Friday, December 27, 2013

Fun in the Snow

After going to see Walking with Dinosaurs with my bestie and our kids today, we had some serious outdoor fun hiking through snowy trails at a local nature preserve.  I took a ton of photos, and I'm glad my camera is finally back in full swing! (...back meaning back with a brand new, bigger, better lens, because why replace a busted lens with the same exact non-busted version, right?)

Here are some fun shots from our outdoor adventure:
That's ten, adorably rosy cheeks!
Aunt M accepts ALL snow angel challenges.
Sweet twins S&Z and even sweeter big sister L.

Both looking.  Both smiling.  BOOM!
Bridge over troubled water

Nature hike rope course

#Heartfailure... take picture, and then get him down.
Nature Center puzzle buddies
Indoor birdwatching isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from Double the Giggles!

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

On this most special of days, I wish you all smiles on the faces of the young and old, kisses under the mistletoe, eggnog, second helpings of dessert, raindrops on roses & whiskers on kittens, hugs from relatives, phone calls from good friends - near and far, Christmas cookies, falling snow, good face-hurting laughs, sounds of crinkling wrapping paper, singing & dancing, holiday ribbons, candles burning, but mostly I wish lots and lots of love this Christmas.

Merry & Bright,

Saturday, December 21, 2013

{Giveaway!} Easy Canvas Prints Giveaway

Tis the season to take photographs! After several failed attempts with my own (broken) camera, we were lucky enough to get a mini session with our favorite photographer Sara at a local landmark just in time to order our Christmas cards.  Sara took so many beautiful, amazing photos, that I was thrilled when I was offered the opportunity to review a photo canvas from Easy Canvas Prints.

Ordering my canvas was super simple.  Easy Canvas Prints walks you through each step of ordering.  There are many options for their canvases, and after viewing several different options, I finally made my choice and placed my order.  I was a little weirded out by the edge options (a solid color, or a mirror  image - which I ultimately went with), but the mirror image edges actually look fine.
...I mean, who is really looking at the edges anyway, right?
The [original] winning photo.  I always go with black and white, but Dan put in a special request to get some color up on our walls.
Kind of difficult to photograph at night, but I swear ...the image is crisp and the colors are pretty accurate.
I couldn't be happier with my new photo canvas!  The colors are vivid and the photo is crisp.  The only complaint I have is with myself, for not ordering a larger one (this is an 8x10)!  I'd love to grab a few more of these to place around our house.  Easy Canvas Prints offers some great deals from time to time, so I'll have to keep my eyes open in 2014.

What better way to begin the final Christmas countdown than with a giveaway?!  Easy Canvas Prints is giving away one 8x10 photo canvas print to one lucky Double the Giggles reader, including free shipping to the US (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).  Contest runs through midnight, December 29th. Easy Canvas Prints is also offering my readers a 50% off promotion!  Just click HERE for the discount.  Enter giveaway below:

While you're planning out your new photo canvas, be sure to check out Easy Canvas Print's affiliate sites, Allied Shirts (super fun!) and Build A Sign for all your creative custom printing needs.

All opinions and thoughts are my own.  Double the Giggles may have received compensation/product for conducting review.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

{Twelve Days of Christmas} Day 12: Gifts for Boys

I've saved my most fun post for last.  Day 12 of the Twelve Days of Christmas is Gifts for Boys!   (Sorry girls, but we have boys, here!)   We've already purchased a few things for our little guys, but never limit ourselves to just online, or just the toy stores.  I'm a HUGE fan of consignment shopping and using Craigslist this time of year... which brings me to my first item (click item names for affiliate links.)

