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Sweet Potato Stackers

 

My family LOVES sweet potatoes! I served these and they were a BIG hit, so I believe I will serve them for Thanksgiving this year. Buttery layers of sweet potatoes with rosemary and garlic and fresh parmesan cheese – my mouth is watering just thinking about them!

These are a different way to serve those delectable, spuds of the South! And best part? No mini marshmallows!

 

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Sweet Potato Stackers
 
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Buttery layers of sweet potatoes, paired with rosemary, garlic and fresh parmesan - these Sweet Potato Stackers are sure to be a hit at the next family gathering!
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 4-5 sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and sliced into thin slices.
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary (plus another teaspoon for topping at end)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2-4 Tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese (plus 2 TBS for topping at end)
  • salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine in a large bowl the melted butter, olive oil, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper and whisk until they ingredients are blended.
  3. Add freshly grated parmesan cheese and lightly wish.
  4. Add sliced sweet potatoes to the bowl and mix until all slices are coated in the oil mixture.
  5. In a light greased muffing tin, layer the sweet potatoes until each tin is filled to the top. These will shrink down while they cook.
  6. Cook for 45-55 minutes, or until the potatoes are lightly browned and are tender.
  7. Place on a plate and top with more parmesan cheese and fresh chopped rosemary. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Stacker – So Simple & So GOOD!

 

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Candied Bacon

 

Candied Bacon – A decadent, indulgent snack that just happens to pair beautifully with cocktails! Plus it is great as a hostess gift, or crumble a little over a nice salad!

SSD Candied bacon

This smells divine as it is cooking in the oven – Be sure to turn the bacon when it is halfway through cooking. And remember, since ovens do vary, begin checking the bacon starting at about 40 minutes into cooking to make sure it doesn’t burn! The bacon will look dark because it will be covered in that yummy spice and brown sugar mixture!

When the candied bacon comes out, rest it on clean paper towels to pull some of the fat away.  This stores best at room temperature!

Candied Bacon
 
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Candied Bacon is a decadent delight! Serve it as a cocktail snack, or crumble it on top of a salad!
Author:
Recipe type: Snack recipe
Serves: 12 servings
Ingredients
  • 12 slices thick cut bacon
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons chili powder (adjust all spice amounts to your preferences!)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • A sprinkle or 2 of ground cayenne pepper - optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil (so you don't ruin the cookie sheet!). place a baking rack on the cookie sheet and spray generously with non stick cooking spray.
  3. Combine the brown sugar and spices on a dinner plate.
  4. Taking one piece of bacon at a time, press the bacon into the brown sugar mixture, making sure you cover both sides.
  5. Lay the pieces on the baking rack.
  6. Bake for 40-60 minutes, turning once halfway through.
  7. NOTE: Ovens do vary, so be sure to check on the bacon regularly as it cooks!

 

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DIY Bird Seed Wreath

I enjoy having birds visit my back yard feeders, and I thought this DIY Bird Seed Wreath would make a great holiday gift for anyone who loves birds! And best of all, it is EASY to make!

SSD Bird Seed Wreath 2

Notice in this photo, I added to the bottom of the bundt pan (before I added the seed mixture) dried, unsweetened red cranberries — just to add to a festive look!

The wreath dries in about 24 hours. And then you can hang it on your favorite tree for the birds to enjoy!

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DIY Bird Seed Wreath
 
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Make this simple holiday gift for the Bird Lover in your life!
Author:
Recipe type: Recipe For Birds
Serves: 0
Ingredients
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 4 cups bird seed
  • Dried red fruits, such as dried cherries or cranberries (unsweetened)- optional
  • Holiday Ribbon
  • Bundt Pan
  • Nonstick cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Combine water and gelatin in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add flour and corn syrup and whisk until it is a thick paste.
  2. Add in bird seed and mix until all seeds are well coated.
  3. Spray bundt pan with cooking spray.
  4. Add selected dried fruits to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Firmly press the bird seed mixture into the bottom of pan.
  6. Set aside in a cool, dry place for 24 hours, or until dried completely.
  7. Remove from pan and add holiday ribbon. Hang on a tree outside and watch the birds enjoy!

 

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Apple Pie Sangria

This is a perfect cocktail to serve at Thanksgiving or any Fall event! This makes a large batch – you can cut the recipe in half and have a nice amount for 6-8 people.

