Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Candy Bar Game—a Fun Party Game for All Ages!

I'm always looking for easy and fun games to play at birthday parties for my kids. Especially now that I've got two teenagers, I want some party games that will keep them entertained but that aren't too juvenile for their cool teen status, either.

Once upon a time, we had a Relief Society activity at church, and one of my friends brought this super fun candy bar game. We had a ton of fun playing it as a bunch of 30-50 year old women, but it's perfect for all ages. In fact, it's great for family parties where you actually do have all ages attending.

We played it at Chloe's 13th birthday party a few weeks later, and those girls had an absolute blast with it!

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The candy bar game—a super simple party game that will provide a ton of fun for all ages! #overstuffedlife

What you need:

  • A large assortment of candy bars—at least one per player, but having several extra makes the game more fun! (Make sure they are all different kinds—that's what makes the game fun!) (If you are thinking ahead enough, this candy bar variety pack is a great deal!)
  • Dice (we used the colorful dice out of our Tenzi game)
  • A timer (you can use your phone, but we used our favorite timer that we use for everything)

How to play:

Have everyone sit in a circle with all of the candy bars in the middle. Set your timer for five minutes and start a set of dice around the circle. Depending on how many people are playing, you may want to use two sets of dice—for Chloe's birthday we used two sets because we had 11 girls playing.

Each person rolls the dice once and passes them on. If doubles are rolled, you can pick a candy bar either from the pile in the middle or from someone who has already picked one. It's pretty obvious which candy bars are the coveted ones as the game goes on!

For instance, if someone rolled doubles and the candy bar they wanted was no longer in the middle, they can steal it from the person who has it in front of them. It ups the stakes of the game in a super fun way and sometimes people find clever ways to hide the candy bars they have—though there are always those who are even more clever who keep track of their favorites and know exactly where they are, hidden or not! 

When the timer goes off, everyone gets to keep whatever candy bars they have collected.

Related: 8 Ways to Make Your Kid's Birthday Special

The candy bar game—a super simple party game that will provide a ton of fun for all ages!

Above: The candy bar game in action—I was having too much fun watching them to think about getting a good photo!
While the girls were playing at Chloe's birthday party, they felt like that five minutes was a total eternity! The Reese's Peanut Butter cups were wanted by everyone and changed hands about a hundred times amidst shrieks of laughter. When the game ended one girl had collected five candy bars! (She was very kind and gave her extras to those who had none, but that is certainly not a requirement!)

The candy bar game is now a staple at all of our teen and tween parties. It is always a huge hit, because who doesn't love a game that is fun, fast paced, and has the possibility of earning you lots of chocolate?

And if you don't want to contribute to more sugar addictions, you can certainly replace the candy bars with other small gifts. For instance, teen girls would love nail polishes or other health and beauty type items that are easily purchased at the dollar store. Younger kids would like small toys. It would even be a fun way to run a book exchange for your book club! The possibilities are endless, but when it comes right down to it, we like the candy bar version best.

Even though it only takes five minutes, it's a super simple game that everyone will love! I can't wait to play it again at our next party—whenever that will be!

You might also like:

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Monday, March 21, 2016

30 Days to a Stronger Child: Book Review

Parenting isn't easy. And the older my kids get, the harder parenting gets.

They have so many things to deal with that I never once came up against, plus all the same hard stuff I did face as a child, too. Sometimes I feel like I'm somewhat equipped to help them through a situation because I've been there before, but in other situations I'm completely lost. All I can do is pray and listen to the spirit and hope that I'm doing right by my child.

One of the things my husband and I have done for a while (though we need to do it more often than we currently do), is a "whole soul" assessment of each child. We sit down together and we discuss how our children are doing in five areas:


It's a really wonderful thing to do as parents because sometimes he notices things the girls are doing that I don't, and vice versa. Then we discuss possible ways we can help them in the areas they are struggling.

And that's always been the hard part! Because we don't always know how to help them through those struggles—especially when we've never faced them before.

(This post contains affiliate links)

We all want our children to be strong enough to face their daily challenges, and this book will help parents have the right conversations with their kids. #overstuffedlife

That's why I was so thrilled to be given a copy of 30 Days to a Stronger Child to review and use with my children. This book is divided into those same five categories, and each category is then divided further. In the Social chapter you will find things like friendship and boundaries, while in the Emotional chapter you will find things like empathy and self-confidence.

