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5 Tips For A Successful Family Movie Night

Now that our kids are getting older they want to spend more time with their friends and out of the house. It’s hard to nail them down to spend time with the family but it’s really important to me that our family stays close. Movies seem to be the one thing that we all love. So we do family movie night several times a month in our house. And with the weather being so warm I’ve found some fun new ways to add a twist to our family movie nights. 


{1} Get out of the house. Movie nights don’t just have to be inside. We take our smaller flat screen TV out on to the deck and set it up on the bar so we can have movie night outside. We’ve watched movies while in the hot tub too. 

{2} Movie Bingo. We don’t do this every time but it’s fun to do movie bingo sometimes. Once we know which movie genre we’re choosing from I make up some bingo cards. If we’re watching an action movie then the bingo squares might have things like “bomb explodes” or “car chase”. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy- I use index cards and jelly beans! The winner gets a prize- usually something like 20 extra minutes at bedtime or their choice of a dessert for the weekend.

{3} Yummy popcorn recipe. I love popcorn and it’s a huge part of our family movie nights. But sometimes I like to mix it up so I make different kinds of popcorn recipes. Our favorite is the caramel marshmallow popcorn. You can find tons of ideas on Pinterest. 

{4} Stay cozy. If we’re outside watching a movie then we use the fire pit and some fuzzy IKEA $3 blankets. If we’re inside then we turn on the fireplace. It’s all about ambience.

{5} Choose a fun movie. In our house we pick out of a hat. Everyone writes down the movie they want to watch, adds their choice to the hat, and we pick one. No whining, no complaining, no do-overs. Those are the family movie night rules. 

I know the day is coming when the kids start asking to have friends over for family movie night and I won’t say no. I’ll just smile and be grateful that our kids are still hanging out with us at home. 


8 Fun Family Holiday Traditions For Older Kids & Teens

My kids are getting older and some of our traditions from when they were little are no longer things they enjoy doing at Christmas time. So we’ve had to adjust our holiday traditions and add new ones as the kids age so everyone still has fun. I miss the days of watching Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, making Reindeer food to sprinkle on the lawn, reading A Night Before Christmas…the good old days. But times change, kids grow up, and we have to adapt. 


1 Jingles the Elf- my little kids still love Jingles the Elf on a Shelf. Jingles isn’t a naughty elf though, she just moves throughout the house to new locations every night to keep a watch over the family. The big kids get involved by coming up with new and creative places for Jingles to sit and the little kids like to search for her every morning. 

2. Family Movie Nights- we are big movie lovers in this house and Christmas time gives us a lot of movies to choose from. I recently shared our favorite holiday movies and we also watch a lot of the Christmas movies on ABC Family. We light a fire, make crockpot hot chocolate, and eat Christmas cookies or Grinch Crunch Popcorn, snuggle under warm blankets, and enjoy our favorite movies. 

3. Christmas Lights- the kids no longer want to do the long drive through the Christmas town that is about 45 minutes away from our house. So we compromise because I don’t want to give up the tradition totally. Instead of hot chocolate from home we make a stop at Starbucks (Peppermint Mochas for the big people, and Peppermint Hot Cocoa for the little people) and drive around a few of the neighborhoods near us while listening to Christmas music (Penatonix Christmas album, anyone? So amazing!).

4. Christmas Cookies Decorating Party- the kids all have a favorite kind of cookie so starting this year they are going to help me make their favorite cookies. Then we’ll have their friends over to help decorate all the cookies to give as gifts to the neighbors. 

5. Giving Back- we always choose several children off the Angel Tree to buy gifts for but as the kids get older I want to do more. I want them to understand that it is always better to give than to receive and Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to really drive that message home in children. This year we all participated in making care packages for the homeless, we have committed to providing 5 Christmas boxes for local foster children, we are collecting coats from family and friends for a local coat drive, and we are continuing to do the Angel tree. I hope my kids grow up with a heart for serving others!

6. Ice Skating- our city has a beautiful ice rink in the winter time set up right in our uptown. We park at Matt’s workplace parking garage for free, and try our luck on ice skates. It’s gorgeous with all the lights and the huge city Christmas tree set up. The kids love it. 

7. Christmas Shows- this year we are taking the kids to see the A Christmas Carol at the Children’s Theatre, we are going to see the Singing Christmas Tree, and we’re going to watch Polar Express in 4D. It’s really nice to be able to sit through shows now without kids getting bored. 

