Truth in the Tinsel Atlanta Swap Party 2015: The Recap!

It’s been almost a month since we had our Atlanta area Swap Party. Why has it been a month since I’ve written about all the fun we had? Because the DAY OF the Swap Party was also the day we moved out of our house! (You can read more about that here.)

It was by far, one of the most stressful weekends of my life. Even still, the party itself was so fun, the women so encouraging and I left with a full heart that night!

If you’re not familiar with a Truth in the Tinsel Swap Party—think Cookie Exchange, only with craft supplies! We all come with bags of Truth in the Tinsel ornaments ready to make in little baggies. Then we line them all up on a giant table and each take one so we have the supplies for every craft ready to go! (You can read more about how to do your own swap here–there’s a few more helpful details + look at our new Printable Party Pack!)

My main goal in the Swap Party is to give mamas a fun night out with good food, good people AND get their entire Advent celebration organized in just one night! So, the basic order of the night went like this:

First: EAT.

I had the party catered by Zoe’s. If you don’t have Zoe’s in your area, I’m sad. We ate yummy chicken kabobs, rice, hummus, pita and a Greek salad that was so good my daughter took the leftovers to school!

Second: CRAFT

Now, I know a lot of you think you’re not crafty. In fact, Truth in the Tinsel scares a lot of people because it’s craft-heavy. Well, I am a firm believer in anyone-can-craft because the end result is not really the goal. It’s the process.

Anywhoo–tonight’s craft was SO INCREDIBLY easy and it turned about even cuter than I thought it would.

It requires only three supplies.

easy advent calendar copy

Each person needs 24 clothespins, a few colors of washi tape and some cute ribbon or twine. Then, all you do is put a piece of washi tape on the front of clothespin and hang it on the twine!

easiest advent calendar ever

Can you even believe how cute that is??? The washi tapes fits perfectly on the clothespin so there’s no measuring, cutting or messing up!

This is the ideal calendar for the daily clues included in the Truth in the Tinsel ebook because it’s so simple and small. We didn’t have enough clothespins for me to make one, but the kids and I are making one this week. I love it.

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Party Planner Note: My bff, Staci was at the party helping out with this craft and she had a great idea for next year. Instead of having a table set up just for crafts, put all the craft supplies in the middle of each table and after everyone has eaten, they can simply begin doing the craft right where they sit. It doubles as a centerpiece! I’m totally doing that next year.

Third: TALK

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I talked. It’s what I do, I guess.

I wanted to encourage everyone in not being tired this Christmas. I wanted them to see that Advent is parenting. And it’s making an eternal difference in the life of their children.

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I hope you know this for yourself, too. You can do this Truth in the Tinsel-thing!

Party Planner note: Those beautiful Christmas chalkboard posters behind me are from Caravan Shoppe. You download them for about $5 and then print them at Staples for $7. It’s just paper–how cute are they??

Check out our new Swap Party Printables–including a swanky Truth in the Tinsel poster + more!


I had some fabulous, amazing and generous sponsors of this event. At every chair, there was a super cute bag from my good friend, Yancy. Yancy is a singer songwriter who loves kids and God’s Word. Not only did she give everyone a fun Yancy-bag, she also gave them one of her super cool worship DVDs.  (Can I just say: CHRISTMAS PRESENT ALERT! CHRISTMAS PRESENT ALERT! You need to snag this stuff for your kids!)

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Also included in the cute little Yancy bag was the brand new Galaxy Buck DVD from Whats in the Bible?. The kids and I just watched it and I loved it so much! What’s in the Bible? also included a free month to Jelly Telly–where you can stream Bible-based kids’ shows and movies. (CHRISTMAS PRESENT ALERT!!!)

We’re not finished yet! My friend Tricia Goyer also included her book, Prayers That Changed History. It’s a family/kid devotional type book about famous people and the prayers they prayed–AND how God brought about miracles because of those prayers. (CHRISTMAS PRESENT ALERT!!!)


