Holiday Organizing and Getting Creative with Dishes

We have a hutch/cabinet in our dining room that has been home to our ‘not-often-used’ dishes as well as some of our holiday decorations. It has served its’ purpose well, but between my husband and I, one of us hates it….I won’t say which one of us. 🙂 So we have decided to add this item to the whirlwind of Craigslist and see what happens. Here is what it looked like with everything on it.

DR Hutch Post (1)The shelves held the dishes we really only use for Christmas and Thanksgiving and the cabinet and drawer held small decorations for the minor holidays. It also held extra place mats, napkins and tablecloths too. I actually reorganized the cabinet and drawer in a post here. So all of these items went real estate shopping for new places to live in my house.

My first challenge was the serving dishes. They are big, bulky and breakable….hardly the kind of thing you can toss in a closet. I managed to put the trays in the back of a deep cabinet in the kitchen. But the pitcher, salt and pepper set, serving bowl? Where in the world???? Then my husband had a brilliant idea! We have a space above our cabinets where we put our holiday garlands and decorations, but the rest of the year it sits empty, pining away for some decorative accent. My husband said “just put the dishes up there.” Awesome, right? Now they are prominently displayed in the kitchen.

DR Hutch Post (3)Not only do they take up an empty space that was just crying out for a little love, but they also allow us to somehow enjoy the dishes all year long. The best part is that when we have to put the garlands up, it’s the same time of year we actually serve food on these dishes, so they have to come down anyways!

Now the next challenge….all those pesky little holiday decorations. Except for Christmas and Halloween, I usually only put a few holiday accents around the house. However, I like to have a little something for each holiday. Enter the ‘under the bed organizer’! I decided to put all of these little doo-dads underneath the guest bed in a large, flat bin. It’s totally perfect. They are out of the way, but easily accessible. Another win!

DR Hutch Post (1)I also put the extra tablecloths, napkins, etc in a smaller organizer under the bed.

DR Hutch Post (2)The lessons here?

-Sometimes items you want to keep and don’t use often can become part of your decor. That way they aren’t taking up valuable storage space.

-Under the bed or guest room storage is a great place for smaller seasonal items. Sidenote….I also just moved my wrapping paper under the guest bed as well!

-It’s a good idea to re-evaluate the larger items in your house at least once a year. A couple months ago, we created another doorway through a wall into our dining room so that is why we decided to get rid of a large piece of furniture in that room…there just wasn’t the wall space anymore. I think we are also just a Craigslist post away from parting with a never used futon. It’s good to periodically survey your home for items, large and small, that are no longer needed.

-Think outside the box when it comes to organizing!

~Erin

 

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New Year already????

I can’t believe it’s already January 3, 2013! Where does the time go?!

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It seems like life is so busy and you cram so much in and then you realize years have passed. Like almost everyone else, I have a list of New Year’s resolutions. Many of them I realize are too much for me to focus on and they quickly go by the wayside. Others haunt me throughout the year as I never quite reach my goals made hastily on December 31st.

This year I still have resolutions. I still want to completely organize my house. I still want to start exercising on a regular basis. I still want to train my dog to turn off lights and get me a snack from the pantry (yes that is a real goal). However, I’m going to take it easy on myself this year. I know that being a working wife, mom, friend, home owner, pet owner, life haver (I know that’s not a real word) takes up most of my time, so any resolution I have is going to come in small steps. So while I am going to set goals and work hard this year, I’m also going to take it easy and not beat myself up. Here are just a couple goals and how I am going to make them attainable.

-Live Presently. – This is the most important goal I am setting for myself this year. I spend so much time making lists for what needs to get done in the future, I think about what needs to be done before tomorrow or next week or before we go on vacation. It’s very seldom that I sit and actually enjoy the moment. Here’s an example, I love taking pictures and videos of our kids. I think it’s fun and important and a great way to share memories with the family. However, sometimes I miss out on what happens because I’m looking through a camera lens. Before Christmas, my kids were putting ornaments on the tree at my in-laws house and I was taking the obligatory million and a half photos. Then I realized I hadn’t put a single ornament on with them and didn’t actually SEE the kids do anything. So as much as I love taking pictures, I’m going to put the camera down a little bit, and put the lists down a little bit and try to snuggle into my pillow for an extra minute in the morning instead of jumping up to cross things off my to-dos (that will TOTALLY happen).

