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Scavenger Hunt Ideas Series – Valentines Day

I hope you have enjoyed our Scavenger Hunt Ideas Series so far! This time I did something a little different. Instead of searching for specific items, this treasure hunt allows your kids to use a little more creativity!

scavenger hunt for kids

Instead of V standing only for only one item – such as “vase”- it can represent anything.  If your child is smaller they may find something with velcro, if they are a science lover they may search for something that is viscus, if they love to bake they may grab vanilla from the kitchen cabinet!

I think these kind of treasure hunts are fun because they bring out the personality in each one of our little tribe mates.

I don’t know about your kids, but each of mine are VERY different.  They think differently, act differently, and express themselves differently.  I love when I get to see those uniquenesses highlighted.  Funny how three beings that came from the same stock can be so different.  I love it!


scavenger hunt ideas

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I Hope you have fun with this little Valentines Day Scavenger Hunt!

If you like the content provided here at Home Sweet Road and want to share it with your friends I would be appreciative. The social buttons are an easy way to do that.  As a new blog every little bit helps!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

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Homemade Christmas Gifts

I wanted to share with you some quick and easy Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas just in case you are anything like me and have really good intentions and poor overall follow through when it comes to giving neighbors, teachers, friends or family meaningful gifts.

handmade gift ideas christmas

I am a horrendous baker so I can’t just whip up a few dozen cookies, wrap them up pretty and give them away.   It is a serious detriment. It usually plays out something like this:

  1. Emily gets a couple of good ideas on homemade Christmas gifts to make.  Things that will really knock the receivers socks off.  She gets really excited about finally making it happen this year.
  2. The ideas Emily comes up with are somewhat complex, time consuming to make, or outside of her abilities (i.e.. baking or embroidery).
  3. Emily musters up the courage to face her homemade christmas gift past failures and is determined to overcome.
  4. Just days before Christmas, Emily finds a little time after the kids go to bed to throw something together.
  5. It doesn’t turn out well,  never gets completed, or in the saga of baked goods – they come out flat and/or taste atrocious.

It is the same story almost every year.  It’s sad.  I lump that failure into my unsent christmas cards – good intentions that were never realized – and call it a year.

But I got smart this year.  I decided to go the no bake route and create some simple & edible homemade Christmas gifts for our neighbors and friends.  And they turned out SO GOOD.  Next time I will spend a little more time on beautiful packaging as it was somewhat of an afterthought.

But seriously, I made Christmas treats and they were good enough to give out this time!

At this point you should really be rejoicing for me.  If you are not cut from the same cloth as me, you are probably saying to yourself  “I don’t get it.  You just follow the recipe and it’s fine.”  I assure you this is not the case.  Cookies especially seem to have it out for me.  I have fought against it my whole adult life.  I’m leaving my baked good dreams behind.

It’s liberating!

I made three different things:

  • Peppermint Bark Popcorn in a Mason Jar
  • Peppermint & Marshmallow Hot Cocoa Mix in a Mini Mason Jar
  • Peppermint Chocolate Marshmallow Pops

Peppermint Bark Popcorn

homemade christmas gifts
peppermint bark popcornIngredients:

  • 16 C popped popcorn* (fresh, or about 2 bags non-buttered microwave popcorn)
  • 3 bars of white bakers chocolate
  • 1 6 ounce box candy canes – crushed with a rolling pin
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil (optional)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips


Air pop the popcorn.  Lay popped corn out on large sheet pans lined with parchment paper.  Melt the white chocolate and stir in peppermint oil(optional).  Drizzle it evenly onto the popcorn.  Toss it around a bit to get a nice coating.  Top with crushed candy canes and drizzle with melted chocolate. *This will make 4 quart size Mason Jars worth.

homemade christmas gifts

Peppermint & Marshmallow Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe:

homemade christmas giftshomemade christmas giftsThis recipe is what you will need for 1 Mini Mason Jar.

