Organize for July 4th celebrations

Staying Home or Heading Out for July 4th?

Whenever you plan for the July 4th, or any holidays, vacations or just weekend getaways…. you usually always forget something if you aren’t prepared. Right?july 4th

We don’t usually do anything real big for July 4th. Our town has a nice firework display that we go to every year.   We don’t want to go to some massive display downtown and deal with all the traffic and mess you get into down there. Usually we grill out and then head to the high school. Nice and simple.  We’ll also head to the farm on some years and grill out our hotdogs over an open fire. 

It was my dog Sadie’s worse holiday of the year.  She was so scared of fireworks and for a few days prior to 4th of July and a day or so after, there are always those in the neighborhood setting off their own displays. She was a bundle of nerves! It was will strange this year without her, having to leave with the TV blaring and fans running to help cut the noise of fireworks for her.

You might just be staying at home and grilling out for your family, or some friends for the fourth….but you will still need some supplies you weren’t counting on. Chances are you might be going to some friends house for fireworks , or going on a weekend camping or getaway trip.

Get out Your Paper and Pen and start your list for what you will need to have for your 4th of July celebration.  Here are just a few suggestions:
2)Ice – Make your own ahead if there is time!
4)Place settings/cups
5)Napkins/paper towels
6)Trash Bags
7)Bug Spray
8)Sun Screen
10)First aid kit

There is the beginning of the list. Of course there is more, but be prepared.  Have a fun 4th of July weekend and please be safe if you are going to be messing with fireworks and even sparklers!

Your day/weekend will go much smoother if you have it planned out and aren’t forgetting half the things you need.


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Pigeon Forge, TN Vacation

A Family Vacation Is Good For All!

The kids wanted to return to TN for a family vacation this year. We went in 2009 and had a great time. We used our first vacation in a vacation package we had purchased a few years ago and found a nice 3 story cabin in Pigeon Forge that was great.

Pigeon Forge Family pic


I’ve been so busy with my full time job that the thought of taking a vacation was actually stressing me out.  I already had a position that hadn’t been filled under me that I was covering, and I knew that work would have to go onto someone else who already had a full plate. The awesome part about where I work is that everyone helps each other out. My team was awesome, telling me to go and relax and stay off line! (Which I didn’t totally do, but I only dealt with the big issues while I was on vacation – which was better than I thought it might be.)

Dave’s main objective was to take a few hikes in the Smoky Mountains and take the kids fishing for trout.   He got to accomplish both of his goals. He took the kids on one hike that thankfully I backed out of.  It took them 3 hours to hike up to Rainbow Falls. Evidently it was pretty much an incline hike with a very rocky path the whole way up and then took them only an hour to get back down.

I agreed to go to Clingman’s Dome.  It was a mountain drive up (keep in mind, I hate twisty, curvy mountain roads… so I drove) and then a 1/2 mile steep hike up a path to see it.  It was mid morning of a 90 degree day in TN when we left.  The temp was mid 80’s before we started up the mountain. The kids were having fun watching the thermostat go down as we went up the mountain. We reached the top and it was 64 degrees and windy… but very, very foggy! We knew we weren’t going to see much of anything. The picture above was taken as we came back from Clingman’s Dome and there was a clearing in the fog. We could actually see the mountains! Everyone was running to get pictures.

This was what Clingman’s Dome looked like when we were finally getting to it. Even though 1/2 mile isn’t far to walk, because of the incline and because I’m still so out of shape… it was rough! I didn’t feel as bad since there were a lot of other people stopping frequently also to get their breath.

Clingman's Dome

We had fun looking out at the white foggy mass, saying… “We made it to Clingman’s Dome and we CAN’T SEE A THING!”   The area at the bottom of the 1/2 mile hike up (where you park your cars), the kids had fun climbing up on some big ol’ rocks.

Smoky Mountains

Dave was thrilled to see part of the Appalachian Trail, as we were coming down from Clingman’s Dome. He made us walk in a little ways and then was educating the kids (and me) as to the marks on some of the trees, the signs to the next shelter areas, etc. We spent probably 15 minutes down on the trail while he taught his kids some of the history and stories about the trail.  He would have made an awesome teacher!

Appalachian Trail


One of the other things Dave really wanted the kids to experience was trout fishing in the Smoky Mountains.  He had a few obstacles in the way. The first biggie was that the kids had never gone fly fishing. The next was that he didn’t want to take a mass of fishing gear if they were going to hike, in order to fish.  

Ended up that we found a great public park that had fishing for kids 12 and younger. Perfect! The triplets are 12, even if Zach does look like he’s about 14. We joked that if a Game Warden did stop to ask the kids ages, they wouldn’t believe us… saying they were triplets and they were all 12.
Dave had prepared ahead of time. He got something called bubbles that he was able to rig up on regular fishing lines, rather than fly lines. With this bubble, they were still able to fish with the flies. They went two different times. Each of the kids did catch some trout. Alex caught several, Zach, I think caught two and Elise caught one… and a pregnant minnow, as she kept saying.

trout fishing

Another day we went horseback riding. It was a hour ride  walk up into the hills and back down. It was fun, the kids had a great time. They wouldn’t let you take any kind of cameras or phones on the horses though. ugh.. I wanted pictures!!  The same location also had “gold mining” as part of the package we purchased.  The kids get a bag with gems in it, and get to “pan” for them.

gold mining

We went to see one of the dinner shows, the Lumber Jack Feud.  The kids loved it. I had been to the Dixie Stampede when I was in Branson and really enjoyed the show. I thought the lumber jack one would be more enjoyable for the kids, and Dave. They had a great time.

We also spent time at the NASCAR Speed Park. Of course the kids loved that. Dave and I enjoyed the racing also.

NASCAR speedpark

It was a great vacation! Time to unplug and spend some quality time with the family.  It was really good for me.  I wasn’t sure if I was even going to do a post or not. Since none of our trip was sponsored in anyway, I certainly didn’t have to. I did want to share with you our trip!