Not only does this book give my husband and I more concrete criteria to base our assessments on, it helps us to teach our children to build their strength in each of these categories. Every single day they face things that deplete their "accounts" so to speak. They may be bullied and have a depletion in their social and emotional accounts, or they may have to do a difficult school project that depletes their intellectual account. And spiritual accounts are constantly being depleted, just by virtue of walking out the door in the morning.

If they are not also strengthening themselves in these areas, it makes it very difficult for them to cope when they are faced with stress and other dilemmas. I want my kids to be able to cope in a healthy way when they face these things!

30 Days to a Stronger Child: An excellent book designed to help you have conversations with your children to strengthen them in all areas of their lives. #overstuffedlife

We started using this book together last week. There are many ways you could choose to use it, but since my kids are a bit older (two teenagers and a 9-year-old), I chose to just read it with them and talk about the discussion questions together.

It has also allowed us to talk about their natural gifts and strengths as we come up on things that some of them are naturally better at doing already or the things that they struggle with. It has opened up a lovely dialogue in our home and I am so thankful I found it! It came at the perfect time for our family.

The authors of this book also have a wonderful website: Educate Empower Kids. It has a ton of wonderful resources for helping your children through various things and continuing to make them stronger. They also offer several other books that look to be extremely helpful in educating and empowering our children:

30 Days of Sex Talks: Ages 3-7
30 Days of Sex Talks: Ages 8-11
30 Days of Sex Talks: Ages 12+ 
How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Printable Easter Egg Coupons

I'm not really sure when Easter started to be almost as big as Christmas, but I don't love it. Sure, I'm all for doing a basket filled with some candy and a couple fun things for the kids, but lately I've seen things that are completely over-the-top. Not only are they elaborate, they are expensive.

And the worst part (besides that awful Easter grass that will haunt you for months after Easter Sunday)? All the clutter.

I'm done with bringing extra clutter into my house.

We've been consciously giving our children fewer things and more experiences in the past couple years. And one of the things we've done to help with that is to give cute coupons instead. The Christmas coupons I put in their stockings offer things like extra screen time, no chores, or a date with Mom and Dad.

They LOVE this. They save those coupons and wait for the perfect time to redeem them—sometimes it's months later.

I love the coupons because it reduces mindless clutter in my home and it gives me a fun way to spend extra time with my children.

Adorable printable Easter egg coupons. I love the idea of giving your kids time with you instead of more stuff! #overstuffedlife

I figured I would put some Easter coupons in their Easter baskets this year, along with a few consumable candy items (if they eat it, it won't clutter up my house) and maybe something small that they need—like new underwear or something! We'll see.

I think they turned out super cute and springy! Now, if only all the snow would melt so we could maybe have an Easter egg hunt in the grass for once! Just kidding, even if the snow melted, our egg hunt would just be in the mud. Grassy Easter just isn't a thing where I live, and I refuse to buy the fake Easter grass, so we'll just be happy to have snow.

Anyway, if you'd like to download the coupons for yourself, the instructions are below. I print them out onto white cardstock paper because it's more durable than plain printer paper. I always keep a ream on hand because I love my printables!

Cute Easter coupons you can include in your kids' Easter baskets. They can be for anything from no chores to a date with parents. #overstuffedlife

To download:

If you are on a desktop or laptop computer, enter your email into the form below.

If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

The printable will be sent straight to your email inbox.


Happy (clutter-free) Easter!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

How to Improve Your Photo Composition: Use the Rule of Thirds

This post is the fourth in my photography series on improving photo composition. To see the rest of the series, click here: How to Improve Your Photo Composition Series. For your convenience, this post contains affiliate links.

The greatest thing about photography is that the camera doesn't matter as much as you think it does. The photographer's eye and the composition of the photo are much more important than the quality of the camera used. I've already talked about how zooming, angles, and visual triangles all help to improve photo composition, and today I'm going to talk about how understanding the rule of thirds will help you create more interesting photos.

How to use the rule of thirds in your photography to get more pleasing photo composition and better photos all around. #overstuffedlife

How to Improve Your Photo Composition: Rule of Thirds

Some cameras and phones actually have a "rule of thirds" grid available in the viewfinder to make this easier, but the gist of it is: divide your photo into thirds both horizontally and vertically and then place your subjects at the cross hairs.

Most amateur photographers will place their subjects right smack in the middle of the camera. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, like a straight-on photograph, it's simply not as interesting. The eye really likes photos that draw the eye through the scene and the rule of thirds helps with that.

Using the rule of thirds in portraits

When doing a close up type portrait, you will want your subject's eye to be at one of the intersections created by dividing your photo in thirds.

