Monday, November 30, 2015

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for Moms

This one's for the dads out there.  Or the grown kids.  Or the dear friend.  Or maybe the mother who's buying a Christmas gift for her grown daughter.  Whatever the case, this one's for all of you who have a mom on your Christmas list this year.  You know the one... that mom who's always looking out for every one else, but doesn't realize how much she really does.... that mom who's always willing to pick up car pool if you wake up with the sniffles... or that mom who's often organizing fundraisers for the school... 

So if you have a mom like that on your Christmas list and you'd like to purchase her a little something this year, how are my Top 10 Christmas Gifts for Moms:

1. Fancy Pens and Notepads
  I'm a list girl.  There's constantly 1000 things I need to get done or take notes about.  So it's so much fun to be able to pull out a brightly colored notepad and fill it with fun doodles and ideas.  And if it's pretty, I'm more likely to look at it again and cross things off.

2. Cute Journal
  Along those lines, a cute journal is a must.  Being able to put my thoughts down in a journal is so therapeutic, and if it involves a cute journal, all the better.  There's nothing like feeling the glide of a pen on paper and these are adorable.  From bright to sophisticated, you're sure to find a  journal to fit any taste.

3. Fun Scarfs
  No, not the chunky, heavy ones.  A cute one.  A fun one.  One that makes her look good in yoga pants and a white t-shirt.  That one!

And what about a scarf organizer to keep track of them all?

4. Lace Tops
  I didn't think I was a lace top gal, but then I saw these on Jane a few days ago, and absolutely fell in love.  The black and white especially.  They would be so easy to dress up or down and still feel like you're ready for the day.  Pretty, pretty!

5. A Good Book
  Not that mom has a lot of time to read, but ... you know.  :-)  And since Creative2xmom posts a link up every month, there are so many good books out there to check out.  Whether she's raising littles, teens, or enjoying a good fiction novel, any mom would appreciate something good to read.

Alex and Ani

Lisa Leonard

6. Jewelry
  Personalized jewelry is so special... especially to a mom's heart.  And these are two of my favorite personalized jewelry companies.  Alex and Ani has beautiful bracelets to show off all your favorites and Lisa Leonard has necklaces, bracelets, and rings to personalize with children's names and birthdates.

7. Essential Oil Diffuser
  I love my essential oils and having a diffuser in the house is a great way to uplight spirits, maintain focus, and ward off germs... for the whole family.  There are a wide variety out there of colors and styles to fit any taste.  Pair with some OnGuard or Holiday Joy oils for an extra special gift.

Willow Tree Nativity Set

Jim Shore Heartwood Creek Angel
w/ Nativity Scene

8. Beautiful Nativity Sets
  Somewhere along the lines, I started looking at Nativity Sets and there are some really beautiful ones out there.  From a simple nativity ornament to elaborate sets, there are so many choices.  I've even found glass sets at the Dollar Tree.  These are just a few of my favorites.

9. FitBit
  For the active mom on your list, check out the Fit Bit.  She can track her sleep patterns, works, calories burned, and updates wirelessly to a computer.  This is a great idea for a mom on the run.  Or for a lesser budget, a workout tank, light weights or bike accessory.

10. Classic Christmas Movies
  After a long day of baking, decorating, and shopping, a classic movie with a cup of cocoa is just what any mom needs.  You can't go wrong with White Christmas, but if that's not your cup of tea, what about Christmas in Connecticut, Holiday Inn, or Miracle on 24th Street?

What Mom gifts are topping your list this year?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Prayers for a blessed holiday of
reflecting on all we have to be thankful for.

Monday, November 23, 2015

2015 Christmas Advent List

Jan 2, 2015 photo IMG_4475_zps6567c3ac.jpg 

It's that time of year again... Advent!  And keeping in with tradition, I'm planning an Advent Calendar filled with things to do in making memories as a family.  Each year we try to focus on memory making.  Some days have more than one activity listed.  That's because I just couldn't decide which one I'd rather do.  I'm still playing with the order a little bit as we finalize our traveling plans, but this is what our Advent calendar looks like so far.

