Jekyll Island, Georgia Beach Vacation

Twisted oak trees dripping with Spanish moss…. Sea grass glistening across sun splashed marshes (say that five times fast)…  Sounds like Jekyll Island, Georgia to me! (And sounds like I need to work on my creative writing skills – ack!)

We recently got back from Jekyll Island, Georgia, a little barrier island off the coast just a little south of Savannah (also a fun spot). We decided to take a break from road tripping this year. For those that don’t know, we’ve gone on a big cross-country trip every summer for the last three years. And we hadn’t had a vacation yet so we found a little rental apartment less than a block from the beach and headed on down.

Jekyll Island Georgia Getaway

A Week at Jekyll

This was the first time since I can remember that we’ve spent a whole week at Jekyll. While our bums were a little sore from all the bike riding (there are loads of paved and dirt trails, all relatively flat that make it ideal) we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. David and I agreed that Jekyll is more of an “adventure” beach trip. What I mean by that is that Jekyll’s beaches, while nice and wide and pretty, end in brown, sometimes mucky water.

Jekyll-Island-Water

So don’t get me wrong, we went to the beach everyday, but it’s not what we think of as a quintessential beach trip (clear water, bright white beaches a la the Florida panhandle). So we go to Jekyll not so much to get our classic beach fix, but for everything else.

What We Like About Jekyll Island, Georgia

No high-rise hotels! Nope, they only allow a certain amount of development due to agreement they have with the state of Georgia. Also, because the island is a sea turtle nesting site, they keep things nice and low-key hotel-wise so the lights from the hotels don’t disturb the turtle mamas and babies.

Miles of bike trails, of course! You can ride from one end to the other and all in between. One of our favorite trails goes through the historic district. Jekyll was the winter home to the Rockafellers, Carnegies and other wealthy Americans during the late 1800s-1940s who formed the Jekyll Island Club. Many of the residences and buildings still stand and are open for tours, and you can also book a room at the posh Jekyll Island Club hotel. Huge Plantation Oaks dot the district which overlooks the beautiful Jekyll River and the lovely marshes.

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It’s low-key. There are lots of older homes-turned-rental properties, so it’s kind of like riding around your grandma’s old neighborhood (well, maybe mine 😉 ) with lots of 1950s bungalos – very retro. Also, because it’s small there aren’t a ton of people, so it’s easy to find your own little patch of beach to play, relax, build sand castles or dig gigantic holes…

Jekyll-Island-Digging

The water park. We got a Groupon deal for a day at the park for under $100 for all five of us. We spent the day slip sliding away, chilling in the lazy river, munching on delicious Larry’s Subs (totally yummy and big enough to share!) and splashing in the wave pool. The park is small enough that my older two boys could pal around together – something they don’t do too often, but when it comes to water and slides, they are two peas in a pod. David and I got some good one-on-one with our little guy and overall had a very enjoyable day.

The wildlife. Turtles, alligators (we saw 3!), deer by the droves, birds galore, dolphins, raccoons (we saw 2) – Jekyll is flush with wildlife which makes fun to see and explore as each day we saw something different. I’ll add that wildlife on this trip included a pack of wild kittens that my oldest was dying to bring home.  We didn’t. 🙂

Jekyll-Island-Pier

The history. I mentioned the Historic District and highly recommend the trolley tour. We got to see the insides of two of the millionaire’s “cottages” (their idea of a cottage anyway!) and got a pleasant tour around the grounds via trolley by a very knowledgeable guide. Even the kids thought it was fun and interesting.

Fresh seafood. We loved Zachary’s by the marina. If you go at peak times we hear there’s quite a wait, but we went later – around 8 – and got right in. I got the crab cakes – yum, David got a seafood sampler, also yum and the boys enjoyed shrimp po’ boys and crab cake sandwiches. Five thumbs up, plus an extra for nice views overlooking the marsh and the pleasant wait staff.