We were in Florida for New Years and on New Year’s day, my husband and I took the kids to a little teeny beach right at sunset. I felt almost naked as I left the condo without the camera. But I watched the kids touch the sand and look at the waves and I will have that memory forever. I don’t have a picture to show you, but let me tell you, it was worth it 🙂

Just so I don’t deprive you of photos though, here’s a couple others from Florida:

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-Organize my organizing – In 2013 I want to get some new organizing books (more to come on this one!) and increase my blog readership. I plan on doing  a LOT of posts on this in the near future, so I won’t bore you with the details now.

-Exercise – I know this is almost everyone’s resolution and historically, it has not known to be one that I stick with. But maybe, just maybe 2013 is my year.

Happy New Year everyone!

~Erin

Santa’s Little Helper – Christmas Folder

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas or any other holiday you may celebrate! We had a great Christmas at my in-laws house and the kids handled all of the chaos pretty well!

My new goal of having a folder for every major holiday continues. This year, I have already made one for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Now it’s time for the Santa’s Little Helper Christmas Folder! Now this one isn’t completely put together yet. This has been an incredibly busy holiday season so I plan on doing the final touches once all of the holidays are over. However, I’ve been gathering some great ideas from blogs, Pinterest, magazines, etc and will have a great reference for next year.

There are a couple differences between the Christmas folder and the other ones. For the Halloween folder, I included party ideas since we started hosting a Halloween party this year. We don’t have a Christmas party, so I don’t have a section for that. In the other two folders, I also have sections for Kid’s Craft and Adult Crafts. I definitely have a Kid’s Craft section in the Christmas folder. However, instead of the other craft section, I have a bunch of miscellaneous topics, such as ornaments, advent calendars, gift wrap etc. There are so many different Christmas ideas, I needed to separate them into more categories.

I did keep the decorating sections and have split them into inside and outside decorations. I have split up the food into the following categories: desserts, appetizers, entrees.

Here are a few pictures of the book in progress. I created the section title pages in powerpoint.

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Christmas Folder jpeg

And you can find my Christmas Pinterest ideas here. Here are just a few of the ideas I found on there so be sure to check out the Pinterest album for all of the links!

Advent Calendar 5 Appetizer 3 Card Holder INside Decor 3 Kids craft 4

I’m so glad I started these books. They help me to organize thoughts and ideas and also help me remember things that worked great. I also store them with their respective decorations so they don’t take up valuable shelf space year round and they are always with the ridiculous amounts of stuff for each holiday. I can’t wait to use them again next year!

And I can’t go without sharing one of my absolute favorite pictures from this Christmas season:

My Sweetest Boys

My Sweetest Boys

Happy Holidays!

~Erin

Easy Christmas Listing!

I’m well on my way to Christmas Spirit Town over here. Decorations are out (and strewn ALL over the floor, dining room table, kitchen, etc), Christmas cards are mailed (is that ridiculous?), and Christmas lists are in full swing. Here are a couple ways I organize my lists:

-I always start a file for Christmas present ideas in my computer around August (if my husband is reading this: “don’t search for the list!”). That way, as I think of things I can jot them down so I won’t forget them. I start the list for ideas for my whole family as well as myself.

I have three columns in the list: 1 column for me, the hubby and the kiddos, 1 column for my side of the family and 1 column for my husband’s side of the family. I list everyone’s name and then leave space underneath the name for gift ideas.

-When November comes, I evaluate the list and add, delete, rearrange as needed. Then I highlight everything on the lists ( I highlight in green to show my ever-permeating Christmas spirit). 🙂 As I purchase gifts off of the list, I un-highlight them. That way I can see with a quick glance what I still need to buy.

-Here is my absolutely favorite list tool which I started using this year…..Amazon Wish Lists!!!!!

If you haven’t already seen this, it is worth a look-see!

If you are logged in on Amazon, you can see the ‘Wish List’ drop down box on the the far right near the top. If you click it, it will take you to the ‘Wish List’ page, where you can add or edit lists. If you just hover over ‘wish list’, a drop down box will appear with your current lists and several other options.