  • 8 Tablespoons of Starbucks Hot Cocoa Mix or your own favorite Hot Cocoa Mix
  • 2 Tablespoons of Crushed Candy Cane – for our family and friends that are sensitive to food coloring I used dye free candy canes
  • Top off with Mini Marshmallows – I used these natural ones

* Make sure to include a tag with directions to mix the entire jar with 4 cups of  hot milk

Peppermint Chocolate Marshmallow Pops

homemade christmas gift ideas

Directions: Melt chocolate.  Insert lollipop sticks in marshmallows and dip them in the melted chocolate three quarters of the way up.  Dip the chocolatey marshmallows in a bowl of crushed candy canes.  Line them up on parchment paper and let them dry. homemade christmas gifts homemade christmas gifts homemade christmas gifts
homemade christmas gifts

It melts me every time a friend or neighbor blesses us with something they’ve made.   I hope this gives you some great ideas for a few EASY homemade Christmas gifts you can make for your neighbors or friends in a snap. IT’S NOT TOO LATE! Now, even us non-bakers can get in on the goodie giving action with our head held high!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

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Family Tradition – Words of LIFE Handmade Christmas Ornaments

We are starting a new family tradition this Christmas, and I just love it.  This is a brilliant one for me because unlike other Martha Stewart Super Moms, I have 3 unfinished baby books and countless scrapbooks which have yet to be cracked open.   So any family tradition that can play double duty is a keeper!

family tradition

This art project family tradition is a perfect one for anyone with minimal craft skills too!  Even the kids can do it.  All you need to make them is:

Plastic or Glass Ornaments. (Found at Michael’s Craft Store or on Amazon)
Wax Paper
Thin Ribbon or String
Paper of Choice for Tag
Mini Leaves or Confetti (optional)

That is it!

You don’t have to use wax paper but I really like the delicate look that was achieved from ironing two pieces of wax paper together.  They look delicate but they aren’t.  Make sure to iron them on the wool setting.  Go slow and pass over the two pieces until they are bonded together.

Cut narrow strips from the paper and write the unique attributes of each person on separate strips.  Since it’s 2013, David and I decided to each write 13 things for each one of the kids.  For our ornaments, I wrote 13 things about David and had each child tell me the most awesome thing about their daddy.  I wrote them down along with the child’s name beside the word that they thought best described their daddy.  He did the same for my ornament.

handmade christmas ornaments

family tradition holiday

handmade christmas ornaments family tradition

Before we rolled them up in scrolls for a Christmas Keepsake, we prayed over our kids and told them about what virtues and characteristics we saw in them.  It was a sweet time.  We got to explain what some of the words meant.  You could see them sit a little taller with each word of life spoken over their lives.

We spent a little time thinking about words that accurately described them this year.  I want to be able to pull these handmade christmas ornaments out someday, unroll the scrolls and remember who they really were at this moment.

handmade christmas ornaments

family tradition

I hope that gave you some inspiration to start your own family tradition this year.  They take a little effort but in the end it is so worth it!  What are your favorite Christmas family traditions?

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

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Scavenger Hunt Ideas this Holiday Season

This is the first of many Scavenger Hunt Ideas that I will be sharing with you on the blog.  I have so many fond memories of going on scavenger hunts when I was a kid.  They are especially fun if you are in competition with another person or team to see who can find everything on the list first!

scavenger hunt ideasFor this Holiday Scavenger Hunt I tried to include all the things that bring a smile to my face when I think of Christmas – which is why I excluded, long lines, drunk Santas, fruit cake, and ugly sweaters.   Oh wait!  On second thought, I should have included the sweaters.

I would have added peppermint mochas, adult eggnog, and early bedtimes to the list but I thought the kids might not appreciate it so much so I left those items out.

What I did include on the Holiday Scavenger Hunt Ideas List was:
  • A Snowman
  • Wreath
  • Poinsettia
  • Candy Cane
  • Santa
  • Mistletoe
  • Nativity Scene
  • A Snowglobe
  • White Christmas Lights
  • Colored Christmas Lights
  • A Reindeer
  • Red Bow
  • Star
  • Christmas Ornament
  • Snowflake
  • The Grinch
  • Rudolph
  • Angel
  • A Train
  • Blinking Lights

Here is the printable version:

scavenger hunt ideas

Click image for PDF to print!

