Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Ten Most Popular Posts of 2016

At the end of every year, I always enjoy looking back and assessing things. What worked for me, what didn't work for me, the goals I achieved, and the goals that got left behind. Part of that assessment includes looking back at the things I've written on my blog during the year and seeing which posts my readers loved. It's never quite the posts that I think they will love, so it's a good exercise in learning what they want!

I am so thankful for readers who come to read any of the things I write! Thank you for helping my blog to find tips for being a more intentional mother and homemaker. This year's top ten is pretty diversified, which I love, because I like to write about a whole lot of different things!

Overstuffed top ten 2016

Here are the top ten posts from Overstuffed in 2016:

10. 7 Middle Grade Books That Teach Kids Empathy

It made me happy to see this post do so well! I want to teach my kids to be a lot of things, but teaching them to be kind and empathetic is at the very top of that list. Reading books is already an excellent way to learn empathy because you are in the head of the characters as you read. You learn to literally put yourself in another person's shoes.

Not only do these books put the reader in the shoes of the characters within their pages, these characters have specific challenges that will open kids' minds to the things that real people suffer. These books have main characters with autism, facial deformities, cerebral palsy, or have suffered tragedies in their lives. They are all set in middle school or similar, so your own middle grade readers will be able to relate.

9. 5 Ways to Get Yourself in Bed Early Tonight

This post was the first habit in my October 31 Days series: Small Habits That Make a Big Difference.

The fact that this post hit the top ten for the year shows me that many of my readers suffer from the same night owl tendencies that I do! My journey with Lyme disease has taught me that sleep is important and that going to bed early helps my health almost more than anything else! This post outlines five simple things you can do each day to get yourself in bed early.

While you're at it, be sure to sign up for the Small Habits, Big Difference emails. You'll receive 30 habits—one a day for 30 days—right to your email inbox. The point is not to master all 30 habits but to work on a few at a time. Little things really can make a huge difference in your life!

8. 9 Screen Free Activities to Do With Your Kids

One of my biggest challenges as a parent is how to get my kids off their dang screens! Since two of my top ten have to do with limiting screen time, I have to conclude that my readers have the same challenge.

This post gives a few easy ideas of things to do when your kids are glued to their devices. I find that I have most of my trouble in the summer time, so most of these ideas are perfect for those long summer days when you have the kids home all day and you don't want them turning into zombies.

Hopefully these ideas will help you think of even more things you can do with your kids without phones and tablets! They may also serve to get you away from the screen, too—I know I'm not the only mom that struggles with her own daily screen time.

7. The Best Way to Save at the Grocery Store

This is a Captain Obvious post, but I wrote it because it honestly had never occurred to me until this year. The Maestro and I realized that our grocery budget was completely out of control and so we decided we would do better at shopping the ads.

Shopping the ads is actually a really good way to save money if you don't want to deal with coupons (and I don't), but using the ads is not as straightforward as it may seem. There is one thing you need to do first in order for this method of saving to be effective.

And once you do it, it becomes the absolute best way to save.

6. Stop Nagging Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth

Sometimes I feel like "Brush your teeth!" is the only thing I ever say to my kids. Before school every morning I am a total broken record: "Brush your teeth! Did you brush your teeth yet? Make sure you brush your teeth. You haven't brushed your teeth, have you? BRUSH YOUR TEETH!"

I hit on a pretty great way to get my very strong-willed youngest daughter who despises brushing her teeth to happily and willingly brush those teeth without complaint. And it is so easy!

Reading this again makes me realize we haven't been as diligent in doing it since we've been on sabbatical. Part of that is our living arrangement, and part of it is that she's just finally better at brushing her teeth on her own. Thank goodness!

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

Remember how I said that screen time is my biggest challenge as a parent? Well, 2016 marks the year I finally really figured it out. Sort of.