Dec 1st--Set up the Little People Nativity set
Dec 2nd--Make cider/cocoa to have with dinner
Dec 3rd--Attend Christmas performance
Dec 4th--Go to Christmas Tree lighting
Dec 5th--Christmas parade
Dec 6th--Go look at Christmas lights
Dec 7th--Make popsicle mangers
Dec 8th--Make peppermint puppy chow
Dec 9th--Do some Candy Cane experiments
Dec 10th--Make salt dough fingerprint ornament
Dec 11th--Watch a Christmas movie/ Elf
Dec 12th--Make PB cookies
Dec 13th--Celebrate Lydia's birthday
Dec 14th--Make Christmas play dough
Dec 15th--Play Christmas pictionary
Dec 16th--Do a secret act of service/wear Christmas socks
Dec 17th--Make PB Christmas trees
Dec 18th--Watch a Christmas movie/Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Dec 19th--Attend Lydia's dance performance
Dec 20th--Bake Ukrainian lace cookies
Dec 21th--Lydia's birthday/ dance to holiday music
Dec 22th--Shop for exchange gifts/make chocolate dipped spoons
Dec 23th--Carol the neighbor's/watch Frosty the snowman
Dec 24th--Play board games
Dec 25th--Monkey Bread Breakfast

In addition to our Advent Calendar, I'm planning on doing a Book Advent as well.  I've been reserving books from the library and searching through our bookshelves so I'm excited to get started.

How are you celebrating the season?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Weekend Links

This Week:

What I Made: I'm finally putting a little time into the kids' school scrapbooks and we made nutter butter turkeys as a fun treat yesterday.

What I'm Reading: I finished the Ties that Bind by Cindy Woodsmall and started the December Bookmarks book.  It's thicker than I thought.  Oops!

What I'm Doing: Working out... hanging up Christmas lights... going to the children's museum... putting some time into my tumbling lesson plans...

What I'm Watching:  We going to spend part of this break catching up on The Amazing Race and I want to catch up on Once Upon a Time.

What I'm Enjoying: laugh at my kids' creativity... fall recipes... warm soup from the crockpot... OnGuard from DoTerra...

What are you up to?

Friday, November 20, 2015

2015 November Bookmarks

2015 Bookmarks Title photo IMG_4519_zps6c71285c.jpg

*Bookmarks is an online book club hosted at Creative2xmom. Here we discuss the books we've read in the past month as well as the suggested reading. Our suggested reading for November was Without a Word by Jill Kelly.

 These are the books I read this month:

Ties That Bind by Cindy Woodsman--See my review here.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo-- My oldest (5th grade) was assigned this book for part of his Language Arts class so I read along with him to help out with assignments.  The only other book of DiCamillo's I've ever read was The Tale of Despereaux and I wasn't a fan.  But this... this was cute, insightful, and had a great lesson.  This one I loved.  Great book for learning literature analysis and a good read aloud for this age.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C. O'Brien--  This was our read aloud for the month and the kids were intensely invested.  Great book for reading and discussing treatment of others.  Plus the adults loved it too.

Our suggested reading for November was Without a Word by Jill Kelly-- I don't know why, but I expected this to be a lighter read.  Instead it weighed on this Mama's heart.  Without a Word chronicles the life of Jill and Jim Kelly's only son affected by a rare genetic disorder.  Beating all odds, Hunter Kelly lives to the age of eight years old and affects those around him with his thirst for life.  Choppy, transparent, heart felt... it's an inside look into a mother's heart as she lets go of her child.

So what are your bookmarks this month?

Tell us in the comments about the books you're chewing on. Or link up a review from your own blog. Let's share the books we're finding, good and bad. And give us your thoughts on Without a Word by Jill Kelly.

And come back Dec 18th as we discuss The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks.

*Linked to these Parties

Thursday, November 19, 2015

2015 November Scrapbooking Retreat

Ties That Bind {Review}

In Ties That Bind, Arianna is a young Amish woman struggling to find the down payment for her first business.  By purchasing the cafe, she can make a livelihood for herself and her family, enjoying what she does.  Helping her is her twin brother, Abram, who is also wondering about his future as the girl he's been pursuing suddenly seems to shut him down.  Things start to unravel when an old beau, Quill, returns to town.  Known for helping the Amish leave the Old Order, Quill's presence sets Arianna to wondering who in her family could be leaving.  But the mystery goes deeper than that as her parents begin to suspect she was switched at birth.  Will she convince her family to continue in the Amish tradition?  Or will it be Arianna who will find herself living among the English?