I hope you like this fun little activity.  Do it together as a family or send Daddy out with one of the kids for a holiday treasure hunt date that ends with some hot cocoa topped with extra whipped cream!

Make sure to print it out and add your own ideas on the back.  We all have our own special family traditions and things that make the holidays extra meaningful so jot a few of those down and voila, you have your own custom scavenger hunt list that your kids will love!  Fun, FREE, and memorable!  Love it.

Do you have any fun Scavenger Hunt Ideas that would be fun to do as a family?  I’d love to hear.  Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure to check out my Christmas Pinterest Board.  I am also filling out some gift boards as well if you are looking for some ideas on things to buy your kiddos!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

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Blessing Bags for the Homeless – Finished Project!

blessing bags homeless
If you have been following my Blessing Bags for the Homeless Series, you know that our family has been busy putting the bags together.  We wanted to make them extra special and document it along the way so that you guys would have some resources to help you make blessing bags of your own.  I published the Basic Blessing Bag Checklist, the Blessing BACKPACK Checklist, Card Printables to personalize your bags and encourage the receiver, and even Inspiration from Mother Teresa! Now you get to see how they turned out!!! These blessing bags are smaller than the backpacks obviously but they are so nice to have on hand in the van with us so that when we come across someone asking for help at an intersection we can hand it to them out the window.

blessing bags for the homeless

I posted several videos on YouTube to help people who are interested in putting these bags together.  I’m only linking to two of them in this post.  If you want to see all of them you can check them out at my Home Sweet Road YouTube channel.

If you want to do something a little more elaborate check out the video I did on Blessing Backpacks for the Homeless

We also put together some blessing bags for KIDS.  You won’t generally see homeless kids running around downtown, however, sometimes the homeless people that you do encounter have children.  Sometimes they are in transitional housing or shelters.  We wanted to make a few bags for children who are in this unfortunate situation.

In an effort to make putting these bags together as easy as possible for you, I gathered some items that you can just click add to cart and Amazon will send them right to your door.  Doesn’t get much easier than that friends!

If you do end up doing this with your family make sure to set appropriate expectations for your children regarding the reaction of the receiver.  It can be disappointing for our little guys if they are expecting a big response and don’t get it.

I really hope the resources I pulled together help you serve those who really need it this season.  Don’t forget to follow my homeless and blessing bag Pinterest boards for more inspiration.

Emily Oak

*Please note that the links in this post are affiliate links.  This simply means sometimes I recommend a product and if you choose to purchase that product via my recommendation, I will get a small referral commission. Of course, this is at no extra cost to you but it does help keep my candle burning so I can keep bringing you great tips! I truly appreciate your support in this way. Thank you.










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Blessing Bags for Homeless People — Card Printables

blessing bag diy for the homeless
One of the things we wanted to add to our Blessing Bags for the homeless of our area were hand made cards.  We included 3 in the Blessing Bag / Backpacks and one in the Standard Blessing Bags we put together.  The cards are meant to be opened on different days to remind them that they are not alone, but I don’t really care if they open them all at once!

These Encouraging Cards for the Homeless included:

  1. One to open on CHRISTMAS — which we wrote a scripture verse and a note of encouragement
  2. One to open when you are FEELING DOWN — we wanted to lift their spirits with a little bit of sunshine!
  3. One to open on your BIRTHDAY — in this card we included $5 to buy themselves a pastry or cupcake at their favorite bakery.  We also added little “balloons” which we made by gluing two cut circles together with a toothpick in the middle.  We thought it would be nice to decorate their birthday treat.  I doubt that whoever gets the bags will actually wait until their birthday to open the card but it’s not my business and I just want them to feel so cared for.

Hand making cards can be an undertaking, especially if it’s not your thing and you are making a bunch of blessing bags, so I went ahead and made some for you to print out and cut to size if you’d like.

