Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Tradition #2: 24 Days of Christmas Books

When my oldest kids were little, we started a new tradition.  Before December begins, Mommy and Daddy wrap 24 Christmas Books.  Every night of December, we allow one kid to open a package and either a parent or an older child reads the story to the family as we all sit around the Christmas tree, before bed.  

It's such a sweet tradition... we may still do this when the kids are older.  Every year I try to buy a new "surprise" book.  But most are books that the kids have heard already.  And as time goes along, I start weeding out the books that no longer appeal to the kids.  For example, the Wiggles Christmas went on Freecycle this year.  Ha ha!

I try to keep the books partly Christian and partly secular (Santa, reindeer, etc.)  That's our choice.  Then on December 24th or the morning of Christmas, we'll often read the story of Christ's birth in the Bible.

With four kids, how do we pick WHO gets to open the book (and pull out the goodies from the Advent Calendar)?  Same way we choose who gets to say the prayer at dinner each night.  

We have "person of the day"... our oldest gets days 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29.  Second oldest gets days 2, 6, etc.  And so on and so on.

Sorta reminds me of my preschool class and the  Special Buddy of the day... only we don't do Show-And-Tell at home.

Christmas Tradition #1: Mitten Advent Calendar

Prepping for the Christmas decorating starts weeks ahead of time.  Why?  
We need to be ready for the Advent Calendar.

This is our Advent Calendar:

At our last house, we had a free wall that I could string these across.
 At this house, our wall space is very limited... and all taken.  So, we went with this approach... two sections.  It needs to be high enough that the kids can reach... and hopefully not easy enough for the dog to eat.  Still waiting to see how many I lose this year with "crazy dog" in the house now.

I bought these mittens from a lady on eBay about 7 years ago.  They are all hand knitted by her.  She offered them at a little over $2 per pair!  I spent $40 on all 24 mittens.  I think I wiped out her store that day.  See the picture at the top?  Notice three red mittens in a row and one striped?  That came from me not planning well.  A few of this lady's auctions listed "3 mittens" in case your child lost one.  I figured that was an easier, cheaper way to shop... but wasn't thinking that I'd want to hang them in pairs. Duh.  Oh well.  Live and learn.  I've since seeing lots of mittens in the dollar section of Target.

I found little metal stars that I wired onto each mitten to represent the days in December.  I attach the mittens to twine with small (craft-section) clothespins, but larger ones would've been fine.

The fun, but never-ending, part is finding goodies to go inside.  Currently they are not all full... still need to find some clever goodies.  

In the past, I've used:
Certificates for a "surprise package" that I pull out for them to open (DVDs, CDs, etc.)
Candy Canes
Christmas Pencils
Christmas Erasers
Chocolate Coins
Mini Chocolate Bars
Cards (as in Pokemon, Webkins, trend-of-the-week)
 Mini craft kits
Oriental Trading toys

Any other ideas out there?  Still have a few to fill.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving with the Whole Family!

It's been forever since I've blogged ...again... I blog in spurts, but I love it so don't forget me.

For the last week or so, I was in Thanksgiving mode.  Cleaning the house, buying the food, prepping the food, entertaining, etc.  We had a great dinner at our home, hosting my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, Mike's parents, and Mike's aunt and uncle...14 in all.  Even with all of our siblings (uh, one), this is the entirety of our family.  Small family... that's okay, Mike and I had four kids to help it grow!  Love big families... maybe in another 20 years, we'll have a really BIG Thanksgiving dinner that needs all three of our folding tables? :)  My daughter declared at the table at Thanksgiving that she wants five kids... so she's helping my dream.  (Of course, she's six... I hope she means in another 20 years.)

Thanksgiving was great... loving the new home and new kitchen.  Dinner preparation went so smoothly.  The most stressful part was just getting the food to the table... all hot.  Do you find that too?  But we made it.  I tried a new mashed-sweet-potato casserole with pecans and coconut... yum!  It's like dessert.