And if that wasn’t enough, we also had some fantastic door prizes!

Zonderkidz sent us so many cool Bibles and books from their Adventure Bible line. (It’s the Bible my daughter has!)

adventure bible

They even included lots o’ cute Christmas books and the Jesus Storybook Bible. (Which is literally, the best book I’ve ever read.)


Yancy is so generous and gave away more CDs and devotional books. (My favorite is Roots for the Journey and Taste and See

yancy faves

My friend Kam from One Girl Design Shoppe gave a beautiful tabletop block from her Holiday Collection. She hand paints signs (even gorgeous custom orders) on reclaimed wood. I can’t wait to put one in our new house!

Tabletop Block Christ Is Born Hand Painted Christmas Gift from

Jessica from OneTwentyOne Designs donated the cutest zip pouches I’ve ever seen.  Jessica sews all kinds of lovely bags and other yummies from vintage fabrics with vintage buttons. Every thing she makes is adorable.

Vintage Fabric Zip Pouch Christmas Coupon from OneTwentyOneDesigns.Com

Last: SWAP

Now it was time for the whole reason we were there! We grabbed our little Yancy bags and filled it with all the supplies for every day of Truth in the Tinsel! Aren’t you jealous??

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A big special thanks to my mom for letting us use her children’s church space at her church and for all the other bazillion things she did that night–including take care of my two kiddos and running the sound. Thank you to Staci, my BFF who is just well, really and truly the BEST. Thanks to my kiddos for being so helpful and obedient on a crazy hard day. And thanks to my husband who moved us into our new apartment while I hosted the party.

And of course, thank you to all the ladies that made their crafts, came to the party and generally loved on me knowing it was a stressful day for me. You buoyed my spirit and I had so much fun with you. I love you all!

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Tips for a Truth in the Tinsel Swap Party

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When my friend Sunny wrote about her Swap Party last year I was so inspired. I love the idea of getting all the craft supplies ready waaay before December. I love the idea of sharing with other mamas and having their hard work be part of my kids’ Christmas activities.

In case you aren’t sure what a Swap Party is, here’s the “sitch” (anyone remember Kim Possible?!)—>  So, the perfect idea is that 24 women take 1 day of the Truth in the Tinsel crafts and make 24 little bags full of the appropriate craft supplies. Then, when they leave the party, they’ll have 1 little baggie of craft supplies for each day of the 24 days of Truth in the Tinsel.

Sounds amazing, right?

Here’s what I kept wondering, though:  what if you had 50 moms sign up for a swap party? That’s not 5o kids doing Truth in the Tinsel. If they each had 2-4 kids, that would be 100-200 crafts that need to be made. So, everyone has to make 100+ crafts?!

Well, if I only have 2 kids, I would have only made 48 crafts at home by myself without the swap. Is it really worth me making 100? That seems like MORE work.

And what if I only had 1 kid and you have 4? I’m making waaay more crafts than I need to. Know what I mean?

So, I tried to think of a way where everyone could just make 24 crafts. So, I did what I do best: I asked around. And after talking to a few of my smartest friends, here’s how I planned and organized our Atlanta Swap Party!

1. Set up a Sign Up Genius or Volunteer Spot Invitation

You know these websites, right? If you’re in school or do any kind of team sports, you’ve probably been invited through one of these sites. Basically, the host enters in all the supplies or volunteers needed and you can sign up based on what they need. It’s a really easy and useful idea.

I adapted it for the swap. I had people sign up as “volunteers” for each day of Truth in the Tinsel crafts.

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2. I took Pictures.

For each day, I took pictures of what should be in their swap bag. The pictures aren’t awesome. Just a little baggie with the supplies inside.

I uploaded them to my Google Drive (you may be able to upload to Sign Up Genius, etc. but I couldn’t figure it out because contrary to their name Sign Up Genius is NOT genius all the time.) and guests were able to click on the link, see the picture and a description of each craft.

