ELF ON THE SHELF Cupcake Liner Craft

Elf on the Shelf has been a fun popular Christmas tradition over the past few years, and since my kids love to craft, I thought this fun Elf on the Shelf craft would be a cute ‘gift’ to leave for Elfie on one of his visits. Check it out!

What you’ll need:

white cupcake liners
Tan craft paint
Red, white and brown paper
Blue and black marker
Cotton balls
Scissors
Paint brush

1. Flatten the cupcake liner, paint tan and let dry.


2. Cut out the following pieces:
2 white elf ears
2 circles for eyes with the bottom cut out a little
1 tiny white circle
1 white 2” x 4” white rectangle with a zigzag bottom for a collar. 
1 brown rectangle about 1” x the length of the top of the cupcake liner and cut the bottom with a zigzag bottom like hair.


4. Glue the brown hair to the top of the cupcake liner.

5. Fold the top of the red triangle to the side and glue to the top of the hair.


6. Pull apart a cotton ball and glue to the bottom of the hat.

7. Paint the nose and ears tan, let dry and glue the ears to the side of the elf and the circle to the center of the cupcake liner. 
8. Glue the eyes above the nose and color the left side blue.

9. Draw a smile under the nose with a black marker.
10. Glue the collar to the bottom and let the elf dry.

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You’re Not Alone: Balancing Your Busy Life While Being a Caregiver

This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own
Did you know more than 40 million people across the U.S. are family caregivers? And that the majority of them are millennials? That means they care for someone outside the normal realm of caring for your family – usually another family member, or someone who is sick, elderly or disabled and unable to look after themselves.
The sad part? Most caregivers don’t even recognize themselves as such – they assume the duties because that’s what family does. They don’t discuss it, or ever ask for help. Being a caregiver on top of your other responsibilities, like your full-time job, your family, housework, bill paying , shopping, etc, can really wreak havoc on your mind, body and soul.
From as young as 9 years old, I remember my Mom taking care of my Grandpa. He had Alzheimer’s disease and could no longer live on his own. My Mom ran a daycare, took care of myself and my sister, managed a household and took care of her Father who pretty much needed 24/7 care. No time for herself (and no complaints about it) she did everything possible to make sure he was well taken care of, and lived out the last years of his life being shown the ultimate act of love -sacrifice. 

I learned about giving selflessly from my Mom. I watched her get up early, and stay up late – and never sit down to relax. Never take time for herself. When I started to help her with her care of my Uncle, I started to really realize how self-sacrificing – and completely on top of things, you really have to be. I am not always the most on top of things. I have a tendency to let my ADHD get a little out of hand. So when you take on another person to take care of – and all of their responsibilities- it can be daunting. There are days where I don’t accomplish much more than a load of laundry and hours on the phone trying to get a Doctor’s appointment, or Medicaid to pay a bill. When you go into work looking like you have been up all night partying, but in fact, have been up all night just trying to catch up on your life at home because you’ve been too busy taking care of someone elses. Let me tell you – my Mom made it look easy. 

With years of experience between the both of us, we have a list of things to help balance taking care of your life – and your loved ones – without getting burnt out or overwhelmed.

Get Organized. There is a lot of things that have to be done with you are managing your life along with someone else’s. Double the grocery list, double the bills that need paid, double the doctor appointments – you get my drift. Be sure to create a calendar with your to do list, and don’t be afraid to let other family members help you! There are some great family sharing online calendar’s that you can give other family access too, so they can help with the chaos of life every once in awhile.

Remember to Take Some Time for Yourself. Though it’s easier said than done, taking some time here and there to just relax, breathe, and not worry about anyone else but your self is important. You can’t take care of others, if you don’t take care of yourself! Hire someone to come and help once a week, or have another family member commit to assisting when you need a break – and make sure you do it! Get a massage, your nails done, take a nap, read a book, whatever helps you relax and decompress.

Talk to Your Employer. If you are the primary caregiver for someone else – without a lot of help – you need to let your boss/manager/HR department know before something comes up. Most companies are a lot more willing to work with you if you confront any issues head on, before the issue arises. Most companies will offer you flexible work schedules, or be willing to work around your care giving schedule. Just make sure they know you are committed to your job, and work is a priority. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Have a Sit Down with Your Spouse/Kids. Being a caregiver to someone else doesn’t just affect your life  – it affects everyone around you. Make sure that you let your spouse and kids know they are still important and a priority, but you are also very much needed by your loved one as well. Be sure to schedule one on one time with them, and even have them come along to help and spend time with the one you are caring for. Trust me, from experience, it will be a good lesson for them.