In this photo of The Maestro, you can see that one of his eyes does indeed just that:

That happens to be a perfect example, but it doesn't have to be quite so perfect to be effective. The following photos are all pretty close to having the eyes right in the cross hairs, but none of them actually does.

But you can still see that the rule of thirds has been effectively applied in each photo.

When doing full-body portraits (or even candid shots), applying the rule of thirds can help make those more pleasing to the eye, too.

Consider this photo of Bria standing on the beach. You want your subject to be on one of the outer thirds of the photo instead of right in the middle. This draws your eyes through the scene and creates a story. If she were right in the middle, the beach would feel more broken up and that story wouldn't be told quite as well.

Here are a couple other full-body shots that follow the same rule:

(Why yes, we do like going to the beach—perhaps I'm getting overly excited for it since spring is definitely in the air!)

Using the rule of thirds in landscape photography

The basic rule for landscape photography is to make sure that the horizon line is either on the upper third or the lower third of the photograph—never straight through the middle. Again, this does not have to be mathematically perfect.

I especially like beach photos because you get the division of the sand, water, and sky so that the whole photo is in thirds. And since we spend a lot of time at the beach in the summer, I've got a lot of them!

In the above photo, I put the horizon in the lower third of the photo and let the sky take up the top two-thirds. In this case, the subject is right in the middle, but that's okay because the entire photo is using the rule of thirds.

In this photo, the horizon is also low in the photo and the subject (the tree and flagpole) is also off-center.

This is one of my favorite landscape photos I've ever taken. I actually did put the horizon right through the middle, but because of the reflection of the trees in the water, the rule of thirds is being employed perfectly. Do you see it?

When you have your camera out, start noticing how you can make use of the rule of thirds. Sometimes it's as simple as remembering to put your subject slightly off center or to raise or lower the horizon line. Play with it and see what works and what doesn't!

Next week will be the final installment of our composition series—all about candid shots!

***If you want to take a more in depth photography course that is self led, I highly recommend the photography courses at CreativeLive. Click here to check them out:CreativeLive Photography Courses***

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

How I Finally Found a Way to Limit Screen Time Without Being the Bad Guy

I don't know about you, but screens and electronic devices are one of the most difficult things for me to deal with as a mom. How much screen time is too much for kids? How do I limit it in a positive way? And by positive, I mean without having my kids throw fits if I tell them their time is up for the day. How do I encourage my kids to do other things like read or go outside to play instead of sitting stuck on the couch with their eyes glazed over and drool coming out the side of their mouth?
How indeed?

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.
I am sick of being in trouble for making rules about screen time. I finally found a great way to limit the screens and not have to be the bad guy! Check it out! #overstuffedlife

