Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Grandparents Christmas Dinner 2013 {Tradition}

Our annual Grandparents Christmas dinner had to be postponed a few weeks.

New year is the perfect time for a Christmas party right!?

I was glad for the extra time cause December was super busy.

However that didn't stop me from spending too much time last minute today making fresh wreaths.

One of my to do's this Christmas was to make a giant fresh wreath for my loungeroom wall.
{with an accompanying tutorial here on the blog} Alas it didn't happen in time!
But maybe I will post it anyway - A new year wreath? Valentines? Anzac Day?

I'm so glad we do this dinner and I'm so glad the children look forward to it.

We are pretty simple cooks the year through, so its nice to try our hand at a party menu.

This years menu was:

Turkish Bread with pumpkin, hummus, olive oil and dukkah and warm olives

Puree Pumpkin, Roast Veg and feta and cranberry Cous Cous with Lamb Rack

Cherry Frangipane Tart and Buche de Noel

French sparkling Pomegranate and Blueberry and Lemon Strawberry Soda

We ended the night watching the early family firework and having our own little sparkler party.
I think I like Grandparents Christmas Dinner on New Year.
Late but just as good.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

FHE Lesson {New Year}

Opening Song:

Opening Prayer:


Talk about the year in review.
Ask children to mention some of their favourite things of 2013.
Here is a Year in Review Questionaire for older kids so inclined to fill in answers
(and you can keep them over the years)

Get children to list things they would like to DO this coming year

eg my kids come up with:

Visit Planetarium
Visit favourite Parks
mentioned a few of their favourite family traditions

We decided that we had enough activities for half a year and will designate one saturday a month to check off the above activities.

Via design mom I heard about these fun questions to ask your children, fill out as a questionnaire.
{and keep their replies to look back on over the years}

This year:

Something I want to do
Something I want to read
Somewhere I want to go
something I want to be better at
Something I want

Maybe you can also include:
spiritual goals, {prayers, scripture reading, holding regular FHE}
physical goals {games to play with kids, daily walks together}
Places to go
Mental health/organizational goals {kids helping with chores}

Write goals on Calendar or large piece of paper to keep in view.

 Have fun planning out an awesome year! I find written down goals seem to happen more and better!


We have little voice snippets/video segments of our children saying "Hi my name is ____ I am ____ years old. My favourite thing is ____ .  It is so fun to look back on the old ones and how they used to sound. Our 7 year old was mimicking her 4 year old voice after we did this activity. She was surprised at how 'babyish' she sounded.

Since we only have a couple of these random snippets we thought it might be a nice thing to record each year. Around New Years would be a good day for it?
We said our names, ages, where we live, what we like to do, favourite things.
Each segment lasted about 30secs to 1min.
This is one of our kids favourite things and they have asked about them, saying where is that video about me from when I was ..... old?

Make a family time capsule to store all your comments/questionnaires in for the year and the coming years.

Closing Song:

Closing Prayer:

Treat: Have a mini new year party with sparkling drink and sparklers

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

 Miss G awaking after sleeping under the tree on the first night of school holidays.
Her favourite tradition.
Oh Christmas Eve how we love you.
December has gone so quick yet it seems a long time for little ones.
Since The Mr doesn't often have many holidays the last few years we've started a tradition of doing an activity on Christmas Eve Day - visits to art galleries, rock climbing, something to keep their minds occupied and for us to give ourselves the gift of family time together.
Today we are hoping for the planetarium.
A funny side note - the Mr and I have been trying to get to the planetarium for a date for about 10 years. A few times cancelled, then we forget that its a place we want to go for a date, then he took the older girls there for daddy daughter date, so we waited so its not overkill for him, then we forget again. Then we remember again and say 'we should go to the planetarium for a date...' lol.
May everyone have visions of sugarplums dance in their heads tonight.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Beach Christmas


About 10 years ago or so we went camping the week before Christmas.

It was lovely. It was amazing. It put such a different spin on the holiday. We were fairly remote with barely any other people around. Christmas with all the stress and shopping removed.

I've remarked over the years how lovely that time was.

This year was the first time since then that we organised a getaway the week before Christmas.

And once again it was great. The kids were busy and well behaved.

I noticed the minute we got back they started asking about things, presents, buying, shopping, when is Christmas Day etc yet not a peep the whole week during. Of course they were occupied and having so much fun they forgot.

We got to spend some quality family time together in a beautiful location.

There may have been people around but we felt like we were alone in our family bubble.

And I honestly can't think of a better start to Christmas than that.

Our days consisted of going swimming at the beach early morn, back to the pool/spa, resting in the heat of mid day in our room watching movies, sitting in our bathroom spa, back to the pool and beach in the afternoon, dinner out, then back for night swimming in the pool. I almost felt waterlogged.
This was also the holiday our four year old finally got swimming. She's been swimming non stop to keep up with her sisters for years and often wears a swim vest to do so. However day 2 of constant swimming she threw the vest to the side and was off and swimming. Fell straight to sleep each night after hours and hours of swimming. Oh it seemed exhausting just watching her determined paddles.

