How to Plan the Best North Pole Breakfast with Elf on the Shelf

The Christmas season doesn't truly begin until our North Pole Breakfast.  We may have visited Santa and the decorations have been going up over the past few weeks but it doesn't feel real until Jingle the Elf returns from the North Pole.  

Our North Pole Breakfast is the second most magical day of the year; second only to Christmas morning.  The girls jumped with joy and squealed with delight when they saw Jingle had returned.  I think I get as much joy as they do planning the breakfast and seeing their excitement.  Their smiles make my heart explode and witnessing their innocence is the best feeling.  I had the realization the other night that my years are VERY limited with Emily and the magic of Christmas.  She is in second grade and it will only be a matter of time before she starts questioning Santa.  This year I am going to do my best to soak in all the innocence, magic and joy!

Our Breakfast Bashes are always so much fun and quite simple to execute and this one is no exception.  Most of the time I use our tableware from Re-Play because they add the best pops of color.  I always have a stock of paper straws and the glass milk jars I also have on hand.  I found the gold wire baskets at Dollar Tree (score!!!) and found the t-shirts and pajamas from The Children's Place (all linked below).  Our letter board adds some humor and the final touch on the table.

For the food we started with Reindoor Donuts, Santa Cookies and Marshmallow Snow Balls.  The main course was Santa pancakes.  To make the donuts I used mini chocolate donuts, twist pretzels cut in half, candy eyes, and red candy coated chocolately pearls.  For the pancakes I used strawberries, canned whipped cream, chocolate chips and black decorating icing. 

So I may LOVE our North Pole Breakfast but remembering to move the elf is a whole different story!  Onto planning his moves and activities...

Creative Christmas Card Ideas

I love planning out our Christmas cards every year.  Some years I pick a theme and other years I just pick a landscape and coordinate our outfits.  Here is a round up of our past Christmas Card Ideas for you to use as a little inspiration...

Location: Christmas Tree Farm
Color Scheme: Leopard and Red 
Card Caption:
"May you have the gift of faith, the blessing of hope and the peace of His love at Christmas and always."

Theme: There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays
Location: Under a Fresno sign
Color Scheme: Black, White & Hunter Green 
Card Caption:
"May there be joy in your home, love in your heart, and laughter in your life this Christmas season."

Theme: Polar Express
Location: Caboose
Color Scheme: Red & Black Buffalo Check
Card Caption:
"The bell rings for all who truly BELIEVE.  Make the magic of Christmas remain in your heart and the sound of the bell in your ear."

Location: Park
Color Scheme: Red, Navy & White
Card Caption:
"We said a Christmas prayer for you because the season's near.  We didn't ask for riches but for gifts so much more dear.  We asked for joyful gatherings with your family all around, and for carols to inspire you with their old familiar sound.  We asked for quiet moments in your heart on Christmas morn, for a special time to celebrate the Savior who was born...We asked for friends to send their best that you might know they care.  We asked for peace and love and hope, and we know God heard our prayer."

Theme: Silent Night
Location: Home
Color Scheme: Red & White
Card Caption: 
"Merry & Bright...and up all night!
We traded silent nights for a bundle of joy!"

If you want more details about styling holiday cards click HERE.  If you want more details on executing cards from start to finish click HERE.

A Complete Guide to Creating Beautiful Holiday Cards

One of the best parts of the Christmas season is Christmas Cards.  I love sending them just as much as I love receiving them.  It's the only time of year that I check the mailbox regularly and get excited for mail.  I love seeing how everyone has grown and all the creative ideas from everyone.  Although Christmas cards are so much fun they can be labor intensive and pretty stressful to execute from start to finish.  I've created a guide that I've tweaked and perfected over the years so that you can take all the stress out for yourself.  Here are all the steps in creating a beautiful card:

1. Pick a Photographer
2. Pick a Theme
3. Pick Wardrobe
4. Pick a Location
5. Take Photos
6. Search Card Options, Create, and Order

I always start with the photographer because the best ones book up MONTHS in advance.  I seriously get our Christmas card photos on the books in the Spring and I'm always amazed how few options are already left when I start looking for a mutually agreeable date.  If you don't already have a relationship with a photographer you need to start looking for one.  I always ask for recommendations first and then start looking at their body of work online or on social media.  Pick a few that you like and then start looking at their pricing.  Photography can be insanely expensive so you need to find someone within your budget.  You can find newer photographers who are trying to build their business who are charging cheaper prices but are still very talented.  Make sure you ask several questions ahead of time before booking to make sure it will be a good fit.  Here are some questions I think you should ask:

1. Do you have experience with children?
2. Do you have experience with editing and Photoshop?
3. What is your turnaround time for delivering photos?
4. How do you deliver photos?
5. How many photos can I expect to receive?
6. Are all photos delivered raw or edited?