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Memorial Day

May 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Holidays & Special Events

Memorial Day -Remembering Those Who Gave Their Lives

Often we think only of Memorial day as a three day weekend and a time for cookouts and parties. But we have many people to thank for the freedom to have those cookouts and parties.  Many, many people gave their lives in order for us to have our freedom.

We were driving to meet some family for dinner tonight. As we drove through Westerville, Ohio we saw this awesome flag display.

Memorial Day Tribute

I didn’t have my good camera with me, and I had to have some  pics. I took these pictures with my phone.

Memorial Day Tribute

Dave stopped by one of the tables that were set up and asked about them.

Memorial day Flags

There were 2,500 flags set up. You could purchase one of the flags for $30 and dedicate the flag to someone that has passed and was very special in your life. It doesn’t have to be a veteran (although I think most of them were), they also suggested a policeman or fireman.  They would print out a card with that person’s name and your message on a blue card and attach it to the flag pole.  Then tomorrow evening you can come back and pick up your flag.

If we had been able to get back to that area of town tomorrow, I’m sure we would have gotten one for my husband’s father.

They also had a 911 tribute.  The luminaries were attached to a generator and I bet it looked really awesome at night.

911 tribute

When I saw the sign and realized what this was about, I had to fight back tears. I don’t know anyone personally that was killed, but anytime I think about it and the terror that those involved went through…. the pain, the fear, the death for so many… it is almost overwhelming to me.

911 luminaries

With my boys (Joe on the left, Drew on the right) in the Army now, Memorial Day means even more. Knowing they are serving our country… I couldn’t be prouder. Their cousin Matt is in the center. He is a veteran also. He was in Iraq serving as a medic. He saw and has dealt with so much. He still wears a black metal bracelet that has Matthew Holley’s name and date of death on his arm … for the last six years.  My nephew Matt posted about it on Facebook and Matthew Holley’s father responded his gratitude back on Facebook.  I then looked at John Holley’s FB page (I’m not friends with him, so could only see a couple pictures) but realized that they have a book coming out soon about their son and his story. If I can find out more information about the book, I’ll let you know.

memorial day

Please think of someone who served or is serving and thank them (if possible) tomorrow. See a vet, shake their hand and say thank you. My son will be traveling home tomorrow. I was so impressed and proud of so many people who would see him in his uniform when were at the airport and thank him. My boys have had their meals paid for when they were out. People do appreciate those serving. It is a very cool thing.

Don’t forget!

This post was originally posted Memorial Day 2011

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Valentine’s Day Crafts

DIY Valentine’s Day Craft Projects

Valentine’s Day is coming fast!  I wanted to find a couple DIY projects that you might enjoy.

I did some searching on the internet and found a couple things from Martha and also Disney Family Fun.

 Romantic Candle Garden

I must really like the idea of the candle’s in coffee beans because I showed you one the other day I liked from pinterest too.  But how simple would this be to do?  Grab a few of those pillar candles that you probably have in a drawer somewhere, find a neat bowl or basket, pour in some coffee beans, place your candles and wah-la.. you’re finished!

Valentine's Day

Candy Hearts and Flower Arrangement

I think this would be super easy. It might take a trip to a craft store, but just for the jar and flowers.  You could use either real or artificial flowers in this, but personally I would suggest artificial if you want to feel ok about eating the candy hearts.

How cute would this be sitting on your daughter’s bedside in the morning?

Valentine's Day


Heart finger puppets Disney

These next couple ideas came from the Disney site.  This would make a cute craft for the kids and would also make fun home made Valentine’s Cards. They could write their messages on the back of them.

Valentine's Day

Your a blast

I’ve seen a couple people who have made this project, on pinterest. They have said they use Rolo candy in the center tube to stabilize. This would also be a fun craft for the kids to make for others, or something easy to make for them.

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day Coupon Checks

I loved things like this when I was young.  You can print these coupons for the kids to fill out for Valentine’s day gifts.  Another idea if they planned to give them to parents, siblings and Grandparents would be, if you have your old checks from a closed checking account sitting around – let them use those. If they are going to close family members you wouldn’t have to be so concerned with getting personal information off before using.

DIY Valentine Coupon Checks

What kind of crafts does your family do?

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Awesome Photo Blanket

January 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Family & Friends, Holidays & Special Events

Look At The Photo Blanket My Boys Got For Me!

My four oldest boys couldn’t stand to wait until Christmas Morning to give me my gift. They were so excited to give me the photo blanket they  had made for me.

photo blanket

I couldn’t believe it. They started unfolding it, and as soon as I saw there were family pictures on it.. the tears started flowing. As I’m sitting there trying to take it in, of course one of my first reactions was to grab my camera and then my phone and take pictures of it. lol (Truly a bloggers legacy).

They worked hard to make sure this photo blanket was perfect, picking up events from the time I met Dave and beyond. They worked hard to make sure that everyone was in the same amount of pictures evenly. They originally had our serious family photo for the bottom right pictures and then decided that our “goofy” one was perfect.

This photo blanket is one of the most awesome gifts I’ve ever been given. Isn’t it great?

I’ve had several of you ask where they got this photo blanket. I’m not actually sure where they got this exact throw, but I’ve seen them in a couple different places.

Walmart has them. The one that seems the closest is a 50×60 size that is 100% cotton. It says you can have up to 30 photos on the “Photo Collage Woven Throw”.  It also looks like you can customize them with a title. It can also be washed in cold water.What it says right now on the site (1/12/13) is that you can buy one and get one free ($99 cost for one).  I have no idea how long that deal goes on, but you can check. Obviously they must do it once in a while.

Hopefully that is helpful to you. Thanks!


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Preparing For The New Year!

December 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Holidays & Special Events, How To Organize

New Start For New Year

I always love the New Year! It motivates me to make changes. Do I make resolutions? Yes – No – Kind of.  I make goals for the new year. I think goals are always good to have.