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See? It was not fancy at all!

3. I excluded some crafts.

Two of the crafts in Truth in the Tinsel require food. We make salt dough ornaments and the famed applesauce-cinnamon ornament and I just couldn’t imagine a mama having to pour salt and flour and cinnamon into little baggies for 100 people! So, we eliminated those all together. (We did do the census craft–just didn’t include the rice!)

I just let the guests know they are on their own for those days!

4. I Limited the Invites

Next, I decided how many people could come to the party. Sounds mean, right? Well, I was willing to let as many as wanted, I just wanted them to sign up slowly, in batches of 22.

On Sign Up Genius, I only allowed for 2 slots to be open for each craft. Basically, only 44 people could sign up. But, it’s actually a little more complicated than that because…

5. We Signed Up PER Kid

Everyone had to sign up for how many kids they have. For example, if you have 4 kids you’re going to do Truth in the Tinsel with, you had to sign up for 4 slots. So, a mama of four kids makes 88 crafts–just like she would have at home without the swap party. A mama of one makes 22, just like she would have without the swap party.

The only problem with this is  that some people had to make 2 separate crafts. I had to do 22 census crafts and 22 CD crafts. It certainly would have been easier if I’d done 44 of one of them.

6. I Opened It Up Slowly

As the slots got full, I opened up more so more people could attend. You’ll have to watch to see how your invites are coming along!

Now, a few problems that are still a little unresolved…

What if you don’t get an even amount of people signed up? We had 30+ people attend the event with over 80 kids and somehow not one person signed up for the Day 3 craft. So, I had to make all 80 of those myself. I’m not sure how you could remedy this–maybe have some helpful older mamas with no kids at home who are willing to fill in the blanks?

What if someone doesn’t show up? I was very clear in the invite and sign-up that you are committing to getting your crafts there even if something happens and you can’t be there. I had 3 mamas send crafts who lived too far away to come to the party!

And a few tips…

I’m actually not sure if this was the best way to plan this party. But because I invited people from the internet (!), folks from my church, my kids’ school and my mom’s church, I had to do it in a way that would allow for 20 people to come or up to 200!

However, if you knew you only had 12 mamas coming who had 36 kids, I might just have all of them choose 2 days and make 36 of each day. You’ll have to decide what’s easiest for the group you have.

Originally, I was going to have everyone sign up and just tell me how many kids they had. Then I’d email them and tell them what craft and how many. That would require a definite sign-up-by-date and lots of work on the back end. Sign Up Genius (or even an editable Google Doc) would eliminate a lot of that hassle and allow people to sign up even days before the event.

If I do this next year (I’m 90% sure I will!), I would do a lot more inviting on the front end. I’d approach some small groups from our church early in September and ask them to get some people together and come as a group. I’d ask some of my key friends to invite some of their mama friends or small groups from church, etc. I think it would work so well as a group party–you know, where several different groups of friends come together for a Girl’s Night Out!

I did ask for a donation of $10 for the event because I had it catered and I had some fun swag but you certainly don’t have to do that. It could be a fun potluck among friends. Or if you are in leadership at your church/children’s ministry, you could throw the swap as a gift to your families.

Don’t forget to tell everyone they need to buy the ebook! Eek! I assumed most of the guests were TNT alums, but in fact many of them were newbies and had to buy the book!

In conclusion

If you’re going to do a swap, make sure you feel out exactly how many people will be there first. That will give you a handle on how you should plan. Ask yourself: do I want everyone to only make 24 crafts? Or am I ok with everyone making 50-100 crafts? Do I want this to be an intimate party of friends? Or do I want a big event for my whole church/school/group?

Once you know what you want it to feel like, then you’ll be able to plan it easily. Any way you do it will be such a blessing to those that come. At the end of our Atlanta Swap Party, everyone said, “Thank you! I feel so much better about December! I don’t have to do anything but do the crafts with the kids!” I felt the same way! My little Truth in the Tinsel bag is all packed and I’m ready for December 1!