Cindy Woodsmall starts a new trilogy, The Amish of Summer Grove, with this book.  Being book #1, it's a great set up of characters.  Woodsmall's strength really is in character development and that shines in this book.  Though over 300 pages, Ties that Bind sets up a thorough cast of characters without feeling slow or belabored.  There is quite a few to keep track of with Arianna coming from a large family, courting, and being involved in an Amish community, but each character feels important, thought out, and identifiable.  

As the story began to emerge, I wondered how just the first book could be so long without being redundant.  However, once reading, I found that I still longed for more at the end of the book.  I look forward to reading more in this series and discovering how Woodsmall will carry out this unique storyline.  Definitely worth the read!

*Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book for review.  All opinions are my own.    

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kid's Thanksgiving Card

When I was scrapbooking earlier this month, I spent some time putting together holiday cards for my nieces and nephews.  I wanted to send them a little something to let them know that Auntie was thinking of them.  And what better way than sending a cute turkey in the mail!

  Thanksgiving Card 2015 photo IMG_8207_zpse2cpjhh8.jpg

For the base of my card, I used some pre-made invitations from Jo-ann's, but you can use whatever you'd like.  I just cut a couple of circles and some flowers for his feathers.  A scalloped circle would be cute as well.  Just a fun little surprise to pop in the mail and brighten someone's day.

How are you being creative lately?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Including the Kids in Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to focus on family, friends, and blessing.  It's the quiet holiday just before Christmas.  No presents, no huge holiday displays... just a thankful heart to give and receive.  And dare I say, it's one of the most important holidays on the calendar.

But for a kid, Thanksgiving can be quite lack luster.  No wrapping paper to throw off, no holiday music, cold weather and football.  How can we better include them in this important celebration?

Here are just a few ideas:

1. Create a Thankful tree-- Find a pretty vase and have the kids gather some sticks and rocks and start the tree.  Then add tags or colorful construction paper leaves.  Have the kids write down something they're thankful for, then interview others and include theirs as well.  See how many things you can find the be thankful for.

2. Have them set the table-- Thanksgiving is filled with pretty plates, cloth napkins, and shiny silverware.  It fun to set the table all fancy with vases and runners.  And it's a great time to learn about proper place settings and etiquette.  You might be surprised which of your kids gets the decorating bug.

3. Include them in creating a snack platter-- Appetizer and snack platters are fun to create with little hands.  Have them slice olives and fruit, arrange pickles, create a vegetable turkey, or mix up the dip.

4. Or a special desert-- We're making pretzel turkeys this year, but why not decorate cupcakes to go with the pie?  Or stir up a fruit dip?  My kids love helping run the mixer or learn to make homemade whipped cream.  Kids love being in the kitchen and since most deserts can be made ahead of time, including them in making desert avoids a time crunch.

5. Read a Thanksgiving book together-- Snuggling up with a good book together is always a great way to spend an afternoon.  Some of our favorites include: The Bernstein Bears Give Thanks, Turkey Surprise, The Thanksgiving Story, The Very First Thanksgiving Day, and This First Thanksgiving Day.  

6. Or watch a special Thanksgiving video-- We love watching Walton's movies on Thanksgiving.  Or why not pop in old family movies and walk down memory lane.  Or create your own family movie on Thanksgiving.  Interview other members of the family.  What are they thankful for?  What do they remember about Thanksgivings past?

7. Create Thanksgiving crafts-- Create a fingerprint fall tree with the kid's fingerprints.  Make a paper bag thankful book with a turkey on the cover.  Play Thanksgiving Bingo.  There are so many turkey crafts out there.  Go browse through Pinterest.  :-)

How are you including your kids in Thanksgiving this year?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Weekend Links

This Week:

What I Made: I did quite a bit of scrapbooking carrying over from last weekend.  I've also been working on some Thanksgiving cards for my nieces and nephews.

What I'm Reading: After November's book selection, I needed some light reading.  So an Amish fiction of course. Very good and surprising turn with adoption in the theme. 

What I'm Doing: Working out... clothing exchange... getting the boys' hair cut... adding some stuff to the gecko tank...

What I'm Watching:  Last Man Standing (glad to see it on Netflix), Survivor, Amazing Race, and Once Upon a Time

What I'm Enjoying: Watching Lydia dance... teaching gymnastics... 

What are you up to?