New Years

My goals for this year?

1) Lose weight (yes, I know.. everyone’s goals. Dave and I are joining Weight Watchers together.)
2) Exercise (although routine one .. right?)
3) Not work as many hours – now that is different, right? I’ve been working between 60-80 hours per week for a year an a half now with my social media job. I LOVE it… but my house, my health and my family have suffered.  I have to consciously not work so many hours, and because I love what I do, it’s difficult.

Those are my biggies.

What are some other things I like to do with the new year?

I like to clean up and clean out.  When that Christmas Tree and decorations come down, I like to get into other areas of the house and clean them up too.

Today I dove into the pantry, the refrigerator, my office, my paperwork, my tax information.

I make myself a check list for the new year. I use them for work, so made another one.   What is on it?

1) Weight
2) Exercise
3) Household jobs
4) Tracking food for each meal

There are a few other goals on the list. But I used excel, put the tasks I wanted to accomplish down the left side. Across the top I put the days of the week and I’ll check off as I do things.

What works best for you?  I don’t know.. that is up to each individual.  But I suggest the following:

1) Decide what goals you’d like to accomplish for the new year. Personal and business
2) Write them down
3) Make yourself some kind of check list. Documenting what you accomplish each day is helpful.
4) Prep other areas of your home, life to get ready.

Happy New Year!


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English Toffee Recipe

December 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Family & Friends, Food, Holidays & Special Events

Who Doesn’t Love English Toffee?

by Amy Trauntvein

English Toffee

The holidays are right around the corner and for me that means baking and lots of it, and homemade holiday candy tops the list!  Peanut butter balls, dipped pretzels, almond joys, and caramels, clusters, turtles….  But my favorite homemade treat is my grandma’s recipe of homemade English Toffee.  For years I  just let my mom and grandma make it while I enjoyed eating it thinking it was WAY too complicated and difficult to make, but then my husband and I found ourselves moving across the country with our then 3 (now 4) children and if I wanted any of this wonderfully delicious treat at Christmas time, it was now up to me to make it.  ACK!!  I thought for sure I was going to ruin it the first time I tried, but you know what?  It really was easier than I thought and it turned out perfect!  So now I’m going to give YOU the recipe and show you how you can make and enjoy your very own English Toffee and wow your friends with your culinary smarts!  And one other awesome thing about this recipe, you don’t need a candy thermometer to make it!  Score!  Ready?  Here we go!

English Toffee

  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 lb butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup


  • 12 oz chocolate chips or good quality chocolate chopped up
  • 2 cups chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans) Purely optional.

Yes, 1 lb of butter is correct.  I never said it was light and healthy, did I? But there IS one secret to successful toffee and that is do not leave it alone.  Period.  You need stay at the stove because it must be constantly stirred and watched. If you think you can run upstairs and fold a load of laundry or go answer the phone while it cooks, before you know it, you’ve got a big burned mess.  It turns quickly and you need to be present.

First, you need to get your topping ready before you start cooking the toffee.  Chop the nuts, I used pecans for this recipe.  I chopped one cup more finely than the other for the topping.  One cup will go into the toffee (if you desire) and one cup will go on top of the toffee and chocolate.  Take one cup of nuts (the coarser chopped) and sprinkle onto an un-buttered cookie sheet

English Toffee

Chop up your chocolate and toss into a microwave safe bowl. Or if you are using chocolate chips, do nothing.  Here’s my chopped chocolate and the 5 lbs. of chocolate I buy every year to make candy.

English Toffee

My daughter wasn’t real happy about modeling it for me.  I really do go through almost all of it every Christmas making candy so it’s worth it to me to buy good quality chocolate.  No, we don’t eat it all ourselves.  I give most of my treats away to lucky recipients for the holidays!

English Toffee

Now you’re ready to start cooking!  Melt butter in a large non-stick pot on med/med high heat (do not brown).  Add sugar, water and corn syrup and mix well.

English Toffee
Bring to a rolling boil and continue stirring.  This is what is should look like.  I’m showing you so you can see the difference between the color of when it starts and and when it is finished…

English Toffee

Continue to boil while stirring until it turns the color of a brown paper bag (about 15 minutes).  See the bag and the toffee?  At this point it will start to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Let it cook for another 2 minutes stirring constantly.

English Toffee

Take off heat and pour onto the cookie sheet.  I forgot to sprinkle mine with the nuts so I poured them over the top and pressed them into the toffee.  It still worked just fine.

English Toffee

Now for the chocolate.  If you are using chocolate chips, just pour the chips evenly onto the hot toffee and let melt.  If you are using chopped chocolate, toss into the microwave and heat in 30 second increments on high while stirring in between until melted (it took me 60 seconds total).  Pour chocolate onto (still hot)toffee.  Spread chocolate evenly and top with remaining nuts.  Let cool completely.

English Toffee

Once cooled, break into pieces, enjoy the deliciousness and bask in the glow of the compliments you will receive!

English Toffee

Thanks for joining me and I hope this tutorial had helped you get over any qualms you may have about candy making. It really is easier than you may think!  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Love to all!  ~Amy






I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Home Made Christmas Cards

December 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Family & Friends, Holidays & Special Events

Do You Still Send Christmas Cards?

Christmas cards seem to be a dying art. I know in the last five or six years the number of cards I’ve received in the mail has dwindled down to very few. It used to be that I had them up everywhere, around doorways etc.  Now I get a small pile.

I’ve always sent out a Christmas card with our family picture on it. Yes.. I’m a letter sender too.  I know many people make fun of the Christmas letters, but I love them. Those are my favorite Christmas cards to receive.  When I get my Christmas cards out of the mailbox I, I usually know who sends the letter and I always open their cards last (save the best for last).

I love catching up with what is going on in the lives of my friends. I know that Facebook and blogs have begun to take place of sending out the cards.

I have never spent the time to sit down and make all my Christmas cards such as those that I’m going to showcase.