Take Advantage of Resources Available to You. Being a caregiver isn’t talked about as much as other important times of your life – like having a baby. Everyone and their Uncle can give you tips, tricks, ideas, and information on becoming a parent, but it’s a whole other ball game when it comes to being a caregiver. If you are new to it, sometimes it’s hard to know where to even start and not a whole lot of information out there to help. AARP knows how important – and stressful -this time can be, and that’s why they have developed the Family Caregiver Action Kit.

With information ranging from helpful apps and local networks – to financial tips and more, AARP is helping support the next generation of caregivers, with a community of resources and strategies to help ease into the process of becoming a caregiver.

Do you have helpful advice, or a great resource for family caregiving you think is important? Be sure to share!

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6 Discounts and Services Available to US Veterans

Many businesses and services honor our nation’s veterans by offering special discounts. Typically, it’s a certain percentage off an item or a service, but occasionally you even score an item or service or two for free. If you’re eligible for these amazing discounts, you might as well be aware of them so you can take your well-deserved advantage of them.

1.Movie Theater Discounts

If you and your family love spending time together at a movie night out, AMC will offer at least 10% off your movie ticket price. When you’re purchasing your tickets at the box office, just show the cashier your military ID and they’ll apply the discount.
Keep in mind that these discounts usually only apply to the box office and not online sales. You can still apply your discount to show times for a future date, you just have to go to the theater and purchase your tickets ahead of time at the box office.

2. Complimentary Flight Upgrades
There are a number of airlines that offer veterans a percentage off their flight purchases. One stand-out flight discount program for veterans is Expedia. If you travel frequently and don’t always travel on the same airline, Expedia Travel has the perfect discount for you.
When you sign up for Expedia’s Rewards Program, veterans are automatically upgraded to Expedia’s “gold+” status, which will give you an additional 10% off all hotel bookings. Veterans will also receive complimentary room upgrades when available, as well as exclusive amenities at over two-thousand hotels. As part of your complimentary gold+ rewards status, veterans will also receive 30% more bonus points for all hotel, flight, and rental car bookings purchased through Expedia and 24/7 customer service.
3. Free Entrance into National Parks
Perfect for anyone who loves to travel and be surrounded by nature, the National Park Service offers a free annual pass to all the National Parks to veterans. To receive your free annual pass, you can look up your nearby federal recreation location. Simply bring along your Military ID to obtain your pass and then head out to the National Park you’ve always wanted to visit.
4. Discounted Family Cell Phone Plans
Looking for a new cell phone plan either for yourself or your entire family? To show their appreciation for veterans, T-Mobile offers 20% off all single lines and 50% off of all family plans. The cell phone plan includes unlimited calls, texts, and data. You can even travel abroad and your calls and texts to contact family and friends are included in your phone plan. The best part of the plan is that it comes with a complimentary Netflix membership for you and your family to enjoy.
5. Free Property Restoration Services
If you’re located anywhere in Florida, All Dry USA will provide free water extraction for veterans. Anyone who has lived in Florida knows that the nickname “sunshine state,” can be a bit of an exaggeration during the summer months. While the afternoon storms and rain cool off the hot summer Florida days, it can also cause a lot of issues.
With Florida’s flat land, flooding is a possibility even in minor storms since there isn’t anywhere for the water to go. If your home or business is damaged by flood water, All Dry USA will remove the water for free if you’re veteran.
6. Discounted and Free Theme Park Tickets
Many theme parks offer discounts for veterans and their entire families. A few theme parks that offer these discounts include Hershey Park, King’s Dominion, Disney World, Disney Land, Cedar Point, Universal, and Carowinds.
While all of these discounts are amazing and save money on your family vacation, SeaWorld offers free admission into their Orlando, San Antonio, and San Diego parks to all veterans and their immediate family members. Many of these theme parks also provide discounts at their hotels, merchandise centers, and restaurants on property.
These types of discounts are the least that American businesses can do to thank those who serve our country. If you’re a veteran, you’ve more than earned each and every one.

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Tips to Make Moving a Success (and a $1000 in Sam’s Club Gift Cards Giveaway!)

I will be the first to admit – one of the worst things ever is moving. Like I must really really love a house (or hate the one I’m living in) to decide to move. It’s a lot of work, especially if you have more than just yourself to move – or if you’ve lived in a house for ever and collected a ton of stuff.

There are some things however, that you can do to make the whole process a bit easier – and making your move a success!

