It’s that time of year again! Shopping Lists, Little Elves, and Lots of Holiday Fun!

Sometimes us moms need a little help keeping it all balanced around the holidays.  With ever ending to-do lists, hard to handle relatives, and busy schedules, it can seem like a real job bringing joy and magic to the season.  I hope my December no-thought meals, What to do with that ELF list, and 2015 gift guide can make your holiday just a little happier!

What to do with that ELF? list.

Nov 29 – it’s back! – ours takes the USPS…some throw a party, some arrive toy airplane, by train, or go all out and make a hot air balloon – tonight you’re on your own.

Nov 30 – spilling DVDs and books all over living room

Dec 1 – making a paper chain

Dec 2 – hanging out of cabinet surrounded by police cars

Dec 3 – drawing minions on the bananas

Dec 4 – over the door swing on tp roll

Dec 5 – repelling at window

Dec 6 – working on the truck

Dec 7 – digging in M&M bag

Dec 8 – in a Lincoln log house

Dec 9 – making paper snowflakes*

Dec 10 – gift bows all over kitchen

Dec 11 – playing cards or board game with stuffed animals*

Dec 12 – riding t-rex

Dec 13 – hiding in the silverware drawer

Dec 14 – roasting marshmallows over a candle

Dec 15 – goldfishing with pole

Dec 16 – sack race

Dec 17 – stuck under a weight while working out

Dec 18 – hiding under a glass (staged to play hide and seek with a toy)

Dec 19 – riding in the remote control car (doll controlling it)

Dec 20 – Little people carriage ride with doll

Dec 21 – checking out a yarn moustache in the mirror

Dec 22 – posing behind an empty picture frame

Dec 23 – crepe paper over door

Dec 24 – praying over Bible/ letter goodbye

Supplies – police cars, gift bows, bananas, paper lunch sacks, goldfish, cards/game (game night supplies), supplies for paper snowflakes, small hand weight, remote control car, paper chain supplies, little people carriage, crepe paper, brown yarn, M&M’s, Bible/goodbye letter, small picture frame, Little People and doll, drinking glass

If you are like me, you know you’re going to fall asleep or forget to move the little guy at least once, so plan ahead with a little Pinterest help…

The Mary of Christmas

The other day I was watching Pentatonix’s rendition of the popular Christmas song, Mary Did You Know?
It is very pretty, but then I starting thinking…Mary did know.

She knew that she was about to have a baby.
She knew that she would be a mother.
She knew her son would do amazing things.
She knew God chose her to be HIS mother.

Being a mom is amazing.
Being a mom at Christmastime is pretty amazing.
Cheers to Mary, a mother who relied on God to help her be the mother she needed to be to her child.
What an awesome leap of faith.

I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May you word to me be fulfilled.” – Luke 1:38 NIV

What to do with the creepy little elf?

Thank you, Carol Aebersold, Chanda Bell, and Christa Pitts. You’re welcome for my money. For those of you who have been under a rock for the last two Christmases*, Elf on the Shelf is a new holiday tradition in which you purchase a creepy little elf doll and story for about $30 and then mom and dad get to figure out creative ways to have him spy on your family for the next month or so. Thank you Pinterest because I am NOT independently gifted in this particular event of the Parenting Olympics. Don’t get me wrong or find me a Grinch, my kids love the hunt of finding our elf each morning.

I did try to make everyone’s holiday (including mine) a bit easier by pre-planning what our little guy will be up to this season. Happy elfing… as if being Santa weren’t enough.

*I know it was “invented” in 2005, but it seemed to really reach mainstream a couple of years ago

November 28
Elf in the Mail — our elf arrives via USPS via the North Pole

November 29
Hanging on the swing (yarn and TP roll….I can handle that!) OR, if my wreaths are up, he may just use one of those

November 30
Disguised as a snowman (styrofoam cups, sharpie marker) OR, if you do powdered donuts for breakfast, he can stack them to make snowmen and hang out by the serving tray

December 1
Snow angel with marshmallows…trust me, way less mess than with flour or sugar

December 2
Solo cup pyramid

December 3
Candy cane zip line

December 4
Spidey Elf

December 5
In the Nativity

December 6
Hiding in the fridge

December 7
Camping in the Lincoln Logs

December 8
Taped to the wall by the superhero action figures

December 9
Playing Connect Four or dominoes with one of the dolls

December 10
Under a dumbbell with Mom’s workout DVD

December 11
Sack race with the dolls/pets

December 12
Playing video games

December 13
Admiring his snowman of Matchbox cars

December 14
Playing checkers with starlight mints

December 15
Hand stuck in the cookie jar

December 16
Locked in the lantern on the mantel

December 17
Writing sentences on chalkboard

December 18
Hanging by magnet on fridge

December 19
Tea party with dolls

December 20
Organizing a Little People parade or teaching the Little People a Christmas lesson