I found our hotel {Oaks Seaforth} on a 3 day sale via Tourism Queensland back in winter. When I bought it I basically had no idea what hotel or where exactly it was located - other than sunshine coast. I was concerned it was a dodgy facebook deal and could end up being horrible but luckily it was an amazing hotel suite - bigger than our house, great view, $1000 off the regular price in a great location with lovely surrounds and facilities. I was so happy everything turned out great.

A wonderful end to a most wonderful year for us. I hope 2014 is as awesome.

And here is how I spent most the time at the beach - I was cold {afternoons and nights were chilly}

Sunday, December 22, 2013

FHE Lesson {Christmas all year round}

This lesson inspired by a great talk I heard in Sacrament. The speaker kindly gave me a copy.

Opening Song: I'm trying to be like Jesus #78

Opening Prayer:


Organising for Christmas can be a lot of hard work.
We prepare, buy, organize, wrap, cook, do service

Get children to list some things/work you do in order to have a great Christmas.

While Christmas is a wonderful time of year and the symbols of the first Christmas are still celebrated today {gifts, family, kindness}It would be great to have the spirit of Christmas all year round. Just like Christmas with our families keeping the spirit of Christ all year round will not happen on its own, we need to prepare & organise for this to occur.

When I think of Christmas there are a few key topics that immediately spring to mind, they are:
 Gifts
 Spirit of Christmas
 Family
 Gratitude
{Insert your own key topic}

Think of some ways you can do the above areas all year round.
Try to get children to come up with some ideas. eg:

Give the gift of your service. Help in someone's garden, bake a meal, drop off cookies,

Spend time with extended family other than holidays, do family history work, go to the temple {to help our family that went before us}, call family far away or grandparents weekly, Tell our families how much we love them. Do acts of service for one another. Help an Aunt or Uncle or grandparents. Spend time with cousins.

Spirit of Christmas:
Be generous with your time and money other than just at Christmas, host some friendly get togethers for no reason as you would a Christmas party, give donations to charities at times other than Christmas.

Have a spirit of gratitude all year round - keep a gratitude journal or regular journal in which to write the miracles of your life, write things you are grateful for weekly on slips of paper and keep them in a jar in which to look back on at the end of the year.

First Presidency Christmas message from 2000:
It is our hope that each of us this Christmas season will find the Spirit of Christ in our hearts and homes as we try to be more like the Saviour—forgiving others as He forgives us, serving others with a glad heart, and keeping the commandments.

That is an immediate way we can have the spirit of Christmas or the Spirit of Christ with us all year round.  – Forgive others, serve with a glad heart & keep the commandments.
It’s very simple & very doable.

Keeping the spirit of Christmas all year round is a perfect new year resolution.

Keep a list of the things you will do all year to keep the spirit of Christmas.
Draw it out on a big sheet of paper.
Leave one small Christmas decoration out all year to remind you of your resolution.

Visit your list throughout the year and take notice when you accomplish things from your list. Remind everyone this is how you are keeping the Christmas Spirit the whole year through.

Closing Song: Have a Very Merry Christmas #51

Closing Prayer:

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Essay {2012}

It seems each December I come up with some worry.

You know.... just to balance all that cheer out.

Things like:

The dueling Christmases that exist in my head
Will it be enough?
The impossiblity of a perfect Christmas
Black hole week and that horrible after feeling

Last night I was wrapping presents on the bed when The Mr came home from a evening meeting.

He was like... what IS all this STUFF!?

Ummm Christmas presents?? We do have four kids that equals ALOT of stuff to buy ya know

Yeah one or two things each ...... he trailed off.

Ok so I have been buying stocking stuffers since about September.....

It is possible that there is a little too much of the little plasticy fun stuff.....

I've been thinking ever since talking to a mum at school who stated they didn't do Christmas.

Why I asked? She felt as they practiced no religion it would be hypocritical to celebrate Christmas
(I said you do realise probably 80% celebrating don't do the religious thing?)
and that she is very against all the consumerism and waste around Christmas.

I actually really admire her for her stance. She made me really think. Assess how much I do.
{because I really agree on the waste part}
I personally would not be able to stand against social norms of presents, fun, lights, crafts, Christmas trees, Christmas dinner etc. She really did NOTHING that is associated with Christmas. Not even visit family.
Hardcore to me. 

I'm but a sheep. A follower. Easily led by shiny pretty things.

I've also heard of religious people who opt for nothing but church services, kindness to others and choose to opt out of all secular parts of Christmas .

I always wonder if I do too much. People have said it. Over compensation? Wasteful of resources to be buying up crafts, decorations, foods to celebrate for the whole month. Do my kids REALLY need all of these traditions? Do they need more than one present?

What would it be like to keep things really simple.

Maybe one year I'll try. I tell myself that will be easier in the teen years? They won't want to do cheesy family traditions by then. Simple will be easy right? On a side note I watched that Christmas with the Krank's movie where they try to cancel christmas to save money and go on a cruise. It just seems there are just so many things that you can't cancel!

Theres always that balance.

Too much?... Too little?

Cheer or Grinch

Take the parts you love ... leave the parts you don't?

Throw other peoples expectations to the side?

One Day I'll do it.

{I'm dreaming}

{repost from Christmas 2012}

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Christmas Essay {2010}

Last night as I was wrapping presents I looked at the stash I've had on layby for the last few months for the first time and thought it was pretty dismal. No big toys or big ticket items (except for zhu zhu pets which they really want)

I started to worry that it wasn't enough and should I hit the shops today and buy more?