I've tried so many things.
One summer, I instituted "Scales Before Screens," which meant that they earned minutes of screen time based on how much they practiced their instruments. I have a friend that did something similar, called "Weeds for Wii," in which her kids earned a minute of screen time for every 10 weeds they picked out of the yard. At my house, the practicing for screen time worked for a while, but soon enough the tantrums started and the program fell apart.
This past summer (summer is especially difficult when it comes to screen time, as I'm sure you're well aware), I instituted a different idea. I made a book of checklists for each child that outlined all the things they were required to do before they had screen time. And then I did something super drastic—I said they could actually have unlimited screen time if all their circles were checked off that day.
Why would I do such a thing? Because I was so tired of the tantrums and fights for screen time. I was tired of being the bad guy. And because I had read an article where a woman did something similar and found that her kids were on their devices less. Because she required them to read, they would get too involved in their books for screens. Or because she required them to play outside, they would just stay there and not come in to watch TV or play video games.
Well, it may have worked for her kids, but for mine? They got their stuff all done for the sole purpose of getting screen time, and then they took that screen time and milked it for all it was worth. At least I had reading and exercise in their workbooks, I guess.
I finally just decided that helping them to use technology appropriately and continuing to "be the bad guy" by limiting usage and even taking away devices if necessary was my only hope for not raising zombies. I came up with 5 things I would do to help them understand the power of the technology they were using and to help them use it appropriately.
But I was still the bad guy, and I hated it.
Then one day during Christmas break, I realized that my 9-year-old daughter, Sophia, had been on the computer playing Animal Jam for FOUR HOURS! I was upset with her for not following the rules, but I was more upset with myself for not realizing it happened and not enforcing the rules.
I remembered I had an extension on my browser (Google Chrome) called "Stay Focusd" which would block any site from being accessed after it had been used for a certain amount of time. So, I explained to Sophia that I would be limiting her time on Animal Jam and she would only get 30 minutes per day to play on it.
The next time she played was an absolute dream! She saw the timer pop up when she had ten seconds left and she happily hopped off the computer and did other things. I was kind of shocked that there were no temper tantrums or protests to give her more time, but I realized that because an inanimate object was controlling the time limit, there was nobody for her to be mad at. She just had to accept it. And she did.
That worked so well that I started looking more earnestly into other ways to limit the technology without being the bad guy.
That's when I found Circle with Disney. It's basically a device that you pair with your router that will control access to each individual device on your wi-fi network. Now, I know that you can go into your router and do this manually. I know this because my neighbor has done it, and tried to show The Maestro and me how to do it ourselves. But he's an engineer and we are a couple of musicians, so we just really didn't get it. So we settled for having him help us adjust the filter on our router and left it at that.
But the Circle device makes it so easy to place limits! I have an app on my phone from which I can control the entire thing. Each family member has separate time limits, web filters, and bedtimes & wake-up times. I can filter generally, or I can filter or allow specific websites. I can also just pause their access to wifi at any time if I need to. There is also a "home" category for shared devices (that's the house icon in the middle there).
Circle by Disney helps limit screen time. And it works!Guess what? The girls' reaction has been much like Sophia's initial reaction when I used the extension to limit her game time on my computer. Once their time limits are up, they put their device down and go find something else to do. They don't complain at all, and they rarely ask for me to change their limits. When they do ask? It's generally for a good reason, like they need to check their email for a school assignment but their device had already gone to bed.
For me, I love the report I get that tells me exactly which websites and apps they have used and for how long. It was very humbling to get my own version of that report and see just how much time I waste on Facebook, so it has made me start to more naturally limit my own screen time, too. I even put Facebook limits on my profile to remind me that I don't need to be on it so darn much.
Disney Circle device costs $99. I thought about it for a few weeks before I committed to spending the money, but honestly? It has been so worth it. I don't know if it is the best $99 I have ever spent, but it is definitely in the running!
To find out more, see all the features, and purchase a device for yourself, click here: MeetCircle.
If limiting screen time has been a problem in your house the way it was in mine, I am positive that you won't regret purchasing a Circle.
There are, of course, ways to get around it, and kids are constantly looking for them. The good news is that the company is constantly working with customers (there is a special message board you can join once you purchase) to improve the features and fix some of the loopholes that kids are able to find.
The best part is that I have spent more quality time with my kids since I bought this thing than I have in a long time. Part of that is on me, but part of it is the lure of the screen. When that's gone, they flock to wherever I am and they talk to me. 
It is the best thing ever—I love being the good guy!

P.S. I just found out that Disney is offering the circle on Amazon now, too! You can get it here: Disney Circle Device on Amazon

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Monday, March 07, 2016

How to Improve Your Photo Composition: Use Visual Triangles

This post is the third in my photography series on improving photo composition. To see the rest of the series, click here: How to Improve Your Photo Composition Series. For your convenience, this post contains affiliate links.

No matter what kind of camera you are using, the best way to improve the pictures you take is to learn how to compose more visually interesting photographs. The last two posts talked about zooming and varying the angles. Today we are going to learn how to use visual triangles.

Learn how to improve your photo composition by making use of visual triangles in your photos. It's much easier than it sounds! #overstuffedife

How to Improve Your Photo Composition: Visual Triangles

Using visual triangles in your photography is actually a lot easier than it sounds to do. I don't know the psychology of it, but those triangles are much more pleasing to the eye than other shapes like circles or squares. This is part of the reason why in decorating it looks nicer to use an odd number of items than it does an even number.

The trick is to always be on the look out for those triangles in whatever you are shooting. If you're shooting posed photographs, make sure to arrange your people in triangular formations. If you're shooting landscapes, find the triangles—I guarantee that they're there. You can even use the angle of your camera to create visual triangles.

Pose people in triangular shapes

Since I have three children, it's pretty easy to make sure that they are posed in a triangle.

I can put the tallest one in the middle.

I can put the smallest one in the middle.

I can put them tallest to smallest—which doesn't work as well as it used to since my eldest has stopped growing and the middle child is quickly catching up to her!

Or, I can put the two taller ones behind the smallest—or the two smallest in front of the tallest. So many possibilities!

There are many other possibilities to getting visual triangles with just three people! Play around with the posing, and you'll easily find them.