The Things We Don’t Like about Jekyll Island (as much)

The distance to grocery stores. If you forget something or need to restock the nearest store is a 6 mile drive and you have to pay to get back on the island (unless you buy a week pass which you might do if you want to explore the other islands/towns in the area). There’s a market on the island, but as you would expect, prices are exorbitant – $10 for a gallon of milk?!? So… plan accordingly.

The water. Like I said, it’s brown. It was brown all week. I want to say that Cumberland Island next door wasn’t so mucky last I visited (back in, ahem, 1993?) It may be further away to where the dredging doesn’t affect it as much, so if you’re craving clearer waters, you could plan a day trip there.

The place we stayed. I’m not a snob, although maybe only snobs say that 😉 but the place we stayed felt like Grandma’s 1970s basement called and wanted its macrame door decoration back (see below).

Jekyll-Island-Macrame

(Seriously. Is that a cat toy? What is it???) The place was dank and dated and the air conditioner was LOUD. But at least it had air conditioning we told ourselves – that’s a step up from camping, lol. Ok, so note to self, you usually get what you pay for and if you want cute and updated you gotta pay for it. Lesson learned.

That’s pretty much it. Jekyll is eye candy all around. The trees, marsh, dunes. grasses, wildlife, all add up to a peaceful place to relax and spend time as a family. If you like golf, there are two golf courses (with ocean views!) Sunbathing and feeling glam more your thing? There’s the Jekyll Island Club and it’s posh heated pool overlooking the river. Fishing? Check! Shell collecting? Check! Wildlife watching? Check! History? Double check! Jekyll Island is also a great (and I forgot to mention affordable) hub from which to explore other spots along the Georgia coast, such as St. Simon’s Island with it’s lighthouse and bustling shopping/restaurant district, historic Savannah with it’s river front and extensive history as the oldest city in Georgia, and Cumberland Island which is a National Seashore with pristine beaches and even… wild horses!

We loved our time in Jekyll and having that time as a family reminded us why we’ve gone on road trips for the last three years. We’re already planning next summer’s adventure… Maine anyone? 😉

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Ideas for your Home, Fall Menu and Wardrobe

Do you need some fresh fall ideas for your home, your fall menu or your wardrobe?

I did! We had a hot October this year with temperatures still up in the 90s for most of the month, so it was hard to get into fall mode. Once a cold front finally swept through I needed some fall ideas fast! Where better to go than Pinterest to gather some fall “Pinspiration”. Here are 10 things I found that are sure to usher in that fall feelin’.

Fall Ideas for the Home

Love this simple, subtle mantel look from Home Stories A to Z.

And this gorgeous fall kitchen vignette from Stone Gable. I’m a sucker for a pretty lantern and the white pumpkins say fall in a perfectly subtle way.

Beautiful lanterns for the front porch from SAS Interiors. I know, again with the lanterns, but I love ’em!

And a colorful fall wreath for the front door like this one from Our Sentiments. (If you’re already in Halloween-mode – which happens to my husband September first, lol, you could don your door with a spooky and frighteningly inexpensive Halloween wreath like this one.

Now, on to FOOD!

Feast Your Eyes on These Fall Food Ideas

I’m not a big pumpkin spice fan, so you won’t find me making a list of a million things that taste like pumpkin pie, although I am dying to make these…

Fall ideas

These pumpkin cream cheese streusel muffins from Creme de la Crumb  look amazing. After that, I’ll be needing to lighten things up by sipping on some delicious fall soup.

Fall ideas

I love that this Weight Watchers Butternut Squash Soup from It All Started With Paint is only one point!

And fall is one of my favorite times to go camping, so for those crisp, cool nights by the campfire (or any night, for that matter) I’ll whip up some Frito Chili!

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Deliciously easy Frito Chili for your next camping trip or anytime!

Fall Fashion Finds

Lastly, I’ll be putting away my flip flops and shorts and breaking out my fall wardrobe. And maybe I’ll add some new pieces this year like these:

Fall ideas

Cute denim tunic and leggings look from The Tres Chic.

Fall ideas

Or this gorgeous chunky sweater vest that The Teacher Diva is sporting this fall. Not your gramma’s sweater vest for sure!