This year I didn't get books like usual, I didn't get them new clothes, and I didn't get school supplies {being the sneaky mum that I am I pass off new school bags and lunchboxes as Christmas gifts} I didn't get outdoorsy games things or sports gear and we have yet to move our children into the computer game phase so no Wii's or Video games or the like.

oh the list goes on and on of what I didn't get.

Then I told myself  they have enough.

They will get a bunch of gifts from grandparents and great grandparents. They have enough!

Christmas is about the WHOLE month of December. If you were to ask the girls they would tell you this is a common phrase said in this house. I tell my kids all the time. This is why traditions are important to me.

I remember a year when I was around 12 (or 14 can't remember) where I cried in my room because I wasn't happy enough with my gifts and felt that Christmas was very anti climatic. " I've waited all year for this?"  I never want my kids to feel that way which is why I do so many things the month of December and declaring the whole month Christmas and spend the time building up traditions rather than just the eager waiting for "THE DAY OF ALL DAYS"

Oddly enough I also remember berating myself that day thinking stop crying, its so embarrassing. You are being ungrateful. You're grown now so you can't expect Christmas to still have that magic. I felt guilty for thinking badly of my parents. I felt bad for being ungrateful. I even thought of children around the world who had nothing!

I've often found Christmas day to be a let down, anticlimatic ending for the season and I have been working on reversing that feeling. Instead, to see it as a day to relax, enjoy being with family and allow the season to wind down (or for the summer season to start up).

Time just to be.

I really hope to impart that to the girls. And that yes they do have enough.

Strangely it was Santa who reassured me.

When asked what they wanted for Christmas the girls couldn't think of anything.  Even after he extensively probed for a while they were able to come up with very simple things (this has happened twice now)

He ended by saying 'Well then, I will bring you a surprise.'

Then he said to me what wonderful girls they were and how he has met many a demanding one.

And my heart soared when I realised I am doing the right thing.

 May your season be full. And may your gifts be enough.

It will be enough.

{repost from Christmas 2010}

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Christmas Essay {2009}

I  had another epiphany this week.

It came in the form of a Better Homes and Gardens Magazine Actually.*see at end*

We all want a perfect Christmas. And some times we can feel sad or upset with ourselves when it doesn't turn out that way. I know I have lists and ideas of different things and traditions I want to do with my girls. I know I feel discouraged sometimes.

I want to take gorgeous pictures of us decorating the tree - but it is REALLY hot in my house and all I end up with is pictures of sweaty, red faced us, with clothes optional on the kids.

I want to go carolling to friends and up and down my street, but alas I cannot sing (and don't even try the sure you can - all people can sing line... I REALLY CANNOT!)

I want to sit around a piano at home with my family belting out carols till our hearts content except no one plays an instrument here (though the girls are learning SLOWLY because they never practice) and the girls may have inherited my bad singing :)

I want a beautifully decorated house, strung with lights and boughs of holly

I want Dinner parties with wonderful food and perfect place settings

I Love gorgeously wrapped boxes, and want to fill my house with presents

I want to bake decadent sweets and treats

I want to be organised and send wonderful homemade cards to every friend and family

I want a Christmas Crockery set for 8 people

I want time and a large perfectly clean house to do all the above

But  it came to me in the form of the editors letter in BHG



Because if a team of professionals with unending budgets take over 6 months and still struggle to get it right........ Then who am I to be able to compete?

We shall have to be happy

with love

with family

with hot sticky summer nights

with things made from meager budgets

with mismatched wonkily wrapped presents

with bad singing

and simple meals

Sounds like a PERFECT CHRISTMAS to me


*Paraphrased Editors Letter from December Better Homes and Gardens*

You know of course that we begin our Christmas planning somewhere in July to have everything ready for you when gorgeous old Christmas comes around for real.

Then comes the cover. Take a look at our exquisite Christmas Tree. Each lovely decoration has to earn its place in relation to shape and colour with its neighbour. Half an hour or more is spent on getting EACH bow tied just right around the gifts. But you know each year someone plays up. And this year it was the cheeky butterfly in the red circle. It just refused to hang correctly. It took 3 HOURS to get him right.

It takes a week or more to get our words just right, to say what we need to tell you as warmly as we can. We had 26 variations (of the magazine) this time. Then, we finally begin to think it's our best offering, we print it!

There is no such thing as perfect.

It is already perfect just the way it is.

Because it is your Christmas.

{repost from Christmas 2009}


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Christmas Essay {2013}

I love to wax lyrical at Christmas time. This week I'm posting essays of Ghosts of Christmas past.
Each day I'll repost some of my Christmas thoughts over the years. Enjoy!

I've been reading books mentioning simple Christmases.

A Catholic town since the 1700's in a communist country in a poor area where Christmas is indeed just singing carols Christmas Eve and a simple meal shared. Nothing else. {no holiday}

I read a chapter book to my children about a village children in Sweden.
The children make snow lanterns, ginger cookies and a meal with neighbours homemade gifts. Nothing else.

Two Christ Centred ideas books for how to teach simple and slow the Christmas spirit.

