DIY Wooden Photo Ornament

Each holiday we have two important traditions:

1. Make ornaments for our tree.
2. Add an ornament with our family photo.

This year I combined the two and made a wooden photo ornament that we LOVE. I’m so thrilled with how it turned out especially since I ordered one last year and was disappointed by it. The photo was printed directly on the block making the details faded and hard to see.

This project is easy, inexpensive and makes for great gifts! Here’s the breakdown of how to make one for yourself:

Video Tutorial:

Detailed Instructions:


  • Wooden block (The one I used is 2inches and purchased from Michaels for $1.50)
  • Screw eyelets (Purchased from Home Depot – $1 for pack of 8)
  • Mod Podge (I had this but you can find it at Michaels or any craft store)
  • Foam Brush (same as above)
  • Ribbon
  • Scrapbook paper and photos cut to size of block

  • Use the foam brush to add a thin layer of Mod Podge to block and add photos/paper one side at a time.
  • Add 1-2 layers of Mod Podge over the photo/paper. Let dry in between each layer.

Drill a small hole in the center of the top.

Screw in the eyelet.

Tie your ribbon.

And … there you have it. A beautiful wooden ornament with clear photos of your loved ones.

Easy peasy, right?! Hope this inspires you to make one or a dozen like I did this year.

For more DIY ornaments check out what we’ve made in years past.

Blessing Bags

It’s become a humbling tradition for us to put together Blessing Bags each year to give to the homeless in our community. We typically go to a local park and hand them out with our kids. These are also great to make for homeless shelters or keep handy in your car when you see someone in need.

This year Zander helped decorate and fill the bags. He drew a person, rays of sun for hope and a house in hopes they will find a permanent home soon. I collected items from our various hotel stays, dental visits and combined them with some other useful items like snacks and bandages. For more ideas and a printable checklist on items that would be great for blessing bags this is a great site.


I attached this business card sized card into all the bags along with a small about of money to help encourage and motivate those who receive the bags. Click here to download a printable of this card.

Although these donations are small, they are a very real and tangible way to help someone in need and a great way to teach kiddos to be humble and care for others.

Hope this inspires you to get your kids involved in blessing someone else’s life!

Holiday Card Ideas

Each year we try to do something fun with our holiday cards. Here we are throughout the years. Hope these inspire you to do something fun with yours this year!


2015: A Year Full of LAUGHS

L…lavishly made Halloween costumes
A…adorable bow ties
U…utterly fantastic silly faces
G…gigantic paper mache heads
H…hilarious hats and headbands
S…sharks, selfies and shoulder rides


2014: Happy Holidays to the tune of Holly Jolly Christmas

We have a holly jolly household
It’s messy allll year
Well, I’m pretty sure there won’t be snow (in San Diego)
So we’ll have a glass of beer

We have a holly jolly household
And when you walk down the hall
Say hello to the legos we know
And how they puncture our feet

Ho, ho, Zander goes
To preschool and is happy as can be
Zoey runs to you
Kiss her once for me

We have a holly jolly household
In case you didn’t hear
Oh, by golly, Chris is designing advanced concepts
This year

We have a holly jolly household
And when you walk into Mary’s office
Say hello to the ROO you know
And everything is sweet

We have a holly jolly household
This year


2013: Happy Holidays to the tune of Deck the Halls

Deck our house with baby Zoey
Fa la la la la, la la la la
She’s our reason to be jolly
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Zander’s in big boy apparel
Fa la la la la, la la la la
He’s potty trained and learned his first
Christmas carol
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Chris and Mary’s designs are increasingly clever
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Levi likes to play and sleep for pleasure
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Amazed how quickly the year passes
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Gone are the days that move slow like molasses
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Here’s our family, all together
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Days and nights, filled with laughter
Fa la la la la, la la la la


2012: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Love, Chris, Mary, Zander & Levi


 2011: Happy Holidays to the tune of 12 Days of Christmas

On the 12th month of the year
My true love gave to me

12 days of traveling
11 crocheted hats
10 halloween costumes
9 birthday wishes
8 swimming lessons
7 days with family
6 camping trips
5 days at the beach
4 easter eggs
3 trips to the zoo
2 sled rides
And a baby Zander in a custom tee


 2010: Happy Holidays – The hightlight of our year… – To the tune of Jingle Bells

Labor bells labor bells
Zander’s on the way

Oh what fun it would be
To bring our baby home today

Dashing to the hospital
On our hybrid sleigh
Over to la Jolla we go
Contractions all the way

The baby car seat’s in
We hope we installed it right
What fun it will be to give
Levi a brother tonight

Labor bells labor bells
Zander’s on the way

Oh what fun it will be
To meet and hold our baby tonight

On the 19th of September
Two thousand ten
Our precious baby boy was born
And our life won’t be the same again

Now we’re changing diapers
So many we lost count
Who knew a baby could poo so much
Guess that’s what parenting’s all about

Baby bells baby bells
Zander’s here to stay

Oh what fun it has been
To raise our precious Zander
Each and everyday!