Fall ideas

I’ll also be picking up a pair of cute booties and learning the right way to wear them from Babble.

I hope you’ve gotten some fall inspiration for your home, next fall meal and cozy fall wardrobe for a fantastic fall. Come find me on Pinterest for more fall ideas, holiday decor, recipes and more!

Happy fall y’all!

Frito Chili

Looking for the perfect camping food? This Frito Chili recipe fits the bill!

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*This post contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure page for more information.

We’ve taken Frito Chili across country to enjoy on many a camping trip. You simply whip up a batch, let it cool, then put in freezer bags and stash in the freezer until you’re ready to go. Keep this in your cooler and reheat when you get to your destination.

Having a few pre-made meals like this was a lifesaver when we pulled in to our camping spot at Palo Duro Canyon in N. Texas after dark a few years ago. After being warned of rattle snakes and tarantulas (?!?) when we checked in with the ranger, we wound our way down the canyon to set up camp for the night. The wind was blowing something fierce – so fierce it picked up our tent a few times before we got it tied down!

While kids and hubs wrangled the tent, I was able to set up our camp stove and heat up our Frito Chili in a jiff. We served it over bags of Fritos, of course,  with cheese and sour cream. Delicious and satisfying, it was just the thing to fill our bellies before we climbed in the tent for the night.

Frito Chili

A delicious, freezer-friendly meal you can make ahead and bring on your next camping trip.

Course Main Course
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 people

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 bell pepper chopped
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 tbs garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 28 oz crushed or whole tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans rinsed
  • 1 can pinto beans rinsed
  • 1 can kidney beans rinsed
  • 1/4 cup corn meal (this chili is good without this, but it's even better with!)
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 6 1 oz bags Fritos Original Corn Chips

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, add the ground beef or turkey, onion, green pepper and garlic (the fat from the meat will help the veggies not stick). Crumble the beef as it browns with a spoon and stir frequently until the veggies are soft and the meat is completely browned. Add in the cumin, chili powder and salt and stir. Add in the can of tomatoes, the beans and the corn meal and bring to a boil, then reduce to heat to medium-low for about 10-15 minutes. Adjust salt to your taste before serving or freezing.

  2. If freezing, allow it to cool and transfer into gallon-sized freezer bags. Store in your freezer up to one month before your trip. Reheat over medium heat and serve in bowls or spoon over individual bags of Fritos corn chips*, sour cream, cheese, sliced jalapenos, olives, avocado or whatever strikes your fancy.

Recipe Notes

* The only place I've found a big box of Fritos snack bags without a bunch of other chips is on Amazon

* You can substitute other types of beans if you don't like one of the three listed or just use three cans of one kind. It will still taste delicious!

* If you have leftover chili, pack it up in your freezer bag and serve the next day over hot dogs!

Top Tips for an Amazing Glacier National Park Adventure

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*This post may contain affiliate links to products we love and recommend. Please see our disclosures for more information.

If Glacier National Park is on your list to hit this summer, we’ve got you covered with our top tips for an amazing Glacier National Park adventure. If Glacier is not on your list, it should be! Many people overlook this gem, often referred to as “the crown jewel of the Rockies”, but this lush paradise is full of surprises and delight around every bend and  rocky mountain peak. If you are on a lean budget or just love roughing it a little , Glacier’s campgrounds are an excellent way to stay onsite and maximize your time. The first few tips we have are practical, good-to-know-type things we learned from our experience. The last few are more on the lines of fun activities and maximizing your time.

Tip #1: Timing

Timing is everything when planning your trip to Glacier National Park. While the early summer season may offer less crowds, there is a greater chance you will miss one of the biggest “attractions” at Glacier National Park: Going to the Sun Road. This 55 mile road takes you over and across the mountains (through many hairpin turns) for breathtaking views, sweeping vistas, and more often that not – snow! If you are southerners like us, you might be very excited to see snowed piled up higher than your head and to have the opportunity to hike across a snowfield in the middle of summer.