I just love Christmas things but funnily enough I don't love everything that happens around December. It's all so busy. {so far we've had 4 school/music events, several birthday parties and engagement parties, work parties, church parties, and the list goes on..}

Maybe my European friends have it right. A couple of them laughed at how early we do Christmas here. Then we pack it all away by the 28th. They set up the week of Christmas and continue to minimum 5th of January but usually into February they said. Maybe I just need to not worry trying to fit it all in till we are actually free to be slow.

I know the Christmas I crave is hard to find.

I just love looking at beautiful Christmas illustrations and books.

I just love beautiful decorations. I want to buy them all but really there's no point {room}

Quaint towns lit up.

They somehow don't turn out to real life.

Perfect, slow, gorgeous, amazing Christmas life.

But that is ok. I know that most of what I love about Christmas is a façade.

Instead of trying to emulate it, I just have to enjoying looking at it, realising perhaps it is never to be made come alive in my immediate life.

I wonder if one could have the simplest of Christmas yet still enjoy so much the 'dream Christmas'.

Maybe I just need to create a pinterest  Christmas board filled with all my wildest alternate reality Christmas.

Maybe we all have 'visions of  sugar plums that danced in their heads'

And that can be what makes Christmas Sweet.

Even if we never get to have it.

As they say its the thought that counts.

Maybe my thoughts of Christmas count a whole lot more than I realise.

Enjoy this Christmas. Both the real one and the other visionary one.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

FHE Lesson {A meaningful Christmas}

Opening Song: Once within a lowly Stable #41

Opening Prayer:


What is your favourite thing about Christmas
{let children answer honestly - presents, party etc}

After the wise men had found Jesus and were heading home, Herod had asked them to come back and report to him. They felt this was not the right thing to do 'so went another way'.  They tried a new way home and avoided Herod {who wanted to kill baby Jesus}

The wise men teach us that we are all on a journey to find Christ in our life.
They also teach us 'to try another way' or try something new if we know the current way isn't good enough.

How Can our family 'try something new' this Christmas?

What's something different we can do this year?

{service, sing carols to people, do a cookie drop off, give to a homeless/womens and kids shelter, chose a family we know with a need and help them, Choose time with/service to extended family and neighbours instead of just buying them a gift, invite someone alone to spend Christmas with us, have a devotional or quiet evening to discuss the real meaning of Christmas, choose to spend time at home and slow down instead of go go, }

Plan and work out how/when you will try your 'new' tradition.

{inspired by A Christ Centred Christmas by Emily Freeman }

Explain that the first Christmas was without all the excess we have today.

It was a humble beginning of a sweet baby.
It was people listening to spiritual promptings and angels.
It was about love and service.
It was about family

We can all try and make Christmas meaningful without having to buy things.


Watch the LDS Bible Short Videos 
The Birth of Jesus Christ
The Wise Men
Shepherds learn of the birth of Christ

Share a testimony meeting about what Jesus means to you.

eg Children could say - Jesus is kind, Jesus helped others, When I pray to Jesus I....

Just as Jesus is the worlds gift from Heavenly Father, it is nice for us to give back. Write on a piece of paper your gift for Jesus this coming year. Keep it in a box under the tree. Read it out on Christmas Eve/Day. When you pack away all your Christmas things pack these away too. Next year when you unbox your things you can check how well you did during the year on your gift to Jesus.

Closing Song: Who is this Child #46

Closing Prayer:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Tree Pinata

Each Christmas we make a new piñata.

I'm already dreaming of next years {awesome no?}

I thought of going super basic this year and wrapping a box to make a 'present piñata'
{awesome, Yes?}

But I've been thinking of doing a tree for a while now so Tree won out.

Here is how to make a Christmas Tree Pinata. This one came together fairly quick (2 hours)

Find a box (I've had a building skip next door for months - Easy to find boxes! yay!)

Draw a Tree shape. I went basic, just two levels. Trace and a make another copy.

Cut out your two Tree shapes.

Using left over cardboard cut long rectangles. Attach these to one of the trees using lots of tape.

Continue till you have attached a rectangle along all edges of the tree shape

Attach a hook. I used some wire and poked through the point of the tree.

Reinforce this area LOTS (first place to rip on a piñata is often the point of hanging/hook) with tape.

Leave a small gap untapped to push lollies/small toys into or fill now before you close it up

Attach the other tree on the top.

Cut crepe paper into strips.

Fringe the strips by making lots of cuts into the strip but do not cut all the way through when you undo it you will have a fringed streamer.

Attach the fringe to the piñata in rows starting from the bottom up.

Let Dry.


And you have a Christmas piñata to take to your awesome Christmas Party.

Here are some of our previous Christmas piñata's.

Candy Cane Pinata

Christmas Stocking Pinata

Bauble Pinata

Sunday, December 8, 2013

FHE Lesson {Nativity}

I'm combining a few Nativity idea's in one spot. Choose as many or few ideas as you like.

Take the wise men from the nativity set and have them 'slowly' travel to the nativity set. You could slowly move them over a short time in a game or have them get closer each day over a week till they make it to Stable.