If you are local we absolutely love Melissa Gotelli Photography.  We've used her for many occasions over the years and she is so kind and patient with our family.  We are always so happy with her work!

The next step in the planning process is deciding on a theme.  Some years I have a specific theme and other years I just pick a scenic background and coordinating outfits.  You can check out creative themes I've done in the past HERE.  If you need further theme inspiration check out your favorite influencers on social media or jump into Pinterest.  Once I decide on a theme I start working on the wardrobe.  This is one of my favorite steps because who doesn't love shopping!  I also get a small thrill from putting looks together (lol).  However, although the shopping is so much fun I always start in our closets to save time and money.  Once I see what we have that might already work I start shopping.  I usually buy several options and then start laying it all out to see what looks best together.  Another tip is to decide on looks for the whole family and then send it to your photographer.  They have an eye for what will look best on camera as well as what will work with the location.  Speaking of, now is the time that the photographer and I decide on the perfect location.  If you have a theme let the photographer know so that they can help you with your vision. 

Now for the hardest part...take the photos.  Does anyone else come totally prepared but leave completely shaken?!?!  No, just me????  I go in with the best intentions and the calmest mindset but the kids never want to cooperate fully and sometimes my vision just goes out the window.  There isn't enough bribing in the world to have a completely smooth session.  Luckily, I always get at least a few photos thanks to an amazing photographer.  My tips for taking photos are picking a good time for your kids when you book the session.  Don't plan pictures during nap times or witching hours.  Also do lots of pep talks (read:bribery) in the car on your way there.  Start with the photos that mean the most to you.  That might be a full family photo or a pic of just your kids.  Whatever that is start with that and anything you get after that is gravy.  Another tip for preparing for you photo session is to pick out a few card options ahead of time.  This way if you only like cards with vertical photos you can communicate that with your photographer.

The last step is creating and ordering your cards.  I found Postable last year and am in love/obsessed!!!!!  I love anything that saves me time and Postable makes sending cards a total breeze.  Their motto is, "You click, we lick!"  Can you imagine you order your cards and then do NOTHING after that?!?!  You don't have to stuff, seal, address and stamp.  Postable takes care of every single step for you.  I've literally saved a couple of hours by converting over to Postable I have the best news, you can use code FRESNO for 20% off your order.  

For more wardrobe and styling tips check out a previous post HERE.

This is a sponsored post.  All opinions expressed are honest and my own.  Thank you for supporting the brands that have received my stamp of approval.

How to Kick Off Christmas with Santa HQ

“This is a sponsored blog; while the views expressed here
were genuinely mine, consideration was paid to me by Macerich/HGTV’s Santa

We live for traditions in our house and one of our favorites during the holidays is visiting Santa at HGTV's Santa HQ inside Fashion Fair Mall.  We've been going for several years and so the girls start asking for it as soon as Christmas starts sneaking into our house and around town.   It's usually our first holiday activity so it kicks off the season.

What makes Santa HQ so special is you don't just wait in line and visit with Santa for a minute but you have a full interactive experience before meeting the big guy!  There are four stops prior to Santa, each offering a new bit of fun.

The first stop is probably our favorite; the Naughty or Nice Meter.  Each child inputs their name with the help of an elf and then stands on an interactive board to see where they fall this year.  After the meter makes its determination the child's name appears on the appropriate list.  I think Santa is very forgiving because all three of my little animals made the Nice List. Seriously, Santa, even Jack?!?!

The second stop is inside the first room and is the Magic Mirror which turns you into an elf where you can choose an elf and an outfit and then send yourself a photo.  Also inside this room is where you can make your own Elf-ID which you can also send to yourself.

In the next room you can use an iPad for Elf-Ray vision and catch an elf along the ceiling and walls.  Santa's Sleigh Command Center is also available for you little elves to play and navigate.