I loved a card I saw from another blogger.  What she wrote was so heartfelt.  Since I always freeze when it comes to writing something profound or awesome in cards I just went ahead and stole the words right off of her Pinterest board!  Thank you Blair!  She has a wonderful Blessing Bag Post.  Another great post from Joy’s Hope features the “blessed to bless” bag project that she did with her family.  Love it!  You should check them out!

If you decide to print these cards out for your Blessing Bags, make sure to use card stock.

blessing bags printables for homeless people
Cut this in two and insert into two separate bags. I love these words. I found them on pinterest!

CLICK IMAGE TO PRINT *Since every resource I provide on the blog is free, the only thing I ask of you is to please share it with your friends on FB, Twitter or Pinterest (the buttons to do so are below my signature) – Thanks in advance!


christmas card printable
You can cut these and use them as four separate post cards or fold them to make two!


you are a masterpiece printable
You can print this out and use it for two separate cards. These are my favorite!


Birthday card printable
I specifically made this so that you could cut out the circles and make them into little “balloons” like I did, and use the front as a birthday post card OR you could just cut it in two and fold it over for a more traditional card.


I hope these blessing bag card printables will help you add a special touch to your bags or backpacks!  For more inspiration on this project check out my blessing bag and homeless boards on Pinterest.  You can link to them below.

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

Strong Luv

Blessing Bags / Backpack for the Homeless Checklist {Free Printable}

The Blessing Bags project for the homeless has been a great reminder for our family that we have so much to be thankful for.  We lived out of our suitcase for 10 months and didn’t have a home of our own but that was by choice!  As insanely awesome as parts of that were for us as a family, some of it was crazy hard.  The security and comfort that a home brings is pretty amazing.  And we are happy to put down roots again.

When we think of homeless people we often think about taking care of their basic needs.  Shelter, food, water, etc.  We are not a big organization that can really make much of a dent in these kinds of issues.  We are just one family that wanted to say:

“Even though things are hard for you right now, those things don’t define a WHO YOU ARE.  You are worth so much!”

When we were putting the smaller blessing bags together we decided to do the backpacks because we were having too much fun with it and wanted to get more stuff!

That and the fact that we ended up with these brand new backpacks only to find out that they were intended for needy school children.  When we registered the kids at their new school, out front there were some folks taking pictures and passing out backpacks with school supplies in them.  I thought it was odd when they handed us a backpack so I asked “are these for us?”  They assured us that they were for anyone who wanted them and proceeded to take the boys’ picture with a representative.  Right on!  Later I read in the local paper that they were being passed out to underprivileged kids.  I didn’t feel right keeping them so we are using them now to house all the goodies for the homeless!

By investing a little more in a couple of Blessing Backpacks we were able to get some nice things – some of which they don’t actually need.  We want to remind whoever gets them that they are valuable and important – worth the investment.  We are surrounded by family, friends, love, and more than we need.  The least we can do is sow that into someone else’s life that could use the reminder that the god of the universe has not forgotten them.  Because the greatest poverty of all is the poverty of LOVE, RESPECT, FRIENDSHIP, AND WORTH.   Hopefully they will feel a little richer in these things afterwards.

When buying the items we would put in the backpack we thought of what we would want if we were in their situation.  Just because they are homeless doesn’t mean they don’t care about the same stuff we care about.  We are all human and carry the same needs and desires.  My suggestion is to just have fun with it.  If you are crafty make some hand made cards of encouragement or crochet a hat or scarf.  If you are a writer include a compact journal with a pen.  My feeling is that if the person doesn’t like an item they receive they can give it to someone who will.  And they would feel good to be able to give something nice to someone else.  Think about what you would want if you were broke and living on the streets.

You can certainly still convey this message with the basic blessing bags.  I think the biggest thing is to add a personal note to show you care.

blessing bag backpack checklist

CLICK TO PRINT*Since every resource I provide on the blog is free, the only thing I ask of you is to please share it with your friends on FB, Twitter or Pinterest (the buttons to do so are below my signature) – Thanks in advance!