Monday, November 9, 2015

10+ Free (or Nearly Free) Workshops For kIds

As a mom of three active kiddos, I'm constantly looking for opportunities for my kids to learn something new and have a great time doing it.  And if it's free, that's a huge bonus to my budget!

With so many classes being offered this list could keep us busy every weekend.  And with such a variety of options, there's absolutely something for any mood we're in.

Crafts and Building Workshops

1. Lowe's Build and Grow Program-- offered several times a month, Lowe's workshops happen on Saturday mornings starting at 10 am.  Children will have the opportunity to build projects like birdhouses, games, and pullback cars.  Workshops are free including kit, apron, and goggles and are available for kids starting at age 5.  Registration is required in advance through Lowe's website.

2. Home Depot Building Classes-- offered the first Saturday of the month starting at 9 am, projects may include picture frame, planter, car, etc.  Classes are free and included apron and achievement pin. Registration is required in advance through Home Depot's website for children starting at age 5.

3. Lakeshore Learning Center Classes-- offered every Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm, class projects include seasonal crafts, wreaths, masks, cards, etc.  Registration is not required.  Simply arrive at your local store during the designated time to participate.  Visit the Lakeshore Learning events page for upcoming classes and the nearest location.

4. LEGO Monthly Mini Builds-- offered once a month, children will receive a free model kit to build and take home.  Registration is required and each store is limited to around 120 participants.  Spaces fill quickly.  Past projects have included lighthouses, lawn mowers, and animals.  Children ages 6-14 are invited to attend and households are limited to four builders.  See LEGO mini build registration for further details.

Technology Workshops

5. Apple Multi-Day Workshops-- Apple offers multi-day summer camp workshops focusing on using technical creation tools.  These three day workshops are open to kids ages 8-14 years and fill up quickly.  For more information and to sign up, go to

6. Microsoft Multi-Day Workshops-- Microsoft also offers multi-day camp workshops in the summer with additional themes.  Topics may include coding, game design, movie making, video and photo editing, etc.  Workshops are designed for ages 8-14 years and usually run for a couple of hours for 3-4 days.  For more information and to sign up, see your local Microsoft store.

7. Maker Camp-- offered online through Google+ or on-site at select libraries, kids ages 13-18 will explore how to break down items, investigate them, and re-build.  Younger kids may participate through their parent's Google+ accounts.  Projects run throughout the summer, but 2015 saw the introduction of a fall camp as well.  Topics include design, technology, science, etc.  See for more details.

Outdoor Workshops

8. National Parks Service Junior Rangers--offered for kids ages 5-13, the Junior Rangers program requires participants to complete projects in the parks to receive a park patch and certificate of completion.  Activities can include animal tracking, preserving park resources, gold panning, and plant identification.  Most national parks have a Junior Rangers program.  To find one near you, check out the National Parks Service page.

9. Bass Pro--These "summer camp" style workshops include archery, fishing, bird watching, kayaking, etc.  Kids can earn a free lanyard and pin for each 20 min workshop they complete.  Workshops typically run Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  See Bass Pro website for details.

Misc In-Store Events

10. Pottery Barn Kid's Events-- offered several times throughout the month, events include character appearances, crafts, tea parties, and a weekly story time. These free events are appropriate for a variety of ages and most do not require advance registration.  Although check the Pottery Barn Events page for details.  Story times run Tuesdays at 11:30 am.

11. Toys R Us Special Events-- offered throughout the month, Toys R Us Events may include promotional items to try out, giveaways, parades throughout the store, or free activities.  Check out the Toys R Us Events page for upcoming activities.  Registration is not required and events are open to children of all ages.

13. Disney Store Events-- open to children of all ages, but appropriate for preschool and early elementary, events may include costume parades, story times, or promotional items.  Events occur from Friday-Sunday throughout the day.  Pre-registration is not required.  Check Disney Store Events page for details including date, time, and minimum age.

14. Barnes and Noble Story Times-- offered every Saturday at 11 am, story times include readings by local authors and volunteers as well as activities and coloring.

Nearly Free Workshops

15. Michael's The Knack Craft classes-- Michael's offers a variety of kid's classes on Saturdays throughout the year for a small fee.  Some classes simply require the purchase of a kit while others have a small fee covering minimal supplies.  Class projects are small in range from holiday decorations to jewelry to food decorations.  For more information, check out Michael's events page.

Also be sure to check out your local library or Parks and Recreation Department for free or low cost events in your area.
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