Have you ever planned a swap? Have any tips or ideas? Questions? Leave a comment so we can all learn from each other!



Truth in the Tinsel Swap Party Fun!

I wanted the Atlanta Area Truth in the Tinsel Swap Party to feel like a Girl’s Night Out instead of a oh-brother-we’ve-got-a-lot-of-work-to-do-to-get-ready-for-Christmas. The first thing to consider was decorations. We didn’t pull out all the Christmas decorations because it was hosted at my mom’s church (she’s a Children’s Pastor) and her Children’s Church room is pretty cool looking. It didn’t need a lot of frou-frou. But it did need a little tinsel, am I right?!

tnt decor collage

I brought all the ornaments my kids have made over the years and spread them out on the tables along with mason jars filled with snowy-looking epsom salt and candles! (How smart is that?!)

Then, at each seat there was a green and white Truth in the Tinsel bag!

tnt swap party swag bag

Eek! How much to you love that?!! These were to collect all the crafts in but they also contained a few little gifts for the guests! Inside was the most fun little paper garlands from Dayspring…

dayspring paper chain collage

Yancy’s Have a Fancy Yancy Christmas CD

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and the Why Do We Call It Christmas DVD!

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Y’all. That was worth the drive through Atlanta right there!

Well, we weren’t finished! We also had a fun little craft station. Like a craft for mamas to make! No kids allowed! My friend, blogger, crafter, shop-owner, teacher and all-around super mama, Charity from The Heartfelt Home led the ladies in making this adorable button Christmas tree. (Thank you, Pinterest!)

tnt swap party button tree

Everyone culled through the buttons and made their own sweet trees to frame and take home. (Talk about an easy craft, y’all. All you need is a 5×8 of burlap, a bunch of leftover buttons and some craft glue!)

tnt swap party craft

We even had a photo booth! (And now that I’m looking at all the pictures, I realize my kids took more pictures than anyone and I didn’t get a picture with enough of y’all!)

photo booth collage tnt swap

And of course, there was food. I catered from Chipotle because you can make tacos, burritos, burrito bowls or salads. It’s kinda easy for everyone. (Also? Yummy leftovers.) And my sisterchicks and my dad did homemade Christmas food. We’re talking Christmas food like Hello Dolly Bars, Christmas Crack, fudge and my dad’s German Chocolate cake. Yeow.

tnt swap party food

Let’s pause on the food so I can tell you what typical crazy went down—> So, 30 minutes before the event started, I sent my ever-helpful husband to the restaurant to pick everything up. He called me a few minutes later and said, “Am I at the right location? They don’t have your order.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Sure enough, he was at the wrong location–at no fault of his own–there are 2 locations of equal distance to the church and we had talked about using both of them. I never told him where to go!

My sweet husband had to drive to the other location, pick up the food and arrived about 20 minutes late. He was more stressed than anyone about it! Oops.

OK. Back to the event….

After we were full up of guac and tacos, I got on the stage to speak.

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I told my story of going from Children’s Pastor of hundreds of kids to mom of 1, and how I felt lost and far away from God’s will for my life. And then how God used something so seemingly insignificant like a daily craft with my almost 1 year old to plant the fledgling seeds of the Truth in the Tinsel book and experience in my heart. And then how over 30,000 families have used the book in their homes and their Christmas celebrations. And how my heart is flattened at the thought of God allowing me to be a part of His story.

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We also talked about the unique, precious and huge opportunity we have as mothers to lead our children from darkness into Jesus’ magnificent, purifying, everlasting Light! How throughout the ages, God has been taking Light to dispel darkness and wants to do so in the lives and heats’ of our kids. How Christmas is really the celebration of the Light coming to our dark world and casting out sour sin so we could be in relationship with HIm.

Truth in the Tinsel isn’t a craft or a fun thing to do at Christmas–it’s a way to introduce your children to Jesus and His Light!