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Apple Pie Sangria
 
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A sweet sangria perfect for Fall events like Thanksgiving! Make the day ahead so all the flavors blend together.
Author:
Recipe type: Cocktail - Large Batch
Cuisine: Cocktails
Serves: 12-16
Ingredients
  • 2 bottle sweet wine, like resiling or muscato
  • 5 cups fresh apple cider
  • 2 cups ginger ale
  • 2 cups caramel flavored vodka
  • 3 honey crisp apple, cored & chopped
  • 3 pears, cored & chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
Instructions
  1. In a large serving container, add the pears and apples. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the cinnamon sticks. Stir well and cover. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours).
  2. About 4 hours before serving, add the cinnamon sticks.
  3. Optional: Remove a cup or two of the apples and pears and place in bowl to add to glasses. (Keep in mind, the fruit is now soaked in alcohol, so don't give to kids or pets!)
  4. Serve over ice!

 

 

 

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Fourth Of July Crafts For Kids!


SSD July collageIndependence Day is a favorite holiday in my house! It happens to be the day AFTER my birthday, so I always looked at it as a celebration of MY birthday as well as our country’s! My neighbor and I both love it so much, we started our neighborhood’s Fourth Of July Bike Parade 15 years ago and it is STILL going strong!

My partner in crime, Pegine and I, celebrating at last year's Neighborhood Independence Day Bike Parade we established 15 years ago!
My partner in crime, Pegine and I, celebrating at last year’s Neighborhood Independence Day Bike Parade we established 15 years ago!

Here are a few simple crafts you can do with the kids this year, plus a few decorating & celebrating ideas I found that were just too good not to include!

Liberty Paper Plate Hat

mandy

This is a simple project that requires just a few items!

What You Need:

  • White paper plates
  • Blue acrylic paint & paint brushes
  • White and red construction paper
  • Hole punch
  • Glue or glue dots to eliminate dry time
  • Elastic

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Directions:

Cut the paper plate in half, then on the cut side, cut a half moon out of the bottom using the other half of the paper plate as a guide (sounds complicated, but see photo below!). Paint one side of the plate blue. Set aside to dry.

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Cut elongated triangles out of the red and white paper.

Flip the dried plate over and glue the paper triangles to the back of the paper plate (along the top-curved part), alternating red and white-points pointed up. Allow to dry.

Using hole punch, punch a hole on either side of the bottom of the plate. Thread elastic through each hole and tie off (estimate amount of elastic needed based on the child’s head size). You can also use a hard headband and put the headband ends through the holes on either end!

Fireworks Art

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Bendy straws make this simple craft fun AND pretty!

What You Need:

  • 7 bendy straws per person
  • Tape
  • Blue and Red acrylic paint
  • Paper plate
  • White paper
  • Red, white or blue glitter (optional)

Directions:

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Pull each of the bendy straws so they are fully extended. Holding the 7 straws in a bundle in your hand (making sure the ends are aligned), wrap tape around the bottom and then right under where the straws bend. Once secured, bend and spread out the bendy end of the straws to create a pinwheel shape. (See photo below!)

straw tape

Pour blue paint onto a paper plate and have the kids dip the pinwheeled end of the straws in the paint. Have them stamp the pinwheel all over the white paper; repeat with red paint. (You may need to press the straws to the paper so they make full contact with the paper.) If desired, while paint is wet, sprinkle sparkles on the artwork.

Flag Handiwork!

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Give the flag a hand! Use your child’s hand to re-create the flag!  (Don’t laugh, but since I have teens, not toddlers, at home I used my own hand for demo purposes!)

What You Need:

  • Red, White and Blue Acrylic Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Light Blue Paper for the print
  • Red Paper for Mounting
  • White Paint or Paint Marker

Directions:

Assemble your paints, brushes, and light blue paper. Have your child hold out their hand (I used left hand) and gently paint a blue square on their palm, followed by alternating red and white stripes leading out onto their fingers. (See photo) NOTE: Plan to work quickly so the paint doesn’t dry on their hand!!

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Press the painted hand onto the light blue paper. Once dried, paint a white star on the blue square. Mount the artwork onto slightly larger red paper.

Patriotic “Lantern”

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This is always fun for kids to make and they are perfect to display on the porch, in the bedroom or even attached to a stick to carry in the neighborhood bike parade!