December 21
helping himself to a ride in the remote control car

December 22
In Dad’s chair with pets, blanket & popcorn ready to watch holiday movie

December 23
Posing behind a picture frame

December 24
Bye-BYE!!!! (there are 71,800 good-bye Elf letters if you Google it)

Side Note: We downplay the whole spy aspect of the elf and enjoy that the children get a kick out of searching for the elf each morning.

Need more ideas? Check out my Elf on the Shelf idea board.

Welcome Back December, it’s been awhile

December is here. Our Elf, Snitch, reappeared. Just had to share our delightful welcome brunch. It’s been awhile, and holiday spirit, we missed ya.

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Christmas Scones

They taste like Christmas (brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg – like a snickerdoodle for breakfast). These are based off an Alton Brown recipe reworked by Kitchen Treaty. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so here’s my version. They are more cake like than some rather crumbly ones we’ve tried. I think they were easier for the kids to eat.

Gather:
2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 t ground cinnamon
1/4-1/2 t fresh grated nutmeg
6T straight from fridge unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 c heavy cream
1 egg
2 t vanilla extract
1/4 c milk
2 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. Smell – see, Christmas. Cut in butter.

In a measuring cup, mix cream, egg and vanilla.

Pour wet into dry, alternating until all dry is moistened. Pour onto a flour dusted surface and from a very sticky to semi dry dough. Press into 1 inch think circle, cut into eighths and put on silpat lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly and drizzle with glaze. Kids love stuff with glaze (okay, so do I), but I think next time I might just make some cinnamon sugar and sprinkle over the top when they come out of the oven. If you try it, let me know if you like it.

For Simple Vanilla Glaze: combine 1/4 c whole milk with 2-2 1/2 c powdered sugar, 1 1/2 t vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled scones.

Take Kitchen Treaty’s advice. Make some coffee. In fact, here’s a recipe for ya.

My Mocha
Gather:
2 T homemade chocolate syrup
1 c prepared strong coffee
1/4 c whole milk or half & half

It really is just that simple. I have a Keurig, so I push the button, add some milk, add some syrup, stir and sip. Repeat….more than once and you may have the jittery sugar shakes (just saying).

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Now, I could hear Man’s voice in my head saying that’s not a meal, so I added some thick cut uncured bacon, scrambled eggs with cheese, and fresh fruit. Now it’s so late, we will call it brunch.

The Holidays are Upon Us: cute ideas to get your brood in the mood

The holidays are upon us. Christmas threw up in all my favorite stores, everywhere smells like Bath & Body Works, so let the craziness (I mean festivities) begin! December marks the great Christmas countdown. If you have small children, the holidays can mean extra stress for everyone. Take a few minutes this year and create some yuletide fun with your family – you may just end up with a new tradition.

snowflake

The Advent Calendar

I’ve seen people use mittens, mini stockings, spice containers, a muffin tin, or traditional window calendars. You don’t have to spend a lot time or money, your kids will just remember the tradition and memories created. I liked these websites free printable Bible verses.

http://aphroditeperception.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/free-printable-bible-verse-advent-calendar/

http://www.overthebigmoon.com/christmas-scripture-advent-free-printable/

Feel like I came up short? Check out Fun a Day, Mary Catherine has 25 more!

Quick & Easy Countdowns
This Santa beard is a free printable, all you need is some cotton balls

I found this very cool reusable advent calendar from Makoodle that is pretty much done for you. Just print, cut and modge podge into your reusable tins. Thank you!!

ELF ON THE SHELF

I had never heard of this little guy before last year, but the kids really enjoyed looking for him every morning. Here’s a link for ya if you are like me wondering who is this Elf??

Here are some Elf on a Shelf daily jokes…http://www.overthebigmoon.com/elf-on-the-shelf-printable-joke-cards/

My Elf on the Shelf Pinterest board with lots of great ideas to keep the magic alive.

Other Cute Christmas Ideas

Make the tiny tot in your life a felt tree they can decorate over and over. Here’s an example.

I have a dear friend, J, who has moved quite a bit over the last ten years.  Her and her family collect twelve smaller presents then wrap them, box them together, and ship the box to each other for their version of the 12 days of Christmas.