I found a device that makes a huge difference. It doesn't totally eliminate the problem, but it does help in a way that nothing has helped before. I especially like the fact that I am not the one telling them their time is up and opening myself up to arguments and back talk when I do. When it is time to get off of a particular website or app, it simply takes away access.

This device has resulted in more conversations with my kids, more homework being done, and a happier household all around.

4. Visiting Teaching Printables

Every month I make a printable for the visiting teachers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I pull a quote from the visiting teaching message that the church puts out and turn it into something pretty for visiting teachers to take to the women they serve each month.

I've been doing this for three years now, and I have built up a large list of readers who look forward to these printables each month—sometimes even emailing me when I am late posting a new one. I am so thankful that people like them and I am even more thankful that I can somehow help the work of visiting teaching move along for many women.

You can find all my visiting teaching printables here: Visiting Teaching Printables.

3. The Candy Bar Game

I posted this game on a whim when I didn't have time to do the post that I had planned on. It was a huge surprise how much it took off!

This is a super fun party game that one of my friends taught me. We had just played it at Chloe's 13th birthday party and so I had a few photos of the game in action. Terrible photos, but it was the only thing I could think of to post about that day!

The game is perfect for birthdays, new year's parties, family home evening or family game nights, or just for fun. Who doesn't want to race to win as many chocolate bars as you can?

2. One Simple Trick to Keeping Your Purse Organized

This trick has saved my purse from becoming a black hole of random items. Yes, I still have to clean it out on a regular basis—I do have children who tend to put everything they don't want to hold into my purse, after all!

Not only does this post teach you my easy trick for keeping your purse perfectly organized, it also shows you everything that is in my purse. Yes, I know it seems ridiculous to have so much hand sanitizer, but as all moms know, you tend to go through it pretty quickly! And right now I have no hand sanitizer in my purse at all! I've been meaning to go buy some and haven't managed to do it, even though I've looked for it in my purse about 100 times since I've been out!

1. 10 Signs Your Child Has a Toxic Friend

This post is not only my most popular of 2016, it is officially my most popular post EVER. I waited a long time before I finally wrote about Chloe's experience with a girl who turned out to be a bully of the worst kind—the kind that masquerades as a friend.

Chloe gave me permission to write about our experience, and by doing so she was able to help hundreds of thousands of people learn these signs. Not only that, but I had hundreds of people email me their own experience with this type of thing. It goes on way too much—especially among girls, though boys are certainly not immune to this kind of behavior.

As a parent, I am much more aware of the way my girls' friends are acting and I am amazed at how many of their friends exhibit some of this behavior. I am able to teach my daughters how to better deal with it and most of all, they now know that it is okay to walk away and lose a friendship if necessary.

Thank you so much for being a loyal reader here at Overstuffed! Happy New Year!

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Monday, December 12, 2016

How to Make Santa Bags for Oddly Shaped Gifts

There's nothing quite so annoying as trying to figure out how on earth to wrap an oddly shaped item. Trying to wrap a round gift, or a football, or a big and bulky handbag, or something that comes in oddly shaped packaging is frustrating! If you try to do it with paper, it rips easily. Gift bags can be a great solution, but they make it very easy for little snoopers to discover what is in them, so I like to stay away from them at Christmas. You can always find a box that will fit—and sometimes I am lucky enough to do that—but often they have to be really big boxes and they end up taking an entire roll of paper to wrap and all of the space under the Christmas tree.

When I found the perfect gift for The Maestro this year, I knew I was going to have to come up with a great way to wrap it because it is big and it's oddly shaped and I wasn't about to try wrapping paper.

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Make sure to check out our Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide—Find hundreds of gift ideas for EVERYONE on your list!

First, let me show you what I found for him! We just bought a new car a few months ago that is a good ten years newer than the car we had previously. It has been so much fun for me to watch him baby it, so when I saw this cool Armor All car care gift pack in the automotive center at Walmart, I knew he would love it.