Whew! It gets me excited every time. OK. Let’s get back to the party…

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After a little talking and praying we played a game with a plate on our heads. Oh, yes we did!

And it was hilarious!

Then, it was time for door prizes! Y’all. I am OVERWHELMED by the amount of awesome friends who gave stuff away! I don’t have pictures of everything (for which I aplogize–next time I need to hire a photographer to capture more of the fun!) so, I’ll snag some pictures of their respective websites, ok?

First of all, Charity from The Heartfelt Home gave away a gorgeous print from her shop plus two vintage silverware Redeemed Ware bracelets. How much do you love those?!

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Dayspring sent some of their newest jewelry line called, Everlasting Light. And I could NOT be more excited about it because it is exactly what I’ve been loving and talking about with Jesus being the Light at Christmas!

Just look at these necklaces—>

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This layered shimmer necklace is my favorite one. And the verse engraved on the back is Isaiah 60:20, “The Lord will be your everlasting light.”  Isn’t that awesome?

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This North Star pendant is beautiful, too and has Isaiah 60:1 engraved on the back, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”. What a gorgeous reminder to hang around your neck this Christmas!

Don’t you wish you’d been there?!!

But wait! We’re not done!

One of my fellow-volunteers and friends at church has a super creative wife who owns OneTwentyOne Designs and makes the most ADORABLE bags and baby items and dish towels and more. She sent us the cutest tote bags you’ve ever seen, some pillows and an amazing dishtowel that hooks to your stove (you know what I’m talking about? It’s genius. And adorbs.)

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Plus, What’s in the Bible sent Phil Vischer’s new Why Do We Call It Christmas book:

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And Yancy sent t-shirts, CDs and devotional books:

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(This is my friend, Jen from church. She’s showing how much fun we had!)

But I guess you’re wondering about the crafts? Like the whole reason we got together, right?! I almost forgot about that part!

When everyone arrived with their 22 craft supply baggies in hand, they laid them out on the appropriate spot on these tables. At the end of the night, they walked through (with their new bags) and put one of each into their bag! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

tnt swap party bags

Thank you to my mom for hosting the event, to my sisterchicks–Staci, Mandi and Kristen, my friends Vanessa and Cassie, to my dad and husband for helping out at the party and to Lydia, Asa and Megan for being the best bag-stuffers & helpers ever. I couldn’t have done it without you–nor would I have wanted to!

Oh, and click over to read about the details (and my best tips) of planning a swap party! It’s not too late to plan your own Swap Party! And don’t forget to check out our new Swap Party Printable Pack to help you plan your swap!


How To Plan, Organize and ROCK a Truth in the Tinsel Swap

This is a guest post from a Truth in the Tinsel fan, Children’s Ministry alum and all around amazing woman, Sunny Cote.

how to plan organize rock truth tinsel swap

We mamas have good intentions.  Really, we do.  But if you are anything like me, the daily grind of feeding, diapering, cleaning, educating, discipling and refereeing takes up a great deal of time and a blink later it’s bedtime for our little cherubs and our plans for a fun tea party/pinterest worthy crafts/fill-in-the-blank/ fly out the window like a kite dancing in the sky on a windy day!  Does anyone feel me?

And then, there’s December.  I actually LOVE everything about Christmas.  I love having the opportunity to teach my kids about the true reason for celebrating Christmas-the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  However, December can get awfully busy and unless I’m super purposeful all those good intentions can easily get pushed aside as I prepare for guests, parties, shopping, food…it can be so overwhelming!

But then amidst the busyness comes the soft, sweet reminder of Jesus speaking to Martha in Luke 10 “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Mamas, it is a busy season, but shouldn’t we choose the one thing that truly matters?  Shouldn’t we make certain our children learn the wonderful news of our Savior’s birth and worship Him?