The last stop before the grand finale is a professional photo opp with a backdrop and props.  Of course they save the best part for last and you get to climb into Santa's sleigh and chat with the main guy himself.   You know sometimes Santa is having a good day and other times a bad day but Santa was PHENOMENAL with our little ones.  He was beyond patient, kind, friendly and warm.  Our kids had the best experience not only telling Santa about their wishlist but reading about the elves and even the Christmas classic, Twas the Night Before Christmas.   Santa even helped Madi to read on her own.

Spend less time in line and purchase a FAST PASS which will allow you to pick a 30 minute window on a specific date.  You prepay for your picture package and skip the line when you arrive.  You can also opt-in for text reminders.  Also during your visit you may consider bringing a new toy for HGTV's Help Through the Holidays Giving Drive.  For more information and special event dates check HERE.

We absolutely love Santa HQ and give it two thumbs up.  It keeps us coming back year after year and would love to hear what you think about the experience!  Merry Christmas!

How to Create a Birthday Breakfast Tradition

Since Emily was very young I've thrown a small birthday breakfast to celebrate the day and it's become such a fun tradition.  It's very simple but makes the girls so happy and feel very special.  I almost always use our Re-Play tableware to add the pop of color to our kids table but sometimes I use paper goods.  In the past I've done a donut cake but this year I did a pink pancake tower with chocolate drizzle on top.

How to Throw a Bright Rainbow Roller Skating Party

Emily paints a rainbow wherever she goes!  She lights up any room and she finds the silver lining to any cloud.  I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate her 8th birthday than with a Rainbow Roller Skating Party.  She is now of the age where roller skating is doable and would be fun for her and her friends so we picked United Skates Clovis for her party.

How to Create a Perfect Smile with Thurman Orthodontics

When Kevin was growing up braces weren't in his family's budget even though he had very crooked teeth.  As a young adult he did get veneers on his top teeth to help with the appearance of his smile but his teeth always bothered him despite the slight fix.  We've been talking about Invisalign for years and recently we finally pulled the trigger.  We decided to visit Thurman Orthodontics to explore options.

Adorable Halloween Costume Ideas

When Emily was the only child dressing her up for Halloween was fun but everything went to another level when I could coordinate sisters and then last year with Jack we made it a family affair.  So for several years I've loved planning costumes and to be honest with you I frequently coordinate their costumes with Emily's birthday parties since her birthday is one week after Halloween.  This way I'm killing two birds with one stone.

My kids are still at an age where I can "gently sway" them into costumes that I like or approve.  I start planting seeds and so far I've been very lucky and they've gone with my ideas.  I fear my days are numbered but I'm hanging on as long as I can.  Now that we have 2 girls and 1 boy it makes it a tad harder to come up with sibling costumes.  But, last year was our first year of doing so and we went as the Incredibles because it was just so natural as a family of five and we had our own Jack Jack.  I can't wait to share this years costumes but in the meantime here is what I've put together over the years.

How to Make Simple Pudding Pops

If you know me or if you've followed me for awhile you know that I am all about simple.  Yes I love to be creative, to decorate and set up fun activities but at the end of the day I'm only tackling simple tasks.  I'm not sure if that's a little lazy or survival but it's the truth of this mom life.  We love to make homemade popsicles but I like using ingredients that are on hand and recipes that aren't tedious.  This pudding pop recipe couldn't get any easier; it took us less than five minutes from start to freezer.


Stir pudding mix and milk as per instructions on box.  Once soft set pour into popsicle molds and place in freezer.  After one hour place sticks into each popsicle and let freeze overnight.  Run warm water over mold for 60 seconds and then pull popsicles out of mold.  Enjoy!

These are the simplest of simple, a great way to include my girls in an activity and so delicious to enjoy together.

How to Throw the Best Back to School Breakfast

For birthdays, milestones and holidays I like to celebrate in some way.  It doesn't always have to be big or over the top but I don't want the day to go by without showing the girls that it's an important day and that we like to celebrate the special days in our lives.  

Luckily I created this BTS Breakfast last year so I still had all the printables.  So keep that in mind that the first year it does take some time to print and cut everything but if you store it, subsequent years are super easy.  I only had to buy red paper plates, green apples and make the pencil waffles.  The waffles are super easy to create.  Make waffles as usual and then cut into a rectangle.  Cut a piece of toast into a small triangle and top with a chocolate chip.  At the top of the "pencil" place 2-3 raspberries.  Breakfast was completed with Producer's milk that we dyed yellow.  In addition to the printables I used a mason jar filled with alphabet letters and colored pencils.

Here is where I found the free printables: