A Book of Letters and Family

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Need a gift idea for a little someone? Perhaps a son or daughter or niece or nephew? Maybe a grandchild or godson? Every year, my two nephews get loads and loads of toys from family at Christmas. I don’t know how their parents get all their gifts back to their houses. And the boys already have so many toys at home. So this year, I wanted to do something different. Both boys are 4 years old. They are learning their letters, and before we know it they will be able to start spelling and reading.

This year, we decided to give them both a book. But not just any book. I wanted to personalize their books and help them learn their letters through their family members.

Using Shutterfly’s photo books, I was able to create a Book of Letters and Family for each nephew — personalizing the books for them by using photos and names of people they already know.

Toddler Gift Idea- Letter Books

For each book, I used a photo of each family member along with their names, making the first letter large. For instance, M is for Mommy. D is for Daddy. Here are some of the pages so you can see what I did.

Letters Book Pages 2

Letters Book Pages

Letter Book Uncle Page

I didn’t go over every letter in the alphabet. Instead I focused on the letters that start each person’s name. Unfortunately, that’s mostly C, T, and M. Seriously, like every single person’s name in Travis’ family starts with C, T, and M. Except for Justin — he married into the family this year and finally brought in a new letter!

Here are some of the other pages.

Friendship Page

I knew the boys would like seeing their own photos in the books. So I made one page all about them. I want them to see how their names are spelled, so hopefully they can name each letter of their own name.

Letter Book Page -- Name

I finished the book with an alphabet page so they can see every letter. I know the boys love singing the alphabet song, so this gives them a chance to see each letter as they sing. I also wanted to challenge them to count as high as possible and to remember how they count in Spanish. I wanted these books to be something they can read with their parents — kind of an interactive book.

Letter Book Pages 1

Here are the back covers, and I was able to put the title of the book on the spines as well.

Books of Letters and Family

Photo Book Tips

Begin by signing into your account. If you don’t have one yet, register for one! New customers automatically get 50 free prints!

Go to the Photo Books. Choose the Simple Path or Custom Path. The simple path is just that — it’s much easier to work with. However, the custom path means you can move things around a lot more. The theme/style I used for the Letter Book is not available in the simple path, so if you want to make something similar, you’ll need to go custom path. I suggest using the custom path so you can, well, customize your pages more.

Next, choose the size of the book you want. I made 8×8 books for our nephews.

Now is my favorite part. Scroll through all the book styles and choose the one you want. They have so many fun and beautiful options! If you click on the style, you can scroll through a couple sample pages and get a better idea of the page backgrounds and embellishments.

If you are planning to make a letter book like I did, choose the Pre-K Yearbook style. (Now this style does charge an extra $5.)


Once you select your style, you’ll be ready to start customizing! You’ll immediately be asked to add photos. Go through your computer, your Shutterfly account, your Facebook — wherever — and get all the photos you’re going to want to include in this book. Once you’ve selected them all, click “Add to Photo Book.” All the photos will be placed in a strip at the bottom of your page.

Photo Strip

Now, you’ll want to click “Customize page” at the bottom left side of the screen. Check out the purple arrow below. Clicking this allows you to add photos, text boxes, embellishments and more to your book. It also allows you to move everything around. So if you want to move a photo up higher on the page, you can.


The green arrow shows where you can choose different backgrounds for each page. They have several to choose from in each style. Just drag and drop the backgrounds onto the page of your choice.

The red arrow shows the embellishment tab. These are basically stickers that match the style you choose. I used a lot of these to make my book more colorful and fun for the boys. Again, just drag and drop them on the pages you want. You can resize them and move them around on the page too. If you don’t see something you want, you can click “Get more Stickers,” which I’ve shown below with a pink arrow.

More stickers

A box will appear with all their stickers available. Some of them may cost you more money, so be careful about that. You can also search at the top of this box if you know something specific you are looking for. The large letters I used in the boys’ books were from this More Stickers section. They each have an “S” next to them, meaning they are part of the Storytelling Style, which costs $5 extra.

BEST ADVICE EVER: See that brown arrow below? Yeah, save. Save your project as you go. Basically click save every time you finish a page. When your internet goes out, or Shutterfly crashes, or your computer explodes, you’ll be happy you hit that save button.

Here are a few other things to know when making a photo book. You can decide how many photos you want on each page. Click the “Layout” tab. See that pink arrow below — that shows how many photos you want on each page. You can choose the layout looks depending on how many photos you want on each page by clicking on the layout shown — check out the blue arrow.