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Snow can also be a hindrance, however because if enough hasn’t melted, Going to the Sun Road will be closed. Plan your trip for mid July or August. It’s not a guarantee, but your chances are better the later you go in the summer. We timed our trip to be there a week before July 4th and the road opened our very last day there (whew!) The rangers told us sometimes it can be well into July when it opens (and sometimes not at all), so if you can plan your trip to give you the best opportunity. Just don’t wait too long, the road typically closes for the winter season in October. The short tourist season is the reason for the large crowds in the summer.

Lastly, reserve your campsite as early as possible, but don’t give up hope if everything is booked online. We waited a little too long to book online, but my husband called the park and a spot had opened up that hadn’t shown up on the website. So if you don’t see anything online, calling can be a good way to snag a primo spot in the park if you are trying to plan last minute. 

Tip #2: Keep a Tidy Campsite (or Picnic Spot, etc.)


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(We use an Instant Tent like this one to make setting up and taking down camp a breeze.)

By this we mean you’re going to have to pack every scrap of food and food-related items away each night to avoid attracting wildlife (ahem, bears). You will also be required to wash your dishes in a wash tub (you can buy one for cheap at the dollar store or sometimes the rangers will have one you can borrow). The water has to be dumped at a dumping station which was conveniently located at the bathroom. You can’t leave trash laying around or fling food out into the woods because the smell will attract critters.

Tip #3: Buy Bear Spray

Speaking of wildlife, we saw two bears on our visit to Glacier – during the day – so they are definitely there. They kept to themselves, but wild animals are unpredictable, so carry bear spray. You can order it online at Amazon or buy it or rent at the Ranger Station. It’s one of those things you hope you don’t have to use, but would be sorry if you didn’t have it if you needed it.

Tip #4: Bathrooms

So obviously, if you’ve been camping before you know that campground bathrooms are rustic at best. The campgrounds we stayed in at Lake MacDonald weren’t bad – fairly clean and showers were on site and free. While I believe the bathroom provided hand soap it’s good practice when National Park camping to pack your own, as well as a hand towel as some bathrooms don’t offer anything but a hand dryer.

Now that we’ve got the practical tips out of the way, it’s on to the fun!

Tip #4: Take a Boat Trip

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If you can afford it, a boat trip on one of the glacial lakes is an amazing way to enjoy the park. You get a guided tour from a ranger and they are a delightful, low-key way to really get into Glacier (great if you have little ones in tow or aren’t up for hiking). Our trip on Lake St. Mary took us to a hiking trail where a ranger led our group across wildflower-filled slopes to a gushing glacial waterfall. But those who did not want to hike took the boat straight back to the dock.  It was well worth it. There are several boating options and these do sell out so book as soon as possible. Kayaks can also be rented in several locations in the park. 

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Tip #5: Pack a Picnic

There are restaurants in Glacier, but camping is about spending time in the great outdoors, so make the most of the many lovely picnic areas in Glacier. Just as you get to the boat launch at Lake St. Mary there is a lovely camping spot with picnic tables and bathrooms that is right next to the lake. It has a grassy space for little ones to stretch their legs and/or you can take them down to tip their toes in the glacial waters. 

Another neat spot is the Avalanche Creek picnic area where Avalanche Creek meets McDonald Creek just north of Lake McDonald. There are fire pits with grates so you can grill out a delicious dinner overlooking the creek and maybe even spot a bear or two like we did (from a safe distance of course! ;-)) 

Tip #6: Get Out and Hike

Glacier-National-park-tips-wildflowers
Make sure to get off the road and stretch your legs on one of the many trails in this vast park. One of our favorite hikes was the Lake Avalanche Trail. This trail begins at the end of the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail which is itself is a majestic stroll through towering cedar trees of all sorts of interesting shapes (one even appearing to have a huge nose). As you approach the Avalanche Trail, you’re immediately greeted with the shooting rapids of Avalanche Creek. Careful hear as you’ll want to keep a close eye on your little ones if your near the banks. 