I hope this list gives you some great ideas! Just that fact that you found your way to this page means you have a heart to make a difference, which in my mind makes you AWESOME!!!
Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

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Blessing Bag Checklist (Printable)

The Blessing Bag Checklist is here as promised!  I hope it gives you a good idea of some useful items to include in your blessing bags so that whoever gets it will feel super blessed!  I did call the Union Gospel Mission to find out what homeless people need the most.  They have free access to things like shampoo and lotion but some of the more ‘unnecessary’ items such as hair gel, facial wipes, warm gloves, etc. are in high demand.

This is the simplified blessing bag checklist.  If you want to put together a blessing bag with a lot of stuff in it, check out the Blessing Bag Backpack Checklist.  It is cost prohibitive for most of us to put together a bunch of backpacks full of items.  What direction you go really depends on personal preference, budget and personality.  We did two large backpacks, 3 medium size blessing bags, and about 10 of the smaller basic bags.

I see the basic blessing bags as the ones that we will try to have on hand in the van most of the time so that if we see someone who needs it we have it readily available.  They are also an ideal size to throw in your purse or backpack if you are going to be walking around downtown.  The backpacks and medium size blessing bags are a little more extravagant and have some non-essentials — for the holiday season.

Whatever your budget, don’t forget that no gift is too small.  And helping even one person is still significant!  If you don’t believe me take Mother Teresa’s word for it.  Think of it like the widows mite and do it with all of your heart!
blessing bag checklist printableCLICK TO PRINT  *Since every resource I provide on the blog is free, the only thing I ask of you is to please share it with your friends on FB, Twitter or Pinterest (the buttons to do so are below my signature) – Thanks in advance!

I know that there are a lot of things that you can add to a bag like this, but I hope this proves to be a useful resource to get you started. If you are wanting to do something a little more elaborate don’t forget to check out my Blessing Bag Backpack Checklist. Put your personality into it and have fun!

Update: See the Blessing Bag project completed and a host of other resources!

Do you have some ideas to make the Blessing Bags extra Special? I’d love to hear them, so make sure to leave a comment so my readers can hear from you too! Also, I have recently added a homeless board on Pinterest – Make sure to check it out and don’t forget to follow my boards if you like what you see!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road

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Mother Teresa Inspiration – Blessing Bags

Blessing Bag InspirationAs you know my family has been working hard on putting together blessing bags for the homeless.   I was recently introduced to an awesome band by a friend and wanted to know more about them.  On their website I saw a quote from Mother Teresa and it really moved me regarding this blessing bag project because all I keep thinking about is that putting these bags together is really a small thing to do in light of the hardships that homeless men and woman face.

Mother Teresa said:

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

I can’t think of a more inspirational example of someone who has given her life for the needs of others than Mother Teresa.  She spent her life poured out for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

I may never be as awesome as Mother Teresa, but the more I give myself to value the things she valued – which is really just the things that Jesus himself valued – the more I will be broken over the needs of those whom Matthew 25 refers to as “the least of these.

mother teresa quote

These blessing bags won’t “feed” a hundred or wipe out poverty in our city but they will make a difference for someONE.

I’m in.

If you want to make some blessing bags of your own, you can download a printable checklist of items for Basic Blessing Bags or Blessing Backpacks!  I created a blessing bag board on Pinterest which you can link to those from the button below!

emily oak


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Blessing Bags – Helping the Homeless

homeless blessing bag
Have you ever passed a homeless person in your car or in the city and felt your heart sink knowing that you should do something but weren’t sure what?  Its similar to the feeling you get when someone you know has a miscarraige, loses a family member or gets sick.  You aren’t close enough to them to know just what to say or do — so you wait.

It will come to you.  You fear doing the wrong thing or saying something insensitive in your attempt to reach out.

A week goes by, still nothing.  A month — and you’re drawing a blank.