Plan a Polar Express outing, family game night, or cookie exchange party. Carve a little Mom time and host a Favorite Things party, white elephant swap, or favorite book exchange (you could even extend this through the year by following up as a book club).

Read a different Christmas book each night (make it extra special and wrap them). Here’s a great review of some holiday favorites.  Grab the kiddos some Christmas pajamas, special sheets, or festive dinner plates to enjoy for the month.

Schedule a date night.  See a holiday themed show at the theatre (my favorite is always the ballet – wouldn’t be Christmas without the Nutcracker), spike some cider, grab some blankets and star gaze, make a dinner for two and snuggle by the fire, plan a night out on the town — just make sure you give that special someone some attention.

The Things I Love Most blog has a great Christmas time post.  The girls at Defrump Me have a list of 50 things to do at Christmas. The Workman Family has a Christmas bucket sure to score some smiles.  Shannon at Find Joy in the Journey highlights some unique to-do’s on her Christmas Fun List (see #4 on the advent post).  Need more ideas?  This one is done, just click and print.

Dust off the DVDs or tune into ABC Family, but pop some corn, make a Grinch Drink, assemble a fort or pillow pallet, and grab some holiday movie time.  Here’s a list of 50 kids movies we have used as a reference.

Check in on the reindeer cam or track Santa.  There is even a post-holiday scavenger hunt from Macaroni Kid to help your kids come down from all the hype.

Maybe one of the simplest things to incorporate is the iMom 30 day Holiday Challenge.

I have morphed a combo of all of this stuff into our family repertoire of Christmas fun. I encourage you to do the same; take these ideas and figure out what will suit your family the best.

holidays

S’more Gift Guide 2013

I am not usually with it enough to dispense holiday advice, but here goes nothing. I have put together some gifts that were a hit with those on my list! This ain’t your scented candle, pocket knife & ugly sweater gift guide. I WISH I received kickbacks from these companies…or hey, even test products! (but I don’t & until I get some more followers, I’m not an Amazon associate either). This is just my two cents on holiday shopping. Real gifts that I have given, received, wished for, and loved. Happy hunting!

The Guysguys gifts

The Big Green Egg Ceramic Cooker – It’s like a grill or smoker, only better.

Motorola Wireless Headphones – Man loves these for working out and yard work & they operate off Bluetooth, so he can use them for business calls too!

Pelican Case – If he is adventurous or an outdoorsman at all, he will appreciate this! It can be stowed in a boat, ATV or on a motorcycle to protect his expensive gadgets from the elements.

Adventure Medical Kits – tailored to any type of outdoor disaster and in their own weather resistant case.

Leatherman Multi-Tools – This tool is great for the MacGyver in your life. Man takes one camping, hunting, fishing, and has one in his bunker gear. I’m sure they would be great at other work sites too.

Yeti Cooler – The Yeti is boasts itself as virtually indestructible (tested on grizzly bears) and able to keep ice for days in Texas heat. Those I know who own them, swear by them.

Isotoner Men’s Smartouch Tech Stretch Gloves – They are warm, durable, & he will still be able to use his phone or tablet – functional with luxury feel.

When all else fails…buy him some booze. Man goes for straight bourbon whiskey, but he also gets a kick when I bring him back a six pack of Shiner Cheer from the store. This year he has given Samuel Adam’s White Christmas a run. If you don’t feel comfortable committing to his favorite drink or dropping a chunk of change on the aged scotch he prefers, sipping stones make a thoughtful gift. Master of Malt even offers a whisky advent calendar.

Shearling slippers – He might not ever admit it, but these are wicked comfy…pun intended!

American Sniper by Chis Kyle – Man doesn’t read a lot, so when I say he didn’t put this one down and even said it was a good read, it must be.

Also think about gifting a round of golf at his favorite club (Dallas has Tour 18 which features holes from 18 of the most famous courses in the US), an experience gift (I haven’t tried them but Cloud 9 offers exotic cars, helicopters, and NASCAR driving), or a leather bound journal he can use to keep tabs no matter what his hobby.

The Gals

the gals gifts

Hair Gear – Yogitoes Seaburst hBand for the gym or these crease free hair ties for the rest of the day or a pretty WIIPU headband for night

Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching Light at Every Turn by Melanie Shankle – I read this book on vacation this summer. It made me cry, it made me giggle; an uplifting read for any momma.

Cashmere Wrap – soft, snuggly & warm. You can dress it up or down, so versatile.

Baggu Dipped TotePopsugar featured this bag awhile back and I thought, “How cool is that!”