8. Snowman Breakfast– one of our newest traditions is to do a Snowman breakfast the morning of Christmas Eve. We make Snowman shaped pancakes, snowmen out of powdered donuts and straws, and white hot chocolate. I think the kids will love this!

I just love the Christmas season and I hope we’re making a lot of life lasting memories for our kids. My wish is that one day they will continue a few of these traditions with their own kids. 


My Top 10 Favorite Holiday Movies


I love Christmas movies. I watch them all year long, which drives Matt insane but hey- he knew who he was marrying before he said I Do so that’s his problem. One of my favorite parts of December is watching Christmas movies with my kids. We make caramel popcorn, light a fire, drink hot cocoa, and snuggle up on the couch with fuzzy blankets. These are my top 10 favorite Christmas movies that we watch every year. 

1. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation- hands down, my favorite Christmas movie ever. Ever. Ever ever. I watch this one all year long and I force my family to watch it too.

2. Christmas with the Kranks- I love this movie. Tim Allen is hilarious and Dan Aykroyd makes me laugh out loud. This is another one I can watch all year long.

3. Jingle All the Way- This one is a favorite of my kids. They love it. It’s a classic in our family and I’m going to be really sad when the kids drop it from our rotation.

4. A Christmas Story- This is just a family tradition. We start A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve and it plays all night long. It’s still as good as it was when I first saw it as a kid. For Matt and I, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without this movie.

5. Elf- Who doesn’t love this movie? It’s hysterical. My kids love it, Matt loves it, and it’s a favorite. 

6. Home Alone- It’s a classic. Mase reminds me of the main character, Kevin. They share a lot of the same mischievous qualities. I have to admit that I still laugh the whole way through this movie.

7. Unaccompanied Minors- We added this movie to our rotation a couple of years ago and it’s so funny. The kids love it and the movie does have a lot of the same funny qualities as Home Alone.

8. Deck The Halls- This movie is so funny. Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick are so good together in this movie. The kids love it. 

9. The Family Stone- This is one of my favorites. I’m the only one who appreciates this movie but I force them to watch it anyway. 

10. Four Christmases- Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon? Yes. Matt and I really love this movie. It’s a December staple in our house. 

Any movies that should be on my list but I forgot? 


How To Host A Fun Outdoor Movie Night Party On A Budget

I spent some considerable time and money this past Spring and Summer updating our outdoor entertaining area. We have this great extended deck on the back of our house that we haven’t been using because it was pretty empty. I wanted to focus on some family time and hosting fun parties this year and I knew the back deck had to have a makeover in order for that to happen. I bought chairs and cushions, an outdoor rug, a gas fire pit, and my dad made me a fantastic bar/entertainment center. 


The first party we hosted on our newly improved deck was Maia’s end of the school year sleepover. She wanted to have a movie night on the deck and time in the hot tub with her friends. I spent less than $50 to make this fun outdoor movie night party happen and Maia was thrilled. The girls had a blast and we hosted a couple more movie nights thru the summer for family and friends. There are 6 things that I consider to be essential for a successful and fun outdoor movie night.

1. Glow Sticks- I bought several packs from the $1 spot at Target. The girls wore them as bracelets and necklaces and we also tossed them in the hot tub. They created a nice ambiance while the movie was playing.


2. Candy Concessions- Candy is an important part of every successful movie night! I grabbed a variety of boxes of candy from Target for $1 each and used the lid of a box as a concession tray. Since we hosted this party in the heat of the summer I made sure to get non-chocolate based candy. Nerds, Warheads, Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, and Starburst were safe bets to hold up in the heat. We had 6 girls here for the sleepover, including Maia, so I had plenty of candy. But when we hosted a movie night for more people later in the summer we used admission tickets- each person got 2 tickets to turn in for 2 boxes of candy. 


3. Movie screen- I wasn’t about to spend $200 on an outdoor projector so we used one of the TV’s from the house. I set it up with the Roku on my outdoor bar, rented a movie from Amazon, and used Matt’s bluetooth speakers to amplify the sound. It took all of 5 minutes to get it set up. The only cost was the $4 to rent the movie! I had a basket set up beside the bar with folded blankets for the girls to use if they wanted to get cozy and they loved it. I keep a stack of $3 IKEA blankets on hand now for just this purpose.