Have the Nativity set out. Pick up and describe each figure involved.  eg:

Mary: special, chosen above all else, she quietly pondered in her heart
Joseph: Protector and guardian, trying hard to find a place to stay, man of honour - chose Mary
Angel: Shares good tidings and joy, spreads the joy, shares news of good things to come
Shepherds: Went with haste, quick to obey, hard workers (24 hour job)
Wise Men: exemplify the journey we all take to seek the Lord, they followed a spiritual symbol
Lamb: Lambs instantly recognise voice of their shepherd, lamb symbol of Jesus, prepare the way
Cows/Animals: Gave up their place to sleep for Baby Jesus

Ask everyone:
If you had been there on the night of Christ's birth who would you like to be in the story?

Enjoy everyone's reasons :)

{ inspired by A Christ Centred Christmas by Emily Freeman }


Make a manger for Baby Jesus. {Can be very small, just a tiny box or a cradle with a doll in it}
Cut lots of strips of paper depending on the size of your manger and baby.
Start by doing some good deeds/service right away
{clean something up, make a bed, write a card for someone - any quick things you can think of}
For each good deed add a piece of paper {hay} to your little manger.
Explain that each time the children do something good in the month of December they can add a little bit more comfort to the manger. When we see LOTS of  hay/paper under baby Jesus we will know that we have done so much good in the world at Christmas which will make Jesus and Heavenly Father very happy. It will also make us and those we serve very happy.

Find a toy star/ plastic star/make your own.  Hide the star around the house then have the children move the wise men to where the star is. Have the wise men take a long journey following the star all around.

Gather dress ups and act out the Nativity.
Scarves and tea towels and dressing robes make perfect props.

Here is one of my most favourite family videos - the kids acting out the nativity.
{This however took several weeks to make in short bursts}


Make Gingerbread Stables. I'll be doing it the cheats way and just using biscuits {cookies}. Fashion together a rustic lean to/stable with icing and biscuits. Make sheep out of marshmallows and get children to draw or make some figurines to go in it {alternatively put in real nativity figurines}

An example by one of my daughters :)


Anyone else have Nativity based ideas to share? Please share below!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Frosty {Our Christmas Video}

My kids {never having seen real snow} always seem to be drawn to fake snow anything about Christmas. Therefore it was only fitting for our yearly Christmas movie to have that theme.
{one day I will learn how to share higher quality video. I have to shrink it to fit on blogger}

Merry Christmas Season  to you all and thanks for reading all year.

And for fun lots of photos of fake snow from the Snow Globe at Toombul Shopping Centre

and another video because its just all so fun :) Imagine if we had the real stuff!
See previous years Christmas Card Movies:
2012 All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth
2011 Putting Up the Tree
2010 Paper Snow
2008 The Nativity

Sunday, December 1, 2013

FHE Lesson {Advent}

 Advent starts 4 Sundays out from Christmas. We do ours on Sundays but I thought this would also make a good lesson plan for the next four Monday nights for FHE as well.

 My kids love the weekly burning of the candles... but I think they humour me on the devotional and singing hymns part. I used this book (I bought it but its free online!) last year for daily advents but think I might opt for this easier to remember one.

So if you would like to celebrate a more spiritual Christmas I find Advent helps me out.

You need:
4 Candles and a 5th white one for Christmas eve {battery operated ones if you are cautious of fire}
A ring/wreath (optional or make it out of a paper plate)
Chosen carols

Each Sunday we light one of the candles and have a little devotional
{then light 2 the next week then 3, then 4 and the 5th one on Christmas Eve to symbolise Christ}.
Advent means 'coming or arrival' so we light the candles in anticipation of celebrating the coming birth of Christ.

Week ONE is the Good NEWS candle
Explain the prophets of old told of the coming of christ.
(choose any scripture/s you like eg Isaiah 9:6)

Week TWO is the HOPE candle
Jesus gave hope to people that God still loved and cared for them.
The angles told the good news that Jesus had come (Luke 2:8-11)

Week THREE is the JOY candle
When the shepherds heard the good news they rejoiced and went to tell others (Luke 2:15-20)

Week FOUR is the LOVE candle
God shows his love through Jesus Christ. His Son and helps us to show love to others
(John 3:16)

Conclude the Advent season by lighting all four candles and placing an additional white candle in the center in its own holder. Remember this is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. As you prepare to open gifts explain how we give gifts as a reminder of how much God gave us in Jesus.

 You can add as little or as much information, scriptures, hymns to these four topics.
Search your own scriptures to match. I'd also love to do a more involved one for myself and The Mr.

See here for Previous Advent Ideas I've tried
Advent how to 2008  and 2010

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Pillowcase Tradition

We had a quiet Saturday morning and as we are super busy the rest of the year {seriously! its crazy!} I thought we better get to and make our traditional Christmas Pillowcases.

As I was packing up even The Mr said... 'are you going to make me one?' {lol}
Since the girls sew it nearly all themselves now I might have to make one for us.

The girls promptly changed all their pillowcases over and even asked, since a few of them have two pillows if we could make them two Christmas pillowcases! {no!}

We even had a 10 year old neighbour drop by see the left over material and ask if she could have one.
I said yes if she helped sew it. Her first time at a sewing machine and she did great.

Days later as I tucked my little ones into bed my four year old stroked her cheek back and forth across her pillow and spoke in that melt my heart baby voice 
'I just love my gingerbread men sooo much. My pillow is soooo lovely and pretty!'