Purchase the Armor All Car Care gift pack at walmart

The bucket—which can be used to hold water during car washing—is filled with the following items (many of which I know The Maestro will be downright giddy about using):

  • 16 fl oz of Ultra Shine Wash and Wax
  • Quicksilver wheel and tire cleaner
  • 25ct glass wipes 
  • 25ct cleaning wipes 
  • Microfiber towel and sponge 
  • Original Protectant 
  • Extreme Tire Shine 
  • Pro Secrets Booklet which also contains up to $13 of coupons for Armor All products

Want to know how much all of that cost? Just $19.97 at Walmart! And, you can get a coupon for $3.00 off right now at, while supplies last.

So I got this awesome gift for my husband, and when I brought it home I thought of a few ideas for wrapping it. The one I ultimately settled on was to make a Santa bag. They are so simple and easy to make, and the best thing about them is that they are reusable. You can keep them in your wrapping supplies to use any time you have an oddly shaped item to wrap like the Armor All car care gift pack.

Now, don't be afraid of the Santa bag if you are not much of a sewist. You really just need to know how to use scissors and sew in a straight line (and it doesn't even have to be that straight—nobody's looking at your workmanship when they are unwrapping an anticipated Christmas gift!). 

How to Make a Santa Bag for Oddly Shaped Gifts

1. Lay out your fabric and place the item on top

How to make a santa bag for wrapping an oddly shaped gift
Eyeballing is good, but I like to place the item right onto the fabric and gather the fabric up and over it. This way I can see exactly where I need to make my cuts. The thing about oddly shaped and sized items is that you have to allow enough space in the bag for all angles. If you're only eyeballing height, you might have a bag that is too narrow to fit the entire item, so it's best to measure.

I ended up using approximately 36 inches x 20 inches for the Armor All car care gift pack. I also made a few bags for oddly-shaped stuffed animals, and they ended up being about 17 inches x 12 inches.

2. Cut the fabric to the right size

How to make santa bag out of cute christmas fabric to wrap oddly shaped Christmas gift

Again, there is no need to worry about straightness here. Use the pattern of your fabric to eyeball as straight a line as you can, but once things are all sewn up, it won't matter too much!

3. Fold the fabric in half, right sides together

The fold will serve as the bottom of your bag. You will sew up the sides and leave the top open.

4. Sew up each side of the fabric

5. Hem the opening

How to sew a Santa Bag

Pin a nice hem around the opening of your bag. If you want it to look nice and finished, do a double fold hem. Once you have it pinned, sew it up, and you are done with the sewing portion!

6. Place your item into the bag, and tie it with a ribbon

I realize that for enterprising Christmas snoops, these Santa bags could be just as easily broken into as your run-of-the-mill gift bags. However, if you get the right kind of ribbon and tie it tightly enough, you will deter all but the most determined. But you know those kind of Christmas snoops are unwrapping and rewrapping gifts anyway, right? They can't be deterred.

I used some glittery Christmas decorating ribbon to tie my bags up and I like how it helps the bow stay well-formed. I added a tag my daughter quickly made out of card stock and markers for me. 

I love the end result! The bucket is hidden in the Santa bag, to be opened on Christmas morning, and the bag looks totally adorable under the tree along with the smaller Santa bags I made for the stuffed animals. 

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The Armor All Car Care Gift Pack will make the perfect gift for the car lover in your own life. Take advantage of the $3 off digital coupon offer for the Armor All Car Care Gift Pack from Walmart, while supplies last.

And now you know just how to wrap it when you get it home!

“This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group®Armor All but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #ArmorAllGiftPack”

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5 Reasons Moms Should Listen to Audiobooks

As an avid reader, I never really understood the allure of audiobooks until very recently. To me, reading out of a book was a sacred activity and somehow listening to it could never be a suitable replacement. But then I realized that the pile of books to read on my nightstand was getting taller and taller and I wasn't able to find the time to read them fast enough. Some months the only book I read was the book club selection and I was lucky to finish even that!