Before Thanksgiving, we had another little incident....
Yep!  I hope she's learned her lesson.  No more jumping from eight stairs up.  Even IF there was a beanbag chair at the bottom to "break" your fall.  At least it's a very minor fracture, and the boot (not pictured) will be off in just 2.5 weeks.  (9 more days to go!)

Ha!  Just now realized she posed next to poor Lucy in her crate.  I think we were heading out the door to go to the Ortho doctor when I took this.  This splint was the ER's temporary fix.  Now she's wearing a knee-high boot, so she can walk.  Whew... she may be skinny, but it's a heavy, bony skinny.  Let's just say that two days of carrying her around resulted in a chiropractor's appointment.

The day after Thanksgiving, I did what everyone does... went to see Breaking Dawn.  Okay, maybe not everyone.  Actually I was probably the last one to see it... missed that midnight showing a few weeks back.  LOL

We tried shopping at midnight on Friday morning.  What a bust!  Walked in... saw the line already wrapped around the stores... and walked out.  My sister and I were home at 1:25 and in bed... with no purchases.  Husbands were happy.

The next day, Saturday, began Christmas at our house.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Thanksgiving Tree

I've seen this idea around on blogland and thought I'd try my hand at it.  Here are some I saw online.

If you go to Pinterest and type in "blessing tree", you'll find loads of ideas.  Here's my take:

First I cut out leaves onto off-white card stock.  Then I glued those onto colored scrapbook paper.  Then I cut out these leaves a little larger by hand.  I end up with this.  (The vellum leaves are for fun.)

I had found a few sticks in my yard (this was easy considering we just had about 12 trees removed and there's lots of little debris.)  Instead of leaving them "as is", I spray painted them with Oil Rubbed Bronze to give an autumn-sparkly flair.

I used the Distress Ink to rough up the edges of the leaves a bit and then popped holes into the ends.  I then came up with all things we're thankful for.  I had to stop at 24 though... no more room on the tree!

Each leaf is tied to a branch.

I put the branches into foam in a planter I had sitting around.

Now it sits on our island as a daily reminder of all the things we are blessed with in our lives.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cabinet Re-Do

Months ago I purchased this little cabinet for $25 at a yard sale.  I wasn't positive what I wanted to do with it, so it sat in our garage for many, many months.  

I finally finished it off.  Now it sits in our guest room as the end table.  I needed one a little wider than average due to the layout of the room.  Here it is now, in that room:
Don't you just love the fact that the window is not centered on that room's wall?  Ugh.  So, the table is a little off... still working on ways to make it look like it's supposed to not be centered on that window! 

A closer look at the doors:
I found the knobs at Hobby Lobby and Mod-Podged scrapbook paper onto the door insets.

Now it matches well with my Tag Sale dresser find ($20... AS IS!)

Friday, November 4, 2011


If you remember from my post on Wednesday, I sorted through lots of Halloween candy.  We were left with a pile of lollipops.... all sizes and shapes.  Lollipops, despite their YUMMIness, are rarely popular around here.  So, I thought I'd steal borrow them for a little project.

First I gathered the materials:  
styrofoam ball
brown paint
metal skewer (for poking holes)
red and orange tissue paper

I poked holes with the skewer into the foam ball for the head and tail feathers (aka lollipops).
This gave me a bit of a guideline as to where to put the lollipops once the ball was painted.

Do you see the turkey resemblance?  Long gangly neck? 

Then I painted the styrofoam ball.  It dried quickly and took a few coats... but only about 30 minutes till I was done.

I covered the "head" with orange tissue paper, squeezed it around the neck with a rubber band and rolled up some red tissue for the waddle.  And there she sits... ready for the holidays.  

If you didn't like all the colors of the lollipops, you could do the same tissue-wrapping thing on all of the feathers.  I didn't have a ton of time, so I stuck with the real colors.

Okay... maybe the kids would've done a better job... but at least I used up my lollipops!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Towel-tally Different Storage Idea

We built our house last year.  Well, that's not true.  We paid for a house to be built... one of three possible models in this neighborhood from one builder.  

I loved the process, but the biggest annoyance is learning AFTER the fact little things we should've noticed ahead of time. 