Things I love about the Wish List feature:

1) You can create multiple lists for different people or occasions. I have created one for myself and one for each of the kids.  You can then email the lists right from Amazon or copy and paste the links in a regular email to send to friends and family.

2) The lists work like any store registry so you should be able to avoid getting duplicate gifts! You can view all items on the original list, but it defaults to showing items that haven’t been purchased by someone looking at the list. This is great because I emailed the kid’s Amazon wish lists to both sides of the family. Usually I carefully split the lists I give to different family members to avoid duplicates, but this solves that problem!

3) As the list ‘owner’, you can look to see what was purchased by someone. However, someone at Amazon took their thinking pill and decided to ‘hide’ what was purchased unless you click a button to ‘reveal the gift’. This is great because if I’m looking at my own list, I don’t necessarily want to know if something was purchased or not. I can go to ‘purchased’ and ‘reveal the gifts’ if I want to be sneaky, but I wouldn’t do that…..would I?

4) You can add items to lists from any website, even if they are not sold on Amazon! You have to install the Wish List add on to your computer, but then you can add away. I’m thinking Etsy products are goin’ on the Amazon list!

Please note that these are strictly my opinions and not an advertisement for Amazon in any way. However, I have found the Wish List feature to be easy, useful and my new go-to web tool for birthdays and Christmas.

How do you keep your holiday lists organized?

~Erin

Thanksgiving Wrap Up

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving at our house. We stayed at home and it was just the 4 of us. It was calm and relaxing and full of fun and food. I wanted to give a little wrap up of the holiday and list some things that made it easier, as holidays have a tendency to be stressful.

First we had our Thanksgiving crafts, which we did over the last week and a half. There was, of course, the Cardboard Turkey Game:

We also did a leaf wreath, which we made out of aspen leaves from the yard and a paper plate with the center cut out.

Then I printed an acorn coloring page that I downloaded and Evan colored it and added some stickers.

I always take pictures of the kid’s crafts. That way I have them all on my computer in case something happens to the actual crafts. It’s also great because I am able to print or scrapbook the photos of items I don’t keep. Is it horrible that the turkey box is already on it’s way to turkey box heaven in the recycle bin? At least I have great photos and now I’m not stuck keeping a bunch of things I don’t need to keep.

The evening before Thanksgiving, I did as much prep as possible. I seasoned the turkey, peeled the potatoes, and made a casserole. I also set out the dishes, utensils and dry ingredients I would need for all of the other dishes along with a copy of each recipe. The prepping was great because it meant I didn’t have to do ANYTHING on Thanksgiving day until after noon when I put the turkey in the oven. Awesome.

We ate a light lunch, including a Turkey themed PBJ for Evan (inspired by Pinterest here):


Mine wasn’t picture perfect like all the ones I saw on Pinterest, but Evan loved it, so who cares? 🙂

It was actually a very relaxing day. And even though it was just the 4 of us at our house celebrating, we still made enough food to last until New Years.  🙂

And of course I put together my Thanksgiving folder to help keep all of my Thanksgiving inspiration in one place. I made a folder for Halloween (which you can see here) and I loved it so much, I decided to do one for every major holiday.

So I started by making title pages for each category, such as Thanksgiving dinner, appetizers, crafts, decorations, etc.

I found inspiration on blogs, Pinterest, websites, magazines and our already established traditions. I printed photos of crafts I wanted to try, coloring pages for the kids,

recipes that looked good, and decorations I thought were pretty.

I also included the recipes that I have used for years on Thanksgiving. That way, I don’t have to dig them out of another cookbook because they are all in the Turkey Trot Folder!

Another thing I did was print a page with directions for cooking the turkey. I realized that I did not want to spend another year trying to read the directions while trying to avoid touching the raw turkey wrapper they are printed on. (Sidenote….My Thanksgiving tip is to take off the wrapper around the turkey while it is completely in the sink. On Wednesday night, I cut a small slit in the wrapper and expected to gently pull it off as I held it over the sink. You know how you try to gently open a bag of chips and then the bag explodes and chips go everywhere? Well, that happened to me. Except it wasn’t chip crumbs…it was raw turkey juice….everywhere.)