  1. Get Rid of What You Don’t Need – moving is a perfect time to purge your home. You already have boxes, and probably a truck to help you move, so be sure to take a load to Goodwill or your local charity. You will be glad you did! Purging your house now will save you time -and room – in your new place. It’s like killing 2 birds with 1 stone!
  2. Clean – clean the old place, and the new place. Just get it scrubbed down from wiping down the cabinets to cleaning the carpets. Get it done while you are packing, that way you don’t have to worry about it during moving day.
  3. Keep Organized – make sure you have plenty of boxes, markers, bubble wrap, plastic wrap, etc. and pack smart. Mark boxes with which room it should go in as well as what specifically is in each box – trust me, you will be glad you did.
  4. Mark Certain Boxes with a Star – these boxes are things you will need as soon as you move. This is shampoo and soap and towels so you can shower – sheets and pillows and blankets so you can sleep – bowls, silverware, dishes, cups, pans, – so you can make dinner. You don’t want to go rummaging through boxes to find what you need to get a shower before bed when you are already exhausted.
  5. Fix, Repair, and Replace – whether you rent or own, when you are moving out or moving into a new place, something usually needs fixed, repaired or replaced. This can be blinds (which seems to be an issue for everyone), toilet paper, light bulbs, and especially air filters.

I’ve mentioned before about the great deals I get at Sam’s Club, and during a move that is about the only place I go (I can even buy boxes there), but they have great deals on essentials like 3M Filtrete air filters. 3M Filtrete filters are $8 off now through November 25th with Sam’s Club Instant Saving!

 

Also – don’t forget to enter the $1000 in Sam’s Club Gift Card Giveaways hosted by savings.com
10 winners will receive a $100 Sam’s Gift Card! This ends Friday 11/16, so hurry and enter now!

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3 Walnut Recipes You Have to Try for the Holidays

Walnuts are one of the healthier treats you can snack on if you’re keeping an eye on your figure. With the holidays coming up, you might want to consider making some healthy recipes using these ingredients as your centerpiece.

If you’re interested in coming up with some amazing walnut-based treats for the holidays, then check out these three easy-to-make recipes.

Homemade Walnut Milk

If you’re a fan of lactose-free milk, then you’ll surely love making your own nut-based milk. There’s nothing like cozying up next to a fire while enjoy a warm mug of walnut milk. The great thing about this recipe is that you can easily make it yourself. What’s more, you can use unsweetened walnut milk for your other recipes as well.

Making milked nuts like these is relatively simple. You basically soak the walnuts in water in a 1:2 ratio—one cup of walnuts to 2 cups of water. You then need to leave the nuts for up to 24 to 48 hours. Drain and rinse the nuts after, then run them through a high-powered blender on high for two minutes with water.

The resulting solution will leave you with nut milk. You’ll then need to strain the milk using a cheese cloth or a nut milk bag. And there you have it! Feel free to enjoy this rich and creamy milk beverage as you would with any regular dairy product.

Cinnamon Walnuts

If you’re looking for something healthy to snack on, then you might want to try a handful of cinnamon walnuts. A handful of fragrant and healthy nuts can be a great way to quell those hunger pangs and help stretch out a long day.

For this recipe, you’ll need 1 egg white, a cup of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, a tablespoon of vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 4 cups of walnut halves. To start off, you’ll need to preheat the oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C). Next, you’ll need to apply some cooking spray onto a jelly roll pan.

Once these preparations are done, beat the egg white and the sugar in a bowl. Next, you’ll need to mix the cinnamon, salt, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, and then stir this into the egg mixture afterwards. You’ll need to coat the walnuts into this new mixture, and then arrange the coated nuts across the jelly roll pan.

Now you’re ready to pop the nuts into the oven for around an hour and 15 minutes. You’ll know when they’re done when the coating on the nuts becomes nice and crusty. Allow the nuts to cool around 5 minute before you serve them.

Walnut Toffee Treats

Candied treats are a definite must for the holidays and these walnut toffee treats are a great way to keep the kids smiling throughout the season. They also make great gifts that are in the spirit of the holiday season.

Making these sweet treats, you’ll need 1 cup of butter, 1 cup of white sugar, 1 tablespoon of corn syrup, 3 tablespoons of water, 1 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts, and a package of chocolate chips.

Start off by taking a 9 inch square baking dish and spread some butter across it. Take your cup of butter and heat it in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add both the sugar and the corn syrup then stir the mixture until it becomes smooth. After, add the water and continue to stir. Continue to heat the mixture until it reaches 290 degrees F (145 degrees C). Make sure to use a candy thermometer when taking the temperature.

Once it’s reached the ideal temperature, add in the cup of walnuts and cook it for 3 minutes while stirring the mixture. Once this is done, pour everything into the prepared pan and let it cool. Once the resulting toffee has cooled, remove it from the pan and place it on some waxed paper.

Next, melt the chocolate chips in a metal bowl over a simmering pan of water, making sure to stir it frequently until it smoothens. Spread the melted chocolate on one side of the toffee slab, and then sprinkle it with the remaining walnuts. Allow the chocolate to cool, and do it again on the other side of the slab. Finally, divide everything into smaller bite-sized pieces and you’re done.

There you have it: three amazing walnut treats that you can enjoy with your loved ones during the season. If you’re looking to get creative with some nutty recipes, then consider making these during the holidays.

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