What You Need:

  • Blue & Red Construction Paper, cut into long, inch wide strips (I used heavier paper that I had on hand)
  • White Paper, cut into free-formed stars, various sizes
  • Craft Glue
  • Glitter (optional)

Directions:

Lay two blue strips vertically with a few inches between them. Lay your red strips between the blue strips horizontally and glue (see photo below).

IMG_7400Once dry, join the each end of the two blue strips together and glue.

Add the white stars as desired, and put a few dots of glue here and there, then sprinkle with glitter if you want to add a little more pizzazz! (You could add streamers off the bottom if you want to turn this into a windsock!)

Glue a red strip to the top as a handle and you are ready for the parade!

Sparkler Guard

SSD Sparkler

You might see a red cup, I see a Sparkler Guard! I saw this on Pinterest and thought it was brilliant! I love sparklers, but when I was little I was always afraid that I would get burned. This solves that problem!

Just cut a small hole in the bottom of the cup and stick the sparkler handle into the cup. That’s it! But now, a few notes and disclaimers on this one:

  • Never leave a child alone with matches, sparklers, fire or anything else flammable!
  • Always supervise your children during this activity – This is not meant to be a “Light It & Leave” activity!
  • Always have a container of water on hand to place the used sparklers in to douse any heat or flame.
  • Make sure the entire “business end” of the sparkler is sticking out, so the only part on the inside of the cup is the handle and your hand. You don’t want it to burn down INTO the cup!

Other Great Ideas From Around The Web:

There are so many fun 4th Of July activities & crafts out there, I couldn’t cover them all! I’ve selected a few of my favorites below. Be sure to click on each link to visit the sites for directions!

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.11.51 PMPatriotic NecklaceClick Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.01.30 PMPainted Lawn StarsClick Here (I LOVE this idea and may have to do it next year!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.05.18 PMDIY Independence Day Flag T-ShirtsClick Here

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.06.09 PMPatriotic Ice Cream Sandwich Pops (So Easy!) – Click Here

 

 

 

Heartfelt (& Last Minute!) Valentine’s Day Ideas

Lsat Minute ValentinesIt is the day before Valentine’s Day, and you haven’t gotten anything for your sweetheart? No worries! I’ve got some simple ideas sure to make your sweetie swoon!

Make a Personalized & Romantic Valentine’s Day Crossword Puzzle

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What would be better than to create something based on your own relationship? Follow this link to DiscoveryEducation.com to have your choice of making a crossword puzzle, word search and so much more!

 

 

Make “Good Morning, I Love You” Biscuits 

"I Love You" Biscuits. Photo Credit: Pillsbury.com.
“I Love You” Biscuits. Photo Credit: Pillsbury.com.

With a sweet little heart in the center, who wouldn’t melt for these in the morning? They are easy to make using Pillsbury Biscuit Dough and your favorite jelly (and a little powdered sugar for decoration!). These are good for both your significant other AND the kids! Get the recipe here at Pillsbury.com.

“Count The Ways” Jar

An ode to Shakespeare’s famous sonnet, show him or her how many ways you love them! Decorate a unique-looking jar or box. Write numerous love notes, love quotes, and why you love your sweetie on small pieces of paper and fill the jar with them. Present the jar to your sweetheart. Need a little inspiration? Check out the site, BrainyQuote.com, for quotes on love!

Go Retro With A “Mix Tape”

Create an iTunes playlist with songs that make you think of your sweetheart. Share it through Home Share on iTunes, or export it to your sweetheart’s computer. Or go really retro and burn it on a CD and give it to him/her! Need some song inspiration? Check out Billboard.com for their Top 50 Love Songs of All Time List!  Instructions on how to export your playlist are  below:

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LOVE On A Chocolate, Wine, or Beer Tour!

Indulge your sweetheart in one of their favorite things! In the Jacksonville, FL area, Whetstone’s Chocolates in St. Augustine offers factory tours (Click Here for Reservations and Pricing). Love wine or beer?  The Tasting Tours in St. Augustine has a special discount just for Simple Solutions Diva viewers! Visit their website and choose from the Vittles & Vino VIP Carriage Tour (3 hours of food and wine tastings via carriage) or Beer About Town Tour (2.5 hours of sipping & savoring on this walking tour). At checkout, use the code “DIVA” and you get 10% off the regular price on either of the tasting adventures. (Code is valid thru 12/31/15)

The Tasting Tours' Vittles & Vino VIP Carriage Tour
The Tasting Tours Vittles & Vino VIP Carriage Tour

A very Happy Valentine’s day to all!