BHG Christmas Card

Better Homes and Garden

BHG Christmas card

Better Homes and Garden

Martha Stewart Christmas card

Martha Stewart

martha stewart handkerchief card

Martha Stewart 

I love this one. Have your child make a drawing and then take that to an office store and have them make a rubber stamp out of it.  Then create multiple cards.  You could even have them write their name with a small picture and use as a signature for your cards.

martha stewart card

Martha Stewart

What do you do for Christmas cards? Do you send them anymore? Do you take family pictures, or write letters?  Have you joined the multitudes of those that don’t send them anymore?

I might be joining that group myself this year. We didn’t end up getting together for our family picture this year at Thanksgiving that we normally do, so I’m not sure if I’ll get cards out this year or not.

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Tips For Organizing for Christmas

Making a Christmas List – Checking it Twice…

We have so much to do this time of year, don’t we?  Dave and I we have even a little bit more than just Christmas, out of our eight kids, five of them have December birthdays! The youngest five to be exact.  Wowza!

christmas listIf only our lists were this easy?  Making lists and keep track of what you are doing, what you have done and what you still need to do can be your survival for the holidays. I will be referencing Christmas, because that is what I celebrate – please just insert your own holiday. Thanks!

Preparing Your Home

*With decorations comes moving things around, rearranging and cleaning.
*As you go through your decorations this year. Look in that box. How many things have not come out of that box to be used, in years?  Hint- It’s ok to get  rid of it. Just because it is from Christmas’s ago…doesn’t mean you HAVE to keep it. Take a picture with it…and let it go. This will make more room  if someone gives you more decorations, or there is something you just have to have in the store this year.
*Cleaning and sorting as you put things out, makes putting them away that much easier.

Holiday Meals – Things to Think of

*Which big meals will you be preparing and on which dates?
*How many people will be there?
*What will you serve? Along with appetizers, side dishes, desserts and beverages.
*Make out your grocery list.
*Look for coupons (big meals can be expensive! – This is one expense that many people don’t think to budget into their holiday spending
*If people ask what they can bring, give them an answer – salad, appetizer, dessert. Don’t hesitate to let them help.

Christmas Parties

*Be sure to write any invites on your calendar with times to keep track.
*Be curious and RSVP  (so many people don’t do this anymore. Let the hostess know how many to plan for)
*Plan what you are going to wear ahead of time.
*Do you need a gift for a gift exchange? Put that on your list
*Plan babysitters early (and get one for New Year’s Eve now if you need one!)

Christmas Cards

*If you still send them (and I hope you do…. I do) then purchase your cards if you haven’t already.
*Update your address list.
*They are great to take with you to appointments – sit in the Dr. office waiting room and fill out your envelopes!
*Buy your stamps.
*Fill out your cards. Personally I love the letters (I save and open those last when I get cards) – but at least a short note is appreciated to let people
know that you are actually thinking of them when you write your cards.
*If you are ordering a Christmas card with pictures, be sure to order SOON if you haven’t done so.

The Christmas Gift List

*Decide on your budget! (before you start buying)
*Make a list of all those you need to buy for
*Write down what you plan to buy them, or thoughts of what you’d think they would like if you don’t know specifics
*Watch for deals!
*Suggest no gifts, just time together (if possible). You may be surprised – other family members may thank you for this!


This was originally posted on Dec 2, 2010. I’m revitalizing it for this year.

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Ride the North Pole Express Train!

We Loved The North Pole Express Train Ride!

We ventured down to Nelsonville, Ohio on Saturday evening Dec, 4th, 2010 to ride on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, on the North Pole Express train ride.  The setting was perfect, a nice peaceful snowy night.

north pole express

It was about an hour and half ride for us from the Columbus area, so Dave, the triplets and I  left plenty early since it was snowing. We figured we would have time to go into Rocky’s and shop around and eat dinner before the train left at 7pm. We arrived around 5pm and found out we didn’t have as much spare time as we thought.

north pole express

I wanted to get pictures while it was still light out, and then was also given a tour by Bob of the train before everyone got on.

north pole express

There were so many cars… I am thinking 10. Several of them were so similar that you wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart other than decorations were different colors. There was one up front that had a pot belly stove going, another one (that we sat in) that had higher back seats. The one the kids thought looked the coolest was the double decker train car. Bob was explaining a lot of the history to me. How most of these cars were used in Chicago.

We went over to Rocky’s, but evidently there were a lot of other people who had the same idea as us… so we went to eat at McDonald’s. We were told it would be a good idea to get back close to 6pm if we wanted to get a good seat on the train. The ride was sold out! There were 537 people on board. We did get back at 6pm and the kids had gotten their PJ’s and robes on.

Before the train started at 7pm, I went through a few of the other cars to get pictures. I asked parents before I took and pictures of their children. Here are a few of my favorites:

north pole express

This little girl was so darling, I just couldn’t get enough of her.  I think I could have snapped pictures all night of her. She just seemed to me to be the poster child for The Polar Express, or as our ride was called… The North Pole Express.

north pole express

They started serving the hot chocolate and cookies soon after we left. I felt bad for the hot chocolate man…. he needed a much bigger pitcher for it, or someone to bring him refills. He would only get a few rows filled and then would have to run a few train cars back to refill the pitcher.