Well, that is exactly why my family LOVES Truth in the Tinsel! It is such a fun and purposeful way to focus the Christmas season on Jesus every day.  And best yet, my kids beg to have our devotion time every day!  Now I’ll admit that I am a craft lover and my 4 kids (ages 7, 6, 4, & 2) are craft fanatics, but it can be a bit daunting to gather lots of craft supplies and organize them for each day of Advent; I get it.  But guess what?  There is an amazingly easy way to gather, prepare and organize all the Truth in the Tinsel crafts and you don’t have to do it all by yourself!!  After all, when you get a group of girlfriends together, ain’t nothin’ we can’t do!

And, this is where the idea for doing a “Busy Bag” style Truth in the Tinsel Swap was born.

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Interested?  Well, read on my sisters!

In order to organize a Truth in the Tinsel Activity Swap, you simply need a group of women who would like to participate.  I began by sharing my experience with T in the T by showing everyone my printed ebook placed in page protectors in a binder, pictures of my kids doing the crafts and sharing a few of the wonderful spiritual conversations that resulted from doing these activities.  Afterward, there were masses of women asking to participate.

So, I simply passed around a sign-up sheet for each mom to fill in their name, email, and the number of children in their family that would be participating in the crafts.  Next, I sent each mom an email asking them to purchase and download their own copy of T in the T and to email me once they did this.

Then, I sent a second email with the swap date, supplies that everyone needed to plan to have on hand such as glue, markers, glitter glue, etc. and finally the craft assignments for each mom.  So, depending on the number of women participating each mom would be assigned one of the 24 days and they would only purchase supplies and prepare for that one craft, but they would make enough for all the children who were participating.

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Each mom would then prepare craft supplies (not prepared crafts—just supplies for the craft) and place them in a baggie, labeled according to the appropriate day.  For example, if I was participating and I was supposed to prepare crafts for 42 children, and my assigned day was “Day 3” I would prepare 42 bags and place inside each one enough supplies to make the Zechariah ornament and label all the bags “Day 3.”

On the day of the swap, each mom should bring their prepared craft bags as well as a large paper bag with their last name and the number of T in the T kits they ordered clearly marked on the bag.  This paper bag will be what the leave with at the end of the swap party.  The person organizing would then line up the prepared days of crafts in numerical order.

I highly recommend making this a fun, social time for moms to perhaps have a cup of tea or coffee and visit while a couple of organizers prepare all of the family bags.  This helps to ensure that each family bag gets the right number of each craft…you know, fewer hands equals fewer errors.   Here is the very best news, after the organizers prepare the family bags, each mom walks away with their entire T in the T kit for all of their children assembled and ready to go for all 24 days of the Advent season!  Can I get an AMEN?!!

So there you go mamas!  This is a way to equip not only yourself, but all your sister friends as well!  Can you imagine the impact that working together to make this happen will have on all our children?  What if you presented this idea to your MOPs group at church or your small group?  What if your Children’s Ministry program got on board?  Can you imagine the impact this might have on families who aren’t yet Christ-followers, but who attend MOPs or another similar program to socialize with other moms? I can’t wrap my mind around the possibilities, but God can!  And just maybe YOU could be a small part of His BIG story this Christmas season!

sammy coteSunny Coté is a wife and mama of 4 children, ages 7, 6, 4 & 2, who keep her on her toes! She has worked in children’s ministry for the past 7 ½ years and served most recently as the Director of Training & Development at a large mega church in the Washington D.C. area. Sunny is passionate about equipping families to live out an everyday faith and enjoys speaking on various topics related to parenting and children’s ministry.

Note from Amanda: Are you so inspired by this?! You know, it’s not too late to get this together. You could even set up a swap for Days 5-24 and have a party the first of December! And if you don’t have 24 mamas who want to participate, you could just have 12 and everyone could prepare two crafts. If you have a question or a great idea about hosting a Truth in the Tinsel swap, please leave a comment below so we can all talk about it!

2014 Update: See the details (Part 1 and Part 2) of MY Atlanta Swap Party!
2015 Update: See our awesome party + the cutest Advent Calendar craft ever!