Reading List Summary - December

Family List
Diary of a Worm (Doreen Cronin)

The King's Christmas List (Eldon Johnson)
Snowmen at Christmas (Caralyn Buehner)
The Story of Christmas (Patricia A. Pingry)

Who is Coming to Our House? (Joseph Slate)
Arthur's Christmas (Marc Brown)
Santa Duck (David Milgrim)
Santa's New Suit (Laura Radar)
Russell's Christmas Magic (Rob Scotton)
Sugar Cookies (Amy Krouse Rosenthal)
Christmas Cookies (Amy Krouse Rosenthal)
Lola at the Library (Anna McQuinn)

Auntie Claus (Elise Primavera)
The Sandwich Swap (Queen Rania Al Abdullah)
Lots of Spots (Lois Ehlert)
A Balloon for Isabel (Deborah Underwood)
My Mommy Hung the Moon (Jamie Lee Curtis)
I'd Be Your Princess (Kathryn O'Brien)

Jack's List
The Adventures of Laura & Jack (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
Horrible Harry Goes to Sea (Suzy Kline)
Ready, Freddy! The One Hundredth Day of School! (Abby Klein)
Star Wars: What is a Wookie? (Laura Buller)
Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise (Suzy Kline)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)

Paper Bag Books for EJ

Jack's Christmas gift for his little sister began with our famous paper bag books (you can read about our previous books here and here). He choose to theme three books...Colors, Animals and Shapes.

After searching through many (actually many, many, many) magazines, he did awesome collage work for the Shape book...

and also for the Color book.

But he went the extra mile and drew all the illustrations for the Animals book. And to be honest, this was his best (and quickest to finish) book of the three.

My favorite part of each book was the note he put on the back cover!

His sister was thrilled to receive them (she read them about 5 times in row after she opened her present) and Jack was so proud to give her something he made himself. It was the perfect sibling gift...low in cost and big in love!

Calendars from the Kids

The kids collaborated and made calendars for some special people in their life. It was super easy to do as the Shutter Sisters have an easy to use template for you to download right here. It is all set up for you to upload photos into each month and print from your computer (so cool right?), but I was even lazier and just printed out the months for the kids to illustrate each month. They fit perfectly into a clear cd case so they can be displayed on a desk all year. In fact, I think I need to get my kids to make one for my desk too!

Christmas Weekend in Photos

A fun Christmas Eve craft

Before and after looks for Olivia

All dressed up at Grandma's house

Hugging her new cat book


The kids got an allowance to buy me gifts (I don't think they did too badly actually)

In honor of his Movember efforts (corkscrew/bottle opener)

Movie star

What they wore ALL Christmas Day

"Best Family Forever" (I agree)

Magic Reindeer Food & More Christmas Eve Fun

This is Big Santa (or so my kids have named him). He lives up the street from us and we drive past him several times a day, so he has become a big part of our Christmas anticipation each year.

This year our Christmas Eve celebration will be even more fun as Matt is off work for the whole day! We plan to bake our birthday cake for Jesus (a Christmas Day tradition) and this year we're going all out with a rainbow cake!

{photo courtesy of Southern Living}

We're also planning to try something new. I've seen the recipe for Magic Reindeer Food all over the blogworld as a neighbor gift, but the kids & I decided it would be the perfect thing to put outside for the we put cookies inside for Santa.

To make it yourself, mix together the following ingredients in a Ziploc bag and shake well.
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup white sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup red & green decorating sugar

And of course we'll be tracking Santa again this year too! It was one of Jack's favorite things last year and I am thinking EJ will get in on the fun this year too.

{photo courtesy of Norad}

And after all that fun at home (along with a lot of last-minute wrapping I'm sure), we head to Grandma's house for the real celebrating to begin!

Avalanche Bars

This nut finished his semester on Monday night (yay Matt!), so last night we took him out to dinner and then came home for a special dessert created by me and Jack. Let me just tell you...these are certainly sugary/yummy (especially when you feed them to your kids 10 minutes before bedtime), but these will now be my preferred rice krispie treat! Super easy to make and (I think) even yummier than the original.

Avalanche Bars (recipe via a blog I can't find anymore)
2 packages Baker's white chocolate (12 oz total)
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 cups rice krispies
1/2 cup M&Ms
3 cups mini marshmallows

-Microwave white chocolate & peanut butter in large bowl on high 2 minutes or until chocolate is melted and well-blended. Stir in cereal; cool 5 minutes.

-Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Press into 9x13" pan lined with wax paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Handmade Gifts Are the Best!

{etch-a-sketch gadget case by tracie}

As I sit here in the thick of attempting to finish the handmade, crafty gifts I planned for so many on my list this year, I find I question whether it's even worth it. I mean are handmade gifts really appreciated any more than a store-bought gift or even a gift card?

{DREAM embellished notebook by tracie & altered book journal by leslie}

But then I looked around my house and realized that the things that I love (usually either use like crazy or display for all to see) are the gifts that were made just for me by the hands (and hearts) of some of my favorite people in the world!

{"i love you blogs & diet coke" print by nellie & flip flop initial hoop by emily - ps that awesome paper doll calendar is also designed by emily and is available right here!}

And yes, that means it's back to work for me!

More Holiday Fun!

This weekend we had a lot of Christmas fun (and tried to let Daddy study for finals as much as possible too)!

We visited Santa (as you can see, Olivia was not a fan)!

We made a paper chain to decorate the living room (each kid made a chain of their choosing and then we connected them together to form a super chain).

EJ and I made red velvet sandwich cookies. They were easy and they are yummy, but WOW are they filling! I had one for dinner and was seriously stuffed!!!