We called the cookie man…the cookie elf. He had a cute hat on and followed behind the hot chocolate man. He also had some extras….so came back through a few times (oh darn…. we had to have more than 1 cookie!)

north pole express

They passed out bells for all the kids….but us adults couldn’t hear them ring. I don’t get it?  LOL

We had the Hobo come through and tell everyone not to tell the conductor where he was. He came back through double checking with the kids to make sure they hadn’t told. Mine thought that was hysterical, they were telling him that they did tell on him.

north pole express

After we got back from our ride, we could go across the street. At the Nelsonville Commons Park they had an ice skating rink set up. They told us skate rental was free with our train ticket so the kids decided to go skating. (hint…grab their gloves out of the car before you head across the street). Here they are skating in their pajamas having a great time… was on the other hand loved standing by the fire can….warming up! lol


north pole express

You can check  Hocking Valley Scenic Railway for times and dates. You can also find them on Twitter at @hvscenicrailway and Facebook

One thing I would suggest if you have little ones. Send someone on the train to get your seats and hold them for you. Keep the little ones off the train until closer to the departure time. After they have already been on the train for an hour, then the hour and half train ride gets to be a little too much for some of them. On the way back the natives were a bit restless. (But keep in mind this was at night and they couldn’t see the sites outside. During the day you might not have as much of that).

north pole express

Disclosure: I was given the tickets for my family and myself to ride the North Pole Express.  But the pictures, video and opinions are completely my own.

This post was originally posted on my Explore Ohio with Sandy site.

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Labeling Christmas Gifts

November 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Holidays & Special Events, Sales, Shopping, Stores

How to Keep Christmas Gifts a Secret

We often want to wrap the Christmas gifts prior to Christmas Eve (although I do know a couple people that don’t wrap anything until Christmas Eve), but you know that the shape, size or weight of the gift will be a dead give away?

christmas gifts

Maybe your kids aren’t as interested as mine were/are but they like to check out all the gifts under the tree prior to Christmas. I remember my brother and I spending all kinds of time under the tree looking at the boxes that were ours and trying to figure out what they were.

There are times that if I have a “dead giveaway” gift, such as a DVD or CD, then I will put it in a larger box, so you can’t tell what it is. I don’t always have the boxes or inclination to do this though. One nice thing about the smaller gifts like that is that they don’t take up as much wrapping paper, and you can often use scrapes to wrap them.

I came up with this system when my four boys were young. We have done it every year and after I married Dave, we have used it for my step children also.

Make Up Goofy Pseudo Names.
Make up fake names for your kids and label the gifts that way. You have to make a key for yourself (and don’t lose it!!) ahead of time. If you have 4 kids I pick out 8 names. I give them each 2 names so they will have no chance on figuring out their gifts. It may look something like this:
1) Joe – Dasher / Mary Poppins
2) Drew – Batman / Spiderman
3) John – Snow White / Elf
4) Tim – Belle / Hulk

Don’t make them gender basis either. Give the boys girl characters and the girls boy characters. That will throw them off even more!
My boys have been used to this since they were small. Dave’s kids just started it 5 Christmas ago when we were first together. They think it’s great and keep asking if we are going to do the “names” again on the presents.
That is my job today, to wrap gifts and come up with the code list. (That’s the hardest part for me coming up with 16 fake names)

Then on Christmas morning you announce what their pseudo names are and hand out the gifts.

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Nestle Celebrate The Season with Nestle #HolidayCandy #cbias

November 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food, Holidays & Special Events

 Christmas Recipes with Nestle

by Amy Trauntvein

Ah the holidays…. with everything that the holidays come with, for me it means baking and lots of it!  Nestle asked me to head to my nearest Walmart and purchase their Nestle Butterfinger Jingles, Nestle Crunch Jingles and Nestle Spree Candy canes to try out a couple of new recipes.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons


I was able to find all the holiday candy I needed quite easily at Walmart.  Spree Candy Canes…

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

Nestle Butterfinger Jingles on the bottom shelf.

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

And Nestle Crunch Jingles on the top shelf.

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

I needed to get a few other items that we were out of, and then headed home to do some holiday baking!

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

First, I decided to make Peanut Butter Sleigh Ride Bars

The kids snarfed them right down. Don’t they look scrumptious?  Would you  like the recipe?

Celebrate the Seasons with Nestle

Peanut Butter Sleigh Ride Bars

  • 30 NESTLÉ BUTTERFINGER Jingles, unwrapped
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Beat brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour and baking soda.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

 Stir in Nestlé Jingles and press dough into 9-inch-square baking pan, distributing Nestlé Jingles evenly.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.
NOTE: Try substituting NESTLÉ Milk Chocolate Jingles.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

The next recipe is one I came up with using the Nestle Milk Chocolate Crunch Jingles.

Nestle Crunch Krispie Twirls 

Would you like the recipe for this one too?

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

 Nestle Crunch Krispy Twirls

  • 2 bags Nestle Crunch Milk Chocolate Jingles unwrapped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups crisped rice cereal

Pour sugar and corn syrup into saucepan and stir together.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

 Cook on Med-Med high heat until boiling.  Let boil for one minute.  Take off heat and add peanut butter and vanilla and stir until smooth.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Pour peanut butter mixture into cereal and mix well.  Dump it all onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet and press evenly.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Put Jingles into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds and stir, heat 30 seconds more and stir again.  If not all melted, microwave at 15 second intervals stirring in between until melted.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Pour melted chocolate onto pan and spread evenly.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Wait 5-7 minutes to cool a bit and then start rolling, using the wax paper to help your roll stay together.

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Wrap roll with the wax paper you used or get a clean sheet of plastic wrap.  Either will do.  Let cool completely, at least 2 hours.  When cooled, the chocolate should be hardened and will hold the roll together.  Cut slices and serve.  Kids enjoys these treats as they can just grab and go, plus they look cool!