The yellow arrow shows where you can look at either your photo strip to choose which photos you want for each page OR you can look at the pages and choose which page to design next.

If you need more photos or more pages to fit all your photos, notice the orange arrow. Boy, I hope you aren’t color blind! Just know that adding pages means an extra charge. But you can add as many photos as you want!


When you are all finished, click “Order.” It will take you to a preview page where you can look at all your pages and see what a great job you did, as well as anything you need to change.

Click here to head to Shutterfly and make your own book!

Shutterfly 50 Free Prints 728x90

French Toast Casserole

Some friends of ours are in the process of adopting five little people. All of the kids are moved in and the overwhelming transition period has begun. My friend went from being a married woman to a mother of five (six if you count her husband!) — all in a matter of weeks. I know there are moments when she feels stressed from all the scheduling, overcome with tasks and tantrums, and down right exhausted from trying to handle it all with a smile. It’s a huge change for her and her husband. But they long to give these five children, who they have fallen in love with, a place to call home and a family to spend forever with. To ease the craziness of their new life, I’ve been bringing them a few meals each week. Not having to figure out what to make and not having to cook for the night is probably a big help when you have so much other stuff to worry about and deal with. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to keep striving for hospitality!

This past week, I decided to make them a breakfast casserole. That way they can eat it for breakfast, or if their morning routine is set and going well, they can have breakfast for dinner. One of Travis’ favorite breakfast foods is French Toast. So I whipped up this French Toast Casserole for a family of seven to enjoy! I think it would make for a great Christmas morning meal!

French Toast Casserole 1

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • French bread
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla
  • Butter

Ingredients for French Toast Casserole

First, cut up the French bread into 1 inch squares. I bought a sliced loaf of French bread so half the work was already done. You can also just rip the bread into pieces with your hands. Put the bread into a 9 x 13 greased pan.

Cut bread

Next, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour that mixture onto the bread. Let it sit while you do the next steps so that the bread can soak up the egg mixture.

Whisk eggs and milk

Next, cut up the butter into small pieces. Dot the bread with the butter. Mix together the remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the dish.

Dot with butter

Finally, bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve with syrup!

French Toast Casserole 2

French Toast Casserole
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 loaf French bread
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 Tbs sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 2 Tbs butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease a 9x13 baking dish
  3. Cut French bread into 1 inch squares, place evenly in baking dish
  4. Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon and 2 Tbs sugar
  5. Pour mixture over bread, let sit
  6. Cut butter into small pieces, dot the casserole with butter
  7. Mix together remaining cinnamon and sugar
  8. Sprinkle sugar mixture over casserole
  9. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes
  10. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top, serve with syrup

Don’t you think this would make a great Christmas morning breakfast dish? I think so. If Travis and I opened gifts in the morning, I would definitely be making it for us. But we do it in the evening, at least for now. Hmm, perhaps breakfast for dinner this year?

For other great recipes, check out this Pinterest board!

Christmas Decor and Cards

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The Christmas season is fully upon us! We have the house decorated, I’ve made Christmas cookies, and the Christmas cards are in the mail! Now, to just finish the Christmas shopping.

This year we decorated our tree with even more ornaments than last year. Now, we have ornaments from our cruise, our Disney World vacation, our trip to Sea World, and the ones we got for Christmas last year. Our tree is looking a little more full, although we still used a few dollar store ornaments to finish it off. By next year, we probably won’t need any of the cheap ornaments!

Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Tree 2014

Here are some of the other Christmas decorations we have going on. Plus, not pictured we have a mistletoe hanging up in a doorway. Around it I’m going to hang all the Christmas cards we receive.

Christmas Decor

This year, we were able to grab several deals from both Shutterfly and Tiny Prints when it comes to holiday cards. Most of our Christmas cards were free thanks to those deals. In fact, we sent out 36 and we only paid for five of those! I know Christmas cards can get expensive, so be sure to sign up for Shutterfly (you get 50 free prints when you do) so that you can get the emails with all their deals throughout the year and especially for all their free holiday card offers!

Here are the different designs we got this year. I wanted to send one of each to everyone I know, but we just couldn’t afford that. So here they are for all of you! Which is your favorite?

Christmas Cards Design #1

Christmas Card 1

Christmas Cards Design #2

Christmas Card 2

Christmas Cards Design #3

Christmas Card 3

Christmas Cards Design #4 (My favorite!)