I began to realize that the mom life isn't always very conducive to reading, no matter how much I loved it. That's when I decided to try out audiobooks.

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I figured the best way to enter the world of audiobooks was simply to head to the library and check out the CD version of the next book on my to-read list. So that's what I did. While I enjoyed the ability to listen to a book much more than I thought I would, the CDs were somewhat limiting, so I decided to try Audible.

CDs were nice, but having books on my phone? Life changing.

5 Reasons Listening to Audiobooks Will Change Your Life

1. You're spending half your life in the car, why not read while you're at it?

I don't know about you, but as soon as my kids come home from school each day, we're in the car driving to all of their various activities. If you are a sane person, you would never even think of reading a book while behind the wheel, but with an audiobook you can read to your heart's content. Granted, I sometimes have to fight for radio rights with my teenagers, but at the very least I can listen to my audiobook after I have dropped them off, right? There's nothing quite like listening to the next chapter of your new favorite book (because whatever book you're currently reading is your new favorite, right?) instead of suffering through Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.

You probably run plenty of errands, too. Driving around town picking up the dry cleaning, grocery shopping, or heading to committee meetings is a great time to get a few more chapters in, too.

2. Whenever you're not driving them around, you're probably waiting for your kids somewhere.

Sometimes I'm waiting for them in the parking lot in the car. Sometimes I'm sitting in their music lessons. Sometimes I'm waiting for them at soccer practice. Moms wait for their kids a lot.

But I don't mind waiting when I've got a good book downloaded on my phone. Waiting isn't wasted time anymore when you've got an audiobook to listen to!

3. Doing dishes when you'd rather be reading? Do both!

I fully admit to letting the housework go when I am in the middle of a good book. Why would I want to vacuum when I could be reading? The great thing about audiobooks is that you can do both at once!

Household chores don't really require very much brain power. You can vacuum, do the dishes, mop the floors, make the beds, fold the laundry, or dust while listening to an audiobook. Remember that very first CD I checked out from the library? I quickly realized that my kitchen was never cleaner because the CD player was in the kitchen and I cleaned as much as I could in there so I could listen longer. Whenever I've got a good book on my phone more housework gets done now instead of less! I'd say that's a great reason to start reading audiobooks instead of paper ones!

4. Audiobooks can give you more motivation to exercise.

I am not a fan of exercising. It's tolerable if I can do it in front of a TV show, but I would rather read a book because I'll always choose a book over a movie. I've tried many times to read a book while on the treadmill, but that only results in motion sickness or walking really slowly—neither of which helps anything.

But listening to an audiobook doesn't slow me down or make me feel like throwing up. I can even run outside with an audiobook if I want to (I don't often want to, but maybe you do). Knowing I have a good book in my queue also gives me more motivation to get on the treadmill or my bike. Kind of like having a good book on your nightstand gives you more motivation to finish everything so you can go to bed and read. But better, because you're burning more calories than if you were just in bed reading.

5. You can introduce your kids to your favorite books while you have them captive on road trips.

I am a huge proponent of reading out loud to my kids, but just like reading a book to myself, it's difficult to find the time. But sometimes you have your kids captive—like on a road trip, or even when you're just taking them to dance class.

Anne of Green Gables is one of my very favorite childhood books. I loved it so much I read it at least 6 or 7 times! I've been trying to get my girls to read it forever, but they just don't think they are very interested in it. But I know that if they would just give it a chance they would love it!

A new audiobook version of Anne of Green Gables, narrated by Rachel McAdams, has just been released and is available on Audible. After listening to a couple of the snippets and hearing what a wonderful narration it is, I can't wait to download it and listen to it with my girls. I'm thinking our next road trip will be the perfect time.