Nestle Celebrate the Seasons

Nestle has some great Holiday Baking recipes at rel=”no follow”


Love to all and Happy Holidays!  ~Amy






I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Ideas For Thanksgiving Place Holders

Make Your Own Thanksgiving Place Holders

There are SO many cute ideas on the web! I found a zillion, and I wanted to share a few with you. Place holders are a great way to organize your Thanksgiving Day table.  There are no guesses as to where people will sit. Bringing family together can sometimes have some of it’s own rewards and issues with it.  There are times that it’s just much easier to figure out ahead of time where people should sit.

thanksgiving place holders

Martha Stewart 

martha stewart place card

What a simple neat idea this is. You really could use any kind of fruit for something like this.  Or a little pumpkin! I saw the same idea with a pear too, while I was looking for neat ideas to show you.

thanksgiving place cardReal Simple

thanksgiving place holders

Martha Stewart

thanksgiving place holder

Martha Stewart

thanksgiving place holder


thanksgiving place holders


I have several more ideas on my pinterest board. There are so many cute ideas that I couldn’t possibly list them all here. The beauty of pinterest is that we can pin them there and save them!  People can be so creative! Most of these you will need to be sure you plan ahead for. Know which guests are coming so that you can be prepared.

thanksgiving place holders

Sandy’s Thanksgiving Pinterest Board

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Tips To Prepare For Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Will Run Smooth If Your Prepared

The last thing we want to be doing on Thanksgiving day is running around trying to figure out how to accomplish things, because we didn’t plan ahead.

Planning ahead of time makes it possible to borrow or buy the things you need.  Need more chairs or card tables to set things up? This is a good time to ask family  or neighbors if they have what you need.  You might find you need baking dishes, freezer space, extra dishes, oven space – you want to plan this all out ahead of time.

Using labels can help you in your pre-Thanksgiving Day preparations.  To have your Thanksgiving day move smoothly, planning needs to be done ahead of time.

One way to make things move smoothly is to use this idea from Good Housekeeping.  When you set your table, or get out your serving dishes – label them. Use a non-sticky note card and label what is going to go in the dish and make sure you have a serving utensil to go with it.

It makes it very easy for anyone to help you when it comes time to fill the dishes.

thanksgiving organizing

Good Housekeeping

Thanksgiving Day Tips for Planning Ahead

  • Make sure you have enough seating for all your guests
  • Make sure you have all the place settings you need, plates, silverware, glassware.
  • Make sure you have the necessary serving dishes and utensils.
  • Have all your recipes gathered together
  • Make sure you have all the necessary ingredients for your recipes
  • See if there are any recipes that can be made ahead of time.
  • Be sure you have enough refrigerator space (you may need to ask a neighbor for extra space)
  • Write out a schedule of times as to when you need to put each item into cook/bake so that all your food is finished and warm for the meal.
  • Write out place cards ahead of time and have your tables set up and ready to go.
  • Plan any Thanksgiving day activities, so your guests aren’t bored while you are in the kitchen

I also love this idea of making notecards noting what each item is. We can’t always assume your guests will know what your dishes are. They might be something that is very familiar to us, but something completely new to a guest. They might wonder, but wouldn’t want seem rude to ask. This is especially important if you have any guest that might have some kind of food allergy. In that case, find out what that allergy is, and make a note if it is allergy free for that guest.


Good Housekeeping

Simple steps like this can help your Thanksgiving day meal go smoother.  Being prepared and thinking through things ahead of time will make your day much easier.  It also makes it possible for more people to be able to assist you in the kitchen to prepare the meal.

Here are a couple more of my posts from Thanksgivings past.

Organizing for Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving Is About Being Thankful – 2010

Organizing for Thanksgiving Dinner – 2009

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Pumpkin Rolls Recipe

October 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Amy, Blog, Food, Holidays & Special Events

How To Make- Pumpkin Rolls

by Amy Trauntvein

Pumpkin Rolls

Tis the Season for anything pumpkin!  Pumpkin pie, cookies, ice cream, cake, but my favorite pumpkin dessert is pumpkin rolls! There’s just something about the yummy pumpkin goodness twirled around the creamy filling that gets my heart to go pitter patter!  Today, I’m going to show you how to make these pretty bites of heaven!  Don’t be scared, they really aren’t that difficult, and once you make your own and see how good they are, you’ll never go back to the grocery store and buy one again!  Let’s start by giving you the recipe…

Pumpkin Rolls

3 eggs                                                        2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup sugar                                             1 tsp ground ginger

2/3 cup pumpkin puree                    1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp lemon juice                                  1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup all purpose flour                 1/2 chopped walnuts or pecans (purely optional)

1 tsp baking powder

Creamy Filling

6 oz cream cheese (softened)          1 cup powdered sugar

4 Tbsp butter (softened)                    1/2 tsp vanilla


First, we are going to beat the eggs on high speed for 5 minutes.  Gradually beat in sugar.Pumpkin Rolls

Stir in pumpkin puree and lemon juice until well combined.Pumpkin RollsCombine all dry ingredients in a bowl,Gradually add dry ingredients to wet while on slow speed.  Mix until just incorporated.  It should look like this…Pumpkin Rolls

Now for a quick Reality Check!  I have been baking for about 22 years and have been using my pans for just as long.  They are clean, just well used and loved.  I’m not about to go buy brand new pans just so everyone can think, “Oh look how lovely her pans are.” So… yes, for all my recipe posts, you will see just how well used all my stuff is, and guess what?  They work just great!  You will only see brand new stuff only if I’ve busted something which may happen.  Look for more Reality Check!(s) in many of my future posts, just so we can “keep it real, people.”Pumpkin Rolls

Now back to the recipe….  Line a cookie sheet (15X10 sheet WITH sides) with wax or parchment paper.  Spray the sides only, with cooking spray, you will thank me later.  Pour batter into pan and spread evenly.  Once spread, I like to wiggle the pan back on the counter and pick it up an inch or two an drop it to help even the batter out a bit more.  At this point, if you like nuts, sprinkle your chopped walnuts or pecans evenly on top of the batter.  I don’t do this step, otherwise my kids won’t eat it and then my husband I will have to eat it all.  Hmmm…. maybe next time I’ll throw nuts on!Pumpkin Rolls
Bake on center rack in oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.  Do NOT over cook please, and thank you.  While cake is in the oven, lay out a (clean) linen or cotton kitchen towel.  Do not use a terry cloth towel unless you want bits of towel stuck in your cake. :)  Next, sprinkle a good amount of powdered sugar ALL over the thing.  I use a hand sifter to make it more even.Pumpkin Rolls
When the cake is done (if it bounces back when touched) pull it out, and run a kinfe between the pan and cake along the long sides.Pumpkin Rolls