Christmas Card 4

We also got free address labels and free stickers. Talk about a deal! And just so ya’ll know, Shutterfly is offering 40% off everything today. Click here and use promo code OURFAVS to take advantage of this deal. This code expires tomorrow.


How have you decorated this year? Did you send out Christmas cards?

10+ Chocolate Mint Recipes

Peanut butter + Jelly.

Chips + Salsa.

Macaroni + Cheese.

Some combos just go together like Batman and Robin. And one of my favorite combos is Chocolate + Mint.

I love mint chocolate chip ice cream. I love chocolate with mint creme. Andes chocolate mints are the best part of Olive Garden!

Raise your hand if you love chocolate and mint together. Well for all those with hands in the air, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best chocolate mint recipes for you to make this holiday season.

Chocolate Mint Recipes

Let me know which is your favorite!

Peppermint Chocolate Cake Cookies – Just Us Four


Triple Mint Marshmallow Oreo Brownies – Seeing Sunshine

Triple Mint Marshmallow Oreo Brownies

Girl Scout Thin Mint Surprise Cookies – Organized 31


Andes Mint Chocolate Chip Cake – I Was Born to Cook

Andes Cake

Thin Mint Cupcakes — Tastes Better From Scratch

Thin Mint Cupcakes

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies – Seeing Sunshine

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

No Bake Mint Chocolate Chip Pie – The Kitchen is My Playground

No-Bake Mint Chocolate Chip Pie 8

Mint Oreo Layer Dessert – Tastes Better From Scratch

Mint Oreo Dessert

Grasshopper Cheesecake Squares – The Kitchen is My Playground

Grasshopper Cheesecake Squares

Thin Mint Truffles – Seeing Sunshine

Thin Mint Truffles

Chocolate Mint Russian Caketini – Snappy Gourmet


Grasshopper Cookies – Seeing Sunshine

grasshopper, cookie, mint, chocolate

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake Rice Crispy Treats – 365 Days of Crafts

White Chocolate Peppermint Treats

Chocolate Mint Cookies –  Amanda’s Cookin


Homemade Peppermint Patties – More Than a Mom of Three


Homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream — Amanda’s Cookin


Mint Brownies — Tastes Better From Scratch

Mint Brownies

Also, be sure to check out this post with 20 Holiday Cookie Recipes!

Cookie Roundup

Stocking Stuffers for the Crafty Woman

(This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog.)

Crafty Crafty. Do you know anyone who loves doodling, painting, creating things, making photo collages, decorating, and the like?

I have some great stocking stuffer ideas for that crafty woman in your life. Check it out!

Stocking Stuffer Ideas for the Crafty Woman

Here we go!


Washi Tape — It’s the next best thing! I got some for myself and love it, plus there are so many different colors and patterns. You can use it for decorating, scrapbooking, all sorts of things.


Baking Twine — It’s not always used for baking. This stuff is great for decorating things and for gift wrapping. Plus, it comes in different colors.

Inkjoy Pens

InkJoy Pens– If she is crafty, she will like these pens that I love. They come in such bright colors. You can also consider getting different colored sharpies or other markers. Or if she has lots of chalkboards in her house since those are so popular for decorating these days, check out these Liquid Chalk Neon Markers!


Magazine – Roll it up and stick it in that stocking! Grab her a magazine such as Crafts, Papercraft, Handmade, Mollie Makes, Handmade Living, Naturally Danny Seo, or there are so many more to choose from. You can even get her a subscription if you want! (Photo Credit)

Chevron Straws

Striped Straws — Every woman in the world loves these right now, or at least it seems so. I would love to have some myself. You can get all sorts of different colors — stripped or chevron — or a little of everything. You can buy sets of 50 here — Diagonal Design, Striped, or Chevron.

michaels_gift card

Gift Cards — Let her pick our her supplies herself or get other things to use on the stuff you’ve given her. The best craft stores are Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. (Photo credit)


Ribbon– Different colors. Different patterns. Different fabrics. The possibilities are endless.


Stickers — Maybe it’s the kid in us, but who doesn’t like stickers? I suggest some of these stickers from Erin Condren – they are bright and colorful and you can personalize them. Plus, check out the stickers you can get using photos of friends and family!

Stocking Stuffer Ideas for the Crafty

If you’re looking for other crafty gifts, check out this website called Pick Your Plum I just found recently. I love it! So many different neat products and for seriously good deals! Plus, every morning they add new deals!

What other ideas do you have?