Did you know that you can get a free 30-day trial of Audible? When you begin your free trial, you can choose any audiobook in the Audible library to download and listen to for free (Anne of Green Gables would be a great choice!). Each month thereafter is $14.95 and includes a credit for one audiobook with a 30% discount on any additional books and you can cancel anytime. As an avid reader, I know I spend upwards of $30 a month on e-books, paper books, and library fines, so the $14.95 price tag is worth it to me.

Start your free trial and get your free download here: Audible free 30-day trial

My opinion of audiobooks has completely changed. I get more reading done, plus I exercise more and my house is cleaner. Win-win, I say. What are you waiting for? Get listening to an audiobook now!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

Each year I put together as many holiday gift guides as I can. I enjoy putting them together, and often enlist my children to help me out with them since they have a better handle on what kids or teen girls want right now anyway!

I thought I'd corral them all into one place so you can easily find exactly what you need. Every time I create a new guide, I'll be sure to link it here. Of course, these gift guides are not limited to Christmas only—they will hopefully help you buy the perfect gift for any occasion throughout the year!

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Thank you in advance if you choose to purchase anything through the links on these gift guides—it helps make it possible for me to run this website!

Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

Gift Ideas for Teenage Girls

More Gift Ideas for Teenage Girls

Best Gifts for College Girls (many gifts here also work for college boys)

Gift Ideas for Tween Girls (many gifts here also work for boys)

Gift Ideas for Creative Kids

Gift Ideas for Busy Moms

Gift Ideas for Bookworms

Gift Ideas for Dad

Gift Ideas for Harry Potter Fans

Gift Ideas for Soccer Lovers

And since I haven't actually covered everyone on your list yet (for instance, I don't have boys, so my knowledge is slim in that category!), here are even more gift guides from some of my favorite bloggers.

Gift Ideas for Teenage Boys

Gift Ideas for Pregnant Women

Gift Ideas for Tween Boys

Gift Ideas for Little Boys

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

December 2016 Visiting Teaching Printable

The last month of the year is here! I'm always amazed at how quickly it seems to fly by—and this year was no exception. The December visiting teaching message focuses on joy, which is such a perfect message for the month in which we sing Joy to the World as we celebrate our Savior's birth.

And because we have been focusing entirely on The Family - a Proclamation to the World this year for the visiting teaching messages, the full lesson is titled Family Joy is Found in Righteousness.

When I read the message, it really stuck out to me that righteousness is simply making sure that our home and families are centered in Christ. It is so easy to lose sight of Jesus Christ as we go about the craziness of our lives, but He is truly the key to finding joy. We need to be doing all we can to help our children be firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ—to teach them Christlike values (like kindness) and to truly love Him.

visiting teaching printable | december 2016 visiting teaching handout | printable download | "Joy comes when we choose to live in harmony with God's eternal plan" | Russell M. Nelson | visiting teaching message | LDS | Proclamation on the Family to the World

The quote I chose for the December 2016 visiting teaching handout is by Russell M. Nelson:

"Joy comes when we choose to live in harmony with God's eternal plan."

The joy Elder Nelson speaks of is the joy mentioned in 2 Nephi 2:25—"Men are that they might have joy."

To download:

Enter your email address into the form below and the visiting teaching printable will be sent directly to your email inbox. If you are on a mobile device, please click here to see the form.

December 2016 visiting teaching printable handout. Quote by Russell M. Nelson.

I love the Church's #LightTheWorld campaign this year. One way we can teach our children to love Christ is to teach them to be like Christ—and that is exactly what this new campaign is promoting. Go to to download an advent calendar that helps you and your family to parallel Christ in your Christmas activities this season.

I have also written about Day 15—Christ worshipped through song and so can you. Since singing is a large part of my own life, singing Christmas carols that remind me of the reason we celebrate is an important part of Christmas tradition for me. See how you can #LightTheWorld by organizing your own Christmas Caroling Party  here: The Ultimate Guide to Organizing a Christmas Caroling Party Everyone Will Love.

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