Thank you to WTLV-TV’s First Coast Living for inviting me on to share these simple ideas!

Chocolate Spiced Truffles

 

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I was amazed at how simple this recipe is! My friends at The Spice & Tea Exchange gave me this recipe – they are a wonderful source for rich spices and flavored teas! If you ever have a chance to go to their store in St. Augustine, FL, it is a treat for your senses! The smells of the spices, the beautiful jars of spices and specialty teas – Wonderful!

The basic recipe is as follows:

Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup heavy whipping cream
  • 11 oz. Bittersweet chocolate or semi sweet chocolate (I used bittersweet for a dark, rich flavor)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons favorite liqueur  (My suggestions: brandy, rum, spiced rum, Chambord, Kahlua or other favorite.)

Assorted Spices and Other Toppings:

Preparation:

Place the chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl.  Scald the cream in a small saucepan, pour over the chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Whisk gently until fully incorporated, add the liqueur and stir until smooth.

Place in fridge until it has hardened. Scoop out about 1 tsp of the cold ganache and roll it into a truffle.  Roll in favorite sugars or spices, then chill until firm. Serve at room temperature.

To see the original recipe from The Spice & Tea Exchange, click here.

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Spiced Chocolate Truffle (left) and Candy Cane Truffle (right).

A Thanksgiving Thought . . .

THanksgiving Thought photo

 

TIME

Time moves quickly. Like a snowball rolling downhill, time builds momentum – growing in importance each passing second, minute, hour, year. For me, this year is the pivotal year that I need to soak in the love, gratitude and togetherness while I can. Why?

BECAUSE MY 1ST BORN BABY IS GOING OFF TO COLLEGE!

Don’t get me wrong; I am not upset with it, just more amazed that we (the whole family) are at that point in our lives so quickly. It is the march of time AND life, and I am thankful to be able to enjoy every minute of it.

Granted, it feels like I just brought her home from the hospital two weeks ago, and now, we are looking at colleges together, sending her off for her first college semester this summer.

This is CRAZY! How can I be that old? How can SHE be that old?!

I am keenly aware that this is one of the last holiday seasons where we will be assured that our girls will be spending the holidays with us. In a few more years, we will probably have conflicting college schedules, possible plans to go home with roommates (or boyfriends!) for Thanksgiving. Eventually, the reasons for not getting together will be because of new jobs, distance, and – someone get me the tissues – spending holidays with the new in-laws!!

Mid-life crisis aside, I know that this is such a good thing! I’ve done all that I can to give both my girls confidence, courage and a sense of security within themselves, to prepare them for the adventures their lives will bring them. (I will say, secretly I hope they will want to include me in some of their adventures!)

This year at Thanksgiving, I will soak it in. I am thankful that my family is whole, together, and enjoying life. Yes, I am very thankful this year. Though I can’t stop the snowball of time from rolling, I WILL jump on top of it, dig in my hands and feet to hold on, and enjoy the ride all the way.

May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with those most important to you! And if you can’t be with them, enjoy those you are with!

Simple Solutions Diva & Family - Just ignore the tight grip she & her husband have on the girls!
Simple Solutions Diva & Family Just ignore the tight grip she & her husband have on the girls!

Unique Easter Egg Decorations!

SSD Easter Egg Decor
I was so excited when First Coast Living gave me a challenge – find some unique ways to decorate Easter Eggs! Well, after searching high and low, I found some favorites and tested them just for you!

 

Volcano Eggs

Volcano Eggs
Volcano Eggs

This is a cool technique and great fun to do with the kids! And it yields a beautiful egg coloring.  The best part about this technique?  It looks like a volcano bubbling a rainbow! I found this technique on the website ToddlerApproved.com. Check out the website for great ideas!

What You Need:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Food coloring
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Wide-lipped plate or bowl
  • Paint Brushes
  • Color-safe cups for mixing “paint”

Technique:

Make the “Paint” – Combine in a color- safe cup, one tablespoon baking soda, a teaspoon or two of water and food coloring of choice. Mix until it is a consistency of mustard – kind of grainy but with some heft to it.

Repeat that process with the other colors you choose to use.