As you wind your way through the 2.25 mile trail you’ll pass through woods with numerous fallen trees (victims of the trail’s namesake) and various waterfalls as you parallel the rapids. Then, almost out of nowhere, the woods open up to an amazing site – Avalanche Lake. This is the end of the line. You will be in awe over the natural beauty of this crystal clear lake with it’s surrounding craggy mountains with dozens of waterfalls tumbling down the sides. 

This trail is 4.5  miles round trip so make sure you bring plenty of water and bear spray… 

Tip #7: Go on a Wildlife Hunt

If you go to Glacier, you have to come home with at least one wildlife story. Luckily, there is no shortage of wild beasts in this untamed country but below are the areas where we had the best luck sighting animals.

Two Medicine 

We stopped here on our first day at the park and were delighted to find our first and only moose of the vacation. We took the Aster Falls Trail (2.8 miles round trip) where we spotted a moose leisurely drinking  in one of several ponds.

Glacier-National-park-tips-moose

Many Glacier Lodge, on the north side of the park

There are several families of mountain goats that have made their home at this beautiful lodge.

Glacier-National-park-tips-glacial-many-glacier-lodge-goats

We can’t blame them – the view over the Swiftcurrent Lake is spectacular.

Glacier-National-park-tips-glacial-many-glacier-lodge

Additionally, the hillside behind the Swiftcurrent Lodge is known to be prime bear spotting area as they forage for wild berries.
You can also take a boat ride to Many Glacier or rent a kayak for a dreamy glide over this crystal clear glacial lake.

McDonald Creek

Speaking  of bears, as mentioned above, we had our bear encounter on the banks of the McDonald Creek  at the Avalanche Creek picnic area. It may have been the steaks we were grilling, but we saw two bears (a grizzly and a black bear) roaming the creek – luckily on the other side from us! We would highly advise making a trip here in the evening – the fishing here isn’t bad either… 

Glacier-National-Park-Tips-Bear

Tip #8: Leave Something to Come Back For

As you explore a place for the first time, it is inevitable that you will go away with at least one thing you overlooked. But that just give you a reason to go back  (not that you need one here). That one thing we overlooked was the Many Glacier Valley – we just didn’t allow enough time here. We were able to visit the Many Glacier Lodge (a remarkable piece of architecture) and take a short walk along Swiftcurrent Lake but there is soooo much more to do and see here.

The main thing we missed was visiting Many Glacier – one of your only chances to actually get out on a glacier in the park. To do this you need to take a boat across two lakes and hike some 11 miles. As you can imagine this is an all day affair, but from everything we have heard and seen  it is well worth the trip.

PRO TIP: of all the activities at Glacier, the Many Glacier Boat trip needs to be booked the furthest in advance as it fills up fast.

Glacier-National-park-tips-swift-current-lake

Kayaking Swifcurrent Lake looked like a lot of fun. Something else we’d like to go back and do.

We can assure you, we’ll be back again to Many Glacier and take in much more of this beautiful piece of creation again. If you liked these tips or have any questions about Glacier National Park, leave us a note below and we’ll try and answer as best as we can. Now, go plan that trip! 😉

Homemade Apple Pie with Rich, Crumb Topping

There’s nothing like a day at spent apple picking at the apple orchard…

This post contains affiliate links.

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Homemade-Apple-Pie_5

And there’s nothing like homemade apple pie with rich, crumb topping either!

This is my hands-down favorite homemade apple pie recipe and I hope it will become yours, too! I got the recipe way back in the day when I was newly married, living in an apartment, with something called time on my hands. So I took cooking classes (I had thoughts that maybe I’d like to be a real live chef – I worked part-time for a caterer and everything). But I decided a hot, sweaty kitchen is not where I’d like to spend my days (and nights and weekends), so cooking became my hobby, not my career. And while I’m not a award-winning chef or anything, I can make a mean apple pie!