(Why yes, I DO love dressing my daughters alike! Too bad they don't let me do that anymore.)

Multiple people can also be posed in triangles. It's a little harder, but you can find fun ways to create several triangles within the photo when you have a lot of people.

You could bunch them all up and have them lean into one triangular shape.

Or, you can stagger the heights so that you get several different triangles. In the photo below of my friends, I also used the angle of the landscape to create some triangles—see the triangles formed by the beach and the water?

What if you only have one person to pose? You can have them do something with their body that will create the visual triangles, such as putting their hands on their hip, sitting in a certain way, or standing in a way that creates those odd angles.

In this photo of Sophia, I created the visual triangle with her body by having her hold up an object with both hands to the side.

Use perspective to create visual triangles

Sometimes the easiest way to get your triangles is by zooming out and getting the perspective to make them for you. Think looking down a long street or down some railroad tracks. The way they are perceived to get smaller and smaller in the distance creates a really cool visual triangle.

Like these train tracks:

Or like this pier—see how the water, the pier, and the green area all make triangles?

Use structures or landscape to find the visual triangles

I had a harder time finding examples of this, but you'll know it when you see it! This is a photo of my good friend and her son—I did his senior photos this year. I liked how the metal structures behind them create several triangles in the photo.

Angle your camera to create triangles

Last week we talked about angling your camera to make more interesting photos. One of the reasons why this is interesting is because it automatically creates some visual triangles. In the photo below of Sophia, I angled the camera so that the Chicago skyline is set on an angle and the skyline and grass both make triangles.

When you have your camera out, make it a game to find as many triangles as you can and incorporate them in your photo. Look for them in your surroundings, start noticing the different ways bodies and posing configurations can make triangles, and get some cool photos!

Part 1—Zooming
Part 2—Vary the angles
Part 4—Rule of Thirds

***If you want to take a more in depth photography course that is self led, I highly recommend the photography courses at CreativeLive. Click here to check them out:CreativeLive Photography Courses***

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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

St. Patrick's Day Watercolor Printable

I fully admit that we don't really do St. Patrick's Day at our house. It's really just a day to wear green and maybe pinch a few people, and otherwise I don't think much of it. Don't believe me? Well, there was that one time The Maestro and I drove to Chicago over St. Patrick's Day weekend and couldn't figure out why on earth there was so much traffic. I took us a while to figure it out, and even then we couldn't wrap our heads around the sheer number of people that had flocked to Chitown to celebrate what to us is pretty much a non-holiday.

Free printable download. Beautiful watercolor "lucky" printable for St. Patrick's Day. #overstuffedlife

But, we're not Irish or Catholic, so please don't be offended at my lack of reverence for the holiday. In order to beg the forgiveness of all of the St. Paddy's Day lovers, I decided to make a printable. And because I was feeling a little gloomy today and needed something to brighten my day a little.

I realize that putting out a little St. Patrick's decor could mean a slippery slope. But don't worry! There will not be any leprechaun traps or leprechauns leaving gold or any other leprechaunery at our house this March.

Just a few watercolor shamrocks.

To download:

If you are on a laptop or a desktop computer, please enter your email address in the form below.

If you are on a mobile device, please click here to see the form.

The printable will be magically sent to your email, and you'll be able to download it with the click of a button.

The printable measures 8x10. I printed mine out on photo paper and stuck it in a frame. Printables are the easiest holiday decor ever.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Free printable download. Beautiful watercolor "lucky" printable for St. Patrick's Day. #overstuffedlife

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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

March 2016 Visiting Teaching Printable

This year, we are taking the Visiting Teaching messages from the Proclamation on the Family. For March, we are focusing on the fact that we are each created in the image of God.

March 2016 visiting teaching printable. We are created in the image of God. #overstuffedlife

I loved President Monson's quote in this lesson. It just helped me to really envision our loving Heavenly Father and that we look like him and he looks like us. Unfortunately, the format I chose for this year's Visiting Teaching printables didn't allow me to do the entire quote. So, I chose the most important part of the quote for this printable, and I went ahead and made a bonus handout for March that includes the entire quote. You can find that handout here: Bonus VT Printable for March 2016.

Download the March Visiting Teaching Printable by entering your email in the form below (must be on a desktop or laptop computer). If you are on a mobile device, click here for the form.
Printable measures 5x7.
March Visiting Teaching printable. Download and frame it for your visiting teaching sisters! Quote by Thomas S. Monson. #overstuffedlife

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