Pajamas – just my favorite gift. Victoria offers satin, cotton, flannel, or long john, but guys, don’t buy her the slutty Santa number.

Stackable name or initial rings – help them keep their dear ones near with these adorable rings, these, or have one like this from James Avery monogrammed.

Willow Tree figurines – I’m not usually about collectibles, but these are so pretty.

Brighton key fob – a pretty little trinket for such an ordinary thing

Send her an online clothing or goodie bag subscription. I first heard about online styling through Julie at the Table for Two Blog when she reviewed Stitch Fix and then Shana at Ain’t No Mom Jeans wrote about monthly goodie bags from iElla. I thought, “ooooo…so much better than fruit of the month club”.

Something for her adventurous side – Has she been talking about a triathlon? Is she an avid outdoorswoman? Is she a jet setter? SCUBA diver? Super crafter? Think about a goal or hobby she is working on and give her something to help support her endeavors.

the KIDS

the kids

Disclaimer: this is for those of us who know we have kids, love our kids, but don’t know which superhero or princess is their favorite at this moment

Camelbak Kid’s Water Bottle – easy for all ages, dishwasher safe, no leaking, bite straw, BPA free – we use them every day!

Find It – if they like I Spy, they will like this. We’ve taken it out on the boat, on a road trip and when waiting in a restaurant.

The Action Bible – What tween boy wouldn’t like a copy of the Bible in comic version?

SmartMax – these magnetic building blocks would keep a wide range of kids entertained & they are big enough I don’t have to worry about the infant swallowing a random tiny piece

Fisher Price Little People – they have career people, princesses, movie characters, cars, animals. They are small enough for an infant or toddler to easily grasp, but my preschooler still loves to play with them. They are awesome!

Wooly Willy – flashback to 1980something! Great stocking stuffer! Along with any travel size game.

Speaking of the 80’s, my mom recently got the boys car bingo and they love it. At our house, we are big fans of board games, Play-Doh, Water Wow Doodle books, Melissa & Doug toys, and BOOKS! You can never go wrong with a book! Consider buying a set of 12 (one for each holiday/season throughout the year).

So check with the parents first, but isn’t this great!

The Foodies

the foodie

Herbs of Provence – cutest little clay pot, my favorite blend of herbs, less than $20, what’s not to love?

Silpat liner – makes baking nonstick and so much easier, plus it can be used over & over unlike its fussy cousin parchment

Vinturi Red Wine Aerator – It gives a little boost for your favorite red.

Chances are if they are a Foodie, they own a Kitchenaid Mixer. Make their day brighter by giving them this self-scraping paddle.

With foodies, never underestimate the power of the pantry. I love getting spices, vanilla beans, a great olive oil or balsamic vinegar. Want to see them swoon? Splurge for a John Boos cutting board. You really never can go wrong with a great new cookbook (check out Ann Romney’s, Gwyneth’s, Rocco’s, or Junior’s Cheesecakes – all on my wish list!). This Foodie Fight board game looks promising too.

Thank you Target for this one! Modern House Red Wine Grape Expectations – cute, tasty and budget savvy! Oprah agrees – this item made her 2013 Favorite Things.

Want to pamper the cook? Grab a vintage inspired apron, glamorous dish gloves, a rub away bar, or hand cream. Know a techy cook? Look into these food inspired flash drives or a chef friendly iPad cover.

Everyone else

anyone

A Classic Christmas Collection DVDGive the gift of curling up by the fire with two of the best Christmas movies ever made, White Christmas & It’s a Wonderful Life.

Christmas with the Rat Pack – one of my favorite Christmas CDs

Catchphrase – BEST GAME EVER. The end.

This sky umbrella is so cool; they’ll be waiting for rain to show it off.

For the person who’s glued to their Apple, try the The Bikn – now their iphone can help them keep track of their stuff or any of these solar powered cases.

Most families would love the gift of membership to a local museum or zoo; especially if they have younger children. It will give them a place to get out of the house as a family without extra expense coming out of their monthly budget. Any couple I know would appreciate a date night. Sometimes just planning ahead, offering a sitter, or giving them something with a deadline helps them to carve out time in their calendar. Want something more tangible, try a nature box subscription. Honestly, sheets and towels are really exciting to this mom (even a gift card to my favorite grocery or house ware store).

The Difficult Ones

Find some cute stationery or plan ahead and personalize some for them. You could even get matching envelopes, a wax seal, or this awesome Gerber tactical pen.

Cruise around on Etsy – they have a ton of very cool, one of a kind, and unique gifts.

Consider the gift card. It is not as impersonal as everyone would have you think.

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