Anyways! So now I have a great resource for all my Thanksgiving projects. I plan on adding to it every year as I find new inspiration and try new recipes. You can find many of the ideas I put in the folder on my Thanksgiving Pinterest Board. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Now on to Christmas!

~Erin

 

 

 

Turkey Box Craft

As an organizer, I’m always looking for ways to maximize the use of things. The other day I found the perfect way to combine two projects. Me and my 3 year old made a fun craft project that was also a game! I mentioned this project in my Collectively Creative post here. I got this idea out of book of Thanksgiving craft ideas that my mother in law gave me. I changed a few things, but I like how it turned out. It was pretty simple but a lot of fun. Here’s what you need:

1 medium size cardboard box and at least 1 tiny helper:

An assortment of construction paper in fall or ‘turkey inspired’ colors:

And glue and scissors. That’s all you need.

First I cut the flaps off of one end of the box. This end will be the ‘bottom’ of the turkey. Then I drew a triangle on one of the bigger sides and cut it out with the scissors. This will be the mouth and you need to make the triangle pretty big.

Then I cut out construction paper shapes for the eyes, beak and weird turkey thing that hangs on their face over their beak. (Not sure what that’s about). I let Evan help me glue them on.

Then I cut out feathers from various pieces of construction paper and glued them to the top of the box. I had actually glued a brown piece of paper to the top of the box first to give me an even surface for the feathers. I also took one of the cardboard flaps I had cut off, bent it and taped it to the back of the feathers. This helps them stand up straight instead of falling backwards.

The instructions then say to make little bean bags out of material to use as ‘corn’ for the turkey, but we didn’t do that. Instead we crumpled up pieces of construction paper that had been cut in half. We used yellow paper for corn, but then Evan decided the turkey was REALLY hungry and wanted cherries, blackberries and grapes so off we went, crumpling up every color in the rainbow.

The best thing about this part of the craft is that it’s really fun, but it is also a great hand strengthener in little kids and helps them develop fine motor skills because of how their hands have to move.

Now it’s time to feed the cardboard turkey!

Both kids could do this part!

The kids took turns putting the ‘food’ in the turkey’s mouth. Evan also stood back and practiced throwing the food into the mouth. That was why we needed to make the triangle mouth so big, so that he could toss the paper in.

Great things about this project:

-It is very hands on.

-It involves lots of different skills for little kids to practice, like cutting, gluing, crumpling, throwing, gluing and sorting.

-The kids are able to get creative with the colors used and also use their imaginations when it comes to what the turkey is ‘eating’

-I got to see some adorable teamwork from 2 sweet little boys! (Can you tell it was pajama day at our house?)

This was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, create a memory with the kids and make a game that they could keep playing with.

I recommend this one!

~Erin

T.H.A.N.K.F.U.L. for my Kiddos

I”m excited to be a part of another edition of Collectively Creative, thought up by the incredibly organized Kelly over at Cobwebs, Cupcakes and Crayons. The theme for this month is, appropriately, being Thankful.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I did a project using the letters in the word THANKFUL. I took each letter and did an activity with my kids represented by that letter. It was a little harder to do with my younger son since he’s only 9 months old, but we included him as much as we could!

We’re so busy that we don’t often get a chance to sit down and just talk, even with out own children! So Evan and I made some hot chocolate and had one of our ‘Hot Chocolate Chats’. If it’s not too cold, we like to sit on the front porch, but it was snowing and freezing this weekend, so we cuddled on the couch and talked about our day and what we were going to do for the rest of the weekend.

Sometimes we get so caught up in activities and schedules, we forget that the most important thing is just being together.

I talked with the kids about Thanksgiving and then they helped me go through our cookbooks to look for recipes and make our grocery list for Turkey Day! Evan got his own paper and a crayon so he could make his ‘list.’

I had to do this anyways so I just asked the kids to help. We played ‘Cookbook Dominos’ and lined up the hardback books upright and pushed them down like dominoes. Our 3 year old thought it was hilarious and it was even an activity our 9 month old could do.

I decided to do an art project that was also a game to get the kids in the Thanksgiving spirit.

This was a really cute cardboard box turkey project that I will post about soon!

This one is all about food. Evan helped me cook breakfast one day and Owen just ate!  Evan loves to help cook, even if it just means putting things back into the fridge. He also likes to pour and stir, so I try to include him as often as possible.