Next you need to gently pull the cake from the ends of the wax paper.Pumpkin Rolls

While the cake is still hot, you will invert the entire pan onto the sugared towel.  Sounds hard, but it’s really not.  Just use a towel to hold the pan so you don’t burn yourself making sure you are also holding the ends of the wax paper so it doesn’t fall out of the pan too soon.Pumpkin Rolls
Pull off the pan.  There should be no sticking.  Gently and slowly pull the wax paper off the cake using a butter knife to hold down the cake if needed.  It shouldn’t stick too bad.Pumpkin Rolls
Viola!  Your cake is ready to be rolled. This part needs to be done while still warm/hot or your cake will break. fold the edge of the towel closest to you over the cake and start rolling.  and roll the towel right up along with cake.  The towel will help to keep it rolled up while cooling.Pumpkin Rolls
Done!Pumpkin Rolls
Let the cake completely cool.  Usually takes about an hour or so.  While the cake roll is cooling, go ahead and make the filling.  Throw the softened cream cheese and butter into a mixer and beat together until nice and smooth.  While still beating, add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat unitl smooth again.  I did a double batch of filling (I made two cakes, if I’m making the mess to make one, I may as well make two!) so you won’t have as much, but it should look like this….Pumpkin Rolls
Once the cake is cooled, unroll it from the towel (it should stay together and not break if cooled rolled up) and plop all your filling onto the cake.  Start spreading evenly clear out to the edges.  Don’t worry, you’ve got enough, just keep spreading.Pumpkin Rolls
Pumpkin Rolls
Now it’s time to roll it back up the same way you did before, but without the towel!Pumpkin Rolls
Pumpkin Rolls
Pull out two sheets of plastic wrap and wrap the your lovely pumpkin roll in it. Next pull out a nice big sheet of aluminum foil and wrap it up in that.Pumpkin Rolls
Pumpkin Rolls
Now put your lovely package that you are so proud of on a cutting board or cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer! Freeze for at least 6-8 hours preferably overnight. Once they are good and frozen, you can take out the board/sheet. This just keeps them in their nice shape. The secrect to perfectly sliced pumpkin rolls is to cut them while frozen.  Pumpkin Rolls
Whenever you are ready to enjoy a slice of paradise, take it out, unwrap (no need to wait for it to thaw) and cut.  You’ve got perfect slices that are not flattened from the knife and the filling stays intact!  Also, you are free to slice just as many as you need, then rewrap the rest on toss it back into the freezer for another time.  Pumpkin rolls stay good in a deep freeze for months as long as they are wrapped tight.  So if you’re having a party, make these way ahead of time and save yourself some stress.  On party day, just pull them out and slice away whenever you’re ready to serve. 
Here you are, beautiful Pumpkin rolls and taste so much better than store bought!  My family actually prefers to eat then while still frozen, the filing tastes almost like ice cream and it’s not as messy!  I’ve also converted many of my friends to eat them frozen too, they love them that way.   Every year near the holidays, I make 2 pumpkin rolls and keep them in the freezer for maybe an impromptu get together, a party we get invited to that we need to take a dessert, or just for surprising the kids on a regular old Wednesday night after dinner or homework.   A unexpected treat for each child, and maybe just maybe they might clean their room!  Yeah right, well it’s a good dream anyway.Pumpkin Rolls
Enjoy making your very own Pumpkin Rolls.  Thanks mom for teaching me the art of this recipe and a love for baking.  If you enjoyed this post, let us know!

Love to all! ~Amy






I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young!    Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.

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Our Pigeon Roost Farm Visit 2012

Pigeon Roost Farm Is The Bomb!

We discovered Pigeon Roost Pumpkin Farm in Hebron, Ohio last year and loved it. I shared the post from last year, just a couple weeks ago.  I wanted to give you all another blast from this year.

pigeon roost

One of the things I love about Pigeon Roost is that the prices are really reasonable. There is not cost to part, no cost to get into and shop the upper area, get great pictures and enjoy the atmosphere. If you want to go into the lower part of the farm and do all the activities, it’s only $5 per person. Considering another local pumpkin farm charges $8 per person for just the corn maze, I think this is quite a deal.

I’m going to share the pictures with you…. they pretty much tell the story!

pumpkin tree


pigeon roost




sandy and elise


slide race








chicken shack




pigeon roost

This is the kids favorite activity. They call it the hamster wheels.

hamster wheel

Dave decided he would try it out too…. Elise won. LOL

pigeon roost


hamster wheel

This was the rubber ducky race.

duck race


rubber ducky








tee pee


corn maze


pigeon roost






pigeon roost




Pigeon Roost Farm is in Hebron, Ohio.  This is not a sponsored post, I just want my readers to know about this awesome place here in Ohio.






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Make Sure Your Halloween Is Safe!

Halloween Safety

Be sure to think safety when you are planning your kids Halloween costumes. Even though we want our kids to have the coolest costumes for Halloween, we want to make sure they are safe as they can be. Things like wearing their masks on top of their head while they are trick or treating (they can put them down when they’re on the porch of the house), or wearing face paint rather than masks are simple things that can reduce injuries.

There are a lot more emergency room visits on Halloween from kids getting hurt from falling or being hit by cars than there are from kids being injured by something they ate out of their trick or treat bag.


1) Make sure kids can see easily. Face paint is better than masks. Those often can impede vision.
2) Costumes should be short enough not to trip the kids
3) Warm clothing under their costume (if they won’t wear a coat over it)
4) Have a flashing light or flashlight with them, so they can be easily seen in the dark.
5) Light colored costumes and/or reflector tape helps the kids to be seen.
6) Kids should always go out with a parent if they are under the age of 10 or 11 years old.
7) Teach the kids to use the driveways and walks, and not run through yards.
8) Make sure you are familiar with the neighborhood.
9) Only go to houses that have their outdoor lights on.
10) Bring home all the candy to check over before the kids eat it. Take a few pieces of your own candy for them to eat
along the way (I mean.. who can resist a piece here or there.. right?)
11) Make sure the kids have on shoes or boots that will protect their feet. No slippers or shoes that are too big.
12) Make sure the kids follow safety rules and don’t run out into the street or between cars.