Take a paintbrush and start to paint your eggs with the different “paint” colors – there is no perfect way to do this, just have fun and be creative. Make sure to leave a “blob” or two of the paint on the egg.

Pouring Vinegar on Volcano Eggs.
Pouring Vinegar on Volcano Eggs.

Place the painted eggs into the wide-lipped plate or bowl.  Take your food coloring and drip a drop or two on your eggs.

Now comes the volcano part: Drizzle vinegar over your eggs and watch the colors start to bubble! Let the mixture sit on the eggs for awhile, then wipe off with paper towel!

 

Leaf Print Eggs

Leaf Print Easter Eggs
Leaf Print Easter Eggs

I love incorporating natural elements into projects if I can.  I found this beautiful idea, Leaf Print Eggs, on Spoonful.com and thought I’d give it a try! Since I AM the Simple Solutions Diva, I wanted to simplify the process, so I just used the PAAS Egg Decorating Kit to dye the eggs, rather than mix up my own dyes as listed on Spoonful (click on the link above to see their full instructions!).

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • PAAS Egg Decorating Kit
  • Various leaves with interesting shapes – I used Cilantro, a fern and a small squash leaf. (Don’t recommend “woody” types like rosemary)
  • Cups to mix up the dyes
  • Rubber bands
  • Sheer knee high hosiery (nylons), cut into 3 inch strips
  • Color-safe place to dry the eggs

Instructions:

Mix up your dyes according to the PAAS package, using the instructions for more vivid colors (using vinegar).

1.) Take the egg and position your leaf on your egg. 2.) Using the piece of knee high, wrap your egg so the leaf is secure and tight against the egg. 3.) Pull the excess nylon tight on the opposite side of the egg, securing with a rubber band.

4.) Place the egg in the dye and allow to sit until the egg has reached the color intensity you want.

5.) Remove the egg from the dye and place on color safe surface. 6.) Remove rubber band and nylon and gently remove the leaf from the egg. Allow to dry.

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Initial Eggs

Initial Easter Eggs
Initial Easter Eggs

These make for cute placeholders for the Easter table, or for limiting how many each child gets during the Easter Egg Hunt (They look for their name or initial!).  This cute idea is from Reader’s Digest!

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • PAAS Egg Decorating Kit with dyes
  • Cups for mixing dyes
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Small Paintbrush
  • Black Sharpie

Instructions:

Mix up your egg dyes according to package, using the vivid instructions (includes using vinegar).

Place an egg sideways in a cup and gently pour the dye of choice until you have an oval of white showing (don’t cover the entire egg with dye-See photo below). Let egg sit, without disturbing, in dye until it reaches the desired color.  Remove egg from dye and allow to dry.

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Once dry, take acrylic paint and, using paintbrush, draw dots around the edge of the oval. Allow to dry.

Once dry, draw an initial or a name in center of oval, using the black sharpie. Allow to completely dry.

 

Washi Tape Eggs

Washi Tape Eggs
Washi Tape Eggs

Washi tape is like a very pretty, decorative masking tape. And projects using it are all over Pinterest! It comes in a variety of colors and sizes. It works perfectly on dyed, hard boiled eggs or just plain, white hard boiled eggs! This is a simple way to get little kids involved with the egg decorating.

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs (they can be dyed or not)
  • Washi Tape (available at any craft stores), choose a variety of patterns and sizes.

Instructions:

Just “go to town” and start decorating!

For small children – Cut small pieces of washi tape and put them out for little hands to decorate with!

 

“Bling” Eggs

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Bling Eggs

Another simple way to decorate the eggs with little kids!

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs (colored or plain white)
  • Crayola Washable Glitter Pens, variety of colors

 Instructions: 

Using the glitter pens, make dots of glitter all over the eggs. I did one side first, allowed to dry, then did the other side!

 

Happy Face Eggs

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Happy Face Eggs

This is my personal favorite because my mom and I love smiley faces, PLUS it is super simple to do!

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs dyed yellow
  • Black Sharpie

Instructions:

Use the black sharpie to create whatever type of face YOU want! Tip –When drawing the eyes, make sure the eyes are on the narrow end of the egg, mouth near the lower half of egg.

Thanks WTLV-TV’s First Coast Living for this fun challenge!

Six Unique Easter Egg Decorations!
Six Unique Easter Egg Decorations!

 

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