Halloween 2015 – Games

We look forward to Halloween every year simply because it gives us an excuse to be creative and silly – well, okay, we need no excuse for that, do we?

Every year, we think of a theme and costumes that aren’t terribly hard to make.

This year I took on an additional challenge. How little could I spend on making our costumes?  The whopping total I spent to make all 4 costumes was $3.23, only having to buy 1 item from the store. Everything else we already had on hand or received from generous friends. I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. This year’s costumes might be my favorite yet.

Here we are, all decked out. *UPDATE* – We won 2nd place for best family costume!




I made this sweet Twister dress for my sweet little Zoey. Used one of her existing dresses as a template to make the little white dress for this costume. Used fabric that’s similar to sweatshirt material. Cut 2 identical pieces front and back, sewed top shoulder and side seams. Since this material does not fray I left the neck and hem a raw edge.


I cut 2 inch circles out of felt and hot glued them to the dress. The Twister logo is hand-drawn with permanent marker.


Back of the dress.


The Twister spinner is hot glued to a wrist band made out of extra material from dress.



I made this white dress pretty much identical to Zoey’s dress above, only in my size of course. Added red felt to the bottom for the logo.


The letter Scrabble pieces are made with felt and handwritten with permanent marker. Attached with hot glue. To create the empty squares on the board I traced around a 1×1 inch paper template I made. This was simple but took forever. The squares are filled using colored pencil.


As a finishing touch I added the logo to the bottom. It was printed on card stock, hand cut and hot glued to the felt.



I searched for a template for game pieces I could print and cut but didn’t have any luck. Ended up hand drawing and cutting all the pieces out of felt. Hot glued to clothes my husband already owned. And yes, the red nose lights up.


Text is hand written with a permanent marker.


The tongs work perfectly as giant tweezers.


To replicate the rubber band game piece I used a long piece of off-white felt and hot glued it on it’s edge.

The Claw Machine:

The_ClawFor my little Zander I made him the ultimate Claw Machine costume. This was by far the most complex costume to make and the one I love the most. I ended up making all the printables myself and I’ll post them below for you to download for your own Claw Machine! Here’s a look into how it was made…

It all started with 1 cardboard box that fits a 5 year old inside perfectly.


Cut windows on 3 sides. Left the back solid to add backpack straps later.


Cut about half of the bottom out so he could slide in/out of the costume. Hot glued a small tray for his toys to sit on. We wanted to minimize the weight of this costume as much as possible so this helps against added weight from extra toys.


The entire box is covered with Duct tape. This checkered Duct tape is the only item that I had to purchase to make all of our costumes. Needless to say, I was hesitant to spend any money but I think it’s what actually makes the costume. Gives it the added arcade feel and keeps the box sturdy. Money well spent.


I made “The Claw” sign in Illustrator, cut and hot glued it to the top. Click here to download the file.


This claw was made using cardboard that I cut. It is hot glued to a large straw (the kind used for boba tea). Everything is wrapped and hot glued to foil paper my husband found. And of course, silver duct tape is used to cover up the hot glue mess underneath.


This box is an empty tissue box covered in Duct tape. Joystick is a large straw (used for boba tea) and a ping pong ball from one of the kid’s toys. I cut a circle out of the ball and attached it to the straw with hot glue. I created the arrows, grab it button, $1 per play and money slot.  Click here to download the printables. And no, the money is not real.


For the prize door I used silver Duct tape and outlined it with permanent marker. It’s just for show and doesn’t actually open. “Prize” artwork is included in the file to download above.


The background image is probably my favorite part of the whole costume because they are actually Zander’s toys. I searched online for an image of stuffed toys I could use but nothing was high quality enough and was too blurry when blown up to size.  I ended up taking a photo of Zander’s toys and tiling that. Worked out perfectly and added that personal touch to make it his own.

This was 6 pages tiled together and attached using scotch tape.


Backpack straps are nylon webbing cut from an old bag. Cut slits in the box, hot glue and taped it in place on the back.


Top and back of box are covered in silver Duct tape. Worked out perfectly since we already had tons of silver Duct tape and it adds to the machine look of the costume.