4. Popcorn & Drinks- I grabbed a bunch of the plastic popcorn containers from Target’s dollar section in different colors and set up a popcorn bar. I poured popped microwavable popcorn into a big bowl and added an ice scooper so the girls could fill their own container. Then we set up a topping area with different flavors of popcorn salt- butter, white cheddar, ranch, and bacon cheddar. Matt filled a big cooler with ice and lots of cans of soda.


5. Sno-Cones- It was still hot well after dark when we hosted our party so Sno-Cones were a great way for the girls to cool off. I had already purchased an electric ice shaver earlier in the year to make frozen margaritas and it was perfect for making sno-cones too. I found some cute disposable sno-cone cups and spoons at Target and grabbed several different flavor syrups. The girls ate sno-cones all night long and had the best time. Pro-Tip: I made Sno-Shakes for the grown ups by filling a 16 ounce cup full of shaved ice.  Add 3 to 4 ounces of your favorite shaved ice syrup along with 3 to 4 ounces of evaporated milk and stir well. It’s delicious!


5. Ambiance- I already mentioned the glow sticks in the hot tub but we also had battery operated lanterns set around the deck and of course, the fire pit. We purposefully bought one that has several setting so we can use it year round. In the summer we use the lowest setting so it does not put out too much heat. The girls loved to sit around the flickering fire while watching their movie. We’ve gotten so much use out of the fire pit this summer and I know we’ll use it even more now that Fall is approaching and the temps are dipping below 95 degrees.

We have another fun family movie night planned soon and I can’t wait. Even Ty enjoys it and he’s pretty much anti-anything that involves not being with his friends. Ha!


6 Ways I’m Preparing For Back To School

My kids go back to school on Monday, which they are just so excited about, and I’ve spent the last couple of weeks getting prepared. We’ve been back on school schedule for a week now- waking up and going to bed earlier. That’s always the hard part with my kids- they are night owls just like their parents. Here are a few other things I’ve been doing to try and get the jump on the new school year. 

1. Cleaning out the command center. I’m embarrassed to admit it but when the last school year ended we didn’t even empty out book bags. We literally just shoved them in the closet and shut the door. So I pulled out the book bags and realized they both needed to be replaced. Good thing I checked! I also cleaned out the command center. I filed all of the previous year’s school papers and cleaned off the bulletin board. 


2. Updating my recipe collection. I’m making the switch back to a monthly menu plan now that we bought a second fridge/freezer for the garage. I’m doing twice a month grocery shopping so planning meals out a month in advance is helpful. I went through my recipe app and cleaned it up. I deleted old recipes I never make or ones we didn’t enjoy. I added a bunch of new ones to try. I also re-did my categories to make menu planning easier.

3. Making new chore charts. The kids have been really slack on chores this summer. A new school year means new chores. Now that we’ve added 2 new puppies to the family there are enough chores to go around. Maia is happy to pass on some of her old chores to Mase and Zoey is just excited to have a chore chart this year. Sweet girl, I’m sure that won’t last long.

4. Filling the pantry. I’ve spent most of this week turning our old hall closet into a second pantry. The closet was full of….junk. Lots of junk. Junk that we didn’t need. So I cleaned it all out, installed shelves from IKEA, and organized. I re-vamped our existing pantry to make it more functional. Now I can stock the items we frequently run out of and not have to make any in-between trips to the grocery store. 

5. Clearing the clutter. Oh the clutter. The benefit of re-arranging rooms is being able to de-clutter the house. I cleaned out a ton of stuff from the kids’ rooms. Then I moved onto the kitchen and cleaned out every cabinet and drawer. I even hit the garage! So far we’ve taken 4 loads to Goodwill and I still have 2 more loads to go.

6. Organizing the closets. Another benefit of re-arranging the kids’ rooms is that I got to start from scratch with their closets. I went through every single item and got rid of all the excess. It feels great. And it’s a good thing I did- I found out that Maia had not one pair of pants that fit her. And most of her tops were too tight. So she’s the recipient of a brand new fall wardrobe. Yay for her, boo for my credit card. 

So that’s how I’m preparing for BTS this year. I know it’s going to be a hectic few weeks and we’ll all be cranky and tired, but hopefully at least we’ll be organized.