Then we went grocery shopping as a family to get all of the things on our list. I don’t have photos of either of these activities, but it’s nice to put the camera down every once in a while (which I don’t do often!)

The kids and I looked through some of the pictures we’ve taken in the last few days and are getting them printed. We also looked through Thanksgiving photos from the last few years and printed them for our new ‘Thanksgiving Through The Years’ album.Here’s one from last year:

I also sat and showed Evan some family videos on the computer. He loves to look at videos of our adventures. By adventures, I mean him running back and forth across the house chasing the dogs.

For this activity, Evan got to choose whatever sounded fun to him and that’s what we did! Evan wanted to roast marshmallows so we roasted them in our fireplace. It wasn’t quite the same as a campfire, but it was a lot of fun and Evan loved it!

We spent a day without computers, cartoons and video games. That is QUITE the accomplishment for us! I have to admit that there was football on tv. However, me and the kids busied ourselves with other activities and got out of the ‘technology zone’ all day long! It was great (and a little difficult). It was definitely worth it though. I need to add that to my weekly routine!

My kids love music so we spent a while listening to kid’s songs on a couple of kid music CDs we have. It allows us to dance, sing and learn about instruments. Again, there are no pictures because you don’t really need to see a picture of me dancing to ‘Sally the Camel’, do you?

This project helped me to look at different ways I could interact with my kids and I think we all benefited from it in a lot of ways. Probably my favorite part was the ‘unplug’ project. It actually gave me time to do all of the other things on the THANKFUL list. I am definitely thankful for my kiddos!

There were a lot of other bloggers who participated in Collectively Creative this month to share how they were all thankful. Click on the links below to see their posts and be sure to check out the rest of their sites while you are there!

Our Family’s Thankful Journal (Cobwebs, Cupcakes & Crayons)
Creating a Thankfulness Photo Album (Organizing Living Essentials)
Vegan Creamed Corn Cornbread (The Pancake Princess)
Thanksgiving Requests (Ponytail Kind of Day)
~Erin

Halloween Costume Photos

I borrowed a wonderful tip from Thea at Organized Living Essentials where she suggested doing a Pre-Halloween Dress Rehearsal for the kids costumes. That way you could take a few photos before the hectic Trick or Treat evening. I decided to try this for several reasons:

-My kids costumes are really bulky this year and trying to get them to sit still for pictures and go right into Trick or Treating would be ridiculous.

-I decided to photograph them individually to get more photos and if they were both in costume at the same time, this would have been impossible!

-Now I can post the pics on the blog and facebook as well as email them to all the grandparents before Halloween is over. Then everyone is more in the mood and I make sure everyone gets to see the pics in a timely manner. Believe me, as much as I love Halloween, as soon as it’s over, I immediately throw all decorations and costumes back in their bins! So it helps to already have the pictures taken care of.

-I can just enjoy watching them trick or treat and not worry about getting the perfect costume picture when they are so distracted.

-Inevitably before any big photo event, whether it’s birthday’s, pics with Santa, etc, someone will spill juice all over themselves, or get a horrific runny nose, or fall and end up with a giant red bump on their forehead. I’m not sure which will happen tonight, but I’m not going to worry about it because I’ve already got the pictures!

The one thing I didn’t do was make a sign that says ‘2012’ because, well, I forgot. Maybe I’ll make a quick one and snap one more pic tonight.

Here are a couple of the results. Thanks for the idea Thea!

And one from our small town Halloween Party we went to:

Happy Halloween everyone!

~Erin

Quick Halloween Pic Banner

I wanted a cute was to display the kids Halloween costumes through the years so I decided to make a little Costume Photo Banner to hang up in October. I had just created my ‘Halloween Through the Years’ photo album with my favorite pics from the holiday each year. But I wanted to have 1 photo from each year which was actually hung up for everyone to see.
This was a really easy project that only required a few items:

-Photos

-Scrapbook Paper

-Tape

-Yarn

-Hole Punch

I printed 1 4″ x 6″ photo from each of the past 5 years (please note that our son is only 3 so the first 2 years photos are of our dog in costume). Then I rounded the corners so they would look a little more ‘finished’.