For example, our bathroom.

It's a very nice size.  A walk-in tiled shower, two sinks, a toilet "stall", and a nice soaking tub.  But NO linen closet.  There are a few shelves in my closet, but nothing convenient to the bathroom itself.  

So, other than the couple of cabinets under the sink and a small medicine cabinet, we have no storage.  OH!  And no towel rack near the shower!  

We fixed the towel rack thing by installing one double-hook next to the door... that was the only place it could go.

Now... where to store all those extra towels?

They could've gone under the sinks, but that is our cleaning/beauty supply storage.  Could've gone under the vanity-area, but that's where we put the hampers.  

So, they've been sitting in a too-small basket ON the tub (and not comfortably fitting, either... it tipped a lot).  

Finally it dawned on me that we had a blank wall... so we did this:
Towels go under the bench seat, washcloths go into the basket on the shelf.  The top basket is just to look pretty.  :)

AND, now I have a seat in their for when the kids are insistent on talking to Mommy as she brushes her teeth.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Holy Halloween Candy, Batman!

So, my kids... two Captains, a princess and a "mom"... went out trick-or-treating on Monday.  Sheesh!  Because of these characters:

we ended up with this:
No lie... maybe 500-600 pieces?  Ugh.

I'm no dummy.  I know who's home the majority of the day, and who is not.  I know who is going to eat the majority of this candy every single time she walks past the pile... and who will make a special effort to walk to that pile even if she's in the middle of a major project, so I needed a plan.  

I've done this part in year's past.  I had each kid choose 30 pieces of candy... to last one-per-day through November until the Advent Calendar begins.  We did it in rounds, to make sure everyone had a fair chance of getting what they wanted.
I spread the candy all out so everyone can see, give each child a big plastic container with their names on them, and start yelling out the round number.  "ONE"... and each kid puts one piece in their container.  We continue through thirty.
No one can complain about who gets what candy... everyone has an equal opportunity.

 At the end of Round 30, I then scoot everyone away from the table (to avoid last minute grabs) and count their containers.  Yes, I cannot trust all of the kids to only have 30 pieces.  LOL  In fact, the two young'uns had 31.  Ha!  See?
If you notice in the above photo, there's room for more.  Shhhh..... I suppose we could've done more, but by November 30, I'm tired of seeing candy everywhere!

Then each day after Halloween for the month of November, they get one piece of candy.

The problem was that even after gathering up those 120 pieces of candy, we still had this:
Last year, I saved a few chocolate bars and tossed the rest.  I didn't want to do that this year....

NOW what to do?  So, I did what I do when I have burning questions buzzing through my mind... I asked my friends on Facebook!

Some mentioned schools, donating to soldiers, buy-backs from dentists, party favors, pinatas, and more.

Here's what I did.

I had my oldest, who was still hanging around, help me sort the candy.  First we gathered all good chocolate (BRAND name stuff).  Then we bagged it for the freezer.  Isn't just about any candy bar 10x better when frozen?

Then, we started making piles of types of candy:



With the plain milk chocolate bars and the "off brand" chocolates, I bagged them up to put in the pantry.  

Doesn't EVERYONE have a "S'mores Basket" in their pantry?

Then I unbagged all the mini bags of M&Ms and set them in a ziploc for the next time we have guests (Thanksgiving?) for setting out in a candy dish.

I emailed the kids' teachers to see if any were planning on making special projects over the next few holidays.  Sure enough... they are!  One is making ice cream sundaes soon, so she's getting any "sprinkle"-type candies:  Nerds, mini Whoppers, mini gumdrops, etc.  Another teacher is making gingerbread houses in December.  So, he's getting all the other goodies great for decorating houses:  Smarties, Lifesavers, Tootsie Rolls (for lamp-posts) and more.  

So, I was down to just about 10% of the candy.  I found a few other ideas that I'm hoping to do.  I kept some Tootsie Rolls... did you know you can make Tootsie Roll Rice Krispies Treats and Tootsie Roll Fudge?

What did you do with all those goodies?