This is the GeoTrax Fire Station that  I just scored (along with a handful of other Geo Trax systems) for an amazing deal on Craigslist.  Fisher Price is a hometown company (based in East Aurora, NY) and their toys are total made with quality.  Andrew will be asking Santa for a remote control train, and Wesley LOVES anything fire engine/ambulance-related, so this is the perfect gift for both of them!  Can't wait to see these set up on their train table!
Next up on my list of gifts are books. (Remember yesterday's post?)  Books are sometimes pricey, but this is one thing I don't hesitate to splurge on.  Kids are sponges, and just when you think something won't interest them, they become completely consumed with a story or concept. (Ex:
This little Lewis & Clark gem is my boys' favortie thing to watch at Grandma and Grandpa's house!  They officially know -and care- way more about the explorers than I do.) Here are some fantastic book ideas:

Wesley will sit and play LEGOS (another awesome gift idea) for HOURS, but Andrew is ALWAYS on the move.  These These Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Binocularsare perfect for our little on-the-go explorer.

 Last but not least, I remember seeing my shiny purple 10-speed standing proudly on it's kickstand in front of our tree on Christmas morning 20-some years ago like it was yesterday.  What little kid wouldn't light up with this new Pacific Boy's Bicycle ?  Lucky for us, we have a big driveway and a great bikepath close to our house that the boys love to ride on.

What are your little one's asking Santa to bring them this year?
*affiliate links are used in this post, but always shop around for the best new prices, and I strongly encourage you to be open to the idea of buying second hand goods! Many used toys have lots of life left in them and you can save a few bucks, too!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

{Twelve Days of Christmas} Day 11: Holiday Books

Books are a huge hit in our house.  Sometimes I read to the boys while they are eating (and use 'turning the page' as leverage to get them to take another bite), but mostly, we read at bed time.  We read A LOT at bedtime.  As the holidays approach, we've squeezed some festive books in with the usual construction-themed and Richard Scarry books.
Here is a list of personal favorites. Some are colorful and simple enough for small toddlers to enjoy and others are more age approriate for our 4 year olds.
No Two Alike -  I've had this beautiful book on my Amazon sidebar for a while now.  This book not only has beautiful wintery illustrations of nature, but it's also a great book for multiples because it shows that no matter how similar two things may appear, they are Almost, almost, but not quite the same.

Duck & Goose, It's Time for Christmas! -  I LOVE LOVE LOVE Duck and Goose (and of course, Thistle, too!)  This is my all time favorite Duck & Goose story. It highlights all the fun outdoor things to do this time of year. Silly, Goose!

The Polar Express -  A holiday essential overflowing with the magic of Christmas. Personally, I prefer the storybook to the movie, but my boys love them both the same. (Honestly, the characters in the movie look a little creepy to me!)

The Snowman - Love this book (and the movie, and I highlighted this as a go-to HERE on Day 5).  Beautiful illustrations take you on a magical journey with a snowman and a little boy in his pajamas.

Corduroy's Christmas Surprise - We have several holiday-themed Corduroy books and love them all!

Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World - This is a great way to introduce you little ones to other cultures and celebrations that happen this time of year.

What special holiday books are you sharing with your children this season?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

{Twelve Days of Christmas} Day 10: Free Holiday Printables

Yesterday I wrote about decorating for less.  The only thing better than decorating for less is decorating for FREE!  Day Ten of the Twelve Days of Christmas is all about free holiday-related printables!  Sure, you could search the web yourself, but I thought I'd throw a few of my favorites togther for you.  Printables aren't just for decorating anymore...

First, planning is a huge part of my life. Between my part-time work, my husband's crazy swing shift schedule and all the activities we have planned with the kids, friends and family, I'd be completely lost without my planner. Although I may look completely frazzled and unorganized, I have a method and it works for me. That being said, I'm always looking for fun new ways to stay on track. Check out this FREE, ADORABLE, PRINTABLE HOLIDAY PLANNER from Stephanie of The House on Hillbrook! I'm sad I didn't find this sooner, as it starts with Thanksgiving 2013.  You download it, print it, punch it and throw it in your planner. Simple! There are pages to plan your shopping, your spending, your cleaning and even your outfits!  Stephanie is known for her colorful outlook on all things organizing.  On top of making this holiday planner available to you for free, she has been kind enough to offer Double the Giggles readers a discount to her etsy shop Printing Pixels. Just use the code 2XGIGGLES for  20% off everything until December 31st at midnight! Thanks, Stephanie!

