and sending that photo to the giver makes for memories for everyone. Personalized photo thank you notes make receiving the note more enjoyable, and with your personal note inside, worth saving. A preprinted thank you note will work but be sure to personalize it with your signature.

Creative Display Ideas for This Year’s Christmas Cards

Every day the postman brings more! Those welcome but sometimes too numerous holiday greeting cards can pose a bit of a dilemma as to where to put them all. Or, you may be a card hoarder from Christmas’ past and need an idea as to what to do with your saved memories. Here are a few suggestions on how to recycle or display your Christmas cards.

Display Christmas cards on a clothesline. Tack or nail up a length of yarn… whatever length works for you. Place a tack at the center of the yarn for stability when weighted down with cards. Just attach the cards to the clothesline at an angle with a small clothes-pin on the top left corner. You can even decorate or color the clothes pins to match! Hang over a mantle, above a window or railing or wherever there’s a spot that needs some holiday cheer.

Wire card holders make it easy to display your cards as a centerpiece or table decoration.

Pressed for space? Try a door tree. Start at the top of the door with one card and continue down until you have a tree shape including the trunk and container. Place a star at the top and decorate as you wish. Or, make a card wreath to hang on your door.

How about using them as tree ornaments? It’s a nice way to make use of the cards without destroying them for future holiday pleasure. Punch a hole in the top left corner of the card and avoid punching a part of a word. Cut 6 inches of ribbon and thread it through the hole. Tie both ends together in a tight knot.

Go green! Cut out the illustrations or pictures from the front and use them as bookmarks or gift tags. Make a collage from these card covers and include the signatures of your friends and loved ones and laminate to create  place mats for your holiday table.

Place a cookie cutter on the card and trace around it. Cut it out, then using a glue stick paste it on to the corner of photo album or scrapbook pages.

Got more ideas? Share them with us here.