This homemade apple pie with rich, crumb topping is best with a homemade crust, but is completely delicious with store bought. Back in the day I would have shunned store bought crust. These days, as a busy, working, home schooling mama of three boys – store bought is about the only way my kiddos get a fresh pie!

I also used a variety of apples.

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Any apples will do, but the more tart varieties make a tastier pie. Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gala or MacIntosh are all good options.

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So without further adieu, here is my favorite recipe for Homemade Apple with Rich, Crumb Topping!

Homemade Apple Pie with Rich, Crumb Topping

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
4-5 tart apples peeled and sliced or chopped (however you prefer)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp corn starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice

Crumb Topping
1 cup cold butter cut into cubes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar

Aluminum Foil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the chopped apples in a sauce pan with cinnamon, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Dissolve corn starch in orange juice and add to apples. Cover and simmer approx. 10 minutes until apples start to soften*. Meanwhile, combine butter, brown sugar and flour. Using a pastry cutter, food processor or two knives, roughly chop butter into small pieces until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. It does not need to be perfect because this will all melt together into the crumb topping.

Add the softened apples to the pie crust and then sprinkle the crumb topping on top. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes, until topping is golden brown and pie is bubbling. If the edges of your crust are starting to get too dark, wrap aluminum foil around the edges to slow the cooking.

Serve warm with a big ol’ scoop of vanilla ice cream!

*Note: You can skip cooking the apples. Your apples will be a little firmer, but otherwise it will taste just fine. Just combine the apples with cinnamon, sugar, salt, corn starch and orange zest, and omit the orange juice. Put the apple mixture straight into the pie crust and proceed with making the topping.

Also, at Christmas time, I add a cup of fresh cranberries (you cook them along with the apples in the orange juice just until they start to burst). It makes a beautiful presentation with the pops of red color, and the tartness of the cranberries cuts a lot of the sweetness from the crumb topping.

Homemade Apple Pie with Rich, Crumb Topping

I hope you enjoy this recipe and make a fresh apple pie for you and yours. Here are a few of the kitchen tools I used to create this pie.

Citrus Zester

Pastry Cutter

Pie Plate

Pie Server

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Blessings!

Susan

How to Make an Inexpensive Halloween Wreath with Supplies from the Dollar Tree

This week I made this gorgeous Halloween wreath, and everything except the wreath frame (from Hobby Lobby) came from the Dollar Tree! I cannot be more happy with the way it turned out.

Halloween Wreath

Craft Night

Some friends of mine and I like to get together and do a little crafting occasionally, and this time we decided to make these Halloween wreaths. It was really easy – even for my non-crafty friend. Hers is the one on the left. Love her witchy theme with lots of purple and the pop of white.

Halloween Wreath

Easy and Cheap!

You can see the different colors and variations even though we used similar stuff – all the from the Dollar Tree! The wreath frames we got from Hobby Lobby. A large grapevine wreath frame is about $8 and you can use the 40% off coupon from their website to get a few dollars off that.

All said and done I spent about $17 in supplies to make my wreath. Our inspiration wreath was selling for $90! We can’t believe we were able to make it for so much less.

The Dollar Tree has a ton of high quality ribbon right now – even a burlap style with a cute black and orange chevron pattern. Some of these ribbons would cost at least twice as much at other stores.

I also got these cute decorations to bling out my wreath even more. I love the cat. That’s my favorite.

Halloween Wreath

Halloween Wreath


Halloween Wreath
The little lantern lights up.

Halloween Wreath

To make it we just tied the ribbon onto the grapevine. Then, I tied a few pieces into bows.

Halloween Wreath
And then I added some loops for fullness.

Halloween Wreath

But the tulle ribbon and thinner glittery ribbon I just tied in single knots.

We tied all the accessories on with ribbon so no real skillz necessary. 😉 We added a little glue under the sign to hold it in place, but it’s not necessary.

I’m so ready for Halloween now!

Halloween-Wreath

Dollar Tree always has fun, cute décor on the cheap, so head there as early in the season as you can for the best selection. It was such a great deal and this Halloween wreath was so much fun to make!

Happy Halloween!