There you have it. I really enjoyed making our customs this year, hope they inspire you to make something fun for your family!

Now it’s time to…play.

When Twister played The Claw, she won a caterpillar.


When Scrabble played Operation, she got some spare ribs.


Halloween 2014 – Bug Life

We look forward to Halloween every year simply because it gives us an excuse to be creative and silly – well, okay, we need no excuse for that do we?

Every year, we think of a theme and costumes that aren’t terribly hard to make/assemble and doesn’t cost much to make.  Here’s a look at us over the years – all decked out.









  • Monarch Butterfly: I used felt and hot glue (a lot of it) for the entire costume. Antenna was purchased from Party City. Stay tuned for a full tutorial on how to make this.
  • Firefly: Again, primarily made with felt and hot glue. The glowing bum is a frosted plastic container with a glow stick inside. Antenna was purchased from Party City – added the eyes. Full tutorial on how to make this coming soon.
  • Bumble Bee: This is actually a bathing suit that Zoey already had. It came with a swim cap with antennas and the back has wings and a stinger.
  • Praying Mantis: This is a gist of how my husband made this awesome giant costume.
    • The head is shaved out of green floral foam blocks
    • Antennas are pipe cleaners
    • The top part of the body is a cardboard tube (from a poster) wrapped in felt
    • The bottom part of the body is flat cardboard, cut to shape and covered in felt
    • Arms are cardboard tubes (from gift wrap) bent and covered in felt
    • Legs are small pieces of cardboard covered in felt
    • Backpack style straps are string
    • Bug Life T-Shirt, drawn with a permanent marker. Complete with a Raid can in place of the “i” in “Life”.


Halloween 2013 – Sea Life


  • Goldfish: I used felt for the entire costume except for the bulging eyes where I used jersey for stretch. Also used jersey (old shirts) for the top fin. Sewed the hood and cape and used the hot glue gun for almost everything else. Gotta love the got glue gun.
  • Turtle shell: Sewed the green, glued the brown and used a sharpie for the black shell pattern.
  • Stingray: Sewed the body and glued the remaining.
  • Shark: Sewed the majority and glued the eyes and fin.


Halloween 2012 – Star Wars


  • Luke Skywalker and Yoda jackets
  • Yoda headpiece (complete with receding hairline) – this is a hat that covers his baseball cap, which he loves to wear and never takes off (perfect!)
  • Princess Leia dress, belt and hair buns (made using ear warmers – perfect for the chilly walk around the neighborhood)
  • Lightsabers – wrapping paper rolls, electrical tape and tin foil


Halloween 2011 – Japanese Meal

Unfortunately, I didn’t document how I made these with photos but I’ll try to explain how I made them below:

Sushi Chef Jacket:

  • Use a long rectangular piece of fabric. When folded in half it should measure from shoulder to wherever you want it to end, like the waist/hip area.
  • To sew sleeve holes, sew about 3/4 of the way up both open sides of the folded fabric.
  • For the front opening, cut the top piece of fabric down the center all the way up to the fold.
  • I sewed red webbing around the entire opening.

California Roll: Both front and back sides are identical so I’ll explain just the one side.

  • First I made what resembles a black tank top.  The tank top has 2 layers of fabric on front, 2 layers on back – leave the layers open at the bottom for now.
  • Inside the front 2 layers I cut a round piece of cardboard and placed it inside, then sewed the bottom of the tank closed.
  • White fabric (the rice) is a fuzzy material I found at Joanns, sorry I don’t know the exact name. Cut it into a circle and hot glued to the front of the tank.
  • The black and color pieces (seaweed, cucumber, etc) are foam paper, cut and hot glued.
  • Since this was a sushi tank top pretty much, I just had him wear a black long sleeve shirt to match the seaweed tank.
  • This one was  a bit tricky. Hope that made sense!

Shrimp Sushi:

  • Same fuzzy white fabric used for Cali Roll cut into a rectangle. Shrimp is foam paper cut out into pieces like a puzzle and hot glued. Black seaweed wrap is felt. Added velcro to the bottom to easily wrap it around our pup.

Soy Sauce Packet:

  • Cut 2 rectangular pieces of red felt to fit desired length (from chin to knee)
  • Neck hole, sew top leaving enough space for your head to fit through – sew about 3 inches from edge. Leaving enough space to cut the triangles edges.
  • Bottom, leave open and cut the same triangle edges as top
  • Arm holes – sew top above arm hole about 3 inches. Leave opening for arm. Sew remaining below the hole all the way down.
  • Large white and black pieces on top were cut from felt and hot glued.
  • Everything else was printed from the computer and glued on.