How could I deny them a tradition they love so?
{even when they need prodding to turn off the tv/computer to help come and make them! grrrrrrr!}

It's sometimes hard in January to get them to hand the pillowcase over.

Actually since my four year old loves Hoot and she had a Christmas owl pillowcase last year she kept her pillowcase on nearly all year round {It wasn't overtly Christmassy so I let it stay}

Here are our pillowcases from past years. I have quite a collection now.






 Find the  Pillow Case Tutorial Here

What to do with all those pillowcases?

They make easy wrapping for large gifts under the tree.
We wrap our nightly Christmas books in them, tie with a string, add a number.
Repurpose into other Christmas crafts {I'm thinking table runner in the future}

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Our Hill {15 year Engagement Anniversary}

I'm not sure how it started. I think it was finding an old calendar of The Mr's. An old calendar in which he had hastily written short snippets of a few things that happened during our dating time. A few years after we were married we came across these little notes. One had the {two} dates he proposed. We can't really visit the place of the first proposal so we decided to go back and visit the place of the second proposal. We've been doing this for a number of years now.
The girls have been asking all month - 'when are we going to Our Hill. When will we have dinner on the tallest hill and then roll down it?' Its became as much a part of them as it is a part of us.
This year I was spoilt with a rose and chocolates. I suppose 15 years deserves some sort of recognition. Roses are the flower for 15 years. The man does his research. I had no idea :)

Other visits to our hill here:  2012  2011  2010  2008

Our Hill reminds us how to love and keep loving, the example we set our children, the importance of righteous traditions, to take time for family, to keep the flame burning, to realise what future comes of those early decisions, to keep our future bright. As bright as the sunset on our day at the hill.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

FHE Lesson {Christ Centred Christmas Countdown}

Opening Song: He Sent His Son #34

Opening Prayer:

The 1st of December is next Sunday. This week we are going to prepare this Christ Centred Advent Calendar. This is to help us remember the true meaning of the season and what we really celebrate. We celebrate the birth Christ that the prophets of old foretold. The hope and love he bought into the world gives joy to many in the world. We know that through him we are forgiven and will obtain eternal life.

Play 'what do you know about Jesus' game {idea from 12 Gifts for Christ by Merrilee Boyack }

When did you first know Jesus? {premortal life}
Who was Jesus Father? {Heavenly Father}
Who was Jesus Mother? {Mary}
Who was Mary's Husband? {Joseph}
Where was Jesus Born? {Bethlemhem}
Where did he live as a little child {Egypt}
Did he have brothers and sisters {yes, how many unknown}
What trade did Joseph teach him? {carpenter}
Where was Jesus Baptised? {River Jordan}
Who Baptised him? {Cousin, John the Baptist}
Where did he live growing up? {Nazareth}
How many apostles did he choose? {12}
Who were his friends? { Mary, Martha, Lazarus and others}
Jesus healed lots of people, what did he heal them from?
How did he die?
What happened three days after he died? {Resurrected}

Add any other questions you would like :)

Listen to The Living Christ or look at a copy or

Watch The Living Christ a slideshow with pictures


 To make a Jesus Tag:

Cut pictures from the Ensign Magazine {we borrowed from Grandma's stash} or print some

I just used a glue stick to stick the picture onto regular white copy paper

Cut around leaving a small border of white

Glue onto cardstock. I used what I had on hand - Dark Blue and Gold

Cut again leaving another small border.

Laminate!!! {optional}

Cut around lamination, add a bow {12 for $2} by piercing a hole at the top.

Add a string.

And you have a Jesus Ornament, Gift Tag etc

Display on a Christmas Tree, or bunch of sticks in jar.

Extra ways to use:

Attach matching scriptures for each day
Discuss what is happening in each picture
Reuse as an Easter Countdown too!

Closing Song: Little Jesus #39

Closing Prayer:


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Recycled Christmas Gifts

When your kids are little and are more impressed with the wrapping than the gifts did you ever just think about wrapping up toys you already had? {I'm not the only one surely?}

Do you ever lament that you don't have room for more toys but would feel horrible about not buying any for Christmas and just buy more anyway {Yup me every year}

Have you ever recycled a Christmas gift?

The only recycle I do is that every year I re wrap the kids photo albums.

Yep. I take their photo albums {regular slot the photos in the pocket style} off our bookshelf and I re wrap them and put them under the tree. Except that I also print off the best photos of the year of each girl and slip them in {about 30 photos each}. But they are the same albums. Re wraped and put under the tree. I've rewrapped the same albums for about 4 years now.

Since the most used Christmas gifts from last year were the fabric notebook holders I made - I've been thinking about also re gifting those with new crisp notebooks and fun pens placed within. Perhaps tucking some fun stickers or something unexpected will also increase the excitedness value.

I've also loved the hairband organiser (my sister found) I got them full of clips, bows, headbands, hairbands last year. Sadly as with every year half of them are lost and the organiser is almost empty. I'm thinking of restocking it and rewrapping it to go under the tree. Full of fresh hairbands for the new year/school.

A few years ago my mother in law rounded up a box of old costume jewellery, plastic glasses, gloves etc from around her house and gave it to the girls as a Christmas party gift. It  kept them busy and made for a fun night of playing.