And we capped off the weekend at a kids Christmas program our friends performed in...the ride home was a recap of the show as my kids could not stop singing the songs and telling their favorite joke ("I like pie!" - show stopper I tell you). Awesome experience for all of us!

Snow Sundae Kit

Our friends are huge believers (partakers?) in the snow sundae. It's their tradition to enjoy a fresh snowfall with a sweet treat. And while I know they already have all the fixins' for a great sundae, I thought it would be a fun family gift to put together a small kit with everything they might need to make their tradition even more special.

Bowls, sprinkles & decorations, silly straws and (of course) sweet syrups are the bulk of the gift, but we also included fuzzy gloves, a scoop & a big bowl. Collecting the snow should be just as fun as eating it right? I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually wishing for snow so they can use our gift!

Are you stumped for a gift idea? Be creative and remember that sometimes simple gifts are the best! Think about the things your recipient likes to do with their family and go from there. Or start a new tradition for them...there are so many great ideas out there that I know you'll find the perfect gift for the families and neighbors on your list. Here is a sampling of some "wow" ideas I found to get you started!

How to Make Hot Cocoa Kit

{image courtesy of marta writes}

Make it a Snowman Kit

{image courtesy of Make It Do}

Snowball Fight Survival Kit

{image courtesy of Katherine Marie Photography}

Louisiana Winter Survival Kit

{image courtesy of southern daze}

Penguin Polka

We're catching the live show (Jack's Holiday Sing) this morning, but seeing as the event is SRO, I decided to get a quick video of rehearsal the other night. Enjoy (I especially love the sister trying to share the spotlight)!

New Year, New Calendar

Remember this calendar? Well, this year I "regifted" and gave it again with a new design...

I went with a less intense, but no less inspirational, pattern this time around (concept & stitching by me, drawing/design by Jack, machine-stitch finishing magic by Leslie, mini calendar by September House).

Handmade gifts are the best I think. A gift that includes a piece of your heart...

Winter Party Favors

I've got a great Winter party favor for you...simple, unique and yummy! Start with these awesome (and cute) cocoa melts on a stick from City Girl Chocolates and add a vintage cup. Cute right?

You can find affordable cups & mugs a lot of places...vintage stores, etsy or Goodwill. I tried to choose simple patterns (cute of course) and I think that the mix of styles helped to make the favors more personal. Each person was able to choose the style that fit them best or reminded them of someone special in their life.

Best of all, I found the perfect cup for myself too!

A Little More Holiday Fun

This past week we did a couple of our annual holiday traditions (if you want to see tinier kiddos, check out the post from last year too). To start things off, we mailed our letters to Santa at Macy's (benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation) and all three kids came with me this year.

EJ went first (she mailed her own & Olivia's)...

And then she became obsessed with trying to get to the other letters while Jack mailed his!

Then this past Saturday, Jack & I spent two hours in really cold, rainy weather (we were very thankful to be under an awning) ringing bells for The Salvation Army. It was a tough gig (I fully admit that I think we are going indoor again next year) but we had a lot of fun hanging out and meeting kind & very generous people. We also had a talk about homelessness and what that means in general and in bad weather. It was nice to have such a concrete experience (even just two hours) to help Jack imagine how hard it must be to be homeless.

We even got a visit from some special girls & Daddy halfway through our gig! Unfortunately it was too cold for them to stay very long, but we really loved seeing them!

On Sunday morning, we were watching the news (checking out the Winter storm info) and saw a story about the local Salvation Army shelter creating additional space for people to spend the night in their hallways. Jack was thrilled that they were able to accommodate more people and hoped that we had raised enough money to help during the storm! Too sweet!

If you're interested in bell ringing, please click here to sign up.

We capped off the weekend with a Christmas movie night, but started off our Sunday with a sweet treat! Matt made snowman pancakes the other week and they were a huge hit! I had seen these snowman doughnuts and thought they might be loved too. Matt and I worked together to improvise on the decorations. We were out of pretzels so used toothpicks for arms, the hats were a little odd (but fine) and the noses were more complicated to make than expected (no candy corn & m&ms/skittles were too big, so we went with a microwaved & molded Starburst). But oh my kids loved them!

I can't wait to see what holiday magic this week brings!

Animal Themed Gift

Olivia's gift is not as elaborate as the others, but I can assure you it will be well-received. When Jack turned one, we gave him a monkey chair from Pottery Barn Kids. He didn't love it as much as we had hoped and so we never really got them for the girls. Well lately, that chair has been in high demand! There is pushing, shoving and (sometimes) sharing...but usually there is a fight for that one chair!

I looked to see what critters might be available now (6 years later) and found only these. I thought they looked too babyish (for the kids and my living room!), so thought we were out of luck. One day I decided to check craigslist and I hit gold! The chairs aren't perfect (good used condition), but they are perfect for us.

{And the best part is we got these for a steal!}

The chairs went perfectly with our book idea for Olivia too! The girl LOVES animals and we needed to supplement her collection (the life span of a loved board book is apparently about 6 years also), so I went to work shopping for some fun titles for her.

{The Sweet Smell of Christmas, That's Not My Penguin..., The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Poky Little Puppy set, Peek-a-WHO?, The Very Hungry Caterpillar soft book}

Did you notice that there are two caterpillar books above? Most loved book in this house (maybe having something to do with Matt's love of this book?)...I think those are probably our 5th and 6th copies (and we gift it to new babies all the time too)! I tried to order some more of Matt's suggestions (his favorites as a kid) but they were all out-of-print. So in the end, I just went for well-reviewed, sing-songy, fun-looking ones.

I'm excited to read The Sweet Smell of Christmas again. I know I had it as a kid and I know my kids have never seen a scratch-and-sniff book before, so it will be fun to check it out together!