That profound idea you are waiting for or the right phrase to write in a card never quite reveals itself.  Now every time you think about that person or see them you get a knot in your stomach.  You feel a pang of regret, wishing you would have done something…anything.  But now it’s too late, the window has closed.

That is how I feel sometimes when I see a homeless person.  I feel absolutely incompetent.  The need is so great.  What could I possibly do to help?  Paralysis by analysis sets in and I do nothing at all.  Fear of failure, fear of being misunderstood, fear of doing it wrong, fear of what they will think, fear of…..

Well, this season we are setting fire to fear and going to do something as a family to reach out to the homeless in our area.   We are putting together “Blessing Bags” to give away.  It’s small in comparison to the hardship that someone living on the streets faces.  But it’s SOMETHING.

Our road trip exposed us to how wide spread and desperate the situation is for homeless people — which is one of the reasons I think traveling with children is so powerful.

These Blessing Bags are our little way of saying:

“I see you”

“You are valuable”

“We are the same”

“It could be me”

I feel a profound sense of unworthiness to say these things.  I am a healthy, middle class, white woman — who drives a minivan and is baking cookies while I write this.  I am lucky enough to stay at home with my 3 year old while my two boys catch the bus to go to their suburban school with a mountain view.

homeless man blessing bag“You are beautiful”

“You are worthy of love”

“I’m sorry that life is so freaking hard and unequal”

Isn’t it a little insensitive for me to say when I get to come home to my flip of the switch fire place, Tempurpedic king sized bed, and the arms of my husband wrapped around my body when I fall into him at night?  I mean they are on the street — sleeping on hard cold ground, likely alone.  I have no right.

Then before I talk myself out of it I remember the story of the starfish.  And making a difference for just one is still valuable — for that ONE — and I know I have to get over myself and do SOMETHING.

No one would choose to live on the streets.  No one.  Somewhere along the way life circumstances hit them squarely between the eyes and they found themselves there.  For some, the unimaginable came in the form of horrific abuse as a child, for others because of some kind of loss well into adulthood.  Each one has a story.  Just like every one of us.

There is not one box we can put all homeless people into to tidy up the epidemic as a means to wrap our minds around it.   If we see them as human instead of an addict, whore, or runaway we might start making some headway.

We are all homeless in one way or another.  For some it’s obvious, for most of us it’s not.  No amount of self help books, yoga sessions, or charity can bring us home.  It takes a family.  A brother, a sister, a father, a mother.  A hand from someone saying “you belong,” “I am for you,” “you matter.”

So even though accusations rail against us until we turn away long enough to forget there is a problem or convince us that we are somehow disqualified to help — we have to fight those lies and do SOMETHING.  Anything.

homeless helpI love what the book of Matthew in the new testament says about helping the needy:


The uncreated God made each one of us.  We are his handiwork.  We are brothers and sisters from the same family.  Each of us has a beating heart and a desire for love and respect.  A face, a story, some indescribable pain, and hopeful longing.  A need to be acknowledged and accepted.

Every time we reach out and do something kind for someone poor, needy, maligned –with no intention of getting something in return — we acknowledge their value.  Their equality.  That we could be right there in their situation had the cards been dealt differently.

So in the posts to come I’m going to cover the SOMETHING that we are doing in the form of Blessing Bags for the homeless.  I hope that you will feel inspired to do something of your own.   Because your voice matters.  People need to hear you say {with your actions} “I see you,” “I am for you,” ” you are precious beyond belief,”  “you are worthy of love.”

My brother is a photographer and did a series on the homeless {the photos in this post are from that series}.  It is stunning and brings so much dignity to the issue.   If you are planning on doing something like this with your family it may be helpful to watch the video or look through some of the pictures with your kids and talk about it together.

To make this project as easy as possible, I am creating a check list of helpful items you will be able to print out and have on hand if you want to make blessing bags of your own.  Update: See the final blessing bag product.

Lastly, I am a newbie to social media.  If you like the information we provide on this site it would mean a lot if you would share it on FB, Google +, or Pinterest {the buttons to do so are below}.  Thank you in advance!

Emily Eck Home Sweet Road