Remember my Keep Calm creation from last year that oddly, no one seemed to want? (I thought we were on the same creative page here, people!)  Luckily, there are holiday versions way cuter than mine of the historic Keep Calm sign and they are guessed it!  Crafty Kyla over at the Funky Polkadot Giraffe created an adorable FREE handful of them for you to print and frame. 
This and many more via Funky Polkadot Giraffe
Lastly, I Heart Nap Time recently linked up with 11 other creative bloggers offering a ton of free holiday printables.  I love her Merry Kiss-mas Tags contribution. What a cute, simple idea for dressing up a sweet treat for a friend!

Monday, December 9, 2013

{Twelve Days of Christmas} Day 9: Simple Holiday Decor

It's the Ninth Day of Christmas here at Double the Giggles and today I'm talking decorations!   I wait on pins and needles every year until I get the go-ahead (from my better half) to start my Christmas decorating.  Each year I mix it up a little, but year after year,  most of my collection makes an appearance during the month of December.

Now I love elaborate decorations just like the next person, but there are so many easy ways to 'decorate for less' especially since this stuff is only out for a month (or less, in most cases).  My first suggestion is to shop the sales AFTER the holidays.  Although you may be totally Merried Out by the time December 26th rolls around, you can't beat 75% off! You'll thank yourself the next year, I promise!

Use what you already have.  Here, I have three artificial trees.  We are in the middle of renovating out kitchen/dining space, and I've lost the area where I do my Christmas Countdown.  Lost, meaning, the wall/opening no longer exists.  As I took down our countdown days last year, I replaced them with all of the Christmas cards we received.  I could easily put the cards in a decorative box on our TV stand, but I really do enjoy seeing them all at year I'm decorating a tree with them!
I decorated some clothespins (from the local $ store) with Christmas colored washi tapes and pinned away!  So easy, cheap and festive!
No more weirdly-placed window and sliding glass door means no Christmas countdown this year.
Behold, the wonder of washi!
Clever Christmas card tree!
I could've done the countdown on the tree, as well, but to be honest, defer to my kids' fourth birthday post.  I just wasn't up for all the creative thinking hoopla this year.  Don't judge me.

Another easy decoration is shown below using shiny ball ornaments.  Chances are, you have a million of these for your tree.  Save ten or so and throw them in a basket, vase, or even on a festive plate.  Embellish with a ribbon when possible, and there you have it.  A pretty decoration for your mantle, or a festive centerpiece for the family Christmas dinner table.
Sparkly balls in a basket.
Find or buy a cheap old window (this one cost me $7 bucks at a local re-use shop) and dress it up.  My mantle is super shallow, and we still haven't found the perfect piece of reclaimed wood to make a new one.  This weathered window frame looks great above our fireplace and I keep it out year round, draping banners, greens and creatures on it!
Personalize your decorations.  A quick walk through your local craft store and a little imagination can yield fabulous results.  I'm still swooning over THESE gorgeous ornaments that I created for Day 6 of the my Twelve Days.  I had the ribbon, the photo, the photo paper and glue.  The only thing I purchased was the clear plastic ornament for like $1, and the snow, which I later replaced with Diamond Dust (finely ground glass by Flora Craft).  Use personalized decorations like this to decorate gifts, identify stockings, as place cards, etc. People will love the personal touch and these seriously were super easy and quick to make.
I totally made this!
Lastly, let's not forget about simple, affordable outdoor decorations.  I've had this idea FOREVER and finally got to creating them this year.   I grabbed a couple of rusty old tomato cages from our barn, bought two 7.5' strand of twinkle lights from the local hardware store and 75% (the only way to buy it!) 7' pine garland (I used 4 pcs/~28' per tomato cage) from last season.
Instant holiday magic!
How do you deck your halls?