I cut out 5″ x 7″ pieces of scrapbook paper and rounded the corners of those as well. Then I taped the photos to the scrapbook paper and punched 2 holes in the top of each.

Then I just took the yarn and threaded it through the holes and taped the whole thing on our entertainment center.

I hung it up with tape and I didn’t tie the string at either end so it will be easy to add another photo. When I run out of room in  of, I’ll just get another piece of string. So easy and so cute. It’s a great way to look back at the costumes over the years.

I love easy projects!

~Erin

Halloween Party Wrap Up

Last night was our first (and hopefully the first of many) Halloween party. I actually spent days prepping for this because a) I love Halloween b) I love theme parties and c) I love planning things. I was joking with my husband that I like planning for a party almost as much as the actual party itself. (almost!)

So I pulled most of my decorating and craft ideas from Pinterest, blogs and magazines. Here are a few:

The first decoration I put up was a spider web made of yarn, which I found here.

In the same post with the spider web tutorial is a link to a paper bat tutorial. These were super easy and made a great accent to the other decorations.

We actually had a lot more bats in the living room, and next year I want to do even more. We also had the obligatory carved pumpkin.

You can’t tell from the photo, but this pumpkin is HUGE! We went to a pumpkin patch and traded in the ‘normal’ size pumpkins we got with admission for 1 ridiculously large pumpkin.

For food, I decided to bake chicken with pesto, marinara and Parmesan cheese. It was super easy and we made a lot, so I see chicken marinara leftovers in our future for the next 4 days.

I wanted some of the food and drinks to have a Halloween touch, so I tried a couple other ideas I found. My pumpkin juice boxes were inspired by some Mummy Juice Boxes I had seen both here and here. I needed white duct tape for the mummy’s and all I could find was an industrial size roll of the stuff. Since I didn’t need 500 yards of white duct tape, I snagged the normal size bright orange roll of duct tape and made pumpkin juice boxes.

I used felt for the stems and leaves and construction paper for the faces. Thanks to my husband who spent a lot of time gluing eyes and noses!
I pulled off the straws before I wrapped the boxes in duct tape and then I just taped the straws to the backs once they were finished.

The grown up version of juice boxes was a crock pot cider. My husband and I had looked up dozens of recipes online (it’s incredible how many ingredients some people put in their cider). And it was a fun week trying the recipes until we found the perfect combination. There were all sorts of test ingredients…cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, orange juice, apples, rum, brandy, whiskey. It turns out that the absolute best combination is: apple juice, rum and cinnamon. That’s it!

I also made a cupcake ghost, which I saw in Family Fun magazine’s October issue.

For chips and salsa, my husband carved out two medium size pumpkins to perfectly fit 2 bowls we had. They made perfect serving pieces and we set them up with a wicker pumpkin which held the plastic silverware.

I set up a craft table for the kids. Most of their time was spent running frantic circles around the house, wielding plastic tools, a fake lawnmower, a large red ball and handfuls of candy and cupcakes that were grabbed as they flew past the dessert table. It was craziness and I’m not sure how our house is still standing. But after the main sugar high wore off, I asked who wanted to do a craft and almost every kid followed me in the dining room. Amazing!

I had set out several different activities:

But the hit of the craft table was the Pipe Cleaner Spider. I found them here and they were so cute and easy. They were from Homemade by Jill. Follow her on Pinterest here, she has some great Pin Boards. I made a few changes to the spiders, such as adding the ‘googly eyes’, but the concept was pretty much the same.

Tip Alert!:

Here is a tip I will absolutely use for every craft table I set up from here on out if I can. I took a shallow storage bin and put everything needed for this craft inside the bin – pipe cleaners, google eyes, glue, and scissors. Then I set an example on top. I also had a bin for felt and cotton ball ghosts, which had it’s own glue and scissors. It made things so much easier and efficient. If I was just doing one craft, I would probably lay everything out on the table. But with multiple crafts, we just picked one and I opened that bin. The table stayed cleaner and I knew I had everything I needed.

And I couldn’t leave the adults without an activity, so I had a Halloween Trivia Game. It included 10 Halloween questions and the winner received a little gift basket.

The party was a blast and I hope to continue the tradition next year. Happy Halloween!

~Erin