Oh.. and PLEASE have your kids say “Thank You” after they are given a piece of candy. Manners are SO nice to hear from kids.

If you are driving somewhere on Beggars night, please be really careful and go slow!


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Pigeon Roost Farm for Halloween Fun

Pumpkins and Halloween Fun at Pigeon Roost Farm

We discovered Pigeon Roost Farm in Hebron, Ohio to go for our pumpkins and fun for halloween.  For years we have gone to Lynd’s Fruit Farm, and it is a great place to go if you want to pick apples or pick pumpkins right from the field. But it is very on/off with the other activities they have for the kids. Some years it is good, others there is not much there and a big disappointment.

Instead of trying it this year we decided to look for some place new.

pigeon roostI did an internet search and found Pigeon Roost Farm.  We decided to give it a go.  Mapquest sent us the wrong way, so be careful there.  It is between Kirkersville and Hebron Ohio (about 2 miles east of Kirkersville on route 40).  Much close to Kirkersville.

It was impressive just driving past, you could tell from the road there was a lot happening, and most of it you can’t even see from the road.

pigeon roost

If you live within an hour of it, I would highly suggest you check it out.  It is only $5 per person to go do all the activities including the corn maze, a mini corn maze, the Enchanted Forest, the Gerbil wheels and much more!

pigeon roost


pigeon roost

pigeon roost

pigeon roost

Pigeon Roost Farm
4413 National Road SW
Hebron, OH 43025


Originally posted October 16th, 2011 on my Explore Ohio blog

We were not invited, given free passes, nor given any form of compensation for this post. We found it on our own, loved it and I wanted to share it with my readers.
No use of my video or pictures without my permission. Thanks

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Organizing and DIY Monday Link Party – Week 13

Easter Preparation on Organizing and DIY party

Organizing and making DIY projects can be common practice for many people before a holiday.

organize and DIY
 What are your Easter preparations?  Do you decorate your house?  Hang plastic eggs from the trees outside?

We always make Easter eggs.  I’m going to share some of our Easter pictures from 2005. The triplets were five years old and Tim & Drew were 13 and 14 yrs old. They still enjoyed coloring eggs too.  Can you tell which one I did? lol

Easter eggs

The dates on the pictures aren’t right, not sure what happened with my camera back then.

Organizing and DIY


Organizing and DIY

Easter morning – the kids did an Easter egg hunt outside in the yard and then had to find their hidden Easter baskets.

Easter basket

Alex with his kangaroo…. obviously also has a mouth full of Easter candy!



Organizing and DIY

I love Easter memories!


Link up to my Linky Party! I’d love to see your Easter, organizing or DIY projects!

1) Link to your specific post – not your blog
2) Please Link back to my blog with my button or link (url code under button tab )
3) Blog post related to Organizing or Cleaning or DIY or crafts or decorating are WONDERFUL!
4) No sales pitches or web sites.
5) Feel free to link up more than 1 post.


Looking for other link parties? I have a whole list of them. Thumbnail via day above and keep scrolling down to find a more extensive text lists by day on my link party list. If you aren’t sure how to link up… see my link party tutorial here. It is simple. If You Are On A Reader and Want to View All the Great Link Up’s on this post please Click here 
This party will be open until April 8, 2012 at 11:59pm

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Fav Pin Friday Pinterest Linky Party

Easter Ideas from Pinterest!

I love finding fun things on pinterest!

pinterest linky party

There are some of the cutest ideas for Easter floating around out there!  Who doesn’t love bunnies and all the spring colors.    I saw this idea from Pinterest and thought it was SO cute!

Peep S’Mores

Make a Peep S’More.. at home!   You use your typical graham crackers and Hershey chocolate bars – but you add a Peep for the Marshmallow (after all it is marshmallow).  You put just the bottom half (1 cracker, chocolate and Peep) in the microwave for about 8-12 seconds I think. I know marshmallows really puff up huge in the microwave. I can’t wait to try this with the kids!

peep smores

You can find this post at Eclectic Recipes 

Lori found the Peep S’mores on Pinterest and she put another spin on them.  What a neat idea this is! She made up Peep S’More packs for her kids parties at school.  She got the little bags and then she printed up the instructions and put on the back.  Hopefully the kids will wait until they get home to open and make them, rather than opening and just eating all the ingredients out first!  I LOVE this idea!

peep smores

You can find this darling idea at My Wood Spoon

Bunny Cupcakes

Isn’t this cupcake darling?  So simple, yet looks so awesome!  I first saw just the backside shot of the bunny in the cupcake. When I went to the post I found this pic with the front of the bunny done up too.  It is a blog written in spanish, but some awesome recipe. Worth hitting the translator for.

bunny cupcakes

You can find this idea at Cupcake Perfecto.

Angry Bird Easter Eggs

How cute are these?

angry bird easter eggs

You can find the post for these on The Tip Junkie party ideas


Would love for you to link something you would like pinned!


1) Add a link from one of your blog post you want pinned.
2) Be sure to use the picture you want pinned for the picture we see on here.
3) Would love for you to tweet this out, or stumble or pin it. (Only pin my Fav Pin Friday button, not any of the pics I put up from pinterest please – those aren’t my pictures.)
4) Be sure to pin a couple other pins you see on here too!
5) Please click on the pictures, it will take you to my pinterest boards where I pinned these pics.  Please repin these pictures, as it will help the people who originally posted the picture. Visit their posts to help them out.

If you like the pinterest parties you can go to Kim’s at Crafty Mama of 4. She has Pin it Friday 

If you need some help knowing how to link up, this link party tutorial should help.

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