I've also thought it would be fun to have one of those joke gifts that is something just crazy stupid that gets re wrapped every year and gets given to someone unsuspecting in the family.

Each year I also think about doing the parade of animals like O Happy Day . I think it was a genius idea - they used existing toys they had and put them under the tree because a) they lived in several teeny apartments and b) anything they bought in France had to be shipped home one day... and what animals don't look cute lined up with bows under the Christmas tree. If my kids were still toddlers I would totally do it! All our miniature animals and dinosaurs would look so cute lined up.

So what's your take on Re wrapping, Re gifting or Recycling Christmas Gifts for kids.

Would you do it? Are you doing it this year?

Looks like I might have 3 recycled gifts under the tree this year.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

FHE Lesson {Symbols of Christmas}

Opening Song: Have a Very Merry Christmas #51

Opening Prayer:


What is this? {point to your Christmas tree or a picture of one}
Why do we have Christmas Trees at Christmas? {enjoy their varied answers}

The Christmas Tree is a symbol of Christmas because :
The evergreen tree means lasting light and life. As many things die in winter but the evergreen does not, it symbolizes life in the midst of death or rebirth. The evergreen with its unchanging color represents the hope of eternal life in Jesus. Its needles point heavenward as a reminder that man's thoughts should turn heavenward as well

Talk about why you like to put a star or angel on the top of your tree.

Read this scripture to go with your discussion.
Luke 2:9-12 for Angel
Matthew 2:2 for Star


Make some decorations for your tree.
Stars or angels or pictures of Jesus printed and coloured.

If your tree is up sit with the lights out with just the tree lights on and spend some quiet time admiring your tree and talking about why you love to have a tree at Christmas

Closing Song: Stars were Gleaming #37

Closing Prayer: Child

Click on links for some yummy treats
Cheese Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Krispy Treats

Christmas Tree Sandwiches

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The art of Christmas Gifts

Anyone else in the full swing of present buying?
{I want mine all done before they finish school - cause then I have no time}

Every year I seem to be having an internal debate over present giving.

There can be several reasons why:
Restricted budget
Against excessive consumer consumption
No room for any more toys!
Trying to show the real meaning of Christmas versus getting

I've heard many ideas and have several swirling around and there are pros and cons for each.

:: 3 presents each. Good enough for Baby Jesus.. Good enough for you

:: 1 present from each person in the house. ie in our house that would equal 5 gifts each.

:: 1 present full stop. Let kids choose a really great most favourite thing in the world type gift.

:: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

:: Just buy them what they want (within budget). Happy for them, Easy for mum.

:: Mum just shop and shell out whatever (our usual tradition ;)

I've heard of and loved most of the above ideas for years.
There always seems to be a reason why I can't implement any of these sayings as longterm traditions

Too many gifts (usually)
Too few gifts
I don't usually buy big ticket/expensive toys
I didn't find a 'need' for one kid or a 'book' - is the saying now cancelled out?
Do all the trinkents in stockings count in the present count?
How to teach the above reasons or the thoughts behind our gift giving to the kids

Last year I was impressed when a family I know said they put the names in the hat and they all get (and buy) ONE present each, little kids included!
Is it bad that I actually thought that sounds refreshing? But regardless I've already bought more than that. I'm not sure I would even know how to buy just one gift each. I think that would give me more worries about getting it right! I like to increase my odds of at least one successful gift :)

There's a little pressure around Christmas to get it right and make kids happy for that magical day of the year.

My kids are usually very happy with basic toys and don't write long lists or anything but there is also the yearly dilemma of what kids want and what I want to buy for them. Many times the gifts are what 'I think' will make great gifts. Sometimes I'm a winner! sometimes not! It's hard not to discount what kids want in favour for educational gifts, or battery free gifts, or toys I'd prefer around the house. It's hard not to want to sneak in new school supplies and underwear and pass it off as a gift.

There is also the dilemma of favourite gift of Christmas day versus the most used gift for the rest of the year.

There seems to be a strange coincidence that the gift most played with on Christmas day is never the most used gift the rest of the year.

The handmade note and pen pouches were our most used gift from last year. Used every Sunday in church and during trips to restaurants, visiting people (without kids or toys), used in boring places that kids need to be quiet.  Even though the girls love them it wasn't something that got them excited on Christmas Day.

The 'it' gifts are often left untouched once the excitement wears off (mega annoying!!)
(how many walking/talking/moving stuffed animals do we have not played with!? How many Crayola glow in the dark art stations and zhu zhu pet houses were thrown away only weeks after?)


Do you try to cover Christmas with buying both types of gifts?
Dispense with even bothering with 'it/must have' toys?  (wasted money!! But makes you a Grinch!)
Buy toys to get the quick joy and forget about how long it will be played with?

The art of the Christmas Gift is a very fine line

This year my goal was that they could choose anything they wanted at all (within reason) the girls actually balked at that and said 'no mum, just do Christmas how you usually do...'

ha ha ha ha.

Hopefully they are happy with my choices :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

FHE Lesson {Wise Men}

With 7 Mondays till Christmas I'll be sharing  Christmas based FHE's till then!

Opening Song: The Nativity Song #52

Opening Prayer: Child


Scripture: Matthew 2:1-2
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.
Saying where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.

