Truth is that I intended to post this before the holidays, but I was having way too much fun with my family. So it’s a wee bit late, but the good news is that it is a great project for any celebration. And it just might be the easiest project in all of the land. We make it year after year, it never gets old, and we always have a good time making it.

Right before the holiday season, I order a bazillion felt balls, shove them in basic glass jars from IKEA and start singing Jingle Bells at the top of my lungs. Ah, if only this blog post were sponsored it could pay for my kids’ therapy they’ll need from having to hear me sing. Kidding. They could care less how poorly I sing. So we string garland together and sing Christmas carols off-key. We use our happy-infused garland all over our home, give it to our friends and wrap it around presents. This year, we used it on a tiny tree in our kids’ room.

Random happy garland fact:
You don’t have to tie any knots! The felt balls are dense, so they just sit on the twine wherever you string them. May not seem like a huge deal, but it is.

Supplies needed:
Baker’s twine
Rainbow felt balls

Step 1: Thread needle. Step 2: String. See—it’s that easy! We tend to always do multi-colored strands, but a monochromatic garland would also be beautiful.

Need some New Year’s cards to go with your garland? Browse through my 2017 holiday card collection. Or check out this holiday party for more festive celebration ideas.

Photography by Rebecca Sanabria, who I hope to see a whole lot of in 2018.

2017 Holiday Card Collection

How can it be October? My mind is still dreaming of summer. There’s no way it’s time to start thinking about the holidays when I haven’t convinced myself yet that I’m not still hiking to a beach to play in the sand.

Buuuut I better get with it. It is October, and I have zero plans of being stressed and rushed, so it’s time to get a few things crossed off my list for the holidays. Like our family holiday card. This post will make it super easy for you to choose one of my designs. Browse through the options, click which one you like and you’ll be magically transported to the page where you can personalize it and buy it.

To make it easier on your bank account, I can offer 40-percent off of your order. I only have a handful of discount codes to share this year, but I’d love for you to have one. Send an email to hello@jillsmith.com lickety split, and I’ll email a code back to you until I run out of them.

More than anything, I hope your holidays are spent with those you love and stress-free. Lift each other up, soak in the season and go spread some joy.


“I really regret playing,” said no one ever. Here is where I will share a photo that could make me happy forever. If you’d like to see all of the photos in my PLAY, PLAY, PLAY series, click here.

{ Soft cheeks, gigantic tooth gaps, smushy kisses, and all the love foreverrrrrrrrrrr. }

Soft cheeks, gigantic tooth gaps, smushy kisses, and all the love foreverrrrrrrrrrr.

Soft cheeks, gigantic tooth gaps, smushy kisses, and all the love foreverrrrrrrrrrr.

Feliz fin de semana everyone!
Photograph by Cindy Giovagnoli.

Another Magical Trip Around the Sun

It’s no secret that I love throwing my kiddos’ birthday parties in our backyard. Each celebration revolves around soaking up summer and soaking in the fact that another wonderful year has passed for them. I love the planning and the creating of the festivities as well as the remembering of so many fun moments from the year. How are my babies so big anyway? And how are they still so incredibly sweet? Can they never stop laughing and loving and hugging me the way they do? PLEASE, Time, stop going SO FAST.

This party is from last summer (I mean really, Time, you can slow down for real). We celebrated Pace turning 8 with less of a theme or character and focused more on color and play.We chose all blues and greens. I designed the invitations to be modern and clean, making a logo out of Pace’s name and the number 8. The invitation style for his party is growing right along with him. This strong, lean, clean font and design fits his style now. I incorporated the Pace logo throughout the party, and especially love how it looked stamped onto the napkins.

The water bottles have become tradition for our parties. I designed the labels using the party colors and Pace logo and digitally printed them on waterproof, adhesive paper. The kids and I then spend an afternoon together sticking them on the bottles.

Deciding to serve the food the way I did for Pace’s party all began when I found these biodegradable lunch trays. I love them and find them extremely practical. Before the party we filled the trays with carrots, pretzels, fruit and half a sandwich. We stacked them in the refrigerator and when it was time to eat, I pulled them out and set the tables super fast which helped the food stay fresh. We kept the top right spot in the trays empty and I designed a little square to put in that spot. The photo of Pace paired beautifully with the word EAT, so I did half that way and half using the Pace logo once again. By the way, a bonus for serving the food this way that I hadn’t immediately thought of was not having to fuss with a serving table.

With so many of the kids in the 8-10 year old range, I decided to have an activity but made it optional. It was an illustrated obstacle course I called Pace’s PLAY LIST. I printed and laminated them and set them out on the tables at the party. Some kids found them and immediately went to work doing each activity on the list. Some kids even did it over and over. Each time they came to me winded, smiling and asking for another tattoo—their reward for finishing the list. Some kids chose not to do the Play List in particular but played nonetheless. Either way I was happy to slather them with fake tattoos. The tattoos all came from Tattly which I ordered on Amazon. I love their quirky, modern feel.

The giant slip and slide is a favorite at birthday parties especially here where it is so hot and humid, that it keeps everyone cool and happy to be outside. Baby pools full of water and water balloons are also always a mainstay at the our kids’ parties now. And how fun are these amazing people?

An hour or so before the party, my talented brother went all around our home covering the sidewalks with festive chalk drawings. He took requests from the birthday boy of what to draw and where. Brady whips out amazing illustrations and funny comments that fill every inch of pavement.

Oh, and about that cake….it is becoming funnier and funnier to me each party. I always let them choose what kind of cake they want, and I always make it. Not because I’m good at making pretty cakes, but because I love the idea of them not turning out perfect. Pace wanted a chess game. I made it double layer so that we would have more cake. I ordered the chocolate chess pieces from an Etsy store. They were perfect, but huge and heavy. It was comical to see me hacking off the bottom of each piece just so they could fit on the cake without falling over. And it still didn’t really work. It was all too tall and awkward. So I stuck the whole cake, chess pieces and all, in the freezer. The idea was to freeze those suckers in place a little. Nothing worked, the pieces still tipped and leaned and fell, but the kids and adults agreed that it still tasted good. Pace loved it and the kids (and some of the adults) got a huge kick out of screaming to me which chess piece they wanted.

A good friend of mine did all of the flowers for the party. He is a gem of a human being, and I love how happy they came out. My favorite part about having such gorgeous flowers for their parties is that afterwards we take all the little arrangements to neighbors’ houses. It’s fun to deliver flowers to nice, unsuspecting friends for no reason other than you have them and you want to brighten someone else’s day. My kiddos enjoy making the deliveries too.

The party favors were travel tic-tac-toe bags. We stamped the Pace logo on one side and a tic-tac-toe board on the other side. Inside we had small, flat rocks that we drew X’s and O’s on.

This party marks the 12th one I’ve thrown for my kiddos in our backyard. For each party, so much of the same décor and supplies are used. Just look at his brother’s 5th birthday celebration. And each and every one of these parties is possible because of my village, my family, my husband and my kids who all help create, set up and take down each and every bit. These moments and these people are priceless and precious.

I see the happiness it brings our family, and I get completely giddy. Time may not slow down those revolutions around the sun, but I’m going to enjoy every minute of each one and celebrate their journeys with these backyard parties for as long as they’ll let me.

Photography by Rebecca Sanabria, who was splashed at least 836 times and didn’t complain even once.