The wise men spent a long time finding Jesus. They were on a long trip after seeing the star.
Just like the wise men we also wait with excitement and count down the days until Christmas.
 It is more important to count down the days until the birth of Jesus, than to think about what presents we are waiting for. Jesus's Birth is the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

The wise men arrived with special gifts for baby Jesus. What gift will we give him?
Have a special present box or stocking in which you will put 'a present to give Jesus'. Draw or write down something you are going to do or be better at as your present for Jesus. Leaving the present box or stocking out in a special place leading up to Christmas will remind us of our gift and to try hard.

These 'gifts' could be the first you open Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning.


Watch the LDS Bible Video - Wise Men Seek Jesus (5 Mins)

Give everyone a plastic glow in the dark star to keep in their room, or stick to the ceiling above their bed leading up to Christmas  (idea from 12 Gifts for Christ by Merrilee Boyack ). This reminds us of the wise men that followed the sign of the star that led them to baby Jesus. We too must be like the wise men and remember to follow Christ.

Closing Song: Stars were Gleaming #33

Closing Prayer:

Treat: Use cookie cutter to cut bread or brownies into star shape. Sprinkle with coloured sugar.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mangoes... Finally

It seems 'first mango of the season' is getting later and later each year!

It's November people! But the girls finally got a special treat in their first mango of the season.

We usually make a big deal out of it, but this time we forgot about our mangoes from the markets till 6pm at night {so not much good light for photos!}

They ended up being dinner.  Mangoes are a great dinner too I must say.







Monday, November 4, 2013

Pocket Bunting Advent Calendar

As I've discussed before it can be hard to find advent calendars that have enough room for treats for large families {and I don't really even view my family as *that* large}.

I'm always on the look out for ideas that can fit several treats inside each pocket.

I was excited when I found this idea and went to work straight away on it {back in September!}

Bunting and Advent Calendar? perfect!

Pocket Bunting Advent Calendar

Start with making a pattern/template.

Draw a kite shape on some paper or card.

I did mine by drawing a vertical line about 20 cm long. About 1/3 from the top I drew a horizontal line that was 14 cm long. Join the edges up and create a 'kite shape'. Now trace the bottom triangle part of your kite shape. You will now have a kite shape and a triangle shape.  These will form the Bunting.

Cut a kite shape and triangle shape from material of your choice

*side note - I used old clothes to create this bunting. I find old clothes are usually of heavier material, have interesting patterns and a good way to recycle. I was able to recycle a pair of kids jeans with a broken zip and a ill fitting dress, a skirt and another piece that had a stain on it. Best of all it made this project almost FREE as these were things that were going to be thrown out anyway. You can't really tell from the photos but the fabrics are textured and interesting. And I love the grey, light blue, red and white colour theme that popped out from these old clothes.

A thicker type material will make your bunting sit better.

Now, Sew them together.

Place right sides of fabric together and sew down the V of the bottom of the kite shape.

Turn inside out and you have a bunting with a flap.

Fold down flap.

Make 25 more :)

Embellish your flags with lace, embroidered edges and numbers.

The flap on the bunting has raw edges (so it could fray) so you might like to blanket stitch, add some ribbon or lace or be like me and use the decorative stitches on your sewing machine - FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME!! {I was scared! lol. But so pleased how it turned out!}

I originally wanted to be lazy and buy some iron on felt numbers or similar. Except I couldn't find any small enough or not individually packed (that would = expensive). In the end I printed the numbers and used that as a template and cut my own numbers out of a scrap of felt I had at home. I attached the numbers with a little glue and a couple of stitches through each number to secure.

Attach the flags

You can attach the triangles to thick cord or twine, a strip of fabric or bias binding.
However you would like it to go.


For mine I:

Puchased a 3 metre length of bias binding. Fold in half and sew closed.

Attach each flag to the bias binding. I did this by opening up the flap and sewing along the top of the triangle - attaching it to the bias binding. {But DON'T sew the Pocket shut!}
When the flap is closed over you cannot see the sewing line.
Mine still seemed a little flimsy so I also did little vertical stitches on each side of triangle up and down attaching the flag to the bias binding better.

Alternatively you can just glue them to cord or the like.

Fill with treats.

This year I'm using Sippah milk Straws, Squinkies and some chocolates/lollies.
{Squinkies are obviously passé  as they used to be $20 now you can buy them for $4}
 I filled this Advent Calendar with four gifts for each day for under $15.
Maybe I could also reuse pop in the Christmas Jokes that were last years Advent treat

Lastly take lots of photos :) I find Advent Calendars notoriously hard to photograph.
Long and Skinny and hard to capture their cuteness

I only made ours into a 12 days of Christmas of Christmas Advent Calendar.

As mentioned here and here sometimes 24 days can feel too long, too many treats, loses its novelty factor, forget to check it, or even forget to make a calendar by 1st December. 12 days before Christmas coincides with the end of school, shorter time frame, less treats to buy to fill it. Still as cute :) That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

{plus we have several other advent calendars around the house!}

A friend told me they celebrate the 12 of days of Christmas with her kids getting a little present each day leading up to Christmas - delivered by the elves! I love that idea! So this will have to be the closest we get to that, this year.

Enjoy Counting down the Days till Christmas!

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